Finding Joy in the Discomfort
Finding Joy in the Discomfort
By Chelsea Murphy
We’ve all been there at different points in our lives, the beginner, the rookie or the newbie. In every activity, class, or relationship, there is always a beginning.
In my oldest memory, I remember starting out playing volleyball when I was 10 and looking up to the middle school girls as the rookie. I would watch the way they moved on the court and interacted with each other, in hopes of moving away from sticking out as the new girl as soon as possible.
It happened again when I started my first job, and when I got married and began having children of my own. During each of those pivotal moments in my life, there was always someone that had been doing it longer than me—therefore deeming me a beginner. It seems that our society associates “being” a beginner as a bad thing.
Some of us have noticeable reactions to being new at something. It can look like sweaty palms, nervous giggles, being overly quiet or loud—or possibly even gas! No shame there. It can be extremely uncomfortable to be in a situation that is new, with so many unknowns on the path ahead. I believe that where we go wrong, as an outdoor community, is by leaning away from the discomfort rather than leaning into it.
Leaning In – The Power of the Outdoors
The mountain biking community is the newest space that I have found myself in, as a 32-year-old Black woman and mother of two. Living in a predominantly white rural town, I have many reasons to feel discomfort. On a daily basis, I find myself showing up as “the only” in some way or another.
As someone who is continuing in my adult years to choose outdoor adventure and athletics, learning to adapt to new and at times uninviting spaces has been helpful. The benefits I gain from continuing to play and adventure far outweigh the discomfort I feel showing up as a rookie in the outdoors.
Last May, I went to a retreat and took an Intro to Mountain Biking workshop and fell in love with the adventure sport, as it gives me just the right mix of endorphins and serotonin that I need to get by! This summer, I continued my biking education with a class through the Evergreen MTB Alliance out of Central Washington. My hopes are to continue to learn and possibly even teach! There were so many more years of experience in each of the other riders there the day I took the class. I had to take my own advice and really lean into the notion of finding comfort in the discomfort.
In moments like this, you have to really shift your mindset away from the idea that you are the first person to ever be a beginner mountain biker—or whatever activity you’re pursuing. You aren’t the first and there have been many before you and will be many who follow after you.
Everyone has to start somewhere, although for some people in the outdoor space, they have had the privilege of getting started at a young age. I am hopeful, as a woman in my 30’s and feeling the strongest I may ever feel, that just because I am not jumping that gap today, it doesn't mean I never will. It’s all in your mindset.
Embrace the Curve of Learning and Letting Go
There’s always a learning curve when trying new things, and that’s why it’s so important to leave your ego at home. This is a practice I learned from doing yoga. Indian culture has mastered the idea of not needing ego or a puffed chest to accomplish things in life.
We can start by developing an understanding that rituals, including yoga poses, are a part of a personal nonlinear journey where there is no end. This mindset helps a person to understand that there is no reason to show up as if you are in competition with peers.
Our American culture shows up in the opposite manner it seems, where everything is a competition. Nature has become this thing to be conquered, and toxic masculinity and egos thrive. I believe this has created a culture that makes it hard for beginners to come in and succeed, while also finding joy in community.
As a community leader, my purpose in the outdoors is to bring representation where it is lacking, while drawing awareness to the need for racial equity in the outdoor space. I aim to raise my two girls in a way that brings them closer to nature and outdoor athletics from an early age.
I want to see more underserved communities given access to the outdoors, while also ensuring that those communities feel comfortable showing up once barriers have been broken.
I believe we must try to be a more intentional outdoor community first. For folks already established in the outdoors, we can work to leave that ego in our gear garage once we head outside.
For people who are thinking they would like to start their journey outdoors, count on practicing how to find comfort in the discomfort. It is okay to be a beginner and be bold in starting somewhere, especially when it’s something that brings you so much joy!