Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Post Interview Conundrum

As you know (or may not know depending on how much of my blog you've read), I lost my job two weeks ago. It would be cool to say that I went out in a flaming ball of glory, ending in a high-speed car chase, but in reality it was far more mundane. I was part of a round of layoffs at my small company. These things happen, and to be perfectly honest, being unemployed can be okay as long as you stay busy.

Therein lies the rub, or so they say (what on earth does that mean, anyway?). Staying busy. You have no where to be, no responsibilities, and no reason to really get dressed (see previous post about the hidden dangers of sweat pants).

That being said, there is that rare opportunity when you get called in for an interview. You spend most of the day prepping for it, researching their website over and over again trying to find minute details that will give you unique insight into answering that endlessly frustrating question, "Do you have any questions for us?"

You want to be suave, cool, and original. "Why, thank you for asking. Indeed, I do. I would like to know if you feel special when you wear colorful underwear?"

So you spend hours pouring over the questions, and the answers, and coming up with original comments that will make you stand out amid the plethora of other candidates. Finally, it's time to shower. Of course, you give yourself an extra thirty minutes - who knows, you could have a horrible shaving accident that takes extra clean up time.

An hour later, you're clean, freshly shaven, looking sharp, and smell like a pot of fresh flowers. It's time. Only you have that extra thirty minutes that you didn't need. No matter, you can just hang out for a while. Except that you can't sit down or even move too quickly because your house is generously peppered in pet hair, and any sudden movements could leave you looking like you're wearing a fur coat that would incite PETA members everywhere.

So, standing perfectly still, you check the clock every two minutes, waiting, as the time slowly ticks by, until you only have two minutes left before you were planning on leaving. You give up on waiting, collect your things, and bolt out the door, ready to rock this interview. You drive to the end of the street, and promptly turn back around because you forgot your resume/phone/wallet/notepad/pen/whatever else you might need to make sure you look prepared and on the ball.

Now, after waiting around for thirty minutes and doing nothing, you're actually running late. You charge into the house like a tornado, seize your resume/phone/wallet/notepad/pen off the table, and give your confused roommate nothing more than a mumbled, "I forgot something," before you bolt out the door, awkwardly walk-running to your car.

Naturally, you hit that inevitable slow in traffic that makes you immediately wonder whether or not you should call the company and let them know that you're going to be late. Finally it lets up, and you're off like Mario Andretti. You push the speed limit, drive slightly dangerously, and pray that you don't see any cops. About a mile shy of your destination, you slow down dramatically. You don't want anyone who might be your future employer to see you driving like a crazy woman. Casually, you pull into the parking lot, putting on your, "I never get stressed out, and I always drive safely" face, and look at the time. You have fifteen minutes to spare.

You mill the time away in your car, and with ten minutes left, you start to wonder should you go in now or wait another five minutes? Finally, after much debate, you decide on eight minutes. You figure, it'll be at least 7 minutes by the time you reach the door, and that makes you look slightly more prepared, but not overly eager, or imposingly early.

With your most charming smile, you tell the receptionist who you are, and take a seat, where you sit straight backed and wait, trying to decide whether you should play on your phone, admire the decor in the waiting room, or make small talk with the receptionist making valiant attempts to sound smart and witty.

Without warning, the interviewer appears, and takes you back to a conference room. You answer all their questions, talking yourself up like you are god incarnate, stopping just shy of walking on water and healing the sick (unless you're applying to be a doctor). You even get through the awkward one where you spin your weaknesses as a strength, and everyone in the room knows you're doing just that, but has the politeness to pretend that they don't know that's what you're doing.

Thirty minutes later, they see you to the door, and you get in your car and drive home, rethinking every detail of your interview, and trying to read a person who you don't even know. You get home, and look around.

You look like a million bucks, spent at least an hour and a half getting ready, all your employed friends are at their jobs, and you're home alone before an hour has even passed.

And the same question crosses your mind every time. "What on earth do I do now?"

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Hidden Danger of Sweat Pants

As of Tuesday of this week, I was laid off from my job.

I'm not going to lie, it's pretty nice getting to sleep in, putting on sweatpants first thing in the morning, and sliding my feet into my cozy Lands End sheep fur slippers.

But it's a slippery slope, folks. Those sweat pants can dangerously snowball into a day of sloth and drudgery...

With that in mind, please allow me to explain how sweat pants are the real-life version of "If You Give A Mouse A Cookie."

Let's start in the morning.

