13.1

For anyone in the Seattle area looking to run his or her first half marathon, I can highly recommend the Lake Sammamish Half. The course is flat, easy to navigate, and the view along the lake is gorgeous, giving you plenty to distract yourself with. There are enough out running so you get that good feeling of running a big race, but not so many that you feel completely overwhelmed.

My main goal was essentially just to cross the finish line in one piece, although finishing around 2:30 seemed reasonable for my first time out, based on my training pace. I ended up finishing at 2:14, feeling happy, accomplished and as if I’d left everything I could out on the course. 13 miles is a fairly long distance so I had plenty to ponder along the lakeside trail, and I found my thoughts ranged from mundane to introspective.

Around mile 3 I realized that I’m actually a fairly competitive person. Up until this point I’ve lived fully committed to the idea that I am not a competitive person. My dad is competitive, my sister is competitive, but I am not competitive. But as I was angling to get around people in the first couple miles of the race I let myself open up to the idea that maybe I am a competitive person, and maybe that’s not a bad thing. I had just confused a lack of competitive attitude with the idea of being a good sport. I don’t really have an issue with losing, which I’d always associated with a lack of caring or competitive edge, but during this race I realized it’s not that I never cared; it’s that I’m a good sport and know that sometimes you have to celebrate someone else’s win over your own. If I weren’t competitive, I wouldn’t have gotten straight A’s in school, I wouldn’t have pushed myself to start running this race in the beginning, and I wouldn’t feel any pressure to perform to the high standards I’ve set for myself. I’m always trying to improve upon myself, and that’s not the attitude of someone who doesn’t care. Being competitive isn’t a bad thing; it’s okay to care as long as you understand how to lose gracefully knowing that you tried your hardest.

I picked up a buddy around mile 4 and we stuck together until about mile 9. I probably should have said something to her or gotten her name, because finding her in the pack was honestly one of the highlights of my race. We alternated from side by side, to one of being slightly in front or behind the other a good deal of the race and I found comfort in the familiarity of the sound of her footsteps. I trained by myself, which was my own choice, but I’d forgotten it’s kind of nice to have a buddy to run with. There were a couple others who I recognized for the majority of the race, and it was nice to find solidarity and the push to keep going in their familiarity.

At mile 7 I was surprised to find that I was still feeling good, and being halfway through was exciting and motivating rather than discouraging.

It took me until about mile 9 before I started to realize 13 miles is actually pretty far. But as soon as I hit 10 I felt rejuvenated by the fact that I basically just had a 5k left to run. At that point I took way too much enjoyment out of the fact that I had become one of those people who easily thought things like “oh I only have to run three more miles.” Because three miles isn’t exactly a stroll through the park.

After all was said and done, I’d received my medal, cooled off a bit, and had taken full advantage of the free samples from the sponsors and booths around the finish area, I looked around felt at peace. I’d just spent the past four months training to run 13.1 miles and not only had I done it, I’d felt good doing it. I felt strong, and fast, and empowered. It also occurred to me that while I’m sure it’d be nice to be one of those people who could wake up the week before a half marathon saying, “hey I think I’ll run that,” there is something to be said for the training process. I put a lot of heart into finishing this thing and being able to finally say “I did it” is sort of indescribable. I wasn’t certain exactly how I’d feel about the entire endeavor, but at the end of the day, when I’d had a few moments to process everything, all I could think was “sign me up for the next one.”IMG_4423

I feel at this time it would also be appropriate to thank my unofficial training sponsors: chocolate milk, the musical stylings of one direction, and my brooks running shoes. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without you.

