It was a bright, sunny but windy February day. Even though spring had not officially sprung yet and the cold chills of winter still swept through the city on a regular basis, there were the occasional sunny spells laced with rain on some days and wind on some others which featured ever so often. Well, this was one of those days, and as was expected when you get a bit of sun after a long wintry spell, I felt like going for a run. You see, for those of us living in such climates, winter is the season when you eat a lot, and lack the motivation to exercise, forgetting that the sun will shine one day and you will have to show some skin. So when the sun shows up out of the blue, you get a sudden jolt back to reality, a harsh reminder to get fit as it will soon be time to get sexy. Well, at least that was what prompted me to run that sunny day. Don’t blame me. The sun can make you do just about anything.
So run I did. I slipped on my running gear, grabbed my phone and house keys and started out on what I intended to be a 20 minute run. Knowing I had not exercised in at least three months, I knew I had to take it slow and not jump into a tedious work-out regime. So a twenty minute run it was. I also remembered I needed to grab a call card to call my mum in Nigeria, so I figured a longer route that I could take to get to the Asian man’s shop in 10 minutes, get my top-up and make it back home in another 10 minutes. 20 minutes run done. Easy.
I ran out the gates, passed and said ‘hi’ to a couple of my neighbours and inhaled the fresh air and the cool, tingling breeze. It was indeed a really nice day. I ran without a care, not too fast, not too slow, just the perfect tempo, humming Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” as I went by, enjoying the adrenaline slowly building up in my veins, soaking up the sun. Five minutes in and I was beginning to feel myself “Oluwakemi, if only you will do this everyday! Imagine how great it will be, how energised you will feel! But you are just an onijekuje; you eat too much junk and then exercise in fits and starts” I thought to myself. And for the umpteenth time in less than two months I made a new vow to stick to a workout regime that would at least allow me get rid of those annoying love handles I had picked up since the birth of my second child. I had come to the end of the street I was on and I turned around a bend, running across to the other side of the road. I Ilifted my right leg up to place it on the walkway……and that’s when the unthinkable happened.
It was a hard, rough and heavy fall. I thought I had placed my foot correctly on the walkway but alas I hadn’t. And so I fell, face flat, chin banging down hard on the side of a busy road. Pain coursed through my body, my left hand stung so bad it was as if a thousand termites had bitten into it. One look at it confirmed I had peeled off the skin on it and it had started bleeding profusely. I could also feel pain in my knee, my face and my chest and knew they were bruised. I lay down on the edge of that road for a good 30 seconds, unable to move or stand up, too shocked to even gather myself, too numbed by pain to will myself to move but most of all too ashamed to even look back lest I find someone was close enough to have witnessed a chic (if I dare say so myself) with all her running yanga fall flat on her face on a busy London street on a bright, sunny afternoon.
30 seconds passed and I realised I could not lay on the ground forever. So I braced myself and slowly crawled up, dusted my knees which by now I realised must have taken the full impact of the fall as the pain emanating from it was indescribable and in a move which on hindsight, surprises even me, kept on running in the direction of the Asian shop. I got my top up and ran carefully back home, still in pain but determined to finish up with my run, then called my husband to cry and vent about how badly I had just fallen and how much pain I was in and how it was important that he now get me that gym membership, after all i wouldn’t have fallen so bad if I had been on the treadmill, would I?
Now the point of this post is not to bore you with the story of how I fell or to extract “sorrys” and “eh ya peles” from you (even though that would gone a long way to soothe my pain a little) but to remind us and to bring us to an awareness of that which is inevitably a given in our journey through life: the fact that we all at some point, at a time and for a reason will, just like I did, fall or fail at something. It might be because of our own misgivings, miscalculations, mistakes or mismanagement or through no particular known fault of ours that we can point to, on the journey to success, in love, in life and career, we all fall. Sometimes the fall is discreet and no one notices, other times it is loud and heavy like mine was in the full glare of passers by, commuters and residents on a busy London street and everyone knows. But it is not the fall or type of fall that matters, it is what we do after we have fallen. Yes, the whole world, your friends and foes, your family and even people who do not know you and who you do not know have just seen you fall. You are in pain, feel humiliated and ashamed and just wish the ground would open up and swallow you up. It’s okay to feel that way. But what you do next is what defines you as an individual and what sets you apart positively or negatively from millions who have fallen before and who will fall after you are gone. It is what sets success stories way apart from failures.
Do you lay there and throw a humongous wailing party, waiting for someone to come help you up? Do you get up but then turn back away from your destination because you are in so much pain and you can’t continue? Or do you rise, with as much dignity as you can muster, dust yourself off, grit your teeth and keep up the journey to your destination? I fell once on my run that day, but even I can’t imagine what I would have done had I fallen again?!! So what if you fell or fall more than once?
Failure (or falling) builds our resilience and establishes our hunger for what we want. It is how we learn as humans what works and what doesn’t, what is necessary and what isn’t. It serves as the test that prepares us for the greater examination that is ahead. There is absolutely nothing wrong with failure or falling, in fact failure is a sure fire sign that you are doing something right; working towards your success. For if you must fail, you might as well do it and continue to do it and keep on doing it until you succeed. Fail if you may, but fail forward. Fail knowing you might just be on the last lap of your race and the finishing line might just be around the corner. Would you give up now? Far too many people have given up on their last lap to success: don’t be one of them!
There is no use staying on the ground waiting for help that might just never come, feeling sorry for yourself and throwing a pity party. For it is not in how often we fall, but how quickly we are able to get back up, despite our wounds, despite the pain, despite the shame and seeming humiliation and keep moving in the direction of our goal. Where you are today counts only if you are moving forward so don’t be ashamed or dismayed when you get a door slammed in your face or a No when you know you deserve a Yes. One day, if you do not stop, quit or give up, a loud resounding Yes will come when you least expect it and then, only then will you know why it took so long.
For now though pal, suck it up and keep it moving.
You can and you will win.
Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Olga Bogatyrenko