Be warned, right off the bat: if you’re not into slightly emotional, flashback-tastic posts, this one probably ain’t for you. But hell – I’m feeling a bit ‘mosh today, after running a 3-miler for Sport Relief – so you’ll have to excuse me, but it’s one of those days.
The thing is, when I decided to do it, I was just starting to run – and I’m still pretty terrible at it, by most people’s standards. I mean, don’t get me wrong – I’m no longer falling on my ass after a few steps, and as I said yesterday, I’m starting to get the hang of it. But it doesn’t come naturally to me, and it’ll be a long time ’til I really get it.
But really, even if I hadn’t been getting into running, I knew I’d be able to at least walk the three miles without too much of an issue – so it didn’t seem that big a deal to sign up and try to raise some dollar for charity.
So, I did it – and in 26 minutes, smashing my practice go, which put me at 37 minutes – and I had an amazing time. I loved it.
And then, I hopped on the tube home, made some lunch, and chilled out for a bit. I felt good, but, y’know – no biggie, really.
So it was as much a surprise to me as anyone else when, watching a “Best of Nineties Music” marathon with my house crew, I found myself feeling a bit overwhelmed with some seriously mixed emotions.
Blame it on the nostalgia trip if you like, but I found myself singing along to Baby One More Time and thinking back, not to my 12-year-old Britney-lovin’ self, but to me about four years ago, in an orthopaedic surgeon’s office, in yet another consultation to see if there was anything more we could do for my busted up knees.
This time, I was getting the results of a scan below my knees – on my heel bone, which had been giving me some discomfort for several weeks. It turned out I’d developed a stress fracture, thanks to the weight bearing down on my knees and the heavy limp I’d developed that even my crutches couldn’t prevent.
At that point, I had a conversation with the doc to the effect that I should probably prepare myself to stay on crutches for the rest of my life – and that I should probably be more careful in the movement I was doing, to avoid doing any more damage. In short, there was very little more surgery they could do – short of the knee replacement which wasn’t advised because of my age. I’d have to have it replaced again in 10-15 years in my current state – and a surgery that long wouldn’t be a great idea given my weight made anaesthesia a risky business.
I didn’t really process that as bad news. It was just another inevitability, and I was just glad I’d be given a higher dose of codeine to deal with the pain in my heel, as well as my knee. I was going to be on crutches forever, and that was that. It’d been three years, anyway – I was used to it.
Today, that memory that I’d near enough forgotten seemed as though it happened yesterday – and as I sat on the sofa, in my life a million miles removed from that one, wearing a medal and feeling that glow in my lungs that only comes from a good, joyous workout, I almost couldn’t remember anything that’d happened between that day, and this one.
It was a real shock – because that acceptance of a life of pain and addiction; of sitting at home, waiting for my next meal and with it, my next set of painkillers; of wondering what I’d do for money after my student loan ran out, because I sure as hell couldn’t seem to get a job – seemed like my forever, at the time. It was how my life was going to go.
And yet, by a combination of luck, hard work, and picking myself up after many, many failures, I found myself sitting in my London house, having taken a run around the Olympic Park, where some of the world’s best athletes had hung out just over a year ago, feeling like that person in the doctor’s office was someone I didn’t really know.
And that’s because it’s not one huge change – no quick fix or magic bullet – that’s resulted in me being who I am now. Quite the opposite, in fact.
It’s come about through a million tiny moments and imperceptible changes – a thousand steps, not all of them forwards – but I’ve ended up in a position, for all my imperfections, where I’ve ended up being the person my old self couldn’t even have imagined possible.
But I don’t get a kick out of that. That’s not something that makes me feel preachy, or like I ought to be carrying around a head the size of a planet. In fact, it just kinda makes me sad.
Because we live in a culture that’s all about the quick fix, the solution you can buy for $99.99 and find yourself Beyoncé by 10am tomorrow – and the all-too-pervasive idea that when these things fail, it’s on you, and you alone. That ain’t true.
I wouldn’t be where I am today without the amazing people I’m lucky enough to call friends and family. And I’ve failed on my ass more times than I can count – whether that’s taken the form of skipping a workout (or fifteen), spending three months eating things I know I shouldn’t, or falling headlong into old struggles with binge eating. These things have happened, and repeatedly.
But each time, I’ve picked myself back up, and carried on a little further.
And that’s the secret.
Some people have life-changing epiphanies, defining moments where their lives change – but for me, the real magic is in the day-by-day, moment-by-moment instances of good. It’s felt like months and years of imperceptible, tiny changes, setbacks and doubts – but now, suddenly, I’m sitting here feeling as though my old self wouldn’t recognise me in the street.
I guess what I’m saying, then, is that you don’t have to make a huge change, or a sudden overhaul, to end up getting where you want to go. Nothing’s impossible with patience, and a life that’s constantly improving is a hell of a lot more satisfying than one that’s spent waiting on immediate results that don’t stick.
So don’t ever think that you’re in an impossible situation, and please, please doubt anyone that tells you you’ll ‘never’ have what you want. Because trust me – one day, you may find yourself a totally different person, with the kind of joy and happiness you absolutely deserve.
Although be warned: you may get emotional during nostalgia-fest 90s music videos.
Personally… I can live with that.