When You’re Singing That Song

Last Wednesday I had the absolute pleasure of seeing Vance Joy perform on his “Fire and the Flood Tour” at the Paramount Theater in Seattle. By the end of the second song, I realized I would have paid good money to hear that man sing “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” along a freeway’s questionable rest stop. You know, the ones with free ‘coffee’ and those expired shortbread cookies? He could sit perched atop a garbage can with his ukulele and sing with the cars flying by and my heart would still skip the occasional beat. So I mean I guess I could say the concert was all right…

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First off, if you’ve never been to the Paramount you should know it’s beautiful. I hadn’t been since seeing Broadway’s “The Lion King” in elementary school with my mom and while it felt much smaller than my second grade memory had prompted, it didn’t feel any less grand. Its architecture is beautiful and helped to set the ambiance for a memorable evening. Having been to concerts in both large arenas and small bars, The Paramount holds a nice middle ground between impressive and intimate.

 

Jamie Lawson, whom I was not previously familiar with, opened before Elle King and he was simply fantastic. Armed with only his guitar and voice, he gave a wonderful performance and had a stage presence making him likable and humble. Jamie Lawson, you’ve found yourself a new fan and I look forward to hearing more of your music. To those of you haven’t been acquainted with his talent, check him out- my favorites are “Wasn’t Expecting That,” “The Only Conclusion,” “Still Yours,” and “Don’t Let Me Let You Go.”

One of the first thoughts to cross my mind after walking out of the Paramount at the end of the night, was basically that I want to be Elle King’s best friend. From what I was able to determine from where I’d wedged myself near the front and center of the stage, she’s hilarious, incredibly talented, and in the best sense of the word, cool. I’m sure if I’d been able to sit down and have a beer with her before the show my suspicions would have been confirmed. Seeing someone pour their soul into their passion is one of the most beautiful things we can witness on this planet and that’s what Elle gave us.

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And then there was Vance Joy himself. Opening with “Mess is Mine,” I knew I was in for a treat. I wasn’t concerned about him playing my favorites, because honestly there’s not a song of his that I don’t like, but I was especially over the moon when I heard the first chords of “From Afar,” and “Red Eye.” There’s no denying the man is talented, and hearing his melodies in the flesh was chilling. I spent the show in a happy sort of reverie, enraptured by what I was experiencing, and as soon as he walked off the stage after the encore, I was certain that I could have stayed and watched the exact same performance at least three more times.

 

“Riptide” was one of the best songs of the evening, though not necessarily due to the song itself. Don’t get me wrong I do love it, but it was great because everyone knew every single word and the resulting grin on Vance Joy’s face lent the moment a lot of significance. I feel as though some artists tend to get tired of playing their more popular hits, but Vance Joy only seemed energized by the crowd’s recognition of the tune. He had so much fun with it and you were able to see him not as “Vance Joy,” but as James Keogh, a real person who appeared to have the full appreciation and understanding that he was living his dream. It seems backwards but sometimes being able to see someone as no more than a person is the most enchanting thing you can ask for.

So thank you Vance Joy, Elle King, and Jamie Lawson for laying your hearts on the stage and sharing your talents; witnessing your love for the music of life was truly a gift.

Miles and Smiles

When I joined the cross-country team my freshman year of high school, several unprecedented things occurred. Primarily, and perhaps most surprising, I developed an appreciation for running that’s lasted well beyond high school. Eight years later, I’ve signed up for my first half marathon: The Lake Sammamish Half.

Recently, for reasons I cannot fully explain, running 13.1 miles has seemed like a good idea. I’m sure after two hours of continuous movement, I’ll reconsider this thought process, but for the time being, pushing myself to a limit I’ve never reached is attractive. I’ve got exactly one month to go, and while I’m starting to get excited, I’m also pretty nervous, so to all those long distance runners out there, if you’ve got any tips they’ll be met with gratitude.

This experience has been quite the journey. I think that’s one of the reasons I like the idea of running; what a beautiful metaphor for life. You get out of it what you put in to it, seeing results only if you make the effort to achieve them, there are hills you need to climb, some days are easier, others are more challenging, but in the grand scheme of things you’re moving forward. Often the hardest part of anything is the start, and there is so much to be said for the difference between remaining static in this life or putting your self in motion… the whole concept of running encapsulates this.

