Growing up, I always defined myself in relation to my friends.
I liked the things my friends liked. I participated in activities my friends wanted to do. I used the word “we” a lot instead of “I.”
I was kind of a follower. While I was an individual, and would never go along with something I wasn’t comfortable with, I was never vocal about my individuality. I went with the flow.
In middle school, I followed my friends to tryouts for different sports that individually I would have had no interest in. That’s how I ended up as a cheerleader in the 7th grade. That’s how I ended up running track in 8th grade, even though I hated running.
Instead of depending on myself, I depended on my friends a lot. I hardly went anywhere without bringing a friend along. I never went anywhere alone, and when my parents announced we were going somewhere (whether vacation or day trip), my first question would always be whether I could bring a friend. I would have brought friends to my family reunions if I had been allowed. I even brought a friend to my photo shoot when it was time for senior pictures.
This dependence and follower’s mentality eventually led me back to running. After running track in 8th grade (and hating it), I thought I was done forever… But then two friends of mine trained for and ran half marathons, and I decided I should do that, too.
So I signed up for my first half marathon.
I started training, going out for longer and longer runs, and I found that I actually enjoyed the feeling of running alone. I felt strong, and I felt like an individual.
What began as an “if they can do it, I can do it,” mentality grew into something more.
The two friends I had “followed” into half marathon training were done after their races. They had successfully run half marathons, and they had accomplished their goals.
For me, however, one half marathon wasn’t enough. I caught the running bug. I needed more.
I loved the energy in the air on race day, when spectators showed up with their funny signs to cheer on the runners. I loved the feeling of community. I loved crossing the finish line knowing that I had accomplished my goal. Almost immediately after the race, I signed up for my next half marathon.
I was no longer following friends. I was forging my own path as a runner.
Running became part of my identity.
I used to struggle when someone asked the dreaded question “So, tell me about yourself.” I could never think of anything to say that would describe me as an individual. But now I can proudly answer that I am a runner.
Running has become my thing.
Running has also opened the doors to new friendships. While I still enjoy running alone, I’ve found a few amazing online communities of runners who support each other and cheer each other on.
It’s a weird and new and amazing feeling for me to connect with people who have the same interests as me. It’s quite a change from the old me, when I tended to base my interests around the people I liked.
Running has been such a blessing for me. Once it became something I actually wanted to do for myself (rather than something I had to do in gym class), running really opened the door to seeing myself as an individual with individual interests.
Since I started running, I’ve been able to open myself up to other things I am interested in. I’ve begun to find myself and define myself in terms of me, not other people.
I no longer dread the question, “So, tell me about yourself.”
Because I now have something to say.
Be Happy. Be Healthy.