Identity Crisis

“I had all and then most of you
Some and now none of you
Take me back to the night we met
I don’t know what I’m supposed to do
Haunted by the ghost of you
Oh, take me back to the night we met”

~ The Night We Met, Lord Huron


For the last few weeks John and I have been binge watching seasons 1 and 2 of 13 Reasons Why. And for the last few weeks, Clay and Hannah’s song, that beautifully haunting one that they dance to in season 1, has been stuck in my head. So finally, after humming that one line I vaguely knew over and over again (I’m not the only traveler, who has not…something, something, something), I decided to download the song from iTunes. As I played it on repeat in the car trying to a) discern the actual lyrics and then b) commit them to memory, I found my mind wandering to a very surprising place: the steeplechase.

Perhaps it’s because the USATF Outdoor Track and Field Championships are this week and, for the first time in five years, I did not make any attempt to compete there in the steeple. Earlier in the year I thought perhaps I would try and make it in either the 5k or 10k, but the steeple was never an option. At least that’s what I thought until a few days ago when, just hours before the entry window closed, I looked at the women’s steeplechase entry list for this year’s meet. Based on the entries, if I entered my time of 10:04 from USAs last year, I would make the meet.

For the just the briefest of moments, an absurd thought crossed my mind. “I could enter.” Despite having not run any track races yet this year, let alone an actual steeple, I could compete in one at USAs. I started formulating an insane plan in my head. I would go to the track later that day and do some hurdle drills. I’d do a track workout with hurdles the next day. And afterwards I’d do a couple practice water jumps (and pray that I didn’t either injure myself or have a panic attack or both).

But that spark of excitement quickly burned out as reality set back in and my head began to fill with all the reasons why it was actually a terrible idea.

I was five days into my week-long break.

I hadn’t done any hurdle or steeple work in over a year.

I had not booked flights or a hotel.

The hamstring injury from the fall, which still crops up every now and then, was a huge liability.

I had not asked to take off from work.

I hadn’t done my ankle-strengthening exercises in over a year.

The thought of doing an actual water jump still slightly terrified me.

And finally, the big one: I did not, in my heart of hearts, actually want to run a steeplechase.

When I announced my official retirement from the steeple back in March, several people told me they didn’t believe I was really done and not to count myself out. But I meant what I said in that long, sappy Facebook post I wrote back in March; the steeplechase no longer brings me joy.

But just because the steeplechase is no longer something that brings me joy doesn’t mean that I don’t still think about all the joy it once brought me. I do still think about it. Often. Sometimes it makes me happy, but mostly it makes me sad. And what makes me even sadder is thinking about the fact that the giant hole where the steeple once was, the one that was always overflowing with joy, is still basically empty.

The steeple was my thing. My identity.

And though I’ve tried my hand at numerous different distances and have experimented with track, cross country, and the roads in recent years, the truth is, I don’t really know what my “thing” is anymore.

I am having an identity crisis.