Friday, May 4, 2018

Confessions of an Agorophobe

You may or may not know that I have agoraphobia. When I was younger I thought this best described my fear of crowds - but it’s not just that. It’s a fear of being in a space - usually in public - where I feel the potential for embarrassment or having no escape. This is why I study subway and metro maps meticulously before visiting a new city, and why I usually prefer to discover new places first with someone else before venturing on my own. It’s also why I spend the majority of my days off either at my apartment where I feel most safe or at a movie theater where I can escape into a new story. It’s why I spend an outrageous amount of money on uber instead of taking the train and walking to work. It’s why I don’t enjoy online dating, which typically leads to one of these possible scenarios. 

This usually surprises people. I’m naturally an extrovert when it comes to secure settings - such as meeting friends of friends or any new work environment, or new co-workers. I also give the appearance of being fairly independent - the champion of going to movies and theme parks on my own. 

But each day is a struggle. I wish more than anything that people would understand this - it’s not that I don’t want to go out and explore. I love seeing new places and meeting new people - I just can’t work up the courage a lot of times to face them. Today for example: I spent a good hour convincing myself to leave the apartment today. I needed to get some things from the store, and I tried to rationalize not getting them. Finally, I convinced myself to leave. I put on the most comfortable outfit, left without putting make up on, and was equipped with my Kindle and earbuds - my anxiety survival kit. 

Then, about 15 minutes away from my stop on an hour-long journey, a man comes up to me - mind you, the train had plenty of people on it, and he passed quite a few of them to get to me. He showed me an address for a lawyer on a court document and asked where the address was. Still unfamiliar with the surrounding areas, I apologized and told him I had no clue.  He started to get upset, which is when I noticed his black eye and popped blood vessel that seeped into the whites of his right eye. Thankfully, a nice gentleman sitting across from me offered to help, and I attempted to go back to my book. The first man, however, then started talking about the police... about the president... and about the downfall of the country. Then the gentleman who had helped him got a phone call, and his attention was back on me. He started calling me “Baby” and took out a deck of cards to try to explain how to play poker (...which I know how to play...). Mind you, I said nothing. He was intimidating and just kept staring, he wouldn’t look away and he sat too close. I was paralyzed. I clutched my backpack in front of me and started to look around to see if anyone could help. Everyone just looked away... so much for the human bond. I felt a panic attack starting and only by the grace of God did I avoid it when the man’s friend called him away to a different car. He said “Bye Baby” and my damn Hospitality brain told the bastard to have a good day. 

And now, I’m fairly certain, I’m going to be even more disinclined to take public transport - even more disinclined to leave the apartment. And you can say that it was just one incident, to not let him win, to stay strong, to ignore the opinions of everyone else- and I believe you, and I tell myself the same thing - but this will just be added to the equation next time I have to fight myself to have a semblance of a life. 

Friday, March 23, 2018

To Baltimore, With (and Without) Love

Tomorrow is my one year anniversary of moving to Baltimore, or rather, my Balti-versary. This blog’s been running for quite some time now, although it’s hardly regular, sometimes only one or two posts a year. The initial premise of this blog was to find Disney magic in every day life. I never meant Mickey Mouse and pixie dust; I wanted to focus on finding those moments in life that had the ability to be just as “magical” as an end of day firework viewing. In truth, this year has been filled with those moments: time spent with old friends, with rarely seen family, with complete strangers; lessons I didn’t sign up for, and results my old self could not have imagined. This year has been one of Discovery, and, quite frankly, sometimes, one of depressing loneliness - but that’s ok, because there’s a lesson to be found in that as well. 

