Thursday, November 17, 2011

Figuring out this life

Fall in Seattle is nice.

I don't often share things online that I write in my own journal, but I wrote the this a couple weeks ago, and I think it's worth a share (if you can stand the long-winded navel-gazing that these self-indulgent entries inevitably feature).

Nov. 4 - I don't have enough time and energy to tackle everything in my life that I want, to pursue all the paths that entice me. Every time I meet or read about someone on one of those paths, I think, "Yes! That's the thing I want to devote myself to!" I read a great novel, I want to be a novelist. I read Sedaris, I want to tell stories about my life that make people laugh. I stumble on an interesting blog that generates revenue, I'm sure that's what I'm cut out to do. I run a trail race, and suddenly running is all I care about excelling at. I go to a good bluegrass show and I'm obsessed with picking my banjo. I read an interview with a successful young entrepreneur and I'm sure I want to start my own business.

My parents can attest to the fact that this extreme enthusiasm for mimicry started early in my life. A visit to the circus inevitably inspired a homespun version in our basement in Kansas when we got home in the evening. I'd rope in my stuffed animals, my dog Sasha, my hula hoops. I taught myself to juggle plastic bowling pins, practiced enough gymnastics to pull off one-handed cartwheels and front handsprings. The rodeo, the Olympics, the carnival...anywhere fun and exciting my parents took me, I took home with me and recreated in the basement for an audience of two.

If I watched a game show, I'd make up my own version at home; pretending to ask my parents questions for a school project, I'd interview them individually about their favorite and least favorite things, then challenge them against each other later in game show format to see who knew whom best. If I visited my dad at his office at the Kansas City Star and he took me down to see the massive, noisy, ink-stained printing presses, I'd draw up my own family newspaper by the end of the week. I kept up the W Family Gazette for an impressive number of issues, flying down the stairs in excitement to deliver my product to the hands of my parents, crying out "Hot off the press!" and charging them a quarter apiece for their issues.

Believe me, I treasure this quality in myself. Creativity and a constant hunger for learning and trying new things certainly keep life interesting, and usually pretty darn fun. But it's not without its frustrations, too. My journal entry from two weeks ago continues:

I exhaust myself! I can't decide. Not that my decision needs to last forever, of course, but nothing's ever going to happen in my life if I spread myself too thin. I can't do the New York Times crossword every day, prepare great meals, read at least a book a week, keep up on current events, maintain my blog, have enough time for all the people I love, volunteer regularly, make time to write in my own journal, continue working on my Dutch, take web design classes, teach myself a half dozen programming languages, run 50 miles a week, keep the apartment clean, work on transitioning to a high-raw diet, do yoga, lift weights, ride my bike, meditate and develop a stronger spiritual core, build a photography portfolio, travel regularly, submit more of my writing for freelance publication, hike, snowboard in the winter, write letters to friends, maintain a social life that involves going out at least a few nights a week, stay in touch on Facebook, work and earn enough money to afford living in Seattle...and still get enough sleep! It's ridiculous, now that I've written all that down, how much I actually expect myself to do in my day-to-day life. Obviously, I have to make some choices.

And those aren't even the BIG goals. Those are just the average daily life goals, the stepping stones to the big goals. Big goals are things like: summiting Mt. Rainier, running a 100-mile race, publishing a book, making the world a better place in a really big way...

So, where does that leave me? The two weeks in Holland gave me the incredible gift of time for reflection on what passions continue to stoke my fire the most - and (surprise!) running and writing both emerged high. I've been looking into volunteering with local chapters of several nonprofits (you know, in my copious amounts of free time!), and I've been torn between 826 Seattle, a center that offers youth after-school mentoring, tutoring and writing workshops - and Girls on the Run, a program that helps young girls feel empowered and develop healthy habits and self esteem through running.

I use my deliberation over the volunteering choice as a metaphor for the greater internal debate - whether, at this point in my life, to make running or writing my bigger priority. Neither passion, obviously, will ever fall completely out of my daily life - but I've been doing a little of both for many years, and I'm ready to do a lot of one of them for awhile to see what happens. I'm fortunate, of course, that I've been able to do a good amount of writing in my working life so far - this debate is really about what my "after-work" hours will look like (until, of course, I can figure out how to get paid to run all day and then write about it!)

With this question nagging at me since I've been back in the states, it's no wonder that the following quote jumped out at me from a book I've been reading, Matt Fitzgerald's RUN: The Mind-Body Method of Running by Feel. Deena Kastor, America's fastest and most accomplished female marathoner, said to Matt in an interview that in 1995,"I didn't feel like I had done everything for my running. I felt I had much more potential and I didn't want to walk away from it. I could open up a bakery or write a book at any time in my life, but I wanted to make sure that I got that running fever out while I was still young and energetic enough to do it."

And guess what? That spoke to me. I met Deena at the 2008 Chicago Marathon, after taking an impromptu solo road trip and obtaining a press pass to chat it up with the elite runners. She was softspoken, kind and every bit as inspiring in person as when I'd read about her in articles.

Deena, right before my starstruck-fan ambush.

So I'm doing it. I'm taking advantage of my youth and energy, and making running my top priority for 2012. My plans include: (hopefully) snagging a coaching spot with Girls on the Run, volunteering at as many trail runs as I can fit into my schedule, running higher mileage than ever before, training for my first 50-miler, qualifying for Boston, and above all, logging my second totally injury-free year in a row! Cheers for finding both form and footwear that work for me.

Three beautiful fall runs, three different pairs of shoes...can you tell I'm turning into a junkie?