I work in a running store here in Northern Virginia and these past few weeks there was a surge of back to school shopping. The range was from families buying shoes for little feet who will be heading into a new elementary school to big feet who would be tackling a new campus for the first time ever. There was one conversation that struck me. A daughter who was heading to college was choosing between two pairs of sneakers and both were of equal comfort. The mom was trying to help her make the decision and she said..."Whatever will make you want to get up and work out in the morning. You need to be working out."
My years at college did not consist of trips to the gym or running miles through historic battlefields. My years were filled with friends, fun (all kinds) and schoolwork. I had yet to make the connection that those items could co-exist with school. I met my husband the second month I was at school and we were basically together from that point on. We did a lot of stuff together but fitness was not one of them. I would watch him play intramural rugby and we did a lot of "greek olympic" events...but never did we think to lace up our shoes and hit the trails.
So why did this mom bug me so much when she said this...her daughter ran cross country and track throughout high school and was in great shape. Why did this mom feel the need to remind her daughter that she needed to get to the gym in the morning. She ended up grabbing the shoes that she really wanted and seemed very giddy and anxious for her new college adventure to start. This mom loved her girl and wanted her to keep up the good work. Much like we say...make sure to hit the books...we want to make sure they also hit the gym!
Dear young Julie,
College is going to be whirlwind, you are going to have so many different groups of friends that will be a part of your college career on many different levels. Friendships change over time but know that the true friends that you meet there will be with you till the end. You may not be able to sit at Servo over a plate of curly fries and chocolate milk and have endless hours of conversation or snuggle up and watch golden girls on a Sunday afternoon, but they are still a part of you.
You are going to meet a guy that would do anything for you...you are going to spend all of your time with him and make memories that will still make you smile and laugh when you are 38. You will probably stay out too late partying and eat chocolate chip pancakes at 2 am at the local diner while he devours two double cheeseburgers deluxe and sleep in until 12 the next day. You will probably lose sight of Julie the individual as you are starting to meld into one with your new found love.
As the two of you merge this relationship even more you will continue to enjoy your college experience. This is okay. You will wear too many pairs of overalls and when looking back at pics later in life you will wish you didn't. You will look at this girl you were becoming and see how happy she was. How she was falling in love and not focused on the strong being she would later become. She doesn't know the importance of believing in something stronger than she currently is. This is okay...she is not a failure...she is a girl that is growing into whatever she wants...and in that moment it was finding the person she was going to be with forever. This girl will only make the older you stronger than she would have been without this part of life. This young Julie will make the older Julie that much more focused and determined. Without young Julie the Julie that is today may have never surfaced.
-Julie (older and maybe wiser)
So that mom really wants her daughter to hit up the gym and be focused...and I guess in the end I was just jealous of that drive that she has at the age of 18. I guess if being honest I wish when I married my college sweetheart I was not 200 pounds and wearing a size 16 wedding dress. I guess I wish a little of this drive hit me sooner than in my late 30s. However I can't help but think that if I didn't have that struggle, if I wasn't able to look back on my actions in my early 20s and now know where I steered wrong....I would not be here today. I would probably not be like that mom and tell her daughter to hit the gym as well as the books, I would not have seen the importance. Heck, now I have coached the running club for my kids school for the past few years encouraging them to be active and have that be a normal part of their lives, one that might just stick with them.
So it's okay...it's okay that fitness and nutrition were not a focus in my younger years. It's okay that things got out of hand in the later years of my college career. That time was about the people and the experience and not the personal individual growth. Now is my time to shine, now is my time to grow for me, now is my time to lead by example. My criteria for a balanced lifestyle is so very different and I am not sure I would trade where I am today for that younger and not wiser 19 year old. And that's okay.
Embrace the suck...choose you...learn from the past...just don't repeat it.