So, in a not-so-brief recap of the year, these have been my adventures, through a long list of new lessons: 

  1. Elevators and Ride Shares are the best way to learn about the world and the people around you. I don’t give opinions in cars or elevators. I stick, as Sense and Sensibility suggests, to discussions on the weather. But, I’ve found that opening the discussion to something as unifying as the weather, can open up some of the best, most thought-provoking conversations. This is how I’ve learned about other areas in the hotel. It’s also how I learned about peoples’ work stories - where did they work before here? What do they think needs to be improved? What would they like to see? I get to hear it all. Same goes for ride shares - in the winter this has been almost daily, to and from work. Today even I heard about how my driver almost died last year because no one told him it’s not safe to drive in a blizzard (and he, being from a non-snow country, didn’t know any different). Now, up here, political opinions are pretty one-sided (sooo different from home), but I get to hear the why. I get to listen to music and radio shows that I wouldn’t typically listen to on my own. Honestly? The ride is one of my favorite parts of the day. 
  2. Trains are a fun, less stressful way to travel. Look, they’re not perfect and delays happen. But I love the quiet solitude afforded to me on a long train ride. It’s an hour to DC. 3 hours to NYC. It’s so much easier than getting on a plane. Baltimore Penn Station is a 12 minute walk from my apartment - I never feel trapped here. I love traveling by train. 
  3. Change is tough, but necessary. Oh boy, so much change. Ambitious Rory ready to spread her wings of last year, you have no idea what this year has in store for you. It has been a test of faith and a test of sanity. I cannot tell you the last time I cried this much over something that wasn’t a death or a boy. Change is difficult. But if you find yourself able to overcome it, or, better yet, to embrace it, you’ll soon be driving that change. Change is tough, but it’s sooooooo worth it. 
  4. I never want to eat at another chain restaurant. Ok, sure, that’s a lie. (Chik-Fil-A, I’m sorry, I still love you). But one thing that’s amazing here is how many different places and cuisines you have to choose from. And this applies to delivery as well! Orlando was home of the familiar chain where tourists could eat somewhere familiar (a much larger version of Times Square). But I’ve loved playing restaurant roulette here in Baltimore. I’ve only ordered twice from 3 different places - anything else has been new each time, and there’s always something new around the corner. 
  5. Not to sound lazy, but Grocery Delivery is amazing. I don’t have a car. I only recently (like, yesterday) found out it’s easy to get to a Wegman’s via public transport, but other than that and the Whole Foods near work, there isn’t really anything easily accessible for Grocery shopping. Enter Grocery Delivery which is a quarter of the price of a round trip rideshare or Zipcar, and doesn’t involve hauling bags of groceries in one trip. That is…
  6. …Except for produce. Nothing is going to beat searching for the roundest apple, or the least expensive (but best looking) package of ground beef. Luckily, Whole Foods was purchased by Amazon, and their produce prices aren’t that much different than Safeway. Plus, I get to splurge on weekly $4 floral bouquets that are gorgeous the entire week (and sometimes 2). I didn’t think anyone other than Publix could accomplish this feat, however, I stand corrected. 
  7. Outside of Orlando, almost any Orlandoan could be considered the “happiest person you ever met.” People tell me I’m happy. They ask why I’m smiling all the time. They insist that I smile even when I’m angry. I’m told I’m the nicest person they know. While I’d heard this before, it’s tripled down more so here in Baltimore. I’m convinced that even the grumpiest Orlandoan would receive the same acknowledgment here. 
  8. Being close to family is second to none. My family moved to Orlando when I was 3. My whole life my extended family has been a plane ride away. They’re now a $49 dollar train ride away (or a 4 hour drive if cars where involved). I love this. I know where I want to end up means this won’t be possible again, so I’ll enjoy it while I’m able to (and I still wish my parents were just as close as the rest of my family is now). 
  9. You can never have enough dresses. A couple of years ago I decided I was a dress person. After years of jeans and tshirts, I was ready for a change. Now that I’m able to wear my own clothing to work, I’ve invested in a lot of dresses, and, like any good (or bad) fashion, they’ve started to define me. I never thought I would be called out for good wardrobe choices (and that’s not hyperbole - I genuinely could never have imagined I would be called out for good wardrobe choices), but here we are, and it’s all because of the dresses. 
  10. Four seasons (as in Summer, Fall, Winter Spring) make for an exciting year! I always figured I would love the fall and the leaves changing… but oh my goodness, spring is just the best! The flowers start to bloom, the birds begin to chirp again (because they actually left…) and the city becomes ALIVE again. Summer is great when you can appreciate it. Winter… well, winter was at times magical and at other times just ridiculous. Snow storms do not belong at the end of March. 
  11. Daylights Savings is the WORST. It should not get dark at 4PM. I hate coming home to closed blinds and an urgent need to turn on the lights… and then still being awake for 6+ more hours. 
  12. I hate that it’s not safe to walk alone at night. At first I thought this was a mental block I just had to get over, but then I was shocked to find everyone (even birthright locals) who agreed. There’s a symphony less than a 5 minute walk from my building. While driving past it, one of my drivers pointed out a girl walking and explained that if that was his daughter he’d be disappointed and that it was not a safe walk - she was walking along the same path I would take if I were to see a late show and walk home. To this day, this still bewilders me, but most of the time, even after a show, it’s rare you’ll find someone walking that path. 
  13. I’m 100% confident in where I want to be in the next couple of years (career). I’ve never been a 3, 5 or 10 year plan person. I had vague ideas and no clue how to reach them. I came here with a “leaf in the wind” mentality - I would go where the wind takes me. Now, after finding myself speaking passionately on more than one occasion about trends and patterns in Learning and Development, employee recognition and motivation, I know that’s where my path leads, and I know what I need to do to get there. I’m determined, and I work towards that goal every day. 
  14. I’m 25% confident in where I want to be in the next couple of years (personal life). Y’all, dating is ridiculously hard. I’ll admit, I’ve only been half invested in online dating this past year because I didn’t see myself staying in Baltimore - what would be the point? But to get real candid with everyone (hello anyone who saw how long this post was and didn’t retreat), it’s rough. And what’s worse is not having anyone to really talk to about it. When your friends who just started online dating tell you about how they’ve had several dates lined up, when several of your friends met their significant others online, and when the world is telling you it’s great…. and then you log in, post a couple of photos you like and write what you think is an accurate and brief portrayal of yourself… and then nothing. So you start reaching out to anyone and everyone, thinking your standards are too high… and still nothing. Guys, I’ve been at this for years now. Do you know how difficult it is to admit to yourself that you’re probably never going to find anyone? That the dreams you had for a partner, or for a family are seeming more unrealistic than obtaining celebrity status? When your friends stop asking about your dating life and you wonder if it’s because they know the answer, and it’s easier to talk about something else; or you wonder if they also think you’ll be alone forever. Look, 93.33% (repeating of course) of this post is positive, but please, allow me this one note, because I’ll feel better for having admitted it: this just sucks.
  15. You can take the girl outta Disney, but…. c’mon. It shouldn’t surprise anyone. I miss home. I miss being able to walk into the park just to see the new show. I miss meeting friends after work, treating friends on weekends, joining friends and families on their vacations and seeing the parks through their eyes. I miss the “Disney Seasons” sporadic as they were. The break has been good, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss it. I’ve found cures for the homesickness though - homemade Mickey waffles, YouTube videos, fairy lights and even lanterns. I’m lucky that my home is so well known that it’s easy to find these things. I can only imagine the homesickness for those who can’t find the easy substitutions. 

