I love this quote. It's one of my favorites. Every time I read it, it seems like I take something different away from it. Like F. Scott Fitzgerald has all the secrets of life wrapped up in this collection of words, and depending on mood or circumstances, you get to unlock one little piece of it.
There've been times, for example, when I've been drawn to the line about "making the best of it or the worst of it." Living with anxiety, it can be easy at times to not even realize when I'm not making the best of it. Anxiety has given me good things: The ability to be forward-thinking, for example. But it can also be crippling, and it can mean constant worry, even when I'm doing something I love.
When I start a run, I'm almost constantly worrying about whether I am fueled properly, or dehydrated, am I dressed appropriately for the weather, or will I need to use the bathroom? and so on and so forth. This, however, is why I train for marathons. Sooner or later during a 15-miler, I am usually able to find moments of mental peace. Energy is limited, and most of it is directed toward the physical work. There's a reason why people say long runs can be meditative -- for some, they really are the only moments where being truly in the moment is a possibility, realizing and appreciating life for what it is.
Other times, I've taken interest in the line about "living a life you're proud of." It's easy to get wrapped up in the day to day. But being able to look at the big picture of life is also a skill. I may not be doing exactly what I want to be doing, I may not have accomplished everything I want to accomplish, I may not have experienced all that I think I should be experiencing -- but at the end of the day, if I can answer the questions "Am I healthy? Am I making someone's life better? Are there people in this world who care about me?" with a "yes!" then really, truly -- I can be proud of that. (It also helps to keep race medals on display.)
But the most striking part of this quote -- the one that gets me every time -- is the last line: about having the courage to start all over again. I remember reading it for the first time -- one of those "whoa" moments. Not only because the words themselves are poignant and beautiful, but also because it is such raw truth. Sometimes we aren't proud. Sometimes we're hurt, or embarrassed, or ashamed, lost. Sometimes we take risks and fail.
In the world we live in, it sometimes feels like these things are on full display for everyone to see. But having the courage to start over isn't just a cliche, it's also a call to action: Trying again -- or trying something new -- isn't foolish. It's admirable. It's courageous.
Being willing to recognize your reality and how you truly feel about it takes courage. Changing the status quo takes courage. Doing things you want to do when others doubt you takes courage.
It's hard, and that's okay. The struggle is okay. Because having the courage to start means you have hope for your future self and the life you imagine. It's like running 20 miles.
Deciding to do it is the hardest part.