I stuck a third push pin in my map of New England. As a recent college grad, I couldn’t afford the entire book about New England. Just the map. But that book… It was one of those grand coffee table books, with thick pages, and glossy photos of covered bridges and maple syrup farms and the White Mountains. A book I picked up because of an article I read about New Hampshire in Outside magazine. I wanted to live there! Never mind the fact that I had never been to Vermont, New Hampshire, or any of the states that graced the pages of that book. I had one diploma and a thousand dreams as big as Mt. Washington!
Dreams and prayers and goals scribbled furiously in my purple journal with the leaves embedded in the paper. Prayers about making a difference in other’s lives, and taking a leap of faith and going to New Hampshire. Lofty goals and simple goals, like getting out of debt, learning to cook (still a work in progress), learning Italian, reading one book a week, and running four times a week. Pages and pages about being a free-spirit, dreamer, enthusiastic and full of endurance. Prayers to become strong, independent, ambitious, assertive… knowing what I wanted and going after it. And one verse that made me tear up when I recently opened this journal after 17 years… Because it is the verse I have been clinging to since the very rocky, painful start of 2017.
Scribblings of dreams about summers spent kayaking and mountain biking (never mind that it had been years since I’d been on a bike). Dreams about owning a Red Rodeo (If you get this reference, you’re my new best friend) and snowboarding (it seemed a lot edgier than skiing, so I was sure I would love it). Starlit dreams about epic hikes by day and campfires by night. And what exactly would I do to fund all these adventures? Write of course! Days after I turned 22, I applied for a few jobs in New Hampshire, including my dream job as a copywriter at the EMS headquarters, which was at that time located in Peterborough.
I would live free or die writing about the gear I would finally be able to afford! The only problem was that I had exactly five professional writing samples in my portfolio, all of which were from the Buffalo Alt Press. I quickly discovered that my impressive, yet sparse portfolio did not qualify me for this position, or the position doing marketing for a Healthcare company in Nashua, NH. However, it DID land me an interview at the Professional Insurance Association in the Capital Region, working as an assistant to the Marketing Manager. I had a few acquaintances in the Albany area, and I kind of dug the Adirondacks… So I packed up what few belongings I owned, and moved to Albany, NY.
Soon I would pack up those dreams of being a writer and living in New Hamshire too. Since 2000, Albany, NY has been my mailing address. And although I have yet to move to NH, I have driven to the top of Mt. Washington, and even did my first marathon ever in Hampton Beach, NH!
I did more than just mountain bike too. But it all began with a Specialized Rockhopper that one of my first friends in Albany helped me pick out. It all began with those adventures on the trails of Thacher Park and Grafton back in 2001. And it grew into not one but THREE monumental Ironman finishes, and one Boston marathon finish, none of which I regret.
But when you’re in that deep, there is no room for any other dreams. Sure, I was that girl who camped in her RV the night before triathlons. And I had my blog, and my posts for Waterfi as an Athlete Ambassador. So my dreams weren’t past the point of expiration. They were just buried under my life as a competitive (read: obsessed) triathlete and my job at my exish-husband’s family business.
And in 2015, when my love life began to unravel, my writing became more than a past-time. It was my sanity. And sport? It became the familiar obsession I clung to, even though I grew to despise it! While much of my life seemed to be in a tailspin, I could still control my training and racing. But that was a comfortable illusion. Sport was controlling me. Anytime you are stuck in a cycle of injury or illness, you can bet that you have handed over the reigns, and a positive force has become an unhealthy obsession.
Then it all finally fell irreconcilably apart. At mile 10 of the Ventura Marathon in September 2016, I knew it was over. My marriage, my racing, my career at the family business. I shuffled through that marathon on fumes. These areas I was pouring my life into were sucking the life out of me. But did I admit that I was no longer in love… with ANY of it?! No. Because I’m “a good Christian girl” who never gives up (and was admittedly terrified of starting over) I fought in vain. I signed up for another marathon, a mere four weeks later. I fought with my husband over racing and work and life until well into the night. I cried myself to sleep. And in doing so, I only caused my hip and heart more pain.
Until God, in His deep love, took my world apart before I destroyed myself. And it hurt. The more I fought it, the more it hurt. But once I wiped the gallons of tears away, and faced what was left of my disassembled life, there in the wreckage was a seed of a dream, watered in part by all those tears.
For 17 years I have been an Albany resident. 17 years and piles of journals later these red letters jump out at me from the pages of my journal from September 2000. It reads:
I don’t ever want to wonder “What if I took that job in N. Hampshire?”
Now I have a thousand dreams and a thousand writing samples, piling up as high as Mt. Washington! Dreams about summers spent kayaking and mountain biking (never mind that I just sold my mountain bike and have only a tri bike to my name). Dreams about snowboarding (or maybe skiing and snow shoeing, since I am almost 40, which is pretty much ancient). Starlit dreams about epic hikes by day and campfires by night. And what exactly will I do to fund all these adventures? Write of course! Because at almost 40, I have been given some second chances, and finally landed a job as an Assistant Editor… in Nashua, New Hampshire!
It’s never too late to chase those dreams that God plants in our hearts. Sometimes we just need one person to believe in us. How blessed am I to have some pretty incredible people in my corner who make me brave enough to step out of my comfort zone and into my dreams. And my hope is that I can in turn BE that person who gives another the courage to believe in second chances.
Because you were made for more. More that wondering What If. More than waiting for someone to sweep you off your feet and make you “happy”. Happy is so overrated and temporary and subjective. Pursue rather the joy of truly loving your life!
Stop sitting on the sidelines of your own life… Commit to your dreams (even those dreams you’d given up on years ago) and take that first, often scary, possibly painful step today. It will be hard, but it will be worth it! So go fall wildly in love with your life! No one can do it for you. And no one can take it from you!
“Lift your head and look around you, see the dreams you lost they have found you, and a heart that once was beating coming back to life… Shut the door on yesterday, leave what happened in the grave…. Rise!”
And so today, I am packing up what few belongings I haven’t sold or given away, and I am leaving Albany, NY. I am breaking up with the What If’s, because I am finally taking that leap of faith, and chasing the best adventure all the way to New Hampshire, where I will live free or die writing about it!
Dream on friends,
Sara K. Francione