learning

Am I a Runner? A Lesson in Backtracking

If you’re any sort of creative, you’ve likely heard the speech about owning your title. “I’m not really a painter,” you say. “It’s just a hobby.” And you’re not a painter, because you don’t believe it—you won’t add the identity to your own. For years I never referred to myself as a writer. I thought I could have the title once I published something, once someone told me I was a writer, once I had a completed novel to send out. Up until someone else validated it, I wasn’t really a writer, just a faker with some creative ideas.

I feel the same way about being a runner. I haven’t yet accepted the title of runner. I’m waiting to finish a 5k, to finally invest in real running shoes, for a friend to casually drop the word while we’re out. I want someone else to give me the title, when it really won’t mean anything until I give it to myself.

This week I decided to backtrack in my Couch to 5K journey. After two weeks of failing to run for the full 25-28 minutes, I decided it was time to get some wins under my belt—even if I’d already achieved them. So I took it a step back a few weeks, and returned to running with breaks. On Monday I ran for five minutes, walked for three, ran for eight, walked for three, and ran for another five. And while it sort of felt like a failure to have to try again, the real failure would have been listening to that skank in my head who keeps saying “just quit—you’re not a runner.” So I got some good music, did a little dancing, and felt great. I did two ten minute runs on Wednesday, and again felt great. Music got me pumped (Sia’s Chandelier makes me look like a GLORIOUS IDIOT—1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, DRINK!—hand motions and all), and the weather kept me sane. Today I ran for the 22 straight minutes again in the terrible cold (46?? SNOW IN THE FORECAST? I hate you Minnesota), and felt surprisingly great. I even kept running after the stop time. I kept a 10:16 pace today, which is a step down from days past, but I’m calling it a win. I’m not overexerting myself, I actually enjoyed running.

I don’t know if I feel comfortable accepting the title of runner yet. At this point, I’m a little worried if I call it out too soon, I’ll spook it, like a scared rabbit. That just as quickly as I’ve started running, I’ll stop. I know it seems ridiculous, but I’ve begun and quit enough things (I’m a poet, I’m a pianist, I’m a playwright!), that I want to careful with what I commit to. So perhaps it isn’t now that I call myself a runner. But maybe, someday, I’ll find the title at the end of the block.

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When You Run Out of Synonyms for Messing Up

If you haven’t noticed, I’ve fallen off the wagon a bit in terms of posting. My “on the road” blogging skills appear to be somewhat lacking. Half-vacations are rarely valuable, but I needed to get out the Twin Cities, and my bank account couldn’t take two weeks off. And while I applied to a few jobs, I didn’t exactly stick to my daily routine. Which means it’s time to check in on last month’s goals.

August action list:

-Wake/get out of bed on first alarm

-Complete couch to 5K program

-Do at least one responsible/adult task each weekday (this does not include job applications)

-At least two job applications/inquiries out each weekday

-Blog every weekday

-Write/research at least 1 full hour each weekday

-Say yes to every safe offer to hang out/meet people

Limit:

-NO TV

I would like to say that I attempted all of these tasks, but the three seasons of Suits I have under my belt argue against that. For a good while I did quit TV. But the sad truth is that rationing isn’t my forte (that and my two-month wait for Game of Thrones from the library finally came through).

For the most part, I did succeed at my goals for the month. I’ve definitely fallen off at the end, but for much of August I blogged every weekday, I have worked through the Couch to 5K program (today I ran for 25 minutes, and felt like vomiting! YAY PROGRESS!), I’ve applied to over 40 jobs, I’ve worked on my writing pretty consistently (owing much to my wonderful alpha readers), I’ve said yes to quite a few new things. I don’t know if we can call August a rousing success, but, well, I’m not counting it as a loss.

The key, for me, to achieving my goals is to accept my pitfalls. I am far from perfect (last night it took me almost ten minutes to change the lightbulb in my bedroom), but seeing my imperfections as failures is detrimental to my success. Just because I skip a day writing, doesn’t mean I abandon the novel. We make mistakes, this is inevitable. What we control is the grace we give ourselves after the fact. I am not yet the woman I want to be, but that doesn’t mean who I am now isn’t wonderful too.

