Wednesday, April 22, 2015

"...will grow and prosper wherever planted"

I’m going to college! After nearly a month of stressing about where I’m going to go next year, I am excited to announce that I am officially a member of Denison University Class of 2019. I think I knew where I wanted to go these past few weeks, but I had to come to the decision on my own terms in my own way––with thorough contemplation, heavy analysis, and lots of symbolism.

My college mascots: Clifford the Big Red Dog (Denison's mascot is "Big Red") with the ever-faithful Olaf the Snowman, donning a new Denison pin. The two of them remind me of Snoopy and Woodstock. 

Up until yesterday afternoon, I was torn between Denison University in Ohio and St. Olaf College in Minnesota. I had several moments when I nearly decided on Denison, but then I panicked at the thought of actually committing to one place. 

I always imagined myself at a place like St. Olaf. St. Olaf is me in a college––group conversations about favorite soup flavors, warm sweaters, cozy spots by the fireplace, an Olaf stuffed animal, homestyle meals, a dry campus, heavy on the arts, and not so big on sports. Looking on the Facebook page, nearly every student was into the arts in some way, and that was enticing and comforting.

I never imagined myself at a place like Denison. I only applied because I attended the Reynolds Writing Workshop there the summer before my junior year and it’s my stepdad’s family school. I figured if my other colleges didn’t work out, I could see myself being satisfied at Denison. Denison is opposite of who I’ve always defined myself to be––more into sports, the more “typical” college experience (I certainly didn’t have the “typical” high school experience going to a small, project-based charter school), Greek life, and more outward with their accomplishments (as evidenced by their active outreach and promotion). 

I recognized myself at St. Olaf. I didn’t recognize myself at Denison, and that was scary. By going to St. Olaf, I was more sure of what I was going to get, of who I would be. I couldn’t see that so clearly at Denison. From what I gathered, Denison was more diverse in student interests, and while I knew I would find some of "my people" (people into the arts) eventually, it wouldn't be as easy. By going to Denison, I feared that perhaps I was trying to be someone I wasn’t, trying to fit into a more university-style campus (although it has just over 2100 undergraduate students and is by no means a large school). 

Yet there was something exciting about Denison. Before I visited three weeks ago, I was really excited to go on the trip, and I couldn’t understand why. While there, I didn’t find “my people” right away and I was worried about being able to find my place. Yet I liked walking around campus. It was more sprawled out than St. Olaf was. I felt free. It felt like college. I remember feeling somewhat out of body at Denison, as if I was watching myself from afar. I sought out help at the IT office to fix my water-logged computer. I sang karaoke at the coffee house with a Denison student. I talked for almost two hours to another prospective student on the plane ride home, and didn’t even know his name until an hour and a half into the conversation. 

If you’re getting lost in my yo-yoing pros of St. Olaf versus Denison, then you understand a taste of what’s been spinning in my mind these past few weeks. Ultimately, I knew that I could be happy at either school, but that each school would offer me something slightly different. I was trying to figure out what I wanted. 

So let’s backtrack to Sunday, the first major step in my college decision. I woke up feeling deflated and helpless. My inability to make a decision was clouding my focus and making it difficult for me to be present or accomplish anything. I was anxious to get out of the house and get a change of scenery. I messaged my friend Maiel, who is always ready for an adventure, and asked her along for the journey. 

We originally planned on hiking Mt. Monadnock, but as the morning slipped away, that plan got downgraded to Mt. Wachusett and eventually Walden Pond in Concord, MA. We both still had our full hiking gear, complete with backpacks, plenty of water, a day’s worth of snacks, first aid supplies, sunscreen, bug spray, and hiking boots. We were both eager to get away from civilization, which was harder at Walden than if we were climbing to the top of a mountain. We ventured deep into the woods though, eventually finding a stream and following it into an open field by another pond. We sprinted across it, feeling full of life and also slightly rebellious. Ignoring the “No trespassing” sign, we wandered around the pond, and eventually just lay in the field debriefing about life, which naturally for me, involved talking about college.

