I have always been self motivated. In school nobody had to remind me to do my homework. In college I could be found at 10PM on a Friday night in the quiet corner of the Memorial Library nursing a cup of black coffee while my friends were out doing shots and drinking Sex On The Beach until the wee hours of the morning. Most days I woke up not sharing the hangovers of my counterparts but ready to hit the gym for one of two daily workouts. I was motivated. Driven. I graduated as the highest ranking senior in the school of Child & Family Studies, a fact that is often met with smirks when shared today. "What difference did that make?" people will ask, pointing at their mediocre grade point average and their impressive job. It did make a difference. It made a difference in that I know what I am capable of.
Things never came easily to me. I have never been a "natural" at anything. I worked damn hard for every "A" I earned, while my boyfriend was able to skim his class notes one night before an exam and receive the same grade. Fitness didn't come easily either. I didn't have the speed, flexibility or coordination to be an athlete. Every lap around that indoor track at the "SURF" was a force of will. I wanted to push myself. I believe that in and of itself is the quality I am most proud of. The fact that I am willing to do the work, to get it done, to always try my best.
My drive is what has made me who I am today. And while it has gotten me places, it has also held me back, it has been my very worst enemy. The little voice inside my head that has pushed me to be the best student,who has never been satisfied with "good enough" has also made the sting of implied failures particularly harsh. The "AB" I got in "African Storyteller" sent me into a depression, my 4.0 ruined. The extra weight I put on my junior year of college was so crushing, I went in the extreme opposite direction, dieting to destruction. I have always strived for the unachievable... perfection.
It is safe to say that this quality has followed me into more recent years, in some ways more than others. I no longer need to excel in academics, and I traded motherhood for a "big" career. I am not the best in my field. I am not promotable. But I continue to bare the weight of willed perfection, the desire to be the very best in other areas of my life. I wanted to push myself physically. I wanted to once again set a goal in my life and achieve it. I set my sites on running, on finally being the "athlete" I never was. Last spring I pushed myself harder physically than I had ever done before. Each mile I added, first 8 then 9, then 10, then 11 until finally the prized 13.1, I felt better and better about myself. When I finished that half marathon in one hour and fifty-seven minutes I was elated, and started looking forward to the next one, which of course... would be faster.
There wasn't another half marathon. My lack of inherent ability caught up with me as I experienced one injury after another. My friends and family encouraged me, telling me, I did it, I achieved my goal, and now I could move on, do something more moderate, take yoga. While I know everyone meant well, it made my blood boil. Nothing felt as good as crossing that finish line, and I wanted to do it again, and again and again, getting better and better and better. I have refused to give up. Thanksgiving Day I ran a 10K with my husband who happens to be much faster than I am. It felt good, being able to keep up with him, clipping at a speed somewhere just above 8 minute miles, until the last mile caught me off guard with shooting knee pain and had me limping across the finish line then benched for two weeks. I pushed myself and I failed, and it sucks.
I'm also a stereotypical woman approaching forty who still wants to look twenty-five. I beat myself up for every line that appears on my face, every little way my body changes. I want perfection. I accept nothing less than 100% and it hurts me every day.
I'm not a VP. I'm not a marathoner. I'm not twenty-five, and my body isn't perfect. Even my motivation and hard work can't will it to be. At some point perhaps I will find that I need to take that hard work and direct it towards self acceptance rather than to perfection.
My goal now may need to be just that. Self acceptance. If this becomes the prize and I am able to achieve it, I believe I may find more happiness then any "A+", big race or size 2 jeans will ever bring me. It isn't easy. This drive is as much a part of me as my weak hips and laugh lines. It's in my blood. It's who I am. I like it. But it needs to be redirected and harnessed towards new ends and perhaps the very most important one being loving me.