But you see, nothing is truly as great as returning home. Last year, before I moved, I went on a trip to San Francisco, Anaheim and Washington DC. On the flight home, I teared up - I didn’t want to be heading home, I thought there was so much left to see and do. I didn’t think there was anything for me there. Now, when I go home, I’m overwhelmed with the site of the lakes and swamps and glimpses of Orlando landmarks. The feeling of returning home is spectacular, and it was something I hadn’t yet fully experienced the way it was meant to be experienced. 

I’ll return home for good eventually. There are many things I love about being away, but multitudinous more reasons I love being back at home. I know I’ll be back and I know I’ll settle down there. But for now, the adventure away continues, and who knows what lessons await in this next year? 

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Make Each Day the Best. Day. Ever.

There is power in self-worth and self-confidence. There is power in words. There is an unimaginable amount of power in a positive attitude.

Back when I was working for Disney, back when I was on the ol' Frontier, I sat in my car before work thinking about the day ahead of me. It was still summer, and it was still scorching hot outside. None of my friends were working that day. I was in a rut and felt I hadn't accomplished anything of value that month. At Disney, you received "Guest Service Fanatic" cards, or, as we called them, GSFs. You received them from co-workers, and, if you were lucky and creative enough, you received them from managers as well. They were a neat way to say "I noticed what you did and it was awesome." I couldn't remember the last time I had one. All this was bearing down on me, on top of a summer storm rolling in. The cards didn't spell out "good day". But, for what I remember to be the first time, I looked in the mirror and told myself: "Today is going to be a good day. You're going to get a GSF. You're going to make someone's day." And out I went into the storm.

