My triathlon experience taught me many things last year, but the biggest lesson remains this: Persistence, dedication and hard work can take you anywhere. You just have to have the courage and will to keep going, no matter what perceived obstacles litter your path. The body may be limited in its physicality, but the spirit’s strength is infinite. Discipline is channeling that strength, and perseverance is believing in its power.
I signed up for a sprint triathlon recently! .5 miles (.8k) swimming | 13 miles (20k) biking | 3.1 miles (5k) running.
While I consider myself a fairly athletic person, my relationship with working out ebbs and flows depending on the season, and I’ve never before done anything like a triathlon (I ran a 5k two years ago but that’s about it). I’m just your average person with a gym membership who sometimes goes and sometimes doesn’t.
I don’t dislike working out. When I’m in the zone and on a roll, I actually enjoy it. Working out does wonders for my mental health and stress levels. I love how light and strong it makes my body feel. But like many people, I struggle with self-discipline. So…
Despite my self-doubts and am-I-crazy’s, I decided to give myself the ultimate physical and mental challenge of training for and competing in my first-ever sprint triathlon… and here are my 5 reasons why:
1. To reconnect with my inner athlete
I was a competitive swimmer from ages 5 through 14. I loved to swim (still do!) and was great at it too (still am!). In addition to competing with other teams within my city, I got to travel with my team to neighboring cities to compete when we made Nationals. So it was serious business, but always so much fun.
Those years made an impact on me. And though I lost touch with the pool as I moved on through life and into adulthood, being in a pool always filled me with nostalgia. And the amazing muscle memory in my arms and legs whenever I did swim always reminded me that my inner swimmer had never left me. Athleticism… it’s in me. And I sort of miss it. I want to relive the thrill of the race, a race that involves swimming.
2. To practice turning my thoughts into actions
In my About page, I say that I’m a thinker trying to be more of a doer and that’s exactly true. My tendency to over-think has impacted many aspects of my life and is actually one of the reasons I started my blog—I needed to turn my thinking about starting a blog into actually doing it (even if I didn’t know what I was doing).
On that same note, instead of thinking about how I can be more of a doer, I decided to fling myself into a doer arena, one that will require fierce commitment and training.
By training for this triathlon, I am practicing setting a goal—a tangible, straight-forward, challenging, but attainable goal—and seeing it through to the end. Seeing it through until it is done, instead of just thinking and daydreaming about it.
I hope this experience of doing—of practicing dedication and persistence—will inspire and teach me to spread this energy into other aspects of my life. Because let’s face it, only doers get things done. It’s work ethic—not just talent—that takes you places. Thinkers linger, and I’m tired of watching from the sidelines with all my mental notes. I need this certificate of completion to prove that a life of doing is possible for me. I have my mind set on plenty of things… I just need to practice the action part.
3. My strange phobia of indoor pools
I don’t remember how or when it started (and I certainly don’t know why), but I’ve always felt uneasy about swimming in indoor pools. Does ANYONE out there feel me?
Back in my swimming days we swam in outdoor pools. The bright yellow sun, the dry heat, it was all so perfect. I could see through the water. There was no dimness, no murky, chlorine-filled smell, no stuffy enclosed feeling. There was just light.
What makes me uneasy is the dark water: the lack of natural light, the inability to see clearly through the water, the shadowy dimness ahead of me as I’m swimming, and my insanely active imagination (think creatures of the deep coming out of the murkiness). It’s stuff of kids’ nightmares; it’s nonsense and silly, but it’s how I feel, and it can be crippling.
It’s worse when it’s just me in the pool. I feel “safer” when there are others around, when I feel presence with me in the water. Many times I’ve even cut my swimming short if I see that everyone in the pool has left. Maybe I had a traumatic experience in an indoor pool that I’ve suppressed? Maybe I should blame it all on my dramatic imagination?
I’ve learned to tolerate swimming in indoor pools over the years, but it continues to be an issue for me. Training for a triathlon is forcing me to face this strange fear and unlikely discomfort head-on.
4. To prove to myself that I can (because I can)
Self-doubt will be the death of me if I don’t kill it first. I don’t consider myself particularly low on confidence—I have my moments like any person—but it seems that I hoard massive amounts of self-doubt whenever I face a personal challenge. Whenever I face… myself, really. And it’s debilitating. And probably connected to my tendency to over-think things.
