underlined words like these take you to other posts on my blog and super cool posts on other people’s blogs!
I start at the back of the pack during warm-up.
And then comes the last lap.
Coach blows the whistle, and then I morph into a bird flying fastest. I speed up, and up some more, until I am flying down the back straightaway catching the boys. I swoop in around the curve.
I feel my legs burning up with the heat of work. More force, more distance, more work.
But I do not slow down.
More work, more focus. I speed up and catch the boys at the finish.
During drills I keep my arms placid at ninety and stay up on my toes.
I spell p-a-t-i-e-n-c-e while doing skips to the rhythm of lift-up-down-lift-up-down. lift-up-down, my legs work. lift-up-down, lift-up-down– to every drill, a different rhythm.
Then come the strides.
I leave stillness for another day and step forward fast and far, but with smoothness, each step a silent sound.
During the workout, I run within myself; I am my own timekeeper.
With each repetition, I forget more and more that there are people running next to me, and I begin counting in my head when I get tired.
With each repetition, I feel more and more tired. I sweat and I smell.
With each repetition, I push harder and harder, and I keep a steady rhythm going so I know my pace.
With each repetition, I try to focus more on my form. Arms at ninety, up on my toes, I pretend that I am a seabird- nimble, resilient. And so I imagine flying above the waves of an ocean, for miles and miles on salt, water, and air.
As I cool down, I imagine that the wind is still salty and that I am swooping down onto the shore, back to the track.
My feet hum from the tiredness of my work, and I am reminded that I am human, and that the bird is a fantastical illusion I had momentarily fled to in my concentration at a transient tempo, a time whilst running that I have never been able to define.
p-a-t-i-e-n-c-e, I whisper. I will fly again tomorrow, and then maybe, maybe, I will become the timekeeper once again.
Here is a found poem that I created using images and words from old issues of The New Yorker and Time. My goal was to create a poem that strove not to convey a new idea, but to express an existing, recurring narrative that I keep encountering in the articles, in the news, and in history.
I am a confident person and I am cool.
But I wasn’t always very confident, particularly in high school. Or, at least if I was in the teeniest bit, I didn’t like to be.
I loved to hide out in my room and never say anything in class and let people tell me that I could never run fast, that I could never succeed in taking a heavy course load because (apparently) I am on the autism spectrum and would be overwhelmed. I let the haters hate and the blabbermouths blabber. And I let this negative tape play in my mind day after day when I couldn’t concentrate or think and felt like an air-breathing fish stuck in the water, over, and over, and over, in my head. I tried to justify my hiding.
I told myself that I was different, I told myself that I could not do anything I put my mind to, I told myself that the untruthful, dishonest words were right.
Each day became a battle for air in an ocean ten miles high with fish and more fish with too many mouths. Too many mouths, too many words, I let the words anchor me down in my place as different. I was different; I was incorrigible; I was wrong; all the words they told me were right.
a⋅self-ful⋅fill⋅ing⋅proph⋅e⋅cy (n)– a fish with air gills is submerged in an ocean of water ten miles high and ten miles deep. exasperated, it tries to reach for air, only to be told that, “well, you’re a fish, you don’t need air,” and that if the fish did, then they weren’t going to get any of it. because the others reason from their own experiences, that a fish has to stay in the sea and live life at whatever depth they belong. “fish belong in water and nowhere else,” they trumpet. so the fish stays in the water, and is unhappy, and cannot swim very far until they are deemed asthmatic and dysfunctional.
For a long while the self-fulfilling prophecy held true- I was an unhappy, air-breathing fish stuck in an ocean of all the swim swam swum people who loved the water. I stayed quiet and kept to myself and stopped being fantabulously floppy and air-breathing.
This was, until, the tree of wishes appeared one very fine day at the great big swim swam swum fishes celebration. And one of the blabbermouths asked me, “say, have you written your wish yet for the tree?”
Weary of the water, I wrote my wish:
I wished that it was okay to be different, I wished that I could be different, I wished that I could be all of myself, and that in being all of myself, I would be accepted, and I would be able to change how the world saw all fish- air-breathing, water-breathing, rainbow-scaled, gray-scaled, all fish the same. I wished to tell the world that a⋅self-ful⋅fill⋅ing⋅proph⋅e⋅cy (n) could be erased from the great big ocean’s lexicon all together.
wish (n)– something fish want to change or do, but don’t know how to go about changing or doing it.
I had a wish, and I had no idea how to grant it and make it true.
Until I did.
On a horrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, I granted it.
I spoke to some swim swam swum keeper fish of the great ocean.
I told them that I would no longer stand for my quiet, and that I would no longer breathe in the water that hurt my lungs and left me more and more hungry for acceptance (and air).
I decided that I would prove them wrong.
And for once, in their gibberish, they were quiet. And they left in a great wave of frustration and intolerance for air-breathing fish.
I was left standing. I was left breathing, gulping in air.
The noise in my head was gone, the negative tape was frayed and irreparable.
I was free to be a land fish. I was free to be all of myself.
I had dared to be me: I told the blabbermouths that my words, though different, were honest and truthful and right. I had stood up to the mumbled jumbled jargon and spoken for myself.
And I thought I had no idea how to speak like me, I thought that it was impossible for me to find a place to belong as this air-breathing fish that is me.
Until tonight, until I sat down to write in this great big world full of water and air, I did not realize that I was truly different simply because I had dared to seek my wish; I had dared to fight all the noise and the static still heaviness of the ocean; I had dared myself to be cool and confident in a way that I could only be for myself, and that the swum swam swimmers told me I could never be.
It is fantabulous to be confident and cool.
I am confident and cool.
Now I can breathe,
and I am free
to be all of me.
