songs that have changed my life

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 Bloomwhich 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.

a different kind of training

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.

leg day

(tuesday is leg day at greatist hq)

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.

this week

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. 

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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!

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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.

pura vida

things of late

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.

IMG_7190 IMG_7197

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 alongI 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 Interestingsand Habibi (graphic novel!).

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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. (!)

IMG_7268 IMG_7274 kale soup

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.) 

why marathons suck

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!

Why I Ran a Marathon, Qualified for Boston, and May Never Race Again

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looking 20 feet ahead

In running, you’re told to look out about 20 feet ahead of you. This gaze is juuust far out enough that you can see the spot you’re running towards, and can “reel it in” (whether a tree, another person, a water station).

Since I love me a good “life” metaphor, I plan on using 2014 as a chance to look “20 feet ahead.” I can sometimes look too far out into the future — wondering and working on things way beyond my reach. Or, I’m looking down at my own feet, honing in on the little things that don’t really matter. (Yes, I’ll probably always miss the M train by 30 seconds every morning. Tis life.)

2013 was a year of exploration and adjustment. I experienced solitude, aloneness, and 80,000 different hammocks in Costa Rica. I did the whole train for a marathon thing (and hated it), and went to my first friends wedding. I watched my close friend and roommate fall in love, move out of our apartment, and get engaged, and learned to live with a stranger who has now become an irreplaceable addition to my life. I wandered in San Francisco and tried trail running, watched my best friend move across the country, and supported my other best friend who was let go from her job. My title at work changed every other week, and I discovered what I’m really good at and what I want to really do. I’ve written more poetry, done more volunteer work, and cooked a lot more at home. I even contemplated quitting on this blog entirely, and then slowly found my writing rhythm again.

And despite a busy year, 2013 felt pretty stagnant. So it’s time to look just far out enough — “20 feet”— and go after what I really, really want in life. Now I have a better handle on what I want to do, where I want to be, and what my goals really should be (hint: not a marathon or bi-weekly job title changes). So we’ll see – I have a feeling 2014 will be a big one. :D  

on luck (an ode to 2013)

My best friend Nicole just left for a five-week adventure in Costa Rica. An unexpected string of events led her to the pristine beaches and mystical forests of Pura Vida land, where she is taking time off for the first time in a long time. In her first email to me, I could feel her excitement through the screen as she told me what the first few days were like. And then she ended it with this:

“We both lead lucky and charmed lives.”

It stuck with me. Nic’s one of the hardest working people I know, and yet she’s always first to feel lucky for all of the things she’s done.

I used to believe that everything I’ve done has resulted from a combination of a lot of hard work and a little luck. Yet, the more I think about it, the more I realize ‘hard work’ and ‘luck’  aren’t two separate things. Instead, they’re pretty much one and the same. 

Sure, I work hard to save money so I can travel. I work hard so I can run fast and appreciate my body. I work hard so I can grow to an executive level at Greatist (fancy). I work hard so I can rest and spend some weekends doing absolutely nothing.

But I am given so many things to set myself up for working hard. I am given an education and a stab at the working world. I’m given a gym membership and a new pair of running shoes. I am given family and friends who support me, whether I tell them I’m moving across the country or moving around the world. (I’m not doing either just yet, so don’t worry.) And I am given not only the freedom, but the crazy-encouragement, to go after my dreams.

I am given a lot, which is pretty darn lucky. And without all this luck, I wouldn’t even be able to give hard work a chance.

2013 was not the best year of my life. In fact, a decent portion of it really sucked. And it’s easy to get caught up in all that — the unfairness, the confusion, the extreme doubt — and lose perspective. 

But despite everything, I had a whole lot of luck this past year (I traveled, I ran, I worked, I rested) and know I will always keep working incredibly hard to keep that luck on my side. And for that reason alone, 2013 was pretty darn great.

crowdfund health

I learned about the concept of “helping others” as a little kid. My mom had me to go Meals on Wheels with her before I even knew what volunteering even was, and it felt “good.” In High School, I’d play cards with immigrant workers at a nearby shelter every Sunday (that was fun!) and raised money for the homeless by sleeping outside in a box in the freezing cold (not as fun!). Finally, I did some service work in Nicaragua, which gave me a first real look into both the pains of poverty, and a resilient positive spirit around our world.

I studied anthropology and did the whole Live in Africa thing — and fell more in love with the beautiful cultures and traditions throughout the globe. But my heart was equally broken as I saw how this beauty was often cloaked by underlying despair: be it a lack of education, health care, clean water, or women’s rights. 

Since I moved to NYC, I’ve wanted to take some extra (albeit tiny) time and to devote my energy towards a non-profit. Then I discovered Watsi, a crowdfunding platform for healthcare. The concept is simple and super effective: donate as little as $5 to go towards a life-changing medical treatment. Once it’s fully funded, you receive an update when the treatment is completed. I reached out to ask if there was any way I could help, and learned they had a robust volunteer program. I signed myself up and the work has been awesome.

