Umbro shorts on, nerves knotted and kinked, stiff-hairspray-bangs swept up and over from one side of my third-grade head to the other.
It's "Physical Fitness Day". A mile run, push-ups/pull-ups, sit-ups, all timed. All in front of your classmates, teachers, God, everybody. I had no fear for any of it except for one area.
That horrid, black oversized oval with white lines literally made me want to puke. "It's just a mile", I would tell myself. I would immediately feel the sense of failure as I lined up behind the skinnier girls and pre-pubescent boys who had way too much energy and would likely lap me. Twice.
I was defeated before I began. I don't remember how long it took me, but I remember the voices of failure and not-good-enough and you'll-never-make-it.
I wish I could stand beside my 8-year-old self today and tell her what it's really all about. I'd nudge her, quickly and quietly, so that no one would know. She'd glance over, stiff Auqa Net bangs just-so and in-need-of-braces-teeth peeking through a trembling mouth. I would lock eyes with her and say she was never defined by a number. Not a cumulation of minutes for a mile or number on a scale or grade on a test. She wasn't defined by the clothes that she wore or the length of her ponytail or the expertise of her rolled jeans. Her beauty wasn't defined by the size of her waist or highlights in her hair or brand new white keds.
I hope she would hear me. I pray she would lace up those white jordache sneakers, take a deep breath, and give it her all. I would like to think she would store in her heart the wisdom from an older version of herself.
Instead, she grew up and had to learn and re-learn how to see herself as God sees her. As a miracle and purposeful creation. As more than a stretch-marked belly and dimply cellulite-y legs. More than a 30-extra-pounds mommy of 2 who is really not happy with her progress or lack of post-baby weight loss.
She ran today. A black running skirt replaced the umbros. Hot pink and neon green asics replaced the vintage jordache sneakers. She didn't run far or fast or without fatigue, but she did it. She walked and jogged and knew it was a journey that was never-ending.
She ran for the little girl who was too afraid and defeated before the start. She ran for the teenager who doubted her importance in the world. She ran for the college student wearing stretchy pants because the freshman 15 was more like the freshman 20. She ran for the present-day self that is struggling with extra stubborn pounds and how to be a supportive wife, present in the moment momma, full-time working professional, and part-time student.
It's all about the journey and the moments that hold grace.
And so I run.