In Praise of Newbies

There is no way we could enjoy the things we do- hobbies, careers, etc- without newbies. We were all green once. We were all new once. And let’s face it, education gives you the knowledge to do certain things but not always the real life experience to execute the job at hand. That takes practice in a real world application.

So it’s easy to become jaded and on our high horses about things that have become common place for us.  Case in point (and I will be using my race this past weekend as a prime example):

So you want to be a triathlete? Ok cool. Register for a race and train. Ok, now, you can swim, you can bike and you can run. But can you race? There’s a big difference. A difference even seasoned athletes struggle with. You see (and this is mostly for my non athletic readers) in triathlon, you must transition from one sport to another which takes almost as much practice as the three disciplines themselves. Going from soaking wet swim to bike ready with helmet, shoes, eye protection, etc ain’t the simplest thing to do in the world. Same goes from rolling on a bike to out the chute running. Therefore it takes practice. Back to the newbies...in triathlon the newbies are easiest to find because they are crazy nervous, making numerous trips to the port-o-potty, chatting like crazy as they set up (or dead silent with laser focus) and more often than not, spreading out their beach towel at full length next to their bikes with everything under the sun including but not limited to a cooler, change of clothes, additional towel and lines of water bottles. Not all newbies do this (don’t attack me) but these are just examples of things I’ve seen. You can spot the seasoned athlete in transition pointing and laughing, taking pictures of the newb set up, complaining, whining, looking for an official to fix it or complain to, milling around scoping the competition or taking selfies with friends (no, not all of these jaded bastards do this but many of them do). This past weekend there was plenty of that. No I’m not perfect and did my fair share of whining. This is exactly why I’m in reflection on the topic and praising the newbie in all their beach towel glory.

Local events wouldn’t exist without the newbie. Especially the small ones local experienced athletes like to crash and take podium spots at. We age. We all get old and eventually fall apart. So who is there to replace us? Newbies. Who pays for these events with fear and trepidation unsure of the road in front of them? Newbies. Who races with heart just to finish? To get the medal at the finish line covered in sweat and dirt and gawd knows what else, treasuring it thereafter? To get the t-shirt and wear it with pride that they attempted and, hopefully, finished such a feat? Newbies. I have a bag of medals I care nothing about. I was there to challenge my body and see what my training put in my legs. I have piles of t-shirts that go straight into donation bins I don’t even look at. Race entry fee covers these items but I have little attachment to them and am happy to see them be donated elsewhere. To a newbie? These are trophies of a huge achievement. And they should be!

I haven’t forgotten.

I remember being new and green and scared and nervous. I remember the trips to the port-o-potty 18 times (no not literally) before race start. I remember the loss of sleep the night before an event. I remember checking lists, packing the night before, scared to death I forgot something. I remember thinking what a risk I was taking. What if I fail? What if I fall? What if I’m judged? What if I fuck up, not realize it and get a DQ? What if I get in these super strong, super fast athletes way and they hate me? What if what if what if….?? You can certainly ‘what if’ yourself to death. I definitely did. Point is, they paid to be here, same as the racing veteran. They make this sport. They fuel the gym, the race, the office or whatever. Big box gyms have quotas they need to try and meet with memberships. So when you see the big dude in white cotton shirt who can’t figure out the machine, the mom in the aerobics class with absolutely no rhythm struggling to keep up, the person in the cycling class in the far back corner sweating bullets with little effort, they’re all probably new. So you know what?

Be fucking nice!

Help them out. Be encouraging. Cheer them on. Volunteer to show them the way. Don’t be a dick and point and laugh. Don’t take a fucking video and post it on facebook for you and your dumbass friends to get a jolly at. Don’t be a veteran prick. Be a helper! Be a mentor! Be a fount of knowledge for folks who are clearly struggling. And don’t do it with an air of pompousness looking down from your high horse.

Stay fucking humble!

You can do your thing (this reaches beyond sport and fitness and applies to any job, task, or hobby) and be good at it. But don’t forget there are those out there who don’t know as much as you do and are much less experienced. Or maybe it’s their first time. You were new once to, don’t forget. You struggled, you hurt, you did it wrong and fucked up. But you learned. Maybe you had a mentor to help, but you figured it out eventually. Also remember you wouldn’t be there if it weren’t for the newbies. They keep the ball rolling! Share your knowledge. Share your experiences. Share yourself. You may have tips or tricks that they haven’t read in a book, learned in a seminar or heard from other friends in the biz. They’re likely there because someone like you has inspired them to do it themselves. Maybe it’s a bucket list thing. Maybe it’s for fitness or personal knowledge and experience. Whatever the case, it’s for personal growth. Be encouraging about another human’s personal growth. Their journey is not your journey, so don’t judge. Help them along the way. Help them do it right. Help them do it well. Seek joy in it! Get your own personal growth in helping another fellow participant.

Don’t poo poo someone’s accomplishments because your circumstances in achieving said goal may have been harder. They earned it same as you. Just because the rules have changed, the environment or conditions are different, or the participants they’re pitted against are “soft” to you, doesn’t mean they’ve done less to get there. Clap, yell and ring that cowbell! When they are raised up, you are too. The more newbies there are, the better you look. Continue your journey, stay on your hustle, work hard on your own goals your way, and be a positive and encouraging force as you go. The world is full of fear, doubt and negative assholes. Don’t add to it. Stand out by standing beside the newbie. Thank them for being there and let them know they’re doing a good job. Showing up is half the battle. That takes a tremendous amount of courage. Congratulate them on their efforts. Give them a high five. Someone may have done it for you once and THAT can change everything.

“Kindness is free. Sprinkle that shit everywhere.”

Carrie Giordano