What it takes
Part of life is making our own decisions. Some say that it is part of being a grown-up, and truly, its just what we gotta do. We can seek out all the advice we want from all the various sources available, but in the end, it’s what we choose to do that dictates how our lives will play out. Of course, there are some people whose opinions matter more than others (and each of us have different hierarchies of opinion-values). And, of course, there are some decisions we don’t have control over, and there are some outcomes that we just simply can’t predict. Regardless, being a grown-up means wearing the big shoes, and sometimes the big shoes aren’t very comfortable.
I’ve been having a few (ok, several) rough months with decision-making in training, racing, and – most importantly – life. With my fiance 700miles away, a pet that has special needs, and a job that my future life/career depends on, I find myself struggling with what’s left over. My training is a big pile most of the time, and I sometimes feel twinges of guilt and torment when I read posts like Chuckie V’s “Happiness, Ambition, and Pursuit,” especially while I sit in my kitchen reading it while eating a big bowl of rocky road ice cream as some sort of nutrition-subsidized training for the day. When I reflect on what I’ve done in the past – in racing particularly- and truly focus on how well last season went for me and how much potential I had in the sport, I am knocked off the totem pole when I look at what I’ve become. I work a ton and I don’t manage my time in order to train like I should and could. I find myself struggling to get up early and go for runs when I could just as easily go right into work and get two more hours of stuff done. I stopped going to group training sessions, which is really my only source of social interaction with humans. And, fortunately or unfortunately, I find myself struggling to leave work because I always feel so far behind on everything and want to get as much as I can done. How am I ever going to get ahead? The truth is, I don’t know.
With triathlon, I have been telling myself over and over throughout the last year that I have the potential to do well and that I can continue to improve and become a better athlete. But when I race as of late, I’m so disappointed. I feel out of shape (because I am out of shape), I feel slow and lazy and my run is weak. I feel fat (because that 10lbs around my waistline didn’t come just appear out of nowhere) and fluffy and wussy. While training is fun, and tagging-along is my favorite thing to do, I have a difficult time negotiating with myself that its a better idea to go outside and run, if only for 3 miles, than to stay at work an extra hour or to watch an episode of Glee on Hulu. I just don’t get it: why is it that I can’t find the balance, and why do I feel like a teeter-totter all the time?
Truth is, things are different this year. I know that. I’m not in grad school anymore, and I know that my life right now is not supposed to be focused around becoming a faster triathlete or marathoner. Maybe I made that decision when I took this job, when I said “I want to become the best scientist I can be.” But truly, I don’t think it’s quite that. Taking this job didn’t mean that I have to give up my triathlon potential. But what is potential, really? Taking another page from Chuckie’s book, “potential” is practically fruitless. Wanting something and actually doing it are not the same thing. And having the potential to be the best, without actually striking forth and reaching for it, ain’t worth shit.
A year ago, when I took this job, I made the decision to become a better scientist, to become the best at what I do. No, I take that back. When I realized that my education potential is limitless, that was when I made the decision to become the best scientist I could be. However arrogant or hoity-toity that may seem, I knew the opportunity before it really ever bore its head. When I was preparing for my dissertation defense and knowing that I was the only one that really truly knew and understood the stuff I was about to present, I knew what I wanted to do in life. I may have realized this limitless potential, perhaps, when I was recruiting subjects and sponsors for my master’s thesis project, and was so geeked about data and statistics and mechanics. Maybe I knew there was this “potential” when I was a junior in college, so completely awed by the world of biomechanics that I took the course from two different departments. No, I bet it started before that even, when I was in high school shadowing biomedical engineers at Flower Hospital or maybe even earlier, when I was learning about running gait and proper form from my dad’s physical therapist when I was in middle school cross-country. Regardless, the truth is, I knew what I wanted before I knew what I wanted. Ya dig?
And I want to be the best. I am a competitive person, I admit it openly. But I’m not out to sabotage others who also want to be the best. I am realizing that, in order to be the best, I need to focus on that. And by focusing on being the best at one particular thing leaves little room for being the best at anything else, really. We should all strive to be the best at what we do, to challenge ourselves beyond what we think is possible. Some people are good at a lot of things. They aren’t the best at a lot of things, but they are good. I don’t think I will be the best by any means, but I can’t be my best if I don’t give it my all.
When I reflect on this year, I am not going to be sad about my lack of “living up to my potential”- So, this year I wasn’t a rockstar triathlete like I wanted to be. Big woop. I didn’t win my age group at anything and I even bailed on several races for fear of doing poorly. Who cares? Racing stopped being fun, not because I wasn’t racing great races or traveling to great places, but because I was reflecting on my potential in the sport. I knew what I could do, I’d done it before; how come I am not better than before? Aren’t we supposed to get better? Why am I not even the same as I was last season? My potential ended up leaving me short-sighted; I would tell myself over and over that I could have done better ( … ). Too bad I didn’t. And perhaps was my “potential” limited me from really, fully, truly enjoying things like this:
And I’m not living up to my potential in triathlon. Where has my potential got me? Well, nowhere. My decisions to act on my abilities, however, have driven me straight upward. For a long time, I believed that my potential was limited to my ability to pursue endurance sports and to do well at them. I thought that my potential would some day get me to a sub 3hr marathon or a Kona slot or whatever. But my potential, I’ve learned this year, means crap. It’s what I choose to do, what I commit to achieve, that really matters. And for now, Kona will just have to wait. I’ve got other fish to fry.