Last week, we were in Baja, Mexico chasing wind and sun and warmth. I am learning how to kite surf, a status I’ve had for a few years (because I’m simply not consistent enough), and I was determined to get some time on the water and get over my current hump in the sport: getting upwind.
Learning something new at age thirty-coughcough is hard. Learning something physical that is potentially dangerous and with a very steep learning curve, as someone who’s had zero other experience with either wind or a board, is humbling. It’s the kind of sport that, when you’re learning, always requires another person to help you. Someone to teach you, sure, but then someone having their eye on you in case things go wrong, someone launching you and landing your kite. For me, someone to walk down the beach since I can’t get upwind to return to the same spot on the beach. I’m in a sort of limbo between really needing lessons but not independent enough to not need some sort of help. This brings out all sorts of insecurities for me: people can “see” my weaknesses, witness my foibles and when I mess up, I’m feeling constantly judged because people are trying to give me tips and I try not to think “duh I should’ve known that.” I watch others make it look so easy, where every movement for me is still building muscle memory so feels like effort. Launching the damn kite on land still brings my heart into my throat, for a moment flashing back to times it hasn’t gone well, but knowing that I have to do it again and again in order to get better at it.
So, last week, I was able to hire a kite instructor to ride along with me, relieving J of his babysitting duties. It was great, I had a lot of fun despite the falling, and it was hard. Like, my brain was tired, because every movement for me is still a thought process, not quite built into muscle memory yet, still a pep talk and a mumble-to-myself every time I need to move my body or the kite.
On our last day, the wind was incredibly strong; too strong for me and the equipment and knowledge I have, so I stayed on shore while J and friends played in the water. Later in the day, I walked to the beach and in my inexpert mind, thought that the wind might be okay now. But I was tired. My body, my brain, and I was worried about the number of people on the water. I had gotten kind of spooked with how windy it had been earlier, and the tendency of the wind to drop as soon as I get out on the water (I’m jinxed), so I stood for a few minutes taking it all in. One friend immediately came up to me, like a puppy dog, saying it was perfect out there for me and I could take his kite and go go go now now now. This almost elicited the reverse reaction in me, it pulled me even more into a place where I thought about not knowing what I’m doing and is it really okay.
Then J came in from the water and said he was done and he’d help me if I suited up and got ready. I still had a pit in my stomach but knew he was right, and he told me in a straightforward way: let’s go.
Now, J helping me means he doesn’t have any fun, so usually this makes me feel really bad. Since he had already had a long session that day, and knew I was disappointed that the wind hadn’t cooperated for me, I felt less bad.
As I headed to the house to get ready, I looked at the pit in my stomach. What was it there for? I realized I recognized it: it is the same pit that still sometimes sits there when I go for a long run or gear up for a workout, a pit that wants to stop me from putting myself out there in a situation where I could potentially fail. If I can still have that pit despite running for years and years, I’m wanting the wrong thing by wanting the pit to disappear with kiting. The point is to acknowledge that I have fear over the unknown, over the potential of failure, but to go out, anyway. To listen to the pit when it is signaling real danger (Too much wind! Hamstring is tight!), and to tell it that I will be okay when it’s signaling not real danger but the perceived danger of venturing out of my comfort zone.
For me, this pit is sometimes debilitating. It’s often hard for me to “want” to do something when I have this pit. I have an intense fear of failing, so sometimes that seems like a real enough danger.
But then, I went out kiting. And I had a great session where things clicked and I rode upwind and didn’t lose my board or crash my kite or get stuck without wind or in too much wind. I had moments of riding where I realized I wasn’t having to think things through, I was just going across the water being pulled by the wind in a beautiful place in the world with a man back on the beach lovingly helping me.
These kinds of rewards only happen outside of my comfort zone. When I push my edge.
It’s always worth it.