Thursday, September 22, 2011

Ran 300 Miles

As of this evening, I've run 300.21 miles this year. The goal for this year is 400 miles, and I am 3/4 of the way there! It's a big deal for me.

Running has become a big part of my life this year. It's been the way I clear my mind and actively get rid of anxiety. It's been how I first started learning my way around Tallahassee. It's letting me travel (I have races this fall in St. Pete, Orlando, Savannah and Memphis). And it gives me a way to keep balance from work. I have me time when I run, in a way that I can't always make time for when I don't run.

It's a part of me now in a way that it has never been before. And in the distance I've gone this year, I could get to Jacksonville, FL; Birmingham, AL; or Savannah, GA! When you put it that way, think of the amazing places I could go on foot!

I can't wait to see what else I can accomplish, where else I can go :)

I Quit Facebook

No, I'm not quitting Facebook. Quite the opposite. But I will say, I have once. And having been there, I can speak to the reaction that is firing up the Internet right now.

Think back to the original version of Facebook. You know, "". It was a profile, no status updates, didn't hold pictures beyond the one that identified you, and there wasn't a mini-feed. One day, there was. And it was impossible. I didn't want everyone knowing my business. Moreover, I really didn't want to know everyone else's. As was the fashion at the time, I created a group expressing my extreme anger. "Mini-Feed = Mega Creepy". I was so proud of the name. If it hasn't been archived, it may still exist. But then I took the next step. I quit. And for my final year of college and a few months afterward, I didn't have a Facebook.

I was incredibly productive, I spent far less time on the computer, and had no quick venue by which to share quips that I and a few select others find hilarious. But at the end of the day, once I left college, I missed the ease with which it allowed me to communicate with friends.

I'll continue to use it for that. Will I lose hours on it the way I have up until this point? Probably not. I don't like the constant stream of information. I like to learn about people from people, not from a screen. Mark and I have never really agreed on that.

So catch ya on Facebook, but look for the bulk of my act on Twitter, folks. Shorter but to the point hilarity, punctuated with hashtags.

The First Time I...Went to the Watercooler

Monday was a rough day at the office. Nothing particularly crazy happened, it was just a very draining start to a week. So it was a relief to get a phone call from a co-worker at 10 til 5, to go out for happy hour after work. Which is a water cooler, but tastier, and makes me sleepy.

Anyway, I guess everyone had had a day like mine. There were five of us at happy hour, and gradually talk turned to work. As is customary with gatherings of people who work together, this is a slippery slope. Before long, the frustrations, concerns and issues about our department and institution sprung forth. Being fairly new, I've hung out with this group before, but something about still being in work clothes made it all the more easy to talk about. Evidently, the degree to which we were speaking freely was noticed, and a few apologized for their negativity.

But the way I see it, this was okay for a few reasons. In a different time of my life, I might have been scared about what I heard. Not now. I think that rather than using that as signs of cracks in the facade of an institution that I really enjoy, I see it as a sign that no place is perfect. On the whole, this is far better than my last professional experience. By leaps, bounds, and a cross-country road trip in a really nice car. Is it ideal? Probably not. But is it a great place for me to be right now? Yeah, it is.

It also shows a dramatic shift in the degree to which I can be close with coworkers. Yes, my first happy hour did feature some frustration about work. But it also featured a lot of laughing, a lot of fun (as our gatherings always are), and plans for the future. I have friends in my coworkers. Again, this is a rapid shift from my last professional job. We can share frustrations with each other as well as have fun. I like having friends at work, glad to know I can have that as an adult :)

And lastly, I think it's a sign of my own growing maturity and confidence in my own professional identity. When I first started finding out things I didn't like about my last job, I took them to heart, and it affected my work. But I've taken a hard line at being positive this year. That extends to how I behave in my surroundings. Nowhere is perfect. No person is perfect. But I can choose to do what I want with the information I have. It doesn't have to affect me deeply enough to change how I do my work. The bottom line is, I trusted my instincts in coming to this job in a way that I didn't before. I didn't feel right about my first position, but took it anyway. And before I even left FSU, I knew it was right. That instinct counts for something. And I'm going to let that carry me through.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

It's Been 10 Years

I needed to look at 9/11 another way today. After 10 years of seeing the World Trade Center alongside its fiery corpse, and hearing it mentioned in the same breath as tragedy, catastrophe and attack, I wanted to see it as a sign of inspiration.

Maybe it's a way of me mitigating all the anxiety I felt from the floor of my AP European History class, where we sat in a circle, silently, heads bowed 10 years ago today; maybe it was my way of making sure that I could look at it positively. That's been a big part of my 2011- trying to make sure that I don't always feel like the sky is falling around me. And, in essence, that's exactly what 9/11 was.