That day not only did I receive THREE GSFs, all from managers, but I also received the "Basically the Best" award that one of the Managers was giving out each day (Thanks Corey!). And, yes, I still have it. While the recognition was rewarding, nothing could beat the feeling of going through the day with a positive attitude. I created a game for children with a basket and some of the plush pumpkins (because at Disney, Halloween starts when it's still summer out). I talked about the liquid pixie dust raining down on us that day. I handed out stickers and stated in my most southern accent "Howdy" and "Happy trails now y'all." It was a magical day, so much so that almost 6 years later I remember it to the last minute of my shift.

My friend Katlyn won a night in Cinderella's Dream Suite and got to pick 5 friends to join. The day they told her, they called a fake meeting and brought in a Disney Ambassador to announce the news. Katlyn, elated, shouted "Best. Day. Ever." The managers all got a chuckle out of that and it became a mantra. Rapunzel shouts this in Tangled as well, and most people have used it to describe their time at Disney or on vacation. You'll see at least 10 Best. Day. Ever. shirts when you go to Disney now, guaranteed.

After moving and getting through hurdles of not knowing what I was doing, feeling overwhelmed, not hearing back from friends and regretting the decision, one day I had enough of the negativity. Baltimore is not Orlando. Once I could admit that, I started looking at each day a little bit different. Today I'm going to finish the report on time. Today I'm not going to voice my frustrations. Today I won't message the people back home saying how much I wish I was there. Today I'm going to be true to myself. Today I'm choosing to shine. And one day, I messaged my good friend back home: "Good Morning, today is going to be a good day." And that was the first day I felt on top of everything. That was the first day I felt like I could conquer anything thrown at me. That day was the Best. Day. Ever.

"Bring your day-off self to work", "If you do what you love, you'll never work a day in your life", "Your day will go in the same direction as the corners of your mouth". There are a million and one positive ways to look at the day. But it's a conscious decision to choose happiness.

My friends like to tease me because, in the Harry Potter universe, I consider myself a Gryffindor, even though my demeanor and actions definitely point more towards Hufflepuff. But, I argue, it takes a great amount of bravery and courage to fight negativity with a positive outlook. It's not "cool" to be positive, because misery loves company. Choosing to look for the bad and to sulk is easy.

It's not easy to treat a normal working day the same as you treat a day where you win an award, or where you're on vacation. It takes a lot of work and creativity and imagination to mold each day into the Best. Day. Ever. It's a lot of smiling and enthusiasm and finding the fun in what would otherwise be a monotonous conversation. But even with the work, it's less stressful. It's exciting. It's a challenge. And when you tell the world you're going to make it a good day, you stay true to your word.

But, if you fail today, which we're human, surely that'll happen now and again, you find one thing from today that you can look on positively, even if it was a good Lyft ride, or having the time to fully enjoy a cup of coffee; remember today as living in that one moment. And then you choose one thing that went wrong with today and you promise yourself and the world that it'll be better tomorrow. If you're not doing this already, I challenge you to try it. Choose one thing, and make accomplishing that be the thing that makes your day the Best. Day. Ever.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Storyteller

Recently I had the opportunity to go on a slightly extended, multi-city vacation to San Francisco, Anaheim and Washington DC. It was on my second day in San Francisco that my mind started processing the blog I am writing today. Erin and I were at the DeYoung Museum in Golden Gate Park, a fine arts museum in the middle of a park - something for her and something for me. Before we went in, I noticed a plaque on a bench in the park that read:

In Loving Memory of Lawrence J. Larry" Gimple
A true friend of the park and indeed all of nature

I immediately started wondering who this guy was, what he did for nature and for the parks, and what led his family and friends to make a bench a fitting tribute. I became fascinated with the idea, as I myself have an affinity for nature and National Parks. Would we have been friends? Did he work for Parks and Rec, as I once had? What was Larry's story? A bench didn't seem to do it justice.