1. Sweat pants. No one in her right mind would pop out of bed, shower, and dress in street clothes when she doesn't have to go anywhere. I mean, come on, blue jeans just can't compete with sweats when it comes to comfort. So where's the harm in putting on sweats? They are practical and comfortable.

The harm is that when you have no obligations, you can find yourself in sweats all day long, having made no effort to go out into the real world, with real people, doing real things. Sweat pants are a blessing and a godsend, absolutely, but they can also be a trap of comfort that encourages you to stay inside, rather than go outside and interact with the world.

2. Brushing Your Teeth. So, no where to be? Welp, I'm going to eat breakfast, apply for a few jobs, drink some chocolate milk, work a bit on my novel, watch a movie, and whoops! I get up to go to the bathroom, look in the mirror and realize that 1) I look gawd-awful, having made no effort to turn myself into a respectable human being, and 2) I didn't even get around to brushing my teeth, and it's already 4:00 in the afternoon!

You may be thinking, eh, minor thing, pop a piece of gum and move on with it. It's not a big deal. But it IS a big deal. Just as it becomes a habit to brush your teeth in the morning, it also becomes a habit not to. And you need your teeth! No one wants to hire a toothless wonder!

3. Movies ALL DAY. WOOOO! Who doesn't want to have a day where you get to sit and watch movies and luxuriously do nothing? No one. Everyone loves a movie day. But now that you're unemployed, every day gets to be movie day! After all, you're in your sweat pants, and you haven't even brushed your teeth. What's stopping you?

You should be stopping you. It's important to remember, that even though you don't have a job, you aren't a human slug. Besides...you can only watch Ever After and Lethal Weapon so many times before you should really start judging yourself harshly.

4. The Internet. What an amazing and wonderful resource, and what an incredible way to waste your time. And hey, depending on your last job, this may be what you would have been doing all day, anyway.

Still not an excuse. When you have the rare opportunity to talk with live humans, and you find yourself talking about what you saw on BuzzFeed and Reddit, or quoting Lethal Weapon, you should have red flags popping up all over the place. You're now talking to people about interacting with machines. Back in high school, we used to call people who did that "geeks."

5. I'll do it tomorrow. Well, you've already spent most of the day watching movies. I mean it's 4:00, right? Really, what's the point in trying to buckle down and get something done, most of the day is gone anyway. Besides, it's not like there isn't time tomorrow.

Really? Are you really going to do it tomorrow? Right, and your new diet starts tomorrow, too, doesn't it? If you don't have the self-discipline to do it today, then what on earth makes you think you'll actually do it tomorrow? You could be missing some huge opportunities today simply because you've decided to waste your day on the internet and watching movies.

The point is, sweat pants and unemployment are like the perfect storm of comfort and lack of responsibility. When you have nothing to do, why do anything? Because...you're a human not a rug.

So - with that in mind, I'm going to go change out of my sweats and brush my teeth so I can go to the gym and interact with live humans...or at the very least, people watch.

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Best Test of Friendship

Every once in a blue moon, I get the opportunity to add an amazing person to my life.

I was born into a whole herd of them...if you can count three as a herd.

I had a fortuitous encounter with a mud puddle in my rec soccer years, earning the love and adoration of the Jacobsens for years to come.

I shook the hand of a fellow sixth grader, which was the rocky start to a life long friendship with my best friend, Erika (she thought I was crazy for offering to shake her hand...and I was thoroughly unimpressed with her handshake - seriously, limp fish, anyone?).

I inadvertently hit on my dear friend, Jamie, after moving to a new state and looking for new friends. I have to say, as a woman, it's truly awkward to ask a girl for her phone number. "Hey, you should give me your number...um, I mean, we should hang out...I mean, not like that...not that I have a problem with that or anything. It's totally cool if you're...but...I mean...(awkward cough)...what I'm trying to say is that you're cool, and I think we could have a good time hanging out in a non-sexual way." (That's right people, Suave is my middle name)

And those are just a few of the fortuitous moments when some of the coolest people I know have walked boldly into my life....or I have stampeded awkwardly through theirs, as it may be.

But THIS post, is not about adoring your friends. It's about ramming them off their bicycles, and that brings me to my good friend Jake.

To give you a little back story, Jake and I recently became coworkers. After discovering that we both enjoy running, we got in the habit of going on lunch time runs to break up the work day. If you're not already picturing two people running joyously through amber waves of grain, then I'm not telling this story right.

