I introduced myself to someone recently. I stuck out my hand and said, “Hi, I’m Jennifer.”
I didn’t wonder whether he cared if I introduced myself or whether it was presumptuous of me to offer my hand. I didn’t worry that he would think I was weird or that my handshake wasn’t firm enough. I didn’t analyze whether we would be friends or foes in three months. I held out my hand, smiled and introduced myself.
And he shook my hand and smiled back.
I am incredibly shy. If we happen to be friends, you might think I laugh at stupid things, never shut up and tend to make weird sounds at random moments. Most likely we became friends because you’re a bulldozer and have no respect for personal space (and I love you for it). Or because I observed you for a very long time until I developed a somewhat general idea of how to talk and react to you. Or maybe you laughed at something I said and that sealed the deal.
I can pretty much guarantee you that we are not friends because I initiated the process.
When I joined CrossFit nearly two years ago, not only did I find it a challenge physically, but also I found it utterly exhausting mentally. Often I would enter the gym and immediately experience a crash of social overload. But it wasn’t altogether unpleasant. CrossFit was a way I could still be around people without necessarily having to contribute to the communal chaos.
I was part of the group. My name was written on the whiteboard in mismatched marker just like everyone else who had survived the WOD.
But when Coach Rob started calling me Chucky, he unknowingly gave me a small push out of the shadows. I was no longer just another Jennifer on the white board. “Chucky? Who is Chucky?” someone would ask. I’d give a wave of my hand, and they’d say, “You let him call you that?” But I thought it was perfect.
I grew up with a nickname. When my brother was a toddler, he couldn’t pronounce Jennifer. He called me Juice. And, eventually, so did everyone else. Juice, Juice the Goose, Juicy Juice, Juicy Fruit. When I started playing sports in school, my Dad would stand up in the bleachers and boom, “Go Juice!” It caught on. Teachers, coaches, boyfriends, parents of my friends. I was Juice as often as I was Jennifer.
Until Coach Rob called me Chucky, I hadn’t realized how much I missed having a nickname, a small token of being noticed. I felt less of a stranger.
When the whiteboard was replaced with software, I missed seeing all our names in mismatched marker. I missed knowing a bad WOD could be (would be) erased. I missed calling out my time and adding to the growing list of those who had made progress that day. Sentimental, I know.
I missed being Chucky.
As CrossFitters we often tell people about how we changed our lives by making the decision to walk into the box day after day. We talk about becoming stronger, faster, healthier, and happier. We recognize change in ourselves that no one else can even see…but we know is there.
Two years ago I would have been incapable of approaching and introducing myself to a stranger. Holding out my hand would have been as easy as lifting a 300 lb weight. My words would have sounded forced or insincere.
As I grow older, I may lift lighter and move slower. It’s possible there may be a time when I can no longer squat as deep or jump on a 20″ box. But my ability to put aside my shyness is a skill that will last. And to my CrossFit West Nashville community, I owe a heartfelt thank you.
Community is not restricted to a box. As my journey continues at CrossFit Talon, I bring with me the experience, skills and love I experienced at CFWN.
And the Talon whiteboard is familiarly filled with the WOD, coaches’ scrawl and the names of people I will eventually know in the months to come.
It’s so nice to meet you. You can call me Chucky.