26.2 A SERIES
Everyone has dreams. Since I was about 16 years old, one of mine has been to run a marathon. When I cross the finish line in NYC on November 5th, I’ll likely do so with a recorded time of between 4 and 5 hours. In reality though, it will have taken me much longer to get there. There are things inside and outside of us that bring us closer to our dreams. There are also things that delay us, that push us so far away from our goals they are sometimes out of sight. If we are lucky, little by little, we are often able to transform those stumbling blocks into building blocks–they become the foundation for our strength, resilience, and ultimate determination. This series aims to uncover my long journey. Each week, I’ll share the people, places, and things that have brought me to the place I am at today, and that I hope will carry me from the starting line in Staten Island, to the finish line in Central Park. Mile by mile–this, is my 26.2.
Miles .2- To Keeping Our Dreams Alive, Even When it Hurts
In February of this year, I was sitting alone at my desk trying to pull myself together. While I normally have office mates, at this particular time I was wrapping up the end of one show solo while my boss and supervisor took on a pilot during our hiatus. I was spending most of the day by myself.
Overall this was a tough time. Trump had just been inaugurated. I felt like our country and our world was falling apart. I had so much I wanted to say but I couldn’t get any of it out on paper. I was barely writing at all. I began having some breathing problems and was sent to a few different doctors, none of whom came up with any other cause but anxiety. I felt stuck. Compressed. Heavy. On top of all this, I was waiting. I had entered the lottery for the 2017 NYC Marathon and as the day of the drawing drew nearer, I felt sick every time I looked at the calendar.
I kept debating whether I should pull out of the lottery and not risk my credit card getting charged the $255 fee. What if I actually got in and then I couldn’t run the race?
There were a lot of reasons I thought I might not be able to run a marathon:
- I had gotten bad tendinitis in my knees that side-lined me for four months and I hadn’t taken on a distance over 8 miles in almost two years. Those four months were some of the hardest of my life and I was terrified of re-injuring myself and perhaps even doing permanent damage that would keep me from running even longer.
- My sudden respiratory problems seemed like an obvious impediment to any feat of endurance.
- I had applied to several internships at my local NPR station, and if I got one of them, my schedule would be erratic and I wouldn’t have time to train. (Spoiler: I never got an internship, they were looking for someone with a little more youth!)
The main reason though, seemed to greet me first thing every morning when I opened my eyes–the thought bubble would appear over my head even before my big toe would hit the ground:
I had wanted to run a marathon since I was 17 and I had never gotten close to a starting line. I had never even dared.
I kept asking the Universe if my husband running the year before was it–maybe that was the fulfillment of my dream. Life can be mysterious–it’s always offering up a different angle or a different perspective that I was previously blind to. It’s happened enough times now that I stay on the look out for it. I thought it could be that my hubs crossing that finish line was my dream being realized. After all, watching him felt wonderful.
Back to my office. Like I said I was by myself most of the time. This made it easier for my spontaneous bursts into tears to go on quietly for a few minutes each day at my desk. On this day though, my boss walked in to chat with me about something. She started talking and then looked down at me and stopped. At first she asked if I had allergies. I thought about saying yes, but then in one second, we both knew the jig was up. Immediately her tone changed. “What’s wrong, what’s going on?” She was there to listen.
I told her about the breathing problems I was having. I told her how I had not been able to write for a long time. I told her that I was terrified of getting into the marathon and actually having to try to run it. I told her I was thinking about pulling out of the lottery.
Right away she offered a sensible, reasonable approach–that’s very much who she is. She said, “You don’t have to stress about this now. What if you don’t even get in, then all of this worry was for nothing. Just wait, and if you get in, then you can figure things out from there.”
I knew she was right, but as soon as I heard her, I knew that “getting in” was not the issue. I cried harder. The thought that really scared me, that was standing on my chest and breaking my heart, finally slipped out of my mouth. I told her, “I am so terrified to try for this, but I think I am even more terrified to give up on it.”
Full on SOBS.