Now, in my defense, Jake had early warnings that being my friend was precarious, and even sometimes dangerous. On our very first run, a drunk, homeless man was on a bicycle wobbling all over the sidewalk, and managed to b-line straight at me, well, as much as one can b-line while wobbling.

My first course of action? I took one step backward and one step to the right, effectively putting Jake between me and the cyclist. Mind you, the real trick to my success and to assuring my personal safety, was that after stepping behind Jake, I put my right hand on the right side of his ribs.

Had Jake made the decision to bail out of the way, he would have had to fight me for the first right to do so. Naturally, Jake has taken full advantage of every opportunity to remind me about this minor effort to throw him in front of the cyclist to save myself.

That being said, despite my best efforts to do him harm, Jake has continued to show incredible resiliency and fortitude that I can only ascribe to good genetics - that is if you don't count this thyroid thing (don't mention it, he might cry). More importantly, however, he has also continued to show himself to be a true friend, even in the face of danger.

And that's why we still hang out, and it's also why he suggested we go on a bike ride one weekend.

He showed up at my house one morning promptly at 10:00, only to find me sitting on the floor in sweats and an old t-shirt hand-painting a dresser. He waited patiently for me to get ready, and as he had nothing to do, I put him to good use filling up the air in my tires. (If you don't give engineers things to do they start to try to fix things - next thing you know, you walk into the kitchen and half the refrigerator has been taken apart).

In no time at all, we were out the door, and on our way. I let him take the lead as we ducked down into the bike paths that Boulder is popularly known for, and we eagerly zipped through the tunnels and around the curves like happy kids on a Ferris wheel. That is, until we hit the headwind.

It was the first headwind I'd ever encountered on a bicycle, and I can safely say, short of a zombie apocalypse or a surprise tornado, it will very likely be the last. Jake noticed that I was struggling, and he gallantly let me draft behind him for the majority of the ride (thanks, Jake).

Finally, after what felt like miles and miles of excruciating headwinds and mild upward grades, we made it back to the bike paths, and with the exception of one wrong turn, Jake seemed to know exactly where we were going. So I cruised up right along side him so we could have a pleasant conversation for the remainder of our pleasant ride on the pleasant Sunday morning.

And, truly, everything was pleasant until Jake missed the turn.

I assumed that since he lead the way out, he knew the way back. In retrospect, this was a poor decision, and one that I probably should have discussed with him before acting upon my assumption. Which, by the way, was incorrect.

Unassuming Jake was enjoying his pleasant ride on the pleasant Sunday morning, and likely marveling at his good fortune of having survived yet another outing with me. Even more surprising that I hadn't even made an effort to throw him in harm's way.

Jake and I both learned a lesson that day. Assumptions are very very dangerous things.

I was anticipating the turn, and expected that Jake was as well. It was coming up on us quickly, and he didn't seem to be making any indications that he was going to turn, but I was confident he would. He's pretty directionally sound. Our opportunity to turn was rapidly passing us by, but in an effort to be polite, I didn't want to say anything that would suggest I didn't have faith in him or his directional capabilities. Fortunately, just when the last opportunity to turn was about to pass us by, Jake's bike twitched, ever so slightly to the right.

AH-HAH! I knew he was going to turn!

I cranked my handle bars hard with enthusiasm and vigor that could impress a gladiator, and promptly rammed my front tire directly into Jake's spokes - effectively t-boning him from point blank. We both tried to correct, but that's an impossible endeavor when one person's tire (mine) has lodged itself between the other person's spokes (Jake's). Both our bikes stopped on impact, and we went tumbling over the handle bars in an assortment of flying Ws and face plants.

The concrete met us with it's usual inflexibility, and in a clamor of clattering chains and vibrating carbon fiber, we rolled to a stop.

"Uugghh," Jake said, "Are you okay?" (Do note, his first concern was for the person who just rammed him off his bicycle)

And I was...I was more than okay. I was laughing so hard I was on the verge of tears. Jake, however, couldn't figure out quite why I thought it was so funny, as, from his perspective, I, arbitrarily decided to ram him off his bicycle. Which he probably did not find all that unbelievable - given that our ride had been so successfully mundane and uneventful, it wasn't all that surprising that I would choose to spice it up by t-boning him with my bike.

"What happened?" He asked, getting to his feet and looking at the road and my bike to figure out why I had so abruptly run into him.

And I could only reply with, "I thought you were going to turn." The look on his face was priceless, and with his typical good humor, Jake burst into laughter. We rode the rest of the way home with blood streaming down our bodies, giggling like kids who stole the cookie jar.

