HOW TO BE YOUR YOUNGER YOU
Do you sometimes see the world through a filter that seems to be from someone you used to know?
Like a younger you?
My younger me is my fourteen-year-old self.
Maybe you don’t sometimes see the world from that age, but maybe your moment is from an 18, 22, 25 or 30-year-old perspective? Your younger you. In spite of years maturing and expanding your mind with several dozen books, college, maybe a Master’s or a Doctorate, a multitude of jobs, friends, a marriage or two, countless thousands of hours of additional training in your life — there is something that seems to send you back in time.
Occasionally, you wonder in sheer amazement at the world, as you did when you had those younger eyes. You don’t get the feeling frequently but there it seems there is a connection, a trigger, a link, of that unique time in your past, that won’t let you go. In that moment, you warp to that other self, you reach a level of elevated consciousness, a certain profound feeling of freedom and of being more alive.
I think, for most of us, it was somewhere in our teens. When the time for our physical growing up was mostly complete, we stripped the bounds of our parents, and felt for the first time that we had power over ourselves.
That is the way I feel when I finish a run.
There was this kid who disliked running, hated it so much, he faked a fall running an 880-yard requirement during PE. He “fell” so he could “limp” and walk the rest of the way. A half-mile was too far to run for that kid–until he started running all the time.
I took off running recently and it’s harder now for me to get into it. I retired from the Marines where I ran several times a week but then slowed down to build a retirement home and work on others. It didn’t fit my schedule like it used to. In the Marines, lunch meant you went out and ran. In the civilian and retired world, lunch means lunch.
Forty-eight years I have been running. I’ve run with combat boots in a foot of snow in the Midwest, fighting the drifts and running the proverbial hills uphill both ways. I have run when it was 120 degrees in the middle of the desert without sweating a drop, thanks to 17% humidity–the sweat wicks right off.
I have run the washboard and the five-mile loop at Quantico, the five-mile rifle run called the Confidence course at Officer Candidate School, and the FBI obstacle course. The streets and backroads of Parris Island were my home for three years, where I found an old dump that had thrown-away Marine brass buttons and discarded greening, silver-plated spoons.
The jungles of Okinawa and the Philippines were not foreign to me nor the streets of D.C., Miami, Dallas, Las Vegas, Tokyo, Mt. Fuji base camp, or downtown Seoul. I was hit by a car in St. Louis and a cab in London. Don’t worry, I did not harm them much. I avoided a rocket attack in Baghdad, when assigned to the palace complex, by not running what could have been my fateful day.
With fits and starts, I have begun to run again. It’s tough getting back into it, but I want to in the worst kind of way.
I ran for the second time this week, in the middle of the day, like I used to, when the temps were in the high 80’s. Like running was lunch, like it’s supposed to be.
That is when it came to me–the why?
When I quit being silly in high school and stopped faking out the longer runs, I got into it. What I received in return as my time away from the bustle–just me and the road. I have never run with a Walk-Man, nor an iPod, or a smart phone. I have never put anything between me, the road and the many other things that are out there.
Something occurred to me when I was about two miles from my house, which was down a gravel road and on the opposite side of the highway from where I live. There were no phone calls, no texts, no cutesy Facebook posts, no interruptions.
With each unmeasured breath, my eyes alive for passing cars, and my ears alert, I drew in the sweet smell of the tall grass, gently swaying in the breeze, relished the pitch smell of the hot asphalt, the variety of birds chirping and collecting food for their young. The Canadian geese squawked as they waddled away, the Angus cattle ran from the strange man huffing, the occasional nasty wretch of flattened roadkill spiced up the trek, and the buzz of the horse flies trying to bite me in the back were sent packing with a sweat rag I carry that doubles as a swatter. With the clouds billowy, the sky was the most perfect blue, for no matter what hue it is, it is the sky and blue, thus perfect.
With a face-full of sweat and my arms, legs, and heart pumping right along, I felt very much alive and in touch. I reached my goal for the day and turned around to walk a bit and stretch the calf muscle that doesn’t like running as much as I do.
Young and alive again, I was euphoric.
My fourteen-year-old self and I were at one with the world.
That’s why I have to run.
To be him again.
Originally published at RMA Spears.