Yesterday I turned 26. I’m not one that likes putting too much emphasis on age, but for some reason this birthday means a ton to me this year.
30 doesn’t seem that far away, and yet 20 seems like decades ago. When I turned 20 I was a sophomore in college. I was a baby. And I’ve managed to squeeze in a lot in five years: lots of traveling, a graduation, a couple odd jobs, many apartments, a few relationships, some marathons (!), and a career. I’ve also grown a shit ton emotionally — learning a lot about myself, what I love, what I’m good at, and what kind of energy I want to put into the world.
So now what happens for the second half of my twenties? Part of me always thought I was getting that wanderlust “out of the way” (travel across the country in a van that runs on vegetable oil? check.) because by 26 you’re supposed to have figured things out. Wandering meant uncertainty, and settling meant stability.
I’ve reached a crossroads where I’m really digging deep to reveal what I want to do and where I want to go in life. It’s an insanely hard question, and I feel lucky that I have a pretty great grasp on that answer. And so this next year, the big 2-6, is all about making that leap, entering the next chapter, and following my heart and gut.
I woke up on on my birthday at 5:30 so I could run over to the East River path in Manhattan for the sunrise over Brooklyn — what’s been my home for over two years. It was surprisingly warm as I sat myself on a bench and watched the sun bloom behind the buildings in Williamsburg. It sounds so incredibly cheesy (…cause it is) but I wanted to begin my birthday by myself in this way, while reminding myself of the strength I’ll always carry with me.
26 will be full of change (and hopefully no more vague blog posts). It will be scary, thrilling, challenging, and ultimately one of the best years yet.
It’s both a month since I last blogged (eek) but I haven’t really been compelled to do much public writing. I’ve decided to let these blogging “ruts” ride themselves out, rather than get annoyed that I can’t find the time, energy, or creativity to turn any events and musings in my head onto screen. Anyhow, here’s what’s been happening in the last month or so — that’s safe for blog world, at least (:
Florida. I escaped the nyc winter for a hot second to go to my cousin’s wedding in Florida. I was able to hang out with my grandma, go on a run on the beach and legitimately sweat a lot, celebrate a marriage, and then hop back on a plane where I silently panicked yet returned — thankfully, safely — to the tundra.
Greatist retreat. The team at work has shifted and evolved in the last few months, so it was nice to go on a day retreat out to the Botanical Gardens for some team bonding and brainstorming. We ended the day at Spritzenhaus, a beer garden in Williamsburg. We got there at 5pm and left at …12. That’s seven hours at one bar. It was great.
A-a-lcohol. Good segue! I’ve been enjoying getting through the tail end of winter with many a night out with friends. For some reason I rarely go out on the weekends, but find myself at bars on Tuesdays. A week or so ago, Flo and I were given free shots of tequila. And then I tried to pay for my food with my metro card…#shots
Daily gratitude. For the past 25 days, I’ve been writing down three things I’m grateful for each night on my tumblr. After a month, I want to collect all 90 small moments and see if I can find any themes. (I have a feeling alcohol, friends, and sitting on the subway will be high up there.) Some favorites so far include: “walking from 125th to 96th street in the sun,” “ordering that second bloody mary” and “walking behind a little girl and her grandmother while the grandmother taught the little girl how to count to 50 in Spanish.”
Traveling: on my mind. There have been many nights where I browse Kayak.com and get thissss close to just booking a plane ticket. I’m hoping to go out and visit family/my best friend in LA in a month or so, and Nicole and I plan on hiking a longer stint of the AT in June. I’m still dreaming about India and Mt. Kilimanjaro, and there’s a good chance I’m going to Spain in the fall to hang out with Nate, my close friend from Nigeria. (We decided to meet in the middle. Also this picture below is when we were babies/the last day we saw each other! Six years ago!)
Swimming and running in SHORTS. I “officially” am sort of training for both the bk half and my first triathlon. I’m less worried about the half, though anxious to finally get some awesome runs in. Last week it was 65 degrees and I went for an awesome six miler. I felt so free and realized how much I miss running outdoors. I have ALSO began swimming though, which is a whole other beast. I can rarely swim two laps without actually dying, so the thought of swimming a mile is both slightly horrifying and very humbling.
