"Taking a new step, uttering a new word, is what people fear most."
Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Crime and Punishment
The last two posts I made to this blog were a long four months ago now. In January, I was reflecting deeply on the "barrenness of a busy life," trying to reconcile my need for a full and active life with my need for space, time, and quiet reflection. I've been in a years-long struggle to understand how to live in a way that better reflects what I value, and early this year came to a difficult conclusion that was probably well overdue: it was time to sell my interest in the business I co-founded over a decade ago, and pursue a new kind of work. This was no minor decision, and in fact has changed nearly every facet of my daily life -- including my life as a runner.
In my "real life," I'm a geriatric social worker, and have worked in elder care for over 15 years. In 2004, I started a private care management and in-home care business with a partner, and over the course of the next 10+ years, we grew it from a two-person start-up to a 50+ employee company that served hundreds of families in San Diego County. I loved creating Elder Care Guides, and poured every bit of myself into it. As a partner in a 24/7 crisis-oriented business, with employees who work long, hard, difficult hours, and need a lot of support, there was simply no way for me to truly "unplug." The days were long and very stressful, but I could happily give my life to it, because I loved it.
And then one day I didn't. And I no longer could. A career in service to frail, disabled older adults is a key part of who I am, but it is not all that I am.
One of the unique characteristics of our company was the pride that we took in our ability to identify and cultivate strengths - in our employees, and in our clients. In the early years, I was working ridiculously hard, but was applying my unique strengths and talents. It fit. In the last few years, my role in the company had necessarily changed, and I found myself no longer working to my own strengths and interests. I love to acquire new information, communicate, teach, and connect. I love words, stories, and ideas, and need an environment that is constantly-changing. The company I created was very much like family, but I had grown up and no longer "fit" there, and had to move away. I needed work with a broader impact, and that made better use of my particular gifts. And I needed a life that didn't revolve around my work.
In February of this year, as I was beginning to drown under the weight of these difficult realizations, an opportunity to manage the education and outreach department of the local chapter of the Alzheimer's Association came my way, and I knew in a heartbeat that I was ready to make the leap. This is a non-profit organization whose mission I've long supported as an active volunteer, the work is a perfect fit with my individual strengths and interests, and the team I'd be joining was in an exciting time of growth and evolution. So after a brief moment of soul searching (my soul is under near-constant surveillance, so it didn't take long), my decision was made. I spent the next two months carefully unraveling myself from my beloved company, selling my interest to my long-time partners, and then integrating myself into an entirely new life.
So that's a long way of explaining: that's where I've been all this time! I'm learning to redefine myself, figuring out how I can do the most good in the world, and discovering that it isn't all through work. And it may sound silly and frivolous, but I believe I have other kinds of good to do in the world through running, too. Not necessarily by convincing other people that they should take up running (although let's face it -- I really love it when that happens). But through the better person that I am when I run - because distance running suits my unique strengths, interests, and gifts - I have more good to give.
Yesterday I ran the Famous Idaho Potato Marathon, in Boise, a race that's been on my "list" for many years, and for which I had just registered when I wrote my last post in January. (More on this subject later!) Because of the tumult and chaos in every other area of my life over the last few months, I didn't actually end up training for it, but I remained committed to running it, and turned it into a personal fundraiser for the Alzheimer's Association. In a sad and beautiful convergence of the universe's timing, I lost an old friend in April to young-onset Alzheimer's disease, and dedicated my race to her memory. So, training or no training, I wasn't going to miss it. Like the leaves on the gorgeous old trees that blanket the city of Boise, and the river that winds through it, I feel that change has swept through every part of me, and my purpose is renewed. I'm laced back up, and I'm all in, you guys. All in.