Where do you find inspiration? This question popped up for me again the other night while watching the wonderful ‘Employable me‘ on ABC. The documentary is about young people who are looking for work and who also have a disability. After the show, someone on Twitter commented how he was unhappy at viewers calling these young people ‘inspiring’ – they’re just people who want jobs and shouldn’t be seen as inspiring for managing their disability and aiming for something everyone wants.
I do understand where he was coming from – the way that society views people with a disability is often either limiting or patronising. But I think that, for me, this puts the category of ‘inspiring’ on some sort of pedestal, a title only for those who have achieved global accolades and stratospheric heights. I find inspiration in stories of people who overcome the things that hold me back. They don’t have to be Olympians, celebrities or elite athletes, although some of those fit the bill. I’m as likely to find inspiration within my running family, in the wider running community or amongst others I know outside of running.
Turia Pitt is one of my inspirations, not for overcoming horrific injuries but for her attitude in the face of whatever life has given her. Her positivity, practicality and desire to live in the moment and not the past or the future is something I strive for.
Kurt Fearnley is another inspiration, for his attitude of determination and his complete refusal to accept limitations others put on him. That’s an attitude to emulate. His face in the last moments of a marathon are what I reflect on during hard kilometres of my long runs – that’s what strength looks like, pushing on despite the pain. I talk a lot to my students about him as he also embraces another admirable quality – being highly competitive yet demonstrating admirable sportsmanship and grace.
Yet not all of those who inspire me are public identities. Within my running family, I have just as many sources of inspiration. People who don’t give up and continue to aim for often ridiculously lofty goals. And then achieve them, despite potential barriers. People who continue to get of bed and face life, even when it hurts, physically or mentally. People who, despite putting their all into their own events, still have energy to spare to cheer on and support others.
And, interestingly enough, I do actually find inspiration in my own achievements. It certainly hasn’t always been that way but has come out through the big goals I’m achieved over the last few years. Sometimes it’s like I’m two people – one full of doubts and another who knows what I’m capable of. On the days I’m the former, I have to remember what I’ve done and how far I’ve come – that’s the inspiration I draw on to keep moving forward and the confidence that I will achieve whatever I set my heart on.