I’m an athlete, right?

Here I sit, the night before family arrives for Thanksgiving. My Tuesday night volleyball team just had a disappointing 3rd place finish in the playoffs, but we still had fun, because we’re awesome like that. I sit in an apartment that needs vacuuming, with dishes to do, and laundry to fold. I have way too much to do to be blogging,

But I feel the need to write this little post about something I said and realized today.

I was telling a colleague about volleyball playoffs tonight. And she said “Wow, Jodi, you’re so athletic. You run and hike and play volleyball. Good for you.”

It was right there, on the tip of my tongue. The thing I’ve said my entire life. It’s practically a reflex by now. The rueful, “Nah, not really. I’m just an active overweight person.” Because I don’t look like an “athlete”. And therefore I must not be one, right?

It’s crazy, when you think about it. I’ve been playing sports since I was a wee one. Volleyball, basketball, softball, even a year of tennis (I was terrible, but who’s counting?). As a teenager, I swam and I was damn good at it. I rode my bike, I walked a lot, and I would run off and on.

I was on NH’s first Junior Olympic volleyball team, and we were GOOD. I played college volleyball for two years. But I would always cringe at the “athlete” label. Because, well, I carried too much weight, I didn’t have the sculpted muscles, so I couldn’t really claim it. Right?

These days I can run a 5K without much issue, and I just did my second 10K a couple of weeks ago. I can hike a bunch of miles up and down a bunch of rocks and my legs don’t hurt (that much) the next day. I even swam again a few years back. And yes, there’s my Tuesday night volleyball, where I play a game I have been playing for more than 30 years.

On a recent Utah adventure, my hiking buddy and I were sitting at a roadside pizza wagon, waiting for food, and he was talking to his mom on the phone. He hung up and said, with a grin, “My mom says you must be pretty athletic if you can keep up with me.” I don’t remember how I responded, but I think I probably just laughed awkwardly and said something like “Well, what does she know?”

But looking back, that moment makes me smile. Because his mom doesn’t know me, hasn’t met me, but she knows that I had just spent days tramping around the canyons with her fearless son, and thought that was pretty badass.

And today, when my colleague said “You’re such an athlete”, I swallowed my standard retort, and said “Thank you. I guess I am. You wouldn’t know it to look at me, but yeah, I guess I am.”

And she, kind soul, replied, “Oh, no, you do know it to look at you. You carry yourself with strength.”

What a thing to say. And what a thing to believe.  I actually did believe it, for the first time, today. It only took 41 years.

Pretty cool.


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