from She Runs, She Makes
Yes, it’s a great movie. But it’s also the starting point of my… I can’t believe I’m saying it.. blog. Yes. That’s right. I said it. I’m starting a blog. It’s hard for me not to cringe a little bit at myself, since every millennial with a mobile device, laptop, Ipad, Iphone, I-TV, I-anything has become self entitled enough to think people actually want to read what they have to say. And you know what? Yes, sometimes those blogs are a waste of 10 minutes you’ll never get back that you could have spent playing Candy Crush or doing something else really productive, BUT sometimes you come across one that really knocks your socks off. (Apologies in advance if this one falls into the former category).
That’s what happened to me. Well, sort of. Not just one, but the cumulation of several blogs/social influencers/Instagram accounts I follow that have an overwhelming amount of wanderlusty photos, stories of epic outdoor adventure, photo journals of handsome bearded men scaling ocean-side cliffs in Croatia, and images of the most beautiful hand crafted things you’ve ever seen in your life. I’ve become a victim of social media envy.
Lately I’ve been having somewhat of a quarter-life existential crises, as most of us do, and part of my anxiety is coming from this influx of social media awesomeness shoved in my face every day. But part of it really comes from that fact that I have no idea what I want to do when I grow up. “But Lyndsay!?” you say. “You’re 27!” you say. Well, to that I say, “Yes, I know! Oh God, I know that already!”. Indecision, lack of direction, but a fiercely competitive drive to succeed. But at what?
Ah, now that’s the question. Growing up, my parents gave me a ton of valuable life advice, but of course my multi-tasking, millennial, A.D.D. brain only had the capacity to hold on to a few tidbits. But one little nugget that my brain held onto was apparently a pretty good one: finding a niche by combining two things you’re good at. Just recently, my 27-year-old mind dug back into the archives and remembered this tasty little morsel. I now finally feel like I have the mental capacity to try it.
For me personally, this means finding some type of space in which to combine my two passions – running and making.
I’ve been a runner since I was 8 years old. My parents thought it would be a good idea for my soccer game, if I were to become an emaciated dork and run around in circles. Well unfortunately I was better at track than I was at soccer, and I imagine dollar signs were ca-ching-ing in my parents eyes reading “Scholarship?”. Also, much to my initial begrudgement I actually started to like it. I was good at it, and it became fun. My brother was even better at it than I was. We were the “Harpers”, rolling into every high school track meet like we owned the place – in our oversized 90’s track singlets and puka shell anklets and those God-awful butterfly clips in my hair. (Why was that okay?)
Anyways, I ended up setting several state records, and got that scholarship to compete at the University of Virginia. 4 years of being a part of student-athlete life at a major university is something I can’t even try to explain. Just imagine a 60 hour work week… but work is mile-repeats and 6 am lift sessions, heaving at the end of 20 x 400m hill workouts, and vomiting during your cool downs. Oh, and then homework. And. You. Love. It. It’s addicting. It’s fun. Your team is your family, and you can’t get enough.
Oh, by the way… it’s still college, so, oh yeah, that thing called school? Oh yeah…what are you going to major in? What do you want to do for the rest of your life? What do you mean your 18 year-old-self doesn’t know? Why can’t you be like those med-school students, or engineering school students who knew exactly what they wanted to be the moment their moms popped them out of their vaginas?
Well. I did what any smart parents tell their children NOT to do. I majored in Studio Art. *insert disappointed sigh*. But you know what? I know there is a (unfortunately very true) stigma around student-athletes choosing “easy majors” because it’s better for their collegiate athletic career. But guess what. I actually really liked it. And I was good at it. I focused in New Media, which is a liberal arts version of design, and minored in Architecture. If I could have majored in Architecture, I would have, but that area of study combined with track would have meant absolutely 0 sleep and no friend time at all. And remember, this is my time to shine on the social scene, since I was a dorky runner all throughout high school. And life-planning? Meh. That can come later…right?
I had a great senior year on the track, good enough that I actually began to consider a professional career after college. I had a coach I worked well with, and what the hell, the next year was an Olympic year, so why not? I took the plunge into the world of “professional” running. I met so many wonderful human beings my 1st year of running, I will always be indebted to those humans for pushing me both on and off the track. It was such an inspiring world to be a part of. Everywhere I went I was surrounded by the world’s most talented athletes. AND THEY WERE MY FRIENDS. How cool? I was actually jealous of myself. I just felt so incredibly lucky that everyday I got to wake up, train, sleep, eat, and be around inspiring people. I also had the most unbelievably supportive family that helped me survive on more than just lima beans and kale during this time period of my life. I kept improving, kept improving, kept improving….until finally I didn’t.
And then I plateaued. And something happens when you’re no longer improving at the thing you had been so focused and passionate about. You start to wonder well, what next? And that is absolutely terrifying. You start to evaluate your self worth. You’ve been pouring your heart and soul into something for so long, and now it’s over. Well guess what. It doesn’t have to be.
I think “retired” athletes are self-destructive and self-deprecating. Once an athlete, always an athlete. Just because my body could no longer handle the intensity of mid-distance Olympic level training, it doesn’t mean that I can’t be an athlete in other ways. I can still get up every morning to run 8 miles. I can pretend to go be a surfer and get beat up by waves for an hour. I can go do a track workout just because. I can still pace a fast 1500. I can do a beer-mile. I can…go on, and on. There is no limit to what I can do as an athlete. I think that because I have finally taken a step back from running as a career I can come back to it as something I like. And that’s all it needs to be.
But again, comes that question, what next? Well, remember that handy-dandy Studio Art degree? Well, believe it or not, I’m still very much into making things. Throughout my stint as a pro runner, I worked with several creative brands part-time, dipping my toes into the world of design, wedding photography, brand marketing, etc. I’ve recently been building hairpin leg furniture. I’ve built a head board out of pallets, I’ve sawed a log into quarters and made night stands, I built a bed, I’ve painted wall art for friends, and I even take way too much pride in curating my Instagram grid (shocker). You can scoff all you want – I know anyone with a smart phone is a photographer now, and that’s fine. But I really, really enjoy it.
So. Here comes the conclusion to my inception as a…let’s go with casual writer. My two “things” that I want to smush together: my passion for an active lifestyle + my passion for the creative space and making. I think that’s simple enough. And who knows where it will take me. Probably nowhere. And that’s just fine.
…until I have my next panic attack.