On looking stupid

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.

Any skill level?  It’s so welcoming… what could go wrong?!

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.


10 thoughts on “On looking stupid

  1. Hanna @ TheMillennialNextDoor

    Well, if your age group is 17+ you automatically won’t be swimming with 12 year olds…right? I mean, you may be swimming against 17 year olds but that’s not so bad. Olympic swimming features 30 year olds swimming with 17 year olds all the time. Anyway, I’m glad you’re overcoming your fear and doing it anyway. It’s these little oddities that make life interesting and build character. Even if the kids laugh and the parents are super judgey, it will at least make for a great story!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s more that I’m worried about being surrounded by the younger kids in general. After checking the event order, my races will all be directly after the boys 13-16 age group, so maybe that’s not so bad? At least not if they skew older. It’s such a weird thing for me to get hung up on, but I just can’t 100% get past it!


  2. Jenny

    Well, at least you’re not middle aged or elderly… I mean, 28 isn’t that far off of high school. And you look young. As long as there are teenagers there you won’t look out of place. It should be interesting! Looking forward to hearing all about it.


  3. 50in50marathonquest

    Well I am middle aged – at least many years removed from high school 🙂 I had to learn to swim properly when i was 40 by taking lessons at the high school during the younger kids training sessions…definitely felt out of place but it was the only way i could get some affordable 1 on 1 swim lessons…it took some adjustment but i made it through my triathlons that year 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is the exact reason that I am hesitant to sign up for 1 mile races. I run one every summer, because I know it draws a large adult crowd in addition to a bunch of kids. I’d love to sign up for more, but they are usually the “kids” event tacked on to longer races. I don’t want to be that 30 year old out racing with a bunch children.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad I’m not the only one with this weird hangup! I think running a mile race with kids would be even worse than this meet because at least all the people in my particular heats will be 17+. I say go for it, though. Show those 10 year olds who’s boss. 😛


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