“The way you’re talking sounds like you want to go to Denison,” Maiel said. 

“I don’t know, I can’t make a decision,” I said, and we soon started our trek back home. On our way, we came across railroad tracks.

Maiel, who also enjoys symbolism, took a poetic approach to them. “You know, railroad tracks are kind of romantic,” she said. “They represent the confinements of society. Society tells you to stay within their rigid path.” 

Continuing with my rebellious feeling, I plopped myself down in the middle of them. (I recognize that to most, my “rebellious” actions of the day may sound pathetic, but they were freeing for me.) Maiel sat down next to me, and we started throwing rocks at the tracks, first one by one, seeing if we could bounce them off the track, and then by the handful, letting them fall where they fell, every rock another decision that we weren’t going to give a damn about and just let happen. 

“Alright, now what you’re going to do is take this big rock, and throw it up into the air,” Maiel said, drawing a line with her foot in the tracks. “This side is Denison, and this side is St. Olaf. Wherever the rock lands, is where you’re going to go to college.” She hid behind the fence a good ten feet away so I wouldn’t impale her with the symbolism, and I threw the rock.

But the story doesn’t end here, because the rock fell on the St. Olaf side. (Besides, while I may have been feeling freer than usual, I’m not someone who can just let what could be a coincidence make my decision.) 

“How do you feel?” Maiel asked.

“I don’t know!” I exclaimed. “I could be happy at either place!” 

And I ran off the tracks and we continued our journey home, venturing off the trails some more, climbing trees, and trying to get as much outside ourselves as possible.

As we started making our way back to the car, I plopped myself down in the sand by the pond. “I don’t want to go home until I make a decision,” I said. “At home, there’s too much external influence. My mind is too cluttered.” 

I was absent-mindedly playing in the sand for awhile when–"Stop!" Maiel shouted.

“What?”

“You just made a D in the sand,” she said.

“Really?”

“You were starting to make an O, and I was about to say, 'I wish D’s and O’s didn’t look so similar,' but then the O went away and you started to make a line and then you made the D.”

A slightly more defined version of what I drew. 
“I think it’s Denison,” I said, suddenly feeling sure.

“Really?”

“Yes. But I can’t go home, because I know I’ll start second-guessing myself. I need to stay out of my house.” 

We went back to her house and made dinner, and characteristic of me, over the course of the next few hours I started questioning my decision. It was 10:30 at night, and I was once again feeling stuck. 

“I’m not leaving your house until I can call my mom with a decision about where I’m going to college next year,” I said. 

“Do you need some wine? Do you need to get drunk to clear your head?” Maiel joked.

“No. I need fresh air,” I said. We went outside on her porch and I leaned over the railing, trying to imagine myself at each school and seeing how I felt, like what Mom used to make me do when I couldn’t figure out which stuffed animal I wanted to buy in the store.

“What’s your soul telling you?” Maiel asked after a few minutes.

“It’s telling me that St. Olaf is comfortable and is warm sweaters and my cousin Rachel and an Olaf stuffed animal. And Denison is scary and new and exciting.”

“And what do you want?” she prompted.

“Denison.”

“Really?” 

“Yes.” 

I left as quick as I could after that, anxious to call my mom before the doubt kicked back in. I called her in the Dunkin’ Donuts parking lot, not wanting to risk the doubt that might sink in when I got home. I told her my decision, my tone scared, confident and excited.

That night, I felt the lightest I’d felt in a long time. I found my Clifford the Big Red Dog stuffed animal in the attic (Denison’s mascot is “Big Red”), and threw on my Denison sweatshirt. I danced, skipped, and ran around my neighborhood twice, smiling so much it hurt and crying because it was the first time I could really see my future. I laid on the grass for awhile, looking at the stars, and slept a sound 10 hours that night.