It was a great ride. But more importantly, it was a great lesson. Truly, how many people can you ram off a bicycle and still expect them to be your friend?

Not many...not many at all.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

RIP to Paul Walker...a poignant note of caution

By now, it's old news that Paul Walker died in a horrific car crash on Saturday. My sincerest apologies go out to his friends and family, and the loved ones of the driver. It is always shocking to see someone's life cut dramatically short, and even more painful to see the hurt in those he leaves behind.

That being said, his death and the death of the driver were caused by a horribly bad choice in judgement. Cars are not toys, streets are not race tracks, and boys will be boys is never a reasonable excuse. Accepting this sort of behavior puts everyone at risk.

I have raced cars in organized settings, and been a wiling passenger during racing events. I know what good driving looks like, and I know what it means to push the limits. I also know, that even in a controlled environment, pushing those limits can have catastrophic results.

That being said, before I had the maturity to wise up (around the age of 19), I was okay with getting in cars with young guys who thought that city streets were the optimal location to strut their driving expertise. I even recall riding with a guy who thought he was an amazing driver, and that he would be an exceptional racer. Mind you, this was a guy who tried (and failed) to make his S2000 fish tail out of an empty parking lot....that's like trying and failing to flip a light switch. He lacked the understanding to realize that it was not his engine's torque causing the vehicle it to pull drastically to the right, but rather its poor alignment. Every shift was awkward and lurching, and he had the temerity to eagerly ask me, "I mean, yeah, I should totally race, right?"

No...no, I really don't think you should.

The point is, when I was 19, and okay with getting in cars with boys (~chuckle~) pretending to be Mario Andretti, I trusted the guy behind the wheel to get me from point A to point B safely, even if he was driving like an idiot. But that's just the point - if he was driving like an idiot, there was no way he could guarantee my safety. Showing off and having "fun" may give the driver a bit of a high and an ego boost, but to everyone else it's just a hazard.

I have recently had a coworker eagerly suggest that we go for a ride in his Lotus (a car he tracks regularly, and is very proud of). He's been asking and suggesting that we go for months, but the simple fact is that I will never ride with him. He has proudly admitted to trying to scare his passengers when he takes them out for a drive. To me, that's like proudly admitting to trying to scare his friends by holding a gun to their heads and playing Russian roulette.

I'm sorry to see Paul Walker go, and I'm sincerely sorry for his friends and family. The crash was horrific, and I would never wish it upon anyone. But please let it be a reminder that city streets are not race tracks, and no one can account for every variable. If you're dead set on driving like a bat-outta-hell, go for it....in controlled conditions where the only life you risk is yours.

Good drivers are not people who regularly put their life and the lives of those around them at risk by treating the street like a race track.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Bad Ju-Ju

I had great ambitions for this post when I sat down to write it, but am discovering that writing about such a "simple" topic is challenging.

To put it simply, coincidence (as science would say)/the universe (as the woman who just tried to sell me kale chips in Whole Foods would say)/life (as I think I will refer to it) has been living up to all the old sayings:

  • "Bad things happen in threes." (thank god it's not tens, or I might have gone home crying yesterday)
  • "When it rains it pours." (we know all about that, don't we, Boulder)
  • "I'm pickin' up good vibrations." (er...maybe that was just the Beach Boys)

So, let's start at the top. "Bad things happen in threes," and/or Bad Ju-Ju. This weekend I acquired a lovely necklace. It's pretty and suits my style quite well. It's giver? Well, she's not quite my style, but she is vibrant, creative, and unique nonetheless. She bought it for herself, wore it once, and decided it would be better suited for me, and we can both agree that she's right.

Now, all that being said, home girl has some bad ju-ju going on. She's miserable, she is confident that her life is harder than everyone else's, and, unfortunately, the flaws she sees in other people are projections of her own feelings of inadequacy. Real bundle of happiness, I can assure you.

I wore my pretty new neclakce on Saturday and again on Monday. On Sunday, the bad ju-ju began to creep in. My adorable 11-year-old dog fell into a ditch, and came out whining and favoring his right front leg. No problem, you may be thinking, he's got three more! Only, he doesn't. He already has two bad back legs, I'm quite confident we can't afford to lose a third.

He spent the night whining and whimpering and producing an assortment of other heartbreaking noises, so I took him to the vet on Monday afternoon (honorable mention to my friend Jake who left work and drove to my house just so he could help me carry Cooper to and from my car. Thanks, Jake!), They sent me away with some pain killers (for the dog) and orders to keep him off his feet as much as possible. I followed the doctor's orders, and took him home, drugged him up, and we settled in for the night.

