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!
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
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.
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:
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!
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!
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.
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.)
Well, it took one blog post of “fuck I don’t know what to write about” to be able to open the creative gates and get itching to type again. (That, plus advice from my best friend to “quit worrying about what people want read, and write what you want to write.”)
And so I want to write about weekends. I’ve been trying to come up with a formula that creates thebestweekendever — for me at least. Here’s a stab at it:
Get a ton of sleep. I don’t mean sleep in, necessarily. I mean…just sleep a lot. The toll of the week always hits me on friday, and I usually find myself passed out by 10pm and still up by 8 on Saturday. Then, that leaves me plenty of time to nap later on…
Have time for post-sleep hang-in-bed. I love me a good morning routine. On weekends, it usually involves coffee (I graduated to drip coffee, which is my favorite thing everrrrrr), NPR’s all things considered, a book, and the Internet. I usually take two hours just to lay in bed, read blogs & fun articles, or try to write. This is usually when I do my volunteer work for Watsi, too.
Move around. Depending on how much I work out during the week, I either try do yoga, run, or sometimes make the trek into Manhattan to the gym. But even if I don’t get real exercise in, I just love walking around a bunch.
Leave the neighborhood. Speaking of...as much as I love my hood, I also love leaving it. I have friends scattered all throughout NYC, and I’m usually up for trekking to some sort of adventure in another part of town. Or I’ll just go somewhere random and read a book. Orrrrr I’ll just leave the city entirely (my favorite thing).
Clean something. Sometimes it’s my clothes. Or maybe a book shelf. Or the floor. But doing my own laundry or scrubbing the tub never fails to make me feel super accomplished and proud of myself, so I tend to do it for the morale boosting.
Have a really awesome conversation. The other weekend, I three-way chatted with two of my friends here in NYC, since we all live on opposite ends of the earth (Prospect Heights, Williamsburg, Harlem…) and nobody wanted to get out of bed. We ended up talking for two hours and it was the best thing ever. And today, I spent an hour chatting with Danielle, who left me to go live in California. These conversations really can make my weekend.
Eat/drink something delicious. I love me a good brunch, or a fancy cocktail, or sometimes just a home-cooked meal (usually made by my brother and sister-in-law on Sundays…). ORRR, I go all-out and make dark chocolate peppermint cookies and eat the leftover batter for dinner. (I’m really not kidding.) My co-workers are going to love me tomorrow.
Be an alcoholic. Just kidding. But look what I accomplished!
Part of the “problem” is that when I was training for something, I always had something to write about. (Let me tell you about that crappy training week while showing you pics of cats and comforters, and then put together a list of lessons learned while running and running life lessons [two different things] and.. just reflect some more on the whole thing while also telling you about a really fun weekend.)
The other issues is I’m getting a little bit “screen-fatigued.” I’m on my/this computer all day at work, and then when I come home, the last thing I usually want to do is get back on it. I’m trying really hard to give myself time at home in the evenings to make a meal, read a book, or just listen to music while catching up with my roommate. The thought of hopping back on the same computer my fingers have been glued to all day sounds a little less than fun.
And then there’s the whole “what to write about” thing. This blog has always been a basket-case of travel stories, running adventures, “life” lessons, work stuff, and other random ramblings. And I actually really like it this way. I don’t want to feel pressure to have to write something specific; this is a space for me to type whatever is going on in my head. Yet, when things are so open-ended, it makes it hard to figure out what I actually want to write, and what people actually want to read. Should I write about my Thanksgiving weekend in New Hampshire, or a hike up Storm King mountain, or the time I walked all the way from the West Village to Williamsburg after the-worst-date-ever- with a banker (saw that one from a mile away…)? Or maybe how I want to do yoga every day for a month, take a non-fiction writing workshop, volunteer more for things near and dear to my heart, run a fast half-marathon in the spring, play music/become famous, or learn how to bake a really delicious scone? I honestly have no idea, which is why when I come home to a blank screen, it usually stays empty while the cursor pulses, impatiently waiting for me to decide what to do.
While I figure this all out — I’m going to one of the most delicious brunch spots in Brooklyn in a few — I will leave you with this picture I took while in New England for Thanksgiving. It’s a lady running with her dog and a miniature horse on the beach. When in Maine…
A few months ago, I attended a happiness workshop where our teacher told us to write down some of the happiest moments of our life. I sat for awhile and let the memories flood into my head, wondering what I could actually deem “the happiest.” Childhood memories of vacationing in the mountains with my family came up, along with specific times with so’s & close friends, and other simple mornings just by myself.
I think it’s near impossible to say these were the times in my life I was the “happiest,” but they were pretty darn awesome.
seeing the sunrise in acadia national park. My trip to Maine with Nicole last summer was one of the most fun adventures I’ve been on. And that morning — seeing the sun rise in the eastern-most point in the states before the rest of the population — was stunning. I remember staring out at the sky and finally seeing the bold and beautiful sun peek from the horizon; the mix of camping, being with my best friend, and cozied up in a a sweatshirt at 5 something in the morning made it a moment where I was utterly and truly happy.
crossing the line of my first marathon. Running Wineglass Marathon was one of the most fun, emotional, and beautiful times of my life. I still can’t get over how awesome the course was, and how the weather, energy, and scenery was all perfect. I was also barely a month back from an injury, and had no idea if I’d even be able to complete the race. When I rounded the corner and saw the finish line, knowing I’d run way faster than expected, I was ecstatic. Crossing the finish line of your first marathon only happens once (…obviously) and it’s something I will never forget.
reuniting with friends and stargazing in Akwida, Ghana. One of the adventures I went on in Ghana was to Green Turtle Lodge, an eco-lodge nestled in the western region of Ghana. A group of six of us decided we’d spend a long weekend there, yet we got split up en route when one of our connecting busses filled up. I stayed behind with Julie (SF bud!) for the next bus, which of course came a million hours later. The final stretch of the trip was in a slightly-sketchy cab to the beach, and after convincing myself we’d never make it, we finally reunited with the rest of our friends and were greeted with an insanely beautiful stretch of stars and skies. I’m a sucker for stars, and remember being overwhelmed by how beautiful it was, especially after a full day of (slightly) stressful travel. A picture wouldn’t do it justice, but here is the beach the following day nearing sunset.