The Eternal Saturn Return Part 2: Brooklyn 2016

“Why did you start running?”  

This is a question every runner must answer at a certain point in their journey.  And answering this question in full seems like the appropriate place to start as I begin to walk you through my path.

Even though it’s a simple question on the surface, it requires a two-part response.  You might be answering this question silently to yourself as your mind wanders during a 12 mile run along the Hudson River.  Or maybe you’re responding to a curious relative’s inquiry at the dinner table. It still requires a two-part answer.

The first part of the answer is the superficial, literal meaning of the question: what was the “aha moment” that made you start running?  All runners have one. More often than not, the better the “aha moment”, the better the runner.

But it is the second part to the answer that I’m more interested in.  It is the less obvious subtext that lies just beneath the surface. But it begs the runner to acknowledge its existence.  Because if you ignore it and deny its importance to your running, I’m afraid your running career might be shorter than you might have anticipated.  

No one is going to ask you the second part to the question outright.  But it is implied when someone asks you: “Why did you start running?”.  Whether they know it or not. And it is far more important than just reciting the “aha moment” verbatim as you would if you were practicing your lines for a high school play.  

The second, unspoken part to the question requires a deeper analysis of who you are as a person.  And it might make you confront uglier sides of your humanity. Because when someone asks you, “Why did you start running?”, what they really want to know is this: why do you continue running?

~

When someone asks me, “Why did you start running?”, my usual answer is: “Bojack Horseman.”  

You read that right.  The Netflix cartoon about a talking horse voiced by Will Arnett.  If you haven’t watched the show, this probably isn’t an answer you would expect.

However, if you have watched the show, it really isn’t all that surprising.  One of the background characters in the show – known as the Jogging Baboon – is usually seen running outside of Bojack’s mansion.  During the season two finale, when Bojack’s life is yet again spiraling out of control, he tries to better himself by running just like the Jogging Baboon.  After a short run up a hill, Bojack gives up and lies on the grass. He is panting and out of breath. Jogging Baboon goes up to a tired, defeated Bojack and delivers this inspirational and oft-quoted piece of advice:

“It gets easier.  Everyday it gets a little easier.  But you gotta do it everyday. That’s the hard part.  But it does get easier.”

This is my superficial answer to the first part of the question.  Not to say the answer itself is superficial; in fact, quite the contrary.  There is so much depth in the simplicity of its message. It can be applied not just to running, but to many aspects of life.  

But it’s the superficial answer nonetheless.  Yes, this scene is exactly what first got me up off of my couch and better myself – just like what Bojack tries to do.  I wanted to focus on my physical health and hoped it would carry over to my mental health.

But it is not what gets me out of my apartment nowadays whenever I go for a run.  A cartoon baboon telling me that I “gotta do it everyday” from an episode I first watched over two years ago just isn’t going to cut it.

No, the deeper answer to the eternal question “Why did you start running?” comes from an episode I first watched over two years ago where a cartoon horse has a bad drug trip.

For those of you who have watched Bojack Horseman, it is the infamous episode from season one, “Downer Ending.”  During one particular hallucination, Bojack envisions an alternate version of his life; he is living in a cabin by a lake with his family.  He is happy. He envisions what his life would be like if he had taken a different path.

The drug trip forces Bojack to ask the following questions:  Is it too late for me? Am I just doomed to be the person that I am?   

If you’ve watched Bojack Horseman, you know the Jogging Baboon’s quote is the obvious answer to the literal question “Why did you start running?”.  But it is the less obvious answer – Bojack’s hallucination – that carries more weight and hits on the underlying portion of the question; THIS is what really got me up off of my couch and continues to do so.  

Would things be different if I had chosen a different life?  Am I just doomed to be the person that I am? Is it too late for me?

~

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I’ll never forget the first time I went outside for a run.  It was a cool March morning in 2016. I’ve run outside before in college, but it was only a handful of times.  And I never tracked how far I ran back then. It was always a supplement to whatever I was doing to stay fit, usually weightlifting.  It was never my focus.

