Tag Archives: quitting

Set a goal. Cross it off. Set another.

When I was 15, I quit my first love—gymnastics. It was a decision that taught me so much about myself. I loved it, still do, but it was tearing me up mentally and giving myself the permission to quit meant giving myself permission to experience whatever life had in store and not put a big red FAILURE stamp on that chapter in my life.

I went on to run cross country and track. Something I didn’t know how to do. Something I had always hated. I was the 15-minute mile shrimp in elementary school. The girl who would’ve gotten the Presidential Fitness Award, or at least the National Fitness Award, if she didn’t get a big X in the mile every year. I could stretch and push up and sit up and pull up and all the things but running? No, not running.

And honestly, running felt like salt in the wound because I couldn’t play any other sports. I wasn’t any good at anything else. I had no hand eye coordination. I think it took me a month or two to see running as something to be admired. Something to push towards.

My dad spent hours with me at the local YMCA, in the months before school let out for the summer, training my breathing patterns and posture and arm movements, pushing me to round one lap of the indoor track without stopping to heave. He would stand at the corner of the track, pressed against the wall with a running watch, timing me, quietly propelling me to just keep going, one more step, that’s it.

Then we transitioned to running outside. My neighborhood had rolling hills and I remember thinking, “This is hard. This is nothing like the indoor track. You expect me to run 3 miles by August?” It was May and everything hurt. My calves. My quads. My lungs. I was a muscular 110 pounds and yet, I felt so heavy. Sluggish.

I started doing summer runs with the coach and some other girls and I remember the first time I ran 3 miles. It was mid-July, mid-morning, and I was coming around the corner down Walnut Street in Royersford, thumping down the uneven concrete sidewalk, trying to admire the houses I passed by. I had just stopped to walk a block when my coach came doubling back for me and pushed me to keep going, almost there. When I got to Lewis Road, the 7-11 on my left, I felt home free.

Running was never the plan. But those 3 last years of high school brought me so much joy, and so much appreciation for the limits of the human body. Set a goal. Cross it off. Set another.

A few people in my life are struggling with where to go next. They’re at crossroads, hoping they can just continue forward but realizing they can’t. And I want them to know that there is beauty in forcing yourself to set aside what you planned and follow the best path you see now, to push yourself into something you didn’t know you could love.

Lately, running has given me anxiety. Am I going to fast? What’s my heartbeat? Am I going to be okay? Can my body handle this?

When I was just 15, had never run more than a few hundred feet at a time, that was the last thing on my mind. I was just frustrated and tired and hot and out of breath. Our bodies are powerful. But so are our minds. They see us through. They know what we sometimes cannot know until we given in and trust. Let’s not forget that.

Even when we face the ocean, a wave might still knock us down.

I am playing Michelle Branch’s “Goodbye To You” on repeat, trying to conjure up a long-forgotten feeling.

me and kate

I am barely fifteen. Sure that the world is ending; running from the only family who ever accepted me entirely without question. I look to my best friend in the world: a skinny 10-year-old girl with a whole life hiding behind her bloodshot eyes. She struggles to breathe and I pull her close, sure that I can bridge a five-year gap with one embrace. Sure that I can transfer years of knowledge to her.

It doesn’t work and my mother pulls me away.

This is what I wanted, I remind myself. I wanted to run away.

Cut to present day. Wednesday night. I drown out the deadlines and mental notes scrolling through my head. I’ve been on campus for more than 12 hours — just another normal day.

I run up the stairs to my bedroom with a huge smile plastered on my face.

“I’m sad,” I tell my roommate. I don’t feel sad.

But seconds later, I’m back in that birthday party room at the gym, the cold tile floor burning beneath my bare feet.

“It’s just not fair,” I begin, my breath growing ragged with each word falling carelessly at my feet. I look down, trying to compose myself. “I always have to say goodbye more than everyone else.”

My roommate tries to interject, but I ignore her.

“I feel like I just graduated high school,” I continue. “I have to do this every three years?”

And then, the one truth I hold deep inside slips out. The one I only ever hint at.

“It’s not fair because it takes me so long to make friends. And now they’re graduating.”

Since I began college, goodbye has been a word ushered far more than hello.

I’m standing in my best friend’s front yard as she drives away in a bright yellow Penske truck on a sunny August morning. Headed straight for Florida.

I’m sitting in the backseat of my dad’s car as my friends wave in my driveway at 7 a.m. Surrounded on all sides by dorm necessities that suffocate me.

Walking back to my dorm room as that silver Mitsubishi Eclipse crests a hill on a chilly Sunday morning in February. The wet tears already stinging my face as the rest of the freshman class rouses itself from bed.

I’m hugging myself tightly on my roommate’s bed as I struggle to breathe. About to reach for my phone and retract the decision to break up with my boyfriend.

And now, standing in that same doorway, angry with the way goodbye falls quietly upon the world. The way it rises up to meet the hello’s and trumps them like a wave that crashes on me when my back is turned.

There may never be any redeeming quality in the word goodbye. There is nothing good about goodbye. Perhaps it should be renamed ‘badbye.’ At least then, we might know what we’re getting into.

me and emily

But now, as the weeks of the semester wind down, I am letting myself care about the people who leave me behind. Letting myself care about the friends I’ve made. I’m letting goodbye become a regularity. Because it is. Because there is no other option.

We can stand facing the vast ocean for a lifetime, but the minute we turn our backs might be the exact minute the wave builds, growing stronger as it smacks us full force. And then we’re on our knees, kissing the sand and drinking salt water.