September action list:

-Wake/get out of bed on first alarm

-Keep apartment relatively clean; do dishes immediately, pick up after myself, scoop litter boxes

-Continue Couch to 5K program

-Do at least three adult tasks (appointments, phone calls, emails) a week

-Write/research for 2 hours every weekday

-Continue blogging every weekday

-At least three job applications out every weekday

-At least one long-lost phone call a week

-Five hours of reading a week

-At least one short story/poetry submission out this month

-Say yes

Limits:

-Two spoken/written complaints a week

Here’s to having a more positive outlook, and a more successful day. If we fall off the wagon, if we screw up royally, if we watch 17 episodes of House of Cards in one sitting, we are not failures. We have made mistakes. And we are not defined by our mistakes, but rather, how we overcome them.

Achievement Unlocked

When people find out I’m a vegetarian, they often ask why I made the decision. Sometimes, I spout off political and economic reasons, but if I’m being honest, I just thought vegetarians were cool. Most of the vegetarians I knew had a sense of confidence I lacked, thought more about politics (which, barely registered for me), travelled the world, listened intently. I wanted to be all of these things, and I figured being a vegetarian would be the gateway to that.

I did not get any cooler simply by being a vegetarian. And I definitely didn’t get any healthier. I ate fried foods almost exclusively (mozzarella sticks, potato skins, french fries), and didn’t really pay attention to the impact these foods had on my “political reasons” for changing my diet. I was not (and I’m still not) a great vegetarian. Now, it’s just far too complicated for me to try to teach myself how to buy and cook meat. No, becoming a vegetarian was not a life-changing experience I thought it would be.

Instead, vegetarianism taught me less about my health, and more about my stamina. As a kid I never liked challenging myself. I felt embarrassed when I looked like a fool in front of my friends (sports coordination was not my forte), never felt any sense of accomplishment if I failed. Trying didn’t really count as effort if it didn’t succeed, so I just sort of bailed on the whole thing. Until I became a vegetarian. With every month I stayed a vegetarian, the more I felt like I had accomplished something. For the most part, changing my diet was a big deal—getting rid of meat was difficult and complicated. But when I could answer “I’ve been a vegetarian for about a year now” I felt both surprised and elated. I had changed some huge aspect of my life—I had actually changed and stuck with it.

When I started to get healthy, I took the achievements of being a vegetarian as proof that I could do it. And within a year I had lost almost 40 pounds. With the knowledge that I could actually make a change and stick with it, I was able to actually get healthier.

About a month ago I went on a pretty mediocre date. There was nothing wrong with the guy, but there was clearly no real connection—we scrounged for things to talk about, stumbled through back stories. When I got in my car to head home, I felt a sense of failure. What was wrong with me? How was I so boring?

The next day I spent in my TV chair, plowing through episodes of Teen Wolf. I ate poorly, felt like a boring, old sad sack. I let the crappy date explain my entire life up until that point. I was a boring, mediocre person, and I could very easily fail at everything. You’ve had those days, I’m sure. Where everything seems to go wrong, and you just sort of let it.

That night, I vowed that I would try to get more interesting. I would start running the next day. That way, at least I had something to talk about on a date. My hobbies include writing and running. Now I’m interesting.

I took the success of being a vegetarian and was able to bring it to my running. I had changed my diet for five years, I could most certainly run for a minute. Two minutes. Three minutes. Five minutes. Eight minutes.

Today I ran 20 minutes at a 10:10 pace. I am still in shock that it happened—that my legs and my lungs actually survived the whole process. On Wednesday I thought two sets of 8 minutes was rough. But today I ran 20 minutes without stopping. (I can’t stop thinking about high school me, and how she’d just stare with her jaw to the floor if I passed her now.) And how did I do that? By proving to myself, again and again, that I could do these little things that initially felt impossible. Every time I kept running through the full length of time, the more I felt like I could challenge myself to do it again. I could do it. I can do it. I just needed a little bit of a push.