NYC bucket list. Nicole decided to buckle down and adventure in our own city, and I decided to join her. Some of these activites one of us has already done, but it’ll be fun to embark on these things together. So far the list includes: dinner & movie at Nitehawk, aventures at the cloisters and staten island tugboat graveyard, sleep no more (got tickets!!), go on a shitty booze cruise on the east river, go on the roosevelt island gondalas, run over all the nyc bridges, go to the transit museum, see shakespeare in the park, among many others. She’s also never walked the Brookyn Bridge, so we did that this afternoon. =)
Friday morning, I woke up with something telling me: “you are getting a tattoo this weekend.”
I knew I’ve wanted another tattoo for a while. My rule is to want something for at least a year before getting it — there is literally no reason to rush a tattoo, since once you have it…you have it forever.
My first one, yebehyia bio, came about in a similar way. I had come up with the concept while living in Ghana, and waited over two years until I was totally ready. Then, I woke up one morning and knew it was time and drove to a tattoo parlor that afternoon. (Without telling anyone — this time, I called my parents first. Daughter of the year award!)
I also got it during a pretty liminal state in my life. I had just left a band I was touring with (on less than stellar terms) and was going through not one, but two breakups (long story: but just remember that rebound relationships uh, never work). I was jobless, apartment less, and a little confused about my whole entire life. Then I got the tattoo, and everything slowly, finally started to work its way out.
Now, I’m not going through multiple breakups, nor am I unemployed and homeless. But I do feel like I’m in a transitory place in my life, and I wanted something to keep me grounded.
So what better than mountains.
My best friend Nicole sketched them out on my back, and then the tattoo artist literally went over it with the needle. My first tattoo is in my handwriting, and it was super important to me that this one was also total original work, and from someone near and dear to my heart. (I also had to make sure they didn’t look like the Coors Light can…)
So why mountains? Surface level: I love them. I love climbing them, being surrounded by them, and reading and writing about them. I grew up vacationing in the mountains, and will never turn down a hike up one or a ski trip down another (depending on its size…). Mt. Kilimanjaro is also very high up on my bucket list, and the only way I’m getting married is if someone agrees to do it on a summit.
But secondly, and more importantly, I feel like myself in the mountains. I am at total peace. And now I have them forever on my left shoulder-blade: a reminder that I can always feel how I do when I’m in the mountains.
Because now, they’re always with me.
This weekend I went skiing in Killington with an awesome group of people. It was a blast, but also got many of us thinking: why do we like doing this? Skiing is cold, it’s expensive, and it’s rough on your body. So I decided to lay out all the reasons for why skiing sucks, but why it may very well be worth it in the end.
why skiing sucks
Before leaving for your #epictrip, you think it would be good to upgrade your skiing gear — until you realize gloves are 80 bucks and snow pants easily $300. (Apparently it costs a lot to stay warm and shop in New York City.) You get by with the bare minimum — a teal neck warmer found on the sales rack — while hoping your ski stuff circa 1995 still fits and there will be an epic heat wave.
Once you’ve made it to the mountain, it takes roughly seven hours to park and walk to the lodge. You get there (in your $50 smartwool socks and barely-fitting middle school snow pants) and have a silent panic attack while purchasing an $85 lift ticket. You stick the annoying ski pass onto your zipper and then head to the rental shop.
The only thing worse than waiting on the rental lines is putting on your rental boots. Putting on ski boots is literally on my Top 5 Worst Things To Do In Life list (tucked nicely between flying and paying taxes). It takes full-body strength to angle your foot correctly into the boot, and then you feel like your ankle is going to snap off while you shove your whole foot inside. Once tucked in, you have to deal with the awful buckles that never fail to make the boot too tight or too loose. (Mind you there is still an 80 percent chance you have the wrong size boots and will have to get back on the line.)
