In It For the Long Haul

I rarely have felt fully prepared for a lot of the big milestones and challenges in my life. Whether it was the transition from school and stepping into “real” life when I graduated college, or giving a best man’s speech at a wedding, or completing a marathon, there was always a moment of pause and hesitancy right before that moment happened wondering how it will go. (I’m still feeling out this whole real life after school thing. I’m not sold on it just yet.)

What I do know, however, is that I work my way through it all on a daily basis.

I think about the fact that I’ve been challenged and stretched in my professional life in ways beyond what I never would have expected. On the days when I don’t think I can or want to handle it, I breathe for a second and take a step back to see the bigger picture and not get lost in the heat of the moment or the mounting pressure. I can’t quit now; there’s bigger things to tackle and accomplish down the road that I need and want to see through.

During my most recent marathon, I faced some physical challenges again around kilometer 25. (It was in Canada and the course was marked in km.) My calves in particular cramped up a bit, giving in to the cold weather and less than optimal training schedule I had leading up to the event. It could have been easy to beat myself up on the course or even give up, but I stretched out when I needed to even if it meant a slower pace and finish time. I came to run and to finish this race.

I am in it for the long haul.

There have been a lot of changes going on around me in my personal and professional life in this past year that have given me a number of reasons to pause and reflect. Some would choose to veer off onto new paths in the midst of the chaos and uncertainty, perhaps out of fear or not wanting to their hands dirty in the details. That’s not me, however. I’m often stubbornly loyal to organizations and people, especially when I’ve invested significant time and energy into them. Much like this past marathon, I at times feel like this is the part of the race where it’s hard to see the finish line while your leg cramps up distracting you from your goals. It’ll take a lot more than some aching muscles to change my course.

Listening When Interrupted

Earlier today as I was about to head out for my weekend long run, it started to drizzle. Not knowing if it was going to turn into a harder rain, I stepped back inside for a few minutes to wait it out. During that time, a good friend called to catch up and share some good news (great news, really) that is so many ways life giving and life changing. It was encouraging and a blessing to hear how after months and years of struggles and prayers, things are moving down a positive and right direction. The excitement and happiness was palpable even over the phone; energy and life was evident in him that I haven’t heard in a while.

It started recently for him one restless night as he took some time to get away and reflect. The next day, he got the news about the doctors finding a kidney donor match (yes Dave, this post is about you.) All of this gave me pause tonight as much as the light rain gave me pause from doing my run this afternoon to take some time to journal and do some reading and reflect on my own life. Schedules don’t always go according to plan, but in those moments when you’re interrupted and plans are shifted, be open and listen to what’s going on. Often it’s in those unexpected and unplanned moments that we can be changed the most.

What Time Reveals

There is truly no replacement for the wisdom and insights that come with getting older and life experiences we collect with time. My marathon training, much like last year, continues to provide lessons about exercise and life.

Every weekend since early August, I have a long run to complete. Since the beginning of this race’s training and the abbreviated schedule, they’ve all been at least 10 miles long. This past weekend’s should have been a 20 miler, but a number of factors kept me from finishing that distance (I did just shy of 18.) The main reasons for less than stellar outings, outside of heat, have been sleep and diet.

It’s been apparent to me that weeks with multiple nights of not getting adequate and sufficient rest adversely affected my stamina on the path. The same has held true if I try to “carb load” on Friday night or Saturday morning. I’m not sure how I thought it would somehow trick my body into being ready. Thinking that one day of eating “right” will somehow get me through vs. 6 days of building up and proper fueling is preposterous. For me, any distance over 10 miles, much like a cleansing and refining fire, begins to reveal your weak spots and how you did or did not prepare. Aches in new places settle in. That skipped breakfast manifests as lightheadedness at mile 11.

The phrase “fake it until you make it” doesn’t apply to marathon training and to anything you truly want to be good at.

It’s the long, tireless marching of time that breaks down every lie we tell ourselves about who we are or what we’re capable of doing. Perhaps you show some wit and writing skill in a tweet or social media post, but are you a disciplined and practiced enough writer and think to compose a well thought out essay piece worthy of 15 minutes of attention? If you were asked to defend your political stance or religious beliefs that drills below the surface, is the well deep enough to draw from or would it quickly dry up after one drink?

Being well prepared for the challenges in life always requires a lot of work, and cycles of rest included. It becomes obvious pretty quickly how well or poorly we’re prepared when the big challenges are in front of us, like a marathon that makes us prove ourselves over the long haul. Are you putting in the miles and training to be prepared for the long runs?

A Bruised Ego

(And heel. And ribs.)

Since I decided to sign up for another marathon just over 3 weeks ago, I’ve been learning a lot about finding limits. I’m more than 25% through the training schedule, but issues are hindering my already accelerated schedule. I’m concerned I won’t have enough time to properly train and currently doubting if I should still run the race.

