Being done with a run across America is a little surreal, and it almost feels like another person did it.. I was transported into the constant state of flow, persistently moving forward no matter what. The goal was to get to New York, and I did it. The goal was to understand and raise awareness for veterans issues, and I did that too. The goal was to become a stronger version of myself, and that definitely happened.
I met and ran with thousands of Americans, and got to learn about what life was like for them. I ran through deserts, farmland, mountains, suburbs, cities, ghettos. I flew up and down rolling hills and through sparkling pecan orchards. I ran right next to swamps where trees were half submerged in water. I dodged semi-trucks by jumping off the road and into ditches, just in the nick of time. I learned how to outwit feral dogs and hurtled over rattle snakes. I soaked in sunrises that lit me up from the inside with their grandeur.
I met so many people. Runners, veterans, farmers, truckers, rattlesnake hunters, preachers, witches, sailors, oil-rig workers, travelers, biker gangs, transients, reporters, politicians, and the list goes on.
I learned what love is. I learned what friendship is. I learned about brotherhood and camaraderie and selfless service. I witnessed people give so freely and generously that it completely restored my faith in humanity. I stood in awe as people who I had never met gave of themselves so completely because the message I carried with me resonated so deeply. I was taught by example what it means to be supportive, to have someones back, to give.
On good days, I felt like I had obtained the key to Universe. Everything was heartbreakingly beautiful, the world was in high definition. The splendor I encountered was so enormous that I had no way to contain it. At times, it seemed too much for one person-- and then I would feel my heart expand. One epiphany after another would wash over me, and I had so much to say after being on the road each day that oftentimes it rendered me speechless.
On hard days, it felt like solitary confinement. There were times when the relentless running on the road by myself was like opening up old wounds and exposing them to the elements. As I ran through the South, it felt like I was going deeper and deeper into the heart of darkness, into my own heart. The fatigue and the heat and the humidity left me utterly empty, and nearly pushed me over the edge. I learned to guard myself against negative thoughts, to put my faith in the beauty around me, to focus on love. Focusing on love and gratitude, and leaning on my friends, was the only thing that got me through those dark times. I ended many nights utterly exhausted and numb.
I learned about grit. About doing something no matter what. I learned about putting one foot in front of the other regardless of how I felt. I pushed myself beyond my limits in a way that I never have. Towards the end it felt like I went into survival mode, became completely and solely focused on my goal. I learned how to eliminate everything but my will. I learned how to identify my fear and my insecurity as unwelcome guests in my awareness. I learned how to ignore them. I learned how to get into flow and stay there. I watched as my performance increase towards the end of my run, despite constant and worsening injuries. I learned to take energy from others, to rely on their belief in me when I had no belief in myself. I learned how to internalize love.
From veterans, I learned everything. I could write an encyclopedia of lessons I have learned from the thousands of veterans that I have met over the course of the last six months. My gratitude for these men and women is overflowing. My goal was to support veterans on my run, and in the end, it was they who supported me-- and they were the only ones who could. I can think of no other group of individuals that would be able to demonstrate the mental toughness and compassion that was necessary to complete my run.
From Team RWB, I learned about community and selflessness. I learned about giving just because it is the right thing to do. I learned how it is the individuals who make up an organization who make it powerful and effective. I learned that it was possible to create on-the-spot communities with the power of belief. I learned that unconditional love exists everywhere.
I learned lessons that were difficult. I made goals that were too high and had to scale them back. I realized that I could not will myself into being superhuman. This was a necessary blow to my ego, and one that made me stronger and more humble. We thrived a lot of the time, we sometimes failed, and we refused to quit.
We encountered death when someone slammed into the back of our RV and died in front of us. We encountered poverty when we changed our route from the new highways to the old back roads. We saw towns that consisted of one boarded up building after another. We saw tens of thousands of abandoned homes. We encountered racism and classism and ignorance, and when we saw it, we fought it by continuing to be loving to everyone. Running through the "bad neighborhoods" became one of my favorite activities. People would warn us not to go down certain streets. When we did, we were greeted with more warmth and hospitality than anywhere else. People thanked us for not being afraid. We like to say,
"You get more gatorade in the ghetto."
I learned that being cool is the most unimportant fucking thing in the entire world. I learned that being true to yourself is so much more important than being admired. I learned to speak truth, to admit when I was wrong, to withhold judgement, to humble myself.
At some point, I learned that honesty is much more important than caring what people think. I learned to say what was in my heart, even when it made me sound weak, or radical, or outlandish. I learned the difference between insecurity and humility, and watched as one transformed into another.
After it was all over, I had a chance to look at all the lessons that I've learned on the trip. About discipline, integrity, love, commitment, service, and selflessness. I had to take along hard look at myself- at ways that I could have done it all better. My perfectionism kicked in and I had a hard time feeling like I had accomplished anything at all. I was able to recognize the pattern in my life of never feeling like I had done a good enough job, never feeling like it was worthy of praise. I kicked myself for being human, for being imperfect.
I slumped into a major depression where I felt my life, as I knew it, was over. I remembered that it was trusting in God that got me across the country, and so why should this be any different. So now, I choose to believe that somehow I would be taken care of. And of course, I always am.
I am diligently working on the book and back to painting. I running again and will be working under a coach. I think I am willing to finally listen to others. I realize how powerful it is to reach your goals by taking tiny steps. One step at a time, over and over, until you have reached your destination. I'm painting again. I call this period of time "the refeminization of Anna Judd" because for a while there, I was pretty much all masculine energy. I can turn it on for running, and it is actually pretty powerful, but I dont have any desire to put the warpaint back on.