There will come those times when you think, I can’t. When nothing goes according to plan, and you’re aghast and breathless and you think, Oh hell no.
I’m telling you: push through.
There is so much satisfaction on the other side.
Do it anyway.
That’s my story anyway, the story of traveling to New Orleans for a week, a trip built, as one does (um, me) around an organizing principle: to run a race. We’d been talking about coming to New Orleans for years. YEARS. And yet even though I’d bought a guidebook and we’d said that we were going, we did not. Years of people sending us recommendations, long lists of places they loved, restaurants, sights. So booking myself into a race was what I knew it would take to get us here for real, a fixed point in time and place, an anchor.
From there it was easy: tickets with points, a hotel close to the race-start that had that certain je-ne-sais-quoi I seem to seek out when traveling, arrival a good two days+ ahead of race-day to allow for any flight delays and adjustment to jet lag. Everything laid out just right, rigging the conditions for my own success. Perfect.
The night before the race, I laid out my clothes for the next day, pinned my number to my shirt. It was an early start, 7am -- thank goodness, given the warm weather – so I set my alarm for 5:30, giving me an hour to get ready, drink coffee, wake up, before walking the 4 blocks to the start. I went to bed thinking about that feeling of the starting line, the excitement of queuing up with others and waiting. I hadn’t been sleeping well for weeks so hoped I’d actually rest.
And I did. When I opened my eyes and saw daylight around the drawn curtains in the room, I already knew. I looked at my watch: 6:44. I had 16 minutes to get to the starting line. A loud intake of breath, and then I think I probably wailed. Oh nooooooo, I can’t believe I overslept! I came all this way for this and now I’ve blown it. I won’t have time to make coffee, for any of what usually grounds me first thing, and none of it’s gonna go the way I’d hoped. Oh nooooooooooo!
But even as that whole thing was unspooling in my head, I was up and out of bed, getting my clothes on, my husband down to the lobby for some of their coffee for me, triaging what I could. Brush my teeth? No time. Braid my hair? No time. And off we went, me walking like a fiend with a paper cup of coffee in my hand, my sweetheart keeping pace, as we made our way to the line. Oh no, what if I don’t make it, what if they start without me, what if I came all this way, practically crying the whole way, just so bummed out.
There. The starting line is in sight. I say goodbye to my husband, make plans to meet him at the finish, get to my corral just as the voice comes over the loudspeaker, “5, 4,” and down goes the coffee cup on the curb, “3, 2, 1.” And off we go. Not gonna lie: I feel horrible. I am still half-asleep and in a panic, but off we go. Eventually, I let the panic go, and it was fine.
It was better than fine. It was great.
Here’s what I learned. I can do it anyway. I can skip all of what I usually think of as necessary in the lead-up and do it anyway. I can wake up and feel like, oh shit, I blew it and the odds are snot in my favor, and I can do it anyway.
And it can still be great.
When I crossed the finish line, a volunteer congratulated me as she draped me a medal over my head. I felt great. Yes, the miles were behind me. But mostly, mostly it was knowing that even with things “stacked against me,” with not getting to control all of the details, with some chaos thrown in for good measure, even then, the right answer was to Just Go. Try. Do It Anyway. That’s a feeling that endures.
Did it pay off that I was uber-prepared, that I’d chosen the hotel for its proximity to the start, that I’d scouted the location, that I’d pinned my number on, laid my clothes out the night before? Absolutely. When you’re prepared, then guess what? You can seemingly fuck up, you can oversleep your alarm on a crucial day, but you can still make it. It can still be great.
I’m taking that feeling with me into everything else in my life, and wish it for you, too. Things not quite right, not quite to your liking, it can still be just fine. It can still be great.
Do it anyway.