A couple hours later in the museum I visited the Danny Lyon photography exhibit. Lyon is a photographer who managed to capture poignant images of everything from the Civil Rights Movement to the destruction of Lower Manhattan. One of his most known subjects is the Chicago Outlaws Motorcycle Club, which he had joined to better know and document their lifestyle. I stopped a bit longer than usual at an image titled "Kathy", which has a placard next to it relaying that Kathy was the wife of one of the bikers, and she was Lyon's favorite storyteller. To my bemusement, a speaker was set below the picture, with Kathy's voice emanating, telling a quite ordinary story about meeting one of the bikers. The subject was simple, but the story was detailed, explaining the scenery, the sounds and even smells. I was mesmerized - what a fascinating exhibit to capture the simple beauty of a well-told story - and here it was, immortalized for all to see and hear. 

From the placard, the word "storyteller" stayed with me. How I loved that word! What high-praise to be deemed a favorite storyteller! Until that moment I felt a good storyteller was an author, a writer, an artist, even an actor. But there in front of me was the multi-faceted image of Kathy, a favorite, not at all famous, storyteller. 

This theme continued throughout my trip. The next day I sat with a friend in a coffee shop, staring out the window and creating stories for all the people passing by. Afterwords while walking back to the hotel I lost a bit of sense and started to walk out in the middle of traffic. He stopped me from essentially killing myself and said it was "the first story [I had] to tell when [I] returned home." I remember clearly he said the word story because it immediately brought my mind back to Kathy and her ability to tell a good story. Now I had one to tell as well.

Storytellers Statue
Sign by the statue
A few days later, when we were in Anaheim we visited my favorite Walt Disney statue at California Adventure - it's a statue of Walt arriving in California with Mickey Mouse and a suitcase and it has a sign next to it that reads: "The Storyteller: We're Just Getting Started". For me, this created a challenge. Just getting started meant there was so much more to tell. The ideas in my head continued to stew, unsure of what form they would present themselves. 

We then traveled back across the country to Washington DC. On my last day in DC, I purchased a ticket to see one of my new favorite movies, La La Land. Now, I had seen this movie before... more than once... and seeing it again was a bit frivolous, but I wanted something simple to end my vacation, and the melancholy ending was exactly what I needed on the eve of returning home. I'd seen this movie several times prior, but I hadn't noticed (or, rather, it didn't mean much before) that towards the end, at one of Mia's auditions, the casting manager directs her to "Tell a story" and when Mia seems confused she clarifies "You're a storyteller, aren't you?". What followed is what had always been my favorite song from the film - Audition (Fools that Dream) - a song that tells a story and encourages the people who dare to dream and tell these stories. Perfection. 

Assuredly, storytelling is not a new concept. Oral Storytelling is an ancient tradition, without which we wouldn't know a good sum of our history. Forgive me from stealing from Wikipedia here:

The storyteller reveals, and thus shares, him/her self through his/her telling and the listeners reveal and share themselves through their reception of the story. The intimacy and connection is deepened by the flexibility of oral storytelling which allows the tale to be moulded according to the needs of the audience and/or the location or environment of the telling.... Storytelling creates a personal bond with the teller and the audience.

Imagine that - all this thought and talk about how I wanted to be a favorite storyteller and soon I realized I had been a storyteller all my life. Ever the talker, I was the daughter who always ran up to her father when he returned home to say "Hey, hey, Daddy, know what?" followed by a story of very little importance. My sister and I created plays for our parents (evidence embarrassingly below) and though they didn't tell a clear story, the intention was always there--I'm sure it was better in my head. I remember one time my parents had a party for church at a parishioner's house and our pastor walked into the children's play room and found all the children surrounding me as I told the story of the nativity.

Yes. This is how I tell stories. Fun fact: I don't think I ever really danced in public after this video. Singing I got better at. 

As a child and teenager, I was a writer, always keeping a journal and readily sharing it with friends when they came to stay over. I published fanfiction and original pieces on the ever-growing internet. I loved History and Literature - the subjects of stories and how we learn from them. I was, and still am, an avid reader and movie-goer, a watcher and witness of stories. My parents were always suspicious when I begged them to leave the house and leave me alone for a little, but really I just spent the time daydreaming and acting out the stories I made in my mind - sometimes I preferred to be a private storyteller. I was a lector at church and always jumped at the possibility of giving a witness talk - sometimes I preferred to be a very public storyteller as well.

