Happy Sunday from my porch! Patrick is off on a long bike ride and my legs are in desperate need of a break. I had a heavy squat block on Thursday that has left me sore for days and, while running did seem to shake some of the soreness, I think it’s best for me to kick up my legs and relax.
I am also thrilled because the weather is not quite as hot and we bought a pumpkin candle today! It smells divine and brings back serious memories from my freshman year of college. I think I must’ve had a similarly scented candle in my room on Elmont Drive.
This is the first time in years that fall is about to start and I don’t have to worry about school. At all! If I wasn’t in school myself, I was working in one. Eventually I started grad school and was enrolled in classes year-round. As of a few weeks ago I am officially done with grad school and never have to look at Blackboard again. I’ve enjoyed reading for fun and picking any topic I want to learn about. I am also relieved. After this summer it felt like I was finishing a chapter in my life and moving forward.
This summer was an absolute whirlwind. It was fun and frustrating and exhausting and exhilarating all at once. I was full of energy and ambition in May, but felt like I was barely holding on in August. So much happened – in the world, at work, in my life – over the summer and I could barely take it all in, let alone process it. The news was heavy, my training was excessive, and I was finishing grad school with my hardest course yet (it as an independent study, so my fault but I didn’t realize how much work my idea would be)!
Any free time I had was spent riding my bike, doing schoolwork, or generally not trying to fall into a pit of despair (see: current events). Not to mention the weather made me feel tired and sluggish. Fortunately, the slog came to an end in mid August. All summer I trained for a big gravel ride in Pennsylvania, where I had intended to do the 80 mile route. Days before we headed up to Warren, PA, I turned in the final assignment for school and was officially down with my Master’s degree. Check that off the list!
When race day rolled around, Patrick and I realized that our bikes might not have been the right kind for the course, but went for it anyway. The climbing was intense, but the gravel roads were beautiful. After the first aid station the route became a little too technical for our bikes, so we had a decision to make: Attempt continuing on and hope the gravel roads came back or turn around. After much deliberation, we decided having fun was more important than riding an arbitrary distance, so we dropped down to the short course (38ish miles). I know myself well enough to be able to anticipate how grouchy I would’ve gotten if we had forged ahead. We made the right choice!
In many ways, our decision on that ride was great practice for me. I struggle with quitting or changing course at times in life. Generally, if I have decided to attempt something or commit to accomplishing a goal, I want to do it no matter what. This applies to books I begin reading, runs I plan for the week, projects at work, and so on. Sometimes, though, trudging forward is exactly that: a trudge. It’s what I did all summer. Sure, there was so much fun at times and plenty of joy to be felt! But I also felt really low at times. I felt like I was forcing myself to do things that I would normally jump at the opportunity to do. I was so tired, yet I felt compelled to keep pushing forward and making progress on my plans.
I am both happy and sad that I did that. Sometimes there really is no other way than through and building mental fortitude is no small feat – for running or for life. On the other hand, I struggle with allowing myself rest and ease. I wish I was better at kicking up my feet and doing nothing. Or just simply being! It’s an exceptionally difficult balance for me to strike. I feel like a well-oiled machine and enjoy that until suddenly it’s overheated and breaking down. Truthfully, the positive revelation I had after doing significantly less riding than planned was awesome – but I still worried about becoming a person who just quits all the time. I’ve still not worked it all out in my brain.
All this to say, after the ride and this summer as a whole, I’ve been trying to find more ease and balance ambition. Right now that looks like: movement I truly enjoy, more social outings, sleeping in, choosing what I learn about, more time on the couch, trying new drinks and foods, and attempting to regain boundaries with work.
I find that I’ve begun craving conversation and time with people again and have the mental and emotional capacity to deeply engage with others once more. It’s nice.
This fall I want to feel rested and strong. Cozy and adventurous. Independent and welcoming. I want to sit in the discomfort I feel when I make the decision not to pursue something. I want to overcome obstacles when I decide it is appropriate to accomplish something. I want to keep thinking about what it’s like to make these decisions, how they make me feel, and when it’s time to cutback or press forward.
Let’s see how it goes!