We are all fighting something.
Do you ever wonder if you are alone in struggling? Do you ever wonder if you are the only one who experiences grief, pain or loss in the way that you do, or over the same things you do?
I often wondered that, especially when it came to sport and dealing with injury. The pain, sense of loss and grief that came when I couldn’t play outside or spend time catching up with my friends over a ride or run, cut me deeply. I felt less-than, isolated, not like myself and completely consumed with my thoughts on recovery and when I’d be recovered from my injuries.
I think a lot of us experience these feelings, and of course, this doesn’t just happen in time of injuries. And although each experience is individual and our own, there is overlap and opportunity for a shared understanding that we are all united through our individual experiences – through struggle.
Photo credit: Guillem Casanova
I’m an athlete who’s quite familiar with struggle, injuries and setbacks. You can say it’s part of the job description of being a professional athlete. But, throughout my recoveries and periods of physical rebuilding, the most valuable thing I learned was that I was never alone.
I was never alone in struggle, or in the way I felt. Someone had been there before me, and will be there after me. I took refuge in the fact that although my circumstances are unique - as are everyone else’s – the emotions that follow are familiar and shared. We are all collectively drawn close in this fact, that struggle – no matter what form it come in – is universal – and knowing that give me the strength to keep fighting and showing up, no matter what life throws my way.
Included below is an expert from my recently published book, Out and Back, a Runner’s Story of Survival Against All Odds. Here I describe the exact moment in my recovery, where I realize we are all united by struggle, something that gave me the courage to keep fighting my own battle.
Originally published in Out and Back, a Runner's Story of Survival Against All Odds by Hillary Allen.
The day I retired my scooter and casts was terrifying. Yes, I was thrilled that my body was healing, but as I took my first steps down the street—Pearl Street, to be exact, a pedestrian mall in Boulder, Colorado—I felt naked. I was without my boot or arm casts, without the safety net of my scooter, without something that screamed, “Steer clear of me! I’m injured.” I was terrified. Heading to my favorite coffee shop, Spruce Confections, like I had almost every day for the past few months, I clung to the sides of buildings as I walked, terrified I might get trampled. I wanted more space. I wondered why people weren’t being more careful around me. Didn’t they know what had happened to me? I was just learning to walk. Couldn’t they see I was scared and limping? I had passed by these shops and places yesterday on my scooter and been granted looks of sympathy and extra maneuvering room. Didn’t they recognize me? Didn’t they know these were my first unassisted steps in months?
As I looked into the faces of these people, who just yesterday were stopping, helping me, opening doors, or moving around me to give me more space, there was no recognition. No acknowledgment. I seemed normal to them. I looked “normal.” No one had any idea what I had just been through. What I was still going through as I struggled to find my stride and learn to walk again. The world felt new and foreign to me. The harshness of the concrete underfoot was no comfort to my foot, and the sympathetic nature and kind actions I had witnessed from these strangers had turned fickle.
But in that moment, after my initial frustration and disbelief, I had an epiphany. I have no idea what everyone else has been through to get to right here, right now in front of me. I had no idea what these people were going through in that exact moment as they walked down the street, just as I was. I looked at faces as they passed by. What is she thinking? Is he going through a hardship? I started to wonder about the stories behind the faces I passed. I dreamed up tales of struggle and happiness, loss and strength, as I read the expressions on each one. It was in that moment I realized we were all connected by the silent struggles and battles of life. They were all fighting something too, just as I was. They were all in the process of overcoming and finding their way. Just as I was. We were all fighting. Surviving.
If you want to read more, pick up your copy of Out and Back on Amazon or at your local bookstore.
Hillary Allen is an endurance athlete specializing in Ultra marathon distance trail running. She prefers steep and technical terrain earning her the nickname the "Hillygoat." Based in Colorado where she grew up, Hillary is also a coach, teacher and author of Out and Back, a runner's story of survival against all odds. She's earned course records and wins all over the world racing 50km all the way up to 145km, and although running is her specialty, Hillary has also picked up gravel bike racing.
Follow Hillary’s adventures @hillygoat_climbs.