During the second week of training, I started experiencing some heel pain in my left foot. Unwavering, I powered through a 5 miler during the week well enough. Yet come that Saturday morning, the heat, tiredness, and that nagging pain in the bottom part of my foot that hits the ground with every step reminded me not all was well and I cut my 12 miler down to 10. Doc says it may just be an inflamed heel and to take some ibuprofen to cut down the swelling. Thanks, drugs!

I followed that up this past weekend with a collision at home plate in a softball game, leaving me with some bruised ribs. That made deep breathing, laughing, and moving around bit sore. Four days later, I’m still sore but slowly feeling improvement or acceptance to the dull pain.

It’s clear I’m not as young as I look, nor as superhuman as I tell myself I am. I essentially took off last week and this week since the doctor said to lay off training.

Is all this a divine message to persevere through the challenges or slow down a little bit? Maybe both.

More than anything, while the heel pain and (hopefully just a) bruised rib are but physical hindrances, I’m mostly feeling a bruised ego right now. I tell myself often I’m capable of a lot and that my weaknesses are few. Clearly, this is false and I find that a difficult truth to accept. Going into this training, I told myself it’d be tough but I could do it. Maybe I still can. Maybe this marathon race isn’t meant to be. I don’t know. I’m not giving up hope just yet.

Until then, I’ll be caring for my body and physically resting so I can be ready to get back out there soon.

Featured image courtesy of this band site.

Critical Culture

If there’s one thing we’ve become exceedingly great at in American culture, it’s criticizing everything. Whether it’s what celebrities wear, or what someone posts on Twitter or Facebook, “romantic” decisions made on reality dating shows, how well or poorly we perceive that coworker to be doing her job, or  pretty much anyone’s life decisions. We love and aspire to “drag” people online like it’s a sport and follow those who are amazing at it. It’s all about that ultimate burn, calling someone out on anything you’re outraged about or against in any capacity, getting the final word in and “winning.” But the question is, what is it we’re all winning?

Superiority – or at least the illusion of it.

Comedians often poke fun at and call people out for the sake of a laugh, and that has its place. There’s a time for laughter to diffuse a situation or to do our impressions of someone or pick on something that is difficult for us to process.

However, we seem to lack basic capabilities like empathy and other perspectives. I often find it most frustrating when it applies to people trying to speak into parts of my life (or others’ lives) where they have no authority but talk like they do. Don’t like what someone posted online? Immediately lash out at them like they’re an idiot instead of figuring out where they’re coming from. Don’t like how a coworker is doing their job? Walk in with a “let me do that for you because you clearly can’t” attitude instead of being humble and helpful. Friend or family sharing or venting about something you know nothing about? Tell them what they’re doing wrong and then try and fix it for them. Trust me, they’ll love it.

I don’t know where along the way we lost empathy or the ability and desire to understand other perspectives. Asking a few questions first does wonders and makes things much less “me vs. you”. It’s amazing what a few minutes and breathing before responding with your own “expertise” and knowledge can do to change how a conversation goes.  Try to be less critical and more understanding before you open your mouth or start hammering out that response or “advice” on your phone or computer.


Turning Fifteen Again

Fifteen can be a good age, as seen in the headline image. (That was me in my junior year yearbook photo, not quite 16 yet.) You’re firmly planted into your teen years, start to have an idea of who you are and a little more confident after being in high school for 2 years, and have a lot of optimism about the future, especially because this is the year you get your driver’s permit.

I find I get nostalgic and reflective in June because it’s that time of year when you graduate high school, college, or if you’re me, you remember when you landed your first – and only – full time job. Today, June 19th, marks my first official full time day at my job. It’s not the first or second time I’ve reminisced about this, nor will it be my last. However, 15 feels like a big milestone for a couple reasons.

1) Years that are divisible by 5 feel more important.

2) Change and opportunity has been a big theme this year personally and professionally, much like the year 2000.

Just like that time of transition from college to “real life” where the world felt full of new opportunities amidst so many unknowns, this year mirrors those characteristics. Seemingly there hasn’t been so much change and possibility all rolled up into one inconveniently undefined package delivered to my door. People who I thought would be around moved on, directions of things I thought would be one way have changed – ultimately in many ways for the better.

The INFP and Idealist in me is internally thriving in the “in-between” phase of the past and the unknown future. I love this space where the opportunity of something fresh and new can be created. However, this doesn’t mean I’m without questions or fear. I also want it to go well, perfectly even however perfect can be defined in these situations. Given how unrealistic that is, I need to forge ahead and do my best.

All of this change processing requires more time alone to figure things out. I remember spending a lot of time at 15 in my bedroom trying to figure out life and everything happening then, journaling my thoughts. I was optimistic then too, even when I was unsure of the “next thing.” Guess some things don’t change.

