As I sit in my living room on a rainy Wednesday in PA, I find myself in the unexpected position of being out of a job for the first time in quite some time. Despite the reality of being unemployed at a particularly bad time – both seasonally and economically – I find my brain teaming with tons of emotions but regret, remorse and pessimism are not among them. I truly believe that everything happens for a reason, sometimes immediately apparent and other times part of a bigger plan that is taking shape unbeknownst to us.
I’m not entirely sure why I was still standing when the music stopped, leaving me without a seat in this game of musical chairs, but it’s the position I’m in currently and my new reality. So today marks a new beginning for me, a chance to reinvent myself (or not), a chance to be contemplative and deliberate, a chance to begin a new adventure and add yet another interesting chapter to my book of life. It’s both extremely exciting and tremendously terrifying, but I feel strangely empowered by the ambiguity. In fact, it feels strangely familiar and similar to the first time that I toed the line at the start of my first 1/2 marathon.
I had trained – mentally and physically – hard to be ready for that day, but despite my preparations I was filled with many conflicting emotions as I awaited the start signal. What was I doing? Who am I to think I could run 13.1 miles? What if I failed? What if I succeeded? Self-doubt is a pretty powerful force. You can let it hold you back or use it to propel you forward, but ultimately it’s a choice…a conscious decision that only you can make. I chose then, as I’m choosing now, to use it to my advantage but ultimately it’s on me to decide. Step by step, mile by mile, day by day I have to make the decision, consciously or subconsciously, to keep moving forward.
My 1/2 marathon training has provided me with a powerful lesson and tremendous metaphor for the challenge we face in life. Just as some runs are good when you find the right pace and tempo, others are a struggle. Sometimes you feel like you could go on forever, and others leave you wondering why you bother. Sometimes you tackle challenges like a faster tempo or a hill you once thought you could never make it to the top of, while others leave you broken, tired and full of self-doubt. Sometimes you push through adversity like cramps, side stickers, and injury with aplomb, while others leave you hurting, walking or even sidelined.
To be a successful runner, is to be a success at anything else in life. You learn to set realistic, but lofty goals, and pursue them with all that you have. You come to expect the unexpected, to celebrate the good and learn from the bad. You learn to cease every moment and cherish the opportunity. You learn to push through the pain, because it is temporary and you’ll emerge on the other side of it stronger, more confident and more self-aware. And as importantly, you’ll come to realize that failure is not a reason to stop, but a reason to reflect and redouble your efforts.
Regardless, starting is a choice, just as giving up is a choice, and only you can make it. It wasn’t my choice to close this chapter of my career as abruptly as it did, but it is my choice to start fresh, feeling unencumbered and empowered to succeed. I’m not sure where I’m going or what path will ultimately lead me to my destination but I plan on tackling this challenge as I would any new race, course or workout…by taking a step forward and continuing one foot after the other.