After you stash your stuff in the rental locker (that you obviously paid for) and head outside, you begin to actually freeze. First it’s a toe, then a thumb, and then your nose. You get on the chairlift — which can be a traumatic experience — (a moving chair) and then continue to freeze even more while the lift takes its precious time crawling up the mountain. The wind picks up. And juuust when you almost reach the top and you’ve lifted up the safety bar, the chair stops because someone probably lost a pole trying to get on the scary moving chair at the bottom of the mountain.
And you’re still cold and freezing and your boots are tight and your long underwear cost $70 because it is wicking and you really, really just want a beer. (But the views aren’t half bad.)
Finally, you actually start to ski. You’re on your way, while trying to avoid the asshole snowboarder who comes too close and loudly sprays ice in your face and the seven-year-old girl in pink snow pants who is most definitely a better skier than you. And then you accidentally make a wrong turn and end up at an intersection where you can either take Double Black Diamond Option I (moguls), Double Black Diamond Option II (trees), or Double Black Diamond Option III (straight drop) to get down the mountain.
You somehow make it down but have lost your pals. All of your friends look like everyone else (black snow pants, big goggles, green rental skis) and your phone has already died from being exposed to the cold. You see the lodge, but it isn’t time for lunch (an $8 burger and $4 bottle of water) so you go up the mountain again, this time overly obsessing about patches of ice since falling in skiing is the worst thing ever. (How do you get up without looking insanely awkward? Why does only one ski come off, and both poles go flying, always, into the woods?)
While wondering why you didn’t take up snowboarding as a kid, you realize you have to pee. And then you realize that’s literally impossible without stashing your skis and poles and trudging in your moon boots back inside for a tease of warmth and an undressing-episode of seven layers before you can relieve yourself of all that coffee you drank since you woke up at 6am to do all…this.
So after the accidental black diamonds and the ice-patch anxiety along with the snow-makers blowing in your face and the over-priced curly fries (health!) you finally get what you’ve been waiting for on your epic ski trip: to leave. You drive to your rental house, take off your gear, crack open a beer, and jump in the hot tub while soothing your sore muscles and bruised shins.
And then you wake up and do it all over again.
But something always happens on that second day. The temperature rises, your feet feel a little better in the boots, and the crowds lessen. While skiing can literally suck, if you get the right conditions, it all becomes worth it. On our second day at Killington, we literally had the mountain to ourselves with fresh powder and tolerable temperatures. I was flying down a trail all alone. I turned without worrying about ice or knocking out a fellow skier. I stopped and found myself on the middle of a mountain and all was quiet. Silent. I was warm, I was moving, I was at peace.
Sure, the beauty of skiing is often that sense of accomplishment: of battling the cold, working your body, and surviving seven hours outdoors to reach that amazing moment of taking off your boots and heading back inside. But other times the magic really is in the mountain: in the perfect run, the perfect conditions, and the effortless motion that pulls you down the slopes and back up them once more.
I’m pretty sure I spend 80 percent of my day listening to music. I almost always have headphones in when commuting or walking to a friend’s apartment, and once I get home I turn on my speakers and play a few albums while I’m winding down before bed.
If I’m in a certain mood, I’ll pick songs that feel nostalgic; I love the fact that certain songs can represent or remind you of certain times in your life. So I figured I’d share some of my favorite tracks that in a way have ‘changed my life’ — happy listening!
(ps: I didn’t alternate from soundcloud & spotify for fun – only half the songs were on soundcloud!)
Come On! Feel the Illinois – Sufjan Stevens
This is probably my favorite song of all time. It’s been my constant throughout my whole life and the arrangement is incredibly awesome.
Tell Me Why – Neil Young
My first (and only…) car had a cassette player, and the only tape I had was Neil Young. “Tell Me Why” was the first track. I love the guitar.
Let Down – Radiohead
OK Computer is probably my favorite Radiohead album, and the transition from track five into “Let Down” is SO beautiful. There’s a buildup that starts at 3:42 and it’s aaamazing.
Methuselah – San Fermin
I only started listening to this band recently, and it reminds me of the early winter and walking around the city. It soothes.