I continued, my voice shaking. “If I give up on this, I feel like I am telling the Universe that I am giving up on ALL my dreams–I’m not going to run a marathon, I’m not going to live abroad, I’m not going to write for a living–if I let this one go, that’s it, I’m no longer a dreamer–I’m a “realist” who will go on to live a sensible, practical, perfectly fine–but smaller, life.”
I think she thought this was pretty dramatic. But she was kind. She told me I didn’t have to give up on anything. We talked for a while after that. Eventually weaving our way through different subjects that meant something to both of us. The whole time I thought about how grateful I was that my boss was a strong woman that I could cry in front of. Not everyone has that.
When she left me to my work I felt a bit better. My breathing had improved. It seemed I finally had some clarity. The issue wasn’t nerves. It wasn’t getting in or not getting in. It was bigger. It was a turning point. Every once in a while, the Universe calls up and asks what kind of life I want–and I have to answer. This was one of those calls. It felt familiar. It felt like when I made the decision to move to New York City. I had never liked New York when I had visited before and I had no idea what I was going to do here or how I was going to make a living. But in that short time that I had to decide, the fear of staying in the same safe place that I knew somehow became greater than the fear of venturing out into the unknown. I knew I wanted my life to be BIGGER. Walking through fear was the only way to that.
I would stay in the lottery.
The day of the drawing I was a bundle of nerves and excitement. I sat at my desk and started googling marathon training plans. Both my boss and supervisor came in to my office to work on something at the other computer and one of them remembered it was the big day. “Are you nervous? What are your chances of getting in?” One of them asked. I told them I was nervous–but not about getting in. I was terrified that I was actually going to try to run the damn thing. I knew that technically my chances of getting in through the drawing were about 1 in 7. I also knew that chance had nothing to do with it. I knew my name would be picked. I knew it was my time.
I think they started the drawing around 10AM. At 10:07, I got a pop-up on my phone that my credit card had been charged $255. I was IN.
I had doubts from the beginning. This process has transformed most of those doubts into beliefs. It’s been a journey whose awesomeness I’ve yet to be able to completely describe. I’ll attempt that later. But for now, I will say this: When I finally had the willingness to try, the Universe was right there to give me a shot.
Being practical has it’s place. Being realistic about life is a necessity. Still, don’t give up on your dreams. The ones that live inside you and won’t go away. The ones you try to bury deep down, but always pop up in front of you or around the corner. That ache is not for nothing. The Universe would not let it persist if there wasn’t truth in it, if it didn’t believe in you. That nagging is need, and the world is calling on you to give in a way that only you can. It’s your gift. I know it’s scary. But take the first step. Trust that you will be guided the whole way through. You can: try for that better job, or travel to that faraway place, or be a single parent, or open up that bookstore, or run that race.
I started dreaming of running a marathon when I was 17 years old, galloping around the 8-lap track at the local University’s gym as men past their prime played pick-up ball down below. Today, at 34 years old, at 10:40AM, I will finally make it to the starting line of my first 26.2.
When you get to that place where the fear of NOT trying is greater than the fear of failing–seize it–don’t let it get away from you. Believe that the plan the Universe has for you could be even more wonderful, and more beautiful than you could have imagined. Believe in yourself. Believe in your dreams. Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.
After 26 long miles, .2–the last few steps, go to me, and to you. We own these strides, and also the unbelievable pride that comes in not letting our dreams die.
This series was like a marathon in itself. I doubted it many times and feel an enormous amount of pride that I made it all the way through. For those of you who have been with me and following along the whole way through, I thank you with everything I have. Your support through all of this has been incredible. I have literally been carried through this whole thing by people all around the world, and my heart could not be more full. My legs are ready. And thanks to you guys, my mind is as well. Like I said earlier, I will cross the starting line at 10:40am this morning. If you care to track me, there’s a really easy NYC marathon app that can be downloaded and deleted when you’re finished. My bib number is 41441. Feel free to whisper or yell things into the little dot moving along the map–I’ve got a good feeling I’ll hear you somehow. So much love to everyone. Thanks guys. x