Before I left New York for Michigan I picked two books to take with me, Deep Survial by Laurence Gonzales and Running the Edge by Adam Goucher and Tim Catalano. Being here for a few days now I have to laugh at the perfect combination of my choice.
It is not exactly deep survival driving 814 miles with dogs to spend a few charged holidays with the family, but the trip requires some risk management. Deep Survival is far more extreme, it looks at who lives, who dies and why, in various outdoor adrenalin induced adventures. For anyone who loves to read about the wilderness, adventure and life altering decisions it is a fascinating read.
Next I am into the first 100 pages of Running the Edge by Adam Goucher and Tim Catalano who were University of Colorado running teammates. You may have read reviews that it is unlike any other running book and it is. It is self-help, motivation, spiritual guidance, deep reflection all rolled into one. But what stands out is the runners common thread to reject the idea of living a normal or average life. It talks about one’s biggest fear being wasted potential. Wow this book is for me, especially right now in my cross roads of mid-life but always wanting more.
I have always had the philosophy, the fear, and the determination to not have regrets on my deathbed. Growing up, my father talked about how much he hated his job. We would get in discussions of, “Why do something that you hate so much?” I vowed then to never be in that position, that I would never do something that would make me profoundly unhappy. He said he did it, “because of you kids” to support us and send us to college. I must be really selfish because there is no way I would “waste” my life doing something that I hated, maybe that is why I also vowed to never have kids. I am not sure why he hated his job but what was tough to see is how it affected his entire life. I learned some big lessons from those talks, mostly I never want to feel like I perceived he felt.
For me not having a family of my own is my best choice, I can do what I want and I have. I traveled all over the world, almost all of it paid for by an arts organization, the government, or another country’s cultural department. I have lived in mountain huts, beach shacks, super deluxe houses, monster apartments and single rooms. I gave talks and had exhibitions worldwide. I am a tenured professor and I am the chairman of a university department. I have a second home in another state that I get to go to in the summer. I am making the best choices for me, for who I am. That looks great on the checklist of accomplishments but it is no big deal to anyone who has some passion and a little persistence. It is time for something more. Enters “Running the Edge.”
Running the Edge is about more, better, and never settling, in ones’ running, education, career, friendships, family, and passion. Running, that is easy to never settle to always chase a new PR. Education that is easy too I love to learn and constantly take new classes. Career is not so clear. I am an artist, I am a professor. I am not totally keen on where I teach and I want to make it a better and more competitive department with stronger students and better studios. Or is it that I want to move to a place with stronger students and better studios? Or maybe I want to leave all together and do something new and different or take the risk of only making art? Or maybe as a money job, I don’t “work” in art anymore and I work in physiology, exercise testing? Then at the end of the day I can go to my studio and make art without having to dump the frustration of teaching art to people I believe are less motivated than they should be? Not making the decisions is passive and I find myself passively waiting for a new opportunity to come through the email to point me in a new direction. Wow that is hard to admit, if I had a friend doing that I would scold them up and down to get their ass out there and make a change and tell them how pathetic they are for not being pro-active. Hilary, you are pathetic, get your ass out there and make a decision to change what you feel is not the very best.
Now I feel better. I am eager to continue reading Running the Edge. I love the stories that are recounted by Goucher and Catalano, they make perfect sense to me, the risk and the reward. What a great end of year reading to move into the better, faster, stronger, smarter me next year. Just the planning of it gets me excited.
So this year in talking with my dad who retired over 10 years ago but immediately went right back to work as a part-timer at the very same job he hated tells me, “Sure I still get mad at my job and I work more hours that I should, but it gives me something to do, some place to go, it keeps me active and thinking and engaging with people.” I will still wonder why that place is not what I would think of as more appealing but maybe it is what is appealing to him, plus it is not my life, it is his. Now the job is on his terms and he is calling the shots. That is where we all need to be, calling our own shots, making everything what we want it to be and doing what we want to do.
Happy New Year to all the Distance Mavens and here is enjoying a relentless pursuit of excellence in everything.