I remember the day I finally held myself accountable. It was sudden and unprecedented, like most encounters we’ll have with change. Not surprisingly, this turning point occurred in front of the mirror. I’d stopped and looked at myself, only to face a familiar discomfort with the opposing reflection.
Nearing 16, I was well-informed of this prime I would enter in teenage-dom. They spoke of it as the do-all era. We’d stride through it encompassed by all but limitation. A sense of invincibility, this would be inevitable.
The person I saw in the mirror – the girl who would embark these next few years under my name – she was full of life, smart and good-hearted. Like all, however, she existed in imperfect form. She had issues that would be solved with time, and growth; others which relied on her active involvement.
For all that is in your control, are you your best self? If not, are you working towards becoming this person? I had asked myself these questions. Of things I had the ability to change, my physicality seemed an obvious one. Indeed, I felt it was holding me back.
I wasn’t fit, nor healthy. I was a great dancer, but I had the ability to be better. I was a freedom rider in personality, and yet I couldn’t run for the bus. Mostly though, I lacked love and value for my body. This came from my failure to care for it’s state of being.
That day was not the first on which I admitted the stinted nature of my existence. It was the day, however, on which I sought to change this fact.
Up until this moment, I had heard only one voice speaking in my head. She would argue with the extra fat on my hips; she’d speak nastily through my breathe as it faltered when I ran. On this day, there was another voice. She stood there, and she asked the one question: what the hell have you ever done about it? She paused. No, really, what have you done about it?
I stood back.
It was at this moment – and I still remember years later – where I recognised something which now seems so clear. I’d never truly committed to changing anything about my lifestyle. In fact, I hadn’t actively attempted to make change at all. The right to complain was not at all mine.
So from that day onwards, I chose to no longer be limited by insecurities. Such that could be changed, would be. Such that couldn’t, would be loved. This is not to say I became my appearance – not at all. It is, however, to say I became, with pride, my approach to challenges.
This one decision I made – to become fit – would characterise a lot of my future too. I’m suggesting increased confidence in all realms of life. Even for a reasonably self-assured individual, this was monumental.
I had begun to eat more healthy. I was exercising more. And sure, at first, it was bloody difficult. I didn’t enjoy it. In fact, I dreaded running. But I began to see changes: in my body, in my energy, and most importantly, in my mindset. Everything that already existed in my nature – my productivity and my positivity – became exaggerated.
I grew a love for seeing what my body and my mind could do. To this day, I’m obsessed with testing the boundaries. Roughly two weeks ago, I completed the Wellington half marathon. And while I’ve been able to run 15km quite easily over the past two years, a previous McKenzie would have considered the task a nightmare. Nowadays, my participation in something so motivating and communal as the half marathon is hardly a surprise. Nor is my finish arm-in-arm with the fit old man I befriended along the way.
It is when I run, when the wind asserts the motion of my legs on the water’s edge – and yet still, all I want to do is go faster – this, this is when I feel alive. It is not solely my body that feels capable, but it is my very being. My thoughts race as I do, and often, I get visions of all the wild things I want to do with my life, of the exciting and crazy person I want to be.
If you’re not already in love with something that gets you moving, I urge you to find it in this world. Push yourself, and don’t stop simply because it’s uncomfortable. Break through walls. Get fit to look fit, but more so, get fit to feel fit. Do it because you have one life, and you may as well allow yourself the ability to do everything it offers.
Alike my favourite elderly runner, don’t make your 20s your prime. Make your life this way.
Shot by Annie Strachan