15 Things I learned in 2015 (part 2 of 3)

15 Things I learned in 2015 (part 2 of 3)

If you missed Part 1 check it out here!

#6:  Your limits don’t actually exist:  This year alone I ran a 10 minute PR at the Broad Street 10 Miler in May, I hiked/ran the length of New Jersey’s part of the Appalachian Trail in three days (that’s 73 miles in three days), and I finished my first marathon in under my goal time of four hours.  With the exception of being running related, what do all of these things have in common?  Simply put, I pushed past the limits that existed in my mind and reached several goals I set this year.  While hiking/running the Appalachian Trail carrying 20 pounds of supplies on our backs, I had to push myself further than I ever had before.  The first day left me feeling mentally degraded and every muscle in my body hurt.  I hadn’t gone more than four miles ever before with 20 pounds of weight weighing down on my shoulders.  And here I was, somewhere in northern New Jersey in the great outdoors, moving forward for 12+ hours a day with only one goal in mind – get to that New Jersey-Pennsylvania state line.  My dad and I did indeed finish the trek in three days like we had planned but my limits were definitely tested during those three days.  Limits are boundaries you set in your mind.  Limits don’t exist in real life.  You can push yourself further than you can even imagine if you’re willing to ignore pain and ignore that whispering voice in your head telling you to stop.  Don’t let that whispering voice put a limit on what you can and cannot achieve in this world.  Your limits are endless.

#7:  Distance apart is just a number:  This past summer I was fortunate enough to travel to California for the first time ever to spend time with family members.  In my memory, I had never met my Aunt Mary.  The last time we were together was when I was christened as a baby and I definitely don’t have any recollection of that.  So my brother and I headed west for our first trip to the west coast.  We stayed with our cousin who gave us an amazing tour of southern California for the days we spent with her.  I am forever grateful for the time I spent in California with my family.  Since we live on opposite coasts we only get to see my cousins maybe once per year, if that.  My Aunt Mary can no longer fly so I am extremely happy that I got to visit her and listen to her stories about our family.  In the past year or so I’ve come to truly believe in the fact that distance makes the heart grow fonder.  I know this may sound cliche to some people, but I assure you that distance is just a number between two or more people.  Someone you love might live 3,000 miles away in a completely different time zone.  Maybe someone you love only lives 1,000 miles away on the same coast.  Maybe someone you love lives 100 miles away in the same state. Whatever the distance, it’s just a number.  Miles apart shouldn’t put a limit on how much you love someone.  Even though you may only see someone a few times a year, or maybe even once every 5 years, you can still love them.  As I grow up I have become more and more aware of the fact that you don’t have to spend every moment of every day with someone to love them.  I love my Aunt Mary who I have only met two or three times in the past 21 years of my life, but I love her because she loves me just the same.  Don’t let distance or time apart keep you from being close with someone.  It’s just a number, not a space.

#8:  Be happy for others:  It’s easy to fall into the feeling of being jealous of what someone else is doing.  I believe that social media fuels this issue because, as humans, we constantly feel the need to know what other people are doing. When we see what other people are doing we may become envious of their life. We may see pictures of someone on Facebook on an exotic vacation on some luxurious island.  We may see a tweet about someone expressing their love towards their significant other.  Maybe there’s even a filtered picture posted on Instagram of someone celebrating on a Saturday night with their closest friends. Whatever the case may be, I’ve come to the realization that when you see someone you love doing something they love you should be happy for them. Don’t start feeling sorry for yourself and resist FOMO (fear of missing out) as much as you can.  No human being on this planet shares the same life path.  Be happy for your best friend who is chasing after their dreams.  Be joyous for the friend who found out they just got offered a great job.  It’s okay to miss someone you love but don’t feel unhappy when you see them happy.  Share in their happiness, even if it means you have to sacrifice a little bit of time spent with them.

