Sometimes it takes a complete stranger to put things in perspective for you. Last night, I worked a private party for a solider returning from Kuwait. The party was about 30 or so older people congratulating an Army commander on his return from an overseas deployment that had lasted about a year. There were a lot of really kind words and big smiles. For all military families go through, it was really nice to see such a happy celebration. I had never met them and I couldn’t stop smiling for them.
Near the end of the meal a man in his 60’s walked over to me.
Man: “Excuse me sweetie, I heard you ran the Boston Marathon this year?”
Me: “Well, the first 22 miles of it, yes.”
Man: (extends hand) “I just wanted to congratulate you. I feel like with everything that happened you runners had your accomplishment, what you went through that day and the months of training overlooked. Congratulations young lady, I will be there cheering you on next year!”
I was dumbfounded. First, I had no idea how he found out I had run the Boston Marathon. I hadn’t said anything more personal than “Could I offer you another drink” to him at any point during the meal.
Secondly, the idea that this man wanted to go out of his way to congratulate me rather than offer his condolences. For the past two months every time someone has asked me about the race it has started or ended with “I’m so sorry you didn’t get to finish” or ‘Really makes you think how unimportant things like the actual race really are in the grand scheme of things”. For the first time since April 15 I felt proud of what I had done that day rather than guilty for being one of the 27,000 reasons people were drawn into a trap.
I’ve learned a lot about myself from this years race. A few days after the race Jim and I went to dinner and I confessed that I hated my job. Jim simply said “So quit”. That was it. No plan, no what-if’s. Just quit. His idea is that if it wasn’t making me happy, pack my desk and find something that would.
And that’s what I did. That Friday was my last day in marketing, and by the next Tuesday I was re-enrolled in my graduate program as a full time student. I’ve never been one to pull the trigger on life that quickly but if Boston taught me anything, it’s that life is short and precious. Don’t take it for granted and don’t think you can do anything tomorrow.
I’m not trying to pretend that I had all positive, life-affirming moments after Boston. It wasn’t until last week that I started to sleep through the night, and even that has only been a couple nights. I still can’t bring myself to display my medal, race bib or anything else from that day. I certainly couldn’t run the One Run Boston last month and cross the finish line. Not yet. Not without 26.19 miles behind it.
I’m trying to take a silver lining and let my experiences have an overall positive effect on my life. I can’t control what happened, and I can’t go back in time and warn everyone. But I can live my life to the fullest and take pride in the 22 miles that I accomplished.