What Is Accomplishment?

Click! That's the sound of the return key submitting the last of four 5K registrations for the month of October, following on my first one in close to 30 years, which will take place the last day of September.

Seeing as how I'm all of a couple weeks into a couch-to-5K program, that might seem overly ambitious. But I figure, if I'm going to be going out and huffing and puffing my way through 3.1 miles once or twice a weekend anyway, I might as well get a t-shirt for it (or a lobster roll ... or support the organization of which a good high school friend is now the executive director).

Three years into self-employment, my day-to-day wardrobe is made up nearly exclusively of Levis jeans (winter) or jeans shorts (summer) and Old Navy tank tops (summer) or a variety of souvenir t-shirts (winter). I have a pair of slacks. I have a couple of dresses and cardigans. I have a blazer. Variety comes from earrings (most of them gifts from my parents), bracelets (most of them picked by me to go with earrings I already have), and shoes (which are about to undergo another purge because I can't walk in heels, except cowboy boots, so I don't need to own heels).

On one of my last visits with my folks, I mentioned that I'm attempting to learn how to enjoy experiences rather than shooting to win. I've never had a hobby that wasn't competitive. Well, cross-stitch, possibly, but it's been a long time since I had the patience to sit down and create something lovely, despite having a number of half-finished projects stowed away in a box.

Cross-country skiing rapidly went from "just for fun" to racing. Initially, I won. And then it became clear that I had great technique, but not the endurance to win. The long overdue asthma diagnosis didn't help in the brutal cold of the Northeast, which was a far cry from the milder air temperatures in the Sierras. It wasn't fun anymore.  

In high school, I found that I actually was a pretty good sprinter. Not great. But respectable. That explained a lot. My body composition is designed for bursts of speed, not for long, slow burns. And sprinting was fun. Technically, I think I lettered, even, but I never got my letter because I was at a pipe band event during the track team's "mandatory" end-of-season BBQ.

Through much of the same time and well beyond, in fact, I was also playing with competitive pipe bands. Even the concept of competitive music seems ridiculous, and, to some extent, it is. But as with athletics, the competition feeds improvement. At some point in time, though, unless you're immersed in the musical world, the competitive aspect of the "hobby" creates friction with the requirement to do well in every other thing in life, especially the career that makes the hobby possible, and especially when the hobby leads to finalist spots at the World Championships. The job or the hobby or both stop being fun.

There are so many accomplishments summed up in the paragraphs above, but I didn't appreciate them much because they weren't the right accomplishments. I, or we, didn't win. Who cares if I could be used as a master-class model of technique if I came in last? Or if I ran well enough to letter if I didn't win? Or if I taught a generation of brilliant drummers if I myself didn't have a title to claim?

So. I'm looking at redefining accomplishment for myself. This 5K situation is just one example. They're just more workouts. Some of which will expand my available winter wear while decreasing the size of said wear. The accomplishment, as someone who currently weighs the equivalent of two fit female runners, is in starting, because I am and have always been very self-conscious about how I look, even when there was less of me to see. Finishing them will be awesome and worthy of cheers. Beating the easy goal I've set for myself (under an hour, while I may still be run/walking) will be terrific. Beating the stretch goal of getting under 50 minutes and then under 45 will mean that I'm running the whole thing and that's fantastic. Go me! Eventually, I'll be running them at the speed of a normal person. I have zero aspirations of winning.

The same is true of every other effort. Yesterday, I actually met both my calorie and macro counts, which never happens. And I wasn't hungry. Woohoo! Today, I'm on track to cross off everything on my to-do list, which is possible only because I decided that I'm not going to be reactive to every demand from every direction all the time. Yay! 

There should be t-shirts for more of this stuff.