Those naysayers who argue logging the miles is practically pointless because you’re haven’t actually gone anywhere, or you start in the exact same place you begin, clearly have not thought it all the way through. Running circles around my neighborhood, starting at my house to arrive back there a half hour or so later, has changed me immensely. In short terms, putting me in a better mood for the day, but also in longer terms. Both mentally and physically. This activity has the unique ability to leave one feeling empowered, clear minded, exhausted, and strengthened almost simultaneously.

The stress and celebration that was senior year left me exhausted and in some of the worst shape I’ve been in, once again, both mentally and physically. Overwhelmed, unemployed, and unable to run 2 miles without feeling as if imminent death was upon me was entirely frustrating coming off of the bittersweet high of graduation. Six months later with what feels like more than enough sweat and tears to last someone a lifetime, I have a reformed mindset, I’m down 20 pounds, and I can not only run over 10 miles, but I can do so comfortably. Most importantly, I feel better. The changes have come quietly and gradually, but in no circumstances would I consider myself to be in the same place as I started.

I’m not, nor do I believe that I will ever be, the stereotyped idea of a “runner,” but in the past couple months I’ve become more comfortable with the idea that if you love to run, regardless of how far you go, how fast you go, or how good you look doing it, it’s okay to say you’re a runner. I’m eager to try something new, go further than I’ve ever gone before, and cross this off of my bucket list feeling proud and accomplished with it’s completion. In one month I am excited to cross the finish line, look back to the place I started, and say “I did it.”

How To Choose The Perfect School; A Note to My College-Bound Baby Sister

The first thing you need to know is perhaps the most important idea you’ll take away from this entire letter, so pay careful attention to the following sentence:

There is no right or wrong decision.

I promise you. There is so much seemingly in stock to choosing “the right school” or “the best school,” but after my four years, and after hearing about my friends four or five or even six years, I don’t think perfect exists. People have been putting pressure on you, telling you that this decision will affect the rest of your life, and it will, but it won’t make or break you. Your life will be what you make of it, no matter your environment. The next couple years will be some of the craziest, but some of the best no matter which university you choose to attend, so please, please, please, don’t fret about choosing the “wrong school,” because I know you and I know that you will thrive wherever you go.

In the meantime, until you make that final (or at least year or semester long because you’re not locked in to it forever) decision, you’ll have to deal with people pestering you about where you’ve visited, where you’ve been accepted, and what they’re ultimately asking; where you’re going. It’s driving you up the wall isn’t it? I hate to break it to you, but this is only the first of many years to come in terms of these sorts of questions. Yes, believe it or not there will come a time when you will long for the simplicity of the college questions. Keep your head up through the monotony though; it’ll be over soon. Until then, here are a couple of things to consider while you’re muddling through your options:

Don’t let your friends influence your decision

Just because something is right for them, doesn’t mean it’s right for you. Just because you won’t be seeing a friend every day, doesn’t mean that you’ll never see them again. And honestly even if you do end up the same place, you still might not see them every day. Don’t worry about relationships falling apart because the beauty about communication in this day and age is that if you care, and if want to keep in touch, you will. Don’t let someone else’s decisions dictate your life.

Make a list of the things that matter

It sounds tedious but trust me; it helps. Make categories of what sorts of things are important to you: class sizes, programs offered, location, club options, food offered, general feel of the campus, weather, etc. etc., and then decide which of those are most important to you, giving them each a weighted score (10-programs offered. 9-whether or not there’s a Starbucks on campus. 8-good study abroad programs 7-quality of the rec center etc. etc.) then if a school has those things, give it the points, if it doesn’t, no points. If a school doesn’t have any points for the things that matter to you, take it off your list, even if it seems like it could still be a good option for some reason. You’ve got to narrow it down somehow. Have a couple items on your list that are non negotiable, and if a school doesn’t have it, don’t be afraid to cut it out of your options. You’ll have to do some research and some soul searching about what’s really important to you, but after you’ve take the time to do it, you’ll feel like your decision was well reasoned, and not just a spur of the moment decision.

