The pacer test is one of the most excruciating tortures that New York public school students have to endure.
We’re lined up across the linoleum gymnasium floor, with the rest of our classmates looking on, placing bets on which ones of us lost the genetic lottery, and will thus fail the soonest. A series of beeps order us to race across the room back and forth. The beeps get faster and faster until we’re red in the face with all our baby fat jostling and thighs chafing together and skin sliming up with sweat. You then must mark down how many laps you can run without dying of overexertion mingled with shame, because for some reason, the government cares about this number. In case they need super soldiers, I guess.
It’s a distinct coming-of-age passage of humiliation. If your idea of exercise in high school was making a mid-morning dash to the vending machines, the pacer test was a state-mandated equivalent to getting shoved in a locker or forgetting you had a huge essay due.
Luckily, by 11th grade I had wised up and would just sit on the sidelines with the other students the entire time, and scribble down an imaginary number of laps. The teachers either didn’t notice or didn’t care. And I got to escape making a fool out of my frumpy, awkward self.
The point of all this is that high school me would’ve never believed that 2013 me ran five miles yesterday without being chased by zombies or someone pointing a weapon at me.
Some things on your bucket list might be easy. Watch every Marlon Brando film, or learn to read tealeaves, or volunteer at an animal shelter. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that! You need a good balance of things.
But some bucket list items take effort, and that effort makes the accomplishment all the sweeter.
Being physically fit was a bucket list item of mine in high school, and it took a lot of work to get there. There was misdirection and stumbling and wrong turns. But when I became focused and found my footing, every bit of hard work was satisfying, because I was doing it myself. There weren’t any shortcuts.
Seeing my friends and family work to reach their goals makes me want to work all the harder! Like my brother who has done a Disney’s Hercules type transformation this year and gone from Zero to Hero. (Just kidding, he was never a zero, he’s actually really super duper awesome).
Here are some more I can think of off:
- My best friend has lost nearly a hundred pounds in just this year through a healthy diet and exercise!
- My overachieving roommates from college all endured countless rejections and dead-end interviews to find jobs in a lifeless market, and one has had her stellar creative writing actually published!
- One of my friends has gone from our shy, awkward high school days to being a happy, confident young man in his fraternity
- My parents built a home and life for us in a town well beyond our means, through perseverance, creativity, and sheer fortitude
- A high school friend skipped buying lunch when we were in school for a month and brown-bagged it to save up for an mp3 player she wanted
The right path isn’t always the easiest. It’s easy to just cut corners or if you’re able, to throw money at the fastest way to get what you want. But is that the most fulfilling option? I don’t think so. I think putting the work in and doing something yourself is part of fully immersing yourself in your own life.
I wouldn’t want things just handed to me. Getting in shape was a process; getting my degree, earning my scholarships; earning money to help pay my tuition and for my own expenses… I’m proud of every little pebble of accomplishment I’ve plunked down in another invisible bucket.
Writing a novel, doing DIY projects to build your dream home, teaching yourself the piano key necktie, being able to do one actual pull-up – these are all things that you can do.
You’re the main character of your very own superhero movie or wizard novel. You’re Harry Potter, you’re Frodo, you’re Superman. Their lives took blood, sweat, and tears to get what they wanted.
Don’t do yourself an injustice. You’re amazing already. So show yourself and the world that you’ve got cojones and start working.
You’re your own superhero, honest. And you don’t even have to run any pacer tests.