Do you challenge yourself? Have you always tried new things, or is it something you’ve struggled with? How have you learned what you can accomplish?

Oops

Have you ever had one of those tiny moments that just feels like everything is about to go wrong? Like, you stub your toe harder than usual, and suddenly everything you’ve done up until that point in your life has been a complete and utter disaster and a total waste of time? Because you stubbed your toe, and everything is now terrible.

That was me, these last two weeks—constantly on the cusp of that feeling. 

It all seemed to start when I sat in pee on the bus. I had every intention of getting “back on track” (whatever that means), of collecting myself, and working hard at maturity and responsibility and planning and blah blah blah blah blah. And then I sat in pee, and everything went to hell.

Remember those goals I had? Those minimal goals that were so easy a child could do them without parental supervision? The hope of making my bed and not binge watching TV like a shut-in? Well folks, I am here to finally admit that I achieved almost NONE of them.

Now before you write me off as an ambitionless disaster with no potential, let me explain. While I will fully admit to what my manager refers to “falling down,” I think I started this project with the wrong mentality.

Every writer has a list of things they have to do before they start writing. For me, it’s “I have to have a clean room to write.” Totally idiotic, right? I know, objectively, that I don’t need a clean bedroom to write, but I will procrastinate personal writing for so long when my room is a mess. Why? Because I am convinced I will be distracted if I see that beer can out of the corner of my eye, or the dirty red wine glass (yes, I am a slob). The motivation will sap right out of me if I have a messy room. Is this always the case? Of course not! But it is something of which I have fully convinced myself. I can’t write in a messy room.

When I sat down on the bus that day, ready to take on work and get excited about the “rest of my life,” I kind of got slapped in the face by this pee. Sort of like trying to work in a messy bedroom, the pee felt like a step backward. I had tried so hard to mature and be an adult and get my life together, that when I had to work in pee-covered pants, I just felt like everything I was doing was a sham. I’m not an adult. I have someone else’s PEE ON MY BUTT FOR GOODNESS SAKES. I mean, what am I trying to do? Just quit already, because clearly what you’re doing is all a joke. You’re not an adult, I told myself, you are a disaster just waiting to happen.

Over the weekend, my cat had to get rushed to emergency. There was a problem with his bladder (there is a theme of pee in my life…) that could have been fatal if we didn’t treat it immediately. This ridiculous adventure has me and my roommate out WAY TOO MUCH money. I laid down on the fake hardwood of my apartment and cried for him and my brand new credit card debt.

A week ago, when I told a woman she couldn’t use our bathroom without making a purchase, she returned to my store twenty minutes later to berate me about not being a “good Christian.”

On Wednesday my OkCupid date bailed an hour before we were supposed to meet, messaging me while I was in the shower shaving (for the first time in like a month—it’s slow around these parts).

And guess what? I have focused on these tiny disasters so acutely that for a few weeks, I convinced myself that this WAS all a sham. That I wasn’t a “real” adult, that my whole plan to fake it until I make it was actually not working, and that of the successes that I thought I was experiencing were really just luck of the draw. That being an adult was something you could just bail out of. I quit, I’m moving to Cincinnati with my sister and never trying again. 

Oh the naiveté. I can probably do a backflip sooner than I can bail out of being an adult (which, mind you, I don’t think I will ever have the flexibility to do). 

But I have to do it.

So now we will try to focus on the positive aspects. It will feel impossible some days, of this I am fully aware. Some morning I will miss my alarm and sleep until 1, but I am still an adult. I can’t ignore it, there is no escape hatch. We are growing up, getting older, forcing ourselves into maturity. We can let it drown us, focusing on all of our failures, or we can accept the failures and move past them. We’re all just trying, very hard, to be better versions of ourselves. We let other’s have a break now and then, so let’s do it for ourselves.

This week, I failed. I fell down, I didn’t get to the point I want to be at. I’m about to drink a beer that a fly landed in—but I’m trying. I’m trying so very hard, because I don’t know what else to do. I am going to fail a lot. I am going to spill my coffee all down my front and face the reality of the farce I’m putting on. But I can’t bail out. I need to focus on the positive.

