just a mom figuring it out one day at a time

“Dream Big,” & Other Things I Would Say to My Younger Self

A little more than three weeks ago I was traveling up to New York on the train. My journey to running the NYC Marathon began two years prior when I got into the marathon, but had to withdraw because I had torn my hamstring from the bone and needed surgery. After a year of rehabbing my injury, with things still not completely “right,” my surgeon suggested that perhaps I try a different activity.

I wouldn’t accept that.

Instead, I found an amazing physical therapist who specialized in runners. She helped me rebuild not only myself, but my confidence. With the additional physical therapy, my training window was shortened but I completed it. Even though I had accepted that I wouldn’t run my best time, I was still anxious and wondered if I would finish uninjured.

Sitting beside me on the train were four twenty-somethings headed to NYC for Halloween. They all worked in corporate America, and two worked for one of the big consulting firms, much like I had at their age. I couldn’t help but overhear their conversation:

“I wish I could do something that I liked and was good at. Unfortunately, I don’t know that I’m really good at anything.” Said the young man still decked out in his slate gray suit.

Seated diagonally from him was a young woman who looked like she had walked out of a Ralph Lauren catalog and belonged in horse country. She had long, straight brown hair and was impeccably dressed. She laughed a little and took a swig of her Dogfish Head craft beer. She looked at her girlfriend seated across from her, and next to the young man, and asked her, “So…if you could do anything in the world, what would you do?”

Her friend responded, “I don’t know. I never think about it, but I think being a wedding planner would be fun! What about you?”

The horse country girl laughed some more. Then she said, “Well, I don’t know what I would want to do either, but as long as it didn’t involve making Power Point Presentations I would be happy!”

The last of the foursome, a blond, then added, “Well, all I know is that I would like to work for crazy for four days, but on my three days off I want to be left alone. No emails, no text messages, nothing having to do with work.”

Listening to them, I had to smile. I found it ironic that they had gone to good schools, gotten jobs and already were in a rut, just existing. Then there was me, sitting on this train about to attempt one of my lifelong dreams and had just started graduate school in a field totally unlike anything I had done before. About to turn 43 in a few weeks, looking at them, I wished it hadn’t taken me twenty years to figure things out. If I could, what would I say to them? What would I say to them if they were my kids? What would I have said to my younger self?

1. Believe in yourself, but also believe there is a higher power much larger than you.
2. Don’t be afraid to try what you think might be impossible. It’s much better to fail while trying, than failing to try. Sometimes the greatest things are found when you push your own limits.
3. Laugh at yourself.
4. Find ways to feed your spirit. If you can’t do it with your job, feed it another way. Just don’t lose sight of what makes you happy.
5. Don’t dwell on yesterday or worry for tomorrow. Be present in this moment because the good and bad all pass.
6. Focus on what is within your control. Sometimes things aren’t worth your energy and you just have to let them roll.
7. Practice forgiveness and letting go of anger; you’ll be a much happier person.
8. Dream big. Accomplishments don’t happen overnight, but can be earned. No one is entitled to anything.
9. Engage in random acts of kindness.
10. Your life story is of your making. If you don’t like this chapter, close it and start a new one.

The morning of November 2, 2014, I stood on the Verrazano Bridge, looked out to New York City and was overwhelmed. I was doing it. No matter what it took, I would complete the NYC Marathon, and if nothing else, my kids would know I wouldn’t give up.

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It didn’t go as I planned, with a few physical issues and crazy windy weather. However, I finished and cried as I crossed the finish line. My husband sent a text to my surgeon to let him know that patient #10’s hamstring repair held up to the NYC Marathon.

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Perhaps what moved me even more happened after the finish when I met up with my husband and kids. While hugging me with all her strength, KC said, “Mom, we’re so proud of you!”

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