Now, it WAS going to be my focus.  A cartoon baboon convinced me of it.  Also, it was a cheaper alternative to a gym membership.  Besides, since there were no decent gyms near my apartment, it would be harder for the habit to stick. So I decided to give running a try.  

When I was a heavy drinker, a beer check-in app was a great motivator for me to continue drinking.  Now that I wasn’t drinking and I was running instead, I decided to download its running equivalent to log my runs. If an app was able to motivate me to drink more beer, then maybe an app would motivate me to run.  Just in case the baboon didn’t do the trick.

I ran approximately half a mile to the nearest park: Lincoln Park.  It is a small, green oasis in the urban cemetery that surrounds it. There is a fountain at the center and the main running loop circles it – spanning about one mile.  My plan was to run the loop as many times as my legs would allow before returning back home.

Not even a quarter of the way through the loop, I could hardly breathe.  The stitches in my side were so painful I was doubled over. I was clutching a fistful of skin and fat right under my ribs in order to not feel the searing pain from the side stitches.  I can’t be this out of shape.  Can I?

Maybe I was this out of shape.  My body felt alien to me. I wasn’t running so much as I was lumbering.  My body shook with every step. My joints felt ready to give out at any moment.  I’m fairly short, so my body wasn’t meant to carry the amount of weight I had put on it in the five years since I graduated college.  Everything hurt: my ribs, my knees, my ankles. But more importantly, my pride.

Adrenaline alone got me through the rest of that loop.  Well, adrenaline and the music I was listening to. My girlfriend and I had become big fans of The National, a band we discovered at a music festival years prior.  I had seen them perform live many years before that in college when they were a much smaller band, but now that we were struggling adults in the New York City metropolitan area, the music and the lyrics really clicked.

The National came to symbolize our lives together in our small apartment.  The loneliness and isolation of working jobs you have no interest in. The fear and anxiety from the responsibilities of living in the “real world”.  The inadequacy I felt as a friend, brother, and partner. Still owing money to the money to the money I owed.

One song in particular – “Terrible Love” – really encapsulated the overwhelmingness of the love I feel.  A love so intense that it makes you anxious and frightened. The album it’s on – “High Violet” – is a meditation on adulthood, relationships, and fatherhood and how terrifying it all can be.  The love isn’t terrible because it is inherently bad; it’s an extreme emotion that is both beautiful and scary. In essence, it is scary because of how beautiful it is.

As I finish the loop and approach the set of stairs that leads to the park’s exit, I cue up “Terrible Love.”  I’m not Rocky running up the steps to the Philadelphia Museum of Art in triumph just yet – I struggled to even get to this point.  If I was going to make it up these steps, I needed to be listening to “Terrible Love.”

It was one of the songs I would sing at the top of my lungs driving in my Toyota Yaris, driving between my two jobs at the time.  

I was tutoring and bartending, working six days a week.  I worked two jobs, because tutoring alone wasn’t going to pay the bills.  And if I was just bartending, I would sink deeper into the quicksand of the restaurant industry that I was all too familiar with with no viable means of escape.  Tutoring enabled me to cut back my hours working in a restaurant and start to live a healthier life, while still being able to afford paying my bills.

It was one of the songs I would listen to while I was filling out grad school applications.  

I would think of how much I love my girlfriend, and how I wanted to work hard to get us out of the hole we were in and give us a better life.  Even working six days a week, I was aspiring and working towards something greater. In this case, getting accepted into a graduate program for education.  The music fueled me even when my tank was running on empty.

Later on, it was one of the songs I would listen to on my long commute to and from Harlem that following summer, after I was accepted into City College.  

The program I was accepted into had me teach at a summer school during the day and then take classes at the university in the evening.  And then travel all the way back to New Jersey at night to do it all again the next day. This was in order to give the grad students a crash course into teaching before they started full-time in September.  

