Category Archives: Musings

Direction

Complete and total relief.

It was December 13, 2013 and I’d just finished my final presentation for graduate school. I was officially done with all coursework of my college career, and I would walk the stage at graduation in 8 days. As I rode the campus shuttle back to my apartment, I was excited, but felt nearly empty. The last semester had taken its emotional and even physical toll – I was exhausted and anxious from the final push of paper writing, and I was nursing a back injury and hadn’t run for two weeks.

 I didn’t know what was next for me in life, in terms of working, running, where I’d live, or where I should try to go, but this relief was enough for now.

The next day, I turned 24, ate Vitek’s barbecue for the last time as a local Wacoan, and said goodbye to my amazing roommates.

That day’s direction was simple: move back to Austin. Done.

The day after that, I went on my first date with a guy I met on OkCupid. I’d joined the site a couple weeks before, in a fit of loneliness and procrastination on schoolwork. I poked around on there for a couple weeks and chatted with a few people, but overall wasn’t that impressed or excited about my prospects. That Sunday brunch in December was the first date I went on with a match from online dating.

I told my mom I was getting brunch with a dude from Rogue, the running store where I worked last summer. Technically I was; he was in one of the training groups based out of the store. That fact and the 12 Facebook friends we discovered we shared helped mitigate the creep factor of online dating. Still, even though I hadn’t told my mom about my recent dating site exploits, she somehow knew. She asked me as I tried to casually head out to the door, “Have you met this guy before?”

Uncertainty and anticipation were the day’s ruling emotions – where could this go? – but it was a different kind than what I’d experienced in the past year and a half. 

During those months, when I was in graduate school, I walked through the hardest, darkest days of my life. After I was sidelined by a running injury in my first semester, I basically quit taking care of myself physically (not sleeping, exercising or eating healthily — heyooo there’s consequences to that). I started feeling like crap all the time, and coupled with graduate coursework that was much more difficult and less motivating than undergrad, I was not in a good place. I wrapped myself in my own existentialist world and questioned “What’s the point of all of it?! Meaningless.” I felt like I was going through the motions of life. The old things that used to make me so happy either weren’t available to me or no longer had any effect.

During that time, I felt a lack of purpose. Uncertain of my goals and motivations, I felt stuck and unfulfilled. I didn’t know where I was going or what I wanted or what I should aim for anymore.

But now, after grad school was done, I was back in Austin for as long as I wanted. I’d planned to live with my parents and work a part-time job as a stopgap until I found something better or cooler or more legit. I had an idea about where I wanted to go. I could say the words parrot-like when anyone asked me what I wanted to do after college – “I want to work in the running industry, doing anything communication/marketing/PR/advertising. I can work for a retail store, work in media, work for an apparel company, or race management. As long as I’m in the biz around people who understand the running lifestyle, I think I’ll be happy.”

Of course, I also wanted to keep training and running, but my prospects for that weren’t the best after the months of not running during grad school.

Facing life after college, I wondered “What should I do now? Which direction should I go?”

That question had bothered me a lot in the last year. I was worried I’d miss the right direction, or had already taken the wrong direction. Things always made more sense when I had my feet pounding underneath me on a run, or when I had two wheels rolling beneath me. At least I was moving. But I wondered if that was enough to get me through to the next phase of life? What should be important to me? What should life look like?

Back in Austin at the end of 2013, after graduation, direction reentered my life.

It said, “Stay here. You’re happy, your soul is fed, you have wonderful family who loves you, and you’re about to get one more really good reason to stay.”

It was December 15. I went on that  OkCupid brunch date with Jake and was immediately smitten. I swear y’all, after coffee and an asparagus quiche, I knew.

I knew he was awesome and that we’d get along so well. I knew he was a sincere, loving, adventurous man who captured my admiration. I knew he strove for the same balance of faith, work, play, and running in his life that I did. I knew we would understand each other.  I knew he was looking for the same relationship that I was, someone to do life next to, loving and supporting and inspiring the other.

I wanted to marry him.

Direction got even more in-my-face in the next two months, the first couple of 2014.

Jake and I started a serious relationship. I knew I loved him even if it was way too early to say so.

I’d started working at Rogue again, and this time was really inspired by the Rogue vision of community. It was enough to transcend the mindset of a part-time job and make me really excited to be there and be a part of building that community.

After another month I’d gotten in good enough running shape to join Rogue AC, the post-collegiate/professional running team that’s operated out of Rogue and sponsored by adidas.

I was a runner again. I had a cool job that I enjoyed. And I had a relationship with a guy that I couldn’t wait to pursue, to grow deeper in.

