Monday, September 25, 2006

Another year

A man’s riches are based on the things he can do without – Henry David Thoreau.

Today is my birthday. 27. I’m celebrating with a day to myself, which is the best gift I can ask for. My time. My decisions. My wonderfully enjoyable consequences. I had planned to take an early-morning run, but after waking up sore from the 22 miler yesterday, I decided cereal was a better option.

I washed my car. Have spent the morning (and now early afternoon) at one of my favorite places, Hi Hat Coffee, where I’m reading Ultramarathon Man by Dean Karnazes. With less than a month to go till the Chicago Marathon, I thought a little ultra-inspiration would be good.

The rest of the day is up for grabs. There’s a new Japanese art exhibit at the Kemper, which seems like a great idea. My family’s coming into town tonight for some pizza. What falls between is just icing.

I’ve been thinking about my life a lot lately. How’s that for vague? For some reason, 27 seems old to me. It feels like THE year. The year things become clear. The year I may just jump off one or more of the cliffs I’ve tiptoed to the edge of for years. I feel this great sense of immediacy in my life – like I need to solve things now. Figure out questions. Find a more permanent path.

I write goals for myself each year. This post is sort of part of that exercise, I guess, as I have a few penned, but not all. My goals for 26 were well met. Write original songs/play them in public. Show my art. Get a new computer. Make two new life-long friends. Run the Chicago Marathon. I missed a couple, but they weren’t the important ones. I can honestly say I’m happier now than I was this time last year. I’m getting paid a little more, which really only shakes out in better wine choices, more iTunes music downloads and a couple more lunches out each month. But that’s important stuff. I’m healthy. I’m blessed with an amazing family and loyal friends. I have a job and a car and a roof. My dog receives his heartworm medicine on schedule each month. Not bad.

But I’m not satisfied. And with 27 just a few hours away, I’m ready to reevaluate those cliffs. I keep going back to one simple question: what do you want to do? Think about it. Very few of us actually do what we truly want to do. Money is often the barrier. Perception. Confidence. Education. But when I look at the people I admire most, each has broken a mold and is pursuing a dream. They are first being true to what they want to do, and letting the other things follow suit.

I’ve gained a lot of perspective as a 26 year old. I don’t worry about much anymore. I’m quite confident and am content not following rules or shooting for irrelevant expectations. A lot of this has to do with my faith. A lot has to do with watching others around me and learning from their happiness/unhappiness. A lot of this perspective is driven by the idea that in the end, you’re only wasting your own time.

On the topic of time, Dean Karnazes currently is running 50 marathons in 50 days. I love this. His physical shape and mental toughness are inspirational to me. After reading the first half of his book this morning, his reasons for running are even more inspirational.

My 27th year will be occupied with a lot of running. Chicago in a month. The Houston Marathon in January. I’ll surely add a marathon in the summer and then be training for Chicago again when my 28th birthday rolls around. That means continuous early runs in the week, long runs on the weekends. That means being picky with my diet and saying no to another beer in favor of a longer night’s sleep. And to tell you the truth, seeing my next year dominated with this is very comforting. As if I’m building an infrastructure to ensure other things succeed, are enjoyed and done well.

Yesterday, around mile 12 of our 22 miler (the peak of our training program before tapering begins), I tried to fill my head with thoughts of why I love this running thing so much. Many reasons are obvious. I’m in the best shape of my life. I’m happier when I run. I feel good. I have better perspective of issues/stresses/decisions. Bad habits take a back seat to truly taking care of my body. Then I realized there’s a much more grounded, obvious reason I love to run: running has come to encapsulate many of the things I truly care about.

My runs are done with some of my closest friends. One I’ve known since elementary school – others I’ve formed an amazing bond with through sweat, pain, early mornings and mutual motivation. I also run with my dad, which has strengthened our relationship in incredible ways. We’re to the point now when one of us can sense the other’s struggle and instinctively put a fist out to bump or yells some words of encouragement. Moreover, my admiration for my mother – who has become our little group’s patron saint of on-route nourishment and encouragement – increases as rapidly as our mileage.

Running has taught me some of life’s most important lessons: motivation, faith, dependence, risk, reward. These things trickle into my off-pavement life. Running also requires its followers to sacrifice. There’s always a goal. Each day, during any training program, is an essential step to reach that goal. Focus is constant. Challenge is constant. Dependence on things other than yourself becomes more and more necessary.

So, with 27 about three hours away, I feel pretty good. This day is nothing more than another day in the grand scheme of things, but it’s afforded me a chance to take a look at where I’ve been, am and will go. Luckily, I’m pretty happy with my navigation, fellow travelers and means of getting wherever it is I’ll be this time net year.

Listening to - The Weepies, Say I am You


Blogger Esue said...

Love this post. I really do. During my 27th year, I looked at my life, and asked myself the question, "what do you REALLY want to do?" The answer, sincerely, was lay around on the beach. Does that count? It requires no money, I don't think anyone thinks any less of me for it, I'm working on my confidence in a swimsuit, and as far as education goes, you wouldn't believe how un-educated some of my fellow beach bums appear to be. Now if only I could get myself into the whole marathon mode...though I did jog a few miles on the beach yesterday and took a dip in the ocean to cool off. Okay, now I'm rambling. Happy birthday.

7:07 PM  
Anonymous Matt Bretz said...

Happy birthday Andy. Glad life is treating you well. I hope one of your goals is to continue to blog ( or even increase ) because I enjoy reading your thoughts/insights.

8:28 PM  
Blogger Mason said...

Happy Birthday a day late, Andy. Great post.

Looks to me like you have your head on straight. And you're well ahead of the game -- I'm 38 and keep asking myself the same questions you do. Time gets more compressed with age, as well, and living in the moment becomes more and more important. You're apparently doing well with that too.

Keep up the great work.

1:56 PM  
Blogger tango! said...

yo dude..happy bday....i idnt even know..luckily i checked out yoru blog today! Anyhow, come up to boston, lets chat, make an idea, make it real, and sell it for millions...then we can go back to the good ole days of...well, tennis and video games.

7:40 PM  
Anonymous A-Lo said... comments about the wine and nasty asian crackers? When do I get some love on Woolard Speak?

9:51 PM  
Blogger Andrew Woolard said...

My incredible friend April brought me wine and rice crackers. There. Happy?

10:41 PM  

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