Emily – Joanna Newsom
Joanna’s voice can take some time getting used to, but her melodies and lyrics are pretty brilliant. Her storytelling ability in song is what really gets me.
On The Sea – Beach House
This song is on their album Bloom, which has literally been carrying me through the last few weeks. It’s healing. It’s magical.
Cubism Dream – Local Natives
I saw Local Natives play live recently, and this was the only song they didn’t play. #Heartbreak. Still, it’s one of my favorites, and reminds me of my first winter in Brooklyn.
Two-Headed Boy – Neutral Milk Hotel
Sufjan may have taken my favorite song, but In the Aeroplane Over the Sea is definitely my favorite album…ever. I don’t think I’ll ever get sick of it. This, here, is my favorite track.
After I wrote this piece about running marathons, retiring from race bibs, and kinda hating on training in general, you think it’d be hypocritical to sign up for two races.
Welp, I’m doing the Brooklyn Half in May and the Montauk Olympic Triathlon in June. But the big difference is in how I’m approaching my training. I’ve basically ditched any concept of numbers, and am going to run (and swim and bike…yikes) purely off of feel. I’ll also be training with friends — something I’ve never really done before. (Somebody needs to teach me how to swim.)
Until I start actually training, I’ve been trying to stay in normal feel-good shape. I’ve been doing some tempo runs on the treadmill, but have basically covered the screen with a towel and turned up the speed until I find myself at a comfortable-but-uncomfortable pace. (Whether that’s 6xx or 7xx I have no idea.) My ‘long’ runs have topped off at 6 miles (it’s too insanely cold to be outside and I reach a mental limit on the treadmill), and I have focused most of my workouts on strength training and yoga instead of hitting weekly mileage goals.
This weekend was also my first back at the track. The super hot 40 degrees took me out in shorts, a tank top, and a fleece that I ditched after my first (and only…) mile repeat. I wanted to see how my speed was doing, since I haven’t been running all that much. It turns out my days of 6:30-6:40 repeats will take some work getting back to. I hit 6:50 on my first mile and felt pretty exhausted — the tiredness you feel when it’s time to stop, not recover and go at it again.
But instead of getting frustrated, I was humbled. It makes sense I’m a bit slower, and I channeled that energy into motivation to get back to up to speed. (Puns!) Also, I felt like I had just run a 6:30 — I pushed my body to the comfortable limit you should for the first repeat of anything, but could tell I was simply a bit out of shape. I decided to switch up the remainder of the workout and do some 800s and 400s sans watch, and felt that amazing sense of track-pain accomplishment I truly (and sometimes oddly) miss without having a clue as to what my splits were.
So that’s the plan: fewer numbers and more fun times. That all said, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a sense of a numeric goal for these races — especially the half. But at the end of the day, I’ve learned (I hope?) from my past experiences. No matter when I cross the finish, I know I will have left it all on the course. Besides, my body knows me way better than my garmin, and I’d rather enjoy the whole journey than get caught up in all the data.
And who knows, I’ve been told the less pressure I put on myself the faster I’ll run. Now that’s a fun experiment.
I’ve been in and out of bed since Tuesday thanks to a nasty cold. I’m the worst at being sick (I try to go to work, I try to run/ do some yoga…) and I know all of this movement I force upon myself just makes me stay sick longer. But still. I have done a few things to help “self-medicate” myself, even after finally caving in and getting DayQuil last night. (I hate medicine + doctors.)
I decided to stop drinking coffee, thinking this would magically cure me. Yet part of it was my throat hurt too much to drink anything but tea, and I was also so bored of being sick that I wanted to ‘challenge’ myself to something that didn’t involve much effort. (Tea bag in hot water = a breeze.)
I’m on Day 4 of no coffee and can’t tell if I feel any different, since I’m so foggy from said germs. But I have this awesome chrome extension to remind me to stick to it. We’ll see how long it lasts.
