I started running when I was about seventeen. I found it to be a good way to stay in shape and clear my mind, but it became more than that. At the time, I would run past Fresno State’s farms or down suburban streets where I grew up. Though the scenery wasn’t very exciting, my teenage years had been lonely and rocky, so what I remember most about those runs is the dreaming I did. Running would fill me with hope for the future when it was uncertain. At seventeen, nothing about my next step was clear.
I was afraid but hopeful.
A year later, I was living in Ontario, Canada. The new adventure of living in another country didn’t prove to be as fulfilling as I had thought it would be, but I had better scenery. I ran through beautiful countryside and vineyards, and along Lake Ontario. I was still dreaming. I was eighteen and still had no idea where I was going in my life or what I really wanted to do. Eventually, when I decided to move to New York, there were all of these variables and uncertainties involved—no job, no money, no place to live. I remember running with a lot of fears and a playlist full of songs that encouraged me through every step and every mile.
I was afraid and hopeful.
A year later, I was living in New York—finally, “the dream” fulfilled, so it seemed. But everything about my life through that year felt really difficult. I was enduring a nanny job that was not easy, trying to get through my first year of school and living in a city as challenging as New York, and there came a point I didn’t know if I could do it anymore. I started running again. This time I had Central Park and the Hudson River, and I’d run and hope and struggle with the present as well as what would come next. I felt stuck.
One day, while running around the reservoir at Central Park, I was listening to that same playlist of songs I had through those vineyards in Ontario and realized that the last time I had heard those songs I had been struggling with something else—getting to New York and all the uncertainties and challenges I had been up against. And there I was.
So, I was afraid but hopeful. Again.
I had made it through the lonely, excruciating teenage years in my hometown to the ambiguous, uncomfortable year in Canada to the frightening, challenging first year in New York. Hearing those songs on the playlist through each run reminded me of that. I had seen a lot of victories, and I’d see one again.
Here I am, a couple years later. I’ve been in New York for three and a half years now. I go on runs from Queens to Brooklyn, with the Manhattan skyline to my right, through Greenpoint and Williamsburg. I have new views and new struggles. I’m miles away (literally and figuratively) from where I had been in the past, in a much better place, but new battles come along. A couple weeks ago I was struggling with all sorts of things—emotional conflict, career confusion, loss…
I was afraid, and the hope to which I normally cling seemed to be fading.
But remembering can be a really powerful tool. I put on the playlist. That playlist.
I thought back to the many times I had run—through Fresno, Canada, the Upper West Side, and now Queens. All those times, I had been fighting something and didn’t know what the outcome would look like. I didn’t know how I’d make it out or where I’d land. But I had made it—every time, through every season that came and went. Those lyrics I had heard many times before meant something new. There were memories and deliverance associated with them.
Where I’m at today is another season, and it’ll bring me somewhere new just like all the other seasons did. Lately, I’ve had this image of life as one long yoga class, and I keep finding myself in chair pose over and over again—waiting for something, trying to be patient, struggling to stay strong. As soon as I think I’m done and moving on to a new position, I’m back in chair pose, and my muscles are burning. I know relief, a better place, is always ahead, but, man, it’s hard. If you practice yoga, you know how brutal that chair pose can be, but it strengthens your legs, spine, and heart.
Wherever you are today, know that truth exists for you. It’s just a season, and a new one is coming.
This time I’m not afraid—just hopeful.
And I wonder: what will my scenery be a couple years from now?