"Run," they said. "It'll be fun," they said...

I was one of the most awkward middle schoolers on the face of the planet. But I mean, if you weren’t awkward in middle school, you were doing something wrong. Anyway, in 6th grade, my dad signed me up to play the saxophone in the school band and signed me up for cross country. I quit the sax after a year. Why you ask? Wow, great question, thanks for asking! I sucked. But I was good at cross country. I was fast. I barely tried, yet I was somehow one of the fastest on the team. My dad was an insanely fast runner in high school, and I suppose he passed on some of those running genes to me.

I realized that I actually had potential to be really good in high school, and my dad started pushing me to run during the off season. He asked my coach if I could train with the guys. He wanted me to be the best. Freshman year rolled around, and I was the fastest on my team. During my sophomore team, however, I was beat by an insanely fast girl. She trained non-stop; you could see the passion in her eyes. I began to get competitive and that competitiveness slowly turned into frustration. I wasn’t training to my full potential, yet was confused as to why I couldn’t beat this girl. My passion started to fade, and I began to DREAD race days. But my dad continued to come to all my races, and I knew exactly where he would stand and cheer for me on every course.

My frustration only escalated during my junior year. My mentality was negative, my training was subpar, and I felt like I would never be the fastest or the best, so I decided there was no longer a point in trying. I was continuously comparing my progress to that of others, and I was never happy with my times. If I PR’d, it didn’t matter because I wasn’t the best on my team. The saddest part was, I didn’t care to win for myself; I felt like I was letting my dad down. He LOVED to see me race, and I beat myself up because I wasn’t able to produce the results he wanted to see.

Like most of you know, my dad passed away the summer of my senior year, right before cross country training was about to start again. I thought I couldn’t get any slower than I already was, but man was I wrong. This was one of the toughest challenges and learning experiences I’ve ever had. I barely showed up to practice, I always faked random ass injuries to get out of training, and I quit about 90% of my races that year. I was expecting to see my dad at his spots on the course, but he wasn’t there; my best friend was no longer there to cheer me on. At that moment I realized, I hated running. Running became a chore to me, and I despised every practice and race I had that year. I no longer had the love for it I once did. I was running so my dad could watch in heaven, and I thought he’d be disappointed in me if I quit. But that’s obviously a ridiculous thought, and I came to this realization towards the end of that season. It was time to quit. After 7 years, my running career was FINALLY over.

I basically took about a year off of running. I would mix up my cardio with random gym equipment, and avoided running or racing as much as I could. About two years ago, however, I started getting back into it again. I put on some music, disregarded my pace, and just ran to escape reality for a moment. I started to go for distance and not for speed. I began to fall in love with running again. Why? Because I was doing it for me. I was going at the pace I wanted, and I wasn’t comparing my speed or times to anyone else. I was running because I loved the way it made my body feel; I loved the way it cleared my mind. Today, I am proud to say that my relationship with running has changed from “It’s Complicated” to “Married.”

When you compare yourself to others, you diminish your self worth. There is ALWAYS going to be someone better than you, or someone you perceive to be better than you. But WHO THE HELL CARES. Start something with the purest intentions. Fuel every single one of your hobbies with the passion that burns from within. Watch yourself improve, and watch yourself grow. If you did better than yesterday, you’re succeeding. And if you don’t improve, reevaluate, reset your goals, and try again. And remember: it’s OK to fail. If you don’t fail in life, you’re doing something wrong. You’ll never learn or grow if you don’t fall flat on your face every once in awhile; the moment you stop learning is the moment you stop living. How you move FORWARD in life is all that matters. Don’t let insecurities, fears, or frustration hold you back from anything. Pure joy is only found when your heart and your soul are both equally committed.

If you don’t want to do something, the solution is simple: just don’t do it. No one can force you to do anything, so take some time today to think about what you truly enjoy doing and what you truly do not enjoy doing. Life is too damn precious to live it the way others expect you to live it. Push yourself, challenge yourself, and watch yourself grow into a beautiful and triumphant person. So get up, get out there, and live your life the way YOU want to.

Happy Living, you beautiful people!

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