Last weekend, on a road in rural Maryland, I spotted some strange-looking birds in a small flock beside the road. Too large to be crows or blackbirds, not quite ugly enough to be vultures, I decided they were some type of strange-looking turkey. The fact that a couple of them flew a small distance into the air further complicated the discussion in the vehicle because, after all...turkeys can't fly. Or can they? I insisted they could...but only when they have to...for example, when it prevents their death or dismemberment by minivans hurtling down the road.
Fast forward a few days to Thanksgiving, and the myriad of races and running events unfortunately titled as a "turkey trot." (There's something in my middle school brain that wants to snicker at the thought of turkey causing the trots, but this post is not about potty humor.) I had signed up for one of these trendy 5Ks on a whim. (I get these ideas sometimes lately in which I either think I'm better equipped for something than I really am, or in which I decide that I don't give a rat's ass what people think about me, both of which are anomalies in my brain. The trouble happens when both of those moods hit at once, as they did when I saw that a friend had signed up to do this race. It's a cliche, but it sounded like a good idea at the time.)
Anyway, I was signed up for this race, which was to benefit a great cause, The Valley Children's Advocacy Center. I thought, somewhat stupidly, that 3.2 miles sounds a lot better than 5K, even though they're equivalent. And I thought, "Ehhhh, two miles is easy...three shouldn't be that much worse." But as race day approached, my Negative Nancy inner self kicked in. The idea of the event itself loomed over me. For someone with a raging case of social anxiety, showing up alone at any event is a daunting task, much less to an event such as this one, in which I'd be very out of my element. Combine that with a real fear of being the very last person to finish as everyone else gawked at the fat girl finishing awkwardly...well, I chickened out, apologies to all of the maligned fowl. My internal struggle was real. Half of me knew that I'd never forgive myself for not going, and half of me just wanted to avoid it at any cost. As is par for the course, Ms. Self-Doubt won easily. After all, they had my money, what did it matter?
When the alarm went off, I turned it off. I was just going to go back to sleep and pretend I wasn't supposed to be somewhere. But then my phone beeped with a "good luck" text message from someone whose opinion I value highly...who also happens to be a coach. And I begrudgingly told him I wasn't going to go. He didn't accept that answer, and guilted me in his own special way into getting out of bed and getting dressed, which I did. I put my big girl panties and my sports bra on, sucked up my growing fear and social anxiety, and went to the event. At that point, I thought I had the hard part behind me.
I finished the "race." I finished--dead last, what I thought was my worst fear. 204th out of 204. One hour, 13 minutes, and 37 seconds, according to official chip time. That's a 23 minute mile, not that anyone is counting. The guy on crutches finished eons ahead of me, as did all of the Stroller Moms. Behind me, I had my own little embarrassing motorcade of golf carts bringing up the rear...no chance of me sneaking stealthily across the line and to my car unnoticed. But. I. Finished. I finished in spite of my shit hip, and in spite of the fact that in order to make it an even playing field, some of the participants would have to carry each other on their backs. I finished in spite of the fact that it was an emotional struggle to even get there, and in spite of the fact that I was literally in tears behind my sunglasses through a lot of it. I finished. And I made people proud of me in the process...all of my coaches, my tiny little cheering section.
What does this have to do with turkeys?
Well, turkeys don't fly because they think they can't. They're clumsy, and top-heavy, and nobody has ever told them that they can. They only get short bursts of energy that they can utilize. In fact, only the wild ones can and will fly, and the others have been bred not to. Turkeys fly when they need to, not for fun, and they're awkward and silly looking when they do it. They'll never catch a falcon or an eagle, and they'll never impress anyone when they fly. But they'll do it, sometimes, and they might even get better at it if they keep trying. Until then, they'll trot.