This piece actually flourished into a full post, so I’m leaving an excerpt here of how far I got in a day as well as the outline I left myself with to finish later to show more of the creation process. You can read the full post here or by clicking the button below.
raw notes foundation
often feel obligated to commit to things that i dont want to commit to, they are on opposite ends of the spectrum
story of what appears to be commitment that is actually obligation
no use trying push at something that you don’t actually want
how can we commit instead of obligating? we have to actually be greedy and selfish. It’s better to obe firm about what you want up front for you and for everyone else involved. Not setting up false expectations. You can’t please everyone all the time. Instead of letting them down, make your intentions clear from the start. No one likes wishy-washy people and flakes. Often the greatest truths of life are hidden in paradoxes. It’s a paradox that the more selfish you are from the start, the more considerate you are being of other people by properly calibrating their expectations in advance.
When you find something that doesn’t feel like obligation, where more time sunk in makes you want to sink in even more time, it’s time to really commit. That doesn’t mean working non-stop because you can still feel the dragging of burn out with things you love, but it means that you can deliberately commit to it, with a natural energy that continuously fuels your efforts. It’s easier to dedicate yourself to something that you naturally get excited about, rather than dragging your feet and forcing yourself to invest in an effort sink.
The first time I ran 3 miles continuously was during a typical Houston summer, hot and humid. It was just past the heat of the day but still above 90, still hot enough to see the light shimmering in the liminal space between the planes where your eyes focused. I had started cross country in middle school because my brother had it, and I figured it was a good way to keep myself fit. I was quite possibly the opposite of the picture of health then, so I did my duty by rounding out the back of races and practices. It was okay since we weren’t super competitive—all that mattered was that I kept with it—that I committed to keeping with it. That summer was my gap of freedom before I entered a new high school, a place where cross country was a no-nonsense, state-competitive program. I remember my stomach twisting into a million knots, my breath tripping over itself, and the organ stampede threatening to break out as my mom drove me to a summer practice as a way of introducing me to the team. I didn’t know then that we were running 3 miles. I was content with my slow and steady 1.5, thanks very much. I recall seeing the juniors and seniors pull up, an intense air muddled with an apparent nonchalance hung around them, their sinewy legs simultaneously relaxed and tensed. It was the air of practiced piety to the sport, to the way of life.
That first year I improved leaps and bounds. It passed by in a blur—the rhythmic beat of rubber against the hard pavement, the shockwave shaking off the crusts of fear that solidified on loose jersey tank tops and far-too-short short-shorts in the pre-dawn chill, the army-enhanced bark of Coach Kerley resonating through the suffocating waves of hot humidity, and the fleeting moments of intense contentment following an intense workout. I was caught in a trance, following the regiment of waking, studying, living through pain, and sleeping. Rinse and repeat. Work and rest. Commit to toil.
That blissful yet forced automatic operation didn’t last long. Soon enough, the stomach acrobatics were back as I started to dread the end of the school day because it signaled the start of my regularly scheduled torture session. Each day, my motivation sapped further. It was an endless drain. We trained every week all year long. We even had a schedule that we were supposed to follow during the summer away from school, a quota of milage to check off on our own—an independent study of sorts. Now, I’m familiar with the professional nomenclature of “burnout.” Then, I only knew how to push farther and reach further and fail harder and spiral deeper into the depths of frustration with my situation, and ultimately, with myself.
I was taught that hard work would bring you riches. That effort was the key to success in whatever you did. I never even considered the question of what I wanted to dedicate my effort to, never questioned the responsibilities I found myself committed to. New commitments popped up every day, a wonderful surprise due to my inability to say no to requests that came along my way. Every day became a step further down, another day of little progress and increased yelling, another day of feeling more lost, more trapped in a paradox, the one where you tell yourself you want something so bad, almost as if you need to convince yourself, but your body refuses to listen, a pointless argument from the start…
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This is the 18th installment in my experiment of publishing raw, lightly edited mini-essays every day towards achieving 100 public pieces. Check out the rationale and the full list here or view my evergreen, longer pieces on my website.
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