Pressing Forward

Chicago CTA L line

4 years of birthday reflection blog posts

Oh, November. It’s that month of the year that brings the heart of autumn, football, and Thanksgiving. Its mere arrival has wreaked havoc on my heart and mind in the last few years as I have grappled with … myself. However, the 2017 version of November has brought with it less trepidation and fear of its arrival and subsequent storm of internal emotions. The month itself was good, highlighted by time with good friends to celebrate 

This year, in its entirety, was hard, perhaps harder than I gave it credit for in the small moments. In retrospect, I wonder if I tried to do too much at once at the expense of stretching myself in too many directions and getting distracted by all the possibilities and what if’s. Last year, I said I wanted to “quietly figure it out.” I have spent fair amounts of time on my own, reading, and journaling. But have I come to any conclusions or new revelations? I’m not so sure.

Put One Foot in Front of the Other…

The last 12 months have pushed and challenged me in new ways. I was “encouraged” to sign up for the Seattle Marathon in June with a friend, who would later drop down to the half (love ya, Jon!). It gave me something to train for, a reason to travel to Seattle, and also visit friends in the Pacific Northwest. My training was some of the best I’ve had since I started long distance running a few years ago. Even the dreaded 20 miler went better than previous years. However, The one thing Chicago cannot prepare you for is any non-flat terrain. Seattle’s pretty, even more so when you get leg cramps and get to walk parts of the marathon route. It gives you time to appreciate the views while you quietly scream bloody murder because muscle groups you didn’t know you had now ache. But in spite of the pains, I had finished my third marathon!

A few weeks after the race and all recollection of physical pain and logic left my mind, I thought why not do the Chicago marathon in the SAME YEAR. It’s the big race right in my backyard I hadn’t done yet. It would complete my unplanned goal of one marathon in North America’s four primary time zones. And I decided it would be cool to run with a purpose which moved me to sign up with Team World Vision and raise money to get clean water to those who need it in Africa. Training again went pretty well most weeks, save for the days when it was over 70 degrees and sunny and humid. I’m looking at you, 20 miler day.

Put One Foot in Front of the Other

Visual approximation of me “running” during the last few miles of the Chicago marathon, but sweating profusely and it was 75 degrees out. You get the idea.

Some friends know my showing at the Chicago Marathon was pretty ugly. Warmer temps and a sun that just wouldn’t quit got to me in the back half of the race. Nevertheless, I persisted, very slowly at times, and still finished the run I had started and committed to. There’s always another race to improve upon, right? Four marathons aren’t enough in someone’s lifetime, right? Perhaps one more before I hit the next age decade.

Transitions, Tensions, and Conflicts

The last twelve months have been … something. The political landscape has infiltrated daily life in America in a way I haven’t seen before in my lifetime. I tread lightly around social media and heavily consider my responses to some posts because many are more prone to reactionary “you couldn’t be more wrong” responses than a civilized discourse on just about any topic. Exaggerated statements about everything is the only way we think we can talk for us to be heard or get attention. While culture hasn’t quite learned from the boy who cried wolf story yet, each day (I hope), we get closer.

This year also brought more transitions and changes at work. After many years in our space in Elmhurst, the company moved our office to Oak Park. While ultimately for the best, the transition was not without some struggles. The timeline was short, the list of tasks was long, the amount of stuff you collect in a warehouse over 11 years and subsequently have to keep, toss, or donate is quite incredible. That transition also meant a time of evaluation, and for some people, it meant it was time to explore new opportunities. Change rarely has no casualties.

It is easy for me to ball up and put up shields when tensions and conflicts arise. I’m what you may describe as non-confrontational. One side effect includes finding anything nearby to distract me. I need to get better at tackling stuff, especially conflicts, head on. It’s still not a natural thing for me.

Pressing Forward

Throughout all the struggles, progress has been made. At least some externally visible achievements can be noted. There was a forward movement that is measurable and tangible. But what I struggle with as I reflect on this past year is how much I have changed and grown throughout. While I pressed forward on the goals in front of me even when it got tough, am I any different for it?

During my last year before I have to change the 1st digit in my age, I like many before me, ponder what’s important enough for me to spend energy on and on what mark I want to make or continue to make, on the world. Perhaps it’s time to write down some goals and do what I can to not let other things distract me from them.

Adequately Present

Figuring out who you are is supposed to get easier as you get older, isn’t it?

For a couple of days each November, my body, heart, and mind go into this quiet state of anxiety and fear. I’ve written about it for the last two years (2014’s “Six Squared” and 2015’s “37”) as a way to more publicly reflect upon and share what I’ve been processing internally. This year is no different.

Continue reading “Adequately Present”

37

Prime Numbers are interesting and fascinating things in the world of mathematics. According to mathisfun.com, “A Prime Number can be divided evenly only by 1 or itself.” This perhaps is the greatest way to represent how I see and process myself at this point in life right now as I enter a year defined as a prime number.

Continue reading “37”

Six Squared

Birthday Cake
Birthday Cake
Cake for one. At Weber Grill.

November has become a difficult month for me. Not only does it mean Thanksgiving and the entire holiday season that follows it, but it also means my birthday “season” has arrived and turning another year older. However, it doesn’t mean I need to look any older. In the last couple years, that usually also means a very quiet, introspective, and solitary season.

Birthdays, much like everything else in America, has turned into an affair that calls to be celebrated for far longer than what the calendar shows – one day. People have “birthday weeks,” “birthday months,” or “birthday seasons” to keep the party going. I don’t get it. Why do people want so much attention for just being themselves? I don’t really want it, but I don’t want to be completely forgotten either. The last few years, the days leading up to and my actual birthday are internally dark. Who will remember? Will anyone (parents and best friend excluded)?

I’ve had a few particularly emotional birthday-days that have brought intense feelings of loneliness and disconnect in my time because I felt people weren’t there in any real capacity. I’ve never been one to plan my own party. Nor do I want to be the center of attention. If friends want to coordinate a party, I’ll probably do it. As years go by, though, people have other life commitments like spouses, kids, jobs, etc. I get it. I assume they’re all too busy for me, so I make due on my own. In my head, I’ve figured this must be part of being single when most of your community isn’t.  My last two actual birthdays I’ve had dinner alone. While not altogether the worst, perhaps it wasn’t the best either.

Why are my birthdays such internally difficult affairs? Why do I feel such loss at the thought of people forgetting about it and simultaneously cringe when I get a “Happy birthday!” greeting or Facebook wall post? A birthday greeting isn’t something that’s earned, but a simple acknowledgment of my existence and nothing else. Why not want any focus on me for me?

Maybe that’s (a small) part of the problem.  Throughout the year, I constantly feel like I’m having to prove my worth wherever I go and with whatever I do.  Then when my birthday comes, it requires nothing of me, and it partially freaks me out. I’m just supposed to “be, ” and that’s enough for a day. Maybe that’s supposed to be enough every day.

So goes another year and another birthday, partially unscathed. I hope with this new year brings more wisdom and being more OK with getting older and celebrating life.

*This post is not intended to invoke any belated happy birthdays or anything similar.