By 303 Contributor, Lisa Ingarfield
If you have a Facebook account, many of you have likely noticed Facebook is sharing with you a collection of memories from 2016 as part of its Year in Review user engagement strategy. As a thanks to you, dear user, they have compiled your best memories from the year for you to share with your networks. Many of my friends have shared their Year in Review videos on their timeline with fascination, happiness, or comments such as “I guess 2016 wasn’t as bad as I thought.” For me, my recap included pictures from January and November/December. Apparently, I did nothing between February and October. This is curious, given this is prime time triathlon season, and I am fairly sure I remember entering a few of those.
Despite Facebook’s flawed attempts to reflect back to me the greatness of my year, it did give me pause to review and reflect. I just completed my last “A” race of the season, the California International Marathon. This was a mixed bag of PR, disastrous shoe tying skills, and a cavalier “let’s see how long I can maintain this pace” attitude. I am in the post-marathon “take a break” week, and so Facebook’s presentation of my year is timely because 2017 is on my mind. What do I want 2017 to look like? What races should I register for, and do I want to do another marathon? Like many of you, I imagine, I have a love/hate relationship with the marathon. During the race, I ask myself why I signed up for this distance again, and then in the hours and days after the race, the amnesia sets in and I move from “never again” to “maybe again” to browsing the list of popular Boston qualifying races and musing how they might fit in with my triathlon schedule. And so it begins.
This mental progression complemented by reflections on the year has led me to ponder where I want to invest my time in 2017. I think this is a question that we all should ask ourselves in an intentional way. Sometimes, the adrenaline of a good race or the competitive push of our community can have us moving from race to race with little down time or little attention to where our time is best invested. Like my Facebook Year in Review skipped February to October, it sometimes feels like I skipped February to October in a broad sense. All aspects of my life orbited training and racing during those months.
Those nine months, while punctuated by other events in my life, were largely oriented towards races and training goals. As I search the filing cabinet in my head to retrieve files from 2016, I struggle to put my hands on something that isn’t shaped by triathlon or running. That isn’t necessarily a wholly bad thing, as for many of us, these activities are central to our identities and how we show up in the world. Training and racing creates a sense of purpose. However, I do think that moving from “season” to “season” each year can limit our engagement with the vastness of human experience.
Is being singularly focused on one activity necessarily the way to engage with the world? When we review our year, shouldn’t we be able to point to a diversity of memories instead of just one repetitive experience?
Last year, I used one of those applications that compiles your Facebook hashtags. I was alarmed to see that my number one hashtag by far was that of my sponsor. Could 2015 be reduced to the repetition of one particular hashtag? Was I that predictable? For 2016, I am not sure that I improved much. While my hashtags may be more diverse, clearly, my activities weren’t. I certainly acknowledge that Facebook is not the sole definer of what interesting events and activities I completed in 2016 and nor should it be. But what it reflects back to me, or in this case doesn’t reflect back to me, is thought provoking.
Are the absence of memories from the middle of the year because everything I posted was repetitive and Facebook’s algorithm couldn’t distinguish between events? Or perhaps their algorithm is just flawed. Whatever the reason, I do know that I want 2017 to be full of learning and practicing to do and be more. This time next year, when I look back, I want to see multiple anchor points that my life experiences orbited around, not just racing and training. My identity as triathlete will be but one marker of who I am. That said though, 2017 may also include a marathon…