And that's when the fun really began.

1:00 Tuesday morning: The whimpers began. Now, being the good dog-mom that I am, I flipped around in my bed so that I could sleep with my head at the foot of my bed and pet my dog. He stopped whimpering as long as I was scratching. Now, I'm dedicated, but I'm not scratch-your-ears-all-night dedicated. So eventually, I gave up,  I turned back around in bed, and the whimpering began again.

Giving up on a good night's sleep, and just hoping for some sleep, I got out of bed and laid down on the floor next too Cooper. For the next hour, I proceeded to rub his feet while dozing. After an hour, he evidently got tired of having his feet rubbed, and decided that my bed looked more comfy than the floor, and Mr. My-Leg-Hurts-So-Much-I-Have-To-Whimper-All-Night, popped up onto my bed, twirled in one perfect "fluff the pillows" circle, and flopped down with a sigh of contentment.

....at least the whining stopped.

6:30 Tuesday morning: I rolled out of bed like a concrete block, and groggily made my way into my kitchen. I prepped my stuff for work, grabbed my bicycle, and made my way out the door (yes, Cooper was still lying on my pillows at that point...after all, he didn't get much sleep last night). I had to take several detours on my way into work to avoid flood ravaged areas, but over all, the route was pretty straight.

And everything was fine up until I came to the stoplight....

Being the suave and experienced rider that I am, I unclipped my left foot well before I got to the light. I slowed waaaaayyyy down trying to stay on my bike rather rather than step off and wait for the light to turn green. Turns out that I slowed down a little too much, and in retrospect, stopping would have been the better decision.

7:45 Tuesday morning: Approximately 2 feet into the road, I felt myself starting to lean to the right. I panicked and begin to yank on my right foot, desperately trying to free it from the pedal's unrelenting grasp. As is always the case, yanking your foot up does nothing to convince the pedal to release its hold.

7:46 Tuesday morning: I introduced my elbow to the road....along with my ankle, knee, and hip (go big or go home, I suppose). And that's when I really started scrambling. Not only had I just wiped out at a stop light, slightly into the road, in 8:00 rush hour traffic, but I had also managed to wipe out right in front of campus...and say what you will, I don't know if I'll ever be comfortable enough with myself to wipe out in front of my peers and feel cool about it.

But the real icing on the cake, and when I really hit rock bottom was when the homeless man behind me asked if I was okay. I was touched. Truly. Not often that you have homeless people taking pity on an uppity white girl with probably too much privilege and definitely too much pride....or perhaps it's fairly regular and I've just never seen myself through their eyes.

Nonetheless, I popped up off the ground like an eager puppy, assured my new friend that I was fine, and that if I looked bad, he should see what I did to the concrete, clipped both my feet into the pedals (yes, my right foot had come free at last!), and rushed off to work as quickly as I could, trying desperately to catch up to my pride.

8:00 Tuesday morning (I really should have gone home at this point): I arrived at the office, collected my shower stuff, and went down to the gym. Once there, I made the pleasant discovery that I had forgotten both my flipflops and any sort of product I can use in my hair to keep me from looking like a lion. Not only that, but I also discovered that I was bleeding from at least three surfaces, possibly four. Unfortunately, the status of the fourth surface could not be determined as it would have required me to drop my towel, waltz in front of the full body mirror, and turn around to check out my ass...not that I haven't done that...just not in public.

8:15 Tuesday morning: I dragged myself into the office, awkwardly holding my elbow and pants so as not to get blood on my clothes, and avoiding looking in the mirror as I was confident that I looked like a wet cocker spaniel. I sat down at my desk and worked for a few hours before going to the bathroom, where I discovered that I managed to put my underwear on inside out.

5:00 Tuesday afternoon: I mounted my bicycle only to realize that my throw-down with the road resulted in some collateral damage to my handlebars.  Rather than crying, I opted to be happy about it, because, really, the damage made it easier to hold. (We both know that's like saying, I'm happy about losing an arm because it means I have to use less soap in the shower, but just let me have my dream, okay?)

So, I called my mom on the way home, and I explained to her, as I have to you, that I had had a rough day. After expressing her condolences, and asking for a full account of my injuries and operational body parts, her next question was, "Did you wear your new necklace?"

"Yes, mom, I did."

"Go wash that thing in rock salt, and let it dry in the full moon."

