In 2005, when I first started running, I was too embarrassed to call myself a runner. I believed that there was some mythical point I had to reach- a certain number of miles logged or races run or a half marathon time to beat- before I became a real runner.
I worried that if I said I was a runner people would think to themselves she sure doesn’t look like a runner or who does this girl think she’s fooling? Even after I’d run so many races that bibs filled my bulletin board in layers and medals hung from all available doorknobs, I still blushed when people asked what I did in my free time. I didn’t think myself worthy of the title runner.
I was a runner, of course, even back then. Because you are what you repeatedly do.
I know now that no one really cared whether I was a runner, not because they didn’t care about me, but because it’s no big deal if I’m a runner or a baker or a roller derby queen. Regardless, I really, really wanted to be a runner so it mattered to me that others accepted and embraced what I claimed as my own.
It seems silly now that I worried about that kind of thing, but the truth is that I still worry about that kind of thing. Now, the title I feel unworthy of embracing is writer. In place of my runner fears, I now worry that people will read what I write and think: She’s not a good writer. She’ll never make a living writing crap like that! Who does this girl think she’s fooling?
My first check as a paid writer, April 2010
Logically, I know it is futile to care about how I’m perceived. I can’t control how others think; I can only be who I am. Yet, how do I stop myself from caring about something that matters so much to me?
I find myself chasing that mythical badge of worthiness again- unable to stop myself from thinking that if I just log a specific number of hours writing each day, or earn a certain income off my blog, or finish a novel (or start one, for that matter) that then I will be a writer.
And yet, I am a writer, aren’t I? In much the same way that I became a runner by continuously lacing up my shoes and hitting the track, I am a writer because I sit down, even when I can’t bear to do it, and follow that little tug inside that asks to be explored, knead it until it rises to life on paper. You are what you repeatedly do.
Last summer I ordered business cards and on them I printed: Kim Dinan, Writer. Just using that word to define myself gives me a thrill. I am a writer and because I’m a writer I make space in my life for this thing that matters so much to me.
I have learned the power of saying what you are- even if you don’t feel worthy of the title. Runner. Writer. Scholar. Piano Player. Naturalist. Artist. What is it that you do? What is it you love to do? That is what you are.