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Are You In (R-U-N): My Journey to Self-Awareness and Balance

Updated: Oct 10, 2023

Joseph Brown is a member of our fifth eMMissary cohort and an avid runner. I lifelong teacher and school administrator, tune in to a lesson or two from him running the roads and the classroom.

My journey to self-awareness and balance is guided by Kujichagulia, one of the seven principles of Kwanza. This second principle means self-determination; having the ability to define, name, create and speak for oneself. For most of my life, I didn’t know how to do that. How to determine who or what I would be. Acknowledging that I gave the majority of my time and energy to work, was the step that started me on my journey. For the first twelve years of my career, I defined who I was and what I loved with my job title. However, within the last three years I learned to set boundaries at work, prioritize my mental health, and connect with a supportive network. None of this would have been possible if my wife of the last twenty-three years had not told me, You need to find something you love doing—so much so, you’d do it for free—and that’s how you find your passion. Why don’t you get back into running? Running is not a hobby; it is a way of life. I incorporate the principles of running in every aspect of my life.

The first principle of running is adjustment

I had to put myself first. This was extremely difficult for me because for most of my life, I pushed my mental health aside to take care of everyone else’s wants and needs. I had to adjust my mindset and give myself permission to love me, to be vulnerable and learn to trust my decision making ability. The second adjustment I needed to make was in my social circle or lack thereof. I found a group of runners in my community and started meeting them for longer runs. Being a part of a brotherhood of runners through Black Men Run (BMR) has taken me a long way on my journey toward self-awareness, as well as the work life balance I needed to stay mentally, emotionally and physically fit.

The second principle of running is development

The reason runners constantly monitor and adjust their program is to develop in areas where they may be lacking. By monitoring my mental, emotional and physical consumption, I realized I needed to make healthier lifestyle choices. Those choices included but were not limited to eliminating or reducing certain foods and drinks, as well as my interactions with certain people who drained my energy. I also needed to add a few important elements to aid in the development of a self-aware, balanced approach to living. I incorporated a weekly running routine, learn to slow down and have fun wherever I am and what ever I’m doing.

The third principle of running is to cherish

The transformation from struggling runner to one who experiences a sense of joy and peace each time I lace up my Brooks has not been easy, nor is it complete. I will always monitor and adjust to ensure consistent and continuous development in my growth as a runner. One of my running mantras is, go at my own pace and have fun doing it. Running is the only activity that has ever made me feel like a weight was lifted off my shoulders. The feeling of not being weighed down allows me to take complete breaths for the first time in my life. I cherish the freedom to move throughout my life no longer concerned about the things I can’t control. For the first times in my life, I am cherishing myself and the people who I’ve allowed to stay connected to me. I now know parts of me that I never knew existed... parts of me that have been hidden away in the shadows. Those parts used to scare me, giving me nightmares about a beast inside that I thought was there to devour and destroy the good parts of my soul. Turns out, the beast is there to fuel and feed my soul purpose of enjoying life. The beast hidden in the shadows has been waiting to remind me that my [...] soul is here for its own joy (Rumi).

I release my attachments to everything I don’t have the right to claim as mine and instead, I’m choosing to embrace the subtle passions that are slowly making themselves known to me. I hope you can too... go for a R-U-N.

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