Last week, I registered for my first ever swim meet.
Our Masters coach mentioned it to us as a good meet for beginners because it wasn’t sanctioned by USMS (US Masters Swimming) which meant that you didn’t have to pay the $40+ USMS membership fee to participate. Plus, it was relatively inexpensive in general. It would only cost me $18 to sign up for the two events I wanted to do.
However, the other effect of this meet not being by USMS is that it’s an all-ages meet, meaning that anyone aged 6 and up can participate. There are age groups, of course, with the oldest group being all swimmers who are 17 or older (this is obviously the group to which I belong). I had a niggling worry in the back of my head from the moment I heard about the meet. It just sounded like it was a meet geared towards kids which is great, but imagining myself competing at a meet full of kids made me feel a bit like a creeper.
So I asked our coach about it. “If I sign up, am I going to be the only adult there?”
“Well, there you’ll probably see a few other adults, but if I had to guess, I’d say it was going to be mostly kids.”
If I signed up for this meet, I was going to be the tall, gangly, creepy 28 year old lining up behind a bunch of 12 year olds, all of whom would be faster than me. It would be me and a bunch of kids competing, and their parents (who would probably be my age, by the way) would all stare at me and wonder what in the heck my deal was.
In other words, I was going to look really stupid.
I immediately started reconsidering whether I wanted to do this meet or not. Now, the odd thing is that I wasn’t worried about my performance, per se. I wasn’t worried that I would swim way below my ability (I’m pretty consistent in shorter races). I wasn’t worried that I would be bringing up the back of the field (I already knew that was probably going to be the case). I was straight-up scared of looking stupid.
It wouldn’t be the first time I let “looking stupid” be a huge factor in making a decision. And, to be honest, if I had been on the fence about the swim meet, “looking stupid” would likely have been the reason that tipped the scales towards me not signing up. But I wasn’t on the fence. Usually, I race reluctantly and because I like the way I feel after. But my swimming has improved a lot, and I wanted a chance to see what I could do in a race. I was actually uncharacteristically excited about racing.
I see-sawed back and forth for a bit before I realized that literally the only argument my “don’t do it” side was making was, “But what if you look really stupid?” And regardless of how pervasive that fear is, it’s not a strong enough reason to change my mind.
So I drove about a thousand miles out of my way (well, 15 miles, anyway) on the way home from work and dropped off my registration.
That night, I had a dream that I showed up at the meet and it was literally just me and a bunch of six year olds.
It’s a very real possibility that said premonition won’t be too far off the reality. And that’s okay. It’s okay if I get weird looks from twelve year olds who are wondering why a grown-up is swimming with the high schoolers. It’s okay if some of the moms wonder what the heck I’m doing with my life if I’m still competing with kids even though I’m clearly no longer a kid myself. And if I look stupid? Oh well, I guess. It wouldn’t be the first time, and it certainly won’t be the last.