Venturing Outside of my Comfort Zone

May 21, 2013 by

          I played my first baseball game today! Let me tell you, I do not do sports. Anyone I went to elementary school with would attest to the fact that I was the girl who ran scared in the opposite direction of the ball during gym class. I’m terrible at anything that involves kicking, catching, or hitting a moving object. My hands and eyes are completely uncoordinated, my lack of athletic skill results in easy onset embarrassment, and my knowledge of basic sports rules is limited (ex. I will never understand why being offside is a problem). Not blaming my peers, I was always the last kid picked for any team during gym. After grade nine, when gym became an elective form of awkwardness, sports and I happily parted ways. Thinking I would never willingly engage in anything athletic for fun, I was free!

          Fast forward nine years (Why is life flying? I was in Grade 9 nine years ago? Really? Wow, I feel old. Tomorrow, I’m going to be 50; I know it.), and I’m voluntarily playing baseball! I’m not going to lie, considering all my past experiences with sports, I woke up dreading it today. Choosing not to dwell in negativity, I changed my perspective. I’m experimenting with happiness by trying new things. So far, it’s shown me that activities I’ve been too stubborn to try or re-try for years are actually awesome! Pushing blind certainty aside, I introduced my mind to the possibility that I could enjoy playing this game with a bunch of surely cool people I didn’t know yet. I smiled at my bravery for pushing myself far outside of my comfort zone by joining the baseball team at work (also including people who don’t work for my employer, which meant more new friends!). My goal was to hit the ball by the end of the summer.

          When it began to rain after work, I was guiltily hopeful that the game would be called off due to thunder storm warnings. We all agreed to play through the rain (I was being a team player). Luckily, the rain passed in minutes and the weather was beautiful throughout the game. I was told I’d be the catcher. “Does that mean I catch the ball?” I guessed. Turns out it means I’m the person behind the batter who throws the ball (or in my case, tries to throw the ball) to the pitcher when the batter misses it. Other responsibilities include catching the ball if the batter pops it up (yeah, I know pro baseball terms now) and preventing the opposition from scoring a run. No pressure! P.S. We were playing the best team in the league. Challenge accepted! (My team was my saving grace. Every time my instinctive fear of moving balls told me to watch out for myself, they came running.)

          Though I’m not the greatest catcher, it was a good position to observe the game from, helping me to better understand the rules. When it came time to bat, I knew what I had to do: hit the ball and run to first. It’s not as easy as it looks. As expected, I was out almost as fast as I was batter up. My swings were too “choppy,” which I now know means I was swinging the bat downward instead of outward. I practiced on the sidelines (Does baseball call them sidelines like the other sports?), and surprisingly quickly hit the ball! If only I could do the same on the diamond.

          During the next inning, I did! I hit the ball! In utter shock, not sure that I had made contact, I hesitated before running. In consequence of my “diddle-daddling” (I love my supportive team), I did not make it to first base. But I hit it!

          By the final inning, I got to first! I jumped up and down screaming, my team joining me in my astounded shrieks of excitement. I felt so accomplished. Take that elementary school! I was given my next instructions: run to second base when the batter hits the ball. I did it up! Things were about to get tricky. Whether or not I ran to third and possibly home (nervous!) depended on how the ball was hit. I wasn’t advanced enough to accurately judge the timing, so one of my teammates told me to watch him for a signal and nothing else. When he gave the go ahead, I bolted to third. He signalled me again. I paused, “Run to home? Are you sure?” He was sure. I ran home! Yes, I, Maria, previously incapable of athleticism, made a run! I was ecstatic! Apparently, prior to that, I had also been the initiator of two RBIs (I know baseball acronyms too!).  We made a total of eleven runs in the last inning, one being mine, winning the game 19 – 11.

          A celebratory venture to the closest pub followed. It was an action-packed night! Baseball and team bonding have officially been added to my mental list of things that I now like to do. I’m so ready for our next week game! Having far exceeded my summer goal by hitting the ball and making a run during the first game of the season, my team gave me a new summer goal: catch the ball. It will happen.

          This prompts me to mention an extremely important lesson in happiness: be open to trying new things and then actually try them! When my dad handed me his baseball glove the other day, my mom said to me, “Theresa, something I always remember about you is that you would try anything.” I found that ironic, because I feel that I’ve been very close-minded in the years leading up to my happiness experiment (during which time I didn’t live with my parents, so they didn’t have much exposure to the bad parts of me). It’s strange to know that someone thinks of me as open-minded, when I think the exact opposite about myself. I don’t remember being open to new things when I was younger. However, in all fairness to myself, by the beginning of this year, I had come so far from whoever I once was that I couldn’t remember which version of myself was real (I’m still trying to figure that out). I’m glad to know that someone viewed me as an open person once upon a time, and that I’m being perceived as open to new experiences once again. Openness is something that I’m working toward. Since I just participated in a sport of my own free will, I can confidently say that I’m making good progress.

Happiness Tip: Try new things! Novelty generates excitement!

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