Thursday, February 25, 2016

So was it a good thing?

Hatashite yokatta no ka?

Rowing Ruminations Part 18

Looking back, I can see that I got to do what I said I wanted to do in crew. I wanted to cox (check). I wanted to row (not scull) on a women’s boat (check). I also got to do something I wanted to do but didn’t say out loud, which was cox the first varsity boat (check).

There were guys on the squad who were put in slow boats year after year because they didn’t have the height or the flexibility or the strength or it just kind of worked out that way because there were too many guys who were bigger and stronger and better rowers than them. I was lucky. I got a seat on competitive boats most years.

But there was stuff I’d wanted to do that I hadn’t said out loud, and couldn’t make happen. I’d wanted to excel at coxing, but when things got too hard, I shut down. I wanted to understand the guys better, but I gave up when they wouldn’t open up to me. I wanted to be better friends with my women’s boat, but when they said they couldn’t get close to the guys, I rolled my eyes. Shutting down when things get too difficult is a recurring pattern in my life. Sometimes it’s the right thing to do, and sometimes it isn’t. I know I do it more frequently than I should. Crew taught me I wasn’t as strong or as smart as I thought I was, the way university physics did. This is important information.

I’ve ruminated on and on (thank you for reading), and it’s all ranting and no raving. If you’ve never rowed, you are probably wondering why on earth I stuck with it. I guess the more appropriate question would be why I didn’t leave. 

If you row, or have rowed, you probably understand. You've probably ranted but not raved about it and your friends and family have said to you "so why are you doing this again?"

I didn’t leave because I didn’t want to be the third girl to quit. I wanted to be the first girl to stay. I didn’t leave because if three girls quit, it would seal the fate of any future girls who wanted to row for our school, as in, it would never happen.

I didn’t leave because if I met alumni at work, they would see me as the person who quit, and that would color their view of me. I lacked a penis. That would have been color enough in this line of work back then. It might have colored their view of all persons lacking a penis in this line of work. It wouldn't have been the first time something like that happened.

But most of all, I didn’t leave because it didn’t seem like the thing to do. I know that sounds strange, but it’s something many of my friends who were in athletics in university say. Quitting didn’t seem like the thing to do.

In The Shell Game, the author says somewhat similar about rowing for Yale. The guys who couldn’t handle the training physically were the first to quit. After that, the cerebral guys who had a very clear image of what they wanted to happen, but decided that it wasn’t worth the effort, quit. The guys who were left were the closet fanatics. That’s me. The one who hadn’t put enough thought into the whole crew thing.

(In other words, I was too stubborn stupid to quit.)

A part of me wonders if things would have been different for me now if I hadn’t been in crew, and I’d spent more time studying or travelling or pursuing internships (both domestic and international) or doing something like sing (a music education major tried to recruit me to sing with the main campus choir when she heard me cox. I don’t know what this tells you about my coxing or the main campus choir.). I wonder what would have happened if I’d cut my losses and left when three of my classmates did.

But those are pointless ruminations. The past won’t let me change it. Rowing synapsed into my neural networks long ago, and to this day it influences every job I do and every decision I make and every word I say and every breath I exhale in microscopic ways. And it changes the way I read books. This book would not have coated every single neuron in my head with something more difficult to remove than failed caramel if I hadn’t thought about ergs and power cleans and hatchet blades and rudders and force curves as much as I have.

I can remember the past and think about it, but I can’t change it. It’s all rather one-sided and a bit unfair. But what I do today with what happened while on the water long ago has been and always will be up to me.

(And that’s about 12,000 more words than anyone should ever say about a single book.)


(P.S. There are some minor inaccuracies and omissions in this narrative. I’ve purposely avoided details about some people and some of the things that happened for privacy issues and also because it made my story unnecessarily difficult to understand. If you are a rower, or if you went to university in Japan, you may have noticed some of them. Or, if you know me personally from Real Life or Social Media, you might be thinking “but what about the time you said xyz about abc?” Feel free to PM me and ask, and I’ll probably elaborate.)

1 comment:

Annie Crow said...

Thanks. This does make sense, not quitting. Thanks for sharing something that has been so formative for you.