Saturday, May 19
An annual evaluation came up, this rite of spring - Tuesday, Wednesday, all the paperwork ordered in jumbled piles - and then it was past, gone. Our numbers were better than they might have been, given our population - 100% of our students are in at least one remedial class, yet our cumulative GPA is above 2.5 - but they're not enough. We've lost nine students this year, of sixty; the grant - federal money - stipulates we can't lose more than eight. Miles of trials, trials of miles.
Suggestions - for improvement, I gather, though they never quite make this clear, either - this evaluation nets us. Some of them are helpful, strings on which to tie life jackets. Many more of them, not so much. One of the peer auditors informs us we face a question of motivation. 'Are you recruiting the right students? Are they motivated? Are you motivated?' There's some truth, of course, that we accepted students less than ready for college, that some of them might have been better served by a year of working at McDonald's first. Motivation, though: who are we to judge? In one of the workshops we color, learning our "true colors" and leadership styles; even as my time is so wasted, students text me questions, seeking help with Math, Chemistry, Psychology, English. Motivation: I haven't the patience for grown-ups and grown-up rules, perhaps. Miles of trials, trials of miles.
Oh, those students, how I do love them; the end-of-year banquet is tonight, and how we'll celebrate those who were motivated, who achieved, who leapt into the start of the rest of their lives. We'll glow with pride at all that in the past year has been accomplished, and we'll feel good about what we've done, and so too will they, those honored students. No one will mention the nine lost along the way. Miles of trials, trials of miles.
In another month, finals will have passed and summer will have come, and so we'll begin in earnest our preparations for the next cohort, our memories of this group grown quickly fuzzy. We'll move on; so too will they. They'll continue collecting stories, as will I, and mostly they'll be the sort of stories we hide behind blankets full with living. I tell only the most public stories of my own here, and the rest I tuck away, nestled in beds of their own making. The rest of our stories are for hiding, in the miles, on the trails, in the words that spill themselves out only with doing. Miles of trials, trials of miles.
But, those miles. Not only for therapy and escape do we run, but also for joy. Tomorrow we'll wake altogether too early, off for this particular run, the one for which we say we've been training. She's registered for the 50k - thirty-one miles of trails, and further than ever her legs have gone. My name'll be found in the fifty-miler - a distance I last covered more than four years previous. Miles of trials, trials of miles. We've both been without big chunks of our training - to sickness, to lost weeks rich with busy, to motivation and choice. But we'll run, because that's what we do, and it'll be a big day by the mountains, on the trails, as we prefer it, and I'll think of my brother, the 30k he'll simultaneously run states away - miles of trials, trials of miles - and how someday, soon maybe, we'll have trails to share.
Tomorrow's miles: somewhere in those miles - and this I remember from before, the long runs of ages ago - will be a place where the line between trail and self and self and trail blurs into only the moment and the doing and time will stop and cease to hold meaning. In that place we backtrack, to our birth, the birth of a species; we are the dust on which our feet pound, and the trail wears us at least as much as we wear it. Questions like 'are you motivated?' are clear signs of the uninitiated, the outsider. Thinking of this in one of our many meetings, I thought of telling our auditor as much, but knew even in his discomfort with silence that he wouldn't understand. Only the miles do, really. Only the miles and those who have worn them so, only the miles of trials, trials of miles.
Yesterday we worked, hard. Today we recognize distinctions - past, present, and future. Tomorrow we run, and life is good. So very good.