#9:  Don’t compare yourself to others (particularly in the running world):  As a runner, I’ve fallen in and out of the trap of comparing myself to other runners.  It’s easy to compare training schedules and the amount of miles you’re running.  You may compare yourself to other runners in attempt to evaluate your own personal fitness level.  As runners, we might tell ourselves, “well, she ran 50 miles this week and I only ran 40 so she’s obviously a better runner than me” or “he runs 7 minute pace all the time and I usually average 8 minute pace so I can’t keep up with him”.  As a runner who is immersed in the running community, sometimes I feel like I’m drowning in race results and posts about training.  There’s been numerous times this year that I’ve caught myself comparing myself to other runners.  I’ve sometimes questioned my own training routine because of this and second-guessed my ability to be a decent runner. But then one day I came to the realization that it doesn’t matter how similar or different my running routine is to other runners’ routines.  I am my own individual runner and what works for me throughout training might not work for other runners.  Likewise, what works for other runners might not work for me. There’s no reason to compare myself to others.  I am me.  I have my own special body type, my own unique feet, my own well-trained muscles, and my own strong beating heart.  I might not run 50 miles per week or be able to run four 1600m repeats at 6:30 pace – but I can run my far, my fast, and my race. When I run, the only person that I can compare myself to is me because every runner has their own unique journey that eventually leads to the same destination – the finish line.

#10:  Wanderlust hurts:  I am the kind of person that likes to go-go-go.  I don’t like sitting around for hours and wasting time but I’m constantly conflicted when it comes to traveling.  I want to go places, I want to explore the world, and I know that there’s so much to see on our planet.  More consistently in this year than any year in the past, I’ve been plagued by wanderlust.  I have never wanted to travel as badly as I do until this year.  I yearn for endless adventures but then reality crashes down on me.  I need money to travel and do fun things.  I need a job that pays well enough to go on these adventures but will also give me time off to explore for a week straight.  The picturesque places I see of mountains and lakes and open trails is calling out to me and I know deep in my heart that I can’t go to these places right now.  And that hurts.  Wanderlust seriously makes my heart ache.  When people ask me what I’m going to do with my life after I graduate undergrad I commonly answer with this sentence: “I have no idea, but maybe I’ll just go on a really long hike and never come back”.  I know this is unrealistic and maybe even me trying to avoid becoming an adult in the job world but I seriously just want to go explore.  I want to see beautiful places and meet super cool, cultured people that can share in my love for breathing in fresh air in the wilderness.  I probably sound like some crazy female bushmen or a weird tree-hugger right now but it’s the truth.  Maybe one day in the near future I’ll get to explore endlessly but for now wanderlust will stir in my heart as I await a new adventure.  After all, adventure awaits.

To be continued…

A month of thanks…

A month of thanks…

Although Thanksgiving is over a week away, in just this last weekend alone I’ve become thankful for more things than I can count on both hands.  The list will probably extend even further in the days leading up to Thanksgiving, but I wanted to become consciously aware of the things that I am grateful for so that when I become frustrated or impatient with something I can realize that there are a lot of good things in life that definitely outweigh the not-so-good things.

(Part 1)