Music was my only release, but never once did I lose sight of why I was doing this.  For my girlfriend, our future, and our future children.

“Terrible Love” begins as I start to make my way up the steps.  I attempt singing even though my side stitches prevented me from making any sound.  The music had allowed me to hobble and limp my way through life, muscling and powering my way through on sheer willpower, but with zero finesse.  Now, the music was going to get me to the top of those stairs. Even if my body wanted to quit, the music wouldn’t let me.

I made it to the top of those stairs and back to my apartment.  I stopped the tracker on my cell phone. I ran over two miles; my pace was approximately ten minutes per mile.  It was the hardest run of my life. I gave it everything I had – the full 100%. I ran as if my life depended on it.  My body felt awful.

Yet, it was way slower than some of my times from the past.  The baboon better be right. This better get easier.

Naturally, it did.  

The next day, I ran a little bit farther and a little bit faster.  And the day after that. About four days after that, I decided to run again, running over three and a half miles.  More impressively, my pace was a full minute faster than my first run.

The next day, I topped five miles.  A few days later, I topped six. Everyday it got a little easier.

A week later, I surpassed my first big mental hurdle and ran ten miles.  Two days after that, I nearly ran the distance of a half marathon. Something I never would have thought imaginable when I struggled on that first run to get through those first two miles.  I had curated a running playlist on Spotify; with the playlist and my perseverance, it pushed me to heights I didn’t think were possible.

I’m sure the non-runners reading this are thinking: “Wow, you make this seem so easy!  I’m going to get out there and do the same thing!” And I would applaud you for your tenacity.   

But I would caution you to listen to what the runners reading this are thinking: “What a moron!”

I earned myself a pretty nasty case of “runner’s knee” – an ailment I didn’t even know existed – because of how many miles I ran at first.  I couldn’t even walk up or down stairs, because my knee hurt so bad. See, I was running wearing an old pair of sneakers that I had lying around.  I didn’t think you needed special running shoes. You just go out there and run, right? How hard can it be?

And how wrong I was.  Even now, as I look back at these old running logs, I can’t help but laugh at how naive I was.  

And my nipples.  Another moment I would never forget was hopping in the shower after one of these ill-advised, impromptu long runs.  

The stinging that came from my nipples.  I had never known a pain like this. It brought me to my knees.  Tears flooded my eyes as body wash cascaded over these two tender beacons of pain.  Luckily, no one can see your tears when you cry in the shower.

I texted one of my friends who lived in Boston at the time and asked him why my nipples hurt so much.  He had run a few marathons, so he had been through all the trials and tribulations of a long distance runner.   

He asked me what I was wearing.  I told him a t-shirt.

“A regular t-shirt?” he asked me.  

“I mean, yeah I guess,” I replied.

He advised against wearing any cotton.  He also recommended I invest in an anti-chafing cream.  Most running stores would have some.

Lessons number one and two: don’t add too many miles too quickly.  And do something about your nipples.

With my knee and nipples fully recovered, I decided to sign up for my first race: the Rock ‘n’ Roll Brooklyn Half Marathon in October.  Even though I wouldn’t have too much time to properly train since I was busy teaching and taking classes most of the summer, it was far enough in the future that I could work my way up to it.  Besides, I basically ran the same distance already a few weeks after I first started running.

I convinced one of my friends who I’ve known since I was six, as well as my girlfriend – who also had been running on occasion as well – to sign up for the race.  It was my first significant step in running, and I wanted to share it with two of the people I care most about in this world.

~

I was running on and off mostly on the weekends, while spending most of my waking hours during the week in Harlem.  Even though I wasn’t quite honoring the baboon’s request of “doing it everyday”, I bargained with myself. I reasoned that I was working in a summer program that resembled a boot camp.  I was doing something everyday and living a much healthier life than what I had grown used to.  I would run when time allowed. I wasn’t exactly where I wanted to be, but I knew this was the start of something positive.  

