The clouds curled ominously above my head, as I accelerated on the final stretch of pavement.
C’mon, Bethany. My voice pounding inside my head, as my feet pounded on the gravel lining the strip of asphalt I skirt for my daily run. You can go faster. You can beat the rain.
A twinge. A fiery blast of pain.
Damnit! I cried, clutching at my right Achilles and sending a private prayer to the running gods I didn’t just tear my most-important tendon. I stopped short and felt my ankle throbbing.
On cue, the black clouds above me opened their floodgates, sending spirals of raindrops down to Earth. It was now raining (not lightly) and my right leg was injured.
I scurried back home in the oncoming tumult, kicking myself — but realized my right leg was already screwed, so what was the point in that anyway?
I’d been running 3-4 miles nearly every day since the start of the summer, and I felt great. Pushing myself (as I always do), I’d upped the millage to 4 miles consistently, instead of the 3 miles I started with at the beginning of the semester. But in the midst of all my cardio mountain-climbing training, I’d been neglecting the ever-important strength training that comes along with speed.
And so, my muscles were walking tightropes of taut tissue just waiting to unfurl at the snap of a finger (or a heel, in this case).
For a week, I hobbled around with an ankle wrap and a sore sense of pride. Condemning myself to 7 days of yoga and a thorough stretching regime wouldn’t have seemed so bad a year ago. But I had gotten too hungry for millage and thirsty for speed. Slowing down, even for a day, was slowly becoming a sign of weakness in my ever-ambitious eyes.
The week off really reinstated how fundamental strength training alongside a healthy cardio schedule can be. How both running and stretching can complement each other, not debilitate each other, in the quest for ultimate mountain-hiker agility.
Thinking in absolutes — in “or’s” and not “and’s” — has been a weakness of mine since I started grappling with anxiety in middle school. It’s manifested in all facets of my life, this obsession with one or the other: my career aspirations, my choice of study in school, my tendencies, my hobbies, and my moods.
For example: After learning about global climate change, I thought I only wanted to work internationally. After Cambodia, though, I thought I wanted to focus exclusively on domestic issues of conservation.
Journalism school forced me to make several choices, choices I wasn’t necessarily prepared to make: Written words or visuals? Academic or lay audiences? Creativity or information? To some stretch … to be smart or kind?
My Bachelor of Specialized Studies is proof that I wasn’t satisfied with ultimatums. At its core, my degree is a combination of several disciplines: political science, environmental geography, women’s and gender studies — because, frankly, I couldn’t choose. That’s why I also have two minors, in anthropology and journalism, and why I have a job in environmental studies.
And, perhaps most importantly, I didn’t believe I had to make a choice.
That forgettable, unrecognizable power of a simple conjunction — “and” — has shaped my life in more ways than I can count. ‘And’ is a non-conformist, like me. ‘And’ believes in more than one answer and opportunity. ‘And’ is the answer I give to those who ask about my future.
I want my work to be creative and non-fiction. I want to practice photography and continue writing stories. I want to address issues of national and international climate change. I want to enjoy the bubbling city and the wild, untamed wilderness. I want to travel and I want to appreciate my own backyard. A world where both humans –- and their environment –- are cherished, respected, and honored for their differences.
Do I know exactly where I’m headed? Not really, and I’m content to enjoy the ride. Have been since July.
Life in the gray, along the continuum, and embracing the power of AND is how I’m living my life: today and tomorrow.
Until next month,