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|Will Smith on running and reading. Image from Film School Rejects.|
Will Smith is a pretty inspirational man. When he was thirteen, his father asked him and his younger brother to knock down a brick wall. When they had done this, he asked them to rebuild it. They replied that this was impossible, but a year and a half later, they had succeeded. Perhaps his willpower is a reason for his present success: as of 2011, his films have grossed $5.7 billion in global box office, and he received Best Actor Oscar nominations for Ali and The Pursuit of Happyness.
“The keys to life are running and reading. When you’re running, there’s a little person that talks to you and says, “Oh I’m tired. My lung’s about to pop. I’m so hurt. There’s no way I can possibly continue.” You want to quit. If you learn how to defeat that person when you’re running, you will know to not quit when things get hard in your life. For reading: there have been gazillions of people that have lived before all of us. There’s no new problem you could have–with your parents, with school, with a bully. There’s no new problem that someone hasn’t already had and written about it in a book.”
There’s a lot to think about in that passage, and a lot that I relate to. I’d love to start running again. When I was younger, I’d often run several times a day. I realise now that this can’t have been good for my growing joints, and it’s probably a reason why I have trouble with them now. Regardless, running was a way to challenge myself whilst getting away from my problems at home. I’d run down the steep hill of my drive, past fields and houses, and then run all the way back up. All before heading off to school at 8.30.
When I was sixteen, I was diagnosed with Hypermobility Syndrome. This explained what I thought were “growing pains” and why I got so exhausted. Of course, the physio told me that running would have to be off the menu, alongside anything that aggravated my joints too much.
I’m tempted to try strengthening my muscles more, and then try running again. I just know how painful it could potentially be. If I can’t do it, I won’t let it get me down. I can go on walks instead to enjoy exercising outdoors, and I find pilates beneficial. To learn how to persevere and not quit when things get difficult, I expose myself to the things I fear most. By pushing yourself through fear, like running through self-doubt, you realise that you can succeed.
Reading, unlike running, will always be available to me. Will Smith’s view of reading matches the essence of my blog: finding your current problem or situation in a book, and learning where to go next. Odysseus had the courage to persevere and find his way home, undeterred by all the setbacks in his way. Can my journey through anxiety really be as hard as that? Alba from Isabel Allende’s The House of The Spirits survives being imprisoned, raped, and beaten by “writing a testimony in her head” to distance her mind from reality. If she can get through that, there’s no doubt that I can persevere.
Everybody can find ways to strengthen and challenge themselves, even if not by running. There’s also little that you can’t find in a book.