So I’m training for this triathlon to kill the voices of self-doubt, and to celebrate and appreciate my body, its strength, its potential, and its abilities. And the essence of Yes I can.
5. An ode to my 20s
I turned 29 recently. It’s a bittersweet number this 29. Filled with hope and excitement for a new decade on the horizon, it’s also the almost-end of a pretty intense chapter.
And so I thought, what better way to end the turbulent, exciting, eventful, thrilling, unforgettable years of my 20s than to conquer myself—mind and body—by way of a triathlon challenge? The ultimate cherry on top!
This triathlon will be a celebration of all the wonderful and life-changing years that have shaped me over this decade. The friendships I’ve made, the love that I’ve found, the hardships I’ve survived, and all that I’ve accomplished, learned, and seen and felt and explored throughout my 20s. Because triathlon training requires patience, commitment, sacrifice, pain, determination, will power, confidence, strength, endurance… I could go on… and all of these things I have tackled in my 20s, and will no doubt continue to.
But when I’m standing at the cusp of my 30th birthday, I would love to look back at my triathlon experience and be able to say: if I made it through a triathlon—and the roller-coaster decade of my 20s—I can make it through almost anything.
So have you ever competed in a triathlon? If you have, what were your reasons for signing up? And do you have any tips for me? I would love to know!
My triathlon date is June 14. Wish me luck. 🙂
“Lies are exhausting,” said the heart.
“But some things mustn’t be said,” said the brain. “Sometimes the truth does more harm than good. What’s more important to you? Truth or peace?”
“Can’t the two co-exist? Doesn’t truth seek justice?”
“The truth seeks nothing but itself,” said the brain. “The truth is selfish, if you ask me. It wants the spotlight. It wants to be heard. And it has a right to be, but in reality, whether or not the truth is uttered, the truth still is, regardless.”
“But the truth must be sought, must be proven, must be shared, must be lived,” said the heart. “It mustn’t be suppressed.”
“The truth is never suppressed,” said the brain. “The truth just is. People choose their own truths and choose their own lies. People are free to choose. And each choice comes with sacrifice. That’s when one must prioritize.”
“But lies are exhausting,” said the heart. “And you yourself can’t even keep up. Each time a lie is uttered, another must be made to cover it up. Must we lie? Doesn’t the truth set you free?”
“The truth only unburdens the liar,” said the brain. “It’s impossible to appease everyone. The truth is uncomfortable and it stings. Once uttered, it merely becomes a burden to someone else.”
“But the truth is not a burden! Lies are the burden! Lies wrap me in shadows,” said the heart. “Lies choke my breath. Lies are exhausting. Lies make a fool of everyone. The truth is the truth—it simply is, as you said—and so it must be. It’s a lesson for the ears that don’t want to hear it. The truth is inevitable. It doesn’t go away.”
“The truth!” said the brain. “Don’t you see it’s all relative? One person’s truth is another person’s lie! What is the truth if everyone chooses to believe what they will, to see what they want to see?”
“Even so,” said the heart. “Lies are exhausting. They bring me no joy.”
Today I am 29.
For many years, I used to feel blue on my birthday. Not because I was born the day after Christmas so that none of my friends were around to celebrate with me (“see you in a couple of weeks!”), nor because I would get one gift instead of two (this rarely happened actually). I would feel blue because my birthday, to me, used to symbolize loss.
Instead of cake and balloons and smiling for the camera, my birthday represented the walking away from a Me that would never again be. I associated my birthday with time leaving me, so that I was standing on a cliff of the unknown, like I was losing a part of myself rather than entering into a new phase of Me and who I could become.
On my 20th birthday, I wore black to “mourn” the death of my teenage years. (So dramatic, I know, but what can you expect from a 20 year old?)
My problem is that I was too focused on the past. We celebrate birthdays to celebrate life lived, yes—the anniversary of our birth, the fact of our existence, that we make a true difference in the lives of the people who love us, yes. But birthdays should also be a time for looking outward as much as inward. A time for appreciating the life in your veins, the memories you have made, and the moments that have built you—but also a time to appreciate the simple fact that you’re alive! That through all the intensities of the past year, you’re still here! You’ve made it to another starting line!
