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.

Finding Purpose in the Wilderness

I wrote about some of this in my “secret” journal during the trip (see featured image above), but there is a magical transformation that occurs when you are in the presence of creation in its purest forms where the hands of men have not yet or are unable to claim mastery over it for his own personal gains. You are immediately brought down to size and realize you are but a tiny part of a much bigger, grander world.

Going to a new place always provides space to figure out what’s important in my life. It’s like a big filter in the shape of plane tickets, breathtaking landscapes, new (but sometimes very old) city streets to walk down, and new cultures where I don’t speak the native language.

I read that Iceland is one of the most educated countries in the world with greater than 99% literacy rate. Creativity and art are strongly encouraged and engrained into the culture, so there is a lot of writing and art being created on a regular basis. I was impressed and humbled by how many books I saw everywhere we visited from coffee shops to more sit-down style restaurants even. Designs on sides of buildings even had huge books on them. It’s clear this country like to read and write. I very much respect it and desire for a similar thing to happen back in the United States. It also reminded me to read and write more.

Yet one of the things I was curious about is how much of the backdrop of their lives has fueled their way of thinking and their desire and ability to create so much. Even within the Keflavik airport, there were wonderful quotes from various authors that speak in such poetic language I was moved to stop and reflect in a place that is usually filled with angst and tension of running late for anywhere but where you’re at.

I hoped to find that magic while I visited to spark a new level of creativity in thoughts and in writing. Even months after visiting, that desire to create has seasoned much of my day to day thinking and actions. To allow for this, it will mean that I need to balance out my time between being inundated in an information, media rich, distraction filled world and find my wilderness space to compile my thoughts and to craft a blog post, edit that photo just so, to reimagine that work project. So while I still (and will likely continue to) consume an inordinate amount of media content, my goal is to be more producer than consumer.

The wilderness gives us room to evaluate everything that matters – and that which doesn’t. Though I wonder if we need to be careful not to spend too much time there lest we go crazy….

Just Tell Me What To Do

“Just tell me what to do and I’ll do it. ”

This phrase encompasses a trending and disturbing mindset. I’ve seen it manifested in various forms, whether direct or indirect. Whether it’s in a more indirect way like not raising your voice when political figures go about making decisions that don’t properly reflect their constituents (sorry, social media rants don’t count here) or sitting idly by while your job role isn’t fulfilling the potential it has, too many of us have taken a back seat driver approach to life. We want to be heard and maybe even claim to want responsibility and control, but should things go off course or a wrong decision be made, we’re  the first to take a step back or point the finger at someone else. “Hey, I didn’t vote for that guy. Not my problem.” “I’m pretty sure it was her choice to move forward this way on the project. I knew it wasn’t good, but why should I say anything to anyone else? ”

The problem is it is still your problem because things doesn’t go away because you don’t claim responsibility.  There’s a strange lack of ownership wave I’ve seen where people want to be part of something, but only as long as there’s guarantee of success. Chance of failure? I’ll go ahead and wait by the sidelines and let someone else get tackled thank you very much.

However, then you’re missing out on being part of that play that changes the energy of the game or even wins that championship. Of course there’s risk when you stick your neck out or stretch yourself beyond what you’re comfortable normally doing. That’s always the case when you venture into new waters; failure is always a possibility. But do we want to live in a way where that isn’t the case? Sounds way too safe and stagnant.

Even if we do fail, you’ll learn how to do it better and differently the next time. Better yet, you may be personally changed for the better just for going through the process and taking that journey.

We’re told by media and culture that the power to shape our futures is within our grasp; why aren’t more of us willing to take more chances and not just follow? If you’re not in a position of leadership or authority at work or even within your social circle, each of us is still able to effect change in some way. All it takes it a little bit of paying attention of your surroundings, raising your voice, and taking action. Be part of the game on the field, not just making comments from the sidelines on how the plays should go.

Mental Barriers

The winter months can bring with them more than their fair share of hibernation side effects. A bit more lethargy in our physical and even mental activity levels can settle in.( Can’t we just sleep through these cold months like bears do?) And as the warmer spring-like weather seeps into the Midwest, I can’t help but feel the effects of winter still slowing all my movements.

I was motivated and challenged to sign up for a race this year, but for now I’m focusing on doing a half marathon scheduled in late May (the North Shore Classic on May 31, 2015). In preparation, I mapped out a training schedule which officially started on the 9th of March. These first few weeks aren’t bad. Weekday runs are all 3 miles and weekend long runs *only* get up to 6 miles this month. Tiny obstacles are trying to thwart me like slight twinges of asthma or unexpected snow after the first official day of spring. Frustrating as it all can be, I’m fighting something else entirely more cunning:

My mind.

It’s trying to tell me running is boring, that there’s something more entertaining to do, like watch The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt on Netflix (which is awesome by the way), or to go eat a double cheeseburger, or just lay on the couch as the world goes by. But when I overcome these elements one by one and I make it outside on a trail or onto a treadmill, my mind is still trying to convince me it’s bored silly and that I should stop and go be complacent instead. I even have a good podcast or two to entertain and encourage me to keep going. The physical act of running isn’t actually that terrible, though my dry spell through the winter isn’t helping, but it’s the head space that’s keeping me from literally wanting to go the distance.

I’m hitting mental barriers. My body can do it, but my head is trying to say “You’re good right where you’re at.” My heart knows this isn’t true. I need to get out there and put one foot in front of the other. Part of me knows it can be done; the other part wants me to just be OK with where I’m at.

The barriers are in the way in other parts of my life too, but that’s for another post. Excuse me while I go work through some ideas as I run.