I feel this on a level that I cannot begin to fully articulate, so here it is. Most days, I sort of just feel like a slimy swamp monster, but that may have something to do with the disgusting Daegu weather we’re currently enduring here in South Korea. In case any of you are unfamiliar, Daegu is the HOTTEST FUCKING CITY in South Korea because it sits in a basin surrounded by mountains. Yesterday, it was hotter here than it was in Hanoi, Vietnam, which is, honestly, sort of fucked. I love heat, y’all, and I love the summer, but the past few days in this country have been borderline miserable. I have never been more thankful for an aircon and the money to pay my excruciatingly high electric bill. But, I digress.
The past few weeks have been a true exercise in examining my ridiculous amount of self-doubt and how, surprisingly, it is starting to recede. I am no longer approaching all situations believing I am going to fail or that I will somehow be sub-par at whatever activity I’m engaging in. One of the strange things about the lack of self-doubt now is comprehending just how much was there before it started to disappear. There was a metric fuckton, y’all, and it truly kept me from doing many, many things, like sportsball!
For those of you late to the “Kara Tries New Things” party, I started playing goalkeeper for the local Gaelic Football team in Daegu and this past weekend was the NAGG (North Asian Gaelic Games) tournament in Seoul. Before the last tournament, I was pants-shitting nervous and the night before this tournament was no different. I wondered why I had chosen to do this, why I was accompanying some incredibly athletes, and why the fuck I ever thought I was good enough to do anything like this for a competitive sports team. Friday night, I remember feeling very torn about my feelings– on the one hand, I had proven myself before, but on the other hand, flukes happen and I was pretty sure that my adequate performance in the previous tournament had been just that– a mistake and a fluke.
Yet, there I was, eating a kebab at 1:30am in Itaewon, Seoul. I had come. I had committed. I was going to play again. The whole of the next morning, I felt sick. The kebab had sat heavy on my stomach, I didn’t sleep very well as our room did not have air conditioning (refer to the clusterfuck of the summers here in the paragraph above), and I was not feeling confident in my ability. This was only my second tournament and this was, still, the first time I had ever played on a team sport.
Robert joined me for this tournament and while I know this whole scene isn’t really his style, I am thankful that he was willing to give up most of his weekend to come to Seoul and watch me play sportsball. He carried my football boots for me, he carried my snacks, and he even got me a beer when our final game was over. I am a very lucky woman.
We started playing around 10:40am. We lost our first game to Busan. We lost our second game to Seoul A. I felt like a lot of it was my fault. I conceded goals. I made shitty kickouts. I wasn’t fast enough. I felt like a fucking loser. I felt mad. I was upset I was there and that I had put myself in a position where I knew I would ultimately fail myself and fail my whole fucking team. After the second game, I stewed on myself. I felt agitated, but I tried to get my act together. This wasn’t just about me– this was about a whole team working together and, importantly, having fun. I was ruining the fun for myself by being such an asshole to my own ability. I was THERE. I had shown up. I had made saves. I had made good kickouts. I was doing the best I can.
At the end of the day, that’s all we can do. We have to do our best. If we are doing our best, if we are trying our hardest to succeed when the world wants us to fail, when we want ourselves to fail, that’s good enough. At least, that’s good enough for me. So, I changed my attitude. I stopped being shitty to myself. Mistakes happen. I am not perfect, and even EPL goalkeepers concede goals sometimes. I dusted myself off. I got back out on the field, and we played three more games.
We won our game against Seoul B. Our next game was against the aggressive, talented, and fast Busan, who had already defeated us earlier in the day. If we beat Busan, we went on to face Seoul A in the finals for the championship. If we lost to Busan, we would play Seoul B for third place.
And then it happened. We beat Busan. We were going to the finals.
photo credit: nana kim @noddingnana
Before I talk about the final match, I need to say something about the women in this picture. No matter how many mistakes I made, no matter how many times I doubted myself, one of them was always there to give me a word of encouragement. I was free to be the silly, vulgar, and crude mess I am without a hint of judgement from any of them. After every single game, one of them said something kind to me and made me feel like I was really part of something special– I felt like I belonged on a team. I didn’t feel like some sort of scrub that stumbled onto a field, even though that’s sort of what I am. Joining Gaelic was worth it for me simply for experiencing the kind of camaraderie that comes with playing together for the same victory. They are all so wonderful, talented, and ferociously fierce. I am honored I’ve shared a field with them twice now. I’m lucky I get to wear a Daegu Fianna jersey.
We lost the final game to Seoul A. We came second. I am so proud.
Thanks, Daegu Fianna, for being a force of good in my desire to change my life.
After the tournament we went out and partied. Of course.
I definitely drank way too much wine.
Robert and I even took the rest of our wine to go.
We also managed to make it back to Daegu on a train from Seoul at 5:05am. Our friend, Ross, called us “homing pigeons,” because Robert and I have a tendency to do this– we go somewhere, drink too much, decide we don’t want to be there, and try to make it back to our house. This time was successful. Other times have not been so successful.
Lately, I’ve sort of felt like a different person because I don’t hate myself anymore. I walk past mirrors and I do not hate the body I see reflected back at me. I see pictures of myself and instead of seeing all of my flaws, I see the power of my thighs. I see the muscles in my arms. I see a person who is determined to make their life different than it was before. That is who I am now. I like CrossFit. I like challenging myself. I like pushing myself. I like intermittent fasting. I like talking about all of these things because I find them helpful, exciting, and motivating. I don’t hate myself anymore. After 30 years of vile and vicious self-loathing, I am finally breaking free. This weekend, this whole excursion through Gaelic, through CrossFit, through gaining control over my relationship with food, I am shedding the weight of years of self-doubt and disdain. It is a good feeling.
I am learning a lot about myself through this whole journey, physically and emotionally. I am learning that the voice inside my head that tells me I should hate myself is a liar. I am learning that I should be confident, that I am worthy. I am learning that I do not have to be so hard on myself, that everyone makes mistakes. I am learning to not tolerate myy own brand of bullshit and it is just so fucking liberating. It’s only going to get better from here. I am only going to get better.
Be kind to yourselves, y’all.