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March 16, 2013 / jessicamcelroy

Healthy Habits

I was a boomerang child who moved back home after graduation while I tried to find my break into the job market. While on one hand I experienced a sense of anxiety about my future and some embarrassment about having to move back in with mom and dad, the six months I spent at home turned out to be surprisingly valuable.

It gave me a breathing period after emerging from an entire life inside the school system. I was able to reflect on what I truly value and where I want to end up in the world, and I had the time to fully explore all of my options.

This time was also the perfect opportunity to establish healthy habits to take with me into adulthood.

Once I realized my job search might take longer than just a few weeks, I picked up a part-time barista job to give myself some structure and a way to maintain regular contact with the world. For the morning shift I had to be there to open the coffeeshop at 5:30 AM. In college I never considered myself an early riser, but without homework to keep me up at night I began to relish the peacefulness of early mornings, even on days when I didn’t have to work.

Coincidentally, my early rising habit went hand in hand with my new running habit. I would not have been fully able to cultivate one without the other. In the Houston summer the only pleasant time to fit in a morning run is before the sun comes up. Once the sun appears you might as well be in a sauna.

Many of my days were spent scouring the internet for job postings, tailoring cover letters, making networking calls, and fighting off a nagging sense of apprehension and despair. One thing that kept me sane, though, was accompanying my dad on walks in the afternoon.

Not long after I finished C25K, my dad had taken an interest in walking when his doctor recommended it as a way to relieve lower back pain. At first even walking for half an hour around our neighborhood was a challenge for him. Soon enough, though, his back pain had gone away and we started to add in short spurts of jogging.

I often felt weighed down after a long, discouraging day applying for jobs. But the sight of my dad lacing up his running shoes almost never failed to stir me out of my inertia. Even when I didn’t feel like going out, I never regretted the investment of time.

Getting outside and moving a bit was like pressing a reset button on my energy level, and having that escape helped me cope with the stress and uncertainty of being underemployed. Plus, it gave me some quality time with my dad, something we hadn’t had much of since my childhood.

After several months of running regularly, we signed ourselves up for a 10K race in our area. 6 miles. It would be the longest distance he or I had ever run in our lives and our first time running in an organized race.

By then he could do about 3 miles, and I was approaching 5 miles. After another couple of months of building up our endurance we both made it to the finish line feeling strong!

Now I’m living across the country, where I’ve started a great new job and in a city I love. My dad and I both continue to run regularly. Despite the distance, knowing that he is still getting out there every day gives me the motivation to stick with it.

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