After my freshman year in college, I landed an internship with NBC Sports Press in New York City. I spent the summer commuting from Long Island, where I was staying with close friends of my family, to 30 Rockefeller Center. Essentially I worked in the public relations department for NBC Sports. It was an Olympic year which meant lots of coverage about NBC’s coverage of the Games.
Back at school to start the fall semester, I would tell stories from my internship, usually just outloud to no one in particular because, well, that’s how I’ve always rolled. This did not sit well with one of my classmates who went off on me one day, asking if I thought I was better than everyone else because I did an internship at NBC.
I was horrified. That was not my intention. I didn’t want to make anyone feel bad and so I put that experience away, locked it up in the old storage of my memory so tight, I usually forget I had ever done the internship in the first place.
Fast forward to several years ago when I started training for my first triathlon and turned it into a first-person series for The Buffalo News. I referenced a cycling trip I took to Italy which solidified my desire to complete a triathlon, taught me many valuable cycling lessons and bolstered my courage. Of the many critiques that came back via the unverified, pseudoym-using commentor was that I talked too much about my trip to Italy and who did I think I was anyway?
And so, I locked it away.
That’s what I’ve done with so many life experiences. I’ve locked them away, momentarily sharing photos on social media then returning to normally scheduled programming lest anyone think I was bragging or putting myself on a higher plane.
Then there was the fight I had with a friend over a status I posted on Facebook. It had been a particularly hard, draining day and while I don’t remember exactly what I wrote, it was in the vein of “I suck.” My friend told me to take it down, that it was stupid, that it looked horrible for me to be negative in a public space.
This week, I read the painful story about Penn runner Madison Holleran beautifully written by Kate Fagen for espnW. Holleran committed suicide after battling depression. Part of the story raised the question about the life we post on social media. Our filtered lives often look too perfect. When we fall into comparison and self-judgement (traps so easy to fall into) it makes it nearly impossible to know what’s real and what’s constructed. How things look on the outside, how they’re filtered on Instagram, may not match the way we feel inside. In fact more ofthen than not, it does not.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this piece and my life on social media over the past few days.
So back to my experiences:
I’m criticized for talking about big, important moments in my life, for revelling in the joy. I lock those experiences away so I don’t look snotty and spoiled.
I’m criticized for talking about the difficult days, the ones in which I feel like a failure as a human being. I’m told not to share my fears and frustrations because it doesn’t look good.
For the love of Pete, if I can’t figure it out how can a 19-year old away from home for the first time figure it out?
Truth is my story is filled with amazing accomplishments and moments of shame. It’s filled with triumphs and cartwheels and bad decisions and lots of crying. It’s filled with anxiety and joy and fear and strength.
But here’s the thing.
It’s my story.
I own everything that has happened to me: good, bad, indifferent.
And maybe now because of Madison’s story, I’m a little more aware of how I present myself on social media. I will always believe in making good decisions on social media because as much as I might want to drop a good oldfashioned “motherfucker” on Twitter, in real life that would not be good, say, for my job. Some thoughts are better left unexpressed.
But I do believe it’s important to be authentic. As I choose to share my story, via blog and social media, I chose to share the good and the bad. The happy and the ugly. (You may not chose to share your life publically and that’s more than fine because you own your story, including the way you tell it.)
And so welcome to my story about today’s long run. I’m training for the Hatfield-McCoy Marathon (more on that in later blog post) and ran 18 miles today. Here it is, unfiltered:
1. I decided to run with a small hydration backpack because it was going to be 70 degrees and pretty much all of my training to this point had been done in a high temperature of 50.
2. It took me the first three miles to figure out why the thing was so darn uncomfortable. It’s amazing what happens when you put the hydration pouch in the backpack correctly.
3. The first five miles were amazing and went swimmingly well.
4. Mmmmm. Swimming. I’d love to jump in the river right now because it’s hot and I’m getting sticky.
5. Exectuive decision: Found a bathroom at Mile 9, my turnaround point. I didn’t really need to go, but it was my head, so I better take advantage of the freshly cleaned state park bathroom and, hey, might as well snap a picture.
6. That second half of the run? Sucked. It was warm. My legs were tired. I should have stopped at the gas station and bought some more water to fill up my hydration pack. I began to fear what race day would be like in five weeks. Maybe I should re-think this marathon? Maybe I’m not up for it.
7. Walk break. I had several on the way back and I made peace with it on the first one. Let’s evaluate here, Amy: It’s your longest run in three years. It’s your first long run of the season in warm, humid conditions. It’s your first time running with a hydration pack, also in three years. So just ease the freak up on yourself. Get the miles in. Screw the rest.
8. I came up to Stella Niagara, a Catholic high school and convent. I immediately went over to the sign and yelled “STELLA!” snapped a photo, and started back up again.
9. Last big hill = walk.
10. The Garmin buzzed — 18 miles done. It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t fast. But I’m stronger for it.