We are all growing up. We are bumbling through this madness like dancers with no coordination. I’m sorry if we bump into each other. But let’s embrace and help each other with the steps. I am a walking disaster most days, but some days I can convince myself I’m a real dancer. I’ll keep your secret if you keep mine.

I Sat in Pee

Hello, internet. It’s another week, and while I did have some lofty goals, I thought I’d share with you some of my more embarrassing moments, just so you don’t think I have my life too together.

When I first moved to back to Minneapolis, I had some major nerves about getting around in downtown. In college, I lived in the suburbs, and very rarely ventured to the city. It was scary and hard to manage. And this, of course, was all before smart phones and GPS so my mother had me fully convinced if I got lost my car would break down and I would most likely get robbed and shot (cities are terrifying! was the message). When I moved back I had grown more confident (and had an iPhone), but downtown parking was a remarkably steep $9 a day. As someone with a coffee shop income, I couldn’t make the math work. Enter: Minneapolis Metro Transit.

The first day I rode the bus, I had some major swass. Yes, you read that right. For the unfamiliar, swass is a combination of two words. Can you guess them?

With a sweating behind I watching the dot on Google Maps slide up the screen through the blocks. Was it 3rd or 4th Ave that I was supposed to get off at? How do I tell the bus driver I want to get off? Does it just stop? What if it doesn’t stop? Can I stand up while the bus is moving? Which door do I leave out of? Does the door shut on me? What if something gets stuck? What if I leave my wallet? What if I can’t get off in time? Do I say something or wait until the next stop?

As a kid from the ‘burbs (where my experience with buses was limited to a bus picking me up at my house and me getting off once it stopped at school), riding the bus terrified me. I worried about everything–from not having the right change, to which which side the street to get on. In this tiny moment were so many strange stresses. And you want to know what? I haven’t thought of any of these stresses in almost a year.

A few days ago I got on the bus and sat down, and suddenly my butt was wet. But it wasn’t the swass (which I usually now only have before a date or an interview), but it was something else. On a good day, I would have pretended that it was a wet grocery bag. On the day it happened however, I walked into work and announced “I SAT IN PEE” probably louder than I should have at a quiet coffee shop. As awful as the experience was, I can’t help but find it somewhat hilarious, and a little comforting. (Hear me out!) While it was absolutely gross and terrible that I sat in pee while on the bus–that was the only awful thing that happened to me on the bus. I got on at the right time to get me to work, heading the right direction. I knew which stop to pull the string for, and which direction to walk once I got off. I knew where to pick up the bus again when I got back on (in my pee covered pants–GENTLEMEN, I’M SINGLE), and I knew where to get off. And I haven’t had to worry about these things in over a year.

I wish I could have told past-me about this experience. That someday she’d sit in pee and it would somehow be both awful and hilarious. And that she’d survive all of the tiny stresses that seemed almost impossible to overcome when she started this adventure. Maybe I knew it objectively, but until you live it, you can never really trust yourself. Adventure and new experiences may initially give you nerves, but someday they won’t any more. It is important to put yourself into new moments and to experience new things. Someday, it might not be so terrifying.

Now. Let’s talk again after this swass-inducing OkCupid date on Wednesday.

Oh, Grow Up

Guys. I had such lofty goals two days ago. I was starting a blog, I was waking up early, I made my own coffee, I started to clean my room, I exercised. And then I started to think about things. I don’t quite mean “think about things” as in “wrestle with the ever-present existential crisis things” (that I save for late at night or after a few glasses of red wine), but I started to think about the other things I had to do. Like grocery shopping, and spring cleaning my wardrobe, and applying to jobs, and cleaning the bathroom, and calling the vet, and making a doctor’s appointment, and fixing my bed frame. And suddenly I felt like everything I was doing was a sham–that unless I did a total overhaul of my life (wake up early every day, start running, make your bed, write for five hours a day, STOP BINGE WATCHING BACKLOGGED EPISODES OF THE WEST WING FOR HOURS ON END YOU LAZY–), I wasn’t really any closer to growing up than I was when I moved out of the house for college. Because, really, after seven years you’d think I’d have all this figured out, right? 