Which makes this next part feel like even more of a gut punch.

Summer 2016.  It is a lazy Saturday afternoon, spent in gym shorts and procrastinating on the lesson plans I had to work on.  My girlfriend calls me from the bathroom.

Boyfriend!”, she summons.  She is sitting on the toilet with her pants around her ankles, with a look of shock on her face.  There is a pregnancy test in her hand.

Uh oh.

She had bought a pregnancy test a few days earlier, but never got around to using it.  We were always careful, so it was weird when she missed her period. She bought one just to be safe.

The test is positive.  I go completely cold.

Even now, as I type this on my laptop, it’s such an intense moment – with so many emotions attached to it – that my brain simply cannot process it all.  I feel nothing.

We talk for a short while, but there really isn’t much of a conversation to be had.  We both knew what we had to do.

There was no way we could go through with the pregnancy.  And since she was pregnant for less than a month, the sooner we acted the better.

An aside: if you think I didn’t discuss this with my girlfriend – about whether or not to discuss this on such a public forum – then I haven’t made who I am as a person clear enough thus far.  I didn’t just seek her consent. I wanted her to be completely on board – to be enthusiastic.

After that initial conversation, she refused to talk about it.  Not with me. Not with anyone. That was her way of coping with it, and I wanted to be there for her unconditionally and give her everything she needed.  

At the cost of what I wanted or needed.  Because I heal by talking and by sharing.  I was willing to toss that aside for her.

She is still hesitant to talk about it.  However, in discussing about what I was going to write, this allowed us to move on and heal together.  

The fact of the matter is that although people say you’re never really ready for when you first have a kid, this could not have come at a worse time.  But not at a worse time for us. Far from it.

This could not come at a worse time for the child.  

I’ve always known that I would be a pretty good dad; it would be the most important role that I would ever hold in my life.  I would give absolutely everything to ensure my child’s happiness.  

This was a big reason why I stopped talking to my family for years.  I needed to deprogram myself and unlearn all the unsavory habits I had picked up from them.  I needed to become my own person.

This was at the cost of my own happiness and sanity.  I did this to set up a foundation for my future family.  Because I wasn’t going to allow my kids to grow up in such an environment.    

It was now that we were setting up the foundation finally.  Brick by brick. I was starting a stable career. My girlfriend had been with her company for over a year, making a reasonable salary.  But we still had a ton of debt that we were chipping away at. Sure, maybe we could have made it work.

But we would have had to live in the same neighborhood.  In the same one bedroom apartment. We wouldn’t be able to have a savings account for the child.  Forget about a college fund; we would be living paycheck to paycheck. I don’t mind putting that burden on myself.  But I can’t force that life upon a child who never asked for it. This wasn’t going to work, mostly because of how hard it would be on a child.

Even though we both knew what had to be done, this was easily the most difficult decision I’ve ever had to make in my life.  

As a kid, you don’t ever imagine that one day you would get an abortion.  You imagine everything would be in place – that everything would be set – when it was time to have a kid.  You would have everything ready: you’d be married. You’d have a fulfilling career, a spacious house, and an SUV with power locks.  You definitely wouldn’t be in between jobs, living in a small apartment with no natural sunlight, and driving a compact car that has been broken into a handful of times.

We are a society of planners and schemers, and everything must fall into the tidy narrative.  Even though my girlfriend and I don’t necessarily subscribe to this philosophy, you’d still want to be ready on some level.  

If you were a football coach building a team, do you attempt to draft the franchise quarterback – risking injury and his development because the team around him isn’t very good?  Or do you attempt to build the team first – piece by piece – and then grab the franchise quarterback?

We were in the process of building that football team.  We are in the process of building that football team.

We aren’t ready for the franchise quarterback.  

Every time I see a child in the park or in a stroller, I think of what might have been.  It’s natural to feel regret. I think to myself: maybe it would’ve been fine.