Soon after, Watsi teamed up with Nyaya Health (health care in Nepal), Kangu (crowdfunding safe births), Dear World (photography) and The Deltree (video & web dev) to launch a beautiful crowd-funding campaign: Crowdfund Health. I met the folks at Nyaya, who are here in NYC, and their energy is infectious; their modest office, small and bootstrapped team, and crazy-beautiful vision reminded me of Greatist way back when.

One way I’m helping out is by spreading these awesome postcards around the city. One side has a word, and the other side, a message: 

worthy worthy back

Aside from that, I’m just trying to spread the good-ol word via The Internet. The campaign runs until the end of the year, so if you’re looking to stretch your giving-wings, I can’t say enough good stuff about Watsi, Nyaya, and everyone else who helped put together Crowdfund Health. Below is a video by Nyaya’s founder Mark Arnoldy, who summarizes all of this way better (and succinctly) than me. Check it out, let me know what you think, and give some extra love & support to this amazing campaign before the year is over!

late-night reads

Last night, I tried to go bed at 10pm, and fell asleep at 3am. There was a party happening in the building next to mine, and the terrifying loud music turned my apartment basically into da club. I filed my first ever noise complaint at 12:30 when I was on the delirious verge of finding a hotel room or going over to the party myself and begging they turn off the music. Finally, at around 2:45, the music stopped.

Trying to stay half-glass full here, I stayed up and read articles on the Internet while half-sleeping/half-panicking. Take a gander!

7 things I learned from 7 years of reading, writing, and living

 A poor apology for the word 

20 surprising, science-backed health benefits of music

In the background: art you may never notice

16 surprising lessons from my first 50-mile ultramarathon  

We say we like creativity, but we really don’t 

The power of empathy, animated

Now, it’s time for eight cups of coffee and a 12-hour christmas open house with family and friends. And it’s SNOWING. Life is good again.

a lesson in breath

The other evening I was walking to my usual monday night yoga class, and found myself hesitant to go inside once I reached the studio. I was pretty tired, I still had a running list of things I wanted to do for work/life (it was 8pm), and I also just kinda wanted to be in my bed with homemade cookies and an episode of Breaking Bad. (Side note: I’m finally finishing the final season, after I wikipedia’d it…)

But something told me to just go inside. It was only an hour, I’d be home by 9:30, and if I had been up and moving since 8am and still had stuff to do, it could wait until tomorrow. (And Breaking Bad gives me meth-nightmares, anyway.) 

The class ended up being pretty empty, which was a nice change since we’re usually packed like sardines in the studio. (It doesn’t help that it’s hot yoga too, which =’s a lot of stranger-sweat on you.) As we began doing some forward folds and slow vinyasas, our teacher starting sharing her #zenwisdom with us, which is half the reason I go. She began explaining how all of the position in yoga, asanas, make up only 1/8th of this whole “yoga” thing. Basically, that means the warrior II you’re holding forever, the crow pose you can’t nail, or the head stand you won’t even attempt, is so incredibly insignificant when it comes to looking at yoga as a whole.

She continued talking about how breath is another 1/8th of yoga. Breathing: the thing we unconsciously do all day, all night — over 20,000 times a day (says David Wilkins from Quora…) — carries the same weight as all of the hundreds of poses (and all their variations) that exist in yoga. Combined. 

Of course I tried to apply this to real life instead of focusing on squaring my hips, not sweating on the person next to me, etc. Usually in yoga, a tough balance pose I’m sucking at can feel like the only thing that matters. And in life, any present moment — whether an interaction with someone, a time where you tell yourself you can’t fuck up, or an opportunity that can feel so important or powerful (an interview, a promising date, a work meeting, a beautiful sunrise), is just one tiny slice of your life. And at the end of the day, it doesn’t define you. It matters, but it doesn’t matter. 

But breathing matters. Whaaat? Yeah, it sounds weird, but when I thought about it more, it made sense. First, breathing keeps us… alive. This is a very good thing. But it also can shape and effect us beyond just “existing.” I’ve slowly learned how powerful breathing can be when it comes to reducing stress, running and working out more efficiently, and making my body just feel better. And it’s tricky because we breathe without thinking about it — unlike a challenging yoga pose, or a challenging GRE question, or a challenging conversation — but it’s ultimately more powerful, more important, and more significant than the small stresses and special moments that we hone in on throughout the day.

As the class was winding down and we moved into savasana, our instructor turned off the music — something she normally doesn’t do. Rather than a soft ballad playing the background, the studio — and what felt like new york city in its entirety — fell silent, except for the sound of everyone’s breath which sounded like waves. And for one of the first times in corpse pose, I was actually able to let my mind stop wandering, to do some semblance of meditation, and let go of every asana and every moment that usually carries so much weight in my life. And I just breathed.

(This post was brought to you by Zen Laura. Namaste.) 


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