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. 

Found a Direction

  

I am going left.

I say that, not because I am left-handed or am biased particularly towards one side more than the other though I will admit I take pride in the marks on my hand after a long day of writing, but I chose “left” because I have simply found a direction to go and it sounded better than right. 

It felt right to say left. So that’s where I’m going. 

More specifically, I know where I am at least going to live and attend school this autumn in an attempt to mature a bit more and delay the real world from slamming me in the face. 

So, left it is. 

  

I chose the beautiful University of Washington; in part because of their programs and in-state tuition when I did not qualify for a single scholarship anywhere at the other six major schools scattering the Northwest due to my parents’ income (a blessing and curse in one), and also because, for the most part, Stanford didn’t need me setting the bottom curve for their academics.

Funny thing about that though, as I stood at my metaphorical crossroad debating between left and right, close to home or an airplane ticket away, easier on the budget or stretching the risks for a rare opportunity, safety in the comfort of my peers or the thrill in the face of the unknown, UW or Stanford, the choice really decided itself. 

And it appeared in the form of a rejection letter. 

Upon seeing the first three words, we are sorry… I breathed a sigh of relief. That’s right. I deflated. Empty. The blissful lack of everything that accompanied this knowledge intrigued me. Under pressure, cooking with anticipation and uncertainty, I was stretching at the seams. Then suddenly, life decided to make the decision easy and turn the crossroad into a one-way street and chose to unfold it before me in the way that a fortune cookie may give you solace despite the fact that you didn’t know you were hoping for an answer anyways. So empty I sat, clear and sound, stress and trepidation washed away in the sense of happiness I felt for finally knowing which direction I would go. 

  

So here I go.

Left.

I am not saddened or dismayed or even rather content with the matter of my choice because at the end of the day, it’s just a school and life holds many different paths to happiness. Wherever I go, I hope I am not content, but striving for better. I hope I am not sad, but alive and well and I appreciate the wonders around me. What I believe life revealed to me, is that I have some more work to do and I will do my best with where I go and from here, it’s only uphill, and I need to buy a good pair of rainboots. 

To Follow Your Dreams or To Change Them?

That is the question.

It’s a great question. It has lovely parallelism and syntax construction and it’s sweet, short, to the point.

But I want the answer.

Sadly, the answer is one that will take time and some risk to discover. I may discover this elusive answer within the next few months as I pick a college, or go straight into a job, leave my love for California, or stay closer to Seattle with the security of happiness and home nearby, or maybe fifty years from now as I’m sitting in my rocker or something as equally stereotypical in the “old-person” manner. I may discover that…

I was wrong.

college life

That’s where the fear lies. Those thoughts that creep into my dreams at night and leave me anxious during the day, they’re infectious and contagious and do more harm than good, but as what everyone says, “it’s just a part of life.” Here is where my rant will begin as usual, with me asking, “why?” (Or, in my head thinking, “screw you, life. I want to just have the dreamy beach home that’s on my pinterest board with a mojito in one hand and my love’s hand in the other”.) Why does one have to take the long route, when something better is actually easier to attain? Why suffer when you can skip straight to the best part? These are hints that yes, I am that person that orders dessert first.

mojito

No, life is strange and it’s difficult. It’s beautiful and it’s tragic. The only constant in life, well summarized by Robert Frost, is that “life goes on”. My only fear in this time where I’m at many crossroads, lies in the nagging thought that life will go on and I will not have lived.

stanford

Depressing, right? So much for my whole “Mondays are awesome and the beginning of new adventures!” rant, but hey, I never said I wasn’t a hypocrite. No, I realize I will most likely be ok. At the very least, I will be content. I cannot let fear dictate my actions, for sometimes, the risk will yield great reward and I can sit back and think, “hell yeah, that was awesome.” I know I will be successful. My dad taught me the value of money and the work it requires to keep it. I can settle for this, but why settle at all? I am for happiness – blissful, overwhelmingy celestial happiness. I aim for a love that will inject my life with passion and friendship and late night ice-cream fests. I aim for adventures that no, I won’t tell my kids until they’re older. I plan to follow the idea that I should probably save more than I spend and if I do, maybe I can be like my grandparents with their RV in Cabo. I have goals, ok?

Loco-mobile

(They call it their “loco-mobile” and it’s fueled on booze. Yes, life goals.)

Anyways, to follow my dreams or to change them? So far the advice I’ve gotten from many different types of people, from my wonderful, grandmotherly, english teacher to the slightly creepy, but very kind janitor that works at night, have echoed the same words, “follow your dreams.” Everyone from different backgrounds and of all ages have told me that. I guess with advice like that, I might as well give it a shot. Why not? Life may go on, but if one route doesn’t work then I know I can try another.