Don’t make your choice based off your family’s wants

Listen to our advice, because I like to think that some of it’s good, but don’t let us push you a certain way. Having known you for your entire life, don’t dismiss suggestions until you’ve at least given them some thought, but after you’ve thought things through don’t be afraid to say, “It’s not for me.” Essentially what I’m getting at is don’t go to UW for Dad, go because YOU want to. And if you don’t want to, that’s great too; I promise he’ll still love you. Trust me, I know from personal experience.

Don’t worry if there’s no “golden moment”

For some reason we are lead to believe that there will be a magic moment when you step foot on the campus where you belong, that will assure you that you’re where you need to be. I think this moment might exist for some people, but for a great deal of us, it does not. AND THAT IS FINE! You know how many schools I toured and applied to (don’t pretend you didn’t love the Great California College Tour of 2010) and I did not once feel that I belonged on a single one of those campuses. They were all just nice, and that was an issue for me because I was waiting for some moment of peace, some feeling that I was exactly where I needed to be, and it never came while walking on campus, or opening acceptance letters. It came eventually though. Not until I neared the end of my first year, did I finally look around and feel like I was where I needed to be. The feeling will come; it just might not present itself when you feel like you need it. It will come when you actually need it. Please don’t feel as if you haven’t found your place because you haven’t experienced that golden ah ha moment; it doesn’t occur for everyone right away.

Have faith that you’ll be happy anywhere you go

No matter where you decide to take your next steps those who love you couldn’t be more delighted in who you are as a person and the choices you’ve made in your life. Take this decision seriously, but not too seriously. Take some deep breaths because you’ll be more than fine at whatever institution you decide to attend; you just have to trust that.

Keep makin’ us proud, kid.

A Few Things I Learned in 2015

Keeping a blog isn’t exactly easy

Alright so I never thought it would be a walk in the park, but amongst school, guest writing for another blog, and general senior year shenanigans, writing for myself was pushed to the very bottom of my priorities. And I mean technically last year the goal was to start the blog, so really when you get down to it, mission accomplished… sort of. This year the goal will be to actually keep up with it. Or at least get past February.

Your 20’s are kind of the best

The best way I can think of to describe life in your twenties is positively overwhelming. The possibilities of doing and seeing and experiencing are practically endless, which is wonderful, but can also be slightly intimidating. These years are your chance to explore whoever you want to be with minimal judgment or attachment to responsibilities. Want to go to college? Good for you! Want to spend the next three months backpacking across Europe? That will be incredible! Want to pack up and move someplace you’ve never been? Why not?! You aren’t expected to have it all put together perfectly after twenty-some years of life, which gives you a little wiggle room to have some fun before you settle down to figure the rest out.

Your 20’s are also kind of the worst

Once again, positively overwhelming. One of the most difficult things I’ve struggled with this year is that while other people don’t expect you to have things figured out, you expect yourself to have them figured out. I’ll look at my friends who are living at home and working jobs they by no means want to make a career of, but believe that they are doing great and wonderful things. Then I’ll look at myself doing the same thing and see it as failure. Why is that? I think we tend to look at each other and assume everyone else has it all together, when really no one does. The notion of being able to do just about anything is really exciting, but at the same time, I’ve mostly found it makes me want to hide under the covers while someone figures it out for me. What I’ve learned about this positively overwhelming time is that you can take positive in the context of itself, as optimistic or hopeful, or you can pair it directly with its following adjective to make it increasingly negative. It all depends on your perspective.

School is great

Now that I’ve graduated I’ll go ahead and say it loudly and I’ll say it proudly: I loved school. While most walked through the halls counting down the days till graduation, I dreaded its approach. Not because I feared the unknown that lay beyond, but because at the end of the day, I just really like learning. I liked studying, I liked the structure, I liked that there were certain expectations held of you and when you met those expectations you knew it. I know these are pretty much the main reasons people don’t like school, but now that I’m out in ‘the real world’ it’d be nice if my main concern was finishing the reading on time. Also another positive thing about school: forced social interaction with other humans your age. Existing in an environment where you’re constantly meeting new people with a variety of interests, sharing new ideas and different opinions was something I never realized I was taking for granted.