And then I woke up in the morning, panicked. All day Monday I was mopey and unsure. I started reconsidering St. Olaf and was leaning more towards there, even though we had a “Denison celebratory dinner” with burgers (Ohio has lots of farms and therefore good, grass-fed beef) and fries and chocolate shakes. On Tuesday, I went for a run with my childhood friend Coltin around Walden Pond and then out to breakfast, and I talked both of our heads in circles about which school I wanted to go to. We went back to his dad’s house and he was fixing his car. There was part of me that said I should get back home to work on memorizing songs for the musical Rent, but there was part of me that just wanted to stay and watch him work on his car, because that was new and exciting. There wasn’t much for me to do though, so I ended up leaving.

On my way back, I passed a flower stand and decided I really wanted flowers. What I originally wanted was magnolia flowers, a la the line in Carrie Underwood’s song “Crazy Dreamer,” “Hello you wild magnolias, just waiting to bloom.” But magnolias grow on trees, and even if I had the space to plant a new tree, the flower stand didn’t have any magnolia seedlings. I realized what I really wanted to do was plant something, so I went to O’Connor’s Hardware Store and bought a packet of wildflower seeds.

It’s then I made my decision. I would go to Denison, where I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to get. I chose this particular packet of wildflower seeds for two reasons: one, because it didn’t specify the types of flowers that even could grow, and two, because of the line on the back of the packet,
"The large selection insures that many varieties will grow and prosper wherever planted and reseed themselves each year." 


I, too, will grow and prosper wherever I’m planted, and I like the idea that I’m not sure what I’ll look like in full bloom.

I bought the seeds and drove home blaring Taylor Swift’s song “22." Luckily no one was home. I ran upstairs to my room, grabbed my checkbook and Denison acceptance packet, looked up how to write a check, and got out of the house as fast as I could to drive to the post office to mail my $300 deposit before anyone could get home and see what I was doing.

When I got to the post office, I slowed down my brain enough to fully recognize what I was doing and accept that. I didn’t want to make a rash decision, although I was purposefully keeping myself moving forward to stop myself from going into another circle of indecision. I asked a nice man at the post office to look over my deposit check and make sure I signed it correctly, and he told me to add the two 0’s over the 100 after the words "Three hundred" to indicate that it was $300 even. After quadruple-checking the check and enrollment card, I sealed the envelope, and dropped it in the blue mailbox where I couldn’t reach in and change my mind.


Turning around, I saw a girl I used to sing in the choir with that I hadn’t seen in years. 

“I just mailed my deposit into college!” I said, eager to tell someone.

“Where are you going?” she asked. 

“Denison University!” I exclaimed. She was the first person I told.

“Congratulations! My friend’s a junior and he was just touring there today,” she said.

I drove to Bedford Farms ice cream to get sugar cones because we had chocolate coconut-milk ice cream and chocolate Jimmies at home, and I wanted a celebratory ice cream cone. The girl behind the counter gave me six cones for free, because she couldn’t find a button for “just cones” in the register. I gave her a nice tip, and then turned back at the door to say, “I just enrolled to college!” 

“Where are you going?” she asked.

“Denison University!” 

“My friend will be a freshman there this fall and will be playing baseball!” she said. I was ecstatic––two people within a half hour who knew someone either attending or looking to attend Denison.

I wanted to share the joy. I drove back past my house to Market Basket to get a gallon of chocolate ice cream, and then finally drove home. I nonchalantly put the ice cream and cones away, and asked my stepdad where I could plant some wildflowers. I planted my seeds, digging my hands in the dirt and getting it under my fingernails, usually not one to enjoy dirty hands but loving the fresh earth scent. When my mom finished with her client, I gathered my family in the living room and announced my decision, and we all had ice cream cones. Shortly after I went for a walk and called my dad to tell him, and as I was finishing my walk I passed my childhood friend Bella’s house. Eager to tell someone else, I knocked on her door but didn’t wait for her to let me in.

“I’m going to college!” I shouted. I stayed for dinner and we hung out for almost two hours, which we haven’t done in a long time.

