We all have them.
Those bucket list style goals we never expect to accomplish but that we nonetheless dream about accomplishing. I want this post to serve as both a how-to and an inspiration for those who still think they’ll never be able to accomplish those goals.
*This is a repost of something I wrote for an old blog Grasping Triumph. More on that here if you’re curious.
It all started right after I was fired from a job selling office supplies business to business. I hated the job from the day I started and thus after only a week with the company, I’d already been late a few times and had avoided going to every single team building event. After arriving late again I was pulled into the president’s office. After giving me a withering look of contempt mixed with a touch of disappointment he said…
“Andrew, this is too much, you clearly don’t care about this job and we only work with those who feel passionate about what they do. We don’t normally hire students or those who haven’t gone through university and here’s an example of why. So I’m sorry but this is the last straw. Get your stuff and go, you can pick up your final paycheque next week.”
And just like that, I was free, freed from a time suck that I despised, and also freed from the only purpose in my life at the time. I was free, but I was lost.
The next few days passed in a daze.
I mostly spent them hanging around an isolated beach, only accessible down a steep rock face. I spent this time with just my thoughts the sun and a notebook writing, drawing and dreaming about what my next step would be.
During this time I made a list of my aspirations in life, a list which still carries a lot of the same values as today. One of the aspirations on that list, one I’d dreamed about ever since my older cousin told me he’d done it was to run a marathon. Perhaps it was desperation but for whatever reason, that was the dream that stuck with me at the end of those few days. I was going to run a marathon.
But I knew myself and my tendency was to make big plans and not follow through with them. So I consciously decided not to plan that day, but to simply act. So I went for a jog later that night. It wasn’t fast, I sweat a lot, but the point was I went.
I’d taken a step or a handful of steps towards my dream. And so it went, day after day I kept finding the time, usually in the morning, to go run. There were days I didn’t want to get up and go, days I was sore or anxious about ever achieving my goal that made me want to give up the whole thing. But I stuck with it. My runs started to get longer, I started to move faster for longer. I decided my first milestone was to run a half marathon. The only one between that and the marathon I chose to run, the Toronto Waterfront, was the MEC half marathon. The day of the race, I had absolutely no drive to go. As well it was an hour walk from my place and there was no way besides walking to get there. But as I did before on the beach I decided to stop overthinking it and just begin walking.
The walk helped calm me and helped to clarify my purpose. I was out today with one goal, to complete this half marathon and that’s what I was going to do. Eventually, I got there, registered, left my stuff in an organizers car and lined up to start. The cap gun went off and so did I. It wasn’t graceful, it hurt like hell (not pictured my chafed and bloody groin from a poor boxer choice) but I did it.
That day I signed up for a spot in the Toronto Waterfront Marathon, my target completion time was 4.5 hours.
The weeks went by and I kept up the runs, but my heart wasn’t really in it. Even though I’d finished the half marathon I didn’t think I’d be able to finish the full one. As it was I’d barely finished the half and that was a much more forgiving distance. Time passed and the day of the race came, I scored a ride with my mom there and she walked me to the starting gate.
In my section alone there were over a thousand people. It was nuts. I didn’t feel like I belonged there, everyone else seemed so confident and there I was still doubting my ability to complete it, let alone beat my targeted time. As before, I decided to take it one step at a time and just start to run, and run and run. The race seemed to take a lifetime. Every kilometer was marked and it seemed to take hours to get to the next one.
Each flag was another small victory. At the 20th kilometer mark everyone who was running the half that day veered off to their finish line, but my course was set and I kept heading down the marathon path. I had a few cups of water, a few cups of Gatorade and a few protein gel pouches but I was famished the whole time through.
My body just couldn’t stay nourished with all the energy I was exerting. At the 40th kilometer, two before the end. I saw my goal time was fast approaching and I was still a ways from the end. So I started to pick up the speed. I started to jog faster and faster but I could tell I wasn’t going to beat my time. So I
started to sprint, sprinting towards achieving this unrealistic dream that meant so much to me. Beating it would signify to me that I, and no one else was in control of my life. That all the big things I dreamed about were obtainable and weren’t just the deluded fantasies of an idealistic youth.
And then I passed the line. It took me four hours and 7 minutes and 34 seconds to beat that race. My family was waiting at the finish, a medal was placed around my neck and I was finally graced with some much-needed rest.
I’d done it.
After collapsing on the ground and not moving for 20 or so minutes my family and I went out to a Jack Astors to celebrate. I got a beer and some fajitas. But the tastiest treat I had that day was the moment where I accomplished the dream I’d once thought impossible. The goal I thought I’d never been able to achieve. The dream that I thought was beyond me.
This day and the journey leading up to it proved to me that I can accomplish my dreams and that no goal no matter how far fetched is beyond me or anyone else.
Since then I’ve worked for a renowned student group as an operations director, been promoted at work, and have started university in the foremost Canadian entrepreneurship program. Things are good and they will continue to be because, as I did that one day on the beach, I decide every day to relentlessly pursue my dreams and to allow nothing to stop me.
Thank you for walking through this snapshot of my life with me. I hope through it you’ve been inspired to pursue your own dreams and to continue each day to relentlessly chase after that which you dream about.
If you have any insight into this story or something of your own you wish to discuss, the comments section below will be the better for it.
Andrew James Walls