In college I went on a study abroad to Mexico. My two American housemates found a local gym and bought a temporary membership because their boyfriends told them, "You'd better not come back fat." I didn't have a boyfriend, but I was bored, so I joined them. It was there that I first discovered running.
There was a small indoor track. I thought I'd try out a few laps, convinced I wasn't capable of anything more. But after a week, I realized I had more in me, so I went a few minutes more. And more. Suddenly I was running for forty-five minutes straight, amazed by the untested prowess of my body. I'd always been thin (scrawny) and fragile (lazy), so imagine my surprise when I flew around that track for an hour straight, glistening and crowing. I was a runner!
When I returned home to Salt Lake City, as soon as I'd unpacked (strewn my belongings) and had a good night's sleep, I hopped on a treadmill for an invigorating jog--as we runners will do. After five minutes I began to wheeze. After ten minutes I collapsed. Was I ill? Perhaps dying of consumption? I tried the jogging thing a few more times before I realized that while I flew at sea level, I flailed at 4200 feet. Did I push through it and get stronger? No, I quit. It turned out, I was a gravy runner. I was no where near hardcore.
I've discovered that I can be hardcore as a writer. I write when the words are flowing. I write when they're not. I write when the story delights me and I can't wait to see what happens next. I write when the story is murky and sticky and complicated. I write when I'm energized and feeling great. I write when I'm sick, pregnant, have newborns, am grumpy, sad, confused, angry, and so tired I can barely keep my eyes open. I'm hardcore, baby.
I had the chance to visit Bolivia and Peru once. We went to a town on the shores of Lake Titicaca, elevation 12,500 ft. At that height, simply walking made us wheeze for oxygen. Our guide told us that their soccer team is unbeatable. Despite pulling players from a much smaller pool of talent, they trounce Lima regularly. They live and train in one of the world's harshest environments, while the sea level Lima players are gasping and stumbling halfway through the game. When the team from Titicaca goes down to play in oxygen-rich Lima, their players can run for hours and never break a sweat. Because they work hard when playing is hard work, they fly when it's not. They are formidable. They are hardcore.
I suppose such a metaphor could relate to most anything--microbiology, hot air ballooning, ballet--but I wouldn't know. I basically do two things in my life. I'm a writer and I'm a mother. And those are two things I'm pretty good at because I don't allow myself to quit. It's not possible to quit. Even when my lungs are burning and my legs ache and a stitch like a knife stabs into my ribs. I keep going because I have to. And I have faith that any moment now, this hill is going to straighten out, I'm going to get a second wind, those endorphins will kick in, and the view will be amazing.