I’m writing all of this today, the day after, because I needed the time to process it all for myself. I didn’t post my college decision on Facebook yesterday, or tell all my friends and family. I didn’t wear my Denison sweatshirt to bed or drink out of my Denison mug. It would’ve been too overwhelming. I actually avoided packing a lot of red for my New York trip this week. I had my initial excitement, and now I need to process it. It reminds me of how I felt after my first date freshman year. I had my initial giddy excitement when I was first asked on the date, and then afterwards I was more quiet but feeling very content and fulfilled. That’s how I feel now.


I had another moment of self-doubt last night, questioning whether I'm trying to be someone I’m not by going to Denison. I don’t know what I’m going to get at Denison, like I don’t know what’s going to grow in my wildflower garden. And I feel okay. I will bring my sweaters and stuffed animals and love of theatre to Denison, but I will also be given the space to grow in an environment where I'm not surrounded by my familiar tastes. 

I usually like being in control and knowing what's next, but I also like what happens when I’m out of control. I let myself be free and let what happens, happen. It’s how I fell in love this year with a boy two years my junior. It’s in those out of control moments that I surprise myself. I venture outside of who I’ve defined myself to be, and I grow. 


Friday, April 10, 2015

My Story

There are days when I can't wait to leave high school, to leave home, to go out into the world and start defining my life. Then there are days like today, those "Oh my God, high school is ending" days. Suddenly everything feels rushed. I don't feel like I have time. I have to move on and leave some of my friends behind, where they'll continue being in high school without me. And while I know that I don't want to stay in high school, the comfort of it can be appealing. So I want to capture all of high school but I don't feel like I possibly can, and my schoolwork seems so insignificant compared to the people I want to see, the things I still want to do. It all piles on and I'm left feeling really overwhelmed. 

I tried tangoing with friends to make sure I didn't isolate myself amidst my overwhelmingness. A run helped clear my head. Sex and the City and The Office were good mind-distractors. Chocolate frozen yogurt and peanut butter cups never hurt. But it always comes down to Lin-Manuel Miranda––composer, rapper, actor, lyricist, and playwright. Watching interviews with him and listening to his work never fails to remind me of the direction in which I'm headed.

Before I performed Miranda's Tony-award winning musical In the Heights my junior year of high school, I knew I wanted to study theatre in college. But studying Miranda's musical intensified that passion for me. While preparing for In the Heights, I watched every YouTube video imaginable about the show and Miranda. I soaked up every interview, every backstage tour, every promotional video. 
If I were to say who my idol is, it would be him. He, along with those he has brought with him in his artistic endeavors (Alex Lacamoire, Thomas Kail, Christopher Jackson) are spearheading this next generation of art. Miranda doesn't just create art––he creates timeless art, as evidenced by the stories he chooses to tell. (His new musical Hamilton, which I saw back in February at the Public Theatre, tells the life of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton.) His art already spans generations. 

Tonight, watching videos of Hamilton was what relaxed me. I just want to soak up everything Miranda says. His genius of turning a 800+ page biography into a hip-hop musical astounds me. He said in an interview with CBS (warning about spoilers in the video) that by the time he had finished the second chapter, he was looking online, saying, "Someone's already made this into a musical. How could someone not make this into a musical?" That sureness, that clarity of vision, is the most incredible feeling. In my limited directing experience, the best way I can describe it is like wearing a different pair of glasses. Everything looks clearer. Unnecessary muck is blocked out of my sight. I see the stage, I see what's in front of me, and I start to construct my vision. 

The underlying message of Hamilton is, "Who lives, who dies, who tells your story." Miranda is telling the story of Alexander Hamilton. He is bringing Hamilton of the late 18th century into the 21st century, making sure he lives on. Art tells stories. It crosses bridges between social classes and generations, creates this universality. I want to tell stories. 

