Most people pledge to start running for New Year’s. I’m going to stop running.
A bit of backstory: I’ve been running for most of the last decade. When I was a kid, I liked soccer but I hated running, because I was obviously one of the slowest runners on the team, and I felt embarrassed about it (and it certainly didn’t help that coaches always singled me out to yell at me during drills). But in college, I discovered the joy of running by myself, for myself, in the Berkeley hills. It was grand.
I know I’m a slow runner, but I don’t care. I’ve finished a marathon and two half-marathons, so I know I have stamina and a ton of discipline. I can go for a run by myself just to enjoy the scenery, or spend some time thinking, or, more likely, enjoy the solitude (though I should note that I’ve enjoyed partner runs too, frequently with other academics). Even hitting the treadmill during a cold winter day can make me happy as long as I have some pumpin’ tunes or the Food Network to accompany me.
But for the last few months, I haven’t been running as much… and I’ve been feeling guilty about it. My partner and I moved to a new apartment while I was simultaneously teaching and applying for academic jobs, and there was a death in the family, and I neared a nervous breakdown for various related reasons, and… yeah, I just couldn’t make much time to run. And I would feel guilty, horrendously guilty, that I let this important part of my life slide.
For 2013, I’ve decided that instead of feeling guilty about not running as much as I want to (since my schedule hasn’t really let up), I’m just not going to run. I am, however, dancing every day. Since I’m trying to build more of a local dance community, I need to be in top condition – or at the very least, have more stamina than my dance students do!
I know it might seem counter-intuitive to give up a thing that I’ve felt guilty for neglecting, but honestly, the added guilt isn’t doing me any good. I already feel guilty for not landing a sweet tenure-track job right out of grad school, despite knowing that the problem is systemic and not with me in particular. And I feel guilty for being so absorbed in my work that I neglect my relationships with those around me. And I feel guilty for not making more of an effort to solely purchase and eat local produce. The more time I spend feeling bad about myself, surprise surprise, the worse I feel about myself.
But feeling bad about not running? That I can control. I’m only planning to give up running for one month, and if I’m absolutely climbing the walls by the end of this month, I’ll find a way to fit it back into my schedule, even if it’s only 2x week. If it’s something that I really feel okay letting go of, then maybe I’ll run a couple miles occasionally on nice days, but otherwise not worry about it.
I think my identity’s malleable enough to deal with this change. I sigh longingly every time I see someone running on the icy streets – but I’m okay with not being outdoors any more than necessary during this cold season. We’ll see how I do when the weather gets warm again. For now, though, I’m kicking ass at dancing, and that’s a good feeling.