  1. Good health.  Every night before I fall asleep I pray that my family and friends, from coast to coast, stay healthy and safe.  I pray for the people that are younger and the people who are older, and every age in-between, because poor health does not have an age minimum.  I am grateful for the health of myself, my family, and friends.  And I pray for those who are trying to overcome a health struggle so that they may find the strength to “power through” any difficulties they may face.
  2. A loving family.  Even though I’m three hours away from the home I grew up in, I am blessed with a family who only wants the best for me. My parents support me when I need a pep-talk.  My grandparents tell me how much they miss me every time we talk on the phone.  I can call up family members on the west coast and have conversations that make my heart feel rejuvenated.  I recently heard a guest speaker in one of my classes tell the class how dysfunctional her family was.  I remember not being able to fathom having a family who doesn’t know how to love.  I’m most grateful for my family because they will be there every step of the way, no matter what life throws at us.
  3. Friends.  I may not have a lot of friends, but I have a few friends that mean the world to me.  I’m grateful for these friendships because we all share common interests and values, and can laugh over the most ridiculous of things.  These are the people that have let me crash on their couch for a weekend, who brighten my day when I’m feeling down, who can turn a frown into a smile, who understand that you can’t just eat one cookie (6 cookies is acceptable, right?) or just 2 slices of pizza (3 is a good start obviously), and who can turn tears into laughter.  These friends include people who live a 5 or 10 minute walk away, those who live a 3 hour car-drive away, or those who are a 3 hour plane ride away.  No matter how close or far, these are the people I never want to lose.  These are the people who I care about, who I can turn to for a much needed girls-night-out, and who I would never want to replace.
  4. Running friends.  Yes, running friends will get special recognition.  And yes, some of my friends are also my running friends (there’s definitely an overlap!).  These are the people who understand the struggles of running, the sacrifices we sometimes have to make, the disgusting feet, and the lack of caring about sweaty hugs.  No matter the speed or distance of a run, runner friends are proud of you regardless.  I know these people will be there for me when I need a pep-talk or a gossiping long run.  I am grateful for the running community because without them I would feel like a lonely (and insane) runner.
  5. Knowledge.  I’ve been attending school for the past 16 years of my life. The amount of information that has been shoved into my brain is overwhelming but it’s culminating into a college degree.  Every bit of information that has been taught to me (even pre-school was important, okay?!) has helped me become the person I am today.  I’ve developed a wealth of information that soon will need to be shared with the rest of the world in whatever job I find in my future endeavors.
  6. Freedom and protection.  I live in a country where I can feel relatively safe.  I don’t live in a perfect country but I do live in a free country.  Every time I see a police officer or military personnel, I make it a point to thank them for all they do.  Without them our country would be much different. I am grateful to be an American citizen.
  7. Fate.  Everything happens for a reason.  Sometimes we don’t understand why certain things happen.  But if we trust in God and in the path that are lives are following, we will understand why we were put in the world, why things happened, and how life probably worked out just fine because of everything that happened.  Fate challenges us but it also rewards us.  I believe in fate and I will continue to believe in fate because we each have a purpose in this world.  We must trust that everything will work out and that we’ll become a better person for it; therefore, I am grateful for fate.

(To be continued…)

Look how far we’ve come…

Look how far we’ve come…

Last year at this time I was merely going through the motions of everyday life at school.  I missed my family and even though I thought that being on the cross country team would make the transition better, it actually ended up making it a lot worse.  We had cross country practice at 7 AM everyday and the coach didn’t care about the people that weren’t in his top 7.  Everyone ran by themselves. That’s not a team. We trained and trained for just 3-4 meets. That wasn’t worth it to me. I would wake up every morning, half-heartedly go to practice, and then go to the library to catch up on studying.  I missed my old teammates.  I missed my friends and family.  I wanted to be with people of similar values.  I needed to find some real friends who would be there for me when I needed it most.

But now one year later I am a MUCH happier person.

I’m mentally and emotionally healthier.  I wake up excited to start a new day.  My group of friends here are the people that I know will be there for me when I need a good pick-me-up or a good laugh.  I not only have a support system in my hometown, but I have a support system here now that wasn’t here at this time last year.  It’s hard to be sad or upset here now because I know that I’ll always have people to turn to for advice and guidance.  And yes, life can get stressful sometimes, but by surrounding yourself with good people you can find a way to manage the stress in a healthy way.

I’m also physically healthier than last year.  Since I am training for something I actually want to train for, I have found myself looking forward to going out for a run everyday.  I’m embracing the challenge of the hills around here instead of letting them defeat me.  I enjoy every mile whether it’s uphill or downhill because I am grateful for every day I get to go for a run.  My mileage may not be as high as some other runners and I may not be able to average sub-8 minute miles around here but I am happy with my own progress.  There’s no purpose in comparing myself to others who are training for the same race that I am.  Everybody has a different approach to training.  And my approach is what works best for me.  That’s the beauty of the running world.  We may all take different approaches to training for the same race but on race day we all have to cover the same distance and follow the same course to reach the finish line.  