I still don't know where I want to go to college next year, but I know that I want to end up where Lin-Manuel Miranda is. I'm ending one chapter of my life and moving on to the next. I feel like I can see what I want five chapters from now to look like. Now it's just a matter of figuring out how I fill in the ones in between, what will best get me to that target chapter. 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Trust in Yog(i)

"There is nothing more precious than self-trust."

There are some days when Yogi gets it just right, and this morning was one of those times. The quote on my Yogi Throat Care tea tag this morning made waking up with a sore throat a little more bearable. 

This weekend is one of those weekends I am ready to fly. Perhaps it's the shining sun and the melting snow, the rugs airing out on the car roofs, or my new haircut, but I feel like I've been holed up for awhile. I'm not just feeling claustrophobic from winter. It's high school. Yesterday I went for a fast run, threw on my Denison University sweatshirt (one of the schools I'm considering going to next year), and went over my friend Shelby's house to talk about the future. It's all I want to talk about. I'm at the point now where people ask me what year I am, and I can say I'm a senior. They ask me where I'm going next year, and I can give them an answer, which is that I'm not sure quite where, but I have ideas. They ask me what I want to study, and I can tell them, which is I want to double-major in English and Theatre with the hopes of directing.

It seems like so long ago that I submitted my college applications. I remember the day vividly. It was the last Saturday in October. I had rehearsal for Peter Pan in the morning, then came home instead of going to my friend's senior day for soccer (which I remember feeling guilty about) because I wanted to submit my applications. Around 6 o'clock I finally finished, and then I drove over my friend's house and we sang and watched the musical Rent. Now I've heard back from all my colleges. The waiting game is over. Now it's time to decide. The dilemma of decisions...

I think part of my characteristic indecision comes from my fear of “choosing wrong,” whatever “wrong” may be, whether it be what movie we watch, which cinnamon roll to choose, or what topic to study for a project. It’s much easier when someone else makes the decision, because then if it doesn’t turn out to be the “best” decision, well, I didn’t make it, so I don’t feel inclined to beat myself up over it. But this is my future, and the idea that I am getting to decide where I want to go next year excites me. I don't want anyone else to make the decision for me. 

For awhile, I was questioning whether I really did want to go far away for college, which was scary, because I mostly only applied far away. Visiting St. Olaf last month was like a trip into my future. The entire weekend was scary, exciting, and overwhelming. I had so much freedom...the freedom to skip lunch and sit in on an extra class, to share my passions with strangers, to sit in on a Lutheran chapel service. There were moments I felt confident, that I was ready for this next phase in my life, and others when I just wanted to crawl back into my bed at home. But I kept pushing through the weekend, telling myself that I was okay. My weekend at St. Olaf confirmed my decision that I do in fact want to go away. Everyone challenges themselves in different ways. My challenge is going away from home, where I don't have Mom to validate my every decision. 

"Are you going to be okay next year? I mean, without Mom?" my brother asked me a few weeks ago. It was a valid question, and I think the fact that even my younger brother picked up on my reliance on my Mom assured me it's important to start relying on myself more. I've always been okay on my own. I like my space. But I second-guess myself a lot. 

And this is where Yogi comes in. I need to start trusting myself and my own decisions. I need to be confident in myself, and accept my decisions. If I make the wrong decision, I need to own that and roll with it, rather than berate myself for “choosing wrong.” 

And I can't just trust myself because Yogi said it. It can't be trust in Yogi. It has to be trust in Yogi.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

When Their World Becomes My World

Me with Javier Muñoz (understudy for Alexander Hamilton) after the show.
I’m writing this post while sitting in Logan Airport. In less than one hour I will board a plane to Minneapolis. Exactly one month ago I received a letter from St. Olaf College announcing that I am a finalist for a theatre scholarship. Tomorrow I will take part in the Fine Arts Scholars weekend, during which I will meet with theatre professors, sit in on an Intermediate Directing class, tour the theatre facilities, chat with students, and stay overnight with a fine arts student. I will be among people who I might be working with on a daily basis next year at this time. I am going off to college for the weekend, but it seems like so much more.