Thinking back on all this, I thought it was something I lost - the ability to tell stories in such a way I connect with the people I'm speaking with. "Adulting" took over, finding a job, looking for a purpose. I was happy to notice, when I looked at it intrinsically - when I remember meeting with old friends and talking about important events, when I look back on this blog, when I scroll through my Instagram -  it's something that's never really left me. It just shows itself in odd ways sometimes, rather different ways. 

I train at work. It's one of my favorite aspects - talking to my newest coworkers, helping them adjust, helping them succeed. I train by telling stories. I talk about my own failures and successes. I talk about changes I've seen in my own short time in the industry. Sometimes I even go into stories in my personal life, if needed. I train through stories. I guess, in a sense, that makes me a professional storyteller. 

Not too long ago, not understanding this label, I rejected it. I was getting breakfast with my best friend, telling him a story when I realized I had dominated the entire conversation, and I was probably making the simplest of instances into a huge dramatic saga. I stopped myself and apologized for being so melodramatic--I don't always love this aspect about myself and sometimes wish I could find a way to change it. He then stopped me and said, "No, I like that you do that. You live every part of your life like it's an important scene in a book or movie, an essential plot line. You make yourself the star of your own story."

So, keeping that in mind, I'm not sure where my story will lead me next. I have little control as to what happens, but I can promise that I will continue to tell my story - because I think it's worth telling. Hopefully, like the ancient oral storytellers, through my story I can continue to form connections with new and old friends. Likewise, I am anxious to continue listening to my favorite storytellers and learn from them as well. You never know what you might learn from a well-told story. 

There's a theme in Lin Manuel Miranda's Hamilton that relays "You have no control who....... tells your story." I suppose that's true. I don't know if those to whom I tell my stories will relay them, or merely put my name on a park bench as a friend of nature. Forever someone who refuses to relinquish control, I am certainly dedicated to telling my own story. And I hope that you, the reader, my friend, will take control and tell yours as well. I'd love to hear it. 

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Jumping off the Precipice

I love heights, but I have a fear of falling. That's why you'll always find me on the observation towers of iconic buildings, in a hot air balloon, roof top restaurants and even the window seat on an airplane; you'll never find me actually jump out of one, or base jumping, or cliff diving.

There's this feeling you get when you're high up, or looking at stars or multitudes of lanterns--the feeling of endless possibilities. Thousands of people down below you, each with their own story. Hundreds of places within one glance, each emanating countless opportunities. Each star represents a hundred wishes and each lantern has a story. There's nothing so awe-inspiring than when you're in this one spot standing still among boundless prospects--

--and nothing so terrifying.

In my head I keep telling myself I'm on the precipice of change. Have you ever been at that point where you are overcome by a sense of destabilization? Something is about to change, and it will throw me off balance. I have no idea what it could be, or even more so, where it'll leave me and that's what scares me.

When I last visited Chicago, my friends took me to the Sears Tower where I was insistent on going to the Sky Ledge. I had no qualms about a sheet of glass being the only thing between my body and the ground. I felt secure and at ease looking at the city beneath me. I was in a glass box, safe from falling, and safe from not knowing where I'd land. When my friends questioned the possibility of plummeting, I smirked and said "Well, at least it would be a good story."

So much in my life thus far has been decided based on knowing the outcome - I chose the high school my friends were going to instead of following my heart to the theatre magnet. I chose the cheaper college closest to my boyfriend at the time, and where more of my friends were going, instead of aiming for a writing career at Loyola Chicago. I chose a career in Tourism over a degree in Public Relations because it was what I knew. I went to work for Disney because my whole life was there, so why should my career be any different? I stayed at home because the amount of possible outcomes elsewhere frightened me.

I never jumped. I was always content to keep my view, in my little glass box, watching others continue on, take risks and live to tell amazing stories.

What's fascinating about being on a precipice is that if you don't jump, if you don't embrace it, someone or something is surely going to push you. The choice becomes clear - when do you start taking your life into your own hands, taking risks and living outside that comfort zone?