So here I am, one year later, content with every part of my life.  I’ve gained true friendships that I know I can depend on.  I have surrounded myself with people who truly care about one another’s well-being.  I have found my place on this campus and I have found my happiness.  Of course I still miss being home and spending time with my family and my dogs, but my friends here have eased the difficulty of being so far from home which has made living here enjoyable and memorable.  I don’t think I have to state who these people are because you probably already know who you are.  But I just wanted to let you know how important your friendship is to me and that without such an awesome group of people who I can depend on for guidance, support, and prayer, I probably would be going through the motions instead of living out the memories.

What a difference a year can make.

Friendship is a two-way street

Friendship is a two-way street

Friendship is one of the most valuable aspects of our lives.  We turn to our friends for support and guidance.  We spend time with our friends laughing, reminiscing, and planning new adventures.  We ask friends for advice when we need the honest (and sometimes difficult) truth.  We look to our friends when we need reassurance.  Whatever the case may be, a friend cannot be a friend by themselves.  In order to be a friend you must be willing to start and maintain a friendship.  And that friend in return must do the same.  Therefore, friendship is a two-way street.

visit with sarah

In the past week I’ve been able to re-connect with five of my best high school friends (see the beautiful pictures below!) Despite the fact that we graduated high school three years ago, all went to different colleges, and have experienced life in all shapes, sizes, and varieties, we are still able to come together and catch up with each other.  Sadly, due to time constraints, other “adult” responsibilities, and our varying semester schedules, we are only able to re-connect about twice a year (in a good year). Regardless, we still care for each other and still can laugh about ridiculous things together.  We make sure that our own individual lives are headed in some sort of direction.  We find ourselves reunited again over our future and what life has in store for us next.  Since graduating we’ve had different pasts, but we are able to rekindle our friendship when we DO spend time together which I find irreplaceable.

trapped philly  flash pool party

Referring back to the whole “street” analogy:  think back to when you have driven down a dead-end street.  If you are an observant driver, you probably saw the “no outlet” sign warning you that the street would soon end.  When you got to the end of the street, you probably had to try to find a driveway to turn around in.  Or maybe you made a 7-point k-turn. Whatever the case may be, your drive would’ve been a lot easier if the street wasn’t a dead end.  The same goes for a friendship.  But in a friendship, there should never be any dead ends. Why?  Because a friendship’s street should extend beyond what the eye can see. It should extend beyond a sign warning you that there’s “no outlet”.  No matter if your friend lives two miles away from you or two-thousand miles away from you, this street shouldn’t end.  The language of speaking or writing doesn’t change – you can still communicate to each other.  Life may get hectic but in this current world you can easily send someone a quick text asking “hey, how’s your day going?”.  The person might not be able to respond for a few hours but what’s the rush anyways?  Eventually you’ll probably get a response.

Friendship is a two-way street because it takes two people to form a friendship. One must communicate to the other when they need guidance, reassurance or just someone to talk to.  Not only does it take two people to form a friendship, but it also takes two people to maintain a friendship.  Sometimes life gets in the way of constant communication with a friend.  We may go days, months or even years without seeing a close friend.  But we must all understand that even if life keeps friends physically apart from each other for days, months, or years, a true friendship can withstand days, months, and years of separation.  

I myself must be reminded of this sometimes.  And I hope you, the reader, are able to comprehend this too so that you can treasure your friends.  May you always value the friendship that can last through the most brutal of storms. May you always rekindle old friendships and hold tight to new ones.  May you be patient with the changing tides of life so that you can develop a closer bond with the ones you’ve learned to love.  May you reach out to a friend in need and lend a shoulder to cry on in desperate times.  May you realize that friendship, no matter how near or far, can withstand even the strongest winds.  May you value your friends eternally so that you can learn to love yourself as much as you love your friends.