“Be strong, Arleen.” Tears welled up anyway.

“Be strong, Arleen.” I whispered it in the gym parking lot, at the end of a 400 meter run, the day after I accepted my Tampa job offer.

Tears welled up anyway.

Because I knew—I was leaving. “Be strong, Arleen,” I said.

Because I didn’t want to feel those feelings, let alone express them. I wanted to leave Virginia Beach without having to feel what a person should feel when she leaves.

But to bypass the feelings associated with moving makes moving a missed opportunity.

To attempt to circumvent the feelings that came with leaving CrossFit Virginia Beach would be to disregard what I learned there—that real strength doesn’t avoid feeling.

Real strength embraces it.

Like when our forearms burn because our fingers are wrapped around 40-pound dumbbells for a farmer’s carry. 

We keep going.

When our legs and our lungs want to stop while we run, we keep going.

When we just lifted more weight than we’ve ever lifted, we add more plates to the bar.

Because real strength doesn’t run away from feelings. Real strength runs regardless of them, toward what is good.

Because real strength acknowledges: I don’t want to stop because I can’t keep going. I want to stop because it’s hard to keep going.

But real strength doesn’t stop because it’s hard. Real strength knows it’s supposed to be.

Real strength knows I can endure hard things—and that I should endure hard things.

Because if I never endure hard things, I never move, I never grow.

And by doing hard things, hard things don’t get easier. But you get better at doing hard things.

You learn that you can work a little longer, go a little farther, lift a little heavier. You learn what you can endure.

And I learned that I can endure a little more sweat. I learned that I can endure a little more struggle. And a little more weight. And a little more work.

And then, a little more of the grief that goes along with moving.

So I decided: “Yes, I will be strong. I will feel what I feel, even though it’s hard. And even while I feel it, I’ll keep going.”