New Frontiers

So what does the insecure and reserved goody-two-shoes do when she hits her mid-life crisis? If she’s anything like me, she throws caution to the wind and signs up to do something totally radical and unheard of. Cutting edge, daring, spontaneous, illogical. Playing in a badminton tournament so her company will keep their participation points. Talk about walking on the wild side.

Thanks to our strong turn-out in the 5K portion of this inter-company competition, our company was leading the way in participation points. That 5K race, by the way, was another notable example of my new daring approach to life. I began running a few months ago and finished my first race at 32:49. I kept an even maintainable pace and then, following my nine year old son’s sage advice, sprinted to the finish line as if I were in competition for something more than kudos from my kids.

This may not sound like much to those readers more adventurous than I, but for me, running in that race was terrifying. I barely slept the night before. I had no expectation of winning. That’s not what scared me. What scared me was the thought of trying and failing. Perfectionism is the antithesis of adventure.

However, the sky didn’t fall. I didn’t fail. My kids were proud of me. I succeeded. I felt good about myself.

So… when the email arrived from the 5K coach that the badminton team needed another female participant in order to retain all the participation points, I called my husband and asked if he thought I was crazy. Amazingly, the calendar was open the night of the tournament.

I reminded him that I hadn’t actually played badminton since ninth grade PE. He said he didn’t think recreational badminton would be all that tough and I should go for it if I wanted to. So I did. Completely out of character.

We had a practice a few days before the big event. Four of the six team members showed up. We attempted to play outside with a strong wind. It was quickly apparent that we were unlikely to earn anything more than those precious participation points. But at least I learned how to do the more sophisticated backhand serve – thanks to the teammate who had watched some YouTube videos of Olympic competitors.

When we arrived at the venue and began to walk from our car, I saw a man carrying a bag with racquets and shuttlecocks. Wow. I thought. He must be serious. Our coach had purchased a kit. Between him and the YouTube lady, we had enough racquets to go around.

I signed in and led my family into the gym. Our jaws dropped. Those birdies were flying hard from racquet to racquet. Rapid fire between the players warming up. People darting back and forth. It was intense. Even the competitors’ children were impressive, batting back and forth between the courts during warm-up.

“Dude,” my husband said. “You are totally going to get creamed.”

And he was right. A teammate would later comment that this was nothing like he was used to playing at barbeques. That teammate, and another one, actually took a birdie in the face because they were hit too fast to get out of the way.

My husband chuckled through a good portion of my first game. I was playing mixed with an overweight, middle-aged man who was fortunately pretty good. He somehow dove for a birdie and got it over the net in our first game. Neither one of us were rocking but we had a good time playing with each other. We were even leading during much of both matches in our loser’s bracket game. We might have won if we had been playing to 15 instead of 21.

The handful of coworkers that knew what I was doing had teased me about playing badminton. You could tell by their tone that they considered it a joke, a non-sport. Never mind that my muscles were still sore from the practice session. Never mind that I was sweaty and exhausted by the time the night was over. Never mind that they were likely sitting on the couch watching TV while I put my lack of talent on display. They still found it laughable.

That night taught me many things. First, what is a joke to some people is serious business to others. My team comprised most, if not all, of the white people in the room. The other competitors were overwhelmingly of Asian or Eastern Indian descent. And they were good. Really good. This sport was a big deal to them and, watching them play, it was unquestionably a sport. My coworkers had no room to laugh.

Second, I didn’t have to be the best, or even necessarily good, at something to have fun. We knew why we were there. We improved. We pulled off some good volleys and saves. We learned. We laughed. We had fun. It was a night well spent.

Third, it was rewarding to move out of my comfort zone. There was no risk. No downside. Why should I care what my non-adventurous coworkers thought? They were laughing but that was all they were doing. I was experiencing. I was living. I was learning. I was growing.

So maybe running races and competing in a sport you’ve never really played before doesn’t count as a mid-life crisis. Maybe it’d be more accurate to call it growing up. Finally.

Did this strike a chord with you? Tell me about it!

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