Yesterday was the one year anniversary of this blog. Seems like it’s been a lot longer than that since I started writing these posts, but I guess that’s the way things go when you fill your days with… lots and lots of carbs.
A year ago I sat down to write about my experience at Rothrock. I was inspired by my friends, who would write really enjoyable race reports. Welden, Laura, Chris – all told phenomenal stories that provided insight into things that I didn’t really understand at the time. I wanted to do that too, to spread ideas and share funny stories. As I wrote, however, I came to a horrifying realization: I was a shit writer! I had a lot of trouble translating my thoughts into words, and couldn’t string together a coherent story to save my life.
So I drew some pictures instead. I thought they got the point across a lot better than any of my words did. They also helped to lighten up my writing, which often feels dark and dramatic to me.
Drawing those cartoons not only improved the report by a factor of no less than ten billion, but was also a ton of fun. I used to be a pretty avid doodler back in the day, but stopped for several years. I had forgotten how it felt to make something that could make me laugh. Feels pretty good, in a vaguely masturbatory way. At any rate, I really enjoyed the challenge of drawing a cartoon that conveyed exactly what I wanted to say using only MS Paint. There have been a few tough spots, but for the most part, I’ve been totally satisfied with Paint’s power and versatility (I’ll give you a couple bucks if you’ve ever heard anyone say that before).
After writing the report, I posted it on Facebook. That was a pretty unusual thing for me to do, not only because I don’t post much on Facebook, but because I was sharing something I had created with a wider audience. I’m usually very protective of the things that I create, mostly out of shame (that they suck) and cowardice (that people will say so). I guess the biggest difference is that I was proud of what I had made, for once. I thought I had done a good job.
Other people seemed to think so too. I have a hard time remembering exactly how it felt to have people say kind things about the stuff I wrote, but I know I felt really weird. I was happy, but suspicious. Maybe folks were just trying to be nice, and spare my feelings. I get that kind of paranoia a lot, especially these days. Is that impostor syndrome? I hear about that shit every once in awhile, but can’t remember exactly what it is.
Time went on, and the summer brought adventure after adventure. I wrote about the Great Range Traverse, Finger Lakes 50, and Twisted Branch. I found that writing about these experiences helped me understand how they made me feel. Why did FL50 make me cry? How come I didn’t care about DNFing Twisted Branch? By trying to put my feelings into words or cartoons, it helped me conceptualize them. I learned a lot about myself just by writing all these stories. Sometimes what I learned was something I knew all along, and sometimes it really caught me off guard.
People started approaching me at races or events, saying that they had read this report or that story, asking me questions or saying how much they enjoyed it. I remember the first time I talked to Jeff Young, he was racing up the power line hill at the end of 0 SPF. He looked over at me and, as he climbed, told me he liked my cartoons. I was stunned. That was the last thing I expected to come out of anyone’s mouth coming up that hill.
The blog is a nice way to connect with people, but I realized that some people’s first impressions of me must have been based on what I was writing. I’m not sure how I feel about that, but I think I write honestly enough where people won’t get a wrong impression of me. A bad one, maybe, but definitely not a wrong one.
I tried to keep up with my writing through the fall and winter, but school kept me busy. I have race reports from Virgil and Water Gap still sitting in my writing folder. I’ll probably post them someday. Going back to scientific writing after spending the summer expressing myself was a huge bummer. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried reading a scholarly journal, but blah! That stuff is drier than the Sahara. The pressure of school coupled with the slower winter season left me with little to write about, and my blog stagnated for awhile.
When I came back to it in February (I wrote about the Wegman’s marathon), it wasn’t the same. I finished my report on what was a truly awesome adventure and was not pleased. It didn’t fill me with pride like my other stories had. It felt rigid and insincere. I didn’t want to post it. I eventually did, but I didn’t share it on Facebook. I was disappointed. I thought sharing tales and experiences on this blog was something I had gotten pretty good at, and really enjoyed. Maybe not. Maybe it was just another flash in the pan interest for me, doomed to peter out like all my other creative efforts.
I don’t want to give up on it, though. I have so many ideas I want to share, and I’m always doing stuff that I’d like to tell people about. I like the blog format for communicating, since people can just read about what they want instead of pretending to care about anything else. I’m almost positive there are people who check these posts just to look at the pictures, and others who read the story and skip my little Sesame Street lessons at the end. I think that’s awesome. Telling stories is hard in person because I’m never sure what people actually care about. This way, people can take whatever they want and leave the rest.
So…I don’t know, I guess that brings us up to this point, a year later. After 12 months, this will only be the ninth piece of writing that I’ve posted here. I’ve chosen to share a lot, and chosen to withhold a lot. Writing has helped me understand my own thoughts and feelings, and be open and secure about them. I’ve reclaimed the joy I lost in writing and drawing, and the challenge of crafting an organized and fluid story. Writing has also been a great outlet for me, a way to channel sadness and pain.
I think my favorite thing about it, though, is that I get to share my experiences with you, the readers. All of these things that I do, some of them so frighteningly individual, can all of a sudden be expressed in a relatable way to everyone. I want my stories to inspire people to have fun, go on adventures, and do incredible things. The best I can do is to offer a more honest look under the surface of the incredibly vague statement “Jeff ran from Buffalo to Rochester”. I’m not special or superhuman, I’m just some dimbus running around and yelling about stuff.
The biggest and most important lesson I’ve learned over the past year is that friendship is king. Love and support from friends and family is without a doubt the most powerful force in the world. It can build you up, tear you down, inspire and amaze you. If not for all the wonderful people in my life, I would have nothing to write about on this blog, because I never would have accomplished any of the things I’ve written about. Your friends will always be there for you, even when you think you don’t deserve it. If you need help, reach out to them. You won’t be let down. Of course, friendship is a two-way street. Don’t forget to show people you care about them too.
The last thing I want to leave you with is a thank you. Thank you for reading my stories. They can get long and tedious sometimes, and I’m beyond grateful that you stick with it. Most of you are my friends and family, so thank you for being such incredible people. You guys really are the reason I’m able to do anything, and all the success I’ve had in my endeavors I owe to you. Thank you so, so much.
Okay, I’m going to go run. Here’s to another year of awesome times, walls of text, and shitty cartoons!
Alright, I went for a run and decided I wanted to say one more thing. I mentioned up there somewhere that one of my goals with these blog posts is to inspire people to go have fun. With that in mind, do you think you’re having enough fun in your life? Think about it honestly. If the answer is yes, then you’re awesome and you should probably stop reading this and go hang glide with some Mongolian falconers or something. If the answer is no, what can you do to make your life more fun? It doesn’t have to be anything major. Take sixty seconds and make a paper airplane. Call a friend and set up a lunch date. Pick up a book and pretend you’re going to read it. Make yourself smile. There is nothing more important in your life than enjoying it. I firmly believe that.