Sometimes it takes being knocked down a few times to realize that we are exactly where we are supposed to be. It’s easy to become upset when things don’t quite go our way. Especially when we feel like we “deserve” it.
Take the Boston Marathon, for example. For years, I let this race define my goals, the races that I selected to run… and in effect define ME. I won’t recount the years of disappointment here or the unhealthy obsession that I had with qualifying for Boston (just imagine Charlie Brown and Lucy with the football if you need a visual summary). Suffice it to say that my time at the NYC Marathon last fall gave me a big enough buffer (10 minutes and 10 seconds under the standard) that this year I received my acceptance e-mail even before Week 2 registration reopened. When I got that e-mail (after refreshing the screen about 100 times a day following my entry submission) I was excited. I felt vindicated. However, I also felt a little bit like a “sell-out” to admit this excitement after how much bitterness I had spewed in moments of frustration and anger during the preceding years.
Not withstanding this bitterness, I don’t regret anything that I thought or said during the preceding years, nor has my opinion changed. I am absolutely thrilled to be among those running Boston in April 2020, but I am now approaching it with an entirely different perspective than I would have had I been afforded the opportunity previously. I realize now, that while exciting, I still do not give this race the same reverence that I did in years past. I am not a good runner because I was accepted into the Boston Marathon. In fact, I think I am a better runner having faced the heartbreak and rejection because it forced me to dig deep and address parts of myself that I otherwise would have ignored. I ran my qualifying time during a race where attempting to qualify was simply an afterthought because I made it a priority to run to my potential instead. It required me to reevaluate my priorities and realize all of the things in my life that are so much more important than Boston (and running) period. It placed me in a position where I had nothing left to draw upon but pure grit.
For some, the Boston Marathon may mean nothing. However, I venture to guess that everyone has their own “Boston.” The ever elusive goal that no matter what always seems just out of reach. The thing that they have worked their butt off for, that they have “earned,” but that somehow never pans out. The thing that started as a positive, motivating force…but somehow along the way evolved into something else. Instead of giving a pep talk about persevering and keeping one’s eye on the prize – I instead challenge those facing their own struggles to shift perspectives and look at something else for a while. This is not to say that when the going gets tough to give up, but rather to take inventory of what really matters. To find a challenge that brings joy rather than heartache and frustration. Maybe in that paradigm shift you will find that you can accomplish something even greater than you imagined by just changing lenses for a while.