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.) 

what makes a perfect weekend

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…

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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). 

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storm king mountain!

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.

Screen Shot 2013-12-08 at 7.34.59 PMEat/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! 

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blogger’s block

Since the beginning of the summer, I’ve been finding it hard to write. I complained about it here…and here…and since then felt like I haven’t really been able to get into a groove.

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…

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the happiest moments of your life

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.

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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.

finish

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. 

green turtle

 

california

Sometimes it’s hard to put a trip into words – especially one that was so damn awesome and special.

But this time around, summing up San Francisco into one word is easy: perfect.

YEPPP, I said it. It was pretty much totally and very, very perfect. We went on two really long runs, one of them being my first trail race and the other being along the coast and over the golden gate bridge. We ate a ton of tacos. We drank/double-fisted a ton of amazing coffee. I had the strongest whiskey drink in my life. We saw old friends, I made new ones. I explored the city in a “taxi” cab with a fluffy pink mustache on it, and walked the rest of the city by foot. Homeless people yelled at me. I ate soup dumplings. I caught up with one of my best friends who I haven’t seen in four years, and it felt like four seconds. She took me under her wing, into the Mission, and into her home. We took long naps, watched the nyc marathon on TV, and didn’t realize it was daylight savings until that afternoon. We had the most amazing brunch. Ate more tacos. 

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See? Perfect.

I could go on and on about every little detail, but I’ll stick right now to one of the best parts: running a half-marathon trail race. It was my first real trail race (I’ve run 5K’s on trails, but nothing further) and it was awesome. Before this race, 13.1 miles no longer felt “super long,” but when your mile splits are significantly slower, when you’re climbing up massive hills, and when you’re packed onto narrow trails with dozens of other runners — the distance becomes almost never-ending.

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The course was really hard. SF is known for their hills, and the first four miles was literally just… climbing up a mountain. We started at the beach (first pic) and then “ran” straight UP into Muir Woods (second). Most people walked the uphills, which was a pleasant surprise, but it was still really tough. (I was also nursing a nice hangover. laura = smart runner.) We finally made it to the “top,” and then completed a seven-mile loop around Muir Woods. There were steep, rolling hills the whole time, so it was still pretty difficult. I actually realized the hardest part for me was the long downhills: they killed my knees, and I was so afraid of hitting a rock or root and completely face-planting. My quads also felt super unstable and I had to slow down, which messed up my stride.

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We finally made it back around the loop to the gorgeous views of the Pacific, and were greeted with the best aid station ever (trail mix, lara bars, peanut butter pretzels). We gobbled them up before climbing back down the mountain to the finish line. My body was sore in places I didn’t think was possible, but I was also so full of adrenaline that I wanted to keep on running. (I actually felt best for the final three miles.)

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Consensus? I loved it. Trail racing combines my three favorite things: hiking, running, and great snacks. I’d love to run a trail marathon, and maybe even eventually a 50K. (I would prefer a flatter course, if possible?!) So…we’ll see. There aren’t really trails to train on in nyc, so this might be trickier to accomplish in the coming months.

So overall, SF = the bomb dot com. I felt so good being there. The city felt “right.” And hopefully I’ll see it again soon.

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some things

Here are just…some things. That are going on.

City hopping. In less than a week, I will be in San Francisco! Finally. I’ll be spending five glorious days with Julie, my dear friend I met in Ghana. We’ll be catching up (we haven’t seen each other in YEARS) running a trail race through the Muir Woods (nbd) and simply exploring and getting to know the city better. I fear I will not return.

jules

babies. also, african sun = blonde, blonde hair.

Breaking up with Breaking Bad. Maybe. So, I was super obsessed with Breaking Bad for four seasons, but now that I’m on season five, I’m totally over it. It’s just…so freaking depressing. And violent. And I literally was having meth nightmares and not sleeping well. I know I have one more season left, but I may not finish the series. Is that bad? Does Jesse Pinkman (<3) end up okay?

Doing good. I’ve been volunteering for this awesome company, Watsi - a global crowdsourcing platform for individuals in developing countries who need medical care – anything from tumor removals to cleft palette surgery and speech therapy. It’s been incredibly fulfilling and amazing to see the profiles I’ve been working on appear on the site, and get fully funded.

watsi 2

Running. After a rough week of running, I’m finally on the upswing. I’ve been waking up and going for 7-8 mile runs before work. The 40-50 degree weather is PERFECT and I want it to stay like this forever. I’ve also figured out the perfect running attire for these chilly fall mornings: shorts, tank, and arm warmers. 

Reading. I’ve been drowning in the book Zoliby Colum McCann. It’s set in Czechoslovakia in the 1930′s, and follows a young gypsy poet during the Fascist era. McCann is literally a poet himself and I’m totally obsessed by his narrative. My favorite time to read is during my morning commute; I have 20 minutes on the train to just sit and get consumed by the story. 

zoli

Solo date nights. This past week I was reminded how awesome and therapeutic making a solid, home-cooked meal can be. I usually have plans after work, which involves either grabbing food in Manhattan or coming home late and retiring to eggs, rice and beans, or something quick and not that delicious. But one night this week I canceled my plans, and got some chicken breasts, brussel sprouts, and a nice bottle of Malbec. I sat down, slowed down, and enjoyed my meal and some solitude + jazz music. And it was amazing how good it felt. (Maybe because I almost drank the whole bottle of wine and slept like a champ.) But more importantly, it reminded me I can do this most nights if I want to. 

dinner

note: I did not buy myself those flowers. 

Parcel! This past week, Greatist launched Parcel — a monthly subscription box that physically connects Greatist readers to our content. Each box has an assortment of eco-friendly products that improve people’s fitness, health & happiness, from healthy snacks to fitness gear and cleaning products. We’ve been working on it for quite some time, and it’s exciting to see it finally out there in the world! No pressure, but..sign up. Thanks.

parcel 

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