Recently I was doing what I do every morning of my life, running 5000 stairs outside of Boston’s City Hall, when a college student approached. I had noticed she was part of a group trying to interact with passerby. She asked if she could run with me, and ask some questions for a school project. I said sure, let’s run.
“What advice would you give your younger self?” she began.
There’s a leading quality to that question, because the supposition is that older you will tell younger you what you need to change. “Learn a trade and don’t rack up student debt,” for instance. You don’t think in terms of what you would be best served in retaining, which this world is likely to chip away from you.
I was married in City Hall, and I’m not married now. I don’t know a lot of people, I know fewer good people, and the ones I know have lives and families of their own. I had a divorce that still haunts me because it crushed me, but it didn’t break me, which is different. As with other things that have proved crushing, I’ve kept going, and that includes running these stairs so that I’ll be healthy to enjoy everything I can, when I’m fortunate to have and hold what I want.
I could be dramatic, and say, “That’s why it’s these very stairs! My heroic metaphor!”
But that’s not true. I run them because it’s hard to find a lot of stairs in one outside place and I will not shy away from that which I must do, and can help me.
I was thinking about all of this as I ran with the college student. When I was a child, I had wide passions, deep loves, endless amounts of curiosity, and a belief that my path in life might not be like the path of others. I’d find a way.
That sounded so doable. You don’t know resistance yet. Resistance alters perception, but that doesn’t mean it alters reality. It doesn’t automatically change the place to which you can get. You may alter that by bailing, because you’re overwhelmed by doubt, and you’re not getting enough reinforcement in your life.
I told her, “I would tell him to live his life like a thrown knife. To always keep moving forward. Even as he went up and he went down. I’d tell him to grow, but to retain the qualities of that youth. The passion, the curiosity. The boundless saying of ‘why not?’ rather than ‘can’t.’”