Concussions suck. Especially when you are a sun worshiper, like myself, and you have a concussion in the middle of the summer when the sun is out and all you want to do is stay in a dark room because the sunlight makes your head hurt.
They also suck when you are trying to run and can’t because your head feels like it is about to burst. And finally, they suck when you are trying very hard to use your brain to think and write and come up with academically sounding sentences for your PhD.
The only good thing about concussions is that you can nap without feeling guilty for not doing a damn thing, because literally you can’t help but fall asleep. And on second thought, perhaps this will prepare me better for my career as an NFL cornerback…or not.
It wasn’t until the tail end of August that I started to feel better. By this time my running had suffered much more than my PhD. Which, is probably an okay thing. I was starting to hit my stride in August with PhD work. I was finally feeling like my data was worth something and that perhaps finishing this was worth it after all. Because there was a time this summer when I looked at my data and thought – I have nothing. I have nothing important here and nothing to say.
I took a “vacation” in August. My family and I went to the beach for a week. For the most part, it was a working vacation. I was determined to have a first draft done before the term started in September. I even had a week off planned in September to just write and focus on school to get this done.
Running in August sucked big time. It was like starting all over again by the time I felt well enough to attempt long runs. My lungs were aching, my legs were sore, my left ankle was acting up, and I just couldn’t get it together. Work was also busy in August, which pushed running down the list some more.
August felt busy. It was hard in some ways, and all I wanted to do was catch a little break and feel some sense of control before I had my week off in September. It used to be that summer was a time during the academic year when a person could catch up on some work. With record enrollments and large initiatives, that hasn’t been the case lately and certainly not this past summer.
By the start of this month I felt really burnt out. I just didn’t feel motivated about starting a new academic year at work, I still had two chapters left to write, and the most I had run was 18 miles, and that had been back in July. The day before my week break from work, I was feeling particularly overwhelmed, and it was all I could do to keep it together. It wasn’t the best time to be taking a week off, but it was the only time I could.
My week off started great. My parents were in town to help watch my kid, and that meant I had full days to focus on school and running. I started out the first part of the week running each day 13-14 miles at a time, and then locking myself away to write. I was plugging along on Chapter 4, and was starting to realize it was kicking my ass. But, I held strong - running and writing for hours each day.
By middle of that week a little something-something popped up. That little bit of a runny nose and sore throat that may or may not be something. By Thursday night that little something decided it was going to be a SOMETHING. By the end of the day Friday I lost my voice and had the shivers. A full blown cold complete with laryngitis came to visit. Oh, and did I mention that Chapter 4 is still kicking my ass at this point? Bye bye Chapter 5, don’t have time for you this week. Oh, and that 18 miler I was planning? Out the window – can’t breathe. I was feeling pretty damn sorry for myself.
But as it with life, you adjust. (Caution, here comes the touchy feely part) You remember why it is we do the things we do. I remembered why it is that I love working in higher education, why it is that I love my job. I adjusted my expectations of myself – so what if Chapter 4 is not done? So what? I’ll finish it and move on to Chapter 5. And so what if I didn’t get to my 18 miler? I’ll just run 20 next week. So what if I don’t’ finish the marathon with my original time goal? It’s not like this is the only one I’ll ever run – I’m hooked on the running thing, and this will be the first of many, of that I am sure.
So, here I am. End of September and feeling pretty damn good again. My training post-concussion has been a bit choppy, but the thing is, I ran 20 miles this past weekend and I’m still standing. My goal with the marathon in two weeks is to finish running and have fun. I’m not attempting to set any records after all.
And now that the term has begun at work I feel excited. The students are all back, I’ve got a great crew I get to work with, the campus is all shiny and bright. I can also build back in those evening and weekend hours to work on school. I am so close, SO CLOSE to having this draft done. Then, I’ll turn it in and take it from there. Edits I can handle.
I learned two really important things this summer. These may not be new or groundbreaking, but for a control freak like me, and for someone (like me) who loves to compete against themselves, this was pretty big: First, let your body guide you. I love running. When I don’t get to run, I miss it. I am at my best running. But, if I want to run for many years to come, I need to listen to my body and give it the breaks that it needs. It’ll be fine. The challenge of starting over again and seeing your body get back into the groove, that’s pretty amazing. Second- while I do see more marathons in my future, I can honestly say that once I finish this PhD, I never want to do it again. Even if I do have that sickness they call “lifetime learning”.
Oh, I guess I did learn one more thing – if you do get hit in the head with a paddle, get it checked out ASAP. Don’t get on a plane the next day and ride roller coasters.
Goal Updates -
Running: Will work out a few times this week, run 13 miles this weekend and then take it easy before the big race on 10/6.
School: Will finish Chapter 4 and 5 in about a week and a half. Then, turn that into my major for first round of slashing (err..I mean editing).