Growing older is something everyone dreads. It’s natural to fear or feel melancholy about the passing of time—something so irretrievable. And the obscure future, the unknown, “what lies ahead”, can most definitely be intimidating.
Birthdays force you to look yourself in the eyes, to acknowledge your mortality. They inadvertently cause you to reflect on where you are in life. Birthdays, not New Years Eves, ARE the horizons of a new start.
I’m not sure how many of you follow Humans of New York, but there was one post I came across some time ago that really resonated with me because it made me think: Finally! A positive perspective on turning 30. It was a photo of a young woman, who, when was asked, “What was the happiest day of your life?”, responded, “When I turned 30.” Upon being asked why she replied, “Because I felt like I had made it through all the crap.”
I thought it was interesting to perceive your birthday as an island in the middle of an ocean. A place you’ve made it to safely, rather than a place to which you’ve been thrust.
Birthdays and “The Timeline”
Do not worry about others leaving you behind. They are not going where you are headed. It is not who finished first, but who saw the most of life. ~ Dodinsky
I think one reason people become less and less ecstatic about their birthdays, especially those within the 20s and 30s range, is because of the pressure they may feel regarding “the timeline”. Whether this “timeline” is set by family or friends or society or self, this hovering elephant-shaped cloud stirs inside the hearts of many and makes people panic.
That you must be married by this age, have a child by that age, have the dream job by this age, have the degree by that age, have a home by this age, have the answers to life by that age… whatever milestones dot your timeline, birthdays seem to light a flame beneath them.
Well, to everyone feeling burdened by this nonsensical thing called “the timeline”, I say: Let go of the freakin timeline and JUST LIVE a conscious and intentional life. Stop comparing yourself to others. Life is not a race, not a competition of who’s struggle is greater or who’s accomplishment is the most refined. We all have different paths, different life circumstances, different goals and dreams and priorities and visions.
Timelines are all in the mind. Some people want to achieve specific milestones by specific birthdays and that’s okay, if that’s what they want to do, if that’s their own personal challenge and desire. But to feel pressured and to be hard on yourself if you are not where the idealistic timeline says you should be by a specific date—why? There is more than one way to live and be and grow and experience and learn.
The point of life—to my 29-year-old brain—is to never stop evolving, regardless of your pace or place in this world. Never stop expanding your heart and mind and you will continue to surprise yourself and to discover things and people that light up your life and inspire you in ways you never dreamed.
Birthdays: A Time for Gratitude
Now that I’m at the end of my 20s, my heart is swelling with GRATITUDE, not loss. Where there is life, where there is the opportunity to start anew… there is hope and much to be happy and thankful about.
I am the accumulation of all my years and experiences. I am still me. And I am still here. There is still so much I don’t know, so much out there to explore, experience, and learn and taste and see. Still so much I want to contribute and create. And funny as it may sound, I probably have friends out there, people who will impact my life in a big way, out there in the world right now, that I haven’t even met yet. How’s that for an interesting thought?
I’ve never been 29 before, so I’m excited. Terrified, slightly, yes, but definitely excited. And grateful. 🙂
What do birthdays mean to you?
We step out of our homes, shielded, and sometimes, armed with coffee, and sometimes, clinging to old pains or grudges. But we feel prepared. Our cell phones are charged and we have our plans for the day.
The world is jagged, demanding, and unpredictable. Anything can come flying our way at any moment. Birds poop recklessly from the sky. Umbrella edges threaten to poke our eyes out. No city is too small for coincidence. And then of course, there’s the weather, and small talk, and gossip, and bullies.
Masks are for protection, sometimes for survival. Shards of words bounce off our masks as we go about our day, and the ones that stick we clean off later with a sponge—when no one’s looking.
Masks remind us that some things are better left unsaid. That nothing at all is what it seems. Masks reassure us that there’s a time and a place for everything.
Masks are filters; not all people will recognize our true value or appreciate what we have to offer, so we only show what we want to show, depending on who is worthy.
But sometimes, masks shield us from what we need. Shield us from those who are worthy. They can shut people out, render us fearful or paranoid, and relationships that were or could have been disintegrate… because we become too attached, too dependent on our masks. We come to prefer them until we forget why we wear them, and who we are without them.
We sometimes forget to take them off at night.
