On May 23rd I decided to teach myself how to run. Not run, jog. Not for distance but for time. Could I train myself to run for thirty minutes without stopping? I was doubtful, but seeing as how my whole *waves hands* thing lately has been trying stuff to see if I fail, this seemed like as good a time as any to embark on this quest.
I’ve run before, I played soccer which involves a fair bit of running and I ran track in middle school, but if we’re being honest, I just wanted to go fast and didn’t really put in the work when it seemed as though I was not, in fact, fast. This could be a metaphor for so many things in my life. If my vision of success isn’t met within a few days, hours minutes, then I’m probably going to be disappointed and I will leave the task unfinished. Skirts that are mostly made except for the zipper, my new skin care regimen, snowboarding. Some things crack through that mentally constructed barrier and I will work and work until what I see in my mind matches what is happening in front of my eyes.
When I was in grad school I was not the best one in my class. I was mostly tricked into going to grad school by my undergraduate metalsmithing teacher who saw something like potential in me and encouraged me to apply. I don’t remember applying, the process is not stored away in my brain and when I try to find the memory it comes up blank which naturally I assume means I was possessed at the time. I do remember getting my acceptance letter from RISD. It was large and thick and filled with glossy brochures and I felt the contents of my stomach roiling as if to say, how did this happen and how can we get out of it? I deferred for a year and then I went, wholly unprepared for what awaited me.
I was an ok metalsmith, I am still an ok metalsmith, though I am better than when I first walked into my studio in the Metcalf building, the one with the dusty old wooden floors and the questionable ventilation trunks. It was clear to my professors that I was a bit behind when it came to fundamentals of jewelry fabrication since my training had mostly been with a metalsmith who occasionally moonlighted as a jeweler. I was making weird spoons and even weirder teapots, my rings were a mess. One professor took pity on me and came to my bench and stood next to it, looking at the kraft paper covered surface, filled with rejected ideas. Try this, she said. Try spending the next few days trying to make the perfect ring. Just a circle of metal. Get it soldered together and then don’t try to file it or sand it to fix the junction, just measure it.
And so I did. I spent all weekend cutting out ring blanks, little rectangles of brass and copper. I filed the edges so they were flat and even, brought them around to meet each other, fiddled to make sure I couldn’t see any light coming through the joint and then slowly and carefully soldered the two ends together. It took all weekend. It took over 100 attempts. It might have been closer to 200 attempts. At one point in the darkness of the night another student left the studio and turned out the lights. I was so quiet, so focused, she didn’t notice I was there. I barely noticed it was dark.
On Monday I showed my professor the one ring I thought was worthy of her inspection. She took out a set of calipers and measured the thickness of the metal all the way around to make sure I hadn’t filed anything off to make the joint look better than it was. She handed it back to me, Good, was all she said. Good. I’d been holding my breath a little as she was inspecting it, my hands crossed in front of me to protect me and I let out a little bit of air when she walked out. Perfection takes time and I believe is worth the effort only if you decide it is.
Today is July 19th. I ran for thirty minutes without stopping. It was more like 32 minutes, but I didn’t stop. (It felt terrible. Every run since I began this little experiment has felt terrible in the moment of doing it. Some worse than others, all terrible.) I waved as runners and dog walkers and bike riders went past me going in the opposite direction. I wondered if they could tell how slow I was running. (My average mile split time is around 12 minutes. Which is faster than I walk, but is still slow.) I wondered if they could tell today was special. According to my typed up plan, progressing from being able to run without stopping for less than a minute to running without stopping for thirty minutes, this milestone is 5 days early. I was supposed to complete this training plan on Monday. But today is Thursday, and today I decided I would run and not stop and I did. It was not perfect, it took time, it took weeks, but it was worth the effort.