Around here I’m known as the resident Salty Running Tech Wizardess™, but by career I’m a freelance filmmaker. And as a freelancer I never know where my next paycheck is coming from. I’m always hustling for a job, always on the lookout for the next opportunity to make a buck, to stay ahead financially. I’m constantly switching up the puzzle pieces of my life looking to maximize these opportunities.
And I love this life! I love being busy all the time and constantly having a thousand things to do, so between movie gigs and coding for Salty Running, I overextend myself with involvement in social organizations, dive headfirst into overwhelming projects and am constantly taking on too many obligations with friends and family, often only to have to suddenly disappear for days or weeks at a time to work on this commercial or that film.
Add running into the mix, and you can probably see that this life is unsustainable.
In the early days of my filmmaking career, back when all I did was sleep, eat and work on movies I saw this life as a comet, burning with a near-constant energy that would keep me soaring, propelled ever-onward toward an ethereal destiny of filmmaking greatness. I wore the 14 hour (and longer) days as a badge of honor. I brazenly partied into my eight-hour turnarounds, the time between leaving work and returning, determined to show that I could hang with the cool kids because that’s how you get the cool jobs.
But I was also unhappy with myself; I was overweight, unhealthy and suffering from a huge sleep deficit. My “friends” were basically just an alcoholic and cocaine-laced swirl of industry-types, whomever was nearby at the time. I wasn’t my best self, and when I took a step back I realized my goals weren’t in line with my values. This lifestyle wasn’t a comet at all! It was a meteor, burning me up in the atmosphere as it hurtled me toward destruction.
Then a friend asked me to start running with her. I chucked the drugs and cigarettes out the window, traded late nights for early mornings, and everything changed. I started choosing myself. I dropped the “friends”. It was lonely for a while, but I felt happy. My body and mind got healthier. I ran a marathon. Then later, another. I learned how to sleep. I started to see that I could have a better life. I made better friends and healthy choices. I learned I can do great things all by myself, and that I didn’t need to be a professional party girl to do my job or to have friends. I didn’t get the coolest gigs anymore, but I was a better person and a better worker.
It wasn’t easy to maintain weekly mileage, especially when training for my marathons, while working 14-hour days, but running gave me a reason to return to myself day in and day out. For someone used to flitting around in a state of chaos, running became a mindful ritual: Shorts. Bra. Shirt. Socks. Pin up your hair. Put on your shoes. Lock the door. Key in pocket. Now be a better you. It became a platform of stability, something to busy myself on the days I didn’t work and a reminder to take care of myself on the days I worked too much.
These days, life is pretty chaotic again, but it’s because I’m trying to double down on being a better me. I moved to Cleveland to make a commitment to myself and the life I dream of: a life where Salty Running exists long into the future, a life where I can someday have a little house and a chicken and run beautiful wooded trails but still live close to a big city, a life where my own peace and happiness are my top priority. I’m still making movies when I can, still overextending myself socially and still taking on too many projects, but running keeps me focused on finding the stability I need to whirl around in the flurry.
Even if you’re not a runner, you can probably relate that there are things you do, rituals you must create and habitually perform, that help you to be your best self and stay focused on the kind of person you want to be. Running is that thing for me. What’s that thing for you? How (and how often) do you re-commit to it?