Sunday, September 16, 2012

two roads diverged

I got in!

I got in to Northwestern's graduate school of journalism.

Me. At the the same Northwestern of Rachel Nichols. And Gregg Easterbook. And Michael Wilbon. And Rich Eisen. And one of the Mike's of Mike and Mike.

Two roads divered in a yellow wood, and sorry I could not travel both and be one traveler, long I stood and looked down one as far as I could to where it bent in the undergrowth.

I thought deciding to bite the bullet was the hard part. I thought getting my butt to Starbucks for 8 hours every Saturday and Sunday through-out the spring was the hard part. I thought memorizing that massive stack of vocab flash cards was the hard part. I thought remembering the Pythagorean theorem! How to find the slope and incline of a plane! Solving for the square root of x! Irrational numbers! was the hard part. I thought taking and passing (98 percentile in Analytical Writing, thank you very much) the GRE was the hard part.  I thought getting in was the hard part.

I never thought deciding whether or not to go once I got in was going to be so darn hard. And yet, when faced with the opportunity to chase down my dream of reporting live from the sidelines of the NFL and continuing on this path, I was stuck.

They say to trust your heart. They say to follow your gut. But what about when your heart wants one thing and your gut, despite how much you wish it weren't, is telling you another? Deciding which one to side with is the hardest part.

And both that morning equally lay in leaves no step had trodden black. Oh, I kept the first for another day! Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back.

When you're growing up and learning how to make decisions you're taught that there's a right, and therefore a wrong, choice. But as you grow up you learn that, often times, it's not as black and white. Instead there are just two options. Neither one is right. Neither one is wrong. There are just two roads, diverging in a yellow wood. Equally laying in leaves no step had trodden black. No right choice. Just your choice.

And so you make one. The best decision you can make for yourself. The one that gives you peace of mind, even if it brings you a few tears. The one that leads to what you hope is the brightest future. The path of least regret. I'm not sure if you're ever 100% sure. You just choose a path and take the first step. Then the next one. And step-by-step (ooooh baby. gonna get to you girrllll ... who doesn't think of NKOTB every time they hear that saying!?) you travel down the path. Because the worst choice is no choice.

I shall be telling this with a sigh somewhere ages and ages hence: two roads diverged in a wood, and I...

And that has made all the difference.


Monday, September 10, 2012

a little racey

I'm in the thick of training for my second marathon. Why? I can no longer remember. I think it has something to do with the feeling of accomplishment as you cross that finish line at 26.2. But right now? Now I only seem to remember the physical and mental strain of realizing I still had 6.2 to go at mile 20. Of literally just willing my legs to keep running at 24.5. Of being ready to stop, right then and there, at 25.5. And yet somehow, I'm here again. Weeks away from 26.2 yet again and on the steady journey of weekend training runs to get there.

There's something about being out running along the lake on an early Saturday morning during marathon training season. It's exhilirating. It's inspiring. It's, at least for someone like me, a little competitive. You're passing people left and right. And at the same time, you're being passed left and right. And while I do a pretty good job of convincing myself that that person who just passed me as I approach mile 15 must be just starting out their run with a fresh set of legs, the reality is we're not competing against each other.

That young guy I just felt pretty good about passing? What if this is his first run back from early hip surgery induced by the two Iron Man compeitions he's completed? That older woman who's making me feel like a slug while she speeds by my right? What if she's training for her 25 marathon? That girl that looks just like me who's plugging along at a slow and steady pace? Maybe she's just happy to be tackling 3 miles. You never know what everyone else is going through. What they're struggling with. What they're overcoming. What's driving them. Where they're trying to go.

You've got to run your own race.

