When I was in fourth grade my sisters and I were talking about what we wanted to be when we grew up. I knew right away. My super cool aunt who lived with us during medical school was (and is) a pediatrician at the Mayo Clinic. She also loved board games, had really great hair and was married to my super-crafty, musical uncle, who I adored. "I want to be a pediatrician," I said. My mom overheard us talking and said, "Laura, if you want to be a doctor when you grow up, you're going to need to get much better grades." Of course she was right. Doctors have a rigorous school path to manage and they need to be smart and capable. But as a fourth grader in my fifth year of a really crappy Chicago Public School education, I hadn't ever been exposed to any kind of academic rigor. I had no idea if I was smart or not.
I don't blame my mother for the fact that I'm not a doctor. I am sure she barely remembers that comment and she was likely just trying to steer me in the right direction for my future. But I think about that defining moment ALL THE TIME. What if I had never made that decision to not follow the doctor dream in fourth grade? What if I hadn't absorbed that message? Maybe I would have taken a wholly different path. And maybe I would still have ended up being a yoga teacher (a job that I wouldn't change for anything, by the way.)
A few weeks ago, I was talking to a yoga student about running. She told me that she'd never been a runner but had recently been inspired to run a half-marathon. "That's way out of my league," I told her "My max is six miles. I could never do a half-marathon."
Two weeks later the same student came in with a copy of her training sheet for me. "I was so shocked to hear you say you could never do a half-marathon," the student said, handing me the 10-weeks to 13.1 miles training sheet. "You of all people who tell us all the time what we can do." And she's right. I tell students every day to be open to new things their bodies can do, that just this simple act in Yoga will open up other paths too. It can be big or small-- touching your forehead in standing head-to-knee pose or just breathing calmly in Savasana. It can be telling your boss how you really feel or just asking for a new cubby at work.
It's so insidious-- the self-doubt that surrounds us, lives within us. It's a constant effort to stay open to new ideas about ourselves. I went home last night and ran 3 miles, the shortest run on the training sheet, and today I woke up and ran 3 miles again. Tomorrow, according to the sheet, I get a break. This weekend I have to run 5 miles I think. I don't know if I'll actually run an official race in ten weeks, but I'm going to do the training. It's true. I'm not a doctor but maybe I'll run a half-marathon.