I have plans to run a half marathon in September. I had an elaborate 12-week training plan set up, because I don’t have a history of adding mileage slowly or safely and that’s how you knock yourself out with unnecessary injuries.
The training plan is in the can and I’m down with an unnecessary injury. I broke my toe. It wasn’t a running injury; I caught it on an old cedar chest and felt the bone crumple. I had no idea such a little bone could hurt so much.
There’s not much to do for a broken toe other than to RICE it– rest, ice, compression, elevation. I’ve been propping my foot up under my desk, with an ice pack balanced on my foot. But walking hurts. I have to go slow and hobble around like a brand new duckling.
Slowing down, especially against my will, has made me reflect on the great privilege and gift of my ability. I’m so lucky to have a body that lets me run, to live without chronic pain, illness, or disease. I am able-bodied and I don’t spend enough time thinking about how much that informs my life experiences.
I’m thinking about it now, and about the ways my prescribed and adopted identities align me with a population I’ve resisted. The county I live in was recently named the least diverse in my state. As I watch housing prices soar, see interesting construction and business changes, and observe various political shifts, it’s clear that my city caters toward wealthy white liberals.
And increasingly, I’m realizing that I’m one of them. There’s nothing wrong with being affluent, or white, or liberal. But there is something wrong when one such privileged group eclipses all others. To help stabilize my toe, my doctor told me to buy a pair of hard-soled sandals. She gave me a list of brands, all expensive and very popular where I live. I didn’t own any, and I hadn’t wanted to. I’ve resisted buying into (literally, monetarily) the dominant culture of this place. I worry about who gets erased as the Wealthy White Liberals take charge.
I bought the shoes, and they’re helping a lot. But it’s not lost on me that I could buy that pricey pair because I now have a graduate degree that helped me find a job with a stable income. I can pay my bills, work on my student loans, and save enough to have a Shoes for Broken Toes fund. I had to buy a new (used) car this year, and I chose a zippy little hybrid. I work in a nice office, in a tech job that provides me fancy gadgets and expensive software. When I’m not injured, I’m out running on trails and visiting microbreweries. All these external indicators place me solidly in this yuppie bubble culture. I worry that I’ll get sucked in and lose sight of the world.
Even now, I feel like all I’ve just done is write a Poor Little Rich Girl story. And what purpose does that serve? Now, more than a year out of school, I find myself still struggling to bridge the gap between student activist and autonomous, isolated, workforce citizen. I didn’t expect the change to be so dramatic, and for the most part, I’m infinitely happier now than I was as a student.
But there are aspects I miss so much. Like the community of bright, and diverse people who challenged this city and me. And even that feels complicated because I’m the one responsible for doing my personal work, not my peers. I need to consider my feminism and how it’s evolving within me, and how and to whom I’m engaging in this new life phase.
As I slow down this month, I hope to think more, challenge my innate and chosen identities more, and to find a way to validate my space without encroaching upon and erasing the people and cultures and communities we so very badly need.