Stop Staring Down

I’m one of those people that believes running is the best (or one of the best) metaphors of life. My biggest takeaway from pounding the pavement? Stop staring down.

Why you may ask? Thanks for asking, let me tell you.

1. Because the easy thing isn’t always the right thing.
Usually, I’m hanging my head low and staring at the ground as I run because I’m tired and it feels easier. But like most things in life that are easy, it’s not actually good for you. By keeping your head up and your eyes focused on what’s in front of you, you align your body more properly which is obviously better for your running in the long-run. When I get tired, I focus on the mechanics: how are my arms moving, where is my head, how’s my breathing. Although it might not feel easier once I correct myself it, I know that it’s better for me and that gives me the mental strength to go on.

2. Because for every one interesting thing you see pass beneath your feet, you miss twenty things passing around you. I was running and saw something about being the emperor scrawled onto the sidewalk. I’m always looking for an distraction so I pondered on it for a few seconds. But sure enough, once I refocused and brought my head up, I realized all the dizzy-ing things around me. Graffiti murals, other people’s faces, store displays, oh and you know, the whole Manhattan skyline. I mean I’m lucky enough to run with a view of the Empire State building everyday, at the least, I ought to look at it. Suddenly, I’m distracted for ten minutes at a time, not just a few seconds. If your head is always down in life, you’ll miss so many things that can motivate and stimulate you.

It’s also important to keep your head up because you have to see the horizon. Sometimes it’s tough to look in the distance and be like, I have so far to go. But once you reach it – no matter the distance, no matter how long it takes you – it is always a feeling of accomplishment. If you’re always looking at your feet, you can’t assess how far you’ve gone and so you missing those rejuvenating and validating moments.

3. Because you won’t ever trip.
They always say that when you fall, you have to get back up. The actual lesson of this maxim is about enduring the pain (physical and mental) of getting back up. I remember the exact moment I fell for the first time when running. I had been running for a solid 6-months or so, I was running anywhere from 7-10 miles on the regular but still didn’t consider myself a runner. I was making my way through a residential area of Los Angeles. It was a sunny day, and I was feeling good. I was maybe 20 minutes in and about to hit the zone that would keep me going for the next 60 minutes. Maybe 10 yards before an intersection, my toe hooked the sidewalk and I came crashing down onto my hands and knees. I did’t even have to look up to know there was probably about 5 or 6 cars that I had witnessed my spectacular drop. Instantly, I thought about turning back. I mean I hurt myself, that was a good reason to stop right? I stood up and steeled my nerves. Fuck it, most of the cars that saw are going to drive off in the next 3, 2, 1 seconds and in a few minutes I’ll be off this road. I was a little scraped up and very embarrassed but fully functional. I slowly and steadily got my feet moving again.

The rest of my run went pretty well overall. When I got back to the apartment, I felt like a runner. I was a runner. It wasn’t the milage or the time, it was my belief that this is really important to me, so even though I messed up, it’s totally worth it to keep going. To say the least, I’ve fallen since then, often in front of many people, but I just take it with a grain of salt. If you play tennis, you will get hit with a ball; if you run, you will trip; if you act in life, you will experience a re-action in life. And that’s just the way it is. So accept it.

Stop Staring Down

Happy Secret – Better Work

I watched Shawn Anchor’s “The Happy Secret to Better Work” TedXTalk and thoroughly enjoyed it, it’s fast, funny and thought-provoking. (The second half is better than the first in my opinion.)

My favorite gem: “90% of your long-term happiness is predicted not by the external world, but by the way your brain processes the world.”

Oh, and also, I’ll paraphrase this one: people think, once I have success I’ll be happy. But once you get a good grade, get a promotion, get a raise, your idea of success changes and you have to get a better grade, another promotion, another raise. You literally can not achieve happiness that way. Instead, start with happiness and let that guide you to success.

Train you brain to be more positive, their studies show it takes 21 days. So, I’ll be adding three positive things about my day to this post everyday for the next 21 days (journaling is another way to train your brain, and that’s what this blog is.)

Day 1 (May 10)
Some together time with the boyfriend;
Feeling less sick than the day before was a relief;
Successfully accomplishing KCTL site tasks.

Day 2
R liking my redesign of ISO made me feel good;
Enjoying simple household chores (sweeping up, emptying the dishwasher, hanging laundry);
The dog on the subway, and two more while walking on Bedford.

Day 3
(All KCTL-tennis related)
Having a kid follow my instructions and do really well;
Showing the kids how to start a game (choosing p/d and spinning the racquet) and having the long-time instructor be like oh yea, we should be doing that, watch Heather;
Seeing that the kids have made vast improvements from last year, and knowing that the kids struggling today will be so much better by the end of the season.

Day 4:
Oh, the smell of fresh, green, real grass. Love it;
When the sun shines between the clouds into those ‘God’s Rays’ right before sunset when I’m out running;
The rush of new knowledge (I’m taking a jQuery class) and getting it.

Day 5:
This one is tricky. Not a bad just not a lot of overwhelming joy.
The white flowers in the trees at McCarren;
Running with NBR – the view of Manhattan;
How kind the woman at the pharmacy is.

Day 6:
How everything looks better in the rain;
Breaking through a wall (figuratively, not literally);
Unexpected connections with old friends.

