I spent a lot of time this week looking into publishing Small Joys and think that I may end up self-publishing in hopes of getting picked up by a small publishing company at a later time. Self-publishing with the company I am looking into will allow friends and family to purchase my book at Barnes and Noble and on Amazon, and there will be an e-book format, as well. It's an expensive process that I'm going to start saving up for now, but I'd love your support along the way. Without further adieu, I give you a glimpse into Small Joys.
Looking at my bright blue and pink running shoes in the corner of our bedroom makes my feet ache to be in them. I miss the rhythm of running, how each step feels like you’re covering new territory, one step closer to running farther than you’ve ever run before. I wasn’t raised a runner; in fact, I loathed running for most of my life. I would hear a friend mention going on a run to “clear her head” or see two women running together while pushing strollers filled with little people, and I didn’t get it.
Running for enjoyment was such a foreign concept to me; I tossed it into the same category as other highly uninspiring activities like going to the dentist, eating prunes, and cleaning the toilet. I couldn’t comprehend the idea that someone would choose to participate in such an activity, as all of my experiences with it involved gasping for air, chafing and developing unusual rashes in unmentionable places, and feeling sticky and wet from head to toe by the end of it all. This was not the dream. As happy as other people looked while running through the park or around my college campus, I simply refused to participate in that form of torture.
But then I started nursing school. After two years of undergraduate studies at the University of North Carolina, I had been accepted into the School of Nursing and was excited to begin studying something that actually related to my future profession. The days were long and mostly spent in a fluorescently lit concrete room with absolutely no windows; other days were spent at the hospital in ill-fitting scrubs resembling clown pants as we learned to do all of the nursey things that would one day lead to a license as a Registered Nurse. Now this, this was the dream.
Yet I came home every day feeling like I needed to escape. I needed to get away from the fluorescent lights and the clown pants, from bed baths and all of the smells of the hospital. I wanted all of the beautiful, outdoorsy things that I had never shown interest in before; I wanted forests with tall trees for miles and miles, and the sun peering through them, and that Earthy smell of dirt right after it rains. I wanted Carolina blue skies and big puffy clouds that looked like giant pillows, and fields of flowers that I could just lie in while looking up at those big puffy clouds. And more than anything I had ever wanted in the world, my legs felt an aching desire to run; they needed to run. They had to move, and they couldn’t stand being underneath a desk for a second longer.
So I put on the only shoes I had that resembled running shoes, grabbed my iPod and my inhaler, and headed out the door. I knew of a place called Gimghoul Lane that was tucked away behind my dorm; I didn’t know much about it but knew its general location, so I started walking back there, decidedly waiting until I was hidden from the public eye before the actual “running” began.
As I turned the corner onto Gimghoul Lane, I knew I had come to the right place. The houses looked like life-sized dollhouses, all with beautiful front lawns, well-loved gardens, tall pine trees climbing towards those big puffy clouds, and oak trees reaching up and over to bring a shaded peace to the Lane. It felt like I had stepped out of the hustle and bustle of real life and entered into one of my favorite childhood story books.
I turned on my iPod and started my first slow jog around Gimghoul Lane. I think that I ran 0.3 miles on my first day, and I felt so proud of myself. I was captivated by Gimghoul--the oak trees, the cute houses, the friendly house-dwellers. And I didn’t feel the way I always used to feel when I attempted running at other times in my life; instead of feeling defeated and out of breath, I felt a small sense of accomplishment and craved another run on another day. I was spent from my short 0.3 miles, but the angst that I had felt from being indoors was vanquished. My heart was happy and free, and the enchantment of Gimghoul left me convinced that I would be back the next day.
So on Tuesday, after another long day of nursing theorems and health assessment practicums, I laced up my shoes and headed back to Gimghoul. I decided I could run 0.5 miles that day, which was the entirety of Gimghoul Lane; I started slowly again, falling into a rhythm that felt comfortable, yet ambitious. I passed a dirt road that jutted off of Gimghoul and made a mental note to check that out on my next run. The sun danced between the trees as I trotted down the Lane, and by the time I reached the end of the loop, I could feel my legs burning, evidence of a challenge well-met.
I kept coming back to Gimghoul, over and over again. I discovered Gimghoul Castle down that little dirt road, confirming that the Lane was even more enchanted than I previously suspected. I found Lovers’ Loop, leading to an assortment of wooded trails back behind the castle. And one day, as my music blared in my ears and I rounded Gimghoul Lane for a second time to attain by 1.0 mile goal, I felt the ground vibrating beneath my feet and gasped as a deer ran past me into the shaded woods ahead.
Each day after my runs, I would walk back to my dorm, reflecting on the marvels I had found on Gimghoul Lane. How could such beautiful things exist just beyond the very edge of a busy college campus? It felt other-worldly to me, like I had discovered the wardrobe that led to Narnia. I was captivated by Gimghoul Lane, and though I wanted to tell all of my friends about it, I knew I couldn’t. Telling others about it would ruin its enchantment; running into other people on Gimghoul was like having someone walk in on me while I was in the bathroom. A myriad of avoiding eye contact and awkward smiles always ensued. It just felt wrong to let anyone else in on this secret.
Gimghoul became my escape. It was life on days that felt lifeless, it was comfort when I needed it most, and it was the peace I desired more than anything at the end of every day. Gimghoul was where I reached many milestones in running: one, two, and three miles. I left Gimghoul the day I needed to run more than three miles; the kind house-dwellers would think I was crazy if I circled the neighborhood more than three times during a run. After all, there were plenty of other roads in Chapel Hill. But I always came back to Gimghoul, even on my long runs. I made sure to incorporate Gimghoul into my running plan for each day, no matter how inconvenient or out of the way it seemed when I moved further away from campus.
I learned some of the best things about myself on Gimghoul Lane. I learned that runners are cultivated and not necessarily born and bred; I learned that running is in my blood just as much as nursing is, and that running satisfies a part of my soul that nothing else has ever touched before. I discovered that you could learn to love something that you once despised and that hard work could turn you into something you never could have imagined being.
Gimghoul Lane was the training wheels of running for me; when I finally felt comfortable enough with running, I took the training wheels off and headed out onto the busy but beautiful campus roads in Chapel Hill. And from there, I discovered the Bolin Creek bike trail, Laurel Hill, the monstrous hill up Martin Luther King, Jr. Rd. All of these were lovely, and I faced new challenges with each one. But none of them compared to Gimghoul Lane. None of them had quite the same enchantment that I had discovered hidden away in a small corner of campus, so I kept going back to get my fix of Gimghoul.
Even now, over six hundred miles away from Gimghoul Lane, I still think about that place and all that I learned on that small little lane. I’ve found many beautiful places to run in, from Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina to the Monon Trail in Indianapolis, Indiana where I live now. But Gimghoul still wins. It wins for its charm, its quiet, its other-wordlyness that draws you in and consumes you so that you never want to leave its oak-lined streets.
Gimghoul Lane is the place where a girl who never thought she could be a runner became one. It’s where a girl who hated running found that in the right place at the right time, God met her and taught her how to run with abandon, to leave the worries of the day on the pavement with each step forward. It’s the place where a girl first learned to find a small piece of joy that was just for her, and where she learned to praise God for teaching her to do what once seemed impossible to her in the most beautiful place she has yet to know.
I would adore your thoughts on this chapter and any edits you would recommend! Thanks for reading, and as always, lots of love.