My dad just placed first in his age division (men 75 and older) in the Army Ten Miler. There were at least 15 other men in the age division and 3 women--they're the ones who placed. For all I know, there were more men his age running who didn't place. The woman who came in first in the women 75 and older had a time similar to my dad; she's 80, and he's 75. They both ran 10 minutes faster than the ones who placed second in their age divisions.
It took me back to when I was young and running community road races put on by the YMCA in Knoxville, TN. I remember when I placed first in my age division (under 18) in the Pumpkin Run in 1982. It was cold and rainy, so the turn out was lower than usual. I had gone to a movie theatre that let you see older movies for $1--the night before the race, my friend Brian and I went to see Rocky III. That's the movie where they talk about the eye of the tiger. and there's that song by the same name by Survivor. It's a great movie to watch before a race.
When I was young and placing in my age division, I paid attention to the demographics. I knew that once I turned 18, I wouldn't have an easy age division to win until I was much older. I look at the race results for women 75 and older, and I can't imagine running ten miles in that time now (an hour and 48 minutes), much less when I'm older.
My dad's race results also put me in mind of a compliment that my father-in-law paid me when he was down for a visit. During the time he was here, I was still going to work, and getting some training for a different work project, and taking care of some church details. He said, "You sure don't let the grass grow under your feet."
Today is one of the days that I wish I had let more grass grow under my feet. It's a day of meetings at school followed by a church council meeting in the evening. I've tried to put something fun into the day, an early dinner with a writer friend on my way to church. But a day of meetings fills me with a certain dread in a way that very little else does. I wonder why that is.
The idea of placing in our age divisions also makes me think of how we compare ourselves to each other. When my father-in-law sees all the ways that I'm trying to keep myself marketable and cover all the unexpected expenses that have come with this new house, I see all the projects I have yet to complete. I haven't made many submissions of individual poems to journals yet. But frankly, if I don't do much submitting this year, I won't beat myself up. It's time to think about larger projects.
One thing I love about knowing about the success of various poets around the country, like Sandy Longhorn's recent book The Girlhood Book of Prairie Myths, is that I feel encouragement. If it could happen to them, it could happen to me. Maybe it's time to put together a new poetry manuscript or dust off the old one.
I also need to get back to making steady progress on my memoir. I'm getting back to that. It feels good. Of course, I'm continuing to add to it, as I write essays and blog posts that fit.
On Friday, a group of us who work together were talking about getting ready for the future. During a week of lay-offs (or "restructuring"), our thoughts turn that way. Should we look for jobs elsewhere? Do something while still employed to give ourselves more options later, like get an additional degree? One of my writing friends said, "It's time to get an agent." She may be right. I could at least start to compose the query letter that I hope to be sending out after Christmas.
I also need to stop periodically to give myself credit for all the things I have gotten done. It's no wonder that I haven't finished my memoir draft in the time frame I originally planned. My original plans didn't take into account buying a house, moving, and selling a house. The changes that we've made happen this year take my breath away when I stop to think about it.
It's good to stop and think about it. These changes leave me better positioned for the future, I think and hope, regardless of what that future will be. Maybe I'm on my way to being a sought after speaker, retreat leader, or workshop leader. Maybe my memoir will sell a lot of copies. Maybe I'm headed back to grad school. Maybe I'll be a dean. Maybe I'll be the U.S. Poet Laureate, still one of my favorite possibilities.
It's good to remember that I haven't been letting the grass grow under my feet. It's good to plant seeds for the future. It's good to strive to place in our age divisions.
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