Monday, April 29, 2013

We talk a lot as a society about "getting out of your comfort zone". But what does that really mean? Is is something magical or scary, or just a fancy way of describing something that we all experience at some point? In the past two years, I've been through some pretty drastic career changes. I've gone from being a full-time classroom teacher, to a part-time tutor, to a tutor/barista, and currently to working full-time in the insurance industry (while still tutoring roughly 8-10 hours a week). In some ways, I've gotten out of my so-called comfort zone. I find myself in an industry that I never would have seen myself in five years ago. I'm having to learn a whole new set of terminology, to say nothing of learning how to navigate within the corporate world. On the other hand, I've also settled into a position that is a great deal more stable than the ups and downs of retail and entrepreneurship. Furthermore, it's far more predictable than walking into a middle-school classroom. It's funny how getting out of my comfort zone by seeking employment outside of my field has led to more stability...and, therefore, to more comfort. I'm not sure how this coincides with people whose idea of "getting out of your comfort zone" is, say, climbing Mount Everest, but it seems to be working for me by keeping me content without being complacent.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Conversation Starter

Recently, my skinned knees acted as a conversation starter. The injury was from a combination of tripping and falling onto a sidewalk (while running)and rock climbing. A great combination if you ever want knees like a five-year-old. I was at jury duty, and I'd thought that my skirt covered my knees, or at least the scabby parts. (That's what happens when you dress in a hurry and haven't made sure you had a clean pair of dressy pants ready to go.) As it turns out, the interaction was positive, as my fellow jury duty attendee was the father of a girl on the national rock climbing team. It was great to find out a little bit about her experiences before he and I were called back into the courtroom. It got me thinking about how a few years ago, I would have been slightly embarrassed about having skinned knees. I probably would have covered them up with a metric ton of Hello Kitty Band-Aids or something. (Ironically, this would have looked even more ridiculous.) But I've learned to let go of a lot of little imperfections. Most people are too hung up on their own (minor) flaws to really bother with anyone else's It also got me thinking about how I've opened up more to new experiences in the past few years. Ten years ago, I wouldn't have seen myself running more than a mile, climbing a rock wall, organizing a skydiving trip, or doing half the crazy stuff they have us doing in CG. I still have a long way to go. I realize this. But every once in awhile, it's nice to see how far I've come...not just in terms of experience, but also in attitude and my overall outlook on life. I also wouldn't have felt nearly as comfortable chatting with a stranger as I did that day. It was a good reminder that simple little things can make for interesting (if brief) interactions. (By the way, I just read Bear Grylls' autobiography, and he writes in really short paragraphs. I think it's temporarily affected my writing style. I kind of like it, though. It keeps the rambling and stream-of-consciousness type stuff in check.)

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Balancing Act

I read something on a yoga blog this evening addressing the issue of self-help vs. self-acceptance. The blogger, contemplating the preponderance of self-help books and materials on the market, posed the question: "Where's the line between self-acceptance and wanting to be a better person?" She went on to suggest that we balance "acceptance with striving".

While the entry focused primarily on applying this concept to yoga, I think it has obvious implications for other areas of life. Let's start with another fitness area: running. Most runners have that drive to run faster, or longer, or to conquer some steep hill or crazy trail. But perhaps that has to be balanced out with acceptance of one's limits on any given day, be they physical, mental, etc. Same goes for strength training, cycling, or pretty much anything along those lines. Easier said than done in our super-competitive society, I know.

There are spiritual applications here as well. If you're a Christian, or come from a Christian background, you want to be the best person you can be. You want to be Christlike, even if sometimes you get rubbed the wrong way by Christianity as an institution. You want to have some sort of relationship with the Creator of the Universe. (This is, of course, true about many people who wouldn't necessarily categorize themselves as "religious".) At the same time, and counterbalancing this drive, is the need to accept yourself as you have been created, especially the things about yourself and your circumstances that you can't really change. (A bit "serenity prayer", I know, but it still makes sense.)

Doubtless there are applications to other faiths as well. Buddhism comes to mind, with its goal of enlightenment balanced with self-compassion. (If you're Buddhist, and I've botched that, please correct me.) I also can't help but think of science -- the constant striving to understand the universe in quantifiable terms, tempered with the realization that there's vast amounts of knowledge we have yet to acquire, and may never acquire. I mention science in this same paragraph deliberately: I don't believe that science and faith are mutually exclusive. But that's a whole other post, and I've twofer'ed tonight as it is.

Goal Re-Visitation Time Again

Goal: Try to look my age: Specifically, try to dress less like a teenager and more like an adult.
Progress: These days, I usually run around in workout-type clothing. I guess that's not very age-specific.

Goal: Run at least one 5K in 2012.
Progress: I just ran the Firefly 5K last weekend. I was happy to have finished in under 30 minutes. I plan to do Run For Cover on April 14th.

New Running Goals: Run a 10K by late summer/early fall. If all goes fantastically well, run the White Rock Half Marathon on December 2nd. (This last one may be a bit crazy.)

Goal: At least once a month, participate in some sort of community outreach.
Progress: Hard to say. The 5Ks raise awareness of, and help raise money for, various causes. But I suspect that I could do more.

Goal: At least once a month, go on a date or do a MeetUp.
Progress: Um...

Goal: GET A JOB.
Progress: Tutoring and interviewing and networking...oh, my!

Goal: Gain weight
Progress: Not really worried about it since I'm not losing weight and I'm definitely getting stronger. When I first started CG, I was working with 5-lb dumbbells. Less than 2 months later, I'm up to 10s. I can also do a reasonably good set of push-ups on my toes. Now I must conquer the chin-up!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Beyond Kony

Remember when I said I was going to focus on fitness and geek stuff from here on out? I guess I sort of lied.