Saying you don’t care what other people think is a lot easier than actually not caring what other people think

I think I’ve known this one for a while, but it really hit me hard in good ol’ 2015. Having graduated with two degrees in psychology and creative writing, I’ve become a professional of smiling politely through the “so you’re planning on working at Starbucks then?” jokes. On that note, what would be so wrong with that? But at the end of the day it still feels like another jab at whatever potential I may have for a future career. It’s easy to tell yourself that you don’t care what those naysayers think, and it’s not their life and they don’t understand all the good that came from the steps you took to get where you are, but if I’m being honest with myself, it’s still hard to handle. The same thing goes for physical appearance, personal mannerisms, or trains of thought. Throughout your entire life you’re taught that what others think doesn’t matter, and I think there are a lot of people out there who have actually adhered to that and can think that way, but the majority of us can’t help but let the opinions of others weigh us down. We are continuously told not to care, but then fed so much to the contrary through societal standards perpetuated by social media, that we just can’t help ourselves. I’ve learned that it’s not realistic for me personally to completely dismiss what others think, but I can use those judgments as motivation to push myself to be the best version of myself that I know I can be.

Pancakes are probably my favorite food

This year I truly embraced my love for breakfast foods. Just thought it was worth mentioning.

Don’t miss out on concerts you want to attend

I realized this year that my biggest regrets in the life I’ve led so far have been not making the time to go to concerts I’ve wanted to attend. While I was not graced with any sort of musical talents myself, I have a great appreciation for song. Being able to see and hear an artist’s passion for what they’re doing brings their work to a different level of life. And I cannot deny that there’s something beautiful about the way you’re surrounded by people coming from different backgrounds, with different interests, but who have all come together for a night to love a common sound. Music has a beautifully unique way of bringing people together in a mutual respect that we sadly don’t often see. Retrospectively some of my favorite moments of feeling like I was truly living came from swaying next to strangers who I knew nothing about and who I would probably never see again, but who I knew were feeling the exact same thing as I was in that moment. It’s about feeling connected to others, to the sound, and to this life. All that being said, I’ve realized if missed concerts are basically my main regrets in life; I’m probably doing all right.

I want to do it all

This has proved to make things rather difficult in planning for my future. There are bad days when I think it would be much easier if I had a narrower focus of interests or knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life. But on the good days I know that having a wide range of interests makes me a better-rounded and more interesting person. I believe that if you take honest interest in the diversity of people and your surroundings, life has a lot more to offer you. Most things in this world genuinely intrigue me and I want to experience the most that I can while I’m here; whether those are considered to be ‘big things’ or ‘little things’. Who says you can’t do it all?