I spent last weekend down in Indianapolis, drenched. Baby shower for the TBD baby Shields on Saturday and Bridal Shower for the wedding planner herself on Sunday. Two of my very best friends from high-school. Girls who I spent countless hours up at night with... talking about boys, planning out our lives, dreaming big dreams. Girls who I prepped dances and parties with. Girls who did my hair for homecoming. Girls who I traded notes with in the halls between classes. Girls who I ventured off to college with. Girls who I grew up with. Girls who used to be on the same track as me: graduate. go to college. graduate. move out. get a job. become a success. meet someone. fall in love. get married. have babies. live happily ever after.

And yet this weekend made it pretty clear that we're not on the same track anymore. Or, if we are, I'm being lapped. Big time.  

But then I came back into work this morning, looked out over Lake Michigan from my 29th floor office and realized. Hey, wait. This is everything I dreamed of back on those high-school sleep-over nights. I'm doing it. I made it. I was just promoted to Account Director far earlier than I expected or imagined office politics would allow for. I'm rocking and rolling at work. So much for the track, I'm climbing up that corporate ladder with leaps and bounds.

Sometimes you just have to tell the competitive, comparative voice inside your head to shut up.

You're running your own race.

You can drive yourself crazy comparing yourself to others. But you know what? There's likely someone doing the same to you. And at the end of the day, we're not competing against each other. There's no prize for who finishes first. Heck, we're not even running the same race. The only person you've got to worry about is yourself. And the only track you've got to worry about is the one you're on. The one you've laid out for yourself. It's your personal best that's at stake. And when you can get a PB? Well, that's a pretty good run in my book.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

don't let the bed bugs bite

Sometimes I miss his bed more than anything else.

It's not a particularly amazing mattress. Or soft set of sheets. Or fluffy pillows. But it's his.

He used to say that my bed, despite the fact that I think it's too short and small for just about anyone over the age of 14, was the more comfortable of the two. And I always vehemently disagreed. My bed can be lonely and cold and empty. But his bed? Well the thing is he was always in it with me. And that made it the best.

I always slept comfortably there. Because I feel safe there.

When we slept I could trick myself for an hour, or two, or however long I could stay in that bed, into thinking that we were
us. The outline of his body so acquainted with the outline of mine. How we fit. How I lodged perfectly into the nook under his right arm. Always his right arm. How our legs intertwined. How we'd just lay there, existing. Comfortably.

There was always this small bit of time in the morning where we were just together. Still. Where nothing else seemed to matter or exist. It was just the two of us. With our guards down. And, in those moments, I could almost forget everything else that had happened between us. All the hurt. All the confusion. All the uncertainty. None of it mattered in that time between
waking up and getting up. Life seemed different there. We seemed different there. We were us. And things seemed simple and right.

I always liked that best.

You see, what I don't think I've quite been able to articulate before is this: I don't want to give up. On him. On mornings in his bed. On the us that exists between waking up and getting up.
On the hope of a future, steady and strong us. On the way I feel with him at times that makes this whole often maddening thing seem worth it.

But that's just it. I have to give up.

I owe it to myself. I owe it to myself to devote half as much effort to getting over him as I have to proving I'm the right one for him. I've got to be stronger than I think I can be. That has to be my new challenge. I have to use that stubbornness that has made me hold on so determinedly and turn it around. Focus it on reminding myself that I deserve better than what he's been able to give me. I deserve more. Focus it on quieting the what ifs in my head. What if he just needs more time? What if I was able to be just a little bit different? What if I tried just a little bit harder? What if. What if. What if.

I have to force myself to remember that every time I've put my hope in him, he's let me down. Without fail. He has never gone out of his way for me. In decisions, he doesn't usually even consider me. I don't think he's ever been the one to instigate one-on-one plans with me. Nonetheless ask me on a legitimate date. Plus, there was always another girl, or the possibility of another girl, somewhere in the mix.

When I start to remember all these things, the first thing I do is get angry. At him for treating me that way for so long. At myself for letting him do it. At those other girls for getting in the way of the potential us. (Yes, I know this last one is ridiculous, but everyone who's ever watched The Bachelor knows it happens to the best of us.)

