A Sort of Homecoming
As long as I can remember I've avoided achievement. I left Penn State - more precisely, I simply stopped going to classes much - midway through my last semester. I was a University Scholar. I think I ended up about nine credits short of my theater degree. About six years later I left my husband, Sean, whose last name I still carry with me (I suppose some might say like penitence), though he loved me more than I'm afraid any man ever will love me again. I loved him just about as much.
I actually left Sean twice. The second time it was for a drug addict.
I walked away from radio, too, just as I was on the cusp of breaking big, after I'd come close to snaring a gig as big-deal shock jock Mancow's sidekick.
I'm not sure what short circuit in my brain accounted for this kind of behavior. Fear of success, fear of failure, a fascination with self-destruction, simply an inability to focus on the long view, or to maybe handle routine, it could be all of these things. Or none of them. But at the very least it's made for an interesting life - sometime I'll have to write the story of the time a crack dealer put a gun to my head - and until recently there wasn't much I regretted about it. Certainly not the degree and not even radio. Sean. I regret Sean. Still, two decades later.
Sometimes I wonder if T is some kind of cosmic payback for the way I treated my husband. He was the best man I ever knew. Brilliant. T was so proud of his intellect but Sean, he was scary smart. Got a perfect score on his SATs. Johns Hopkins tried to recruit him at 14 for med school and throughout our marriage he'd periodically get literature from MENSA. They were trying to recruit him, too. Brilliant and funny and creative and handsome and kind and he loved me exactly as I was.
So, of course I left him.
I don't want to live this way anymore. I'm ready to see exactly what I can do when I put my mind to it and keep it there. I don't want to be that woman, the smart and talented one - oh, no genius, to be sure - who just never really seems to get it together. Which is why I'm so afraid. Terrified that I've fucked up so badly this time there's no putting it right.
I had this amazing thing started, didn't I? I'd announced to the world that to heal my broken heart and take back my life after a lot of terrifically horrible events I was going to climb two of the Seven Summits of the world next year. I was going to detail my training and my emotional as well as physical transformation right here, on this blog, with brutal honesty and hopefully even a bit of poetry. I started training, remaking my body with the help of my supremely talented trainer Steve Jury, at Victory Sports and Fitness. Other people stepped forward to help, like Tamar London, who took such incredible "before" photographs of me.
And in the first month 11,000 people read this blog. 11,000 people. I still can't quite believe it.
And then I started traveling and the assignments, big ones, from national magazines, started coming, so fast I could barely keep up with them, and I even got invited to submit a book proposal. I couldn't do it all, I couldn't. I tried. I worked very hard, but something had to give and that something was this blog. This blog, and training. It's been weeks and weeks since I've been to the gym. I've gained at least five pounds, probably more, even though a lot of that traveling involved arduous physical activity, like when I hiked 30 miles of the Appalachian Trail in Virginia. God, I loved that. Those three days on the AT to me proved that I wasn't crazy, that Kilimanjaro and Aconcagua were calling to me because I belong there. I belong to those mountains.
I loved training, loved how my body was becoming so much stronger than its ever been. And I loved this blog. In a very real way it saved my life, along with the people who followed it, the readers who reached out to tell me that my writing actually meant something to them. That it helped them. What a fine thing. The finest thing, I think, any writer could ask. I loved it all and I left it and I'm ashamed because I'm afriad that this is more of the same kind of behavior I've been doing forever.
But all I can do now is try to do better. I'm going back to Victory this weekend. Training begins afresh. I guess I'll have to ask Tamar to take pictures of my new body - instead of leaner and more muscular, even rounder than it was. Honesty, right? Even when that honesty includes failure.
At least I've got a lot of new stories to tell. I've not only hiked the AT, I've been skydiving and doing something called body rafting in the wilds of primal Puerto Rico. I've actually been to Puerto Rico twice, and to Memphis, and Richmond, also, where I was nearly abducted from a lesbian bar by a former lineman for Penn State. That was a strange night. Along the way I've healed a little bit and had a few epiphanies and continued to cry and, upon occasion, to smile.
I hope you forgive my absence. I hope you'll return to gleesonreboots, the way I have, invigorated and damn curious to see what's next.
Whatever it is, I can promise you it won't be boring.
11/5/2016 12:46:04 pm
I think you need to listen to Hopeton Lewis sing 'Take it Easy' 💕💕
11/5/2016 12:47:52 pm
Every experience, every person in our life is either a mentor or tormentor. We get to choose. And failure is only a word we give to an experience or relationship that still torments is. As soon as we lean into the lesson, we absorb the pain and incorporate it into the larger person we have become because of it. And then we start the. Uncle all over again. #reboot
11/5/2016 01:10:39 pm
I think the most important skill anyone can learn in this life is how to forgive themselves. Coming back to say "I fell off the wagon" is as impressive to me as not falling off at all.
11/5/2016 01:31:41 pm
Love you, Jill. I feel that you put too much pressure and expectations on yourself. Of COURSE something has to give. We can only do so much at one time. Being honest about it all is a form of therapy I think, for you and for us. Follow your heart and instinct about what is the right thing for you to do at any given moment. Don't dwell on those you can't get to. You're only human. Be compassionate to and love yourself. You deserve it.
11/6/2016 03:16:49 pm
This. This is BEAUTIFUL.
11/7/2016 01:47:17 am
Oh, Jill. When you dare to live greatly, failure is guaranteed! You're rising strong. Again. I am so goddamn proud of you.
11/7/2016 11:00:01 pm
Dear Jill, this is the first time I read your blog. Give yourself a break sweet lady, be thankful for ALL of your experiences. Put the guilt down, it serves no purpose in life. We never get there, it's all learning experiences. Open yourself up to the Universe, establish a relationship with it, and ask for guidance on a daily basis. Forgive yourself immediately for things you feel you do wrong, we all all MAJORLY imperfect. And most importantly, love yourself for getting back up and going in for another round.
11/8/2016 08:37:09 pm
Jill, thank you. Take a look at my website and you'll see that we're probably on the same path. Your story inspired me. Maybe, just maybe, I'll get my ass in gear and get back to my website ...
12/8/2016 03:40:50 am
I have a past littered with achieved success and then the walk away. I had felt as if I were an imposter and so I had to walk away from the said success.
9/30/2018 12:03:00 am
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Jill Gleeson is a journalist based in the hills of western Pennsylvania. She is a current contributor to The Pioneer Woman, Country Living, Group Travel Leader, Select Traveler, Going on Faith, Wander With Wonder, Enchanted Living and State College Magazine, where her column, Rebooted, is featured monthly. Other clients have included