I’m heading to college in a month, and I am ready.
(or, as ready as I can be!)
My time management skills are on point, my confidence is running high. I am less adverse to risks, more open to unpredictability.
And for all of this, I thank my gap year.
The past few months have been far from easy and predictable. I have trained relentlessly on the track only to end up with a metatarsal stress fracture, moved houses, messed up sight-reading at church, logged sketchily few practice hours for violin, and had some overdue library books.
I love letters. During high school, I wrote letters and mailed them to myself. Sometimes I wrote letters to open on certain dates, other times, I wrote letters to be opened under certain circumstances.
If you are a runner that spends time with other runners, especially those from the clan of mid- and long-distance ninjas, you might be familiar with this question: “How many miles per week do you run?”
This question seems especially popular between seasons, when runners are focused on getting ready for outdoor track or cross country. Usually, there’s a target number that a runner will aim for. It could be anywhere from 20 to 40 to 60 to upwards of 80… And generally, if you provide a greater number, your running buddies will take you more seriously. In fact, more and more kids seem to be taking pride in the number of miles that they run- it’s as if running more miles makes you as legit and superhuman as Usain Bolt.
Sorry to ruin your ego trip- But what if running more miles alone did not guarantee better times? What if running more and more miles o n l y for the sake of running miles led to injuries and fatigue and burnout? Would you still feel all macho and abs-o-steel and heroic? Continue reading “No to mindless miles, yes to mindful ones!”
As soon as I made it my goal to run in college, I realized that I needed to make a plan in order to get better.
And since I needed to figure out how to get better, I figured the best way to go about creating a plan was to make a running log in order to keep track of what was working and what wasn’t working about my runs and workouts.
The first week I noticed that I hadn’t been running as much as I thought I was– in fact, with 19 miles total and one off day, I was pretty tired.
So I made a goal to consistently average 30 miles each week (which I didn’t end up doing…) for cross country so that I could build up my endurance and survive the 5k.
I liked working towards my goals so much that I decided to let my goals govern the plan. That is, I was going to make sure that what I was doing each week was going to help me reach both my small goals and my big goal.
I ran out of space in running log 1.0 a couple months ago, so I have since been keeping my log online.
Keeping a log has also forced me to clearly define my goals and now challenges me to ask- what do I want out of running, and how can I get there?
Since hitting my initial goals of running in college and running specific times for certain events, I have set new goals for myself to achieve.
Having kept a running log for nearly two years means that I can look back and appreciate how far I have come from the runner (and person) that I was- it used to take me much longer to formulate plans around my goals and remain dedicated. Now that I have set a new series of (some rather daunting) goals for myself, I love to look back and remind myself that I met my goals by becoming dedicated to running (which I love) and putting in more hard work than I thought I ever would.
As I go to put my log entry in for today, I ask myself, how can I get better and meet my goals? And I realize that part of the answer is sitting right in front of me, in the notes and the numbers in my log.
This past week, I bravely decided to take on a challenge and sign up for a violin audition in February, which was a difficult decision to make… Let me elaborate:
In case you don’t know, I have a long and complicated history with the violin that dates back to when I was 4 and 3/4.
When I was 4 and 3/4, I felt like violin was my calling, so I begged my parents for lessons. I was determined to sound awesome and play the violin forever.
The thing was, violin was more difficult than I thought it would be. All the people who played the violin on television made it seem so easy! I wanted to sound like them, but when I practiced, I sounded much, much worse.
The thing was, violin was more difficult than I thought it would be.
By the time I was six, I was determined to be that good. And being good requires a fair number of practice hours. Needless to say, getting small child Alex to practice for more than an hour a day was extremely difficult, if not diabolical.
I quit at age eight, and vowed never to pick up the violin again.
I had decided that I wasn’t good enough and that I wasn’t willing to put in the practice time anyhow. But secretly, even though I wouldn’t admit it to myself, I still wanted to play.
But secretly, even though I wouldn’t admit it to myself, I still wanted to play.
And so one day in middle school, I decided to join the orchestra, where I discovered that I wasn’t half as bad as I thought I was. In fact, I got to play at Disneyland with my orchestra and got an A on all of my three-octave scale tests (even F major… eek!) in eighth grade.
But even throughout high school, I still felt like I wasn’t good enough to continue playing and practicing. Even when the 2nd violin section leader complimented me on my playing my freshman year, even when I finally stopped working out of the stupid Suzuki books and started working on more difficult pieces like Kreisler’s Praeludium and Allegro my sophomore year, and even when I got a solo part at the winter concert in my senior year, I felt wholly inadequate.
But even throughout high school, I still felt like I wasn’t good enough to continue playing and practicing.
I won’t lie. I still feel that I am a mediocre violin student. I still feel like I will never be that good. And I definitely still prefer to evade the camera man whenever possible at church for the fear that he’ll catch me messing up when I play.
A small piece of me is still that 4-year-old though- a small piece of me still wants to be that good. By signing up and preparing for this violin audition, I feel that I am challenging myself to be better at violin than I think I am.
Secretly, even if I can’t admit it to myself yet, maybe I am beginning to accept that I am good enough to keep playing.
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.
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.
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.