Welcome to “Career” 15 years old, me. There’s still a lot to figure out; you got this. You still look pretty good too for your age. You should thank your parents for good genes.

Our Connected World

(This post has very coincidentally been posted the same weekend as Sense8 premiering on Netflix.)

There is no shortage of commentary about how the Internet and technology has provided us connectivity to other people and how It is reshaping our world, allowing us to communicate with others whom we may have never met otherwise. While this has generally been a great advancement for humankind in spite of the rise of the Internet troll, I’ve been pondering about how our online and offline interactions and activities have great reach, both seen and unseen.

No matter how many times we say “it’s my life” or “why does what I do matter to anyone else?”, it still have immense value and absolutely matters! Regardless of who you are, everything you do influences someone or something else, often in ways we don’t recognize in and positive and negative ways.

Consider the following scenarios that are obvious and perhaps more subtly influential:

  • That day when you don’t apply yourself at work like you should could mean missing out on a new opportunity for a client or inspiring colleagues to do better.
  • Choosing to not pickup the phone and call your old friend to catch up means the difference between strengthening old bonds and letting them weaken just a little bit more.
  • Every book and article you read continually shapes your opinions and perspectives. It forms the basis for our knowledge, but we also must be careful not to fill it only with perspectives we agree with unless your goal is to have a narrow view of the world.
  • My choosing to run more inspired a friend to pick it up again and sign up for a race this past spring, along with others trying to improve their speed and stamina. All this was spurred on by a friend who a year and a half ago somehow convinced me over Indian food that I could train for and run a marathon.
  • Your decisions on who to date or marry (or later decide to divorce from) are some of the most obvious influencing acts we have on ourselves but also our circles. Bringing a new person in changes the relational dynamic. Thankfully, I’ve been fortunate to have friends who have found great spouses that I gladly also call friends. Their presence has frequently enhanced the existing friendship.On the flip side, I’ve seen and experienced the struggles when relationships fall apart or take a destructive route. The emotional turmoil of a divorce on children and relatives is not easily quantifiable in the short and long term. Or seeing the emotional & psychological aftermath of being in an abusive and hurtful relationship play out in how we interact with others for months and years to come.

I’m not saying anything earth shattering or revolutionary, but I’ve been struck by the ever connectedness of my own life as I continue to find parallels between “my worlds”. There’s lessons I need to apply across the board for the bettering of myself and everyone else around me. (Example: apply a better training schedule & routine to reading and writing/blogging similar to the discipline I use to train for a race.) Similarly, there’s probably something happening right around you that you should be paying attention to. What is that thing for you?

P.S. If you have Netflix, check out Sense8. As of this writing, I’m 3 episodes in and am really enjoying it.

Anything You Can Do I Can Do (Differently): A Story of Wearables

The last couple months I have seen the media stumble over themselves to talk about the latest smart wearable released by a certain company based in Cupertino, CA. All the tech news outlets could talk about was the Apple Watch and how it was going to change we would use our phones (well, as long as it’s an iPhone anyway) and live our lives. What’s crazy about this is that Apple is far from the first to bring smartphone notifications to the wrist, but everyone’s acting like it is.  But I won’t lie; I’ve been sucked into the frenzy of the news and wanting to read up on the opinions and feedback on wearable technology.

From Pebble to Sony to Motorola to even some of the fitness band manufacturers like Garmin, the industry has been trying to solve the “problem” of not letting our phones become a constant distraction and allowing us to leave them in our pockets. On top of this, everyone has their own take on additional features like voice actions, step/calorie/heart rate tracking, etc. Design across the devices available also range from pretty nerdy to futuristically stylish to “hey it’s functional” to “I want people to think I’m a regular watch.”

Attempting to be an early adopter without going broke, I’ve had 3 different smartwatch devices in the last year and a half. One was based on Sony’s previous Smartwear platform, and the last two Android Wear (Moto 360, and now the Sony Smartwatch 3 mostly for its standalone GPS tracking abilities). What I can say for now based on my experience and usage: wearable tech isn’t for everyone yet. Maybe it will never will be. The greatest “in” to get people to have something else on them that isn’t their phone is some sort of fitness band and I’ve seen this permeate further than anything else. Everything else is a distraction and, at least in my circles, this is something my friends mostly want less of. I also need to remember to stay more focused in the moment than always look down at my buzzing wrist.

All this to say that I think we – and media – need to be very careful to not so blindly fall for every product or service certain companies provide and take them to be the most amazing thing ever made. Each offering brought to market is providing a different perspective and feature that probably makes sense to someone out there. And competition and diversity in ideas is good for all of us.

It’s been said often in tech circles in the last few years it’s not always about being first to market, but executing it the best. While that is true, just because a company claims that when they aren’t first (Apple), it’s not healthy to blindly follow along. It’s still a very subjective world out there; be sure to evaluate with your own mind and come to your own conclusions.