A Day to Love

There are all sorts of people in this world who I don’t understand, and I’ve resigned to the fact that’s alright. You’re not going to be able to understand everyone; we weren’t designed to be understood- if we were, life would be unbelievably dull. But there is a select group who I don’t understand, but every year, really try to. The group I refer to are those who hate Valentine’s Day. I mean is there anything more ironic than a hatred for the day of love? Now before I lose you, as I’m sure you’re putting up your guard thinking “well you’re just saying that because you’ve probably been in a relationship for the past three years and are writing this while your significant other gives you a massage,” I would like to clarify that is most certainly not the case. In fact it is about as far from the truth as you could get. I am single in basically every sense of the word when it comes to romance, but I still adore Valentine’s Day. What is there to hate? To limit the days definition to romantic love with a significant other is to be woefully narrow-sighted towards the days meaning. When someone asks you to define love on any other day, your definition is not so limiting, so why choose to be selective on the 14th of February? What changes from the 13th to the 14th, transforming the definition from an all encompassing entity to something strictly reserved for romance? It doesn’t have to be that way. Valentine’s Day is a day to celebrate the people you love, the places you love, and the things that you love to do. It’s a day to take care of yourself and to love yourself, to remind yourself why you love living in this crazy world. I believe a day spent writing in your favorite cafe, laughing with friends, or spent on the phone with your mom, is every bit as beautiful as waking up to a dozen roses. For the V-day haters who argue that it’s just a stupid hallmark holiday marked by consumerism, back off with the cynicism- every holiday has it’s share of consumeristic elements, if you haven’t noticed, that’s just the society we live in. What is so wrong with purchasing a card or a daisy for someone to show them that you are thinking of them? We don’t display our affection for others as often as we should, so I really don’t see what’s wrong with having a day set aside to act on that appreciation. Valentine’s Day is like ____ appreciation day, but instead of being limited to customers or veterans or pancakes, it covers anything and everything that you love. Why would this be something to dislike? I’ll admit that Valentine’s Day is not my favorite holiday (sorry Christmas wins that one by a landslide) but it’s definitely up there on the list. Who doesn’t love, love? Maybe you’re not up for the mushy gushy kind, that’s fine, but don’t try and tell me you don’t love a beautiful sunny day, or a soft rainy one, don’t try and tell me you don’t appreciate a good movie, or a beautiful song, and don’t try and tell me that you don’t experience moments where you look around are simply filled with light. There are so many beautiful things that surrounds us, and February 14th is a day to appreciate that beauty for everything that it is worth. So to all the critics out there, maybe this is the year to put aside your hatred towards cupid, the color pink, and the apparent uselessness of doilies, and focus on the fact that this day was made for you to appreciate all of the beauty surrounding your life, not just in the romantic sense, but in every unlimited sense of the word.

On Flying:

I love airports. They’re human libraries of sorts, and I like a good story. There are few better places to people-watch than in an airport, and for someone who finds people to be fascinating in all that they are, a hub of travelers is a goldmine. I know a lot of people hate airports, or are mostly ambivalent towards them, but I’m pretty sure I could happily spend an afternoon in one, even if I wasn’t traveling anywhere. Although if I managed to find a way to do that and anyone got wind of what I was doing, I would surely be carted off the premises for questioning quicker than a cheetah driving a racecar. And there is also the possibility that working in one would be a different story. The whole scene might lose some of it’s magic, similarly to working in a cafeteria at Disneyland. But that’s just speculation as well, because maybe serving up the giant turkey legs in Frontierland is an absolute dream come true, I wouldn’t actually be able to say one way or the other. But that’s neither here nor there, because I’m not talking about faith, trust, and pixie dust, I’m talking about luggage tags, confirmation codes, and limiting your liquids to 3.4 ounces or less. Airports are at the very root of adventure, at the base of love, and in the beginnings of a new start. There are so many opportunities that come from taking off to someplace new, and airports are the first step in seizing those chances. But if the mere fact that most airports are filled with escalators isn’t enough to convince you of their greatness, keep your head up while walking around the luggage claim area. One of my favorite airport places is the luggage carousel. Not simply because it’s a dream of mine to one day climb aboard someone’s suitcase and ride it around in circles, but because of the people who surround them. Families and loved ones standing there, arms filled with flowers or signs or simply carrying the pure excitement to see whoever comes around the corner. The reunions are the best. The best to see and the best to take part in. I appreciate the amount of emotion that can be contained within a single place, and the range that those emotions take. You see tears flowing from both happiness and sadness, you see excitement in going someplace completely new, or returning to a place of comfort and similarity. It doesn’t matter whether you’re coming home or vacationing to someplace completely new, getting on an airplane is almost as exciting as stepping off an airplane; it’s the very first step of an adventure. So while some might think of airports as stressful places filled with germs, impending missed connection flights, or the confiscation of potentially dangerous knitting needles, I’m holding on to the thought that airports and the opportunities that they provide are kind of beautiful in their own special way. I’m not sure if you’ll find as many people from different walks of life, or with unique stories and backgrounds from varying places anywhere else. Although once again, Disneyland might come close…