Saturday, February 17, 2007

It's Just a Shirt

It's Friday night, the end of a long week. The stacks of clean clothes have gotten smaller, the laundry pile looms larger. I'm heading out to a volleyball game and go to grab a clean t-shirt. None of the nicer ones will do, I don't want to get those sweaty. None of the tight ones, I want to be able to move easily. None of the really ancient spotted ones, those are for gardening. My stack of loose, reasonably clean comfy t-shirts is down to one. The one I never wear. My Ironman finisher's shirt.

I don't fully understand why I don't wear it. Much of the time it's because it's a pretty ugly grey shirt with big black and orange words on it: not the type of thing I'd wear anyways, regardless of what it says. But tonight that really doesn't matter. Who cares about aesthetics when you're dripping sweat and diving to the floor? Tonight it's because of the what it says: those gigantic orange letters saying that I'm an Ironman Finisher. And while I'm very proud to have done an Ironman, I guess it's not something I feel all that comfortable proclaiming to the world like a big flashing sign that says Aren't I cool?. I have the same problem to a slightly lesser degree with my marathon finisher's shirt, which is at least quite nice looking. But every time I wear it, I get those "Wow, you finished a marathon!" comments which make me feel vaguely uncomfortable.

In a related incident, at karate the other day we sat down in a circle for one of our sensei's mini-lectures on the Theme of the Month. This month it is Fight. Not fight as in putting your fist through someone else's solar plexus, but fight as in fighting for your goals. Sensei asked us to raise hands and to tell about some goal that we really fought for. I never raised my hand. What can I say? I dislocated my foot in the first thirty minutes of a twelve hour race, and then biked 112 miles and ran a marathon. Finishing was one of the hardest things I've ever done, but I smiled all the way to the line. That's fighting for my goals, but I am always cognizant of that feeling of one-upping when I talk about the things I've done. It's nothing new, I've spent a lifetime doing the things that many people dream of, and some things that most people would never even think of trying. I've been exceedingly lucky to have the opportunities I've had, to survive some of the crazy stunts, and I've also worked hard for many of the things I've really wanted. But in a group of people, I often keep my mouth shut until I know them well enough to feel comfortable sharing my experiences.

When it comes down to it, that's probably why putting on The Shirt is difficult. It's like shouting out to a crowd of people you don't know that you've done something so hard that most people find the thought of it intimidating. It makes you sort of intimidating yourself and perhaps unreachable. Yet in the end, I wore The Shirt, it being the only clean one in the pile that fit the bill for an evening of volleyball. I got a couple of double-takes from the opposite team and no comments whatsoever. After awhile, I more or less forgot I was wearing it and ceased to think about it. I probably ponder these things far too much anyways. After all it's just a shirt. Maybe I'll even wear it again some time.


TriJack said...

it's just a shirt, but it does reflect an amazing part of you, whether you like it or not. you deserve every one of the "wow" looks!

Donald said...

I'm with you - I keep my athletic profile as low as possible in the general public, because I hate drawing attention to myself, or getting involved in the one-up thing.

I wear my race shirts around the house all the time, though. They help remind me who I am.

TriGirl 40 said...

I agree with Trijack. But maybe we need to make some recommendations for better designs for future IM shirts! On a side note, one of my friends recently found "race" shirts - at Old Navy!