Wow, the stronghold that those pilgrim values have on me is powerful! I am 55 years old, and I am just summoning up the strength to shake off those cultural beliefs that you can't just do whatever you want. Furthermore, you feel like you're a bad person if you even want to peek around that corner just to get a quick glimpse of what the do-whatever-you-want-life might look like. And if you go ahead and do whatever
you want there is a not so subtle implication that you are selfish and thoughtless. And irresponsible. And probably reckless. The funny thing is, the more I invest in myself and the more I inch towards doing whatever I want, despite the lifelong warnings, the more I like myself. I am also softer and more vulnerable. I'm braver than I've ever been. My circumstances have improved and my relationships have improved and my health has improved. And I have more to give.
That word selfish is enough to stop anyone in their tracks, and the way it's misused is frustrating to me. People use the word selfish if they put themselves first, and that's not what selfish is. Selfish is defined as an action or motive that lacks consideration for other people. If that's the case then I have been selfish the majority of my adult life based on the immense lack of consideration I had for myself. I would
love for that word to be driven back into it's rightful and narrow place. I think a lot of people, especially a lot of women, are so worried about that label that we tip the other direction. A common compliment for women is that they are selfless. Self less--without a self. There are appropriate times to be selfless, but to live as a selfless person is concerning to me. I know what the result of that looks like physically, emotionally and spiritually. I know what it entails to recover from that.
I remember the day this page came up on the running calendar, and I remember it catching me off guard. Why in the world would this be on a running calendar? There was no context for it that I could think of, but I definitely needed to see it. It was in the fall during the pandemic, and I was on a long furlough from my job. I was running and writing, and I knew those were connected and I had the time to find out what that meant. I was getting a breather for the first time in my adult life. I was by myself all day. I couldn't go anywhere or see anyone. I was just running and writing, and since no one was around I could tiptoe up to and peek around that corner and get a really good, long look at the world of I really can do whatever I want. And I really liked what I saw. I started working with a career coach at that time and she was looking at my resume, education and work history and she asked what kind of office I wanted to work in and I said "No kind of office. I'm not going back to an office." And then she asked , "Well then what do you want to do?"
Maybe it's because we were in the middle of a global crisis. Maybe it's because I had been through some pretty difficult things personally. Maybe it's because my friend was dying. Maybe it's because I
was aware that I wasn't getting any younger. Maybe because at the beginning of 2020 I had promised myself to live more bravely. Maybe because of all of these things I could feel how precious my life was. Maybe it's because of all of that I said "Well, I want to run. And I want to write. I want to see how good I can get at both. And I want work that I love that will support both--a companion career that somehow has to do with running to support my writing."
And so I have spent the last two years pursuing that, and shaking off the voice that tells me you can't just do whatever you want to do--it doesn't work like that. But I think it does work like that. I think it works exactly like that. And I'm stubborn and determined and smart enough to know that it may take some time and a lot of trying this and trying that to uncover what it is, but that's okay because I like to work. And I get to keep at my running life and keep at my writing life while it's all unfolding. In fact, I'm supposed to run and write--it's all part of the same stew.
I really do hope I don't appear selfish and thoughtless, but I know I have no control over that. And I think it would be reckless for me not to follow this path that's been laid out before me. There's a little mystery at the heart of the whole thing, and it makes me really happy.
You really can do whatever you want.