If someone invited me to a party full of strangers I would be the kind of person who responds with a polite “no thanks.” The thought of walking into a crowded room where I don’t know anyone scares me. Sparking up conversations with people I don’t know is not a natural process for me. However, I have realized that I seem to become friends with these type of people. Probably because they approached me first.
My husband and I were in the pool the other day and we were sharing a lane. As I came up to the wall I saw that he had stopped and was having a conversation with the woman in the next lane. She had inquired about his Ironman bag. All triathletes know what an Ironman is and they can’t help but be impressed when they meet someone who has completed an Ironman. I stopped and introduced myself. She continued to talk about training for a half Ironman and talked about the recent event she completed last weekend. I just kind of nodded and was actually hoping to continue my swim workout, but I didn’t want to appear rude so I just stood there and interjected myself into the conversation whenever I could. I think I said something like “I don’t know much about triathlons, but I did complete my first sprint tri in June and I am training for one more next month.” It just seemed like such a minor statement in the scheme of what this woman was talking about. She was discussing “real” Ironmans. I am just in the minor league.
This woman started to get really excited about getting together to do some training. I figured it might be something that Ed would be interested in because I was definitely not at her level. I just kind of nodded my head respectfully, but I naturally assumed that we would never meet up to do anything. I don’t know why exactly, but you know how some people talk about getting together, but then never do?
Boy, was I wrong. Two days later my phone rang and I didn’t answer because it was an unknown number. When I listened to the message I realized that it was the woman from the pool. She was asking me if I wanted to go for a bike ride the following morning. As I was listening to the message, I was already formulating how I would tell her “no thanks.” I had just gone for a bike ride and a run that morning, so that was one excuse. I had already left Ed to take care of the kids one weekend morning, so that was another excuse. There was no way that I would be able to keep up with this woman and her friends, so there was excuse number 3. I was scared of riding up and down hills and on busy streets. There. That should be enough excuses to get me out of this one. As soon I mentioned it to my husband he told me that I should go.
All of a sudden a light bulb (in my head) came on. How are you going to make friends if you always say “no thanks?” How are you going to challenge yourself if you always think that you aren’t good enough at something? For crying out loud, just take a risk already! Really, what is the worst that can happen? You have awkward conversations? You tell them to go on ahead without you?
I called her back before I could change my mind again. I told her “yes.” I did not call back to say that something came up. I did not ignore my alarm. I got up and did just what I said I would. Granted, I did have a weird dream about having a flat tire on my bike and not being able to fix it before everyone decided to leave me behind. I just kind of ignored that thought and made sure to check my tires as soon as I walked into the garage. They were perfectly aired.
I arrived at the house and she started talking about her wheels and how she needs to get a new pair. I just kind of nodded because I don’t know anything about bike wheels. I looked at my bike and was just grateful that I at least know how to ride it (for the most part) and change the tire if necessary. Don’t ask me anything else because I haven’t got a clue.
The friend showed up and she also seemed nice enough. It was time to get started and I just kept telling myself to go with the flow. I was nervous about riding on the main road, but we were only barely cruising. At that point I wasn’t worried about keeping up, but then I reflected back to last week’s track workout and I knew that I couldn’t really be sure of their “real” speed yet. They mentioned going up Dinosaur Ridge and I remember that place very well. We took my parents and kids up there a few weeks ago. We decided to ride the tram because it is a very steep climb. I remember seeing the cyclists going up and down the road and I thought that they were crazy. Now I was going to be one of them?
Before getting to the crazy incline, we went down a rather steep hill that helped me pick up speed… too much speed. I kept putting on my brakes even though they told me to get as much speed as I could so that it would help me go up the incline. I didn’t listen to that advice. I just kept picturing myself hitting a rock and flying 100 feet into the air. No thanks. I opted to have less power at the start of the climb. As we started going up, the super Ironwoman flew past. I didn’t try to keep up. I stayed with the friend. I was actually relaxed and we were able to have a conversation all the way up to the top. I felt great and I knew that I really didn’t have anything to worry about. I was ready for more hills. And we did find a few more, but they provided amazing views that made the effort well worth it. We stopped a few times to admire it all. On the way back, I took the lead with confidence.
By the end of the ride, I was so grateful that I had finally opted to say “yes” even though I was a little bit nervous about taking that first step. Seriously, you never know unless you try! That is my new motto. Now I have new friends who are already talking about the next ride. I have more confidence and maybe I have gotten rid of a little shyness.