If you had called me a runner just three years ago I would have called you a liar. I didn’t run. I didn’t jog. I didn’t even want to think about running. But then one day, something was different. I bought the shoes and started. And I kept at it. So much so that one of the questions people will ask me on Sunday morning now is, “How far did you run yesterday?” They know because I run every week. It’s an expectation because it’s who I have become. My consistent, frequent actions have defined me in a new way.
Jeff Goins made the comment recently that “writers write.” That goes for just about any label. Runners run. Musicians make music. Readers read. Speakers speak. Parents parent. Friends befriend.
The definition of me as a runner stands in stark contrast to my self-applied label of “writer”. I could even throw in “friend.” These labels mock me because in my heart I know actions define. I don’t write. I scribble from time to time. But I don’t put in the metaphorical effort of pounding the pavement mile after mile in the cold, the wind, and the rain. I label myself as a friend but I don’t put out much effort to invest in the lives of my friends.
Everyone of us can look at the things we want to become, yet are not currently. We can become hard on ourselves because a particular defintion has not remained affixed. However, the issue that really needs to be addressed is “Why?” Why do I not write everyday? Why do I not invest more in my friendships?
My first answer is fear. Take my writing for example. Many times I don’t feel like I have anything worthwhile to say so I don’t write. I want to be seen as someone with ground-breaking ideas and so I skip the things I perceive as simple or mundane. Deep down, I’m also afraid that no one will care about what I have to say. Or take my friendships. I still struggle with that junior high feeling that I’m not cool enough. When I buy into that lie, my first instinct is to withdraw. If I don’t put myself out there with my friends, then I don’t run the risk of being rejected.
I kept running week after week because I saw it as a life or death decision. My father and grandfather both died of heart attacks before they were 50. I have known for years that I should care more about my health, but I never made the effort. But several years ago, something changed. I knew I was headed for the same fate if I didn’t make serious changes. So each step I took, I knew was putting me one step closer to cheating my family history.
So what if I looked at my writing and my friendships as a life or death situation as well. My creative and social health. When I shy away from expressing myself and don’t engage my friends then I’m setting myself on a path to mental and emotional death. Doing the hard work is not glamorous but it has to be done if you want to be defined in new ways.
Just as I relish the thought of being known as a runner, I want to be known as a writer and a better friend. I guess I’ve got work to do.
What actions do you want to be known by?