Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Just a girl

Do you ever feel like in your head, you are so much tougher than you really are? I have a feeling that most people have had this realization at multiple points in their lives. Other times people surprise themselves and find that they were able to accomplish things that they never thought their bodies could handle. I've been reading a lot of race reports and blog entries about Western States 100 and the theme of this past year seems to be people breaking records that no one thought could be broken. Timothy Olson broke Geoff Roes' record and if you keep up with ultra-running then you know that Geoff Roes is the man (so that's saying a lot for Tim). Ellie Greenwood smashed Ann Trason's record by about 50 minutes and most people thought Ann's long-standing record was untouchable. And Dave Mackey broke the masters record (which was just set the year before).

I love running in the weeks following Western States because all of these inspiring stories seem to push me to run faster and stronger, and that has definitely held true this year. Sometimes, though, I have one of those runs where I'm reminded that I'm just a wussy girl... and that run was this morning. I was just doing a short run in Frick Park and because of the heat I've been waking up with the first rays of sun. For those who are morning trail runners, you know that there is a strong likelihood that you are going to be eating spider webs for breakfast. I don't think they are very nutritious and they make me feel really gross. I never should have watched Arachnophobia. This particular morning, I wasn't just running through wispy strands. There were many intricate webs spun out across the trail and the spiders were still resting at the centers. Of course, I couldn't see the webs at the pace I was going so I would run into them and entire web systems would wrap around my face and head making this sickly crunching sound.

What did I do? I frantically ripped off the webs and turned around. I've seen and read Lord of the Rings and I know that you don't forge through a tunnel of webs unless you want to get killed by a giant spider. When I finally got off the trail a mountain biker wizzed past me, probably headed for his death. I contemplated going in after him since he would be breaking the trail, but I was still plastered in webs. When I got home, there was a swath of dead bugs wrapped around my neck like a home-made necklace.

On my way home I felt like such a wimp. I've always struggled with the thought of being "too girly." I like to hang out with guys and go on outdoor adventures. It's not that I don't like doing crafts, watching chick flicks, baking cookies, and talking about feelings, I just always feel ashamed to like those things (and so I watch Twilight in secret and tell everyone about my backpacking trips and running excursions). I'm not sure where I got this idea that it's not ok to be a girl, but it affects many areas of my life. When I run with Cory, I feel this intense need to show him that I'm tough and can keep up with him (which is a joke... he's really fast). When we go backpacking, I always feel bad that I want to sleep in my tent (which is very lightweight) instead of his home-made tarp system (which is even lighter).

Whenever I feel like a wuss, I end up comparing myself to other girls. I remember hearing about the bear at Western States last year and watching this interview with Ellie Interview. If you watch it you will hear her talk about how, late in the race, she was running in the dark and saw two eyes and a hump in the middle of the trail. She didn't want to lose her first-place position and so she scared the bear off with noises like it was no big deal. The second, third, and fourth place women all got jammed up by the bear and when they eventually got by as a group it was a death race to the finish. I'm not sure I would have had the bravery that Ellie had.

Until this year, I thought I was tougher than most girls. Then I met Jamie (hopefully she doesn't mind if I write about her). Jamie and I both work for an organization that provides outdoor adventure opportunities for college students at campuses in the eastern US. When we are not in the field, we are in our cubicles at the office and we end up telling a lot of stories. She has this way of telling stories like it's no big deal when really every other person wouldn't put up with the things she's been through. Here's one of my favorites (paraphrase of story told by Jamie):

One time I was backpacking with this guy and we were staying in trail shelters. I woke up in the middle of the night and felt something tugging my hair. I told the guy to stop pulling my hair and he woke up and said that he wasn't doing anything. I went back to sleep and felt the tugging again and I realized that it was really mice chewing on the ends of my hair (her hair isn't that long so that means the mice would be pretty close to her face). I tried to go to sleep again but it got really annoying so I put a hat on.

What!!? She was just annoyed so she put a hat on? I would have reacted differently. One time Cory and I hiked Pikes Peak and stayed in an small shelter at Barr Camp. When we arrived I noticed that there were lots of large spiders living in holes in the wood. Totally fine in the day time, but at night I started getting super paranoid about dime-sized spiders dropping down on my face (let it be known that in college I was bit by a brown recluse mimic in my apartment that crawled into my bed at night for warmth). That night was a warm night and even though I had a 15-degree down sleeping bag, I insisted on zipping the bag all the way up and cinching the hood so that there was only a small hole around my nose and mouth. I have never been sweatier in my life.

So I think Jamie is pretty tough and I aspire to be as tough as her some day. But is that a healthy desire? It's hard to know the line between embracing your individuality and pushing yourself to become "better." Who decides what "better" is? We may feel influenced by outside sources, but we are the only ones who decide what the "better" us looks like. I'm still trying to figure out why I have such a skewed view of what it means to be a girl. Sometimes I feel like I should look like a girl and act like a boy. Working in a male dominated-field, it's hard to redefine womanhood. But I've learned that being independent and hard-headed comes naturally... no need to work on that. Learning to depend on others and work together is something that takes practice.

After mornings like this morning, I need to remind myself that people don't like me in spite of my girlishness. People like me because of it. I'm a lot more approachable because I am flawed. People can relate to my weakness because we've all experienced it. My Creator had a purpose when he made me and it's good to push myself towards a goal, but I never need to be ashamed of my weakness.

No comments:

Post a Comment