Do What’s Hard

During my first week at college, I saw a flyer tacked up on a bulletin board – “If you’re interested in joining the women’s crew team, show up at this place at this time.”

So I did.

I had never rowed before, but it drew me in.  The first time I sat in a shell I was hooked.  I loved the smell of the water, the sound of the oars pulling through it, the feeling of movement and power.  From the shore, rowing looks serene and rhythmic and slightly glamorous.  In the boat it’s sweaty and grueling and painful.  It’s also beautiful.  When all eight women are moving together, and the boat is flying over the surface of the water, it’s magic.

Creating that magic took a lot of hard work and total dedication to the training.  So we did the work.  Every day.  When we were sore, and injured, and tired and just didn’t feel like it.  We counted on each other to show up.   We leaned on each others’ strength.  We pulled each other through the rough patches.  The speed of the boat depended on every oar – it depended on every muscle in every body pushed to the limit.

And winning felt fantastic.  A vindication of all the hard work, sweat and pain.  A gift we could give to each other for showing up and giving it everything we had.  My non-rowing friends didn’t understand it.  My palms were blistered and calloused.  I didn’t drink and carouse.  I woke up at an ungodly hour and ran down to the boathouse in cold and heat and rain and snow.  I did extra weight work-outs after dinner.  Wouldn’t it be easier to just go to classes and work and hang out?

Probably, if settling for what everyone else is willing to settle for is really easier.  I can say that my years on the water shaped me profoundly.  Here’s a little of what I learned:

  • If you’re interested in something, give it a try.  You might love it.
  • Focus on what you love.  It makes your decisions easier.
  • Physical pain is pretty meaningless.
  • You are capable of so much more than you think you are.
  • The people around you, and your coaches, create your destiny more than you think they do.
  • Pay your dues.  It’s worth it.  Even when it’s hard.  Especially when it’s hard.
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