I’m longing for a new routine, space to be and grow. I’ve been in school for a long time, fixed to the same routine for years. From kindergarten to this past May, I’ve been in school, no breaks. That’s nearly 22 years. I’ve always been ambitious when it comes to school. But this ambition also has the power to morph itself into anxiety. Ambition. Anxiety. Feeding off each other.
I’ve always been fast. I like moving at a steady pace, pumping my arms, counting laps as I go. I can’t slow down; if I do, I’ll hear the footsteps and breath on my neck. Anxiety will catch up and run shoulder to shoulder with me until one of us wins.
But no matter how fast I went, or how many laps I did, I never outran or outsmarted the ruthless competitor. I was simply taunting it. Anxiety likes to be right at your heels all the time; it thrives best there. It has an endurance that I do not.
I used to be an avid runner and competitor. I’d burn through a pair of shoes each month of the year. My room was decorated with ribbons and medals that couldn’t fit on my letter jacket. Nothing was sweeter than a new PR. Eventually, I ran so much and so hard that I ruined my knees and broke my shins. My collegiate coach told me that I didn’t know the difference between soreness and injury, that I needed to suck it up; it would get better. It didn’t get better. Cortisone injections didn’t make it better. I couldn’t run. Some days I could barely walk. Not only did I hurt my body, it felt like my spirit was broken too.
Now that I don’t have school to obsess over, my routine is changing, and my pace is slowing down, I’m facing that fear: if I stand still, anxiety will swallow me up. Keep moving.
Its just like when I had to quit running; I could feel my body breaking again.
Right now my schedule is emptier, I’m slower; I’m basically walking laps now. And the fear I had that anxiety would catch up to me is true. It does catch up. It’s here. I’m here. I need to walk these laps.
People in the stands cheer and shout. Some shout encouragement, while others say to pick up the pace, lift my knees higher. The pressure of this is great, as I’m going as fast as I can and for right now, that means walking. Another fear settles into my bones as others pass me by. They’re going faster. They’re faster. They’re stronger. Why can’t I be faster? Comparison shatters confidence. It’s anxiety in disguise.
By walking, I can see now that it takes much more courage and strength to confront it, instead of constantly running, ignoring it, and breaking my body in the process. By slowing down, I’m able to look over in the lane next to me and say, “I don’t need you today. I’m doing just fine.”
One foot in front of the other, now.
Maybe I’ll run again sometime soon, but it will be at a pace that suits me and me alone.
No matter the speed, I’m still moving.