"Yes, ma'am."

Now, am I going to go take my necklace to the top of Mount Fuji, rinse it in rock salt by the light of a full moon, and do a rain dance around it until I deem it "cleansed?" No. No, I am not.

That being said, I am a firm believer that you get back to you what you put out into the world, and am incredibly thankful that bad things only happen in threes (I'm counting the underwear/handlebar issue as one). If they didn't I might not be here today to tell you this story.

....not that I ascribe to this superstitious stuff or anything.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Making the Move

I heard a story this weekend about a young man - let's call him Sam.

Sam had two best friends, a guy and a girl - we'll name them Mike and Laura for the sake of keeping the story straight.

The three of them were the best of friends in college. Sam and Mike roomed together, and Laura was a fun and welcome addition to their college adventures - embracing the age old adage that three is company.

As it usually goes, time went by, and they all grew up. Sam ended up moving to take an impressive job across the country, while Mike and Laura stayed in town and worked at a local restaurant.

After six months away, Sam returned home for the holidays to see his friends and family. He eagerly anticipated seeing his best friends at dinner at their favorite restaurant that evening. When walked in, he immediately saw Mike and Laura sitting side-by-side at a table set for four. Mike saw him and nearly jumped out of his chair to greet his old friend.

He wrapped Sam up in a tight hug. "Man, I've missed you buddy! How's the east coast treating you?" he said with a smile, clapping Sam on the back. Sam grinned, "Let's just say, dinner is on me," he said with a laugh. Then he turned to Laura with his arms held wide. She gave him her typical, beautiful, charming smile, met him with a tight hug of her own. "It's so good to see you!" she said, her voice muffled by Sam's shoulder.

He let her go, and gave her a long look, and then looked a Mike. "It's good to be home!" he said, grinning from ear to ear. They sat and ate and talked of the latest news. Sam thought it was odd that Mike kept putting his arm on the back of Laura's chair, but was too happy to see his old friend to pay too much attention to it.

Finally, their meal was done, and the waitress brought the check. Sam reached for it, but Mike interrupted him. "Hey Sam, we have some great news to tell you," he said, taking Laura by the hand. Sam froze with his hand over the check. Why was Mike holding Laura's hand?

He looked at Laura, and saw that she was looking at Mike in a way that she never had before. He looked back to Mike, to see him sitting there smiling like an idiot. Sam's blood ran cold. He forced himself to smile. "What's this?" he said, desperately trying to keep his voice happy.

"We're engaged!" Laura said. Mike looked over at her, and beamed. The man couldn't have been happier. Sam tried to swallow the lump that seemed to be stuck in his throat, but it wouldn't go away. He realized his hand was still hovering over the check, and with a cough and a fake smile, he quickly picked it up off the table, and looked at the bill...anything so that he didn't have to look at his two best friends.

"Hey, Sammy," Mike said, "I'll split that with you, man."

Sam shook his head, staring at the receipt as if it were written in Chinese. "No, no, I got this one," he said waving Mike away with his hand. "You buy next time."

When he felt like he was collected enough, Sam pulled his credit card out of his wallet, dropped it in the book and snapped it shut. The waitress happened to be walking by, so he handed it to her, and turned back to the couple sitting across the table from him. Mike was grinning like a dog with its head out the window, and Laura was smiling, but Sam could see that she knew something was wrong.

Sam smiled as best he could, and hoped they were too in love to realize how utterly fake it was. "Congratulations, you guys, that is wonderful news. I trust I'll be the best man and the maid of honor at the wedding?"

Mike laughed and slapped the table, "Of course you will, Sammy! Well, the best man, anyway, you'd look stupid in a dress." Sam gave him a tight-lipped smile, and turned to the waitress who had returned with the receipt. He took it and signed it as quickly as he could. "Well kids, I've got to get back home, my mom was too excited to see me for me to spend the whole night out."

Mike and Laura stood and gave him each a hug. When Laura let him go, she held him at arms' length and studied him, frowning. "Are you okay, Sam? You look rather pale." Sam smiled and patted her shoulder, "I'm find, Laura, just a little tired is all. I'll see you guys soon, okay? And really, congratulations!"

He turned with a wave and headed out the door into the cold winter air. Stunned, he drove the whole way home, and parked his parents' care in their driveway. He turned the lock and opened the door to find his mom waiting up for him, like she had all through high school. She gave him one look and immediately popped out of her chair. "Sam," she said, her voice concerned. "What's wrong?"

