When the trails are covered in ice, I run along the main drag of my town, and I’m always surprised when someone honks and waves at me. I smile and wave back even though I’m pretty sure they think I’m someone else.
As a teenager I felt like I melted into the background. Just like the beige walls of my old high school: always there but nothing eye-catching. I recently reconnected with some folks from way back then and was amused to discover they had remembered me from those days. I’m always prepared to reintroduce myself to people I’ve met on several occasions, because I don’t expect people to recognize me, as I so often I don’t recognize myself.
I’m not the same girl I was in high school. I’m not the same woman I was before having kids and I’m most definitely not the same person I was two years ago when I decided to leave my marriage.I’ve endured loss and heartache and self-doubt and I’ve waged war with my own mind. My successes have lifted me up and my failures have thrown me to the ground.
I look at photos and don’t see myself in those smiles. Some days I look in the mirror and wonder who’s looking back at me. I used to dread the 12-minute run test in gym class and yet running is where I see myself.
When I run, I wake up to who I really am. I belong in sneakers and running tights because it’s like my superhero costume: my worries and doubts and fears a cape, trailing behind me.
When I’m pushing it up a hill and I have to wipe the sweat from my forehead, I recognize my strength. When I tune into my playlist and tune out the insecurities that keep me awake at night, I recognize my growth. When my calves get tight or my lungs burn, I recognize my ability to get through the pain.
Running is uncomfortable and challenging and miserable just like life. Running is also full of beauty and hope and possibility, so I shouldn’t be surprised to be recognized by others when it’s where I finally recognize myself.