Until our masks dissolve into our skins, slowly, night after night, day after day, infusing into our fibers, discoloring our cells, disfiguring our memories, so that one morning when we wake up, our faces are fixed into the shape that the world wants us to be, and we become nothing but diluted versions of ourselves, fooled into thinking we are safer this way, more attractive, more likeable.
For anyone who suffers from this awful waking state that captures the brain at night… you are not alone.
I lie awake in infinite darkness. My mind is a tunnel. My thoughts a kaleidoscope of images… visions of what if’s and maybes and if only’s. Faces of people I love and people I once knew flash through my mind, still photographs, moments trapped in time. This is the night. Sleep eludes me and this is nothing new.
I try to focus on my skin, on each toe, finger, limb, then on my breathing, the mysterious energy in my chest, my heart, my only companion—aside from my dog who lies beside my bed, seemingly asleep but contentious of my movements. If I get up she follows me, my little dog, no matter how deep we are in the night, as if to ensure I’m not sleep walking, as if to ensure I’ll come back. And like this in the darkness we are alone. I don’t know what time it is and I don’t want to know. Putting a number on the night will only deepen my desperation to fall asleep, to silence the constant buzzing in my mind, my thoughts that pinch my eyes; electricity is my brain.
There is no heartache here. My life is not in shambles. I am not in the trenches of a tragedy. My life is not perfect but I am not suffering. Fears and worries cling to me like pollen, but this doesn’t make me anyone special.
I could blame stress. I could blame technology. I could blame distance, parting. I could blame wanting. I could blame not knowing. But blame changes nothing. We choose to carry the burdens that we do, some burdens at least, and we can choose to let go. But can we? And thus my thoughts tumble like marbles down a stair case, scattering everywhere, everywhere…
Rain begins to fall.
It patters against my window and I think… no one knows it’s raining but me. And this is somehow comforting. The rain becomes my lullaby, mine and no one else’s. We share this moment, me and the rain, and it’s almost as though it came for me, like the clouds gathered and agreed that rain would do me good, it would help me sleep. It would help me see that all things can be washed away, and are. That nothing is permanent, not the night, not my thoughts, not even me.
And yet, despite this state, I love the night. It’s when the world curls into itself, lets everything fall away, just for a moment, let’s go and pulls back, just for a moment. It’s when we remember we’re human, that we can’t go on forever, and we don’t. The night is a life line. A pause. It’s silent and still, and many times mine. And I suppose the night loves me back because clearly it wants my company. Perhaps it too wants to feel wanted, not just needed. I suppose… the night gets lonely too.
And I envision my bed fall away beneath me, the walls of my room folding outward, the night swirling about me, holding me like a cloud holds its very last rain drop, flicking my thoughts into darkness, and I am flying now, or floating, I am a being of the night, I am lifted by this darkness, not burdened by it, I am awake but it’s okay because this is the night, I am the last sleeper, I am the smallest vein through which the night must pass.
the desire to not be told
“I told you so”
trumps all and leads one
to foolish measures.
Don’t let pride
take the reins or keep
you from growing past
“I told you so”—
It makes me sad when I see loud-mouthed pre-teens cursing so confidently on the train platform during rush hour. Their school bags dangling from their backs a blatant testament to just how oblivious and silly they sound. They curse like the words are new toys, like they want all of us boring adults (safe strangers who won’t tell them off), standing around on the platform with our boring work pants and purses and buckled flats and ties and buttoned shirts, to know that they know these words— they are cool and they know how to use them (but not really). As if they’ve uncovered some secret insight to a realm reserved only for adults.
It makes me sad not because I don’t curse or because I was an angel at their age, but because they know so little of this world—they have yet so much to experience and to curse about; they know so little of just how powerful (and empowering) words can be, and just how much words can cut. Or maybe their little curse words are just a reflection of how much the world has cut them, and that makes me even sadder.
Good luck to you, kid. One day you will curse and actually mean it and feel it and you won’t feel so “cool”, just sucky, and most likely frustrated, and you will curse under your breath because you wouldn’t want anyone to hear you… you’d want everyone around you to think that you have it all together. That you are all right. And that you have no need for curse words because you are much too cool and sophisticated and content with your life. And because the serious matters on your mind cannot be translated by those words, only exasperated by them.
Life is not a number.
It is not a clock or a dollar bill.
It is not a thing you can keep or grasp or measure.
Life is an endless moment—
a breath either spent or wasted.