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Real Life. Real Talk. – Embracing Being A Fish Out Of Water – Mary Kay Jessen

Real Life Real Talk Mary Kay Jessen I Race Like A Girl Run Tri Bike Magazine
Mary Kay Jessen

Real Life. Real Talk. Embracing Being A Fish Out Of Water

Triathlon and long distance running aren’t exactly common conversation topics amongst the suburban mom crowd. Most of them will politely ask about how races or training went, but I don’t generally find myself going into a lot of detail. These women can’t fathom why I would get up well before the sun, and definitely don’t want to hear about my mid-run bathroom stop in the woods. Don’t get me wrong, my neighbors and mom friends are perfectly nice people, but I find myself relieving a common theme in my life: that I don’t really fit in. Which often leaves me feeling disconnected and lonely.

Pre-kids, my husband and I were on a triathlon team, so we surrounded ourselves with those people and they quickly became our circle of friends. We raced, trained, and hung out together a lot, and year-round. It was pretty much as awesome as it sounds! When we had our second daughter though, we chose to make the move from Virginia to North Carolina, and jumped into full on suburban life. While there’s actually a great network of triathletes locally, I still have found it challenging to reestablish myself. I was pregnant and then had a baby and toddler, my husband was traveling, I dealt with postpartum depression, and as many of you know the list just keeps going.

Rediscovering Myself

Now I’m finally emerging from what has felt like a 5 year perpetual fog (and if we’re being honest, that fog was more like a constant swirl of gale force winds), and I’m realizing a lot of things and rediscovering myself. The biggest thing I’ve realized is that I don’t fit into the suburban mom box. I never will. I am an absolute fish out of water. This initially scared me. I spent a lot of time figuring out how I could change myself to fit in, and in retrospect too much time. But, hard as I tried, my true self resisted because the reality is – I can’t. I’d much rather go to bed early and get up to get my workout done. I’m not a huge crowd/party person and am much more content hanging with a couple small friends on my deck (or even better riding, paddleboarding, or hiking). I don’t do a lot of big girl’s nights outs or weekend brunches. Truth is, I would rather be training, or at home, or with my family. I will probably always be the mom in running shorts, hoodies, and flip flops.I will also be the first to play frisbee, hop into a soccer game, challenge the kids to a running race, and lead a bike ride around the neighborhood.

In my quest to live authentically and honestly, this has been a hard pill to swallow. Being an outsider doesn’t always feel good, and for me it can often feel as though I’m on the outside looking in. Instead of worrying what everyone else is doing, I’m choosing to change the lens I am looking through. Endurance sports gives me a sense of purpose and drive that fulfill me. I love pushing my body and mind, I love being active, and being outside. I know that it is a unique bond that I share with my husband and something not all couples have. Even better is that it translates into a healthy and active lifestyle for all of our family. Our oldest lights up every time she goes to swim practice, and our youngest has a love for her bike that I cannot put into words. Both girls enjoy trying new activities, and rarely say no even if they are scared. It allows me to teach them by example, to rise from failure, to show them that there is no substitute for hard work, and that the biggest limiter in life is yourself. I am showing them that it is worthwhile to be yourself, even if it’s not the same as what everyone else is doing, and that at the end of the day having the self-confidence to stand out and make different choices is the best way to live. Hopefully, it won’t take them decades to learn this lesson, like it did for me.

Embracing Being A Fish Out Of Water

If you’re the square peg, trying to fit into a round hole because that’s what everyone else is doing, stop. Ask yourself which one really feels better and more “you”. Make the choice for you, not to please others; then find your tribe of square pegs. My tribe of endurance nuts is pretty far flung, but also pretty amazing. I can call, FaceTime and text a handful of amazing women day or night, and I know they truly “get it” and accept and love me for the real me. There is truly no better feeling in the world than when you find the place where you really belong.

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