Writer’s note: This is a creative short-story about my recent experience with runner’s high, a state of euphoria that athletes experience during prolonged periods of exercise. I titled it “Midnight Blue” because during the run that is described below, a midnight blue sky was the most dominant image that came to mind. Lastly, quick note: if you’re considering becoming a runner (or any type of endurance athlete), runner’s high is still legal in all fifty states ;). Hope you enjoy what I wrote!- Naima
Runner’s high is a fire over which I pour gasoline, as every stride sends a surge of happiness through my veins. A weary grin stretches across my face and euphoria permeates my being. Listening intently to the beat of Halsey’s song “Hurricane,” I fall into a trance.
In the realm of my imagination, I am jogging a post-race cool-down, as my fatigued pace is perfectly in tune with Halsey’s lyrics: “I’m a wanderess. I’m a one night stand. Don’t belong to no city. I’m a hurricane.” The sky is a perfect shade of deep blue, which contributes to this atmosphere of serenity and pure happiness. My teammates and I exchange positive thoughts about the race, as the Arlington skyscrapers tower over us. My mind is a clean slate. Loneliness, anxiety, and stress are foreign ideas. As I continue to match my slow pace to the mesmerizing rhythm of the song, I share a laugh with Emily and Casey. The innocence and happiness on our faces is evident even to the runners who haven’t met us. My thoughts swim in a sea of pure joy and music notes, as Halsey sings, “I’m the violence in the pouring rain. I’m a hurricane.”
I gently bring myself back into the present moment, as the treadmill’s conveyor belt continues to be my source of euphoria. Sweat glistens beautifully on my temples, and my mouth curls into a dimpled grin. Increasing my speed, I strike another match on my runner’s high, fuel myself with enough happiness to carry me through the rest of today. I wish I could bottle this feeling and save it for when I’ll really need it. But would that be healthy? To allow myself to repeatedly feel free of responsibilities and worries? Can I let go? I push these questions to the back of my mind, strike another match, and let the fire spread. Beautiful flames.
Running through the wooded trail, I focus on the gentle pounding of my heart, as blood pumps through the veins in my temples. Sarah’s soft, quick strides remind me of my responsibility to look after the well-being of my teammates, which fills me with a sense of leadership. I haven’t experienced this feeling in several months, moments wrapped in solitude and exercise-induced joy. A moment when I can let my worries fade away as I continue to move forward. Sarah and I exit the woods and pick up the pace on a downhill. Observing the cars that rush past us, I wish everyone understood my perspective about the sport of running. Do the drivers pity us for physically taxing ourselves, or do they see us as young teens who celebrate their health by running? I define myself by the latter perspective, and as Sarah and I approach the bottom of the downhill, we pick up the pace around a curve in the sidewalk. I breathe in deeper, as every breath helps me let go of trivial matters that have been weighing on me lately. Over the voices in my head that remind me that I am strong and healthy, I can’t hear the cries of worries that once begged for me to listen.This sport is the most effective form of therapy, an easy way to bond with others, and a “pick-me-up” when stress feels overwhelming.
With every stride, it becomes easier to judge the aspects of my life that I need to let go of versus those that I should hold dear. Running embodies progress, optimism, humility, and strength. And I am ever grateful for the countless ways it has served me. I will continue to run, strengthen myself on a physical and emotional level, and spend more time with people who value me. I will continue to set goals, encourage and love my teammates, thank my coaches for all the time and energy they invest in helping me become a more efficient athlete. But the goals that my team has helped me achieve extend well beyond the physical accomplishments I will reach. Because of this sport and all those who support me, I am happier, healthier, and overwhelmed with gratitude. My team is one more reason why I get excited to step onto the track every day, let sunshine lift my spirits, exchange positive thoughts with other athletes. So as Sarah and I made our way back to school, the broken parts of me started to repair themselves. I could finally see clearly again.
“Anxiety is the indescribable fear of nothing.”- Humans of New York
Time is running out, and I keep looking at the clock. Every minute is a reminder of how much work I have to do. I try to take a deep breath and focus, but there are too many things to think about. Should I start with part one of the assignment or part two? Another minute just went by, and I haven’t gotten anything done. The classroom is completely quiet, yet there is a storm brewing inside me. Thunder roars and causes my lungs to shake as my heart beats at a rate that does not align with rationality. I grab the mouse and idly click on programs on my screen. Adobe Dreamweaver taunts me saying that progress is a dream that only the students around me can reach. I close my eyes as my thoughts swim in a sea of darkness. Lightning strikes, but I try to block out the sound by listening to the hum of tides that slowly grows violent. My hands press over my eyes harder, but it doesn’t stop the thunder from roaring. The storm caries a voice in its rapid wind. No one will help you. You are all alone. Before I know it, rain leaks out from my eyes as thunder rattles my lungs. Why am I crying? No one has spoken to me for the past hour or tried to hurt me. This doesn’t make any sense. Slowly, I stand, trying to seek refuge from the rapid storm. I almost stumble. The rain has made it difficult for me to see clearly. I go to the bathroom and let the storm loose. Closing my eyes, I try to find comfort in darkness, make no effort to protect myself from the wind that nearly pushes me off my feet. Slowly, I breathe, but inhalations only invite anxiety to run through my veins. There is no logic behind these emotions, no one to protect me from the storm. I am all alone.
I soon return to class, tired and disoriented. I shut off my computer screen as well as my thoughts. The skies are starting to clear up, but they’re still gray. I plug in my earphones and listen to music instead of the voices in my head that doubt me. Between lyrics, I hear their taunts. Daya sings the words to her song “Hide Away”, while the voice reminds me that the storm is no excuse to sulk and waste time. But I start to give myself more power in shutting out the voice. Mulling over all the tasks I have already completed, I tell myself that today, I will leave class with a smile. The storm is over. I open my eyes, letting the classroom lights clear up the gray skies. It appears as though the students around me never knew that the storm took place. This is probably because they never checked the weather. And I sit exhausted in the confines of this classroom, feeling hopeful that next class, productivity will be my reality… and the sun will be out. I’ll no longer worry about time, or loneliness, or how small I feel behind my desk.
As we spread the popular hashtag #AllLivesMatter, countless lives of innocent people are lost. Have you heard about the three African-American Muslim boys who were shot in Indiana? Probably not; yet the death of a lion was deemed far more important by news media broadcasters. Why does the media imply that the lives of minorities are so cheap? With the divisive rhetoric that 2016 presidential candidates promote, there has been a sharp increase in police brutality and hate crimes against Muslims. Today, Americans spend more thought ordering the importance of human lives on the basis of race, religion, ethnic origin, nationality, and more. Instead, our energies should be spent building unity between one another regardless of these factors.
Our society doesn’t always agree with this attitude and would like to create as many ways as possible for us to become divided. But I would rather see the integration of all people, black or white, gay or straight, Muslim, Christian, Atheist, and more. Simply put, what does it matter if we’re not all the same? Shouldn’t the value of our lives be equal regardless of religion, race, ethnicity, or any other factor? And shouldn’t individuality be celebrated?
With the current presidential race, don’t ever let anyone make you feel that you don’t belong here. We all belong here. This is our country, and America is a mixing bowl of so many beautiful cultural backgrounds, religions, ethnic origins, and more. So let’s celebrate our unique part of this American society. Let’s make the world around us more tolerant and inclusive. After all, this is the United States of America. Don’t let us become the Divided States of America.