Stride out first in a jog and then grab a rope and keep pulling your legs out behind your arms before you go fast like everything you hear is slurred and blurred and then let go into a stride out.
That’s how I stride out.
I like when everything I hear is slurred and blurred. For then everything is running with me and that’s all that I hear. The sound doesn’t echo at all. And my patterings don’t leave a lasting dent on the dirt. So I have to stride out again and again.
That’s how I stride out.
6 August 2014
It was the end of July, and I was apprehensive about leaving for college. Between fretting over my schedule, fumbling through the audition excerpts for the symphony orchestra, and figuring out how I would balance my focus between running and academics, I felt completely overwhelmed.
I wasn’t sure I would be able to have a successful freshman year of college. For one thing, I had so far managed to avoid practicing the violin audition excerpts (and most practicing in general). And that definitely meant that my seat in the orchestra and any chance I had of getting a slot for lessons each week was null. Coupled with my shoddy time management skills (not much improved since senior year), and ambitious running goals, I felt like I was already ruining the beautiful, most perfect piñata (full of goals met and good grades and… candy) that I envisioned to be my freshman year.
I was in panic mode.
There was no way my freshman year of college was going to come anywhere close to a wonderful learning party (with streamers and good music and ice cream). And that was kind of sad. I was really looking forward to tasty sandwiches, and I didn’t know if I was ready for another pb and jam situation (that I had already created for myself this time around).
And unfortunately, since I was the creator of this ultimate party plan, I could not escape its sub-optimal-ness. I could not escape the impending piñata nightmare (that I was definitely not ready to take down with a convincing whack). So I decided to ditch the piñata and the original party plan.
I was going to find a new way to make sure that my freshman year was an awesome learning party.
So I went back to the drawing board.
I decided to take a gap year
for the reason that it would give me time, and that time would allow me to get the time management skills and confidence that I needed in order to enjoy the awesomeness of my college learning party. And most importantly, I could re-discover my passion for nonsensical questions and all things academic that I had lost in high school.
Gap years are their own learning parties. Taking a gap year meant that I could get some practice at planning and managing my time, AND still get to rock out to the learning song. EXCEPT, I wouldn’t have to risk ruining my freshman year party piñata. In fact, I would be more ready to whack it and meet my goals (woot! woot!).
And just like my freshman year learning party required some planning and goal setting, my gap year would too. I needed to figure out what was going to make my gap year totally rad and give me opportunities to re-discover my confidence and inquisitiveness.
Unconventionally, it would not include any sort of travel (at least, not for now, and not as a focus). Instead, I came up with a short list of goals and decided to structure my year around meeting those goals in three phases.
The goals are my recipes for having fun and make sure that my gap year is an epic learning party 100% of the time. The phases are the actual fun part- they’re the things that I do at different points throughout the year to make sure that I have a fantastic learning party*.
So, the gap year party found me in a spontaneous, sudden sort of way. And I’m glad. I get to learn new things about myself and revive the parts of me that I hid in high school. And I know that I’ll definitely be ready to take a good, confident whack at the piñata of met goals and good grades my freshman year.
(to be continued…)
qotd: How do you respond when someone tells you that you cannot do something?
So far on my gap year, aside from running, reading, and playing violin, I have been working on my writing.
I love exploring different ways to tell stories (whether it be in the form of a blackout poem, play, or personal narrative, and so on). Here is one from a few years ago that I’ve told using visual narrative:
the wide eyes darting
back and forth
back and forth
waiting for the race
the moment of glory:
sighing with the pound
gun shot through
the wide eyes distanced
forward and forward
faster and faster
I wrote this poem nearly four years ago, back when I first decided that I was going to run. The outdoor track season had just started and I found myself slow and impatient. I was ready to run, and I wanted to run fast. And after running the 800m during a track meet, I decided that it would be my main event for the season.
What I know now (and what I didn’t know then) is that the 800m is more than just glorified tenacity of a willingness to run fast for two laps. And I am just now beginning to understand that the 800m requires an extraordinary amount of guts, sheer speed, and skill.
My first season of track, I made it my goal to break three minutes in the 8. So I willed myself to PR each race and eventually broke the three minute barrier. Did I put in effort to break three minutes? Definitely- I was coming off of a tendon injury and a stress fracture. But I always felt like I had more to give at the end of each race. I felt good. I felt like I could keep running and running.
I was frustrated. I was frustrated the next year, too, when my time stood still in the 2:50s and the year after that when I squeaked out a 2:49. It felt too easy, and it felt like I was doing something wrong. I was definitely not doing something right.
My training had not changed much since my first year of running, and neither had my mindset. I was stuck like a metronome at 60 beats per minute, and I had nothing but a readiness to run fast and a tendency to run slow. I had no concept that I could really get better, crank up my internal metronome, and actually run fast(er).
The summer before my senior year of high school, I decided that I was done waiting for the race to find its way to me- I decided that I was actually going to run faster and faster. And I was not only willing, but I was actually going to do whatever it took to get there.
I went over to the high school near my house that summer and ran with their cross country team. And I told myself that I was going to run. So I did. And it was hard.
I was running much further than I had ever run before. And I was busting my behind running much faster than I had ever run before too. One week I ran forty miles. This was so much more than I was accustomed to! My metronome was on turbo at 100 bpm and I was happy that I had finally started to get better.
The outdoor track season began again and I found myself faster and decidedly tenacious. I was ready to work, and I was ready to run fast. I began dropping time- 2:48, 2:44, 2:35, 2:28.
I was now a minute faster than when I had started.
And this is just where my new race begins. This year I continue to work harder, get better, learn, and practice different aspects of running that I never knew were important. The 800m may or may not turn out to be my focus during the track season, but at least I know that I have the guts to try and run a fast(er) race. And this time, I’m more than willing to put the hard work in.