While I don’t have a competitive bone in my body, there’s certainly a survival instinct that growing up in the Indian education system instills in you. Most times, it’s great because it triggers self-improvement. Like my running story.
From a lanky, flat-footed child, who needed special shoes in early years to start walking without pain, I graduated to jogging by the time I was doing MBA. From jogging at a pace slower than most people walked, I went on to finishing 3rd among women in a 4k dream-run on campus (following a Defence lady, and a European exchange student!).
But the same survival instinct also makes you risk-averse.
It didn’t occur to me to register for a 6k running event here, because I was out of practice, in bad shape, it would be the wrong time of the month, and I’d any day finish last among all the super-fit European colleagues. Eventually though, the instinct for self-improvement won over avoidance of public ridicule (not without a lot of encouragement from wonderful friends and my dear husband) 🙂
When the run started, something told me this would be a new running story. This would be about running at one’s own pace. Running without temptation to outrun anyone, and without temptation to stop.
People began overtaking me… I didn’t give in to pressure, maintaining an even, comfortable pace. I lingered when I crossed friends, even took several steps backward…enjoyed the scenic views…pushed on a colleague who had stopped running, encouraging her to negotiate a narrow opening ahead of me.
Some older people got ahead of me, and some younger people. Some much heavier people got ahead of me, and some people running with heavy ruck-sacks.
Just like in life, there was no point wondering, “Does this person deserve to get ahead of me?” because they simply were. I didn’t know where they started, not how many times they would stop along the way, not how they were feeling. More significantly, I didn’t think any of this was my business. I had a simple task- “don’t stop”. I was so delighted with myself, I kept smiling throughout.
My husband, having completed few minutes before, welcomed me at the finish line. He informed me that I had actually finished in good time. I had not expected it. And the twinge of ‘what if’ that I felt in that moment- “What if I had only tried a little harder?”- told me that I still have some way to go before I truly become comfortable with simply ‘enjoying the journey’.. with not having to prove a point..
But the change in tone of my running story tells me that I am on my way…to becoming ok with being where I am in a journey.. to holding on to personal goals rather than convention… to accepting the ordinary, human, frail, flawed self that begins to flower and glow in contentment once accepted.