Two issues of Runner’s magazine lay on my kitchen table: unopened, unread. Because, these past two months, I haven’t felt like a runner. I told myself that if I read these issues, I would be lying to myself. “You haven’t been running; you don’t deserve to read these.”
So, I haven’t. They’ve just shuffled back and forth on the oaken surface, only moving when I have to clean. A large part of me wants to read them, wants to see what has been happening in the world of runners, but that bit of me that feels like I’d be lying to the running community and myself remains prevalent.
This winter has been brutal; perhaps, because it has seemingly lasted for years. With this brutal, bitterly cold season, I’ve done a lot of thinking about life and my role within this vast universe. Naturally. What else is there to think about when it’s negative fifty outside? With every passing month, I feel like I know more about myself and who I am. But, this past January and February have, in ways, caused me to rethink everything I thought I knew. At the very least, it made it harder for me to motivate myself to keep doing the things I love.
I started wondering if I could call myself a runner when I haven’t been running. If I could call myself an academic when I hadn’t been learning or researching. Could I still be a writer if I hadn’t really written anything in months? Can I keep all of these parts of my identity, these pieces that make me me, if I haven’t been actively using them? Am I lying if I still call myself a runner, writer, academic? Does constant performance create identity, or might it be that these activities simply become a part of me once I do them long enough?
And if I can no longer claim those pieces of me, who am I?
I know I put too much pressure on myself. As soon as I jogged for the first time in a month a couple of weeks ago, it felt like old hat. Like I hadn’t taken a month break. I wasn’t as fast as I had been, and my pace was off, but it felt just as freeing as it always had. I listened to my music, moved my feet and legs, and I was instantly back in San Diego pushing myself up excruciating hills, sweat dripping from my forehead and arms. I felt like a runner again.
Lately, I’ve also felt like an academic again. I’m sitting in on another class, critically thinking and scoping a research paper to do on my own time. It feels like it always felt. I want to explore the stacks, surround myself with old books and ideas. My brain flexes, forming connections between characters and theories. And it feels wonderful. It feels, oddly, like coming home.
I still haven’t really been writing. But, I have a plan of action for that. I’ll set aside an hour a day for different writing projects. It might be a short story, it might be a blog post. Either way, I will dedicate myself to writing for an hour a day. It might be complete crap, I imagine most of it will be, but at least it will be something.
Eventually, I’ll feel like myself again. I will have run enough, researched enough, and written enough to feel like I’ve properly performed all of the pieces of my identity I had been missing. It will feel like the past two months had never happened. I’ll remember how I read a lot in January, how I reinvigorated my workout regime in February; I won’t focus on how unmotivated, how dreary, I felt. I’ll lose winter’s hold on me.
Until then, I’ll do what I can. Perhaps, I’ll start with finally reading my magazine. Because I am a runner, even if I haven’t felt like one.