I remember the moment I realized I was a competitor. I was five. I played in a basketball league at the elementary school every Saturday, and I was often the only girl. It never occurred to me that I was different. I got bloody noses just like the rest of ’em, and I scrapped for that ball like it was the only thing that mattered.
The next real competitive memory I have is playing in an all-girls basketball league a year or so later. I was still a firecracker, and you would often find me sacrificing life and limb to steal, strip, or layup some action. I became a pretty darn good basketball player over the next 13 years, but it came with a price. I learned this at a much later age, and saw all the lost opportunities after it was too late. Would I change the trajectory of my life? Not a chance. Competition taught me a lot and there’s no shame in that.
I’ve always felt a need to compete with the boys. We used to scrimmage the boy’s basketball team in high school, and I can tell you I rarely walked away from those without a drop of blood somewhere on my body. Even as an adult (I use that term loosely), I find myself getting into situations that make me just as much of a chest puffer as any boys club. Yeah. Chest puffer. I do that sometimes. Figuratively of course. I just rolled my eyes because I admitted that to the entire internet.
Gonna keep doin’ it.
There’s a balance in being a female athlete. I don’t know if anyone has a recipe for it, but I know there IS a balance somewhere. I find myself not wanting to stray from my roots and upbringing, though I realize another person’s perception can make or break you. I spent my summers at the motocross track as a young girl. I ripped a 3 wheeler around while my brother raced. His friends taught me my first curse words. How do you change something you’ve always been?
I find myself out of balance often. I’ve learned a lot of lessons the hard way. I’ve scribbled out my mental notes when something didn’t work out. Working on ski patrol was one of the most challenging and beautiful times of my life. I experienced a lot of the same hurdles I did as a young child, always having to fight for my place and prove my worth. Or did I really have to prove anything? It depends who you ask (and I didn’t ask you for your opinion, thanks).
I always struggled with what I thought I was supposed to be growing up. I didn’t spend a lot of time dating like many of my female counterparts. I spent summers at sports camps and running suicides during off-season ball practice. I asked guys out and they often told me I played too many sports to make a suitable date. My daddy would say the boys had nothing to woo me with, and they were intimidated by my outgoing demeanor and athletic abilities. I just thought I wasn’t good enough.
And that thought followed me to adulthood.
I had an identity crisis in my early twenties. Instead of taking care of myself and allowing my strengths to flourish, I infected my body and mind with copious amounts of booze. I thought if men didn’t accept me for who I was on the inside, then I needed to change who I appeared to be on the outside. Sadly, the only thing I gained was raging hangovers and a few pounds here and there. I hated myself. No one respects a sloppy drunk, and that’s exactly what I had become. I quit school and looked to adventure to fill my soul. The next decade would teach me all I needed to know about where society thought women belonged.
You know what? Women are awesome. We put up with a lot of shit from both ourselves and the outside world. We sometimes find ways to cope with how others view us, and often give in to stereotypes and opinions. We second guess ourselves according to how you think we should act. If we wear a short skirt, you think we are slutty, and if we keep up with you on a bike ride we’re just one of the dudes. We are fucking awesome and we still can’t win.
So, I’m here to tell you that we CAN win and we WILL win and no one is going to stop us.
Be competitive. Be formidable. Be all the things you’ve always been and make no excuses for it. If you want something, don’t be afraid to work hard for it. Demand respect. Show the naysayers that you belong here. Show up to the group ride, even if you’re the only woman. Don’t be afraid to show off your talents, and don’t be ashamed if you don’t perform at the same level as everyone else. Never apologize for being a woman. Don’t you dare say I’m sorry. You deserve to be here, no matter what anyone tells you. We’re gonna change the world, even if it takes us forever.
I think we are sitting on one hell of an opportunity. More women are taking control of their lives and following that big beating red thing in the middle of their chest. We are infiltrating the workforce, and doing what we love. We no longer make excuses for being smaller or slower or not as “good” as the men. We’re not taking that shit anymore. We are paving the way for the young girls of the world to grab life by the horns. I hope the men are taking notice, because it’s only getting better and we’re gaining momentum.
WE ARE COMING FOR YOU.
Ladies, we have an opportunity here. Don’t be afraid. Don’t hide. Embrace your passions and work towards your goals. I never once thought I would be sitting in the middle of the Wasatch mountain range, working for one of the most incredible companies in the bike industry…but here I am. I’m living proof that you really can do anything. It’s not easy and you’re probably gonna sweat a little, and you’re MOST DEFINITELY gonna cry a little…okay, I cried a lot…but you get my point.
Don’t ever let anyone make you feel like less of a person just because you’re different. You are beautiful and amazing and worthy of love and respect. You deserve the opportunity to reach your goals, no matter if you wear a skirt or not. Stop apologizing. Don’t settle. You are a bad ass and nothing can stop you. Try and free yourself from that baggage of the past and nourish those dreams, girl. Life isn’t slowing down, and you shouldn’t either.