This blog post is dedicated to Durham University Triathlon team, and to anyone who has let a piece of clothing change the way they felt.
I own a £2 pink and yellow tie-dye baseball cap that I am fond of wearing backwards, with my hair in pigtails, supplemented with a wide cheeky grin. I have worn this cap many times in my life--it has been to the airport and has served to hide many a bad hair day. But the first few times I wore it were during a special time that I will never forget.
I bought it when I signed up to do my first triathlon, when I decided that I was bored of being an injured and frankly, obsessive (yep I was one of those!) runner, who was a slave to a training schedule that no longer served me. I remember sitting at my laptop, and emailing the university triathlon captain, telling him I would like to train and race with his group, shaking a tiny bit with fear and anticipation as I pressed the “send” button. I then remember leaning back in my chair, and touching the cap lightly, thinking to myself:
“Well that was a bit badass.”
I wore the exact same cap when I was the only one on the team who was old enough to drive an automatic vehicle down to one of the most important sporting events that I would complete that year, the University Standard Distance Championships. Much to the bemusement of the rest of the team, I managed to get lost on the way down to the hotel the night before, despite having a sat-nav. It became hilariously clear later on that I really should not be allowed to drive team cars, because I had no idea how to use the lights or windscreen wipers when the weather turned dark and rainy.
The race was hard, crazy and exhilarating. My open water swimming skills were terrible, my biking somewhat reasonable and there was a slight redemption on the run (which would have been more enjoyable had I not been desperate for the toilet). But none of that really mattered in the end, because the part of the whole event that I remember most fondly, was when a group of us all sat down together when we got back home (in just about one piece!) and had a beer. We laughed, and joked, passing round the trucker cap, taking the piss out of each other.
It was then that I realized that by breaking out of my old boundaries and choosing to do something different and scary, I had brought to myself immense happiness and fulfillment. I cleared my room out a couple of years later, and found the cap--muddy, folded, and looking a bit worse for wear. I went to throw it away, knowing that at 26, it was about time I started wearing headgear that made me at least resemble a female adult. But I couldn't do it.
And I realize now why I could just not bring myself to do so; because the cap means so much more to me than just a piece of headwear. It represents choosing not to follow habits that no longer serve me, demanding bravery from myself; and the intense reward of meeting some amazing people on the way.
The cap also reminds me that I am extremely fortunate to have both the time and financial circumstances to do a sport like triathlon. And so my dear reader, I invite you to think to yourself: “What have I worn that been with me whilst I have changed the way I think and feel for the better?”.
Thanks for reading!
Katherine is finishing up her studies for a PhD in cell biology. When she isn't culturing skin cells, you will find her on a bicycle, scouting out the biggest, most ridiculous hills she can find and then tackling them.
The author would like to thank Mariama Dryak for the invitation to write for her blog.