“It does not matter how slowly you go, as long as you do not stop.” Confucius? I think. I could google and find out. But I know how people on the internet delight in telling others how wrong they are, so I’ll leave you to it, if I am.
In college, freshman year, having discovered the delights of the dining hall and finding our pants a bit tight after the first semester (discovering keg parties at frat houses had nothing to do with it, I’m sure), a few girls from the dorms and I decided to make a jogging club in an effort to stay in a shape besides “round.” Athleisure hadn’t been invented yet – we had to be able to zip up our jeans. We decided we first needed shirts, because this was obviously going to be a cool club. We found that quote on the internet, printed it on iron-on transfer paper from Michael’s, along with pictures of Britney Spears from those glorious “Slave 4 U” years for inspiration, and decided we would become runners.
We ran twice.
We saw dolphins in the surf on the second night, and I sprinted into the ocean to try and make friends (if I recall correctly, I did an Ace Ventura impression. It did not work but by golly, I felt alive). I shivered on the walk back to the dining commons, made two trips to the pasta bar, and then by silent, mutual consent, the group decided running was hard and pasta was good, and sporadic dolphin chasing missions were more fun and probably counted as cardio. (Sidenote – We used to put CROUTONS in our pasta. And RANCH DRESSING. I should have triple majored and stayed five years. What a beautiful time to be alive.)
Heavy sigh. It’s been over a year of Covid life. Of ups and downs, of constantly rearranging plans and managing expectations as situations outside our control arise only like, every five minutes.
Maybe it’s those feelings of uncertainty and general flailing about that led me to create my birthday challenge this year:
Rachel – you’re gonna run a 10K. Ohhhh yeah.
I wanted to have something to look forward to, that could involve my virtual village of friends and family worldwide, and make a solid investment in myself. So in January, I advertised an instagram invitation for my hashtag Bday 10k, and asked people to join me. I think about 30 people pledged 5-10k’s worth of activity on May 1st.
I haven’t run consistently since . . . um . . . the two years I did track in high school to date a cute guy (it worked). According to math, it’s been more than 20 years since then, so this was a big goal for me. I needed that public accountability and a specific goal in mind to upgrade my little afternoon amblings into something more athletic.
I can’t say I’ve enjoyed all the training, because that would be lying, and I try not to do that. The hardest part comes between getting home, taking off my work clothes, and preparing to wrestle into a sports bra, and the lazy devil on my shoulder pipes up the moment before I shimmy into those high-waisted pants, and reminds me how easy it would be to just sit down for the rest of the night.
But I have learned that I like how good I feel after I’ve accomplished something I didn’t think I could. And how hungry running makes me, and I really like food. So I usually can make myself tie up my sneakers and go. I bought some pretty headbands, and that helps.
Once I’m out there . . . most of it hurts, actually! My heels, my knees. The nail on my left pinky toe. An eye starts twitching, a hair is misplaced, a rib is surely rotated. It’s a mental game, really, once you’ve started to go.
So I do long division in my head constantly about the miles I’m meant to run, what that might be in kilometers, the time I’m meant to run, what I’ve currently run, what that might mean. I count breaths in a minute. I count steps. I try to not knock over the elderly and youngerly who have no regard for the runnerly on the promenade.
Every minute when I want to quit, I say “but you’re closer than a second ago, you’re closer than a step ago,” and man, when I’m done? I stumble around like a newborn giraffe and laugh out loud and heave and usually collapse onto a bench and people shoo their children away from me. But it feels good.
Life in general has been a lot of good lately, which is a lovely plot twist from the last year or so. I’ve been thoughtful about what I say “yes” to, and spending plenty of time reading (26 books so far this year!), talking to my plants, sleeping, checking in back home. I started living alone for the first time in my life about six weeks into lockdown life last year, which was a huge challenge, but it’s given me the time and space to know myself better as a person. I understand and like me a lot more than I used to. Most days, anyway.
Currently in Hong Kong we are operating under pretty generous (but ever-changing) rules which allows for events like a beautiful evening I spent with a group I’m involved in. We were on a rooftop, sipping cocktails and sampling snack trays in a way that felt like a normal I now only remember through tv shows.
I delighted in meeting other tipsy girls in the bathroom; we complimented masks, eyebrows, shoes, the things we could see. Then it escalated pretty quickly when one lifted her dress to display a tummy rash to a colleague, and I joined in the analyzing. My mom and sister are nurses, so I’m qualified by proxy, I think. Plus, I love gross stuff.
We became Instant Best Friends For The Night – a special kind of girl friendship where you spend the rest of your lives cheering each other on via Instagram and hoping you meet up again someday. We left the bathroom with linked arms, chatting over the wonder that we had the same beautiful name, were Americans, teaching in Hong Kong, obviously a lot of fate. We slid up to the bar where our group was scheduled for a mixology course, where, for kicks, I pretended I had never been previously acquainted with a margarita to get some extra attention from the bartender. I think he was 23, but it was so fun to remember how to flirt. I can still make a boy blush, so that’s something.
Normally with the long vacations we get as international teachers, I’d be off to a new country for Chinese New Year and Easter breaks, but instead I’ve been grounded in Hong Kong, a tourist in my adopted hometown, and I’ve had some lovely times exploring with friends here. The last year has made close friends closer, made us more creative within our limited freedoms, made moments shared more precious.
I’ve had some fun days and nights hosting for Valentines and Easter, massive hikes to secluded beaches, volleyball days, hotel stays, and my first ever Sunday roast. I’m vaccinated, which is such a blessing! I had a really bad reaction, but it was just a day sick in bed, and I’m feeling so hopeful about things again.
Big life news – I’ve also signed for another year at my school here in Hong Kong. I only have an emotional moment about it every hour or so, carefully scanning news articles for any mention of new quarantine rules that might affect my ability to come home this summer and meet my nephew and have happy hours in the backyard with my family and the dogs which is ALL I WANT so help me Jesus. With an unlimited supply of tacos.
My school is closing after next year, and a bit of a mess, but I’ve come to terms with it and am happy to have more time with those I love here. Despite the difficulties of being in Hong Kong as things develop with China, with my job, the uncertainty in the world around, there are still so many things I love about where I live. Brunches to sample, mountains to climb, trails to wander, late night chats to have. Music videos about books to make where I appropriate ‘90s rap songs and make them educational. You know. The usual. (see below)
The time will pass anyway. I might as well have a heckin’ good time. Hope you have one, too.
Ps give me a free bday present by subscribing? :)