The problem with being really fit is that you can’t deviate from the consistency it took to get you there in the first place. Sleep, diet, stress levels, training volume must all be maintained at steady state for months, if not years, in order to improve. Any setback or slip up could slow the progression. In the middle of the college season where high volume, high intensity workouts reigned supreme, my mind would drift towards other things I wanted to do in life that a dedicated runner ought not to participate in. These are cravings to do things like learning to back-country ski, trekking Maine’s 100 mile wilderness, paddling Utah’s green river, tracking caribou in the Brooks Range, staying up really late, or travelling just for the sake of travelling. My mind always drifted towards what it perceived to be a happier place.
The problem with being injured is, well being injured. The desire to get back to the super state of fitness is always there to remind you that something isn't as good as it could be. And so your mind wanders back to that supposedly happier time where you could crank out a mountainous 30 miler on Saturday and run a personal best marathon a week later. Or skip out of work early on Friday, drive 3 hours to the best mountain town I've been to and belt out 90 minutes at 9000+ feet with a few similarly inclined friends. My mind drifts towards that perceived better place.
So here I am today 2 years later, still not fit, but doing many of those things I had been daydreaming about during dedicated training blocks. I have ridden a bicycle 212 miles from Arizona across the Mexican border, skipped lines at the Vatican while limping around Europe on a crutch (write-up about 70%) (Holland, Belgium, Paris, Rome) , reduced my life to 146 pounds of stuff, hopped on a plane with a one way ticket to the furthest commercial airport from my hometown, and moved my entire life to Western Australia, and then in less than one year saw more of the country than every Australian I have met. In Arizona 1+ year ago, I packed my entire life into my Tacoma, and drove it 4000 miles across the most beautiful part of the world, the American west, and back to my home in Pennsylvania. And now in 6 days, I’ll jump on a plane to Malaysian Borneo for almost a week, without using a single day of vacation. As much as I may not believe it, I am the world traveler so many people dream to be. So why do I still feel I need to be back to running like a nut to be fully satisfied? What makes a person 100% satisfied?
When I’m sweating in the Arizona, I want nothing more than to be cross country skiing in Colorado. When I’m stuck in the house because of too much snow outside, I want nothing more to explore Indian caves in the Sonoran desert. When I’m cold I want to be hot. When I’m hot I want to be cold. When I’m alone off having an awesome adventure, I want a girlfriend to share the experience with. When I am talking to a girl on the phone, I want to be off somewhere alone living out of a backpack. When I’m punching numbers into a spread sheet or stressing over work, I want to be vagabonding through South America. When I’m in the wild alone for a few days, I begin to think about the joy of solving interesting problems at work (nah, not that often). What makes a person 100% satisfied?
Happiness is personal. Each individual can find it in their own way. I feel that I have been happiest:
- Creating something- A tree house, a running race, a cool blog post, a well written English paper, a 100% calculus exam, solving an interesting problem, carving a spear
- Being outside and having adventures- hiking long trails, hunting for quail or grouse, paddling a wild river, running a lonely trail up a mountain no one has ever thought to run up
- Helping people- Mission trips to Mexico, volunteering at a race, showing a friend how to solve a math problem. Even if I take faith out of the equation, it just makes me smile and happy. So I don’t know why I don’t do it more
- Connecting with like-minded people- Runners, goofballs, Christians, miners, adventurers
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I conclude the following:
- Do things that make you happy and do them often
- Personal Happiness is not the point of life (pdf/mp3)
- Feeling good isn’t the same thing as Happiness
- The formula for Happiness is unique to each individual. The equation never gets smaller, only larger. So try new things
- Happiness is all around you. Change perspective, not position.