Sunday, October 22, 2017

The Fear of Complacency/Something to Be Proud of

I haven’t written a blog post in many months. There are a few explanations for this, but after some careful reflection, I think there are some deeper reasons for the lack in writing.

I started a full-time job in August at my alma mater. While I worked throughout my graduate education, I never had a full-time job year round. It’s been an adjustment getting used to the new schedule. I’m not running and exercising as much. If I manage to squeeze that in after work, by the time I get dinner on the table, and the laundry is put away, there isn’t much time or energy left to do anything else, especially writing.

I had an accident in September: I wiped out 2 blocks from home after a 5 mile run and lacerated the skin above my lip, needing 5 stitches. It was pretty painful. While I had a bloody nose and bruised knees (and ego), I didn’t hit my head or break anything. But it has definitely spooked me a bit, and while I managed to eke out a 10 mile run yesterday, that was enough of a struggle at a moderate pace.

But if I’m really honest, I think my silence can be explained by an underpinning desire.

I want to write about something I’m proud of.

I think my 3:27 marathon PR at Boston and my Ph.D. have a lot in common. They represent achievements that took place after years of hard work. I was beyond thrilled when both of them happened, as they represented the culmination of so much time and effort. But I used to think that achieving each of these goals, would cause unceasing satisfaction.

I used to not understand why elite athletes, who, after medaling in the Olympics, would commit to another four years of training, in hopes of winning another medal. Didn’t they already have the crown jewel? What else could they be searching for? Why would they spend so much time, blood, sweat, and tears, working to vanquish another seemingly-insurmountable conquest?

The fear of complacency is real, I’ve learned. I’m just 6 months out from earning my doctorate, and while it represented the culmination of so much work, I’ve come to realize in the past couple of months, that I don’t want it to be the end all for me. My work is not done yet.

For right now, I need to let running be on the back burner. I need it regularly to keep me sane (and to combat the effects of sitting at a desk all day), but it’s not reasonable for me to dream of races and PRs in the near future. My work there isn’t done yet, but it’s on pause for now.

But I have a couple of other big goals that I need to put out there, at least for a sense of accountability. But, like the Ph.D., they are not going to be achieved overnight. They require going back to the drawing board, and recommitting to spending downtime in front of a laptop.

 I want to write 2 books.

Whoa, 2?! Why not just aim for 1? That seems hard enough as it is.

I have two books I want to write, both of which already exist in their early stages.

1 is my dissertation. I received my bound version of it over the summer, and seeing it presented “like a book” furthered my desire to take the academic project I worked on for years, and turn it into an accessible book that more people, beyond those on my committee (and my mom – who has already read it) could want to read. I need to do more research, as there are a couple of (unwritten) chapters that would really help round out the project. I even met with a few of my old professors this week and received both advice and encouragement on tackling this project yet again. That’s Book 1.

Book 2 is going to come out of this blog. Since I started it in 2008, I’ve written a lot about running and writing, and how my journey into marathon running ultimately made me a better student. With hundreds of posts written, there is already a narrative in place about these twin journeys. For the past year, I’ve been combing through the blog, reviewing and editing old posts, as well as adding in some transitions to fill in some of the gaps where I put writing on hold. I already know that people read the blog with some regularity, so surely some of the same people would read my story in book form. I have to admit, part of this inspiration came from seeing my friend, Elizabeth Clor, experience such success in her book, Boston Bound. She utilized a similar approach, writing from her blog, and transformed it into a fascinating and popular book. If I could achieve half of her success, I’d be thrilled beyond belief. That’s Book 2.

Frankly, I think working on both projects can benefit each other. One of the things I really liked about writing the dissertation was that there were enough parts to it, that if I got tired of working on one section, I could move to another. I’m starting to feel the itch to tackle both projects in earnest. I need to reactivate my writing skills and retrain my brain to get back in the habit of writing regularly, both in formally and informally.

I was going back through the journal I kept in college, and found the following statement my freshmen year at Holy Cross, dated November 23, 2004:

I think I’m going to get my doctorate in history and become a history professor.

I feel like I owe it to that wide-eyed, hopeful 18 year-old student, to see these projects to the finish. The Ph.D. was not just an end: it also marked the beginning to the next great adventure.