As I was sitting at my desk surrounded by plastic pumpkins overflowing with peanut butter snickers, I made a silent vow to myself: after that night’s mandatory happy hour Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale, November was to be a month of an intense gym schedule and an even healthier diet. And by healthier diet, I really just mean a hell of lot less alcohol. And by alcohol, I really just mean beer. Which is all well and good and sounds easy enough, unless you’re a stressed out, underpaid, twentysomething living in New York City who’s also trying to date. I mean, of course I could take the more sophisticated route and meet someone for coffee, but let’s be honest - caffeine doesn't usually lower my inhibitions.
But soulmate searching aside, I've actually been spending this past year focusing on myself. Selfish? Maybe. Necessary? Absolutely. I feel as if I've always been pretty healthy and active, so the whole “healthy lifestyle” choice wasn't a huge adjustment. I played sports in high school and would spend the weekends of my childhood hiking, kayaking, and biking through the Adirondack Mountains of Upstate New York. I always had a gym membership tag on my keychain - sometimes I even used it. My eating habits went from being those of a teenager living at home (Mama’s home cooking) to that of a poor college student (grilled chicken, pasta, and cheap beer). Always the occasional salad tossed in (no pun intended).
This past year, however, was the first time in my life I started to consciously acknowledge the choices I was making regarding my body. I started 2013 off with my first-ever resolution: to start running (speaking to that number four spot on my “30 Things by 30” bucket list - complete a marathon). I ran through the winter, the spring, and the beginning of the summer. Down the brownstone-lined streets of Brooklyn, around the family farm on trips home. I even bought my first pair of legit running shoes. Shout out to Brooks! Then in June I decided to fall down some stairs and was laid up on some hard ibuprofen and told not to do anything strenuous for a few months. Le sigh. Summer was long and painful.
But after a few months off, I’m happy to announce that I’m back at it! And just in time for American Diabetes Month. I wasn't even aware that this was a thing until I woke up to a group text from my brother this morning with a link to an article on CNN about pancreas cell transplants. I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 16, which forced me to really start paying attention to my body. And I did, sometimes. Growing up in a house with three other diabetics, the disease was second nature to me. I saw the way it landed both of my siblings and my father in the hospital on numerous occasions. I've witnessed them passed out in the living room, seize on Christmas, connected to tubes in hospital beds. It was never something I took lightly. I don’t know if it was something I ever took too seriously either, though. Until now.
In a rare phone call to my father the other day, boasting how I’d started running again and averaging 7:49 min. miles, (a feat I haven’t been able to complete since high school), his response caught me off guard.
“Why are you running?”
“I -” Silence.
I didn't know. Why WAS I running? I don’t chase that “runner’s high.” I’m technically not training for anything, yet. Nobody was running after me - although I do live in New York, it may very well happen. After I've been consistently running for a few weeks, I start to feel it in these old Woznica knees and spend a few days in aggravation. I had no response.
Until I thought of the most basic reason: to be healthy; because it makes me feel good; because that pain in my knees, the cold air cutting through my lungs, matching that 6’4” man, stride for stride on the treadmill next to me, it all reminds me that I CAN run. It reminds me that while I may have a disease that I've been told will slow me down and limit me, I don’t let it.
Excuses are a dime a dozen in this world. You can lean on your faults, your imperfections, your vices. It’s easy to get caught up in your “weaknesses,” use them as a crutch, let them define you. Afterall, surrendering, saying “I can’t,” and taking a seat is so much easier than the alternative. Or, just maybe, you can use them as motivation. Stand up. Lace up. Run. Prove the world wrong.