“I want the hard road”
On a steep shoreline in Sausalito, overlooking a tucked-in part of the Bay, there exist some dwellings frozen in 1975. Before I knew how to drive, I knew I wanted a black 911 Porsche that I would park on the rooftop carport of the Portofino Apartments. I assumed I'd be alone and that this would be the pad where I'd live until I figured out how I wanted to conduct my middle years.
I am in those middle years now. Never moved into those apartments, still cant afford the Porsche. Other dreams and ideas pushed that one aside. Looking back, it was easy to forget.
But when I find myself one night on the boardwalk across the water from the Portofino, I can still recognize that part of myself that would like to smell the ocean every morning, to hear the sound of little waves splashing against small seaside rocks, to maybe hear a fog horn in the night.
So what happened all those years in between? I don't know. But at some point in adulthood it became easier to cross dreams off my list than to add them to it. One of the best years of my life was 1987. It was the year I graduated from Saint Ignatius College Prep, where I spent four formative years that shape me to this day. Three months later I packed up and drove 600 miles south to San Diego to start college and live on my own. Those were some ground swell changes. I don't remember being scared. I do remember feeling anything was possible.
We get good at distracting ourselves, with fluffy magazines about other people's pursuits and apps we convince ourselves tell us something we couldn't have figured out on our own. Distractions become the new dreams, anything to avoid asking, “What do I really want?” What's more, we sit around and wait for the answer to come to us like a million dollar check in the mail, instead of getting up and seeking the answer through the trials and errors of life. I speak from experience.
I think one of the hardest things is when something is so close you can smell it and feel it, and you want it and all you have to do is reach out and grab it, but you've told yourself for so long that you can't do it, and it slips away. The words of doubt and disbelief you would have righteously rebelled against as an earnest young adult you now accept as truth, while your own words of your dreams and ideas you choose to forget. One my fears in life is of moments slipping away, of opportunities lost. I think it is sad when dreams become footnotes.
There was, however, a point in my life about ten years ago when I was proud of myself for literally getting off the couch and doing something. I had spent months watching neighbors run by my house to the local trails, while I continued to gain weight and become more nostalgic about the years when I was a runner. I can't recall why, maybe I saw the fork in the road, but one day I just got up and ran. It was the typical return-to-running story that had me stopped in my tracks a mile later, out of breath and out of shape.
But I had enough of a glimpse down the trail, peeking through to possibilities of what I could be, that it got me out running the next day, the next week, the next month...and here I am, still running. And had I not taken those first steps, had I continued to excuse myself into believing my running days were behind me, I would not have the joy, identity and health that running has given me.
And how lucky for me was it that the pursuit I chose to restart at 34 is one that allows me to feel, for at least a couple of hours, that anything is possible, that it is 1987 again? Trail running is runner and the wild, runner shed of those distractions, runner with the creativity to plan a route on the fly, runner free to follow his or her desire to climb a mountain, race through a forest, splash through a creek or stop to take in the view. Entering a trailhead, I enter that part of me that holds my desires, while running closer to who I want to be. For today, “What do I want?” can be answered.
So as I run on trails behind schools, on trails named after funny numbers, finding rocks with vantage point perches, I find myself running towards the things that are important to me in my life, finding they are not as far away or as impossible as I thought. The top of Mount Tamalpais used to feel so unreachable. If a runner is lucky, what they want is right next to them. Yes, running gives me all this.
I wish I remembered what it was about 1987 and 2003 that got me to embrace change. Instead of hanging out in the hypothetical world of my head, the land of “What if's?”, maybe I spent less time back then asking myself questions and more time just doing, answering those questions the way I trail run: scraping my knees, feeling thirsty, getting my feet wet, falling down, getting lost.
|Alexander Supertramp spent more time doing than dreaming|
Is it easy? No. But that is just an excuse. I love challenges, especially the ones I drape around my neck like chain mail. When people ask me why I am trying to eat vegan or why I run long distances or why I don't have an iPhone I tell them it is to challenge myself. Why would you deny yourself something easy and good, like ice cream and lazy Sundays and google maps, they question. Yes, those things are easy and good but I want to see if I am strong enough to do without, to learn what it is I really want. At this point they shake their heads and give up. But how else am I going to know what it is essential to my life? How will I learn about my strength and resolve? How will I discover who I am? Easy isn't always better. If it was I wouldn't be a runner.
Some dreams were ok to dispense with. I never really wanted to be an architect. But I am a runner now, again, and I am in so deep that it will always be a dream fulfilled and realized. I also remember that when I was a young man I wanted to be a writer. I am trying my best through these writings and other projects to not forget that again. There are other ideas in my book of dreams. I've added a few recently. And when my last day on earth comes, I hope to cross off the last entry...
...because I got up and did it.