I’m sitting down to write this blog lower Faunce on September 21, 2017. Coincidentally, this blog comes at a point of personal and professional rebirth for me on an day that annually signifies religious and emotional rebirth to me, for today is Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.
Now those of you who know me well are probably aware that, while I’m not an especially spiritual person, I hold value in the customs and traditions of Judaism: despite feeling largely indifferent towards the concept of a G-d, I still feel compelled to respect its name; despite finding the stories in the Old Testament largely ridiculous– more likely the conjectures of ancient sci-fi writers than the words and stories of a divine being– I still find value in the lessons they teach. More than anything else, though, I appreciate the space for personal reflection created in the synagogue during the High Holy Days. And because of the Jewish calendar’s incidental coincidence with my running calendar, which is probably the most important calendar to my life, the new year comes as a natural point of holistic reflection. After all, I’m starting a new part-time job, am no longer in school, and I am finally able to choose to make running the primary concern of my life.
Of course, my running year started out great. If you’re one of the people who actually readsy my blogs, I imagine you’ve seen the result from the Downtown 5k, where I took home the W over a solid field (and, of course, where I finally got a win over a not-yet-fit Julian in the process). Putting up a result around 14:30 on the a twisty-turvy, uphill-finishing CVS course in a race in which I did some leading and, of course, some easing up to showboat at the end, has me brimming with optimism for the upcoming year. In previous years, I’ve come into CVS much further along in my training cycle after having plenty of time to whip myself into some semblance of shape after a season that ended in late May or early June. This year, however, I showed up after a season that ended in late July after only three workouts, the most recent of which included struggling through my slowest tempo since running for Ray (don’t worry Ray I still hit the pace).
But, my own accolades– that’s not really what the High Holy Days are about, is it? The beauty of what I find in the high holy days as a religious atheist lies in three places: beyond my obvious accordance with the sentiment that we should all strive to be better people, taking a few days to reflect on the ways we acted deplorably over the last year and how we can do better, I really appreciate the the whole, “we are insignificant’ thing, even though I don’t buy into the higher power we’re supposedly insignificant in relation to. My interpretation of this, echoed by sentiments from each Rabbi’s sermon over the day, revolves around the search for meaning, and instead of some abstract sovereign being, I choose to believe in the connections I make with people and the callings of my own identity
I’ve also found value in the struggle of being a black jew. Thanks to one of the super-friendly, super-jewish upperclassmen on the team year taking the time to introduce me to the Brown/RISD Hillel Executive Director my freshman year, as well as to having made a few appearances at Friday services over the last few years, Brown/RISD Hillel is a welcoming place to me: I can always joke with Marshall about everyone at Hillel getting younger (though, of course, my suddenly being older than the wide majority of attendees at services doesn’t exactly allay any sentiments of other-ness I might have… but I digress), and I can always recognize a few super-jews from the few Friday services I’ve attended, most of whom are incredibly friendly, welcoming, and all-around great people. Still, while I won’t detail them, you can bet I’ve had my share of “are you Jewish?” moments, and that results in my having my guard up a bit any time I enter the building, especially on days when some students actually bring their non-Jewish friends to experience a Jewish day of worship.
The value I find in the high holy days connects this theme with the first: I need to let down my guard to make myself more open to human connection, let down my guard in order to follow my own personal interests, dreams, whatever. Once I did that at services, I found my mind much clearer, my mood more positive, and the random conversations I made with random people much more fulfilling. That’s not to say I don’t feel entitled to a bit of cynicism about the experience of being one of the only black jews to attend services, but letting my guard down for some real human interaction– in this unique case–made my experience much more positive.
So there’s some low hanging tie-in about running I could make here– something about doing this because I love it instead of for PRs, glory, because it pays the bills (which it definitely doesn’t)– and there’s something accurate about that for me– I do genuinely love the sport, and I’m lucky to be able to compete at a level where I can semi-justify working part-time to chase the dream for a bit–, but a better tie-in would probably revolve around the relationships I’ve made with people, the experiences I’ve been blessed (for lack of a better term) with, and the growth I’ve experienced over the course of the last year. And I wholeheartedly believe that bringing this mentality to races as I chase the dream and some fast times will result in my continued enjoyment of and success in the sport, no matter what it gives back to me on the track.
But honestly, I just wanted to write about this because I was feeling some type of way yesterday, and this is a decent outlet for that. Since then, I’ve resolved (and no, this is not as trite as a New Year’s resolution in America, where you go out and have a wild night and just decide that everything is different the next day; it came as a result of real, intrinsic reflection) to be more open and honest with people about myself. Which to be fair, I think I was pretty good at that before, but I’d like to do it wholly, without reservation.
Here’s a fun one: I went to an anime convention in August. Kind of had to get over myself, but it was lit. My friend and I felt lame not being in cosplay, so before the third day, I went to Goodwill to make a costume that looked like this guy. I really enjoyed it. Will do again.
This is also low-key running relevant because I’m headed to Japan in a week for the Izumo Ekiden. I don’t know how much free time I’ll have, but I certainly hope to find some time to get to Akihabara and take in some Otaku culture after the race.
Another one: I’ve gotten far less reserved about calling myself a professional runner. Admittedly, I do provide the disclaimer that the term is loosely defined– it’d be hard to say I have the same job as Evan Jager. But still, it’s cool. Hopefully I can bring the same openness and vulnerability I intend to bring to my life to my racing on the track. If I can do that I will undoubtedly continue to feel fulfilled in sport in this next year of running.
Until next time in Japan,