I'd like to say I have a plan. I can't go to the grocery store without a plan, so I'd like to say I have one. But search this blog and you'll find me talking about moving to Chicago, or studying for the LSAT (both also comfort choices as I know people in Chicago and greatly enjoy LSAT theory). I have plans, I just spend too much time planning, I never act on them.

I don't know what's coming. I don't know if I'm going to jump or be pushed. But I'd like to say that one day I'll make the leap. One day I'll take a chance and leave the familiar. I sincerely hope that day is soon.

I'll close with my inner church girl reciting her favorite phrase: "Let go, and let God." You don't have to be religious to get the meaning - let go, give up control, let yourself drift through the sea, flurry in the wind. Trust. Don't be afraid.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Finishing was an Added Bonus - My First 10K

Me with Katlyn after
Princess 5K
When my good friend and RunDisney partner Katlyn told me to register for the Star Wars Dark Side 10K, I thought she was insane. I was lucky enough to make it through the few 5K races I've done, let alone double that. But, ever my cheerleader, she convinced me to do it and I registered and began writing up my training plan.

That was in the last quarter of last year, and in typical fashion, I chose to wait until the weather cooled down to start my training. But we had a strange year, with Christmas in the 80s and cooler weather didn't hit until January--then some health issues came up, work became more tiring, and before you knew it, the Princess 5K was here in February. I muddled my way through it, knowing it was more of a fun run to begin with.

Diana in the middle - Princess 5K
I then had two months to prepare for the 10K-- 2 months and a trip to DC that resulted in a multi-blistered foot. The universe was voting strongly against me--it seemed everyone was. I didn't mention the upcoming 10K often, but when I did I was met with skeptical glances and doubt. I was determined to prove everyone wrong, and mad at myself that I let the world get me down enough to not complete training for the race. Defiantly, I bought a shirt for the race that said "I find your lack of faith disturbing."

Race weekend came, and packet pick up day I walked around with Katlyn and Diana (RunDisney buddy number 2!) making small comments about not finishing. I had never done 6.2 miles in one go, and for the first time to be during a race that held certain pacing requirements, I was certain I wouldn't make it. I resigned myself to believe that starting meant more than anything, and having registered for the Wine and Dine 10K in November, I knew not finishing would drive me even harder to succeed for my second 10K.

Katlyn and Me with Jabba
Then, the night before the race I found myself up all night with food poisoning. I didn't get any sleep. My stomach was killing me and I was certain that would be my out - I would start and they would find me sick on the side of the road somewhere.

When the alarms went off, Katlyn and I got up, donned our race gear, and made our way to the shuttle bus. We took pictures with Jabba the Hut and hydrated before getting in our corrals. We were in the corrals for a good hour. On our way, Katlyn pointed out a shirt to me that said Finishing Dead Last > Not Finishing > Not Starting. I looked around in the corral and saw runners of all types of sizes and varieties. There was another woman close by that looked about my size and I heard her mention to her friends that it's her first 10K as well.

Corral Photo - We look tired!
We slowly moved forward as the race started in the upper corrals. I thought about the course and how much I wanted to make it to mile 4 - the last mile inside the theme parks. Mile 1- a boring path along a dark gravel road - would go quickly, and walking through the theme parks is a different mind game. I would be proud of myself if I got to mile 4. The fireworks were set, and off we went! It was an exhilarating first few minutes, and as I felt my shin splints start, I moved to the right side so I could slow down without getting in anyone's way--that was my huge mistake.

The first part of the race was slightly inclined and curved, and being on the right side made my foot nearly sideways. My shin splints at that point felt as though my legs burst into flames and I nearly had to hobble along the side. My first instinct: "Where are the medical bikes? I want OUT!". I didn't see any, so I continued to hobble along, practically walking right-together-left-together. I was embarrassed and ashamed. Who gets out on the first mile? But Katlyn had told me to not stop, to keep going, one foot in front of the other, and so I did. I made it to the first character meet and greet - R2D2 - and the attendants said he had about a 20 minute wait. I NEVER wait for characters during races, as I can't afford it with the pacing requirements, but my legs hurt so much, it was a great guise to stop. Once I stopped walking, my legs nearly buckled from the pain, and I almost fell over. I get shin splints often - trained or not trained - but these had to be the worst.

