Two years ago, my friends formed a team and joined the beach volleyball league, which plays each week on courts attached to a local bar. Each week I went to their games and cheered (or read a book, depending on how I felt that day). The team was not very good and rarely won (I say this with love, of course) but they almost always had a great time, and not just because we ordered many buckets of PBR during the course of their games.
Despite all the fun they seemed to be having, I did not join the team. With the exception of roller derby, I'm not a fan of team sports and harbored a special aversion to volleyball. All that sand! All the diving and jumping! That ball, hurtling towards your face at the most inopportune moments! No, thank you. I'll be over here, in the shade, with a book and a beer.
This year, however, something changed. I decided to play, even though my friends had given up on asking me. I'm definitely the worst person on our team, the combination of heat and sand and humidity is painful, and the moments when I swing my arms wildly and complete miss the ball are just as mortifying as I'd feared. We play every Sunday and some weeks I feel as if I've improved and am actually doing an okay job; other times, I wish I was still on the sidelines. But I am improving, and my team is lovely and supportive (probably because they're all my friends, and my friends are the best) and despite the moments of fear and shame, I'm having a lot of fun.
It occurred to me that I'm at a point in my life where I don't often get to try something completely new. When I was in my 20s, new experiences were easy - every moment was a revelation, every thought an epiphany. But now, I'm well into my 30s. I've already done a lot of the big things that people do - go to college, get married, move across the country a few times, run a marathon, go to college again, write a novel, etc. These days, life is fairly predictable and the opportunities for Brand New Experiences, Big Scary Things, and Life Changing Events are becoming more and more rare. As much as I like my life, part of me is upset by this reality. I don't want to be the kind of person who becomes stagnant. I want to keep growing and changing and experiencing and feeling. I'm only in my 30s and I've barely scratched the surface of anything. Now is not the time to settle down.
Thus: volleyball. In the grand scheme of the world, it's just a sand court at a bar that plays 90s alternative rock and serves ice cold buckets of PBR. In my own little universe, however, it's a chance to try something new and make myself uncomfortable. To swing my arms and grit my teeth and maybe, just maybe, send that ball over the net.