I began running at dusk one day in December. A few snowflakes drifted down as I started, but before I knew it, it was dark, snow was swirling, and I was running, not because anyone told me to, but because I wanted to be faster. The bizarre part is: I loved it. I had one eye closed as the wind off the top of the hill drove snow at me, it was cold, I was tired, it was hard, and the direct correlation of overcoming the circumstances through some inverse response engendered amusement and even joy. The moment was so ludicrous that, through an unprecedented level of lucidity, it dawned on me that this was good for me, and I liked that.
I can’t count the number of times I have wished I was better at something so that it would be easier. The problem is, when the amelioration comes, the ravenous desire to improve only intensifies to an insatiable hunger to improve further. I am competitive, it provides incentive, and I believe nothing worth pursuing is easy and anything short of a lofty goal doesn’t deserve the word. So in the meantime, the only way to reach fulfillment is to embrace the pain.
While complaining to a friend about being second on the cross country team, I received the candid response that the best girl worked harder than me. I was caught off guard; the question was direct, blunt, and utterly true. On a good day, I was as diligent as the rest of the team, and even on a bad day, I’m no slacker, but I didn’t push my limits like she did, I didn’t always run with the coach, and I didn’t dedicate my full attention to the task ahead. She may have been more naturally talented, but at some point running can be distilled into the pain an athlete is willing to endure, and the strength of a competitor’s mental advantage. When it came down to it, I thought that hard running every day was, well, hard. However seldomly it occurred, I caved to the pressure, nurtured the pain, and admitted defeat more easily and sooner than she did; that made the difference.
Most of my endeavors in life don’t have an immediate turnaround, most require large deposit of time, and, as I have identified no abundance of natural superiority in myself, an additional requirement of sweat and tears. One of my teachers told me you need to learn to “enjoy the struggle”, and called me a struggler, maybe the only time I have heard it with a truly positive connotation, he intended no insult, only the compliment that I was willing to struggle to reach a beneficial end; a skill that, anyone short of Einstein or Hercules must acquire in order to succeed. I may never truly appreciate the benefits of suffering, or accomplish all of my goals, but the only way to keep from succumbing to disappointment is too keep chasing the agony.
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