As I waited in line, the pain started to ease, and I thought I might be able to get a little further. I made it to the first mile marker, I was in Epcot. As I walked through the park, I took my time and stopped when I saw other people taking pictures and offered to be their photographer. Dammit, if I wasn't going to make my goal, I was going to be friendly and help other people.

Perfect shirt for this race. 
Once I got through Epcot, the shin splints started to cease. I was able to pick up my pace, but I had no idea how much time I had lost. In my head, I went back to my old goal - make it to mile 4. Mile 4 would mean going further than I had in any other race. It would mean not giving up until they told me I had to. Mile 4 was something I could live with. And gosh darnit, I made it to mile 4! I can't begin to describe that relief, the know that anything after that was an added bonus. But then I looked down at my shirt "I find your lack of faith disturbing" and I thought of all the people whose faces said "you can't do this" and I thought of Katlyn and Diana telling me I could. Then the person with the "Finishing Dead Last > Not Finishing > Not Starting" shirt passed me. Suddenly, I had to finish. It was essential.

Between Mile 4 and Mile 5 I saw the woman who was in my corral who looked like me. She looked like she was struggling as well. I caught up to her and told her "I started with you, we're doing so well! We've got this!" and she smiled and agreed "We got this!". That was my last added boost of adrenaline. I'm not sure how I got through those last 2 miles--all roads and 2 bus pickups ready to clear the course at a moment's notice--but seeing the finish line was one of those rare happy moments when you're surrounded by people, but at the same time you're in your own happy place.

That clearly didn't come across on camera.

My Face: "I hate everyone."
And so I survived. I conquered. I finished. And what was in my mind an added bonus, truly became everything. And the smile in my finisher photo, as I lift my medal to be sure my shirt was not blocked, is the result of realizing I proved everyone wrong, and that I would do it even better come November.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Best Laid Plans...

I had a plan this week.

I knew what I was going to make for dinner each night. I knew what exercises I was doing in the mornings or afternoons. I was committed. Day 0 (food prep day) was a phenomenal success with the most delicious sweet potato, cauliflower and chicken dish. I had a lunchbox for work and new containers for my healthy snacks. Day 1 continued the trend, with sit ups being the small start to my workout routine. Work had trail mix (without chocolate!) and fruit and almonds. Even said no to delicious maple cookies (from Canada!). It was all working out.

On the morning of Day 2 I woke up as planned, bright and early. I dragged myself out of bed and got my running gear on. I go to the treadmill and press the on button.... and nothing happens. It's broken, and my whole plan throws itself out the window. I think about going outside to walk, but it's too dark out, and I don't even have my armband for my phone yet. I resign my morning to looking on Amazon for a band that can be delivered same day and a pair of wireless headphones.

I pack my snack bag for the day and head in to work. A little more than halfway through my day, I go to grab my snacks and the bag is missing. It's no where to be found. We tracked it up to the office, and after that, nothing. It's the mystery in the office, but it's gone. An angel of a co-worker gives me a clementine, and I continue my day. I get home and it's once again, too dark to run outside, but I resign to doing more sit ups and making the dinner I planned - sweet potato rice with butternut squash, goat cheese and pomegranate. Another delicious meal, and the only thing that went right that day.

My dad was able to pull a miracle and fixed the treadmill, and I had a couple days where I was able to get on it, and then my ankle started hurting. I got about half my walk in before I switched to more sit ups and free weights. I decided to take a break the next day, because my body clearly wasn't liking me this week.

For the first time when starting a new workout/eating regimen the food was easier than the working out. This week was hard, and not everything I wanted to do was accomplished, but looking back at it now, I choose to take comfort in the things that did work - the recipes I chose to make and the few workouts I did get in. With this knowledge, I'll switch it up a little this week.

I'm doing the Princess 5K next Friday with my cousin and two friends who did it last year. It will be my cousin's first time. This was the run that made me want to be better at running, and I want to share that joy and fun with my cousin. I'm really hoping this week goes better than last. I have faith in myself, and I really hope there are others out there who believe in me. I've tried not to share my journey so much this trip around, because I see so much disappointment when I fail.

There are so many I want to prove wrong, so many I want to be strong for, and still so many hurdles to stumble my way over. And so starts another week, with hopefully more flexibility and willingness to roll with the punches bound to hit me.