I knew where I was going again, what I was reaching for again. It felt pretty damn good.

In April, Jake asked me to marry him, and without a trace of doubt, I said yes. The wedding is in October.

Work is pretty stimulating without being overly stressful, and I love the company. I’m getting to see a little bit more of the founders and managers’ visions, getting to know the quintessential Rogues (more than just customers!) and learning how everything fits together with retail and the training groups.

Running is going well, I’ve had the most consistent training I’ve done since 2012, and the momentum is building each week. I’m really enjoying the process, getting to know my coach and teammates, and feeling like I belong more and more the whole time.

I’ve got direction. I’ll be here in Austin awhile, maybe forever, doing what I’m doing.

This is reality people. It really does feel good to be true.

Getting your face off Facebook

The irony here is that since I turned on the “publicize” feature of my blog, this post is going to be posted to Facebook. Ha, don’t be deceived friends, it’s an auto feature; I didn’t have to log on.

Since I got Facebook in 2007, it was evident the site was a tool that could be used for good … and for evil. Everyone laments that they spend too much time on there, but I really had a problem with it. The site also enabled my bad behavior like procrastinating homework, getting jealous of or criticizing friends and acquaintances, and comparing myself to others.

ImageHowever, as the site testifies, it allowed me to connect with friends both old an new, keep up with more people overall, and even to build professional relationships – which is why I could never rationalize deleting it completely. Plus, I hate it when there’s someone you really need to talk to but their Facebook is completely gone. Thus the addiction and its detrimental effects wore on.

The solution:
In August I finally figured out a way to deal with it all. It’s not permanent; I’ll need to use Facebook again at some point, but it’s better than what I was doing before. I still have my page up so that I can log in if I absolutely have to, and I can be tagged in photos. I have my cell phone number in the “about” section so people can contact me. But I got my mom to change the account’s password and now I don’t know it, so I can’t check my page unless I’m visiting home. One of my friends told me you can also do this trick sans-mother by changing your password to something random (use a password generator), writing it down, and hiding the piece of paper.

How’s that workin’ out for ya?
I have seen the light. Coming from a person who loves Facebook, this is a big deal. The biggest difference of not being on Facebook is that I surf the internet less overall, because there’s less instant gratification for me to seek. This is the root of my time-wasting problem; I face something hard that I don’t want to do like schoolwork, then turn to the internet to entertain me and hit that pleasure center on my brain (SCIENCE: Why is Facebook So Hard to Quit, 5 Scientifically-Proven Reasons to Ditch your Facebook).

The smaller differences are subtle and unexpected bonuses. It’s been about five weeks since I logged off for the last time, and though I’m having so. much. fun. in daily life the time has also been just inching by! It’s weird. The days have been so rich. They don’t blur like last year; they’re full and joyful. Maybe that has more to do with my awesome new roommates/living situation in Waco, taking that sweet trip to Big Bend National Park with my family, and getting to run again, which are all hugely positive. Or maybe it’s because I haven’t used Facebook to treat my boredom or desire for significance and have been forced to be fully present in the world I’m in right now.

Regardless, not being being on Facebook is allowing me to live a fuller life.

Image

Quote that, suckas.

Substantive Updates – Summer 2013

I get tripped up deciding what to post on here, bouncing back and forth between “here’s what I’ve been doing” posts or “here’s how I feel” posts. The former can be boring to read and are sometimes hard to write because life’s constantly evolving – how do you sum up events in storybook chapter? But you can’t only write reflective “here’s how I feel” posts without the context of the “here’s what I’ve been doing” posts.

So, this is a “here’s what I’ve been doing” post, or rather “here’s what I did.” Deeper thoughts and insights to come. And this is still 1000 words long :( I’m sorry. I do a lot of stuff.

ut austin 1
Summer school at the University of Texas!

I went here because it’s in my hometown, and it was cheaper than Baylor (wrote more on that here). I wanted to go here for college my whole childhood, and I almost did – but I got waaay more financial aid at Baylor so I went there. As much as BU has tried to indoctrinate me, I’m still not able to hate the Longhorns, so getting to go here for a summer was its own special gift of status and achievement. Of course, after being at Baylor I didn’t really care anymore, but in high school this was something I really would have cared about. Even though that dream’s about five years expired, it makes me proud to say I was good enough to be a Longhorn this summer.

