Last month, I had a chance to throw at a Highland Games at the Minnesota Renaissance Fair. It was a kick. I grew up going to the Ren Fair each year although it’d been at least 17 or 18 years since I’ve been. 17 or 18 years certainly blurred my memories of the Ren Fair. I had forgotten about the hundreds of people who dress up and even more so, want to interact with “you” while they are in character of however they’re dressed.
Now, on a good day, I prefer fairly limited interaction with people I don’t know. I don’t strike up conversation with someone on an airplane until that announcement comes on that we’ll be on the ground in 20 minutes and even then it’s spotty. Quite honestly, the Ren Fair is an introverts biggest nightmare. Huge crowds full of people who target you especially when you appear as if you don’t want to interact with them. Now, I whill say, there were many folks there who could read people and upon eyeing me up, moved on. Thank you people, you have no idea how much I appreciated that. Because it’s not only the fact that I’m really not interested in playing queen for a day (there’s only one Queen and she lives in the Portland area. Everyone knows that, duh), it’s the fact that you are making me extremely anxious and uncomfortable.
Thankfully, it’s not something I need to deal with at a Scottish or Irish festival because my observation is that even though people may be in kilts or dancing costumes with their bouncy curls safely tucked in their suitcase, they don’t actually believe they are living in the age of William Wallace and we will all go to war very, very soon. We’re just there doin’ our thing…in kilts.
Anyways. Waiting at the King’s Gates early Sunday morning in the spitting rain among hundreds of folks in “character” made it difficult for me to relax like I’d prefer to do before a Games. I will forever be thankful to the Gate “maid” who, when telling me that I can’t bring my Caribou Coffee Quad Americano with cream in the festival, took one look at my face and dramatically declared, “But I see nothing! Enter dear lady!” Gurrrrl, you da man.
What I WASN’T prepared for, was the scene waiting for the Oz Man and I after we passed through the Gates. It seemed that ALL of the characters were waiting just for us to yell and scream in our faces as loudly as possible while trying to ensure that we couldn’t pass through without buying something. I hear Oz next to me utter a “holy crap” but I just put my head down and kept walking. I knew where the field was and hot stepped it over to the quiet and peace of the athletes tents Kevin Dupuis had set up for us.
I made it!!! Hugs to the likes of Brian Hare and other Minnesota throwers that make a day on the field very special and finally I could relax and start my pre-game fun. First at hand is always scoping out where the nearest TT rooms are but I had already done that the day before while watching the Ams duke it out for their Championship. So start taping up the hands and enjoy the background noises; other conversations filtering in here and there; the Ren Fair activities around us and the sentence, “I hope the rain stays away” being repeated by pretty much anyone coming into the tent. Heh.
I love the half hour or so leading up to the start of the first event at the Games. Stretching, warming up, visualizing the throws, hello hugs to those you know (and even some I don’t), music in the ears and at some point starting to get pumped without going overboard. Basically, taking the “big picture” focus and dialing it in. The sound of bagpipes most of the time; hearing other friends greet each other, the fun trash talk that inevitably comes. I love it all.
In Minnesota, there were three of us ladies throwing. A local who has been working with Brian Hare, a very nice young lady with twins (all the cool kids have twins ya know) and a Masters thrower from Kansas. There were a few men throwing I didn’t know but our small group quickly meshed and we had a great day!
During our lunch break, I was chilling out wondering if I’d see Oz again at some point (give the kid an excuse to wear his kilt and a long sword, some cash and a Ren Fair and he’s outta here) when part of a conversation drifted my way. One of the throwers girlfriend had asked the woman from Kansas if she was liked throwing here. I was a bit surprised, and tuned in a little closer, when my name was mentioned. Since I had missed it the first time and hadn’t responded, she repeated, ‘well I really like meeting and throwing with new people. Now Juli get’s very serious when she throws and most of us just want to have fun but that’s okay.’ Ha. Ha.
Now, she’s right. I DO get serious when I throw. Cuz I’m there to throw and if I have my way, I’ll actually throw well. And that’s fun for me. And so for someone to imply that I’m not having fun kind of baffles me. Now, in the moment if I don’t do what I know I can do, that’s not fun. No bueno at all. But ya shake it off and just cheer for the next thrower. And at the end of the day, it is what it is. Of course I’ll kick myself for a while for not finishing strong in Pleasanton but I actually threw very well there and have no cause to feel bad about my overall performance. And I had fun! SO much fun!
But at times, I DO wonder if “my version” of fun fits into such a social sport as the Highland Games. I’d like to think so but on the other hand, I am aware that I’m more inclined to stand off to the side when a large group is involved. It’s my dealio. I own it. It’s what I need to do to stay focused and dialed in and, quite honestly, it would be insincere of me to apologize for it. I’m not sorry but I do know that if big, social happenings are going down in a group of my fellow competitors, I may miss it. That’s okay, chances are I’m aware of how to connect one to one at another time and connecting in a smaller setting with people is totally my comfort zone. Some of my favorite moments in Pleasanton were conversations under the tent with one or two friends.
Kim, one of our Masters competitors in Pleasanton had someone snap a picture that illustrates all of this to perfection:
Conversations all around and I can just chill and enjoy it all.
I had a lot of fun in Minnesota and I’m thankful for it. I’m even thankful for the comment directed at me. It’s given me a chance to think about it and not only feel comfortable in how I interact on Games day, but more importantly, allow myself to feel confident in it. I’m dialed in but I’m also plugged in to what’s happening around me. I’m ready to go when my name is up and in most cases, ready to shag when I should (there were some missteps on this in California where we shagged differently than I’m used to in the laid back Midwest, but we all survived it.)
This weekend is Master’s World Championships and at last count, 157 athletes will be there. It’s a biggie. And I’ll have fun, no matter what and I’ll be cheering for my fellow competitors and at times, it may appear that I’m being serious. That’s okay.
I can do that and still have fun. Multi-tasking is my jam.
The ultimate victory in competition is derived from the inner satisfaction of knowing you have done your best and that you have gotten the most out of what you had to give.