Fresh out of college, Jo was all set to run the ‘Rat Race’, an ongoing race to win a huge supply of bread and cheese every year. The bread he did not care about but he loved cheese! Jo had learned all the terms and conditions by heart and had completely closed himself from any such thought, person or experience that will question his newly acquired belief system. He was focused, determined, enthusiastic and ready to win the race every year.
Finally, the big day came. Jo was flying high. He was completely prepared for this new adventure. The moment he heard the gunshot, he started running & gave it his everything. For the next two years his daily life, vacations and important events such as marriage, the birth of his child were planned around the Rat Race schedule. He felt on top of the world and was determined to win the rat race one day.
In one of those regular running days, Jo realized that he forgot to ask one big question before deciding to participate in the Rat Race. He asked his fellow runners but they were equally clueless about it. Anyway, he ignored that question and concentrated on running.
After 3 years, this race was beginning to get monotonous and boring for Jo. He decides to slow down so that he can deeply think about that big question & his accomplishments; the cheese. Starting from basic Parmesan to nutty cheddar to exotic blue cheese; he loved it all. He recently tried the new’ iCheese’, that he hated but pretended to like because it was so popular. The one puzzling factor in Jo’s life was his ability to put on so much of weight despite all the running. Genetic problem perhaps, he thought.
Just when Jo was feeling a little better after slowing down, his best friend from college, Happy, overtook him in the race. Jo panicked. This can’t be happening. Happy’s GPA was just 2.8. He can’t outrun him in this race. Jo gathered all his strength and started to run even faster than before. This time he ran his fastest lap ever and won the mega cheese prize, a bonus year supply of iCheese. Well, he hated iCheese so he decided to save most of it for the future.
Jo ran again for five years. He became resentful, rude and sometimes ruthless to other runners. Whenever he met a new runner, he will brag about his achievements and try to teach him a few tricks of the trade that was mostly untrue. No one knew that deep inside Jo was very unhappy. He was sick and tired of running. He wanted to quit every day but he could not do it because he had not learned anything in the past 10 years except how to run faster. Jo did not know what to do.
Suddenly on one bright Monday morning, Jo collapsed on the track. He was immediately taken to the hospital by the Rat Race organizers. Doctors diagnosed that he had a stroke because of excessive running and cheese consumption. Jo was discharged from the hospital after a month. A few of his friends suggested him to join the rat race back asap otherwise he will lose his race position to others.
Jo looked at his family and smiled. He finally asked that big question that he had forgotten to ask before the race started. Why are we running this race? His friends were puzzled and disturbed by this question. What does this question mean? This race has been going on for decades now and it is the most important race of everyone’s life. After deep contemplation they replied, you should run this race because everyone else is running. What else are you going to do anyway?
I am going to quit, Jo replied. That is what I am going to do.
Today, Jo is an active traveler, occasional blogger and a happy vegan now. He and his wife run an organization called ‘More than just Cheese’, where they motivate everyone to look beyond running the Rat Race.