Fartleks and life changes
Being as neurotic as I am, it's expected that my obsessiveness carries over into almost everything that I do. Running has been absolutely no exception. Sometime last July I found a training schedule online that promised I would be able to run a half marathon in 12 weeks - They were right. So I stuck with it, and I'm still using it to train for my upcoming half marathon in May. If anyone was to suggest adjusting or changing said schedule, my eye would start twitching and I would feel panic set in because why, why on earth would I want to do that? You don't stray from the schedule. You obey the schedule.
Well, I learned something new this week. One of my new work friends, Mandy, who is Super Woman and ran two full marathons within a month of each other, approached me about running together a few weeks ago. Honestly, I was hesitant at first because my little schedule never mentioned anything about running with a partner, and I am conditioned to run alone. All I know is running by myself on the trail or treadmill, and since I've been steadily improving my times, I thought I was doing just fine with that routine. But Mandy has been running for several years and really knows her stuff, so I took it as an opportunity to step outside my comfort zone, try something new, and learn from someone much more experienced than me.
Oh boy! Did she not only take my outside of my running comfort zone, she picked me up and tossed me so far outside of it that I couldn't even SEE my comfort zone anymore. Physically running with another person wasn't a concern of mine; we both agreed we like to crank our jams up loud, thus eliminating the need to be social and gasp through a conversation. What made me nervous was straying away from my pre-determined running distance and pace, and I was afraid I was going to mess up my endurance because I had to push too hard or something similarly OCD like that. But I was wrong. Very wrong.
Today Mandy formally introduced me to fartleks and today I learned that I do not like them. Despite the name being wildly hilarious (because I have the mentality of a 6 year-old boy), there is nothing funny about them at all. After we ran an 8 minute mile, we did 10 rounds of sprinting at our fastest possible speed for 1 minute, followed by 1 minute of walking. (I'm not built for speed. I'm built for a nice, long scenic cruise ... so these did not sit well with my legs). Then we cooled down with another mile or two, finishing us off at about 5.17 miles for the session.
I feel amazing now. They were totally worth it. It's going to definitely help my running. Mandy runs like a beast.
I told you that long FARTlek story as kind of an introduction to what I really wanted to write about today. I've been feeling really convicted lately that I need to make some serious life changes. I've been trying to ignore a nagging feeling in my gut that I'm going through an identity crisis. (Don't make fun of me. It happens to 40 year-old men all the time.) It just sounds so stupid to me. I think that's why I've been ignoring it for so long. I started to notice these feelings right around the time I made the decision to leave my advertising job and work from home last fall. Advertising was all I had been working towards and all I thought I wanted in a career, so now what was I supposed to do? A dream of mine died and I was left feeling confused and insecure. I'm a girl who has a plan at all times, feeling lost and uncertain are not concepts I'm all too familiar with. I had to start asking myself tough questions like, "What do I really want out of life?" and "What do I like?" and "What is important to me?"
So, I did what anyone else would do in my situation - I stuffed my feelings back down inside and tried to carry on, focusing more on trying to make ends meet than trying to make myself happy. Don't get me wrong, working from home was/is amazing and I do have aspirations of being a full-time stay-at-home mommy some day, but I felt a little empty simply because I didn't know who I was anymore. If I wasn't Courtney: Aspiring Creative Director ... who was I?
I made promises to myself to do some soul-searching and find a new direction, but I only got as far as "Step 1: make some time to do some soul-searching" because life happened, responsibilities beckoned, and I just didn't have time to sit on the grass and stare at the clouds, dreaming of what my life could be.
I'm content with publishing right now because I know publishing and it's generally something I'd like to learn more about. I've accepted that my job doesn't define me and since I want to ultimately stay at home with my children, breed beagles, and write for magazines any way, I figure it's just a means to an end. As long as I can pay my bills, have a little responsibility, and not leave the office crying every day, I consider that a good job. My job situation is leveling itself out and since my career was stealing such a huge part of my focus, I now have more free time to pay attention to something else in my life.
Sometimes I hestitate and hold back on things that I really want to discuss on my blog because the people I'm aware of that read this are my friends and family. This is an open forum to talk about whatever I want, but I still have a pestering fear that I'll be judged or say something or reveal something about myself that someone isn't going to like.
We all put up fronts and sometimes I feel like I'm one of the biggest posers.
I've constructed a lot of my identity based on what I think will seem appealing or cool to other people. I buy clothes that I think will reflect an image other people will find favorable. I say things or agree to activities that I think will make me seem interesting. I even try to come across as wildly busy and intriguing in my facebook status updates (FAIL). I say "no" to a lot of things I should say "yes" to, and I say "yes" to a lot of things I should say "no" to.
To make matters worse, I've built all of my opinions of myself by comparing myself to other people. I never seem to make "I am" statements. Rather, my daily dialouge consists of a lot of "I'm not" statements. "I'm not as ____ as _____" (insert varying adjective and person accordingly). I'm not as pretty as so-and-so. I'm not as smart as so-and-so. I'm not as sweet or soft-spoken or funny or fast or skinny as ...
My life consists of nothing but comparisons to other people, particularly other women. I'm constantly comparing and constantly discovering that I don't measure up based on the ridiculously high standards I thrust upon myself. I want to be perfect at everything and, since perfect is impossible, I'm exhausting myself chasing an ideal that I'll never reach.
This past Saturday I ran 10 miles in an 1 hour and 34 minutes. I set a goal for myself to run that distance in under an hour and a half. I came back from my run super pissed off at myself for not meeting my goal. Clayton asked me how it went, and I woefully shared that I missed my goal by 4 minutes. "But you still ran 10 miles in a really good time. A few months ago it took you over two hours to run that far. How could you possibly be mad about that?" he asked me. "Because," I said, kicking off my shoes and sitting on the couch in a huff, "lots of other runners can do it so much faster."
Then Clayton asked me a very sobering question that I've been asking myself ever since: "Courtney, who are you running for?"
That brings me to where I am right now. I'm having an identiy crisis. I need to make some changes, I need to find out what truly brings me joy - not what I think should be bringing me joy. I need to invest in my self-esteem and invest in liking myself instead of getting other people to like me. I'm nice enough. I think most people I meet can generally tolerate me. But honestly, sometimes I can't tolerate myself.
I'm not sure how I'm going to do it, but I'm going to. I'm going to do some brain storming tonight when I'm inevitably lying away in bed tonight, unable to sleep. I want to try new things that will give me personal satisfaction and pleasure. I want to strip away what I think I should be and find out what I really am. I'm probably not nearly as glamorous or as well put together as I so painfully try to maintain that I am. I'm probably not as girly as my wardrobe tries to say I am. I'm probably not nearly as interesting or entertaining as I want you all to believe.
And I'm probably going to be okay with that.