The ultimate challenge

Time is a funny thing. We all feel pressure to fill the clock with tasks that can be jotted down on a “to-do” list and ticked off one by one throughout the day or the week. Our lists can consume us – little league, post office, vacuum, grocery store, garden – they can rule our lives because we rush here and rush there, getting it done – until we feel like there is never enough time.

But what about the lists we have that are more personal? The lists that hold our dreams and desires – our wish lists? We seem to find time to tick off the things that can wait (the house will not crumble if you leave the dishes for an hour or vacuum tomorrow) but rarely do we take the time to address the things that can’t, our dreams. To take time for ourselves, our imagination… that seems to be the biggest challenge in life.

I’m feeling the pressure these days to leave the “to-dos” of daily life behind and focus on those wish-list items that come up again and again. You know, those resolutions or “this year I will’s” that you’ve had for the past five, ten, fifteen years but never found the time for. Why is it that we always put ourselves at the bottom of the list?

I will, soon enough, be 35 years old (gulp). Back in November (when I was still a spry 33), I decided that now was the time to put aside all the things that keep me busy and focus on the things that will make me whole. My list, my dreams, are pretty small but ever constant:

  1. Become a runner
  2. Publish a book
  3. Become financially sound
  4. Date, date, date

I have forty-one weeks until my 35th birthday and by golly I will tick them all off. This is my challenge to myself – win this race, acquire new dreams, check these off the list one by one…and number one is soundly completed already.

All my life I’ve wanted to be a runner but fear or embarrassment or something has always held me back. The biggest obstacle was myself and the worry about what other people would think when they saw a fat girl trying to run. Is that why we never accomplish our dreams? Are they too close to who we want to be that we are, in the end, too afraid to face…ourselves? If I never tried to run it was safer than running and failing…but I don’t want to be that person, I don’t want to live in my dreams; I want to live my dreams.

So, I started…slowly. I would run 100 feet and walk (probably) 150. I wheezed, I felt like this was going to be impossible but instead of giving up (like I’d done so often in the past), I set a challenge – I would run a 10K…Seriously? I couldn’t run a quarter mile and I was planning on doing 6.2 miles and live? But I kept at it. I took the half hour or forty-five minutes every few days that I needed and I built myself up. I built my body up, I built my soul up, I built my confidence up and I grew…just by taking the thirty or so minutes I needed to be me.

And I was me, the woman I’d always dreamed of being because I was running for me and me alone. If it only takes a half hour, three or four times a week to check a life-long goal off of our lists why don’t we? And why do we so often think the worst about the people who do?

A few weeks ago I ran the 10K. I met my challenge in 77 minutes and it felt so good, it made me feel so complete that I’ve signed up for another next month, and I plan on doing a 15K in July and maybe a half-marathon in October. Why? Have I become a running junkie? Have I abandoned my responsibilities? Is my life crumbling because I am out running all the time? No. My life did not change much because I met the challenge, but in meeting the challenge, I met myself.

So, here is my challenge to you: do one thing you’ve always wanted to do, allow yourself to be the person you’ve always wished you could be. Because you are amazing and you will shine from the inside out and, most importantly, by meeting the challenge you place upon yourself, you will realize all those things as well.

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