I completed three graduate-level classes – an Educational Psychology course that covered statistics, testing and measurement, and two advertising electives (creative insights and consumer insights). The ad classes were online, so my real stint as a UT student on campus lasted just 6 weeks. I went to school Monday-Wednesday, from 9-12. I’d ride the bus to campus, grab lunch with my dad (a time-honored Westenhover tradition began by my older siblings who used to go to UT), and sometimes study with my classmates on campus or just ride the bus home.

sanchez

In contrast to that burnt orange blaze of glory in the first photo … this is where I actually went to class. Yay Sanchez Building.

Some of my UT friends asked me if UT was harder than Baylor and perhaps making implications about the relative rigors of these two institutions. Ok, so I had a small sample size obviously, but the answer is a resounding “no.” It was higher ed and it was exactly the same.

  • We had class in a building built in the 1970s
  • There were some motivated, smart students who wanted to be there, and there were some slackers who complained.
  • I went to class, took notes, studied, and took my tests.
  • I had to do homework assignments, but nothing exorbitant or challenging
  • Sometimes my teacher encouraged my thinking on a subject and sometimes I was waiting for the lecture to end because I was bored.

EXACT SAME.

The best part of going to UT, even more than the prestige of attending the biggest school in the state, was getting a semester of grad school done in one summer … leaving just ONE semester at Baylor. I really think I can swing it. Graduation with a master’s in 5.5 years from a private school, debt-free. Praise God! Next up …

 

rogue cpJob at Rogue Running Equipment

I only got to work here 15-20 hours a week, and I had to quit in August when I went back to school at Baylor, but it was good while it lasted.

Since I already had run specialty experience from working at Waco’s On the Run store last year, a friend of mine got me an interview for the Cedar Park store, and I got hired in June! Rogue is  a company with a lot of integrity – stating their values and following through with them. They seek to build the Austin running scene on all sides, through their own training programs, sponsoring events, sponsoring their own post-collegiate professional team, and of course providing the right equipment through what we sold at the store. I have a lot of respect for the organization and it was so cool to be a part of that machine.

pirate run - azul ox

Pirate Run … yes, I did run 6 miles with a Beanie Baby pinned to my shoulder. (photos by the talented AzulOx – click for link)

Also, Rogue knows how to par-tay. I had a blast at their events like the Pizza Pirate Costume Run and the Sayonara Shuffle Pub Run.

rosslyn

Run Pro Camp in DC

This three-day conference was the real-life manifestation of RunPro.com, which is geared toward post-collegiate runners who want to continue their running careers and figure out the nebulous world of professional distance running. This is exactly where I’m at, so you can imagine how excited I was to meet other athletes like me dealing with similar challenges.

It was hosted by the Road Runner’s Club of America, and they brought in speakers on subjects that surround pro distance running on all sides. We had sessions on choosing a training group, finances, road races and appearance fees, avoiding injury and nutrition, building your personal brand, community engagement, not doping (thanks USADA!), USATF involvement, and USATF Foundation initiatives.

I felt outclassed by my fellow attendees there – they were all fresh off the USA Championship or at least the NCAA Championships – whereas I was like “I ran one good 5k race in 2012!” But hey that’s the power of the internet I guess – I applied in the spring and they accepted me. All the travel, hotel and food was covered. It was crazy hospitable! They wanted it to be a professional event, and that’s what professionals would get, so I guess it worked.

This was also an awesome trip because I got to stay a couple extra days with my friend/teammate from undergrad, Kristen! I’d never been to DC before so she played tour guide for me. Catching up about our Baylor days was pretty special too.

But back to Run Pro, the whole experience was eye-opening. It was a reality check that confirmed to me the goal of pursuing professional running would be more difficult than I realized, as in you can do everything right and still fail… but that it’s still worth pursuing.

Mistakes, Screw Ups, and Willful Disobedience (and the current rendition of why I run)

Alright, let’s take a break from the hamster wheel of positive image-building and get this out in the open: I mess up a lot, do bad things, sometimes on purpose with full knowledge that I shouldn’t be doing them.

Life is full-on Romans 7

I’ve been doing this Bible study lately that really convicted me about the need for honesty and openness among people in the church. And I see this with application even beyond the Christian community. What is the point of trying to hide where we screw up? We all know we do. I can see perhaps hiding it when it’s not edifying, and certainly not talking about it more to the point where it’s glorified in the wrong contexts (“omg I got soooo wasted last week” etc) but there is a time and place to be honest with ourselves and our human condition that we do bad stuff.

I try to be really positive on here and on my Facebook and Twitter pages because nobody likes to read whiny posts all the time. But positivity can often mean a lack of honesty.