I also made an appointment for my first massage EVER at this place near my haus that has amazing yelp reviews. Again, I’m not sure how getting an “anti-stress massage” is going to make me healthy, but I know I carry all my stress in my shoulders and am hoping this kind of kicks me back into life.
So aside from drinking copious amounts of tea and counting down the minutes until a stranger gets to work out every knot in my body, I’ve been making headway on this book and reading lots of cool stuff on the Interwebs. And since it’s doing this weird violent snow/thunder thing in NYC, stay inside and check some of them out!
A Man Finds Two Bear Cubs Beside Their Dead Mother. Words Can’t Describe What Follows
(funny thing is after this title, they use words to describe what follows.)
Will Commercial Airplanes Have Parachutes One Day?
(the opening line makes me even more proud of this ‘realistic’ fear I have.)
The Joy of Unfollowing
(complain less, unfollow more. sounds right to me.)
52 Places to Go in 2014
(clearly I spent all last weekend ranking these. 39 is my #1.)
Why I’m Scared of Writing
(the beginning is kind of whiny, but the second half is better and the last sentence is a winner.)
Recipe: Brussel Sprouts Tacos with Caramelized Shallot Salsa
(i’m making this for dinner this weekend. and adding bacon.)
A Social Entrepreneur’s Quandary: Nonprofit or For-Profit?
(interesting dilemma, and exciting cliff-hanger.)
The Blind Side
(“sometimes running doesn’t build character. it reveals it.” cue the tears for this one.)
I’ve also been listening to Beach House’s Bloom on repeat all week. You can listen to their whole album on youtube if you don’t have spotify!
LAST thing. Nicole is finally returning home tomorrow from her five-week stint in Costa Rica. She’s leaving exactly a year after I arrived, and while I’ll miss her beautiful snapchats, I am so excited to have her back in the city.
Some suuuppper exciting things have been going on in the past few weeks, so wouldn’t you like to know?
I went to Vermont. For new years! It was great. My best friend Danielle was back on the east coast after beating me out to California last summer – and we went up with both our families, her boyfriend, and a sprinkling of other family friends. We hiked, skiied, ate delicious breakfasts (B&B style!), and just chilled out. There is a bar in the Inn as well, so we conveniently rang in 2014 downstairs, and then ran right upstairs to bed. My kind of party.
I’m learning how to crochet! My sister-in-law made me a special blanket when I went to college, and it’s been everywhere — two schools, my apartment in DC, Ghana, Brooklyn, and now Greatist HQ (unclear). This Christmas, she decided to give me all the supplies so I could make one myself. I’m absolutely awful at things like this (this= crocheting, sewing, knitting, ceramics, ballet, taxes, work-life balance) but it’s coming along. I just keep dropping stitches so the ends are bit uneven…
I’m back on the book train. I was on a huge reading kick in the fall and December, and then took a break over the holidays. Now, I’ve got three good ones to dive into: Cloud Atlas, The Interestings, and Habibi (graphic novel!).
I actually made a resolution. Which was to cook more often. And for whatever reasons (given an immersion blender, it’s freezing outside…) I’ve been on a huge soup kick. So far I’ve made sweet potato leek, curry cauliflower, and kale, white bean, and chicken sausage. Next up is roasted broccoli cheddar, lentil, and avocado asparagus. (!)
I am signing up for a race! Despite my maybe-vow to retire from racing bibs for a while, I’ve always been interested in trying to do (“run”? “participate in”?) a triathlon. And there’s an olympic tri in June that looks awesome. So me and a few friends are going to do it for fun! We’ll also be getting a house in Montauk and making a weekend out of it, so let me know if you want to come and/or teach me how to swim. (I already ordered this.)
Almost a year ago, I began training for Eugene Marathon, which I wrote about on this blog… all the time.
While I was in the moment, I didn’t realize how unhappy I was. It’s taken me a bit of time to reflect, and realize the marathon distance, or at least training the way I did, is definitely not for me. And I’ve been given the beautiful space to capture it all on Greatist. I technically haven’t been on the editorial team in many, many months, so I feel really lucky that I still have the freedom to write. Give it a read!