My sincerest apologies for not being able to post until this evening. My rowing season started on Monday and I’ve been trying my best to adapt to this waking-up-at-4:30am schedule. I think I’m about adjusted now. Maybe.
A good friend of mine told me that the game of baseball was a good metaphor for life. I can’t remember what he said and I don’t feel like thinking about it right now since, as much as I like baseball, I like my rowing example better.
In the sport of rowing, you can row by yourself or with others. Rowing with 2 oars is called sculling. You can scull solo, or with 1, 3, or 7 other people. Rowing where everybody has 1 oar on alternating sides is called sweep rowing. You can sweep with 1, 3, or 7 other people but you can’t sweep row by yourself (unless you just want to row in a circle.) I am on a competitive women’s sweep rowing team, and I also scull (but not quite competitively.) Prior to joining the team, I learned to scull for one reason — so that I could ditch everyone else.
Just like in life, other people are great. It’s nice to have a team of other people around you — there to boost you if you need it, help you out in a bind, pull you through the tough times. But sometimes, if you’re not careful, other people can act like anchors and weigh you down with their problems, needs, bad habits, or dependencies. If you are a friend to these people, you’ll probably want to help them sort out their issues and provide them with advice. If you don’t want to take on those duties, then get out your sculling oars because you’ll probably want to ditch these people.
Such is life in rowing. When you ditch everybody and row solo, everything – the good, the bad, the ugly – is your fault. Your boat feels heavy? You’re heavy. Your boat is dipping to one side or the other? You are dipping to one side or another. You feel fast and won the race? You were fast and won the race! When rowing with a team, you add the power of others that should make the boat faster. But when rowing with a team, there’s more than power added to the boat. Boat feels heavy? Your eyes may naturally gravitate over to the heaviest person in the boat. Boat feels slow? You’ll find someone doing something to slow down the boat. Basically, with 1, 3, or 7 other people to divvy up the blame for a less than stellar race or practice row, many rowers will often find someone else to dump the blame on.
In life, we often say that other people or circumstances are to blame for our misfortunes or bad decisions. One of the hardest things to do is say to yourself, “Self – that was not a good decision. And look at what’s happened because of that…” It’s hard to turn that pointing finger around and point it at yourself, before accepting what happened and trying not to make that decision again.
Sculling has helped me with that. Now, if I’m out with my teammates and our boat is doing crazy things, the first thing I do is take a mental “systems check.” Am I leaning out? Am I rowing with everyone else? Am I wiggling around? On a morning of a bad practice, if I end up having to cox (steer the boat, call the commands) I remind my boatmates that, “It’s not them — it’s YOU. Fix what you can fix with yourself and you’ll have plenty to do, without worrying about anyone else.”
This is why I think that the sport of rowing is a great metaphor for life. Whether you’re at a point where you’re going it alone or with a team of other people, at the end of the day, it’s YOU. Do what you can to improve your own life and accept help from your team when you need it, but know that you’re accountable for your own decisions.
Content and ideas copyright Samee on Everything (2009).