Now first things first.

What are my dreams?

Lazy Saturdays

happy weekend cat

Ah… it’s the weekend. How lovely. How wonderful it is. Like the last bits of chocolate that are melted to the bottom of a cup of hot cocoa, all sweet and savory and ending the drink on a good note, the weekend has arrived and not at all too soon.

What a week.

I find it interesting how at such a young age, when my life is beginning to unfold before me with opportunities blooming at every corner, that I countdown the days until the weekend. Then, when that dismal Monday morning sneaks up and snatches me away from my blessed, warm bed to wrench me into another hectic five days of sheer, exhausting chaos, I countdown again. It’s a cycle.

Why do we count down until the weekend? Why is Monday such a wretched day, so unappreciated as compared to Saturday mornings or even Wednesday who has a cool nickname: “Hump Day”?

I know this may seem to be a rhetorical question. We know all to well the slumber that accompanies those early Monday mornings. I don’t know about you, but my bedroom is cold. My house is cold. Outside it’s cold. When I wake up on a Monday morning, before the sun even rises, I am cold. At that moment, the countdown until Friday night begins, but there’s no time to lag, it’s 5 a.m. and the clock is ticking. Time to run, go to school, go to practice, work, and do homework to get ahead for the week and every moment counts.

But despite the fact that I am using my time efficiently, am I using my time the full extent of its bounty? Am I making the time to enjoy the colors of the soft sunset, splattered with hues of pink and orange as it stretches over the green fields? Am I savoring the taste of my mint tea with the delightful quote of the day typed neatly on the paper? Am I feeling the wind pass over my body as I surge with power and strength, feet striking the pavement with a steady beat, breathing in the taste of the spring air when I run? Am I devoting every smile and moment with my love to memory, for in a few months, our paths may split? Am I actually going to finish that novel, whose pages smell like cedar shelves and pages worn smooth by time under the shade of a wise tree in the park that is empty much too often? Am I living?

There’s some food for thought. Chew on that for a bit.

Enjoy your weekend. Slow time down and spare a few moments to look around you, for you might be surprised what you will learn. As for the countdown, maybe I’ll put that aside for a while and give Monday the appreciation it deserves. My english teacher, whom I was always trying to differentiate between wise and slightly senile, once said Mondays were the best day of the week. They are the perfect opportunity to begin anew and start over. Rather than seeing your week as merely a countdown, view your week as an adventure. I think right there, the wisdom won.

But remember to sleep in on Saturdays. As wonderful as my Monday’s will be from here on out as I attempt to change my perspective, my bed is warm and for now, I will happily reside here.

Happy weekend.

