It's never too late to escape the hamster wheel

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When I was a little girl I had a pet hamster named Peanut. His fluffy fur was a mix of caramel and white and my favorite thing to do with him was put him into the clear hamster ball and send him running around the kitchen.

I loved Peanut and my heart was broken the day I came home from school to find his life was over. Peanut Jr. was the next hamster in a long line of pets, but the one thing that remained constant was the hamster ball.

Fast forward 20 years to the first time I brought home a hamster for my own kids. Chippy was my daughter’s first beloved hamster. This time, however, we had a hamster wheel in the cage.

I hated that wheel. It squeaked incessantly and the worst part was that Chippy loved to run at night. Needless to say a solution was necessary. It wasn’t the one I expected. My daughter decided Chippy needed to be free so she would let him out to run freely in the house.

We found that hamster everywhere: the piano strings, behind the fridge, under the beds and in the toy box. I can only imagine that his life experience was expanded beyond his wildest dreams.

So long hamster wheel, hello life!

Too often, this is our story. We used to dream when we were younger. Not just little dreams, but big dreams of doing amazing things, conquering mountains, stopping just shy of changing the world.

What happened? Marriage, kids, bills, jobs, illness, injury, grief, pain and a host of other dream stealers.

The result? Our dream starts to die and we get on the hamster wheel and squeak out our existence in the darkness of night.

But every once in a while we hear a story of someone recapturing a dream, shattering an obstacle or overcoming an illness and something stirs inside us. Hello life? Do we dare to dream again?

Do it!

Yes, just do it!

Nike has the slogan right.

You’re not too old. It’s not too late. Yes, it might be hard and yes, you will have to work at it. It will be uncomfortable and your schedule might have to change a little or lot.

You might have to change some habits. Quit smoking, cut down on junk food, and please ... go get some new tennis shoes and get off the couch.

Somebody do this. Dream big and dream often and if your dream seems easy, it’s not big enough. It’s time to change your life, and when you do you will inspire others to do the same.

In my office hangs a poster of Cody McCasland. Cody has been on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” “Oprah,” and “Dateline,” to name a few. He has run in marathons and triathlons. He’s met people like astronauts, Olympic athletes, Paralympic athletes, professional football players and race car drivers.

When you see this little boy being interviewed, his great big smile and contagious laughter draw you instantly to him. The fact that he is a double amputee who walks on two carbon blades is quickly forgotten.

By all appearances, you would never know that when this little boy was born, his parents were told to say their goodbyes because their newborn baby would never make it through the first 24 hours of his life.

His life inspires others everyday and so can yours.

Peanut, Chippy and hamsters everywhere love the wheel. But isn’t there more for you and me?

The fact is, the hamster wheel stands ready every day. In fact it has come to represent the new American way of living, but I’m telling you if you get on it and start running, it will kill your dream.

Ditch the wheel. Dream big. Dream often.

It’s time to be free.

I want to hear your stories. If this inspires you to dream again, please send me your stories so I can celebrate with you.

Leslie Snyder is senior director of Walla Walla YMCA’s Healthy Living program. She can be reached at 509-525-8863 or lsnyder@wwymca.org.

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