By now, you've probably all seen the Kony 2012 video that has gone viral on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media. (If not, you should be able to check it out by clicking on the link above, or doing a YouTube search.) The video makes a pretty powerful case for insisting, as a global community, on the arrest of notorious Ugandan war criminal Joseph Kony -- a man responsible for kidnapping tens of thousands of children, forcing them to fight in his army, and otherwise abusing them. The Kony 2012 movement also proposes a bold approach: make Kony famous through posters, social media, and other means...not to celebrate him, but to bring awareness and attention to his crimes.

I first encountered this video yesterday afternoon, and I must admit, I found it compelling. Since that time, I've noticed several of my Facebook friends re-posting it to their timelines. Conversely, I've read criticisms of the campaign and of its parent NGO, Invisible Children: that it is less than scrupulous with its funds, that it exaggerates statistics of child soldiers, that Joseph Kony is no longer even in Uganda, that the Ugandan government itself is corrupt, etc. The criticisms naturally give one pause, especially in light of the somewhat recent scandal surrounding Greg Mortenson .

As I mulled this all over this morning, it occurred to me that, at this point, I really have no definitive way of knowing whether or not the Kony 2012 thing is legit. I suspect it may be, based on some of the personal testimonies I've heard, particularly from people I know who've done mission work in Uganda. Also, I think if the campaign does prove successful, it would really demonstrate how the global community can come together to effect real change.

But let's say, for argument's sake, that the whole thing is bogus or misguided, or that 2013 rolls around with nary a Kony in site. What, then, is the takeaway?

First, let's look at the creativity of the campaign. Social and print media -- often used to celebrate people for being rich, good-looking, or simply "irritaining" -- is essentially being turned on its head here, used instead to bring attention to a man whom, until about a week ago, most people hadn't even heard of. Featuring "villains" on magazine covers isn't new, but often we've heard of those people. What I see here is great and unusual potential to highlight other lesser-known causes and issues, both international and domestic.

Then there's the video itself. Step back from the statistics and even the possible "propaganda" involved, and a greater truth emerges: watching this, you realized there are bigger issues that yourself out there. Things like flat tires, sinus headaches, and the dog chewing up your favorite pair of sunglasses seem trivial in comparison. You become truly humbled by all that there is to do in the world. If you're like me, you're reminded of the old story about the man throwing starfish into the ocean. You know you can't save them all, but you want to make a difference to at least one.

Kony 2012 may be a huge success that results in the capture and arrest of an international baddie. It may be a spectacular failure. Or it may be a trendy, celebrity-studded cause that people forget about two years from now. (Yes, I know that sounds cynical, but think about some other causes that have come and gone from public awareness.) Ultimately, however, we live in an age in which technology can connect and unite people like never before, and I have to believe that, ultimately, a great deal of good can come from that.

Thursday, February 23, 2012


If you've kept up with this long enough, you know that I keep changing the focus of this blog.

Hey, guess what? This is another one of those changes.

Recently, I've begun working out with REAL consistency. I've been doing the Couch to 5K program and Camp Gladiator for a few weeks now. (If I was fancy, those would show up as hyperlinks, but I forget how to do that.) I can't outrun all the zombies or punch all the werewolves in the face....yet...but I feel better than I have in I-don't-know-how-long.

A little bit of backstory here: I've never been an athlete, thought of myself as being athletic, or been thought of as being athletic. In fact, I was teased pretty badly as a kid for not being good at kickball, soccer, softball, get the idea. (I was pretty good at dodgeball, because, frankly, it made sense: if a foreign object is flying at you at top speed, YOU GET OUT OF THE WAY.) P.E. was not a good time, except for on rainy days when we watched After School Specials. (There was also that great equalizer, square dancing. Even the coolest kids couldn't make THAT look cool.)

By the time I was a teenager, I was apathetic towards fitness and sports and the like. I bought into that whole adolescent clique-y mentality, even while insisting that I hated cliques. The "jocks" didn't like me. I didn't like them. It seems stupid now, but it was what it was.

What changed? I don't really know for sure. I tried "working out" at different points in my 20s, but I never really felt like I knew what I was doing, or that there was a real point to all, and I didn't have the peer motivation that I have now. Maybe that's what changed. I got older, and all those stupid little differences that seem so important when you're fifteen just don't matter when you're thirty. I met people who had changed themselves for the better, for whom being in shape was a part of that change. And some of those people had my same geeky interests.

Which leads me to my new blog focus: I've realized that I can be physically fit AND still be my unique, quirky self. I don't have to buy into stereotypes about "nerds" and "jocks". That seems like such an obvious statement to make, but really,when you think about it, those stereotypes can be powerful things.

So you'll probably see a lot more of me fusing health/fitness stuff with other things that I geek out on (Simpsons, zombies, books, music, books, movies...did I mention books?) Hopefully, the consequences will be amusing (at least to me). BTW: I'm open to suggestions regarding new health foods, workouts, etc. to try. Could make for some good blogging.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Running Reasons: A Partial List from a Beginning "Runner"

1. Stress reduction
2. Better sleep
3. Improved overall mood
4. Cardiovascular health
5. Increased awareness of what I eat and how I otherwise treat my body
6. Realistic, concrete goal-setting
7. Competition against self ("personal best") as opposed to others
8. Can be done while listening to music
9. No gym membership or special equipment required (other than shoes)
10. More time spent outdoors
11. Potential for new friendships
12. Self-confidence boost
13. Possible redemption from unathletic youth and dropping out of cross country