His voice broke, and a tear streamed down his cheek, "Laura is going to marry Mike...and...and I'm in love with her," he whispered

When I heard this story, my heart broke for Sam, and it made me realize that you have one opportunity to make your move before someone will steal it away from you. I don't know what made Sam hesitate, but I do know that this is a good lesson to learn. Rejection can't be nearly as painful as missing the opportunity entirely simply because you never tried.

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Distance Run

It's methodical and cathartic.

It's meditative and inspirational.

And it's an opportunity to dwell on one very simple question:

What the hell was I thinking?

Unfortunately, this question doesn't cross your mind until you've turned around, and realize that that 5 mile run out that felt so fun and refreshing now means a five mile run back. Every step you take is inspired by one simple fact - you can't get home unless you keep stepping.

You visualize the hot shower and queen size bed that await you - cheering you on like over zealous parents at a U-6 soccer game.

Your feet hurt by mile 7, and your legs, well, let's not even talk about your legs. But that's okay, you can keep stepping, and you can tell yourself, really, it isn't that hard, and for a while, you may even believe it. However, there is one simple barrier that can shatter your fragile dreams of an easy run home. A hill. The same hill, in fact, that you jogged down so enthusiastically 30 minutes ago, marveling at how easy it was, and what good time you were making.

So you swallow the despair that's rising in you like an English muffin out of the toaster (when you least expect it, it just pops up out of no where), lean forward, and start trudging up the hill. You pretend like you mean to be going that slow, like you aren't struggling to get to the end, like your legs aren't yelling at you for your overzealousness.  You hope that the cyclists who pass you by believe your game, because you certainly don't.

Then you reach the top, and though your mind says,"Hey, maybe I can keep going," your body yells back, "Over my dead body!" The mind, recognizing that a dead body is not conducive to its existence, agrees, and shuts off, while the rest of your organs work diligently to keep all basic processes functioning.

People walk by, strolling and talking, and you lean nonchalantly against a nearby sign, attempting to look like you're not resting, but you're waiting. You may even pretend to take your pulse, so it looks like you are training for something important and have to diligently keep track of your heart rate while you exercise. Little do they know that you're just confirming that you aren't dead.

But, you can't lean against the sign post forever. Oh no, you, in all your wisdom, decided to go for an afternoon run, and now the sun is sinking lower on the horizon. You have two choices, run home (to your shower and bed), or walk home and freeze your tail off.

That's no choice. You trudge on, telling yourself that the difference between a walk and a jog is a bounce - so you continue to bounce along. Somewhere in your exhausted stupor, you realize you're almost there, and pick up your pace. Well, you feel like you've picked up your pace; in reality, you're simply looking out ahead of you instead of at the dreary pavement that your feet have been pounding for the last hour.

Then suddenly, it's all behind you. All 10 miles are done, and you're standing at your front door. Then your neighbor walks by with a beer and says, "You know? That's what I should be doing."

You take the beer out of his hand, and tip it back. Handing him the empty bottle you say, "No, you shouldn't," and walk inside.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Oh, Who Doesn't Love the Gym?

This summer, my roommate and I will be running the Tough Mudder. I did it solo last summer and had a great time. So much fun, in fact, that my roommate couldn't wait to sign up with me for this year.

I've set some goals for myself this year, the first one being that I don't fall into any of the water pits below the obstacles (last year, I fell into every single one...obviously someone needs to work on her upper body strength).

So, this year, I have been going to the gym, improving my pull up capacity, and more. It's all been very exciting, I can assure you.

My favorite part about going to the gym, however, is the people watching, and as such, I have made a list of the 10 people I have discovered who go to the gym - in no particular order.

1. Average Joe: Nothing too out of the ordinary to report.

2. The Hulk: These guys are enormous. Their biceps are larger than my thighs. They have to attach extra weights to the machines, because the 200+ pounds on the machines isn't enough. They have their pre-workout protein shakes...and their during -workout energy drinks...and their post-workout protein shakes...and the 900 calorie protein bar...and a dozen eggs for dinner. They come to your weight rack, and ask to borrow all your 45 lb weights because they have already used all of the weights on their rack. And their poor t-shirts that have to work as hard as they do at the gym, just to keep them clothed. Poor, poor shirts.