Too Many Things, Too Little Time

So this blog is off to a slow start. Sure, the turtle wins the race slow and steady, though I don’t know about you, but the rabbit seemed like the guy to root for. He simply didn’t plan it out. Too many expectations, too many goals, too much confidence, and thus, this recipe led to his demise. But he had it. That’s what I believe I did. I have too many hopes, too many ideas, too many priorities to prioritize, and thus, this blog, much like the rabbit, drops out of the race. But I can fix that. Life is all about moderation. From healthy habits to drinking enough water, and having your slice of pie too, (I vote pie over cake anytime), to working to make money, while not jeopardizing valuable time with family and friends, this one word should resonate in your mind like the ringing of Morgan Freeman’s voice in your head after one of his three-hour long movies: moderation, moderation, moderation. But sometimes moderation is hard to find. For example, take a look at a typical day in the life of a student-athlete balancing three AP classes, work, a relationship, college scholarships, family responsibilities, friendships, and nine mile runs daily: aka me. 5:15 am BEEP BEEP BEE-smack. Roll around for a few minutes regaining conscienciousness and whereabouts while struggling to remember that strangely lucid dream you had because you had too much sugar before bed. 5:25 am Roll out of bed, gracefully of course, and stumble out the front door, thankful you put on your gym clothes the night before, else god knows you’d show up to the gym naked before you realized it. 6:15 am Hop off the stair-stepper feeling sweaty and rejuvenated. Caught up on pinterest goals and listened to that one song you downloaded yesterday about three times over because it is just that good. 7:00 am Showered up, lotioned up, and food in hand, it’s time to head out the door for school after involuntarily changing your outfit about two times. The struggle between sweats and pants is real. Everyday. 7:15 am Finally get out the door and drive to school, again listening to that one song and singing at the top of your lungs before you pull into the parking lot and have to regain your “cool.” Admit it, your butt still is wiggling until you hop out of that car. 8:00 am Ah…school. The first class of the day is College Prep English. Analyzing literature through the feminist criticism lens is a wonderful way to start the morning, though let’s be honest, you’re just happy you brought a spoon to eat your oatmeal. Yum. 1:20 pm So much for relaxing. Three AP classes, two honors classes that had projects due, four tests, one pop-quiz and quick mental breakdown in the bathroom later, school is over. From here, the day stretches out into a beautiful array of endless opportunities and wonderful possibilities in which you can catch up on work, takes notes for the next three weeks, go on a walk, or finally read that book you’ve been wanting to read because school is…over… 7:00 pm …What the heck? It’s already dark out. You had time to run, and eat, then sleep because you were so exhausted from running nine miles that you slept right where you fell after your shower and now your hair has dried into a strange, kinky fashion that even Lady Gaga would be jealous of, you realized you have yet to do your four hours of homework. 7:30 pm And so it begins. 10:00 pm Sleep is important. Much more important than AP Statistics notes, so it’s time to prioritize (knowing I have 98% in the class) and head to bed, because hey, you’re a student-athlete and without at least seven hours of sleep, you’ll just be a zombie. This logic fuels my last reserves of energy as I lay out a breakfast for tomorrow and hop into gym clothes before passing out. You can catch up on homework in Physics class. And do it all over again. So where in the world can I fit in the time for a blog? It’s second semester of senior year and I’ve yet to fnd a system that somehow allows me to finish my homework, study, even work ahead while having time to run, and relax. I may preach the ideal of moderation, though I have yet to find it myself. What keeps me going is the fact that this hard work will pay off, and in a matter of a few weeks, I will finalize my fifth-year plans and summer will be right around the corner. Track will take up more time. Work will begin as the weather warms up. Graduation will be right around the corner and school will take first priotity as I try to finish in the Top Ten, and at times, these ambitions feel like they’re too much to handle, but I know, that it’s all for a good reason. It’s a race worth winning and I’m in the lead. Bear with me as this blog takes form. It’s the turtle right now. Slow… but steady. It’s gaining momentum and it’s only going to get better as my adventures begin to open up. So in the mean time, moderation, moderation, moderation. Keep trying to find it.

Life’s Remedies and Why We Need More of Them

city

Things we need more of in this world:

Bubble baths.

Fruity-smelling lotion.

Hugs.

Sleeping in.

Good, long, runs (debatable at times).

Kisses.

Gratitude.

And less of:

Anger.

Hate.

Prejudice.

Poverty.

Reruns of reality shows featuring pregnant teens.

When it comes to curing the world of these social problems, it can be a bit overwhelming when you look at the big picture. As I begin to narrow my search for colleges, future careers, and grow into my “adult” shoes, I feel the looming fear in the back of my mind, always whispering, “You are just one out of 8 billion.” Take into account the other time consuming factors of making money, working, and surviving school, and sometimes the thought of fighting the world’s injustices gets pushed down the priority ladder. Just leave it to those that have time, right? I would love to have the time and resources to save every homeless child, but this damn AP Stats homework…hm. Slightly depressing? Yes. Luckily, the other side of my conscience fights the opposing side and pipes up when Ms. Debbie Downer tries to get me down with the thoughts of the real world. Why can’t I make a difference? Why can’t any of us make a difference? It’s so simple when you pick it apart. Small actions add up. They become habits. Habits become your actions. Your actions define your character.

Say hello to that janitor you pass by every morning before work. Say thank you for everything you receive, whether it’s another piece of busywork homework, and appreciate that your teachers show up everyday, despite their obstacles, on time and ready to help you grow and become a better person. The world is full of good people, but is it full of good people that just don’t recognize their good-doings?

I remember walking down the sidewalk after a particularly horrible day at work. Things were looking down for the most part, and I was about ready to quit as I was feeling unappreciated and just downright wrong. I passed a man, scraggly beard, missing teeth and no shirt, and dismissed his call as a jibe I should ignore. I kept walking despite his protests, but then the words he was saying began to materialize into more than just the insults I expected. He was telling me to smile. He told me to hold my chin up. I, caught quite off guard by this apparently homeless man, didn’t know what to say. He asked me how my day was, and if I had rescued anyone (I’m a lifeguard), and I hesistantly said “no…”

He looked at me then, looked me in the eyes, and with true empathy, he wished me a good day.

“I bet you had more of an impact than you know. God bless.”

And he was gone.

To this day I remember that man and everyday I think of him, wishing I could thank him. His words kept me going. His unexpected kindness struck a chord within me. You can make a difference in the world through small actions because those actions add up. Everyday, if you affect just one person, that’s one more person in the world who will remember you. You don’t know the effect you have on people. So my recipe to life? Kind words. Voluntary help. Strive to make a difference in the world by making a difference with the people around you. We need more people like that.