This past week, I got a glimpse at my future. On Sunday, I saw the new off-Broadway musical Hamilton. Lin-Manuel Miranda, playwright of In the Heights, is the mastermind behind Hamilton. In addition to writing the musical, Miranda performs as the principal character, Alexander Hamilton. The musical tells the story of the founding father, Alexander Hamilton...through rap.

I became familiar with Miranda through my work on In the Heights last winter, in which I played Nina Rosario in my high school’s production of it. Since then, Miranda has been my idol, the figurehead I look at for where I want to be someday. After I met him at Lawrence Academy in October, I immediately pooled all my Christmas and birthday requests into tickets for Hamilton. With its catchy tunes, timeless themes, and stunning choreography, props and set, it was worth a lifetime of Christmas and birthday requests. 

The night went better than I could have imagined, especially considering the initial disappointment that Miranda wasn’t performing that night because he was taking notes in the audience.  Javier Muñoz understudied him, and after the first number, it didn't even matter that he wasn't Miranda––I immediately bought that he was Hamilton. Additionally, to my luck Miranda ended up sitting right in front of me, and I got to chat with him during intermission. I also met Robin de Jesús (who happened to be in the audience), who played Sonny in In the Heights. I ran into him in the lobby during intermission, and explained how his version of Nina’s song "Breathe" helped me find my voice with the character. Jesús brought a softer tone to the song, something that better matched my voice than Mandy Gonzalez's powerful belt. I also met several of the cast members, including Christopher Jackson, whom I’ve long admired from the countless YouTube videos I’ve watched of him.

What I explained to each of the people I talked to was how incredible it was to be in their presence. The playbill compared Miranda to Shakespeare. Shakespeare took common speech and communicated it through poetry; Miranda is taking common speech and communicating it through rap. Also like Shakespeare, I feel as though Miranda is creating his own theatre company. Miranda took several people from his In the Heights team, including Director Thomas Kail, Christopher Jackson (who played Benny in In the Heights and plays George Washington in Hamilton), and Javier Muñoz (who understudied Miranda as Usnavi in In the Heights and understudies him as Alexander Hamilton in Hamilton). The work they are doing is revolutionary. They are taking the theatre and bringing it to this new generation, communicating themes about family and loyalty and storytelling through language of today. These are the people who I believe, ten years from now, everyone will be studying. They are on the brink of making it big––Hamilton is already scheduled to go to Broadway. To be able to talk with them when they are on this cusp, to be able to see their work while it’s still off-Broadway, is such an honor. 

On Sunday, I was a part of their world. This weekend, I will further dive into this theatre world. Every day when I’m working on my Senior Project (which is all about exploring what it means to be a director, and specifically, what it means for me to be a director), I’m going deeper into this world. And I can’t imagine living in a better one. 

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Air

Does one hunger for air? Thirst for it? Whether it's a thirst or a hunger, I crave air. Specifically, cold air. I love the sting in my lungs on a winter run––it's why I always take off my neck warmer in the last 100m, to breath in the fresh air. Fresh air is why I like to wear tank tops when I ride a bike, to feel the air on my skin. I like everything that comes along with the cold. I like the goosebumps and the rosy cheeks, the tingling on my skin when I come back inside. I especially love it when I get fresh air before bed, when my cheeks are still cool as I lay down on my pillow.

Mostly, though, I love air because it gives me space. I get claustrophobic when I don't have enough room to breathe, to stretch. My friend told me that one of the hardest parts about college for her is the lack of space. She doesn't have room to stretch her limbs. She longs to just spread out her arms without hitting anything.

