One of the things I remember from American history classes was how the railroad facilitated Westward expansion of people. Laying down hundreds of miles of wood and steel meant families could move across country in a few days, rather than through months of dangerous travel by horse and wagon. While living in Pennsylvania, I traveled home to Washington once via one of those railroad trails. It took almost three days, including a seven-hour layover in Chicago. Hours passed as we rode through forests, past towns with names I never saw, and over invisible state lines. East to West. Simple and straight. The path had been laid decades before we got there and nothing would get in the way.
The train tracks in my hometown are rarely used by actual trains. Instead the local station was once turned into a tourist attraction: Track 29. Train cars were converted into shops and restaurants, with a large antique shop taking over the main station area. I remember getting a dollhouse in one of the stores for Christmas, and another one was where I picked out my high school letterman’s jacket. All of those little shops are gone now; only the antique mall remains.
Those straightforward and simple tracks made it all the way across the country. That part is, in a way, easy. It’s what happens when you get to the destination that is more complicated. When you have to put down roots and build something new.
I don’t know where the train cars went, the ones that used to make up Track 29. Maybe they were changed once again into traveling cars and put back onto the tracks, headed across the country again. Maybe some other town is building Track 30 for another girl to shop in. Or maybe they have been changed into something completely different from their traveling past.
I don’t know. I do know that I’m glad I do not have to follow straightforward and simple tracks in life. I’m glad that the road I ran down to get to these tracks is not the one I have to use to get home. In fact I know it won’t be…
I’ve survived 13 marathons and one Ph.D. program. So…now what? I’ve learned through the journeys that it’s not about intelligence, speed, magic beans, or waiting for it to get easy. It’s about strength and perseverance. This year’s blog series will be about #WhatsNext after crossing some major finish lines, and preparing for new starting lines as a runner and a (not that kind of) doctor. I am #RunPhD.