Day 7: (May 16)
Unfortunately missed this day.

Day 8:
Not giving up and sprinting .5 mile to make it to class on time
R’s monthly metro pass!
Opening up immediately to someone new

Day 9:
I can feel my horizons broadening
Didn’t just run today actually pushed myself – hit a 9:00 pace! Never done that before.
Spent my transitional moments (walking/subway) wishing everyone I passed personal happiness and contentment

Day 10
Fresh from the oven cookies goopy with chocolate;
Anything and everything x-men;
Planning to talk at a happy hour recruit volunteers – taking this off M’s plate.

Day 11
The patience I’m gaining from the meditation/Buddhism classes;
Looking and feeling super pretty in my dress and boots;
Selling my very first item on Etsy!

Day 12
Yoga is always good;
My new co-working space is better than the old one;
Did some nice logo work.

Day 13
Tough day… start fresh tomorrow.

Day 14 (May 23)
Still the same. try again tomorrow.

Day 15
The feeling when you come out from the fog;
The Avett Brothers music makes me feel like I’m 14 again;
When you act our of character – sprinting down the street to get to meditation, arriving late and sweaty.

Day 16
The excitement before you go on a trip;
Getting paid for my freelance work;

Day 17 (May 26)
Talked to my grandpa for the first time in weeks and since he moved to Georgia, he sounded happy to hear from me;
A couple having their wedding party at a good ole country bar with live music – so cute and happy;
Keeping cool as plans change – some nights just be glad you get home at all, even if it is at 4am with a drunk cab driver.

Day 18
Rows and rows and rows of squash at the farmer’s market;
The sweet taste of real, un-modified, small, ripe, in-season strawberries;
and Tennessee BBQ with a side of dancing.

Day 19
The Hatch Show Print store and printing presses!;
Celebrating memorial day in the park with soul music and a storm trooper dancer;
Unexpectedly amazing Indian food and a perfect send-off for our weekend getaway.

Day 20
Being rewarded for just be willing to do the nice thing (Southwest);
A clean home;
Warm, fresh-from-the-oven bread.

Day 21
An early morning run for the first time in over a week;
Getting down to business;
Watching some of the game at K&L.

I’ll do a few extra days since I missed some.

Day 22 (May 31)
I always leave meditation class completely blissed out;
can’t remember what else happened here! Oops.

Day 23
Knowing that I’m a good designer and coming up with some nice pieces for a client;
Totally bitchin’ homemade veggie pizza;
Having a good run (9:13 pace!).

Day 24
Going out even though I didn’t want to, and it being appreciated in return;
So impressed with how well the kids responded to the tennis lesson;
Getting so sleepy and curling around R while he watched the hockey game.

Day 25 (June 3)
Waking up sans alarm to the sunshine pouring;
Spring cleaning – no really I love doing this;


Happy Secret – Better Work

30×30 Update: #2 Down

Today (ahem, yesterday) is a very important day. Primarily because I’m crossing off #2 on my 30×30 list: Freelance as a Day Job.

A few weeks ago, I gave my company notice and decided that on May 1, I’d go at it alone, so to speak. The feelings over the past few weeks? A happiness that I haven’t experience in a very long time. Seriously. There is something remarkable about being in control of your own life. So remarkable, it makes me wonder where and when we (as a society) decided to let other people control our lives. This is your life, you don’t get a second chance. Get a move on it.

Don’t get me wrong, I have fears. Most of them monetary, particularly as my last day of work approached, which means my last paycheck is approaching. But two things reassure me: I have some savings which to live off of in the coming months. And, I’ve been employed since I was 16. I have two college degrees. If I needed to make money – recession be damned – I’d be able to, be it slinging shots or folding skirts, an income I could make. This is comforting and helps keep me calm.

You know what also keeps me calm? Knowing that I have this awesome skill (graphic design) that lots of small businesses and non-profits and start-ups are willing to pay for. And that I have the curiosity and motivation to learn skills beyond what’s in my current arsenal (coding, font development). And that I have a genuine desire to do amazing work that helps other people succeed more-so than I have a desire to make a buck — I do believe this philosophy will steer me right in the long run.

Honestly, since I gave my notice many things have fallen into place. A few freelance jobs came out of no where. A few traveling opportunities. More time to run and train. More time to meditate. I checked my e-mail this morning, feeling a bit odd, like okay, here’s my first day of freelancing, maybe I’ll just have a job waiting for me. And I kid you not – I did. A friend’s referral. I will take this as a good sign. And all bad signs, I will choose to ignore. 🙂

My May Day

got up around 9am
checked my e-mails, twitter & google reader over breakfast
did some laundry
started blogging
worked on a freelance project
visited the 3rd ward co-working space
took a nap
went to Union Square for the May Day rally
commuted home with R, stopped at his garden
did P90X yoga
made dinner (pasta with kale, sun-dried tomatoes and artichokes)
toasted to my new life with some Schramsburg
relaxed for the evening
went to sleep around 11pm

basically what i’m trying to say is that my first day as an Independent Creative Professional (yes, I prefer that to ‘Freelancer’) was in fact awesome.

give yourself permission to follow your dreams.

30×30 Update: #2 Down