Preparing for What Lies Ahead
As I ended 2021 and crossed into 2022, I reflected on my friends and our life journey.
We were all at different places in this marathon called life. We likely didn’t start the race together but joined up a third into the race, keeping pace, focused on reaching the next milepost. But as we move forward, one of us slows down, or speeds up and then you are running solo, slowing down, watching other runners pass you up. Some are laughing as they jog past in pairs, some are intensely focused on the pavement, others are staring at the horizon, but they are all keeping pace. And you realize you’ve slowed down to a crawl because you are watching them. Your fixation on what other runners are doing, their form, their pace, their sneakers is keeping you from running YOUR race.
This is what I’ve noticed about my own life. I’ve been running. I started out strong. Graduated, got a job, made friends, traveled and enjoyed my 20s keeping pace with my friends, but then I tripped, hit a rock and was sidelined, slowed down, while my friends kept running. Although I trained for this, when the unexpected happened, I couldn’t right myself. I left the race, took a detour that no one else was taking, cut through a parking lot, found a side trail, while everyone else stayed on the marked course.
It was many years before I got back on the road and nothing looked familiar. The course markings I studied had all changed and my friends were long gone. I was running solo forging a path, starting over in new organizations, relationships, and neighborhoods searching for fulfillment and not finding it.
My marathon has been marked with severe depressions. Relationships ending, unemployment, pay cuts, shitty bosses. And as I look back I realize that I had not planned for the race as well as I thought. I didn’t stretch, map out the course, plan for my water breaks, consider what I’d do if I pulled a muscle or rolled an ankle. I just laced up and hopped on the road, gleefully naïve about what lie ahead.
That may be why I pivoted in 2021. Why I turned my focus away from other runners and the course and went inward. What do I truly want? What brings me joy? What lifts my spirit when it’s cast down? What would I do for no pay?
I knew my marathon was littered with empty paper cups, worn soles, shin splints, and piercing sideaches and I didn’t want that to be anyone else’s experience. That realization became my why. Why I shifted my focus to career coaching and consulting. Why I was putting myself out there and declaring a thing before it was a thing. Why I was speaking into existence a reality I had yet to claim.
I’ve met road wearied marathoners, those who have hit a wall and are walking or even sitting while other people pass them. I recognize the looks of defeat when the promotion is given to someone else, when the job offer is not extended, when the interview goes south. I know all those emotions and I also know about starting again. The signal to know when to stop, take a beat, analyze where you are and sit down to write your plan about where you want to go next on this journey.
That may look like starting a business, changing careers, returning to school, buying a home, moving to another country. Your restart is not the next person’s and that is ok. The deluge of images on social sites has convinced us that the measure of success is the person standing next to you. But that’s bullshit. The measure of success is finding your platform, doing that which will impact generations and leave a legacy. Your influence is not diminished by who is standing next to you, neither is it enhanced by them.
It has taken me two decades to realize this. To stop worrying myself over who is running next to me, to stop trying to keep pace with them, to stop running without purpose and to chart my course, create my lane and run it well.