pushing boundaries, pt 3: handguns

this week, i stepped out of my comfort zone.  i touched worms, filmed a video, and shot a gun!

on thursday, i got a text reading ‘what do you want to do today? bowling, laser tag, bingo or shoot guns?’ nervous, excited, intimidated as all hell, i chose shooting.

the last time i shot a gun was in 1996, maybe, and it was while i was sitting in the back of my dad’s pick-up, with the gun aimed at a gopher.  “gopher hunting” was a family pastime, although hunting is a strong term for what we were really doing.  there is this farmer lore that says cows trip in gopher holes, break their legs, and thus become lost income, so it’s in the farmer’s best interest to eradicate gophers.  although i’ve never heard of this actually happening, and there’s no effort to fill in already-dug gopher holes, this logic somehow persists, which is why i spent more than a few afternoons attempting to shoot gophers (and rarely succeeding).   once i realised that staying home and reading was a viable option, i begged out of the family excursions and buried myself in books instead.

but, i digress.  we’re not in kansas anymore, and shooting at animals isn’t exactly my thing these days.  fastforward nearly fifteen years and here i am, vegan city girl  who has had many arguments about gun control, how available guns should be in society, stated many anti-short-gun opinions.  this is the same person who chose to spend the afternoon at a firing range!  incongruous, to say the least.

when sarah & i walked into the firing range, i was so nervous.  trying to delay the inevitable.  we picked out two 9mm handguns to start, the attendant handed us ear & eye protection and we headed into the range.  the noise was daunting! in recent years i’ve only heard gunshots on tv (benign, exciting) and outside my apartment (scary!) and it was counterintuitive to walk toward the noise.

once inside the range, the attendant explained safety procedures to us–how to load, cock, unload, general common sense rules like never point a gun at anybody else, don’t be an idiot, etc.  my hands were shaking so hard i could barely load the clip.  when i squeezed the trigger the first times i am pretty sure i also shut my eyes.  IT WAS SO INTENSE.  between each shot, i slowed my breathing–the adrenalin was coursing through me.  i quickly shot through the clip so i could safely rest the gun on the bench.  my hands were still shaking.

turns out sarah had as much fun as i did shooting, and when we went through the ammo for our first guns, we went back and made a second choice–two .45 s!  these guns shot much smoother, but had a stronger push, and the muzzle flashes were much more apparent.   after a short session with the second gun, we decided to call it a day.

(sarah was a much better shot than i!)

as we left, the adrenalin was still coursing through me! it’s not like shooting a handgun is some transcendent experience; it’s just one i was never expecting to have in my entire life.  i pushed myself so far out of my comfort zone to do it, and the satisfaction at getting up the nerve was a huge part of the rush afterward. it seems like a worthwhile counterpoint to add that after blasting away paper zombies we transitioned smoothly to a mountaintop picnic at sunset.  if that isn’t a rad day, i don’t know what is.

this whole week has been full of difficult, rewarding experiences.  these small wins are so necessary for me as i head into one of the most intimidating experiences of my life (traveling for 57 days in europe).  small doubts nag me daily–what if i can’t find a job when i return? what if i have to stay in a bunch of shitty hostels and have bad experiences? what if i don’t have fun?  what if i miss out on something?  what if a train crashes and i die?  what if i get lonely?  what if i don’t have any good books to read?–and i have to muster up strength to disregard that shitty inner critic.

ok, dudes.  do you want to tell me about times you conquered something you were afraid of? when you pushed yourself to do something and then it turned out to be awesome? i’d love to hear about it!


5 thoughts on “pushing boundaries, pt 3: handguns

  1. There is an embarrassing (yet hilarious) video of me shooting a .50 calibre Desert Eagle that exists. I had never fired anything more powerful than a BB gun before that. Certainly an experience.

  2. going to do fieldwork (both to the yukon and to siberia) i pretty much had the same internal monologue as you did before travelling (i STILL have that same monologue every time i go somewhere new!)

    … just substitute plane crashes for trains, and add a panicked ‘what if no one wants to talk to me and i get no data and everyone hates me and i FAIL AT EVERYTHING????’ AND ‘what if everything is different when i come home?’

    but it seems that in general i have always preferred having those experiences over not having it, and i try to remind myself of those things when i feel uncertain — even though of course i did fail at some things and things didn’t always go as planned and sometimes people didn’t talk to me, etc. shit will always happen.

    i don’t want to say ‘oh, you’ll be fine!’ because that would be hypocritical, i still worry about all these things, i know these doubts that sneak up all too well. and i totally understand the feelings of dread and apprehension because you have no idea what to expect, and i am also the sort of person who likes to have some idea of what’s coming!

    but i do find that usually once i get into the travelling/living elsewhere, it isn’t as bad. because the worst of my anxiety comes from this anticipation; there simply is less time to get anxious when it’s happening!

    alas, there will probably be some less than cozy hostels, you will likely be a bit lonely sometimes. you might miss out on some things at home.

    however, you will also likely be really caught up in the moment wherever you are — i find that travelling helps me to focus on the moment at hand, both in the process of movement and also the discovery of new places, and that’s something i’ve found really helpful for me personally, because i spend a lot of time worrying about the future in general…

    1. this was a really thoughtful, helpful reply! thank you so much for your thoroughness & reassurance. i really appreciate the idea that being in the moment for a couple months will help pull me out of my future worry–i desperately need that kind of shakeup!

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