I’ve never been much of a joiner, mostly because I didn’t particularly enjoy group activities or being around a lot of people. However, now at the ripe old age of 28, I find that I actually like being around people. In a previous post I talked a little bit about Zumba and yoga, but I also recently joined a hiking club. You see, In my mind, I’ve always been an outdoorsy kind of person: The kind of person who climbs mountains, goes kayaking, does yoga on the edge of cliff (like in medication commercials), goes rock-climbing in the Rockies (I don’t like to start small) and maybe does some backcountry camping every once in a while. In these fantasies, I’m always wearing khaki shorts, a blue, sleeveless shirt, a cool, expensive-looking backpack and am naturally athletic. Oh, and I’m also a size four. I must now admit that I’ve never actually climbed a mountain (though I have climbed a hill), have never gone kayaking (I have gone canoeing at Burke Lake), have never actually been to the Rockies and am not actually all that excited about the prospect of camping without electricity and water, but we all have romanticized versions of ourselves.
I’ve tried joining things in the past, but it’s never gone as planned. A few years ago, I actually took some action on the “Outdoors” front. Sight unseen, I joined a local hiking club. I paid the $10 registration fee with full intentions of becoming a hardcore hiker. But when the day came, it was as if I’d arrived at a Star Wars convention. I’m the first to admit that I’m not exactly the kind of person people look at and immediately think “that’s one cool chick” but this group took things to a whole new level. First of all, they were all wearing fannypacks and had expensive looking hiking sticks even though it was a flat four mile walk. They were also dressed as if they were about to ascent Mt. Everest. I went with a couple of friends and I felt really bad because I had built this hiking club up to this great thing where we would get in amazing shape AND meet handsome, rugged outdoorsy types, but it was a total bust. The only person under 35 was a guy wearing a khaki hat with flaps over the ears who kept taking this fake bird out of his pocket and saying “tweet, tweet, tweet” in front of our faces. I think this was his way of flirting with us but he had braces or was missing a few teeth (can’t exactly remember which) and he had a lisp. Poor guy. I am sure he was very kind and I hope he found a nice girlfriend/wife. We tried our best to get out of the hike early; after about 20 minutes, we told the hike leader (who had very thick glasses and a strong German accent) that we were tired and were going to turn around but she said, “You guys are at the front of the group!” so we were stuck. While one reason for joining this hiking club was to become an outdoor person, a secondary motive, as I mentioned, was to meet guys. At the time I strongly believed that the man of my dreams was the kind of guy who’d backpack South America solo and of course, he’d be found in a hiking club. But once it became apparent that the likelihood of meeting my future husband at this club was low, we never went back. And of course, my friends never let me forget it.
I’ve also dabbled in other group activities. During my second semester of grad school, one of our assignments was to visit an AA meeting and write about it. I have to admit I really enjoyed this meeting. Everybody shares their stories and their struggles in a supportive, non-judgmental environment. I would have loved to go back, but, alas, I’m not an alcoholic. From the ages of nine to 16, I played soccer and although I didn’t hate it, I was afraid of the ball and during my nearly decade long soccer career, nobody bothered to inform me that I was a horrible soccer player. The fact that I scored one accidental goal over fifteen seasons should have been a clue. I was a member of the neighborhood swim team for a couple of years and my clearest memory is of the swim team parents cheering me on enthusiastically during my five-minute 50-meter breaststroke. For those of you unfamiliar with breaststroke, it really shouldn’t take more than a minute for a really bad swimmer to finish the 50-meter breaststroke. I was also a member of my elementary school band, but I didn’t like practicing. Then there was my short-lived career as a ballerina. I was only five or six, but when one is chubby and pigeon-toed, it quickly becomes apparent that Ballet is not the appropriate art form.
So fast forward six or seven years. I decide to join another hiking club. At first I was a little hesitant because the memories of the first club were still seared in my memory. But then I found out that one of my friends, who is much cooler than me, was a member of the same club and that gave me the push I needed to join. I’m not going to lie. There are some people who, in my opinion, are a little too into expensive hiking gear. I for one, do not believe you need $90 walking sticks on a three-mile flat hike, but who am I to judge? But there are also some people who seem perfectly nice and normal, as well as a decent amount of people under 35. It seems like most people are single — I mean, otherwise you probably wouldn’t sign up to hike with a group of strangers — but this time I didn’t go in with the intent of meeting anyone; I just needed a fun distraction and to be around people. This time around, I’m quite content with my hiking club and look forward to joining other groups. One of the nice things about getting old is that you’re just not as afraid of embarrassing yourself as when you’re younger. I would never have done Zumba even five years ago, but now I could care less if I turn to the left when everyone else is turning to the right. I suppose that’s at least one perk of getting older.