But even now, we know it was the only decision to make.  

What I would want my future children to know is this: this tough decision was made purely out of love.  We treasure you so much that we only want the best for you. We don’t want you to struggle. We don’t want you to suffer for the mistakes that I have made in my life.  That cross is for me alone to bear. It is unfair and selfish to make someone else have to shoulder that load – let alone a child.

It made me second-guess every decision I’ve ever made in my life.  I was in my late 20’s. My dad already had two kids at this age with a third one on the way.  I wasn’t even ready for one. What had my life become? What have I done wrong?

Is it too late for me?  Am I just doomed to be the person that I am?   

This is a scar in my heart that will never heal.  It can’t.

But through all that pain and all that hurt, I wanted to be able to create something positive.  It was in that moment that I knew that the sacrifice of life could not be in vain. I wouldn’t allow it to be for nothing.  If I wasn’t ready to be a dad just yet, then I would do everything in my power to be ready if and when the opportunity came again.  The sacrifice would have meaning.

The future that child never had will live on in our future children.  I would put all of my energy into ensuring my future family’s happiness by focusing on fixing myself in the present.    

There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about this.  The promise I made to myself, my girlfriend, and our future.

This is the real reason of why I started running and why I continue to run.  There is no other reason. I run because I want to become a better person. I want to be a better dad.

I don’t want a nightmarish hallucination of an alternate version of my life, where I imagine living in a cabin by a lake with my family.  I don’t want to envision what my life would be like if I took a different path.

I want that to be my reality.  That will be my reality.

Though this wound will never heal, the work I put into improving myself everyday – either by running, meditating, doing yoga, or teaching at the middle school I work at – helps me to continue setting up that foundation.  The work isn’t easy, but it gets easier. Everyday it gets a little easier.

~

We were on autopilot for a time after that as you might expect.  

I was finishing up summer school.  Even though absences would severely hurt your chances of moving on in the program, I had built up enough goodwill with the coordinators that I was able to miss one day.  I stayed with my girlfriend to take care of her and make sure she wasn’t alone.

I told them my girlfriend had to get a routine surgery and had no one to drive her from the doctor’s office. But the other teachers had gotten to know the type of person that I was.  They knew if I was absent, it was because of something serious.

I wasn’t running at the time, and I was in a fog.  If I was going to get out of the fog, something had to go our way.  We didn’t have the energy to pick ourselves up.

On the Ten Club message board – the Pearl Jam fan club website – two guys from the Midwest were offering an extra pair of tickets to one of the two concerts the band was playing at Fenway Park in a few weeks.  All you would have to do would be to stand in line and buy a concert poster for them, which they would reimburse you for. Because of their travel arrangements, they weren’t going to be able to get on the line to buy merchandise in time to score a poster.

The deal sounded too good to be true.  I would be done with my summer program by then.  And my girlfriend also loved Pearl Jam. We’d been to a number of shows over the years,   and we needed a weekend away. We could visit my friend who lived in Boston – the one who gave me the nipple advice – and go to a Pearl Jam concert at Fenway Park.  We both love concerts and travel, so this was just what the doctor ordered.

Pearl Jam was another band that played a prominent role on my running playlist.  Especially during all my family drama, I identified with a lot of the songs in their vast catalog.  Being free from the difficult situation and the angst associated with it: “Rearviewmirror”. My complicated relationship with my dad: “Release”.  When my great-grandfather passed away: “Man of the Hour”. The list goes on and on. Their music got me through countless double shifts at restaurants when I didn’t have much to live for.

During the show, I fought back tears during certain songs like “Nothingman”, “Wishlist”, and a particularly beautiful rendition of “Sirens.”  But we were still in a stupor – a haze. While we were certainly enjoying ourselves, it’s hard to yield completely after a very difficult few weeks.

