Some of the best things in my life have happened because I was utterly opposed to them and some well-meaning friend or family member dragged me, almost literally kicking and screaming, into doing what I most wanted not to do.
The first time this happened? I was about 12 or so. It was an annual summer tradition: me and my sister, and my 2 other cousins from Ohio would stay for a week at our aunt’s house. There would be all sorts of fun activities, from tearing around the neighborhood, terrorizing some of the boys on the street, to the week-ending trip to the Great America amusement park.
Back then, I was TERRIFIED of roller coasters. And everyone else in my family absolutely LOVED them. The genesis of my fear was the kiddie roller coaster at Kiddyland – a rickety atrocity that I look back on now and wonder how that ride didn’t actually throw a kid from the car. Of course I hated it. It was bumpy and fast and sounded like it was going to fall apart at any moment. My opinion even now? Very practical fear.
That translated, then, into a fear of any kind of roller coaster. The bigger it was, the more afraid I was of it. So, we’re at Great America. I’ve spent a good chunk of the day wandering around by myself waiting for everyone to ride the roller coasters (back in the day you were allowed out of an adult’s eyesight without too much to worry…), and then almost at the end of the day, the group wanted one more ride on The Demon.
THE DEMON. Even the name sounded frightening! A big drop and two upside-down loops. How people didn’t routinely perish while riding this was beyond me. My cousins and sister decided that I needed to go on it. Literally – they dragged me into line and forcibly kept me there until we were well into the queues. I believe I whimpered the entire time we waited in line. When we got up to the ride, I attempted to walk into and out of the coaster car and down the exit. I was tackled and pulled back on and buckled up (on another note, why did the workers there allow this??… but, I digress…). As the ride took off, I felt sure that I was going to hurtle to my death (if not from being thrown, then from my heart completely stopping).
And… (wait for it… wait for it…) …. I LOVED it. It was scary and exhilarating and thrilling and death-defying and somehow FREEING. I couldn’t wait to get off so we could jump into line again. And so now? Yea, love roller coasters.
Exhibit #2: I was in the middle of rehabbing a badly broken arm. For over 8 months, I spent 3 hours a day, 3 days a week in a clinic, becoming friends with these therapists who had the joy of mending me. One Occupational Therapist, J, I became particularly close with. She knew I was an active person (I had broken my arm playing softball) and had learned enough about me to know that I was also easily peer-pressurable (that’s a word… really…). One day, she comes up to me, waving a piece of paper, saying “We should do this!! It’ll be FUN!!”. It was an advertisement for running a half marathon in Nashville to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. I read it. Calmly looked at her and said, “What part of running 13.1 miles sounds like ‘fun’ to you?” to which she replied, “It’s in NASHVILLE!”. I stared at her, blinking. “We could just go to Nashville, you know. No need to run 13.1 miles…” In the end, she dragged me into this little adventure.
And we trained and trained and trained (I had never run anything more than a 5k before that… and that had almost killed me!). I had previously been a weekend athlete – softball, racquetball, stuff like that. Running? That’s what coaches made you do when you were being punished. Nothing good at all about running.
What I did enjoy about it was the opportunity to become closer with J. It’s funny how spending hours of time, nothing but miles and the pounding of feet to keep you occupied can help you learn what a person is really about. But still – the whole 13 miles thing? I whined about it constantly. Not only that, but we were training in the middle of winter. In the Midwest. In the snow. And COLD. I was miserable.
But as I morphed into a highly-tuned running machine (ha!), I found myself very grudgingly changing my opinion about it. And by the time we ran the race (which is a story in and of itself…), we were both swearing that despite all of our complaining through the long, cold training months, that we were going to keep running and keep signing up for half marathons.
Really – it had changed my life. For the first time since high school, I was in shape. I had found an activity that didn’t require a team or a bunch of equipment and was still a way for me to be competitive and active. In a way, I found a piece of me that I hadn’t even known existed before this time. It was an awakening to the person I could be.
Now, I need one more experience like the previous two — there’s something I don’t really want to do. I need to be more social. I need to find myself a more gay-friendly support system. I need to meet more lesbians. But, I’m really not good at this sort of thing. So, I’m kind of waiting for someone to come along and not just ask if I want to go out to a gay bar (because one of my friends does ask), but literally come to my house, dress me appropriately, coach me on how to act, and then drag my ass out there, forcing me to do the thing that I fear most right now. Or any other sort of activity that would introduce me to a new set of people, really. I wouldn’t be picky (especially if I wasn’t actually given a choice…).
But, I do need to be forced to do this. Just ask me? I’ll have some sort of excuse handy. I’m not good at making myself to do things that push me out of my comfort zone. I’ve said it before around here: I can see where my destination is, but I lack the confidence to follow the path to get there on my own right now.
I think what I need is an old-fashioned bully.