Become a User

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Marathons I have completed: 1

Marathons I ever expected (or wanted) to complete: 0

Half marathon I will run in a week and a half to keep up my street cred: 1

My dad came to a stunning and horrifying conclusion when I was entering first grade: I was excited about heading back to school not for the academics, but for the social scene.

For better or for worse, this realization spoke volumes about my future motivations and accomplishments. Social interaction could motivate me to do lots of fun noble stuff.

Some people might call this peer pressure. Like the time when my friend told me I had to learn how to tie my own shoes after naptime because she wasn’t interested in being my servant anymore. So I bought only shoes with buckles, and they became the height of kindergarten fashion.

But I was not only the recipient of the pressure; I could dish it out, too. Also in kindergarten, I rounded up a few of my gang members and led them over to the Kitchen Center. I had decided it would be fun to cut our hair with safety scissors. I’m pretty sure my mom had said I had some split ends, and I was nothing but helpful when a task was at hand.

I wasn’t secretive about it; I probably would have asked the teacher if she wanted to take part, if only she had been paying attention. I was stunned when she and my mom didn’t approve of my vision.

Or the time when I missed learning borrowing in subtraction because the first grade teacher stuck us in the back of the classroom partially behind a chalkboard and expected us to care enough about a math thing I was sure I’d never use. I mean, grown-ups always used calculators, and I was destined to become a grown-up one day.

Problem was, I think I maybe influenced a couple crowd of other kids to draw cool monster pictures during those lessons, too. We are all now famous writers. Kind of.

Luckily for me, my minor mishaps in both being a pusher and a push-ee ended well.

I’ve noticed, though, that even as a grown-up I can be both influential and impressionable, in equal parts.

In September 2010, my BFF/running partner dropped a bomb.

Her: So, I’m going to sign up for a marathon in the spring.

Me: Wow! Good for you!

Her: And I thought you might want to run it with me… but no pressure.

Me: Yeah, I’m not really interested in running a marathon. I’m good with, you know, half marathons, and, like, 5 milers. Maybe while you’re training, I could do part of your long runs with you for support.

Her: Sure, yeah. That would be great…. So, I’ve already bought the parking pass, which makes parking at the marathon super-easy.

Me: Well, good for you.

Her: Sure will be dark when I get there in early March. And here I am, used to running with a partner…

Me: Yeah. But I’m sure the running community will be friendly and talk to a lonely fellow runner. No biggie.

Her: And on those long runs, I’ll need someone to protect me from killer squirrels…

Me: Dangit.

And that’s how I ended up running 26.2 miles. It was peer pressure, pure and simple.

Another annoying piece of evidence that peer pressure can get you to do stuff, even as a self-assured, middle-aged person: my writing group keeps expecting me to submit, like, writing. And they kind of want it to be good writing. This is a problem when I feel like I have been writing: blogs, work articles, letters, tax forms… But here comes yet another meeting, and they get all writer-y on me, thinking I’ve been making headway on a doomed re-write.

Guess what I’ll do? Re-write it.

As your blogging buddy, I would urge each and every one of you to become a user: use those pushy people thoughtful friends to encourage you. Whether it’s the next race, the next short story, the next novel or a better job, use them to turn your internal motivation dial one or two notches higher. You won’t regret it… except maybe if you use safety scissors to create the latest layered look.

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