When I was young, my mom would frequently have me engage in what she called “growing experiences.” These were not my favorite, as they often involved me doing something that I was very afraid of (like going to the Icee counter at our neighborhood Kmart and ordering and paying my cherry coke slushy all by myself). As I reflect on the last ten months of Project Becoming Our Best, many of the feelings associated with growing experiences come back to mind.
So, you may be thinking “sure, training for an IRONMAN is a growing experience; I get it; it sure must be hard to swim, bike, and run so frequently.” But really, that’s not it. Sure, the training can be challenging and I love the results of spending that much time exercising my body. However, the true “growing” aspect of that experience is much bigger than that. Here are some things that I've learned:
Perseverance: This Saturday is much more than “having fun in my sport” or “participating in a race.” It’s a way to continue to test my mental stamina; as a fellow triathlete said “to remove ‘quit’ from my vocabulary.”
See, when Jeff finished his first Ironman in 2014, I remember realizing that when it came to sticking with anything and following it through, I was fairly weak. Sure, I would get excited about new ideas and new activities, but would often lose interest and move on to the next thing (either because it got too difficult or because I got bored). I am sure that Saturday will provide many more opportunities to see if/how I’ve grown in this area via efforts over the past 3 years.
Discovering new “Likes”: No, I’m not talking about Facebook likes (although I’ll get to that later), but instead I’m talking about how participating in different family volunteering projects helped expose new interests for the kids. If you can’t tell from my past posts, helping out with animals was a family favorite. They’ve already asked if we can continue Project Becoming our Best after Saturday (hence the “Phase 1” in the title) and I look forward to the additional interests we can discover by participating in diverse experiences.
Learning how much people care: Whether it be my family members, swimming friends, neighborhood friends, or coworkers who show an interest in this endeavor and/or like our posts and/or donate multiple times, I’ve learned that I’m surrounded by people who care. As I think of those who have made sacrifices to be at the race for us, I get especially emotional. I’d love to have my parents there (I know that they’ll be watching from above) but having all of my siblings and Jeff’s parents there will be very special.
Putting myself “out there”:
First, let me say that I have a lot to learn about social media. I was so surprised when I first started that not everyone saw my Facebook posts because I wasn’t a frequent user. To be honest, I’m still not sure how the mysterious algorithm works which is why I’ve posted many more requests for donations than I usually would. I have no idea if everyone has seen them (which is why I also sent out old-fashioned paper donation requests to everyone on my Christmas card list).
However, more than learning that I didn’t know much about how Facebook works, I learned that sharing something I’m passionate about on Facebook is hard. Asking for support (particularly financial) for something I’m passionate about is even harder. If I relied only on the number of likes or the accomplishment of our fundraising goal as an indicator of the validity and/or social acceptance of my ideas, it could take over my mind and emotions. But that’s not what Project Becoming our Best is about, it’s about showing people who we are and what we think is important, taking on uncomfortable challenges, sticking with something and growing as individuals and as a family as we journey to the other side. Whether that challenge is working through cramping legs as you try to run after a long bike workout, getting over nerves about what we’re supposed to say or what we might face as you walk into a senior center, or about asking people repeatedly to financially support a cause that we think is important, it’s about sticking our necks out and starting, enduring, and working through the challenge. It’s only through putting ourselves in these “growing experiences” (thanks, Mom) that we can more fully develop the unique gifts that God wants us to share. I’m grateful that for the luxury of getting to choose these experiences. And I look forward to continuing onto many more phases of “Project Becoming Our Best” (aka “life”).