Honestly: I let negative thoughts crowd out beliefs and faith, I get offended when people ignore me, I fight with my brothers, I’m late for class almost 50% of the time, I get dissatisfied instead of grateful about life, I slack on maintaining friendships, I skip workouts, and I indulge in the sin of gluttony when I surf the internet into the wee hours of the morning instead of doing homework, or you know, going to sleep.

sorry I keep quoting Hyperbole and a Half. She just speaks so much truth to my life.

THIS IS ME all too often. Sorry I keep quoting Hyperbole and a Half. She just speaks so much truth to my life.

Not getting enough rest seems to me my greatest weakness as a runner. It’s been a problem since sophomore year of college, the first year I was really on my own and out of the dorms. Not getting enough sleep makes me feel crappy for the next day, makes me miss out on social events and time with people I care about (having to catch up on sleep later), makes me not recover from workouts, and allegedly makes me fatter. It’s not a pretty picture.

What’s the point of all this doom and gloom?

Just to admonish and encourage other people to be honest. We all mess up. If everyone is transparent, it leaves us with less room for disappointment and more room for getting excited about successes.

Maybe I’m just the outlier here, the one negative runner in a sea of positive athletes. I feel like when I read a lot of runner’s blogs, they’re like “I’m injured but I’m doing all this cross training and I’m coming back stronger than ever! This only feeds my will to win! :)” This last year when I haven’t really been able to train (or, for 6 months, run at all), I was not like that. I get that writing upbeat blogs is probably part of the healing process, just announcing your intent to succeed and be positive probably helps you actually do that. Positivity is proven science… and an art. An art I have not yet fully mastered.

Some people are really good at positivity

Some people are really good at positivity (link)

From December 2012 until March 2013, I avoided telling you the truth on here. I wrote about bikes, missing track and field, and not about how I basically gave up working out AT ALL and let myself slip into a negative spiral (well, I wrote about it later). At the time, it was impossible to write optimistically. If I’d have been honest at that time, the posts would have looked like “Maybe I’ll never run again. I’m living my days in a fog. I don’t feel like me anymore. Is there something wrong with me, that I can’t conjure positivity out of not being able to run?”

I honestly don’t know how I was functioning last winter… all I remember is a few freezing road bike rides, some depressed coffee shop study sessions, working at the running store, outgrowing all my jeans and running shorts, a perpetual runny nose from not sleeping enough, and an increasing distance between my coach and my teammates (weird what happens when you stop going to practice hmmm?).

There were a couple bright spots:
Close friends who stuck by me even when I was in a bad mood all the time, a new passion for mountain biking when I realized I had no longer had to worry about staying healthy for track season, acquiring a taste for the nectar of life AKA coffee, and getting to go to as many concerts as I wanted. I KILLED at SXSW this year. No need to run = stand in line and stay out as late as you want!

3eb. ok I saw actual indie people too

That was the past. What about now? 
In the last couple of weeks I’ve been out here in Austin running, doing 30 minute 8:30 pace jogs (I used to do that for a shakeout run and go run 6 miles of track work later in the day… boohoo), and I’ve started to get upset that I’m still not training “for real” thanks to bothersome shin pain. I run about 15-20 miles per week which, though better than nothing, is piddly.

I ask myself what everyone does when they do something hard – why am I doing this?
I think as runners, it’s really good to ask these questions, and the answers change a lot. My answers are different than they used to be – stuff like to glorify God, because it helps pay for school, and it’s fun. Right now I’m just running (and cross training and lifting and rolling out and icing etc) to avoid getting back to how bad last year was. Seeing how much better I feel these days, even if it’s only 20 miles a week, is worth it.

I’m running with the hopes to become a professional runner because it’s still fun, because I want to live in faith (outcomes are uncertain = require more faith) and to become a stronger person.

A postscript:
Even though I say “Let’s be honest! Let’s stop putting up a front!” I realize that, ironically, even this post is still trying to project an image like, Ooh, I want people to think I’m honest. Whatever. You can’t avoid it when publishing online; putting forth an image, even an absence of an image, is integral to the use of online media. My goal, though, is to be as authentic as possible so you can draw your own conclusions.

Post-postscript:
Happier posts to come. I think I’ve finally finished writing out how I felt last school year. The demons have been exorcised. Summer in Austin has been beyond amazing and I’m excited to write about it in detail next! <– The exclamation points are not fake here!!!

