I don’t want to be the type of person who only does things if they can be perfect. I’ve been editing self-help books based on four personality types, and this was yesterday’s topic. As I read these books, sometimes I find myself nodding along.

Yesterday I had my final standup paddleboard session of the summer. I had such a strong practice Thursday night, so I was excited to build on those skills yesterday. It was a big group, so my usual boards were all taken, so I chose a narrower, shorter one. I was expecting super speed, but no.

At least I didn't fall in.
At least I didn’t fall in.

I was paddling hard, sweating, but I was far behind the rest of the group. I was getting frustrated as I kept putting all my energy into each stroke, careful to watch my form, but I was confused. Was I tired because I took Kangoo in the morning? Maybe. I was kind of hungry. Maybe I was low on energy? I’ve done half a dozen of these group tours. I’m never the fastest, but I’m never the slowest either. A friend once told me if you’re not the best and you’re not the worst, you know you’re in the right place.

When I finally made it to the turnaround spot, the coach looked at my board. “See how there’s water pooling up by your feet?” he asked. “Your board is underinflated. You should have pumped it before you left.”

Now I was even more frustrated. I rent my board. I’ve never been responsible for maintenance on it. How would I have known that? No wonder I was working my ass off and getting no where. I kind of wanted to cry. I wanted my last session of the season to be awesome, not frustrating.

My group paddled back — again with me working harder than everyone else — as we passed the boat house, my instructor told me I could stop and switch my board, but we were already 20 minutes over our tour time, so I figured they wouldn’t be out long anyway. I thanked him, told him I was exhausted and was just going to be done. One of the guys in the group saw me turn my board and called over, “Great job today!”

I wanted to yell back, “Fuck you and your fully inflated board, bro!” But instead I just muttered a “thanks.” He didn’t know about my board struggles. He just thought I was in the wrong group.

As I pulled my board out of the water, I wondered if I was being a baby. Maybe I should go grab another board and keep playing with the group. It would be months before I got another chance. Was I quitting because I didn’t have a perfect ride?
Nope, that can’t be it. I’m pretty bad at soccer, but I keep going every week. I’m not the best in my Spanish class, but I kept going there, too, even when French came out of my mouth and the class laughed.

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