But then I remind myself to own up to what I'm really feeling:
hurt. And rejected. And not good enough. And all those other feelings that are just. plain. dumb.

I've got to face the fact that we’re obviously not meant to be together... but that that doesn't always make giving up on him - and his bed - easy. There are, and will continue to be, times I wish I was there instead, but I've got to believe I'm exactly where I need to be. For me.

I'll find different someones who have the things he was lacking. I'll find missing pieces. And I'll eventually find the one that's the whole thing.

I'll find the bed. The body. The nook. The legs. The feeling of safety. The waking up
and getting up. And I won't be "tricking myself" or "almost forgetting" everything else.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

a botany lesson

I have this plant in my dining room. And while it was once a quite lovely, healthy and growing plant. Despite my best efforts otherwise over the past 6+ months, it's deteriorated to a dull, lifeless, rotting plant-like thing.

And yet I haven't thrown it out yet.

I know I need to. I know it's not miraculously coming back to life. I know it's just going to start smelling or attracting bugs or who knows what.

But I just haven't done it.

Maybe it's because I know it's going to leave a mess of dirt and leaves all over the floor when I un-pot it. Or maybe it's because I know it's going to take a litle effort to trek it downstairs to the dumpster. Or maybe it's that I don't want to admit I couldn't keep it alive. Admit I failed and just give up. Or maybe it's just that Id on't know what to put in it's place. I mean, this plant cleary isn't the best thing for my dining room corner. But if not it, then what?

What you need to know about me is this: I don't like to give up. On silly three-days-from completelly-dead plants in my dining room. On chasing my dreams. On goals. On people. It's just not in my DNA to quit.

But that's just it. I have to realize that sometimes I just need to for my own good. I have to give up.

I'll find something different to fill the space that plant used to be. Something healthier. Something growing. Something longer lasting. But in the meantime, I've just got to let go and be a-okay with a clean, open, empty space.

All that from a plant.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

stretch armstrong

Sometimes there are some holes in my stories.

Sometimes I stretch the truth a bit. Especially on here.

It's not that I lie, necessarily. It's more that I don't share
all the pieces. Maybe I share the emotion, but not why I'm feeling it. I share the story, but not why it's significant to me. I share the questions swirling around, but not why I'm asking them. Sometimes I tell the story that's easier, that's safer to tell than the one that's real. Because the real story? That story can hurt to tell. That story can bite you in the butt.

But I think I owe you (honestly, I owe myself) the truth: It's not that I haven't had anything to write over the past months. It's that everything I've started writing has been too real. Too honest. Too better-keep-those-feelings-
hidden-you-crazy-girl. And, so, I did. I've kept it to myself. I relegated it to my journal. Safe away from any need to actually own up to it.

So here's what I haven't been saying: I'm not necessarily good at vulnerable. I try to laugh things off when I can. I default to sarcasm and indifference. I poke fun at myself to show that I'm not hurting. When I fall down (which I tend to do a lot), I jump up, scrape off my knees and get back in the action. I act like I'm okay and hope eventually I will be. After all,
I'm strong. I can take this. At the end of the day, though, I'm a girl. And a girl, despite how tough she may seem on the football field, is often more fragile that she likes to admit.

And I've been struggling. Struggling with what makes me unique. With what makes me someone anyone should find lovable. What makes me worth it.

Struggling with what I'm supposed to be doing. Struggling with the notion of working to live vs. living to work. There are days when I feel like I couldn't have a job better suited for me. Where I'm flying high. And then there are days where I enviously eye the receptionist, thinking how great it would be if the biggest problem I had to solve today was how to handle two calls coming in at once. Umm... Can you hold, please?

Struggling with what defines me. Are those the things I want to define me necessarily? And if they're not, how can I change that?

Just struggling. And vulnerable. And not myself.

So there. That's it. That's what I haven't been saying. That's what has been blocking me for three months. That's the big secret.

And now I can try to move on. Move up. Just move.