“It was such a big part of my summers in high school. I absolutely loved it. You know those beads on the other side of my closet door? That’s what those are from.”
Sitting criss cross applesauce on my childhood bed, I found myself retelling a dusty memory of a favorite moment. From the summer after 10th grade until I moved to New York City at age 21, I was heavily involved with my community’s Relay for Life event.
“You know Relay for Life? It’s the 24-hour fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. Ours was 10:00 AM to 10:00 AM at the park and the whole “relay” part comes from the idea that one person from your team is walking on the track for all 24 hours of the event. Ha… one year I decided I was going to walk for the full 24 hours just because.”
To answer the first question that comes like clockwork—yes I stopped to use the park restroom throughout the 24 hours. To answer the second question, I drank and ate while walking. And to answer the third question, it was exhausting… but also beautiful, fulfilling, and rewarding in every way.
“You know, I didn’t really do anything to prepare in hindsight. I was a cocky 19-year-old distance runner who assumed that I was in decent enough shape to make it work. I stayed up really late the night before because I was our team captain and wanted to make sure we had everything in order. That morning, I strapped my fanny pack on, arrived early to the park to set up, and—with zero thought—started walking at 10:00 AM.”
That Relay for Life, in 2013, I walked for 24 straight hours. By the time I collapsed into the ground at the next 10:00 AM, I had walked 50 miles. I went home that morning, took the most refreshing shower, and immediately fell asleep on the sofa. I woke up eight hours later, ate dinner, and fell back asleep—this time in my bed—until the next morning. To this date, I’m not sure I’ve ever slept that well in my life.
“To be honest, I didn’t give it much thought. I didn’t stretch. Didn’t make sure I slept well or had the most nutritious food or drink. It was just kind of a thing I decided I wanted to do so I went and did it. Oh, but I did have a whole lot of teenage arrogance. And I was too foolish to even doubt that it would be possible.”
I’ve been thinking about those 24 hours a lot since this conversation happened, and I’ve been thinking about what it means to just dive into something. In the back cover of my 2016 – 2017 “Happiness is” journal, there’s a quote from the Benediction of Saint Francis of Assisi: And may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in the world.
Maybe times when the world feels extra unsteady are times where I love my foolishness the most. To believe that you can make a difference in the world. I’ll add: to go out and make it so.