Dear Younger Me: Karis Jochen

Karis Jochen graduated from College Station A&M Consolidated in College Station, TX in 2013. She's a two time state champion for cross country. Jochen also became a two time Gatorade Athlete of the Year for cross country for the state of Texas. Along the way, she placed fifth at Foot Locker Nationals and Nike Cross Nationals in 2012. While being a student-athlete at Texas A&M, she became an All-American and was the 2015 Southeastern Conference Cross Country Scholar Athlete of the Year. After graduating, she focused on marathon training and road racing. 

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"You will meet your best friends and life partners through running. Please give yourself grace and enjoy this life. Wake up with a fire to chase the best version of yourself rather than a fear to attain this perfect version."

By Karis Jochen - Texas A&M

Dear Karis,

Remember when you hated running? You only ran as a way to stay fit for soccer. But while all your teammates continued growing and becoming physically stronger, your small frame stayed the same and your lungs grew stronger.

After winning a few of those awful cross country races your freshman year, you started wondering how far you could take this running thing. The more you ran, the more you fell in love with running. Now you can't imagine life without it. Running revealed your strength and freedom.

So, when did you become so enslaved?

Every night you go to bed discouraged by your imperfections. You say you aren't enough. Don't you know you will never be perfect? You can continue running the most and eating the least, but you can waste a lifetime trying to win this game. 

You loved pizza rolls 12 months ago, but last night you said you were full while your growling stomach said otherwise. Restricting food has become the lie you tell yourself to feel control over your life.  Your mother is your best friend and biggest cheerleader. She sees you struggling and wishes she could resolve this anxiety and give you all your wildest dreams. She will try to help you but there is only so much she can do if you are not willing to help yourself. 

Speaking of your mom, do you still want to be a mother one day? When was the last time you had your period? You got it at a normal age, but around the time you started ignoring your hunger cues you lost it. I know you say this is more convenient for training, but you don't realize what this means. 

Your body doesn't have enough energy to support bodily functions besides the ones merely keeping you alive. This is the same reason why the hair on your head started falling out, small blonde hairs showed up on your face, and your hands are constantly cold. Your body can't keep itself warm.

You only do things in extremes and think these are all signs of your toughness and commitment to running fast, but you are starving yourself. Your friends have stopped calling you. They already know what response to expect and no one likes to be rejected for the thousandth time. Humans were designed to be social creatures, yet you don't have the energy to think beyond the next meal or the next run, let alone to see other people. In your need for control, you have become the controlled one. 

Karis, people don't like you because you run and there is so much more to life. You are the best version of yourself when you are running, but not like this. You have a strong and healthy body, but you are not honoring it with this lifestyle. You don't know faster runners to show you how real athletes live, but the Olympians and World Champions eat Karis. They celebrate their powerful female bodies. They run with friends. They have relationships and can laugh. 

Have you noticed you've stopped laughing? You're running so close to the edge that you can't fully express joy. When you learn about Maslow's hierarchy of needs in psychology class you'll realize why.

Running is, and always will be, your first love. You will become a two-time high school state champion. You will proudly represent Texas A&M and will become an All-American. And yet, you will graduate unsatisfied. 

That's the thing with running. No matter what you accomplish, it will never be enough. This sport is too hard, and this life is too short to live for the one day that may or may not happen. You must cherish the journey; this way, when you reach the starting line, you are already a winner.

Karis, you can run and still enjoy life. You can have the chocolate chip cookie and still run fast. Running will always be a part of you, but it isn't all of you. 

Please go give your mom a hug because it is killing her to watch you kill yourself. 

You don't have to do this alone, but you do have to do this. Don't let your entire life pass before you actually live it.

You have so much more to offer the world. 

I hope you have a lifetime of miles ahead of you. Running is a social sport and you have not even scratched the surface of all it can offer you. 

You will meet your best friends and life partners through running. Please give yourself grace and enjoy this life. Wake up with a fire to chase the best version of yourself rather than a fear to attain this perfect version. 

Release your shackles Karis. Go for a long run and set yourself free!

Your strong(er) and free(er) friend,

25-year-old Karis