So after my morning run, I sat down and watched Man on Wire for the first time. It is a beautiful documentary about Philippe Petit, a French wirewalker who hatched a plan to illegally string a wire between the two towers and walked between the 104th floors. On August 7, 1974, he pulled off the task with the help of a group of friends and collaborators that spanned 3 continents. It's an amazing story, and was beautifully told by the filmmakers. It was footage of him practicing, interspersed with stories of his previous wirewalk attempts at monuments like the Sydney Harbor Bridge, and Notre Dame, and interviews with his collaborators.

There were two parts of the story that really got me. One, the story of how he decided he wanted to do it at all. Petit was in a dentist's office at 17, reading a magazine, and saw an article about how these towers were going to be built. And the idea of these towers, the dream of these buildings that would tower above the heights of monuments that he knew like the Arc d' Triomphe and Eiffel Tower, was enough for him. He knew he had to walk between them. I positively loved this anecdote because it shows that this is bigger than we think. When the Towers went down, it was seen as an attack on America. And it was. But it was bigger than that. It was an attack on the dreams of so many others around the world who dreamed bigger than the place they were from. For so many who dreamed of coming to America to find a safe place, a happier place for their family. For my parents, who came here for new opportunities. And for Petit, who literally came to America with a dream that was based on an unfinished pair of buildings.

And the second was seeing the pictures of his quest to conquer this feat that he so many times called impossible, yet made happen anyway. Pictures of the acrobatic Petit balancing on corners of the roof, of the pylons and support beams that held the building up, and this one, of Petit doing a handstand on the still under-construction building. But maybe the most breathtaking for me was one that depicted Petit's own mark on the building. Because the Towers were not yet fully complete when he completed the walk, he spent a lot of time in the stairwells rather than elevators. And between the 84th and 104th floors, he illustrated his career on the walls of the stairwell.
Amidst the rubble of the South Tower, there was a crude rendering of Notre Dame with the date that he walked between its towers, one of the Sydney Harbor Bridge with the date that he crossed it from midair, and of the Two Towers, with a tightrope drawn between them, with a question mark, as he was unsure when he would fulfill the goal. And even though the story of Petit and his wildly inspirational walk was immortalized in a book and on film, it broke my heart that Petit's most simple depiction of the event is no more.

Today is a day that will be filled with images of screaming, of fire, and of the intense fear that we felt on this day, 10 years ago. I worry all the time that the World Trade Center will be remembered more for the impact of its destruction, than for the good work that was done within its walls, or the inspiration that it provided for so many. So I offer the images and story of Phillipe Petit as an alternative, as a call to an earlier time when people looked up at the Towers and saw beauty, hope and inspiration, instead of smoke, fire, and the loss of their innocence.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

REFLECTION! The First Time I Ran 13.1

I slept through this morning's training run with the training group for the Savannah Rock and Roll Half, so I set out on my own this afternoon. It was a TERRIBLE run. They happen, but I hate them :( It's discouraging and demoralizing. But I decided to look over an account of when I finished my first 1/2, to remind myself I can do this, and to rejuvenate myself for the rest of the training season.

Brutal honesty time: I quit things I'm not good at. The fact that I excel in the things that I do right now is no coincidence. There's hard work associated, sure, but if I don't feel like my hard work is yielding me what I think I should be getting, I've quit. It was true on the AP Calculus exam, it was true with softball, and to a certain extent it was with gymnastics. I loved it, but I got injured too often to make the progress I needed, and in the absence of being "college scholarship" good, I gave it up.

Running is different. I ran for two years in middle school- cross country for Terrace Community School (GO TORNADOES!), but was always toward the back and didn't like to do it. So I gave it up. And by the time I decided I wanted to try it again, injuries from gymnastics (namely knees) made it hard.

So I went to physical therapy and worked through it. I had always avoided working through things that were hard for me, but this time I did. And after months and months of running, pushing for longer and longer distances and pushing myself past where I was comfortable, I came to today. 13-14 months in the making, and didn't quit once. I surprised myself.

The race today went better than I ever could have expected. I blew one side of my headphones, but kept going. And despite being terrified I'd have to go to the bathroom and not know where to stop (legitimately my biggest fear on any running course I've ever done), I made it the whole way through. And faster than I thought I would. The official chip time was 2:09:57. Whaaaat?

Highlights of the race:

(3) My bib number was my birthday! (823) As soon as I got it, I looked around frantically to see if anyone else's was their birthday, and then realized it was sheer coincidence. I was sooo excited!

(2) My friend Sarah from elementary school's father has been a distance runner for years. I remember seeing him run through the neighborhood every morning for years. He ran the race this morning and he passed me around mile 7 or 8. Coming over the bridge during mile 12, I managed to catch up to him, and stayed behind him for a bit, not thinking I could pass him. But I managed to, fully expecting him to pass me back and get ahead of me. But he didn't. Granted, he's a lot older now, and I had an unreasonable level of adrenaline going at that point, but being even close to him in the distance running realm blows me away.

