I didn’t start running until I was 39. For almost 4 decades I believed with all my being that I just couldn’t run.
I’d almost heave in high school gym class (I was about 15 pounds lighter than I am now) when we ran the timed mile and I almost always finished in the back of the pack.
Not only did I believe I wasn’t runner, I didn’t think I’d ever be someone who could push past a boundary and change something.
As I got older, with 40 quickly approaching, I really wanted to want to run but I kept coming back to this: If I couldn’t run in high school, why would I ever believe I could do it 20 years later?
But my three kids were in school and I was always pushing them to try new things and telling them that they had to practice if they wanted to gain skills. And one day, after watching a woman run up a hill in twenty- degree weather, I took a long hard look at myself. I want to do that, I thought. I want to be the type of person who gets out there, beats herself up a little bit, and runs up a hill in the middle of winter.
It was kind of ridiculous, of course. I was on the brink of 40 and had never run more than half a mile without feeling like I was going to die. But I was so sick of thinking I couldn’t do it.
So I started.
It wasn’t long before I could run three miles without stopping. Then, I entered my first 5k and was the first woman finisher. I kept running. I logged more miles. I ran in the heat. I ran in the cold. I ran when I didn’t want to.
Then, I fell in love with it.
I’ve run several half marathons and I feel my body getting stronger, better, faster. I’ll be 44 in a month and I’m in the best shape of my life–something my 20 year-old self would never have believed.
Last October I decided to start writing a book. I’ve been thinking about it my whole life. I used to write mini books in elementary school. I was obsessed with Beverly Clearly and Judy Blume. I majored in English and told everyone I wanted to write.
As the years passed I thought it was too late to start writing a book, because in my mind, book-writing was something people did in the 20s or 30s.
It would have been far easier to sit here and say my glory days are over. We get into this pattern of believing that if we didn’t do something in our youth, in our “prime,” time has expired and well, it just too late. We have kids now. We have a mortgage. We are tired. We should have pursued our passion when we had more time, money and energy and when our brains functioned better.
But the truth is, there’s always an excuse. You know what keeps us young and strong? Doing the things. And the biggest excuse during mid-life seems to be that the time has passed so it’s not going to happen. I’ve heard it, you’ve heard it. I’ve said it, you’ve said it. Hell, we’ve all thought it or said it at one time or another.
When we are younger we’d daydream about the future: we’d think about the house we want to live in, we’d dream about getting the promotion, driving a certain car, we’d think about meeting a life partner and building a family.
Then, once we have the family, the house, the job, and we raise the kids, we stop fantasizing and setting new goals for ourselves. We stop dreaming as if we had a block of time to set goals and we wait. We push through the days and wait to retire. We look forward to grand kids and downsizing or wintering in Florida, which is all wonderful.
But what about the dreams you had when you were 10, or 20? Have you tried them all?
When you saw the woman next to you perfect the yoga pose last week did you think, my body won’t do that, but I wish it would?
Did you see an amazing painting and think that you’d love to be able to create art but you didn’t take art classes in school or learn any skills so you might as well forget about that dumb idea?
Have you forgotten what makes you feel alive? Are you stuck in your routine because you think it’s what you should be doing?
What if instead of thinking our best days are behind us, we started believing that midlife is when things start ramping up? After all, our kids are getting older, we have learned from a lifetime of screw ups, we are seasoned, we are better. Really, we are more alive than ever.
Wouldn’t it make sense to grab life and see what you can do with it now with all the knowledge and skills you have?
Midlife is when the party gets started. Start telling yourself that. Time will pass anyway so you might as well see what kind of amazing-ness you can create.
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