vulnerable

Back in March of this year, I wrote a post called The Benefits of Facing Your Vulnerabilities.

It was in that post, that I shared a few personal stories of when I’ve felt the most vulnerable, and how it was fighting through that vulnerability that spawned some major life growth.

But I also acknowledged that feeling vulnerable is scary. For the most part, we do everything we can to flee from that feeling.

  • We set up routines that we know will work.
  • We find secure jobs, that we can count on to pay the bills.
  • We hide from challenges, even many goals, because we are scared of failure and embarrassment.

Most of the time, the mechanisms we put in place to avoid vulnerability are good things. Important, even.

But sometimes, they hold us back from greatness.

  • Routines help with efficiency and anxiety, as long as they also allow for creativity and spontaneity.
  • Secure jobs support families and allow for financial planning, but it often comes at the cost of doing something you love and following a dream.
  • Failure leads to heartbreak and hurt, but without setting goals and taking risks, we’re left wondering what could be, or worse, could have been.

As a runner, I know that you already know this.

Running is all about vulnerability. We train for long races and go for PRs.

Through tough workouts, long-runs, and races, we break ourselves down in a quest to prove to ourselves and others what we are made of. That’s taking a risk. That’s being vulnerable.

But sometimes, running is where it stops.

For a long time, at least, that was the case for me. Then I decided to change that.

It was in that same post last March that I announced that my wife and I would be moving to the mountains of Western North Carolina. We were quitting our secure jobs, leaving our friends, moving further away from much of our family, and taking the biggest risks of our lives. All to be vulnerable.

To take a chance and find the life we are looking for.

In today’s post, I’m going to do something a little different.

Instead of my typical article with running advice, I’m going to talk about this recent move and transition. And share a few of the lessons I’ve learned from facing my vulnerabilities, and how it’s changed both my life and my running.

A Bit About the Move

For those that don’t know, my wife and I moved at the beginning of April from DC to Black Mountain, NC, a small town right outside of Asheville, where we’ve been living in a family house (Thanks Nana!) while we get our feet settled.

I’ve been working on blogs full-time, mostly here at Rock Creek Runner and for Matt Frazier at No Meat Athlete. My wife, Katie, is now following her dream of making a career out of teaching yoga by managing a yoga studio here in Black Mountain where she also teaches throughout the week.

To go from a major city to a town with a population of around 8,000 has been a big change, to say the least.

It’s given us the opportunity to have outdoor space for the garden we’ve always wanted, I now have access to an enormous trail circuit, that I run after just a 5 minute drive, and we are surround by a community and lifestyle that fits our needs better than city living.

But not everything is going to be easy. And not everything is going to fall into place perfectly.

We’re still trying to figure out exactly what our financial situation looks like as freelancers, and how to juggle a never ending list of projects we could take on.

We’re still living in that family home and trying to figure out what our living situation will look like in the future.

We miss our friends dearly.

We’re still feeling vulnerable.

While many things have worked out better than we could have ever imaged, there’s still a lot left to be seen, and failure is still very much a possibility.

But that’s what this was all about. We knew it wouldn’t be easy, and that there would be a million reasons not to take the risk in the first place.

We also knew that if we didn’t put ourselves out there, nothing would change.

This move has completely changed my life, and I’m happy and excited for each day.

While we might still be scared at times, it’s all worth it when I can sit on my deck to work through the afternoon instead of in a cubical.

6 Lessons I’ve Learned Through the Move

  1. It’s not always easy: Not everything about this transition has been easy. We’re still figuring out our finances, getting used to no paid time off, and trying to meet people in a community where we don’t have many friends. The good news is that difficult is good sometimes, and it’s pushing us to try new things.
  2. Working on your own takes a lot of motivation: For most people, setting your own schedule and working from home seems like the dream situation, but I’m here to tell you it has its up and downs. The biggest being that setting your own schedule requires a lot of discipline and planning.
  3. Where you run matters: I loved running in DC, and I’m so grateful for the trails in Rock Creek Park, but having access to hundreds of miles of trails, mountains, and breathtaking views, all within a quick 5 mile drive, is unbeatable. My running and training has excelled this summer, and I credit that progress to the trails beneath my feet.
  4. You have to believe in yourself: Not everything is going to work out the way you envisioned, and doubts can easily creep in. In order to keep pushing forward towards success, you have to always keep believing in yourself.
  5. Making friends is hard: It’s been since moving to DC after college that I’ve had to put in a lot of effort to meet people, and that part hasn’t been easy. It makes me really appreciate the friendships I already have.
  6. Where you work matters: My last job was at a non-profit in Washington, DC. I believed in that non-profit’s mission, and enjoyed the people I worked with and some of the work I did while there. But sitting at a desk, in a small cubical, stuck to a schedule that didn’t always work for me, was killing me. I was tired and frustrated. Now I love what I’m doing, and even if its a task I don’t really enjoy, I’m still able to find happiness in the process.

Will You Join Me?

I’m not saying you need to move or quit your job. I am saying that you need to take a risk, be vulnerable, put yourself out there.

My guess is that you already know what it is you’re holding yourself back from. Maybe it’s running a new distance or going after a tough PR. Or maybe it’s asking someone out or even leaving your current job.

Whatever it is, stop trying to find reasons not to do it, and just go for it. Life’s too short not to.

One of the greatest discoveries a man makes, one of his great surprises, is to find he can do what he was afraid he couldn’t do.
– Henry Ford
Author Doug Hay is the founder of Rock Creek Runner, host of the Trail Talk podcast, and fanatical about everything trail running -- beards, plaid shirts, bruised toenails, and all. He and his wife live and run in beautiful Black Mountain, NC.

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One thought on “Why I Like Feeling Vulnerable

  1. Doug, I just wanted to thank you for this post. I loved the Henry Ford quote and truly found your post inspiring. After a lifetime of avoiding exercise I decided at 55 to get into shape and while I’m still not done with that journey by a long shot, I have found during this process that I love hiking trails. My husband and I are retired and I kidded with him last week that “my dream job” is now to move to NC and hike the trails every day until I die. And now I stumble upon your post…. I applaud your choice. I look forward to reading more of your blog and learning alot and being inspired! I also look forward to hearing more about your transition into your new life there in NC!

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