This past week, I had two beautiful open-air experiences. The first was on Sunday, before the big blizzard. My mom, stepdad and I ran around Walden Pond, lost in the snowy woods with the blue sky peaking through the trees. But the best part was the end of the run, when we emerged out from the woods onto the snow-covered lake, a great tundra in the middle of Concord, MA. So many times have I swam across that lake, but never have I run across it. And I just kept laughing, like I do when something is so great and somewhat unbelievable, the same kind of laugh I get in English class when my teacher or a classmate makes a particularly profound connection. There was just so much space on that lake. I felt like I do when I swim straight out at Skaket Beach on the Cape, into the horizon. This tundra is another place I will return to when I'm needing air.

And then there was Tuesday, the day of the blizzard. After a day spent inside, I was craving the air by 10:00pm. I went for a walk by myself around the neighborhood, trudging through the three feet of snow in my driveway. At some places, I couldn't even lift my feet. When I got to the end of the driveway, I had to practically climb over the pile of snow to get to the snowplowed street. Now on the plowed road, I skipped, ran, spun, and hummed at odd intervals. There was a driving ban because of the snow, and the snow had stopped falling awhile ago, so I didn't even have to worry about running into a plow. I threw my arms out and pranced in diagonals down the hill and then up it, my shadow lively in the streetlights. No one could see me. I had the world to myself. It was so remarkably freeing.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Stepping Into the New Year

"Our intuition comes from innocence." 
That was my Yogi tea bag tag message for the new year. My intuition, my gut, my instinct, comes from innocence, purity, no muck. It comes in the silence within myself, when I can close out the bickering devil and angel on each shoulder. It comes in the feeling, not the label. It comes in my secret smiles to myself when I'm driving alone in the car, listening to Michael Bublé. It comes in the happy rumble in my stomach when I satisfy my potato and ketchup craving. It comes in the lightness of my step as I run along the beach at midnight. 

This year, I aim to listen to my heart. It's where I'm happiest. It's where I feel the most connected to myself. It can be hard to get to sometimes, mucked up with clutter and indecision and doubt. I'm good at talking myself out of things. I tend to focus on what I don't know, rather than what I do.

I need to start with what I know. Start with what I can do. For example: 

I don't know what to eat. What do I know? I know I like vegetables. Good. I know I like rice. Good. I know I like chocolate. Good. Go from there.

I'm feeling crummy right now. What can I do to make myself feel better? 

I don't know what I want to do. What do I know that I don't want to do? I don't want to watch a movie. Okay. That's one thing off the list.

It's like working on a math problem. 

Step 1: Reword the problem into words that make sense. 
Step 2: Write down what I know
Step 3: Solve.
Step 4: Check my work. Did I come to a solution? If not, try again.  

It's like writing an essay. Ernest Hemingway said in his memoir A Moveable Feast, "All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know." Then, "go on from there." If I can write one true sentence, I can write another.

It's like putting one step in front of the other. Just take each day one step at a time, one moment at a time. If I can take one step, I can take another. Step through the muck. Be patient. Keep walking until I find my heart.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A Solstice Run


11:45pm and we laced up our sneakers. The car idled in the driveway, the exhaust against the night air like the stream from the tea that awaited me when I got home. It was December 21st, the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, meaning that starting the next day (today), every day gets a little longer. And we–my mom, Michael, my dog Mocha and me–were ready to welcome the longer days.

This is the fourth or fifth year we've ran on the winter solstice. The first year we did it, the solstice fell on a full moon, and we ran by moonlight while the "cows" howled in the distance, or so my mom told my brother. The solstice hasn't fallen on a full moon since that first year, but the solstice runs have become a tradition. There's something about waiting up until midnight, seeing your breath fog up in the night air, feeling your way blindly on the trails, listening to the lull of the night. It's as if the world and we are in on a little secret. "Shh..." it tells us. "Don't let anyone know I'm awake."

This year was kinder than some years. There wasn't any snow on the ground and the air was cool but mild. Although it was cloudy, it wasn't too dark; our eyes adjusted quickly.

We did four laps this year–one for each runner–and then came home to tea and Trader Joe's gingerbread men. We each had four cookies for four laps for four runners. I went to sleep with my cheeks still rosy from the night air and my stomach warm with tea and cookies.