Sometimes I feel angry with my brother because he left this world so young. It is like he gave up too early. Cognitively I know it wasn’t his decision, but I picture him in that hospital bed no longer fighting for his life.
From the time I was very young my brother started teaching me about mental and physical toughness and not giving up. I’m sure when that lesson started I was just the annoying younger sister who he just wanted to discourage from doing things that “girls don’t do.”
In a very hot and humid August the summer between my second and third grade year in school I told my family I wanted to play football. My brother told me I would never make it, and he told me what it was like to practice in the heat with all those pads on. Picture putting on your sweatpants and sweatshirt and running three miles. A couple minutes later I emerged from my room with my sweats on ready to run around the neighborhood three times (roughly three miles). I did it. I didn’t give up. I wanted to prove that I had what it takes to be tough.
Several years later, the summer between 8th and 9th grade my brother came home on leave from the Air Force and heard I had signed up for Cross Country. I honestly had no idea what I had signed up for. I had no idea how many miles I would have to run in practice or races. I was told by my PE teacher in 8th grade that I was fast and should take up running. Probably my first three mile run since proving to my brother that I could play football that particular summer. My brother took me out for a run to show me what Cross Country would be all about. As I started to get tired he told me a couple things I would need for racing and life: “Don’t stop. You can slow down, but don’t stop.” “Don’t look down. Keep your head up and set a goal. Run to that goal and set another goal.”
I have been thinking about my brother a lot lately. The one year anniversary of his death is quickly approaching, and the one year anniversary of my last hospitalization is approaching even more quickly. I want so badly to show him how hard I have pushed myself. I want him to see that I have not given up. I want him to see that I am running a negative split (when you run the second half of a race faster than the first half). I am focusing on the goal ahead of me, and when I get there, I look into the distance and find another one.
I am forever grateful for that first run on a hot August day that taught me I could do anything. I am forever grateful for the brother who convinced me that I can do anything as long as I push myself. His death has been devastating to me, but it may have put the fight back in me.
So, when giving up seems like the only option:
1. You can slow down, but you cannot stop moving.
2. Look up, set a goal, and don’t lose focus on that goal. When you get there, set the next goal.