The one thing that’s made all the difference

Editor’s note: I am not going to lie, it feels really weird to write about this stuff when President Cheeto Benito is swiftly turning our country into North Korea, but I am opting to move ahead with blogging about fitness and feminism for a bunch of reasons, not least of all because it’s good self-care. It’s gonna be a loooong four years, and I don’t want to burn out, you know?

The blog squad – the group of bitchin’ lady triathlete bloggers of which I am a part – is doing a Secret Santa-style theme week, where we each ask another woman a question and she answers it.  My question came courtesy of Laurel, who asked me: “What are the smallest things you’ve changed/taken on in your life that have made the biggest impact (life and sport)?”

(You can read the rest of the blog squad’s posts here:  Erin, Hailey, Christine, Liz, Elizabeth, Jen, and Laurel.)

I thought about this a lot over the past week, trying to identify what those changes could be. Is it training?  A certain kind of training? Something I’ve accomplished?  Something I failed to accomplish?

I soon realized the change wasn’t related to something I did or did not do. The change was in the way I thought about myself.

The change came when I started to think of myself as an athlete.

It’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment that happened, but I can tell you that so much changed afterwards. I no longer thought of my body as something I needed to wrestle into submission or something I could abuse endlessly. Instead I took care of my body and treated it with kindness and respect, the way you’d treat your most valuable, irreplaceable belonging.

I made sure to eat well and to eat enough; no more junk food binges or penance done with lunches of canned tuna and grapes. I went to sleep when I was tired instead of staying up until 2 a.m. and wondering why I felt like garbage all the next day. I quit smoking once and for all.

But even more profound were all the changes I experienced internally. I started doing things that scared me precisely because they scared me. I took on challenges that seemed absurdly impossible and found a way to make them possible. I uncovered a work ethic I never suspected I possessed.  I became the kind of person other people describe as “determined.”

Being an athlete meant energy, power and dynamism, and once I’d had a taste of that, I was no longer content to be a passive bystander in my life.  I needed to be an active participant.  I needed to be a woman of action, a woman who gets shit done. Fuck sitting around waiting for someone else to give me permission to live my life.
Almost everything else I do comes, in some way, back to my identity as an athlete – primarily the confidence being an athlete has given me. I would even go so far as to say being an athlete has made me a better version of myself.
Now I lead an editorial team at a fast-growing digital media start-up.  I advocate for kids so they don’t get lost in a vast, confusing child welfare system.  I talk to strangers and I like it. And I’m diving head-first into political organizing and activism for the first time in my life.  I do things that make me nervous on a regular basis, but now I have the self-confidence and the self-trust to know I can handle it.  After all, if I can handle an ultramarathon or an Ironman, I can handle overseeing an editorial meeting or a judicial review or making a phone call to my senator to exercise my First Amendment rights.

None of this would have been possibly without that switch flipping in my brain, the one that said I was a courageous woman capable of doing difficult things.  Others have the switch flipped by academic or artistic achievements, or their parents do a really good job of keeping the switch flipped even though the world keeps trying to rip it out of the wall, or maybe they’re just born with that switch flipped.

For me, it was lining up at start lines and crossing finish lines miles away that did it. That’s what taught me I was capable of so much more than I’d ever imagined. That’s what’s made all the difference.

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7 responses to “The one thing that’s made all the difference

  1. Pingback: Wild mushrooms with an egg yolk from French Country Cooking. | The Manhattan [food] Project·

  2. AWESOME post! I love the thought of embracing “athlete”. I’ve been struggling to get my hips in gear to start losing some weight – not so much to be thin, but to be lean and stronger. I have a lot of cycling events this year, and I want to be strong. So, this morning after my ride, I said to myself that losing 5 pounds should not be harder than a half ironman or a marathon or a 5K. I think your post really spoke to me in that what I think about myself or the challenge or whatever “it” is, determines how I approach it. If I put my mind to finishing a race, I’ll finish it. Now, I’ve got to put my mind to those first 5 pounds. Thank you so much for this post! 🙂

    • I’m glad this post resonated with you! I hope you aren’t too hard on yourself about those last 5 pounds. It doesn’t sound like they’re getting in the way of you being able to accomplish all sorts of stuff. I totally know what you mean about wanting to be lean for the sake of racing – I try to maintain a certain degree of leanness too – but I also try not to stress too much over the actual weight, and instead I try to trust that my body, when given good nutrition and solid training, will work itself out.

      What sort of events do you have coming up this year?

  3. Um…I love this. So much. I love that you have embraced this identity, that you make it your own. I loved the comment “I no longer thought of my body as something I needed to wrestle into submission or something I could abuse endlessly. Instead I took care of my body and treated it with kindness and respect, the way you’d treat your most valuable, irreplaceable belonging.” I think it’s pretty much exactly what I needed to read. It reaffirms and restates my “theme” right now of Restoration. I’ve been fighting to regain my health so I could chase down hard goals. And I need to quit fighting, treat my body well and let it do it’s thing.

    • I’m so glad this resonated with you! It sounds like you’re dealing with a lot right now, so definitely treat yourself with kindness and love and trust that you’ll have plenty of time to chase down those goals once you’re healthy again. I totally feel the impatience that can come along with this – I’m definitely an ALL THE THINGS RIGHT NOW kind of person – but I’m learning that sometimes that mindset doesn’t actually help me with having the life I want, but instead can actually hinder me.

      All my best to you! xoxo

  4. Cheeto Beneto.. I about died.. I refer to him as an Oompa Lompa..

    There is so much power in believing in yourself, it’s something I struggle with as well. Now that I’ve read this I feel renewed drive towards having a better relationship with myself and like me for who I am.

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