I am a people watcher. There is a steady stream of observations constantly running through my head. Sometimes, it is exhausting to be constantly evaluating every thing that I see and hear.
(Yes, I know you were hoping this would not be about Tough Mudder. Too bad.) I just tricked you by not putting it in the title.
This is the story of how my mind was changed.
When I first stumbled upon The Blogger, I was struck by how he wrote these awesome pieces that seemed so unapologetically real and sincere. He was funny and relatable. As I read more, I realized he was just a normal guy who happened to have enough courage to just put it out there and see what happened. I decided I wanted to watch. I wanted to see how the story unfolded.
So, I joined an online health club he had started. It took me a while to figure out how it all worked, and eventually I joined a gym and started working out. I had something to talk about with these people. Over time, I go to know some of them. It was fun. It was a distraction. It was not REAL. It seemed to fit into my idea of heaven, keeping life compartmentalized and separate.
Then, I “met” Captain America. Here was a confident, insanely supportive man. He got on my nerves. I do not trust people who are that nice. They freak me out. Over time, we developed a playful push and shove. He encouraged my boxing, challenged me to do 100 burpees, and even staged a repeat ice water challenge. He wrote a post about me and how I inspired him. At first, I was embarrassed, and then, for some reason it worked for me. I was excited about getting healthy.
Now, fast forward. These two guys were part of a group of fitty fools who had done a Tough Mudder in Utah. All of these people suddenly became more real. I wanted to do one too. I wanted to do one with them.
I got my chance. There were going to be three “official” group Tough Mudders. I decided to do Mesa. I only had 6 months to prepare. The first three went well. Then, life hit me squarely in the chest, and knocked me so far off the wagon that I was not entirely certain there ever was a wagon. The group interactions were so excited and frantically supportive, and I became a skeptic. These people were weird. Why were they all so nice to each other? Why were we all so excited? What were we thinking?
I managed to convince myself that The Blogger was only doing this to advance his personal agenda. I assumed that is the only reason someone would do all of this. I doubted his sincerity every step of the way. Things felt contrived and staged. Nothing felt natural to me. My own insecurities were painting his actions in an unflattering light. I was afraid to be excited. I was sure this was all going to be some epic prank aimed at the people who were not physically prepared for a Tough Mudder. I had nightmares about the humiliation.
And then I was there. I was in a group of people who I only knew online. I was seeing them for the first time. I watched and judged. I maintained my attitude of indifference. I was afraid to have a good time, because it would be so disappointing when the experience failed to live up to my expectations.
Now, it is Friday morning. I am walking through the dining room at the hotel. I hear this voice say “And, there is Nyki.” I turn and there in real life is Captain America. He is wearing a shirt that I have seen so many pictures of him in. It is a little unreal. He is both exactly what I expected and nothing like I anticipated. He walked up to me, we had a brief hug, and I immediately reverted to the shy, uncomfortable girl who is meeting someone for the first time. Nevermind that he knows so much about me. It was like meeting a stranger you have known your entire life. Miss Snarky snuck into my head, and I immediately decided that the hug was out of obligation, and that he was not in fact glad to meet me.
(Not that he had done anything to give me that impression. I ASSUMED that was the case.) I always assume that is the case.
Dinner that night was interesting. Walking into a lion’s den of hungry people who think it is a good idea to burst into cheers when you walk through the door is startling. The Blogger took his role as a leader seriously, and he tried valiantly to draw us into a conversation where our fears could be alleviated by the group. I was unable to take it seriously. Remember, Miss Snarky has firmly embedded herself in my brain.
I made a joke, and tried to foil his attempts to draw me out. He called me on it. I resisted. He tried. I was annoyed.
Then, it was time for Tough Mudder. (Don’t worry, I am not going to give you a recap)
The first wall was paralyzing. The Blogger tried to be supportive and kind. That does not work for me. Captain America actually stepped in and saved the day. He challenged me. He was like SERIOUSLY??? This is going to be the thing that stops you? It worked. I watched him help his team through this adventure over and over again. He did not seem to be seeking approval. He was not doing it to be noticed. I would see his joy when someone overcame a fear. It was sincere. Captain America really wants to help people achieve their goals. It is genuine. Gee. What a jerk. (Kidding- I loved seeing that it was not a front.)
Now, The Blogger. It took me most of the day to come to a conclusion about him. I watched him struggle to lead this loud and diverse group. I saw him be recognized as a “famous” person. I teased him mercilessly about that. Remember, to me… he is just a blogger. I had no idea that he was famous. I did not get it.
Towards the end- we had about 3 miles left. I was hurting. I had blisters on my foot. My knee was swollen, I was looking for the exit. The Blogger walked up behind me, pulled a bottle of pedialyte out of his bag, and simply said “drink.” I told him I was done. I was tired. I no longer cared about Tough Mudder.
And, this poor guy. I know his first instinct was to try to inspire me, to give me a “you can do it” speech. Instead, he put his arm around my shoulders, let me lean on him, and walked. We had a nice talk. I do not remember most of it. There was no pressure to be having a good time. There was no expectation that I had to be enjoying walking on my tender foot. I was enough exactly where I was. This was the point that I realized that he had many of the same insecurities I did. The Blogger is not your usual natural-born leader. He is quiet and shy. He was carrying the weight of this group’s success on his shoulders. I think there was a part of him that was scared. If this went badly, it would not be a private failure. He had a lot riding on this.
We talked about me skipping some obstacles at the end. He reminded me of his TM in England, the one where he got sick. This was the make or break event. He was either good enough, or he wasn’t. I realized that this was a struggle for him too. I saw where the need to make this event special came from. I saw the desperation for this to work. He was not just looking for material to write about. He was trying to redeem himself. (Now, I am not certain if he said any of this. I honestly don’t remember anything about the conversation. This is the impression I was left with, and for me, that is so much more important.)
Now, fast forward to the drive home. After I have deposited my best friend at the airport in New Mexico. Quiet time. Reflection. This was when the whole experience hit me like a ton of bricks. I was wrong about The Blogger and Captain America. They really do just want to help other people achieve something great. I thought (errantly) that they were super confident that they had THE RIGHT STUFF to change the world. Nope, not even close. They are searching for it, just the same as everyone else.
The Tough Mudder was not the great thing. Not even a little.
The achievements that we all earned are so much more. We came together as a team. We faced our fears. We did the impossible.
We were forced out of our comfort zones, and we triumphed. The two weeks since the TM have been rough for most of us. We see life a little differently. We are trying to explain to people what made this so great. Words are not enough.
Inspiration comes in the strangest places. You cannot force it. All you can do is seek to live a good life, full of adventures and quests. If you are lucky- You will keep your eyes and heart open, and avoid making assumptions about how it is all going to turn out. Trust me, people will shock you. I think that we are all a lot less unique than we think we are. Let’s do the best we can with what we have. Remember, We Got This.