I am scared.
I am strong.
I am brave.
I’m proud of making a hard decision.
I’m proud of acting on my own behalf.
I hate change.
I hate phone calls.
But I feel good… Confident… Nervous… I said that already… Certain.
Yes, nervous but certain. Nervous about a change. Certain about the need for a change.
This is exactly what I was thinking as I walked through the parking lot at Whole Foods last month. I know because I made a note in my phone. It was a Thursday… shortly after I decided to leave my then-current training group; about an hour before I planned on calling the coach of the program I was hoping to join.
I get home with the groceries. Eat (priorities ????). Call. Survive.
You think I’m being dramatic but I truly hate talking on the phone… especially to people I don’t know… especially when something big is at stake. For me, having a conversation without being able to see the other person’s face or take in their body language is completely unnerving.
We schedule a meeting for late the next morning and things are in motion. Initial step—taken. Hard part—done.
Friday is a whirlwind: I have so much nervous energy that the day goes by in a blur. I meet with the coach, finalize the decision to train with his team, and contact the appropriate people involved. That night and through the weekend, I sit down one-on-one with the women I’ve been rowing with. I want them to know that my decision has nothing to do with them. Each one understands in a way that’s hard to describe to anyone who hasn’t been close to the situation. I appreciate their support more than I think they know.
For those unfamiliar with rowing or the culture of Boathouse Row, my guess is you’re thinking, “Cara, what’s the big deal? It sounds like you were training with one club and just switched to another.” Simply stated, that’s true. But you need to understand that a team can feel a lot like a family and a club like a second home. Rowers wake up before dawn and grind it out on the water all year. Tensions and emotions run high. We see the best of each other, as well as the worst, because the fact is that no one can hide after a tough day at practice or hard-earned success. And while the case is the same at most clubs I know, it is only with time that members and teammates develop mutual support, respect and appreciation for one another.
So, deciding to train with a neighboring club… was that a big deal? Let’s just say it was a decision that I did not take lightly. Fortunately, thanks to an initiative that supports the collaboration of teams on Boathouse Row, the transition has been seamless so far. I’ve been able to maintain my membership at the club I’ve been a part of for over three years; Fat Patricia has remained secure in her home; and though I meet up with a new group for training, I still get to see these ladies at the boathouse most days!
I considered many titles for this post: Steps Forward; Taking Steps Forward; Taking Steps Forward and Change; Hard Decisions and Change. And then it occurred to me that none were more powerful than the single word, “Change.” It’s a word that elicits emotion in everyone. Some people love it (crazies!). Most hate it. And while I easily have an aversion, I learned last month that change can inspire growth as naturally as it does fear.
Change in life takes shape several ways. A parent or spouse accepts a new job and we find ourselves moving to somewhere unknown—change that is not necessarily welcomed when we had been perfectly happy at home. We pursue a new job, or start college, grad school, a family—change that is welcomed and generally considered part of the natural progression of life. Something unexpected occurs—a moped accident in Bermuda, for example (yes, that’s an example from real life!)—and we’re faced with adapting to a less than desirable event.
And then there’s the kind that I assumed with my rowing: less circumstantial; arguably more personal; independently generated; motivated by something that might feel intangible. I talked to my sister about how to characterize change of this nature. Neither of us was able to come up with a definition, per se, but we concluded that this type of change is different and special because of the choice that’s involved. We’re not simply taking the next logical step or pursuing the immediate option ahead. Instead, we’re actively deciding to adjust our course based on our values, beliefs and well-being.
The cool thing about it? There’s power in that… a tremendous amount of very real power.
It’s common to feel aversion to change because of the risk involved and fear of the unknown. We gravitate toward people, places and circumstances we know because they make us feel comfortable, safe and in control. Similarly, we shy away from things that we don’t know because they expose us to failure, judgment and the idea of making a “bad” or “wrong” choice.[Side note: About 16 minutes into Episode 117 of the Girls Gone WOD Podcast (a personal favorite!) you can listen to co-hosts Joy and Claire talk about making the “wrong” versus “right” decision:
…and if by some stroke of luck you’ve made it through your life where you’ve made ‘the right decision’ with everything, congratulations, you are the only person whose ever done that and I would like to shake your hand… You probably live in a glass house and don’t get smudges on anything!…
They’re hysterical. I love them!]
My guess is that some people lean into the fear more naturally and easily than others. For those who have tendency to worry, I think it’d be fun to see how we can use lessons from the race course for support in real life. Understanding our mind chatter, for example, is a tool that could cross over well. Yet, what I’m more compelled to explore now is change as a catalyst for growth and the power I mentioned above.
I started this post by writing, “I’m scared.” Yet, as the weekend unfolded, a distinct sense of pride took hold. The feeling confused me, quite honestly. Pride isn’t a word I use often and I didn’t understand it in the context of the weekend. So, I did what I do best—thought about it way too much—and realized the following:
It takes HUMILITY to acknowledge when you’re no longer thriving on a path you’ve committed to, particularly when you’re someone who believes that hard work and dedication can turn around any tough, unproductive or damaging situation.
It takes KNOWING yourself and your values to recognize when your environment is no longer serving you, and COURAGE to take action and initiate change. Change, as we said, is scary. But so is allowing yourself to remain in a place that is ultimately bringing you down.
It takes FAITH to recommit to a goal that has no guarantees, particularly when pursuing that goal has not gone how you’ve planned in the past. Likewise, it takes FAITH to re-choose a lifestyle that not only asks a lot of your time and your heart, but of the people who love and support you as well.
It takes RESOLVE to stay committed to personal intentions, like the one I set during Oiselle’s “Woman Up” campaign this year: In 2016, I am going to woman up and take back control of my rowing. My year is going to be about going as fast as I can on the erg and the water; about finding new boat speed and making the most out of every opportunity I have at the line. In 2016, I vow to regain my freedom; I vow to create my path to success.
Am I still scared? Sure. I have no idea how leaving the team at Vesper is going to impact the rest of my season. Am I confident in my decision? Absolutely. I am confident, proud, at peace with the unknown, and ultimately empowered by making a difficult change.
Allow me to leave you with this: Srini Rao, host and founder of The Unmistakable Creative podcast, ends each of his interviews by asking, “What do you think it is that makes somebody or something unmistakable?” In an episode called, “Decoding Human Performance,” Tony Stubblebine, guest and creator of Coach.me, answers like this:
You know, it’s intrinsic motivation… people who are unmistakable chose a path… they’re really driven by some internal vision of what they could accomplish in the world. And that is so easy, in a lot of ways… I mean, it’s just, ‘do what’s in your heart,’ but also so hard and so rare. So that’s what I always look for in people… people [who] can work from their heart and their soul… it’s so rare and I don’t understand why it should be, so I just try to give people confidence that they can bet on themselves.
Work from your heart. Have the confidence to bet on yourself.
Remember, BE BRAVE… Remember Fat Amy!