Oh the Joy of Finding Happiness Outside of Yourself

The girls toe the edge of the white line, anxious and jittery like racehorses. Some shake their legs out, do last minute checks on watches and one last stride out before the gunman raises his hand, silently staring out at us. We wait for the command. It’s the first time I’ve been in the front pack, having barely made the cutoff to start at the Olympic corner with the faster group of milers rather than back at the starting line. There’s 24 of us and this is the meet to qualify for state. Tensions are high, the humidity of the incoming storm hangs in the air and think clouds, and the static charge of determination is almost palpable.

Now here I am, six months before this moment, at five in the morning long before the sun will rise over the frozen corn fields, running. The steady drum of the treadmill under my feet beats with only one thought: state, state, state

Since November I’ve envisioned crossing that finish line, a winner, a state qualifier, an accomplished five-minute miler. Hundreds of times, I’ve rounded that corner for the final kick. Staring at the wall ahead of me where I’ve hung a picture of last year’s state runners crossing the line with triumphic hearts, it’s all I think about. For six months, every mile, every meal, every hour of rest beats with my one goal: state, state, state.

Now I am standing at the starting line. I’m about to run the most important race of the season and my last 1600m race as a high school student. The gun shoots off, and the girls spring out like bullets. 

From there, the rest of the race almost seems to take place outside of my little realm of reality. I don’t think about pace or splits or the girl next to me. I just run. I run hard.

But next thing I know, girls are catching up and they’re passing. Overtaking me actually with quite surprising ease. Then to my surprise, one of my own freshman girls surge ahead of me. The same wonderful, anxious, insecure and talented girl I led all season and mentored. The same naive and bubbly runner who does not yet know the extent of her capabilities or her competitive spirit. But nervous as she was beforehand, here she is, taking control of her race and powering all 6 ft of gangly, long legs to work and let her fly. 

My only thought in the race was, I’m a senior. I can’t let a freshman beat me in my last mile race. Not the best mental pep talk I’ve ever had, but that’s what it took to power my legs and surge pass my oponents and over the line with a possible new personal best, beating the very freshman I coached all season. 

But that’s not what brought me to tears, standing there in the downpour of rain. It’s not the fact that I placed tenth, nearly 30 seconds behind my goal and eight girls behind being a state qualifier. It’s not the six months of two runs a day, one in the pitch black and the other with snow, wind or rain. It’s not the sleepless nights I spent practically weeping with the desire to cross that finish line a winner. 

No. What overwhelms me as I recover from the race that ended all too soon, is pride. Pure joy radiates from Mariah’s face and her freckles dimples stretch to her ears when she looks at me and beams, “I passed you, and even though you got me, I got under six minutes. I did it.”

What I worked so hard for all these months, was not for me to go to state, but to lead my team. My job was never to run a 5:20 mile, but to be a role model for the girls who look up to me. In that beautiful moment I learned I had done my job. I realized that success comes in surprising ways and it’s not always in the form of a medal. 

What a beautiful thing it is to feel true joy for someone else. 


That Feeling You Get After Reading a Good Book

What is that word even called? 

Whatever it may be, because I’m currently flying in a 747 on my way back home to Seattle from a surprisingly rainy weekend in Arizona and I can’t reach a thesaurus or google it (because who doesn’t turn to google first anyways), that is almost what I feel right now.  

I didn’t just read a good book. I lost myself in the pages of a phenomenal story where I then reflected upon myself and came away with a different outlook on life where I know, years from now, certain words and phrases inscribed in this story will resurface and bring to mind the overwhelming sensation of discovery. Discovery of a new part of me. That is what I feel.

It’s not quite the twang of abandonment you get when you regretfully turn the last page over. It’s not even the loss of focus and direction you experience after you lift your blurry eyes from the dog-eared pages and riveting words that immersed you into a different world for so long and held you captive in their many thrills and journeys. It’s not even the strange mixture of relief and regret that the suspense and tension of the conflict is over and resolved, and you’re simply sad it’s over. 

No, this feeling surpasses that. As I looked up from the last page of my book, letting my eyes readjust to reality, I let out a long sigh. It’s over… But it’s not. Honestly, it’s just the beginning. 

A good book leaves an impression on you, (in my unprofessional opinion). It leaves you something of value that nothing else can quite do, and that is the wisdom that comes from living vicariously through the pages of another life or world. Your imagination stretches just a bit with each new story and you’re never quite the same.

But a book that changes your life, that reaches to the very roots of who you are as a human being, that fundamentally shifts your very character, leaves more than just an impression. It brings you to act upon your new way of thinking. It consumes your mind and brings you to question what you knew before. An amazing book, is one that leaves you as a new person. 

It’s a strange and beautiful thing how humans created stories and continue to this very day, weave great tales. To lose yourself in reading is a wonderful thing. To transport to a different state of being and really use your noggin’ just gives me the chills. It’s not very often that I come upon stories that have left me rendered speechless much like I am now. Thank goodness I’m on a plane anyways and have some time to recover before landing and moving on with the never ending quick lane of traffic that is life. 

I’ll just simply sit here and snack on cashews while reveling in the waves of emotion that come and go. At least I can contemplate about what has shifted within me with no disturbance because this feeling, exhausting as it may be at times, is wonderful. I remember how lost I was as a young girl when Harry Potter came to an end. I remember how hard I ran to cleanse myself of the grief I felt while powering through The Kite Runner. I remember the sense of maturity I developed after finishing the series of Flowers in the Attic. These stories are just a few that have marked great areas of growth in my character over the years, and now like a tree, I’ve added another ring. 

Boys in the Boat changed my perspective of not just the world, but myself and my own limits of strength, determination and willpower. It’s a hard book to match in terms of eloquence and relatablilty. Again and again, words rang true and my heart burned with passion and acknowledgment. This book left me with the feeling I suppose I can only sum up in terms like, yes…someone finally described it

So read it.