There are all kinds of ways to leave an impression. Me, I prefer the erratic, nonsensical way. There’s something about being genuine without thought of presentation, taking a risk, that compels me. Sometimes to my own detriment, but that’s the risk. Roll the dye. In a world that celebrates facades and champions talent over character, being recklessly real feels like a defiant act.
So here I am, on a Wednesday evening, listening to a guy – an athlete – talk about a story, his story, a public story that I’ve been following for a while. I’m not a fan girl. That’s not my style. But, he’s had my full attention long before today because his is one of those stories that somehow paralleled my story in the most minute of ways that, for me, was significant.
If you’ve been following me at all, you’re well aware of the achilles injury last fall blah blah. At about the same time that I was injured, this guy – a professional athlete on the forefront of the international trail running scene – also has a profound injury. His was way worse. No comparison. Mine: ouch. His: almost dead. Yet, somehow, for me, a kinship was borne. This makes no sense at all and yet is exactly how I am. I feel connection in the weirdest of ways and in the oddest of spaces. So, I start following his journey back from the brink, looking for remnants of light in his impossible successes that will somehow brighten my dark days. To be clear, there were many ways I sought hope and light. I’m not a stalker, just a seeker.
Fast forward to July. This broken athlete somehow puts himself awkwardly back together with pins and surgery, and runs one of the toughest ultra marathons, finishes! I’m watching his little blip move erratically over a screen of mountain ranges and I’m gosh-darn inspired! I’ve only recently decided that I’m ready to try running again, so this athlete’s victory aligns in eery syncronicity with my own return to fitness. The next day, as I’m huffing and wheezing on my first bike commute in ten months (cf July’s blog), the stranger-person’s journey back from Ground Zero inspires me. I don’t know the guy at all. He could be a total jerk. Seriously. I’m not pretending any real knowledge of him, not propping a pedestal under his feet. It’s just me seeking and finding inspiration to move forward from Ground Zero in any manner that works.
Last week, I get to hear The Story in-person. What I maybe should have told someone – in particular my husband who was the opening act for the athlete’s talk – was that this evening is an emotional thing for me. All of what I went through for ten months wells up inside me as I hear The Story and see the pictures and re-live my own journey. I do my best to hold it all in. I really do. A few times, tears well up and I quickly look down, blinking rapidly. Finally, during Q&A, I can’t contain myself and blurt out a spiel of words that vaguely formulate a question, making no sense to anyone including myself. It’s the voice of grief and loss that’s finding light and hope, thank you for sharing your story, here’s mine! So great, right? No. It’s completely weird and awkward, the equivalent of vomiting at the end of a race. Look away!
Not being one to take myself too seriously, I slough off a missed opportunity as exactly that, and really, me being authentically me. I’m pretty sure this guy thinks I’m a freak. I’m also certain others in the room wonder what the heck I smoked before I showed up. Really, I know how to be polished. I have three degrees and years of public speaking. I can be articulate and even full-of-sh*t inspiring. Those things don’t matter to me like they used to. I’ve learned that we have to take the risks. Too many people spend too many years worrying about what to say and how to say it and who will care. Here’s what I’ve learned in my 46 young years: People don’t care. Most are too focused on their own lives to be paying attention to others’. And the ones who notice are usually the ones who genuinely care. That alone is worth the risk. We don’t accomplish anything in running or in life if we don’t put out there who we are, just be real.
“Put more down and think far less. Get over the finer details and do one frivolous, no good thing on nothing more than the idea of it. Forget the words ‘adventure’, ‘epic, ‘awesome’. Ban them from the present life you lead. For it doesn’t start as an adventure. It begins with a risk.” (21 Days Under the Sky)