(1) As I turned onto the straightaway to the finish line, dizzy from the spiral ramp that comes off the Clearwater Bridge, I saw a familiar face. Jeff freaking Parker came to meet me at the finish line! I was soo excited to see him- sore and exhausted and so incredibly happy to see a familiar face, and that he would take the time to come and be there for such a big moment in my life. It meant everything to have a friend there, and my heart was unbelievably happy- Jeff, thank you for making the experience for me. You amaze me :)

The best part of the whole race- having the best friend I could ask for at the finish line :)

Today was a great day, the result of more hard work than I've put into anything, and I can't wait to see what else I can do when I put my mind to it!

When I really think about it, there's a lot I know I could change about today's run, to make it go better next time. But the best thing right now is to remind myself I CAN do this.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Debated Guys v. Girls v. People

No, not like that.

My friend Sam drew my attention to this article about the dynamic of female relationships on social media, and how to address comments that are, in a way, solicited. It speaks about "honesty" platforms like Formspring, wherein the user can ask other users/"friends" what others think of them. Presumably this is done with the hopes of getting glowing reviews or encouragement. However, the platform is being used increasingly as a means to anonymously hurt each other. This article is actually an update to the book "Odd Girl Out," a well publicized chronicle of the covert but comprehensive bullying techniques of teenage girls.

For the better part of my childhood, my best friends were boys. I interacted with girls in dance classes and on sports teams, but for the most part, would choose to hang out with the guys. I wore shorts or pants all the time, the result of having my skirt lifted unwillingly in kindergarten (these memories stick, people!). I was what you would consider a "tomboy," and wouldn't have had it any other way. Still wouldn't!

Sometime around high school, I managed to find a group of girls that I could socialize with and didn't feel forced to be catty, hurtful, or judgmental all the time. One of the things I valued most about my male friends was their ability to be open. When one was mad at the other, they would talk, they would yell, sometimes they would fight...but they would address it. I always saw girls defer to rumor-spreading or mudslinging over talking things out, and always hated that. Guys had it right, I thoughts. But in meeting this circle of friends in high school, several who I still am close with today, I realized that I didn't dislike girls- I just hadn't met the right ones yet.

As I continue to mature, I'm still more comfortable with men. Some of my best friends in the world to this day are men. But I've also come to a point where I can count several women among my best friends too. I've shed my propensity to hide behind shorts and pants, in favor of heels, skirts, and SO many dresses sometimes it makes my head spin to see how far I've come.

But I see the hurtful things that girls say to each other, on platforms such as Formspring, and I yearn to determine where such mindsets come from. Where is this socialization coming from? So much is said about the deplorable and hurtful ways that men treat women, and rightfully so. That said, we should be equally outraged about how women treat other women. In both cases, the root causes of such socialization need to be addressed, and aggressively combated.

I suppose my dream would look something like this. Improv Everywhere recently placed a megaphone podium in Times Square with the directive "Say Something Nice". Very few people took the opportunity to advertise, self-promote, or demean. But some did. And in the best case scenario, the directive wouldn't be needed. People would walk up, clear their throats, and uplift each other.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Lost a Former Student

Rebecca Hawk was the biggest advocate for Chick-fil-A I've ever met. When we had extra time during group interviews that she helped to leave, her favorite question was "McDonald's or Chick-fil-A?", and was VERY attentive to participant responses. She always let me know when there was a sale at Old Navy (it was dangerous information to have as a grad student). She made a pact with me to not cut her hair when I was trying to grow mine out. And as of yesterday, Rebecca is no longer with us.

The victim of accidental carbon monoxide poisoning from a car left on under her apartment overnight, Rebecca was pronounced dead when she arrived at the hospital. The news reached me at work last night, just as one of our first events with my present students was getting going. It shook me in a way that I truly didn't expect. I'm notorious for my reputation as a "robot"- for not crying when something sad happens- but realizing that Rebecca won't be someone that I see when I visit Tampa, fully coming to the understanding that she really is gone, has really shaken me.

Rebecca, and the other students that I had the pleasure of working with either directly or incidentally in the Center for Student Involvement that year, met me at a really important time in my career. Coming from working at the community college, I had a hard time figuring out what I wanted my relationship with my students to look like. I was still struggling with the boundaries between being an authority figure and a resource, while also letting them know me as a person. I settled on my current style because of Rebecca and students like her. She was personable and open, but was also professional enough to get her work done and understand that working with young professionals didn't mean also being friends with them. She made me unafraid to let students know me, and for that (along with every trip I make to Old Navy for quite some time), I'm always going to remember her.