A Child’s Perspective of His COA Event
I woke up early on the morning of my Coming-of-Age event. Not out of anxiety or fear: out of excitement.
Don’t get me wrong, I was scared, but it was the good kind of scared. The first time swimming in the deep end of the pool feeling. No more wading in the shallow end, gazing longingly toward the diving boards. On the day of my Coming-of-Age event, I could feel the significance of the transition that I was about to go through.
That morning I had four Eggo waffles, which felt like the most appropriate way to say a symbolic goodbye to my childhood. My chosen community was scheduled to arrive in the mid-afternoon to begin the event, which left me plenty of time to imagine what challenges my family and friends had concocted for me.
That afternoon, thirteen of the most important, loving adults in my life arrived at my house ready to challenge and support me through my transition. As my community can attest, I have never been one to shy away from the spotlight. That would be an understatement. My Coming-of-Age event was a different kind of spotlight, though. This wasn’t cracking jokes at the dinner table trying to make my parents laugh; this was my chance to show the adults in my life that they could trust me to succeed in my transition toward adulthood.
My coaches, relatives and family friends streamed through the front door, jabbing playfully, “I hope you’ve been training hard!” Despite the fact that I had focused so intensely on what challenges I might face during my event, I felt an enormous sense of meaning in interacting with the adults in my life before the challenges even started. I could feel their dedication to me, and I could see the time that they took out of their lives to plan and execute my Coming-of-Age event to ensure that they could provide me the best starting position possible on my way toward adulthood.
I faced a plethora of challenges intended to teach me incredibly valuable lessons. One of the challenges, running a timed mile, has stuck with me in the eight years since that day. We all walked to a track nearby as I tried to hold in the fear I was feeling.
My mother is a fantastic long distance runner, and as my community explained the challenge to me, I began to panic that I was going to have to race against her. But, rather than have me race against my mom — which would only have taught me how it feels to get lapped during a race — we would be running together for the first lap.
During the second lap, I would be running with my brother, followed by a lap with my little sister (on her bike), and on the final lap, I would run with my dad. The goal was not to outrun them, but to beat my previous mile run record which was 6 minutes and 2 seconds at the time. Rather than measure myself against others, this event taught me to strive to climb past my own previous peak.
My community stood along the inside edge of the track, cheering wildly as I ran lap after lap. While my community cheered, I could feel during every heavy breath the commitment that my family feels toward me. Each of them ran step for step with me, encouraging me and showing me that they will always be there for me. They pushed me to run harder, to strive for my absolute best.
As I rounded the final corner, all of my family members joined me for the last 100 meters. While I ran red-faced, gasping for breath and hoping that my legs wouldn’t give out, they cheered me on as I attempted to beat my personal record.
I reached the finish line and collapsed to the ground as my community celebrated boisterously around me. My dad leaned over me as I tried to catch my breath and showed me how fast I had run. The timer read 5 minutes and 32 seconds: a full 30 seconds faster than my previous best.
That challenge did not teach me to pursue track and field — I didn’t. It taught me that, first, the only fair way to measure myself is against myself. It is a fool’s errand to attempt to compare yourself to another person. Second, and most importantly, I learned that the people who love me will always be there to run alongside me and cheer me on as I strive to improve.
That challenge instilled me with the confidence of knowing that the people who love me will do whatever is necessary to support me.
The soreness in my legs faded after a day or two, but eight years later, the lessons that I learned from that challenge remain vivid in my mind.