But in a moment of clarity that must have felt similar to Colonel Kurtz getting shot in the forehead with a diamond bullet, Stone Gossard’s opening riff from “Alive” cleared up that fog.  I’m not entirely sure what happened in that moment, but an entire stadium filled with people singing along and pumping their fists – celebrating life – was all I needed. It was a reminder that no matter how bad things might get, we were still alive.  There was beauty in that.

As the song reached its peak and Mike McCready is playing his solo as if he were possessed, I pump my fist in time with the tens of thousands of others in the stadium with tears streaming down my face.  I suddenly had clarity. I had purpose.

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We drove back to New Jersey the next day.  I started running consistently again. I also started school a few weeks after that.  Not summer school – my actual job. I was teaching students in an actual classroom. This was officially the beginning of my journey as a middle school teacher.  I just needed to run the half marathon to officially start my journey as a runner.

After weeks of slowly building up the mileage and making sure I knew exactly how much Body Glide I needed to apply to my nipples, it was time to run the race.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but my goal was to run the race in under two hours – an average half marathon time.  I felt pretty confident I could do that considering how the training runs felt, even though I was not formally following any training plan.  

My friend, my girlfriend, and I made it to the starting line after running a little late on our drive into Brooklyn.  I don’t remember much from the subsequent two hours. Since it was my first race ever and only seven months since that first agonizing run in Lincoln Park, I was pretty nervous.  This makes it hard to recall much from the race.

There are two things that do stick out though.

The first was running alongside my friend.  We were running next to each other for most of the race.  Sometimes I would be in front of him, while other times he would be in front of me.  We’d take turns acting like the lead blocker for the other, opening up pockets in the crowd that we could get through in order to avoid getting stuck behind slower runners.  We used the various hills along the course as our chance to make up time and run past others who weren’t as prepared for the terrain.

But during the last mile in Prospect Park, I hit the proverbial wall.  There was no way I was going to be able to keep running at the pace we were going at.  I didn’t want to walk, but I feared it might be inevitable. All the energy was sapped out of me.    

Even after I pleaded with him to go on without me, never once did he surge past me.  He stuck by me. Just by him being there, it forced me to keep going. He had no idea what I was wrestling with in my head or why the race was so important to me.  But there he was, encouraging me to give it all I had. He had been running since high school; there is no doubt in my mind that he held back during this stretch.

But we crossed the finish line together.  Fighting back tears, I put an arm around him.  Sometimes we don’t need to talk about all of our problems with our friends.  Just being there – sometimes that’s enough.

I hadn’t just learned how to properly increase mileage and put on Body Glide.  I learned what it takes to embody a true runner and a true friend.

The second thing I remember was the feeling when I crossed the finish line

When I crossed that finish line, there wasn’t that feeling of relief you might expect – like crossing off a task that has been lingering for way too long on your to-do list.  

I remembered my purpose.  I remembered the “why.”

And this was just a beginning.  There was more work to be done. If I wanted to truly become a runner in order to become a better dad one day, I had a much longer way to go.  This was just the first of many miles.

For that brief moment though, I allowed myself to chug the post-race chocolate milk and celebrate our accomplishments and our resiliency.  Because like I was reminded that one evening in Fenway Park, what is the purpose of life if you can’t relish the moments that make you feel most alive?

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~

A year later – almost to the exact day of the Brooklyn half marathon – my girlfriend and I went to go see The National in concert at the Forest Hills Stadium.  It is a historic concert venue in the middle of a quiet neighborhood in Queens that once served as a tennis court. It was our fourth time seeing the band, but the first time since I started running and teaching.  

The concert was on a Friday, so I drove to the stadium after school was dismissed.  I had a burger and a beer alone while I waited for my girlfriend to get out of work.  

We had general admission tickets on the floor of the stadium.  But because my girlfriend arrived to the venue in the middle of Daughter’s – the opening band’s – set, we secured a spot to see the show closer to the back of the floor.  This was definitely quite a difference from the spots along the front of the stage we had grown used to securing over the years seeing The National.