3. That Girl: She's gorgeous. She has meticulously planned her outfit - tight 3/4 length spandex, tight t-shirt that's just loose enough so that she doesn't look like she's trying too hard, hair styled to perfection, make up delicately painted on her features to make her even more striking. Every head turns as she walks to the nearest machine, chosen precisely because of the erotic position it puts her body in. She pauses briefly, and then flings her hair over her shoulder as she grips the handles like she's about to land the Millennium Falcon. Then, her mouth parts, her muscles tense, and she pushes the weight up with a grunt just loud enough to be audible to those around her, and just sultry enough that given her positioning the mental leap is instantly to the bedroom. Break a sweat? I don't think so. Break some hearts? Guaranteed.

4. The What the Hell?: She's that woman in the locker room who weighs about 260 (at 5'4"). She is standing in the middle of the room, contorting her body and grunting like a hippo in heat (honestly, I've never heard a hippo in heat, but I imagine she would grunt) while she is squeezing her way into a tight foam-ish looking jump suit. You get caught staring at her antics, and say the only thing that comes to mind, "That looks rough." To which she replies, "RAAAH! It's not supposed to be easy....puff...puff....gasp....RRRAAAAH! It's a power lifting suit." You stare blankly back at her and nod, "Well, have fun."

What the hell?

5. The Power Lifters: They have chalk. They have lifting shoes. They wear soccer socks pulled up to their knees, and straps around their wrists. And above all, they sit on the same piece of equipment the entire time they are at the gym, moving it around periodically, and talking a lot while clapping their hands and getting chalk everywhere.

6. The Whoa...You Need To Be Here: It's not nice to say, but it's not nice to see either. That poor person who is struggling. Big time. They're gasping for breath over simple exercises because they are drastically over weight. That said, it's fair that they're struggling...you'd be struggling too if you had to lift that much during simple exercises. Yet, to those people, I say, congratulations. It's not easy, and my hat is off to you for being there. That's a hell of a commitment, and I commend you for it.

7. The Grunters and The Weight Droppers: You know who you are. You grunt loudly enough that everyone in the gym knows you're lifting a heavy weight, and if they missed your grunting, you drop the weight at the end of your set so that it goes crashing to the floor - just to make sure everyone knows. Don't worry, we got your message loud and clear - you don't have to beat your chest, you want to be the alpha male monkey. Have at it...no really, please. It's all yours.

8. The Other That Girl: She's got her game face on, she's super fit, she's focused, and gorgeous to boot. But to really ice that cake - she's nice and she'll smile, help, or share any time she's asked. Everything in you wants  to judge, to dislike, to find a flaw, but you can't, because she's just flat out cool. Best option...make her your lifting buddy!

9. The Palpably Odoriferous Treadmill Runners: Perfume is not necessary at the gym. And really when it comes to perfume in general "less is more" is a poignant quip to keep in mind. That said, Prince Charming is not going to find you on a treadmill...and even if he does, you're going to suffocate him with your Chanelle No. 5 before he even has a chance to say "Hello" or perhaps, "Can you lay off the perfume?"

10. The Incredibly Talented - Oh-My-Goodness-How-Did-You-Do-That Guy: The one who does such an amazing feat of athleticism that you can help but be impressed as you stare open-mouthed while he completes the set. The one who is so strong and/or fit that he has to come up with unique exercises to work muscles that you didn't even know existed. You people are incredible...keep up the good work.

When Is Enough Enough?

Over the past few years, I have learned quite a few things about walking away. I believe there is a distinct difference between walking away and giving up.

When you give up, it's because you have tried and tried and don't believe you can overcome the challenge. You have convinced yourself that the only outcome is failure, and as such, you decide to stop trying.

But I believe that walking away is different. Walking away is when you realize that the obstacle or challenge is no longer worth the effort. Not because you don't feel like you can succeed, but because it does not provide you with enough positive return for you to continue to pursue it.

I've discovered this as a result of most in relationships - friends, lovers, coworkers. When something stops giving you enough return, it's okay to say, "I'm done." That said, I think this is one of the hardest things to do. You know what the relationship could be if it wasn't what it is, and letting go of the hope of what it could be is like letting go of a favorite pair of jeans. They were good while they lasted, but now they're frayed, torn, and can hardly do what they were meant to do in the first place - cover your ass!

But...there is a delightful silver lining. Just like the favorite pair of jeans, you walk away knowing something. You know what it is that made them great, or in the case of the relationship, what it was that made it fail, and now you can recognize it, and act on it, before it makes you miserable.

I have been one to resist change as long as possible, but once I stop resisting, I throw myself into it with as much fervor and enthusiasm as I can muster, and every time, it has been worth it. I've come out stronger, and things have changed for the better.

What will tomorrow bring?