Town Lake

the good life

Millenial Probz – Part 2

I escaped the millennial kid downfall of unceasing comparison and pressure to do something great (Part 1 of this post) after realizing three things:

  1. I’m pretty stupid and powerless on my own
  2. No one cares if I don’t do anything great. They’d be impressed, but it wouldn’t make them like me anymore. Even God … he loves me because of who I am, not what I do.
  3. People just don’t wake up and have these lofty missions they set out on. It happens step by step. Yes, you need to have goals and set out to achieve them. But pick something in your sphere. It would be dumb for me to decide to become a world-class guitarist when I’ve never played an instrument. Music dreams are for other people, and that is ok. I cannot and never will be good at everything.

In other words, don’t try do this:

So I decided to play my cards the best way I knew how. I let go of the pressure and finally got a rational hold on my plans for next year. Another way to say this is “temporarily lower expectations,” haha.

After a couple of dead ends regarding this summer’s plans, (study abroad trip was in the works, but fell through; then summer school at Baylor  was in the works, but financial aid fell through), I finished the spring semester still without a clear direction of my next academic steps. I was registered for Fall classes, but hadn’t paid yet and didn’t know if I had enough scholarship to afford it.

I wasn’t sure if I even wanted to complete the last two semesters of grad school, since I felt so uninspired after last year (my fault for not engaging in it enough, not the program’s or Baylor’s fault). I moved out of my apartment in Waco without a place lined up for next year.

I had outlasted the worst finals week ever and an exhausting move, and after just a week back at home in Austin the old stressors were forgotten. Between family dinners, seeing old friends, riding my mountain bike a lot, starting to run again (after 6 months off from stress fracture), and getting hired at an awesome Austin running store, I was renewed and ready to tackle the school vs. no school decision.

Getting outdoors = clarity

Getting outdoors = clarity

The call of academia won out… in spite of many obstacles. What kid doesn’t fantasize about just quitting school? But I decided if I could swing it financially (i.e. not go into debt) then I should finish grad school. Ok, so how?

Enter summer school at the University of Texas in Austin. Getting graduate school credit at another school is a pretty unusual situation and I wasn’t sure it would work, but I had nothing to lose. Here’s what it took to get into UT grad school and register for classes that could transfer to Baylor…

  • an online application
  • a flurry of emails and phone calls to circumvent those pesky admission deadlines which I’d obviously missed
  • a meningitis vaccine
  • a lot of pestering the faculty at Baylor and UT with my questions and repeated requests for string pulling
  • One big check for registration

The application process got more and more personal, moving from the internet and phone calls to in-person office visits with personal pleas and hard-copy permission slips to register. By the last possible day to register, I was running around UT’s admissions and registrar’s office performing my business in the most low-tech fashions. The Advertising department (which houses the PR curriculum, my major) admitted me as a non-degree-seeking student and two days after summer school had technically started … baby, I was in.

UT tower

UT Austin

The whole process restored my faith in people in bureaucratic educational institutions. This set-up was not in the playbook, but a lot of people in various offices (UT admissions, UT registrar, Baylor grad school, Baylor JPR&NM, UT grad school, UT Adv. department, UT Ed Psych dept) made the personal efforts to push my app through and get me where I needed to be.

I’m stoked because now I basically get the best of both worlds: I can finish grad school cheaper (1 semester at UT = cheaper than 1 at Baylor, as well as not having to pay to live in Waco during the spring semester) and quicker (a semester early, graduating in fall 2013).

It was the next step.

What I mean by all this is that I didn’t get here because I set out to achieve something superhuman. Taking two advertising courses and an Ed Psych course is not that big of a deal. Getting in wasn’t easy, and I wanted to quit trying often, but I held out. Now, having embarked on that path and knowing it was the right one is the best feeling. I know that I’m where I’m supposed to be, and this makes me the happiest that I’ve been in over a year.

So how do you know where you’re supposed to be? You just have to figure it out. See what doors are open. If you don’t know where to go, sometimes it’s ok to take the path most easily traveled, the one laid out in front of you. I did this by deciding to stay in school instead of quitting school and starting my job search this summer ;)

Worst case, you screw up some decision and you delay your ultimate future by a year? Who cares? It’s not like you stop existing for that year. You learn, you grow, you meet people, you struggle, you achieve.

Life is an ebb and flow, sometimes easy and sometimes hard. And it doesn’t have to be like this:

https://www.hellenext.org/reinventing-greece/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Sisyphus.jpg

In Greek mythology this guy named Sisyphus had to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down, and to repeat this action forever.

Adventure is out there no matter where you look. In the end, the only pressure we have to do anything or be someone is what we put on ourselves. Pick a course, stick to it, but know that it’s only temporary. Enjoy the ride.