It wasn’t the end of the world we reasoned. We can get a good view of the lights and maybe would even be able to get close to the lead singer when he walks into the crowd.

If you’ve never seen The National live, it’s one of the things they’re most known for.  Towards the end of their show – usually during “Mr. November” or “Terrible Love” – Matt Berninger makes his way into the crowd and travels as far away from the stage as his microphone cable will allow.  It turns into a cathartic, communal sing-along.

In the three other times we’ve seen the band, we never got very close to him when he goes into the crowd.  But for some reason, I always knew one day we’d have our chance.

It is nearing the end of the show.  After the noise from the previous song dies down to a lull, the subtle beating of the bass drum emerges, making it clear what song was coming up next: “Terrible Love”.

Berninger starts making his way into the crowd.  As the song ramps up, we are clapping in unison with the thousands of other people in the crowd.  He is walking on top of the hedges that line the perimeter of the stadium floor – hedges that separate the general admission space from the VIP.  He hops down and is now a short walk away from where my girlfriend and I were standing. We both shrug and hustle over towards the crowd that is gathering around him.

The song continues to intensify, and there is a commotion of people singing, cheering, clapping.  

Suddenly, he emerges from the cluster of people and we are right next to each other.  At the song’s apex, we are face to face.

It all came rushing back to me.  

This song.  

The song I sang in the shower to pump myself up, so I could slog through another seventy hour work week at a restaurant.  

The song I sang while I drove from my tutoring job in the morning to my bartending job at night.  

The song I sang quietly to myself on the subway to Harlem and to the Bronx when my body wanted to quit from exhaustion.  

The song I sang while I struggled up the steps at Lincoln Park – the run that started it all.  

The song I sang in Brooklyn to motivate myself at the starting line of the half marathon.  And then sang again during the final mile when I felt I didn’t have anything left to give.

The song I sang – and still sing – amid sobs that I try to stifle during difficult training runs around Jersey City.  

I think of why I’m doing all of this.   I never forget why I started running and why I continue to run.  The intense, suffocating love that I hold in my heart: for my girlfriend, for the child we don’t have, and for any children we might have in the future.

I like to think he saw all of that when we were looking into each other’s eyes in that moment.  I like to think there was a moment of recognition. A moment of understanding. Two humans acknowledging one another’s existence.    

I like to think this because for the remainder of the outro, we were in each other’s faces yelling and singing to each other.  Two humans acknowledging one another’s existence. I see you.

I posted on the band’s page on Reddit on the off chance someone was able to snap a photograph.  My girlfriend and I were way too in the moment to fumble for our cell phones, but it would’ve been cool to have a photo.  My girlfriend had mentioned there seemed like there were a lot of photographers in the area when the singer and I were singing together.  It was worth a shot.

Fortunately, someone responded: Will Oliver – who has a blog named “We All Want Someone To Shout For” (weallwantsomeone.org) where he posts a ton of concert reviews – was able to find a picture from his collection that matched exactly what I described in the post on Reddit.  We never really told him just how much the moment meant to us, and I hope one day our paths will cross again at a concert. I owe him a beer.

In Matt Berninger’s life, this was only a small blip.  But in mine, it was a significant moment, because of all that it came to represent.  It was the exclamation point to a period of my life marked with struggle. I pushed myself beyond my comfort zone – past the atrophy my body had grown accustomed to.  I wanted to reach for something more.

But that does not mean this is simply a moment of triumph.  I am confronted with the mistakes from my past everyday, because there are now very real consequences to the amount of time that I spent in “The Waiting Place.”

“I have long feared that my sins would return to haunt me, and the cost would be more than I could bear.”   

Why did I start running?  Because a cartoon baboon told me to.  Why do I continue running? Because I’m not just doomed to be the person that I was.  I’m going to be a better runner. A better person. A better dad.

Screen Shot 2018-11-18 at 2.48.00 PM

 It takes an ocean not to break.  

Running

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