For the past few years I’ve thought that “who I am” and “who I want to be” were two very different people. If only I got a “real” job, if only I worked harder on my novel, if only I asked out the cute regular at work–I would somehow magically transform into Super Me. As though I could pinpoint one moment where I’d made it, and my ever-worrisome internal middle schooler could finally cheer and dance at our success. (Oh, like you didn’t stand in front of the mirror in 7th grade and wonder about the elaborately fabulous life you’d finally have when you turned the GAWD-that-will-feel-hella-old 25.)

All of this to say, I’ve spent a lot of time just waiting for something to happen. As though my adult self were just on the other end of a Hogwarts letter that was never coming. And the longer I wait, the more I’m starting to realize–she’s not coming.

I have to find her.

I’ve been trying to drill this phrase into my head lately: Adult is action. For me, growing up has started to mean taking actions to get me closer to who I want to become. So where is the balance between the ever-pressing to-do list that will help me find this Super Me, and the seven-hour Netflix sessions I somehow fall into on my days off? That’s what I’m still trying to figure out. If I start to list out of the things I have to do, I quickly become overwhelmed and bail on the whole thing and instead scroll through Tumblr for an hour or two. I can’t even begin to figure out where to start.

So I’m going to start very, very small.

I’ve made an extensive list of things that I think are essential parts to “Adult Me’s” life–broken down to doable, bitesize chunks (ie, rather than “Adult Me always has a clean room” it’s “Adult Me makes her bed every morning”). Each month, I’m going to take four of these fairly easy steps and apply them to my daily routine (note to self–get a daily routine). On top of these four things I will actively do, I will have one limit.

Here’s June’s action list:

-Make bed every morning

-Do at least one responsible/adult task every week day (doctor’s appointment, vet appointment, taxes, catch up on emails, etc)

-Write/research for a half hour every day (the amount of time will increase monthly)

-Go for a walk at least twice a week

And this month’s limit:

-MAX two hours of TV a day (guys, I watch A LOT of TV)

If you’d like to join me on this adventure, I encourage you to make your own action and limit list. Maybe you’re lightyears ahead of me, and you already make your bed and call for doctor’s appointments immediately. Maybe your list will include deep cleaning the kitchen once this month, or making sure to catch up with old friends you haven’t spoken to.

Every Friday I’ll check in to let you know how this experiment is going (I’m not a fountain of wisdom, this is definitely an experiment). The important thing is this–missing one benchmark doesn’t mean scraping the entire thing. We’re on a curve here. Just because I didn’t get to write one day this week doesn’t mean I’m allowed to call myself a failure and watch Supernatural for five hours straight. We mess up, we forgive ourselves, and we try again.

Slowly but surely, someday, we’ll finally become adults.

An Introduction

Let me get this straight. You’re a 20-something Millennial with an inflated sense of self, a messy apartment, two cats, a BA in English, and a penchant for self-deprecation? And you’re starting a blog?

YESSIREEBOB.

I’m not going to lie, there are probably many blogs out there that will be better than this one. They will be more focused, they’ll teach you things, they won’t wander into your kitchen at four in the morning and make fried eggs for no apparent reason. I recognize that this isn’t an original idea, and at 25 I really don’t have that much wisdom to impart on you. But, unlike some people, I LOVE to talk about when I screw up and make a fool of myself. And I’ve found, thus far, that there is no time more embarrassing than your 20s. So if you’re just starting this crazy adventure or are in the middle of it (or if you just want to relive the horrors of this time in your life), I’m here to remind you that you’re not alone. That I too have eaten a lot of things past their expiration date and I’m still alive. That I have a subscription to the New Yorker that just piles up in the corner of my bedroom because who I am and who I want to be are two very different people. That, yes, you can call it a successful week if you’ve swept your apartment once. Because even at 25 (the age that my middle-school self thought I’d have everything together), I’m still just staving off disaster.