Peeling off the labels and expanding self-placed limits Print
Youth Column
Written by Karen Osborne, Catholic News Service   
Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014 -- 12:00 AM

In school, I used to hate running even more than I hated spiders or math.

I couldn't run fast in elementary school, so I was always one of the last kids to cross the finish line during gym class, a feat for which I earned incessant teasing instead of a gold medal or nifty ribbon.

Every year, I'd dread the awful day we ran a mile: seven terrible, horrific laps around the school parking lot. I'd finish last, my lungs burning, my pride wounded.

Middle and high school were much the same. By ninth grade, I would hang back behind everyone else, taking the teasing as normal.

During senior year, after so many years of failing miserably at running, I had the flu on the day we were supposed to run a mile and stayed home sick. I never thought for a moment that I could fix that trauma so easily.

We worry so much about the labels people place on us that we don't even consider that we label ourselves as well.

When I was seven, I told myself I couldn't run, simply because I finished last one time. I labeled myself a "nonrunner" and didn't take action to change that. I determined that I always was going to be at the back of the pack with the laughter of bullies ringing in my ears.

In all those years, I never thought that if I wanted to be a better runner, maybe I should start running.

What does a seven-year-old know, after all? A seven-year-old knows that string cheese is tasty and that math tests are hard, right? Most teens will agree that they're far smarter and know a lot more. So, when I was 16, why did I keep believing what my seven-year-old self said?

Change is hard. Changing a label someone places on you or one you place on yourself is hard. What I should have done back then was join a running team or engaged a friend or trainer to help me.

These days, I run up to five miles at the drop of a hat. I also am training to run a half marathon next year! Unbelievable, right?

Everyone is unfairly labeled in life. The thing about labels is that we can easily peel them off and cast them aside with practice, commitment and hope. We don't have to let them define our lives.

Karen Dietlein Osborne contributes to “Coming of Age,” a CNS column series for and about youth. She is a staff writer for the Evangelist, newspaper of the Diocese of Albany, N.Y..


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