Sitting in a coffee shop with two of the strongest women I know. It has been a long weekend already and I’m exhausted. Listening to them and thinking back on conversations I’ve had with others, I recognize how beautiful the exhaustion I’m feeling is.
My exhaustion came from a weekend of awesome experiences.
Seeing Kevin Hart’s Irresponsible Tour Friday night.
A 3am wake up call for a road trip to run with friends and Special Forces at Ft. Bragg in honor of SSG Robert J. Miller Saturday morning. This was the inaugural run and we hope more of you will join us next year. Standing among those men and women, hearing the story of SSG Miller, was powerfully moving. And the challenge coin we received means far more than any race medal I’ve ever won. My dad was Special Forces, Airborne, a Vietnam Veteran. He doesn’t talk often about his service, but I know the man he is. And I know that much of his strength of character comes from the challenges he faced during his service. And challenges seems too small a word. But having never served myself, it is all I have.
Read more about SSG Miller here and keep an eye out for the Memorial Run next year.
And another 3am wake up this morning to run Mill Mountain with friends as we train for the Blue Ridge Marathon (Double). Standing at the Star overlooking the city, the view was eerie, quiet, peaceful, and beautiful. And then heading to a coffee shop for a few hours of powerful conversation.
I look at these people I run with and think how amazing their lives, our lives are. How we seek out challenge and crave discomfort. How easy must one’s life be to seek out these things?
And then I realize, no. Our lives are not necessarily easy. These people have stories that will bring you to your knees if you are honored enough to hear them. And many of us have, at some point in our lives, felt something beyond sadness. Depression. Desperation. Hopelessness.
What sets these people, these runners, apart is their unwillingness to stay down and accept that as their life. They are fighters. And they make their strength look easy. They make their lives look easy. So it’s hard to imagine that they’ve ever experienced anything truly hard. I mean, why would someone that has been tested by truly hard things in life seek out activities that continue to push them to uncomfortable, sometimes painful places?
But that’s just it. You seek out challenge to continue to remind yourself of the things you’ve overcome in the past, of the fact that you can overcome anything, absolutely anything, going forward. You continue to test your willingness to be uncomfortable to achieve something amazing later on.
I am in control of my life. And while I know the world will challenge me and there may even be fights that I can’t win, I’ll be damned if I’m going to allow the world to control me. I define my strength. I define my intelligence. I define my beauty. I define my boundaries. I define my worth.
These are the things that the world is defining for so many of our children, particularly our girls. Why would we possibly allow our children to be defined by the world?
They need to know that they have the power to define themselves. That is their right, even their responsibility. They need to know that they have the strength to handle challenging situations on their own. They need to experience the discomfort of fear and uncertainty and disappointment and failure so they can experience the intoxicating feeling of overcoming.
And as a parent I know how seductive it is to protect. I think any challenges or hurt or disappointment my kids experienced were far harder for me than it was for them. There is no pain in the world like watching your child in pain. But that is how they become the strong, independent, resilient adults we want them to become. They’re not going to get there with us fighting their fights for them, protecting them from every injustice or disappointment or discomfort or fear or failure. They’re supposed to fail. We’re all supposed to fail. That’s how we learn. That’s how we eventually succeed. That’s how we create the life and the world we want.
But we can give them the tools they need to be more resilient, to more readily handle those challenges.
I hope my kids will always see me taking on challenges and walk away with their own willingness to face the work and discomfort and failures necessary to do the things they want to do. I hope that long after I’m gone, they will think of me the way I think of my mom and dad, as a source of inspiration, and know that they have the power to change the world. So I will continue to take on things like the Blue Ridge Double Marathon and Spartan Trifecta and any other crazy ridiculous challenge.
And I will continue to support and give my time to programs like Girls on the Run so I can help more kids develop these skills. This is how I will fight to change the world, to make it better.
Because there really are no people in the world quite like runners. So, it’s important that we continue to create more.