For access to all of our training, gear, and race coverage, plus exclusive training plans, FinisherPix photos, event discounts, and GPS apps, sign up for Outside+.
When I look at my life “on paper,” I know I should be happier. I should do the back pat thing and say, “Hey! You’re doing okay, kid.” But when I look at my life as me, as I am living it, off-paper, sometimes I want to swim far far far away.
I started triathlon in 2010, with a bang and a spark and a fire. I LOVED TRIATHLON, and that became so much a part of who I was. Then I started having some terrible neck issues, which made aero position really painful and the swim almost impossible—where it was taking me 10 to 14 days to recover from a simple swim. That’s a major bummer. It’s a bummer to have an injury duh. But it’s a bummer when that injury makes the things you once loved turn into something you hate—just because, well, it hurts.
Triathlon made me happy, though! Yes. Happy! But then, what was all this talk of happiness? Was happiness really a destination or was it a frame of mind, and where did triathlon fit into all of this happy talk? Money can’t buy happiness. (Money can buy an awesome tri bike, though?) Happiness comes from the inside. (Happiness is a PR?) Happiness is gratitude. (Happiness is ice cream AND a PR.)
Then there is Chris Gardner’s version of “Happyness” portrayed by Will Smith in “The Pursuit of Happyness”:
It was right then that I started thinking about Thomas Jefferson on the Declaration of Independence and the part about our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And I remember thinking how did he know to put the pursuit part in there?
I would like to say that I had a signature “spark” moment where I said, “AH-HA! Happiness is ____. Happiness is pursued by _____. Do ____ things and you are off to the races.”
And then I could write it on this column and the world would be happy. Ta da!!
But alas, I still don’t know if happiness is the goal, insomuch as part of the process. We truly have to continue to find joy in the process. Perhaps it is the pursuit of happiness that is the happiness? It’s the pursuit of the hard things—the difficult races that prove what we are made of. The result of pushing too hard in a sport and losing important relationships, perspective and other things in the process—that gives us reason to reassess, take inventory and shift the important things back into focus. Maybe we find ourselves, but we lose other things.
Either way we shake it, the pursuit of happiness results in a change of some sort—to ourselves, our bodies, our relationships, or just our early mornings. Sometimes, during the pursuit we can make our lives better by remembering why we are pursuing it in the first place. If we find ourselves lost in transition, if we can breathe for a minute—never taking a single swim, bike or run for granted—we can often find our way back to ourselves. In pursuing our life happiness, we can use the three beautiful sports as a boost towards our greater good, community and purpose.
Meredith Atwood (@SwimBikeMom) is a recovering attorney, writer, motivational speaker and author of Triathlon for the Every Woman. Meredith has teamed up with amazing experts to bring programs from peak performance to nutrition to her own sobriety group to her social following. She lives in Atlanta with her husband and two children, and writes about all things at MeredithAtwood.com.