I’m beginning to eagerly count down the days until Oakland, and more and more, I’m finding myself at this highly-coveted place, somewhere I didn’t think I’d be right now, yet somewhere that feels so good and so right.
I feel like I’m at peace.
The words will surely fail me on this attempt, as they often do (despite the piece of paper I have that tells me I’m a master at writing, rhetoric, and discourse…), but probably the only way I can describe the feeling that has been coursing through my veins this week, my first taper week of this Oakland cycle, is that suddenly, everything just feels… good. Right, even. Running-related or otherwise.
This isn’t to say that I’m usually not at a place of peace in my life, but instead, I think I am so surprised that these feelings have seemingly erupted from the depths of my soul (hyperbolic, I know… bear with me) when they have.
I’ll back up.
I took the move from Chicago pretty hard: pretty hard as in, crying a lot, frequently, nearly every night, and repeatedly, type of hard. I cried not only because I was leaving my beloved city but also, probably more so, because there was just so much up in the air, so much unknown. After living in Chicago for eleven years, since the ripe age of eighteen, I grew up there. I earned my BA, MS, and MA degrees there; I met my future husband and had a baby there; I resurrected my running there (in the north shore, where I worked and lived for two years, anyway)–a lot happened while I lived there.
When I ran Chicago in the fall as my twentieth marathon, I wrote that it was like a homecoming for me and likely the last time I would do it for a long time. Shortly after I ran Chicago, C left to begin his new job here, while A and I stayed behind for the foreseeable future (at the time) to sell our condo and, for me, to finish teaching my forty undergrads through November. At the time, I knew that us making the move westwardly was in our best interests, especially while A was still so young, and surely, the move would be for the good of C’s career, but with it came a huge question mark, or, as it were, a series of huge question marks:
When will A and I leave?
What if we don’t sell our place until the spring or later (ed. note: we listed in mid-September)?
What if C hates his new job, and we’ve made the move for nothing?
In the absence of an outside-the-home job, how am I going to make friends?
And, while he’s gone, how am I going to run (and train) with A at home with me every day?
This series of questions merely skim the surface of what went through my mind on a
daily nightly basis, which, as you can imagine, made going to sleep at night (alone) a blast.
Fast forward, and we sold our place to a cash buyer about five weeks after we listed it; A and I left Chicago on December 21, about 16 hours after we closed; and then, after living in temporary housing for about two weeks in SJ, we closed on our new place in late December, and all our personal effects arrived on January 13. Perhaps unsurprisingly, my first run in SJ was a mere hour after A and I landed at the airport, and my Oakland training began the week of December 30, after I had only been living in CA for just over a week.
To say that a lot has happened in the past two months and change, since we began life anew here on December 21, is an understatement. While I’m not surprised that I didn’t waste any time in training for a spring marathon—and I don’t recall if I registered for Oakland before or after we actually sold our place in Chicago … I registered for a lot of CA races while I was still living in IL (hello, coping mechanism)—I am quite surprised that I feel as “at peace,” if you will, about everything now.
Running typically keeps me pretty even-keel, but this time around, I think it has done much more than usual, and much more than I bargained for. I think running, and training, as seriously as I have since I began my “new life” in CA has helped me acclimate to life here, has
helped forced me to reach far outside my comfort zone to make new friends, and has lit a fire under me to get my shit together in my new life here, just as it has for me to chase that 3:15 this year.
Were it not for running, and training for Oakland, I think I’d still be in the same place I was in my final months in Chicago: emotionally spent, stressed as all hell, and swimming in a sea of question marks about my (and my family’s) uncertain future. I knew everything would work out, but I didn’t know how, and I didn’t know when, and not having the security blanket of having answers to those questions is a bit disconcerting.
This training cycle has given me plenty of opportunities to slow the hell down and to re-learn everything: new people, new routes, new races, new clubs, new everything. I still have a thousand questions to be answered, but I’m realizing that I’ll find my answers in time: maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but sometime.
Perhaps this is just my taper talking, or the high I’m riding from my workout yesterday morning, but I think I am beginning to feel some semblance of normalcy now as a NorCal resident. I feel like I’m beginning to make my way around now, like I’m beginning to establish “my routes” and “my track” and “my hills.” I’m still entertained by some of the huge differences between SJ and Chicago—and I suppose those will continue to entertain me for a while still—but this week, I feel like I’ve finally begun to exhale and finally think this is it. We’re here. This is our new life.
Of course, I miss Chicago, and I miss my running there, and my friends, and my family, and everything that is associated with my Chicago life from the past decade-plus, and I don’t anticipate that ever really going away.
And that’s okay.
This week was finally the week where, when I was unpacking (and yup, two months later, we still have boxes—this is what happens when you move cross-country and get rid of all your furniture, folks), I wasn’t thinking to myself that it’d be stupid to put things in a certain place because we’d be moving again in 18 months.
Instead, I’m thinking about where we’re going to put our Christmas tree next winter, or when we can take daytrips to the many sites within a day’s drive of SJ, or which races I should prioritize doing this spring, summer, and fall, or which schools I should research to see if I could teach there part-time. I am finally beginning to feel not necessarily that I “belong” here—because I don’t know if I ever actually feel that way anywhere—but that being here is good.
Leaving Chicago hurt, but Northern California, Silicon Valley, the Bay Area, the South Bay, San Jose, whatever you want to call the area where my family and I now reside, ain’t half bad after all.
Just as in running, every day is an adventure, if not also an opportunity, and what I choose to do with each opportunity I now have here is my choice and mine alone. Perhaps it’s silly that an intense 70/12 marathoning cycle had to happen in my new digs for me to get to this place, but that clarity or confidence that I’m finally feeling now, about living here, about racing in Oakland in a few weeks, and about working my bootay off to realize that 3:15 this year, is indescribable.
Just a month before we moved, I wrote, and I can’t believe I’m quoting myself on my own blog, “As in running, sometimes the biggest risk is in stagnation. Remove the comfort, dispose of the familiar, kick out the crutches beneath you, and see what the hell happens.”
Little did I know that kicking out the crutches would help bring me to peace.