Come back woman

– An answer to the wonderful blog post of Sarah Rulen from Sabrina Barm –

You need to be a fighter. No matter how relaxed and zen we are when looking at life, I have not known or seen anybody who did not have to face hardship at one point or another. Everyone has their moments. Everyone.

If you look closely, you can spot an open canoe with paddler in this picture – epic fail

Life is crazy and comes with millions of facettes in all sorts of colours. Not all of them are pretty. Even though you might have family and friends loving and supporting you, it is only normal and natural to have moments when life overwhelms you. When it makes you feel humbled, inadequate, unable, unattractive, not enough, scared, angry, lonely, awkward, left behind, flawed, imperfect, stuck………

Sarah and Sabrina, sometime summer ’14

You’ve just turned 21. I will soon turn 30. Some of the things you still have to go through, lie already behind me – and dang am I glad for some of them to be done with (college/university is one of them). Others have their shit together at 25, or earlier, and I only start to get it together now. I only start. Because it took me that long to learn. And I have now learned that that’s ok. I went trough a challenging education programme, including big fails, that I combined with the pursuit of athletic goals, then getting and working a job whilst still pursuing athletic goals and fighting an autoimmune disease and learning how to understand and care for my body. And learning what a relationship can mean, does not need to mean and that it does not define myself or my worth.

My goal has always been to paddle extreme whitewater. I’m paddling whitewater for about 10 years now, of which 6 years ago I actually started pushing it. Part of me is that I have an extremely competitive personality. I learned to paddle decently well quite quickly, but it took me no less than 6! Years! To learn that yes, fun is a legitimate reason to go paddling. Yes, I am allowed to have fun! Yes, fun is a part of it, as is fear, and fear doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy the river.

Sounds ridiculous, right? 6 years to learn such a simple thing. But it was my path, and the second big lesson was acceptance.

For example to accept that it’s ok that it took me that long. I’ve spent months and years feeling resentment about my flaws or some conditions in my life or surroundings that were not optimal for reaching my goals. I felt so much resentment for missing training sessions because of being tired after a 9h work day plus a 2h commute. I felt so much resentment for making mistakes, even the tiniest ones.

It was at the Oetz river, running a class IV/V section when once again I felt like a bad person just because I was scared and I made mistakes, admiring one of the kayakers in our group, a very skilled guy, envying him for his confidence. At the key rapid of the section, said kayaker spectacularly messed it up. I styled it. As sorry as I felt for his swim – thank god he was unhurt – it was an awakening moment for me: everybody makes mistakes once in a while, even the best.

There is NO bad decisions. You always make decisions based on feelings and information available to you at that moment. Often turns out afterwards, it was not the best, but at the moment you had to make the decision, you did not yet know.

It is ok to make mistakes. You give your best, but sometimes you still fall down, which is not only ok but also necessary. Everybody, also every athlete, feels tired after work and eventually misses a training session. Everybody eventually messes up their line, just as everybody eventually falls ill. And it is ok. Kindly accepting that all your effort sometimes aren’t enough and that this again is ok – it is a big thing to learn. Learning this (and many other things) takes time. Take your time. Try your best, fight, and look critically but gently at yourself when you fail. Be kind to yourself. Don’t worry, little sister. You’re doing very well!sarah_2

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