Such is life. Years of preparation that take only seconds to be knocked down. The beauty, though, is the way we pull ourselves up so easily. Because sand tastes bitter and brushes against our sunburned lips, but it takes only a few seconds to right ourselves and face forward again, prepared for another wave.

And sometimes, even when we face the ocean, we still get knocked down.

Spreading love like cinnamon sugar on buttered toast.

I am not a quitter. It’s a word I struggled with one February night as I pulled apart my slice of cheese pizza in a dimly lit kitchen, taking my frustration and angst out on the soft crust, the saucy, cheesy mess. I punctuated each word with another tear, another rip of bread.

But sometimes, you have to acknowledge that holding off on one thing might make everything else better. When you’re being sucked down, you have to figure out what the anchor is and reel it in.

When I was thirteen and frustrated, that anchor was competitive gymnastics. A year or so ago, that anchor was the person I’d become. Right now, that anchor is the reverb challenge, taking away from all the other posts I could be writing. All the other words you want to skim through. This world, this blog, is not about me. It is about all of you, and all of the wonderful people I’ve encountered. I don’t want you to forget that.

Having said that, this is my letter to my ex-boyfriend, as coinciding with the letter challenge. This one is going to spread some love like butter and cinnamon sugar on a slice of toast on a Sunday morning.

via weheartit.com

Dear Juan,

On any given month, I waver between whether or not I made the right choice. Not in ending our relationship, but in allowing you to start it. It’s the million-dollar question, the one that nobody ever wants to ask, but the one so many keep coming back to. Would it have been better, in the beginning, to just be friends? Hold onto that friendship and still be able to talk like nothing happened now, or to give it a shot?

I can honestly say, with certainty, that I made the right decision. If I had to go back to that night in your car, idling in my driveway at two a.m., I wouldn’t change my answer. Because I believe we’re completely different people because of it. I think we were two kids—me barely eighteen and you barely nineteen—who thought we owned the world. Fresh out of high school and not yet freshmen in college.

And we did own the world for a while, like all naïve high school kids do.

I believe that you forced me to grow up. If it weren’t for you, I probably never would have let myself love anyone. Not until I was at least thirty. I probably would have been just fine wasting away my money on fast food milkshakes and sundaes at the diner. I would have been just fine never going beyond that.

But after everything fell apart, I hit rock bottom. You hit rock bottom. We spread our love like cinnamon sugar on buttered toast. So sweet and never enough but rough and bitter after a while. We were all highs and lows with no middle. We sort of headed for it well before sophomore year, but didn’t really admit it. And plenty of other people would have stuck it out, but neither of us would’ve done what we wanted. We would have suffocated each other with our own agendas.

You wanted to be in LA in a tux on the set of a movie. And for a while, that seemed like a wonderful idea. But I love NYC. I love being quiet sometimes, writing by myself. You’re the boy with more friends than a girl can keep track of.

You’re a great friend, but a lousy boyfriend. I didn’t figure that out until a few months ago, but you always had this idea of me that didn’t measure up to the Actual Me. The Kaleigh standing in front of you.

I hope I didn’t break you. And if I did, I hope you heal back stronger. Because if you love some girl half as much as you thought you loved me, she’ll be lucky. Just don’t try to change her. This is your life. Accept it and take hold of it.

Love,
K

Change is not a subtraction problem.

From a young age, we’re told not to change people. If someone smokes or drinks, lies or cheats, we can’t bring our own agenda into a relationship and expect to change them. A smoker is going to smoke, unless you’re really awesome at inspiring them to quit AND they wanted to quit beforehand but just maybe didn’t feel like the resources were there. You can’t go into that relationship hoping to make them one less potential cancer victim. Life just doesn’t worth that way.

We say change is bad. Change takes away all that we are, morphing us into someone unrecognizable, right?

We forget that change doesn’t mean ditching something and replacing it with something else. Change can mean amassing and growing and continually adding.

Think of the first snowfall of the year, how you run into the yard overcome with pure childlike bliss. It’s just a dusting, but still you flop onto your back, spreading your legs and arms. With just one snow angel, the entire front lawn’s green again. But if we take that snowball mentality, we can roll it around until it grows and becomes into something bigger and better. Start small, grow big.

As a kid, that’s sort of what our lives are like. We don’t have much to change, and when we do, we don’t have much to show for it. It’s really easy to flop back and forth between Before and After without much consequence.

But sometimes change is necessary. Sometimes, when we take who we are and we add who we could be, we create something new and great.

I spent the last year saying to my friends, “Why can’t I get back to that seventeen year old girl? She had nothing and yet she had everything. Why can’t I find her?

The answer is simple, and though I know it now, I keep secretly waiting for it to change. I keep thinking I’ll wake up and say, “You can go back. You can be her.”

You can’t. Because change is not backwards. It’s forward motion, always. Unless you’re a character in a Harry Potter novel or Michael J. Fox and you have a Delorean, you cannot transport yourself back in time. You have to pedal up the hill.

I wish I could find every person on this campus who has lost hope and give them some. Like a package to wrap up and hand to them. I wish I could find my nineteen-year-old self, grab her firmly by the shoulders, look her in the eyes, and tell her that she can be happy. That one guy cannot erase that seventeen-year-old girl locked up inside of her.

weheartit.com

What I know now is that you cannot forever lose yourself. You can misplace a small part of you, but you only have to look deeper to unearth it. And once you do, you build on that person you were to become a better version of yourself. Smooth over the rough edges, the scraped knees and the paper cuts, to prepare yourself for the next demand. The next big change.