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I started running some years ago when I was freshly divorced.
It was a marriage I had been pressured into that I never wanted but chose to accept because I was afraid to disappoint everyone around me.
My reputation was scandalized by a divorce that sent shockwaves throughout my entire family.
My family and I came to America from Pakistan. Many still hold the traditions and values taught centuries ago, so it took an emotional toll on me to feel that I wasn’t living up to those traditions.
It wasn’t marriage that I was dreaming about, though. Instead, I had dreams like falling in love with the guy of my dreams, attending college, and traveling the world. As I was finishing up high school, I couldn’t help but dream about what I would study in college and the kind of career I would want to pursue.
I wanted to get to know myself more before I gave myself to someone else. I wanted to travel and hold down a job after graduation and learn how to make better decisions for a lifetime. I had just turned 19, and I felt that I was still figuring out who I was and what I wanted. I started to realize that this was the best time to get to know myself.
However, I did not get to do that. I had to make choices that were not my own.
I was traumatized after my arranged marriage and subsequent divorce only a few months later. My family made the best choice they felt they could have for my future. However, it did not work out. But I came to find that sometimes in life, our most challenging and painful experiences can lead us to wonderful places we may not have thought of.
Seeing a parent go through a tough time because of you can be painful. I was suffering seeing my parents hurting for me and trying to suppress my emotions so no one would see my pain. I wanted to hide and not face my extended family or close friends. It felt shameful to be divorced.
I had to fight my emotions and the dialogue in my mind—to find the light at the end of the tunnel. But where would I get that light from? I couldn’t share my sorrow with either my mother or father, who I had always been close to, as they were also suffering. They had their own guilt from the decision they had made for me. My siblings wouldn’t understand how I felt. Where would I go to heal my heart?
I come from a family that does not drink or smoke. I was raised that way. I wanted to feel numb and was tempted to try drinking to feel better so that this pain in my heart would go away. But I chose not to for my parents’ sake.
After years of depression and feelings of unworthiness, I decided to change my life. I took matters into my own hands. Something inside me finally snapped, and I said, no more.
One day, I pushed aside my usual self-destructive thoughts and decided to go jogging.
After that, I found myself running every day.
While I was running, I would keep thinking about my present life and what my future holds. Sometimes I began worrying about my future until I realized that I was thinking a lot about my past and could no longer live there. Something about moving forward on the pavement made me know that I would have to make some uncomfortable choices to transform my life. I was tired of feeling pity and both emotional and mental weakness.
I was seeking to become an empowered and courageous person living a happy, healthy life.
I started taking care of my body and treating myself with love instead of doling out punishment.
We often deny ourselves forgiveness for our failures, and that changes who we are. We destroy our bodies, and our souls suffer in the process. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Running allowed me the physical and mental tools to climb out of the depths of despair, and I learned to love myself unconditionally and feel confident.
It was as though something inside my heart shifted. The concentration and self-control necessary to run each day, even when I didn’t want to, started to give me a new purpose and new perspective. Running allowed me to focus on what was constantly important in my life and not on the past.
After some time with this routine, I decided to move out of my parents’ house and move to another city to start fresh. I wanted to know more about myself and to do that, I needed to be alone for a while. I had to rethink who I was and what it was that I wanted. After moving to a new city, I kept running, and my mind and body kept feeling better and better. I was feeling happy and vibrant. I was enjoying food, friends, and life.
I often visited my parents, and they could see the difference in me. I was happy, and my confidence in myself was increasing quickly.
Running contributed to my well-being in a big way. I believe my spirituality and my trust in the creator was the number one factor in my healing, but running and the other healthy choices I made for my life have been the game-changer. So I asked myself, what was it specifically about running that had led to recovering from depression, feeling better about myself, and seeing the light at the end of the tunnel?
Aside from building muscle and helping maintain a healthy weight, I could feel the endorphins melting away the stress hormones in my body. However, the strongest allure of running for me was how it was teaching me to cope and improve my attitude and focus in life. It was something I would do entirely on my own, which allowed me to build up my self-esteem and independence. By running daily, it helped strengthen my resilience. I even started to set short-term and long-term goals, boosting my motivation throughout all areas of my life.
The last several years have been transformative for me. I am now married to an American whom my family happily accepted, as he and I share similar beliefs even though we come from different backgrounds. I made my own destiny by making the best choice for my future.
Not only am I living my life the way I always wanted it to be, but it continues to get better and better. I get to coach others and help them make better, healthy decisions in life. I travel the world and am a happy soul. I can look back and be grateful that I kept pushing and didn’t give in to my temptations.
You, too, can change your life. Not tomorrow, but starting today.