Upon first entering the work force out of college I was faced with something new and unique — two weeks of paid vacation.
Granted, I had taken vacations before with my family. My parents, younger brother and I would pile into the family car for visits to Toronto and Central New York and a few times down to North Carolina to visit my aunt, who had long ago made her home in the Smoky Mountains.
But planning what to do with my own free time now that I had graduated from college, had a job and an income was a new experience. Since that income was not accumulating much wealth in my checking account, my vacations needed to be plotted strategically. Which is how one year I ended up being a chaperone for my high school French teacher on her quasi-annual field trip to Quebec.
It was 1997 when I was last in the province of Quebec. The majority of our time was spent in Quebec City, though we did make a stop in Montreal for lunch (which is where the rather stylish photo of me which accompanies this post was taken).
This time, however, the trip to Montreal is slightly different.
Or, actually, is it?
I can say for sure I remember hardly any French. I’m rather confident I can successfully ask where the bathroom is. I can also say hello, ask how someone is doing and give my own reply, assuming of course the person in the conversation is named Marie-France. (“Bonjour Marie-France. Ca va? Oui. Ca va bien. Et tois? Comme ci comme ca.”) Other than that, well, I’m out.
That 1997 trip to Montreal was about seeing if I could re-learn my forgotten French beyond the high school language lab tapes, enjoying the cultural experience and shopping.
But this trip to Montreal will be spent preparing and racing my first Iron Distance event — Esprit Montreal. It’s the same as an Ironman (2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, 26.2-mile run) only without the trademarked brand name.
While on paper the vacations may seem light years apart, in actuality, they are pretty much the same.
It’s all about adventure.
It’s all about experiences.
It’s going outside my comfort zone, whether just an inch or a few miles, to challenge myself, have fun and grow.
The motto of Quebec, as seen on its license plates, is “Je me souviens” or “I remember.” According to that great knowledge base Wikipedia, the meaning and intention of the phrase is somewhat ambiguous and at times controversial. But ambiguity can serve us well. It allows for interpretation.
Je me souviens.
What do I remember?
I remember that three years ago, I did not know how to swim.
I remember that three years ago, my longest run was 10 minutes on a treadmill.
I remember that three years ago, there were countless things I feared.
I remember that physical activity, that health and fitness and exploration and experiences are values I have always held — I just failed to consistently recognize that those things I cherish most have unique ways of showing up in my life.
Most importantly, I remember how wonderful it feels to step up to the starting line, to get into the game. You never know what’s in store for you. Each day brings a plethora of new starting lines. It’s our choice what we do with those opportunities.