I went to the 2014 Chilton Fall Invitational this past weekend. I have more notes from this experience than I think I took in college. So I’m just telling y’all up front, this isn’t going to be done in one entry. It took me about four hours to write this one because I just couldn’t get the words out. I mean, I wanted to jump right in and start telling you about how much fun I had, but after I read this about 50 times and convinced myself not to delete it, I kind of started to feel that it is a good foundation for how and why I had so much fun, and why the amazing things that happened throughout the weekend happened the way they did. Without having experienced what you read below, I know that I would not have experienced the things I look forward to sharing.
Since my blog started, my focus has been on taking what I know about racing to a new level. What’s interesting is how much I am also learning about myself. Who knew?
“Be safe and have fun,” the words Nick says whenever I head out on my much needed independent racing excursions, simply because that’s exactly what he wants me to do. He says he doesn’t worry cause he knows I can take care of myself. My response is always the same, “I hope to have fun,” carrying with it just a touch of uncertainty.
My car was packed. I stood in the house looking around to make sure I had everything, double and even triple checking like I always do. I grabbed my keys, got in my car, turned the key in the ignition, and was ready to forge ahead.
I started down the driveway, but then all of a sudden….I stopped, I just flat stopped. I was sitting there, my foot on the brake, the car in drive, navigation system set and ready to guide me, and I said, “nah, I’m not gonna go.” I put the car in park and sat there for a moment. Thankfully I quickly came to my senses. I decided to take a deep breath, and when I did, I said, “yes, I can do this. I am going to take the chance. It’s already on my schedule and I already told people I was going. So that’s it, I’m going.”
Before I tried to talk myself out of it again, I started driving with no plans to stop. I’m not going to lie though, as soon as I crossed the WI border, which was the half-way point, I told myself it wasn’t too late to turn around. I actually sent a message to a friend who was awaiting my arrival, but without hesitation, was encouraged to keep on truckin’ regardless of the insecurity I was feeling.
It was a combination of things that were pressuring me to stay back. I was going to a track I’d never been to before, meeting up with, at the time, less than a handful of friends, and it was…are you ready for this…….a “dirt” track. I know, I know. I’ve lived and breathed asphalt my whole life and now I was going to go live, breathe, and probably eat dirt and dust for the weekend. I’ve been to a few dirt tracks over the past couple years for a special now and then, and I’ll be honest, I didn’t hate it.
I wanted to do this, not just because it was a race and I knew some people, but because I am convinced that I will never get beyond what I know and have always known about short track racing unless I take a few chances. So I got into determination mode, drove five hours from home knowing a handful of people, and it was a dirt track. Yup…that was my driving force.
When I had originally decided to go, I was told that I could “just sit back and take it all in.” I had no idea how much there would be to take in, but I did my best to soak up every bit of it, and the experience is one that has deepened my appreciation for the sport beyond what I ever thought it could.
When I got to the track, I swear my heart could have come right out of my ears the way it was pounding, so you can just imagine the headache I was fighting. Here I was in completely unfamiliar territory knowing only about three people well enough to talk to. I had no place to hide. I was completely vulnerable. I kept silently repeating, “I can leave whenever I want to, I can leave whenever I want to, I can leave WHENEVER I want to.” My fight or flight response was in overdrive.
It wasn’t so much anxiety. It was the uncertainty of my presence in a place I’ve never been before. I just kept thinking, ‘what in the world am I doing here?’ And then something amazing happened. The epitome of what racing family means. Less than five minutes later I looked up from the ground to the sound of my very own question. “What in the world are you doing here?” But instead of feeling even more insecure, a sense of relief and comfort washed over me. I knew these guys! I’ve known them for more years than I can count. And they were asphalt people. Whew!
When I learned that they were actually part of the event, it was even more relieving. As I stood there talking for a few minutes with one of them, I shared that I came up because I wanted to see what it was all about and experience something in racing that I hadn’t before, to see if there is something more, and that it would likely make for some great blog material (and I mean that in all seriousness). I also shared how uncomfortable I was feeling, and how I was nervous that people were going to wonder where I came from. I guess they would probably think the same thing I was thinking, ‘what in the world is she doing here?’
As I stood there sharing out of pure nervousness, he looked me right in the eye and the words that he said really stuck. “I think it’s great that you are here.” I will never forget hearing those words. He didn’t care who I was with and honestly didn’t even need the explanation as to why I was there. He continued, “No one should judge you, especially those who know you, and no one has the right to if they don’t know you.” While these words may seem a bit on the juvenile comprehension level, they struck me like a bolt of lightning. He was right. The ones who do really know me, know my personality, know how I get along with people, know what racing means to me and how it works in my life and family, and how I do everything I can to get to a track as often as I can, and those who don’t know me, well, they just don’t. It was at that moment that I realized I was right where I was supposed to be.
The ones who never question my presence for a second are the ones that I want to surround myself with. That revelation right there is what renewed my confidence and kept this post on the list. I don’t want to look back and think that I missed out or left behind an opportunity to deepen my, and hopefully others’, appreciation and understanding of the sport simply because people might question my presence somewhere.
So from the moment those words were said to me, my entire outlook on the weekend started to change, and I decided I wasn’t just going to ‘sit back and soak it all in,’ I was going to make myself a part of it. After all, how can you understand something without getting to know it. So from head injuries to new and crazy friends, this girl had the time of her life, and I can’t wait to tell you all about it…….