My Thai Vegan Cafe, Boston: no place I'd rather be
My legs felt like bricks, my sweat reeked of chlorine, my already-wild hair was even more wild--but I was happy.
I was happy to be running again, racing even. I was happy to have survived the swim and the bike. I was happy even to taste the exhaustion in my mouth as I struggled to intake enough oxygen for my burning muscles--it reminded me of cross country races, of long runs and half marathons.
This past Saturday, I completed my first triathlon. As a sprint tri, it was much more manageable than the other options, but it was far from the short, intense burst of energy that the name suggests. While sprint tri distances vary, this particular one consisted of a 500 meter pool swim, a 13 mile bike ride, and a 5 kilometer run.
Three months ago, I could only doggy paddle, and became breathless within a couple laps. To top it off, the only bike I had access to was a ten-year-old, clunky mountain bike, which paled in comparison to the streamlined road bikes. This race, at least for me, was an endurance event.
The story, however, doesn't begin here. It begins back in late April, when I was in a walking boot and crutches. When I was diagnosed with a metatarsal stress reaction. When my doctor told me: no running until at least mid-July.
Mid-July meant almost three months. As an avid runner in the final weeks of marathon training, I was heartbroken.
As I moped, however, the principle of duality reminded me that something good could arise from this misfortune, if I initiated it. My mind started ticking: no running meant a lot of cross-training (thank goodness I was at least allowed to do that). Cross-training meant a lot of swimming and biking. Swimming and biking meant...triathlon?
I had always said I was a "terrible swimmer," but I had never done anything to try to change that. Why not now?
So I researched, lucky enough to find a tri closeby with a short running leg, allowing me to ease back. I taught myself freestyle through countless youtube videos. I practiced at my local rec center, I practiced in China, I practiced at MIT on my off days during Explo. I'm still not great at swimming, but I've definitely improved. And I can keep doing so if I keep training.
I finished the tri well behind the seasoned, serious participants, but competing with others was not my purpose--improving myself was. Many people can do a sprint tri--after all, there were over 80 of us at the event, of all ages, sizes, equipment, abilities. I by no means accomplished something extremely impressive. My point, instead, is this: I found strength by challenging myself despite obstacles, by embracing circumstance.
You can find yours too.
3 hairstyles, 6 months:
For January-March, see my three-month pixie growth update
Plop, here you go--your tri-monthly dose of closeup shots of my face.
As dull as amateur headshots and documentation posts can be, I can't help but feel nostalgic as I compile these photos. This set is particularly evocative: they span three of this year's major experiences in locations hundreds to thousands of miles apart.
I still vividly remember shooting the April photos--I had just been diagnosed with a metatarsal stress reaction, which quickly extinguished my second attempt to tackle a marathon. I remember sporting the black windbreaker in the photos often; little matched my honking gray walking boot anyways, so why bother dressing up? I remember forcing a smile in that photo, determined to forge ahead despite setbacks, so that soon enough, my smile would be real again.
In May, I jetted off to southern China. In these photos, I was restraining persistent, allergy-induced sneezes from entering the atmosphere. I was delighted to have little on each day's agenda other than eat, explore, read, nap, shop, sleep. Everything was far from perfect, especially with my American roots and Chinese heritage each vying for dominance, but the change of scenery and culture was refreshing. The result was a dichotomy--greater self-awareness, but also more questions.
In late June, I began my Explo adventure. I taught a one-week indoor cycling workshop four times total, to 42 students. I facilitated residential life among two halls of middle-school girls as an RA, complete with late-night boy drama histrionics and early-morning sleep disruptions for trivial issues. I completed a plethora of miscellaneous tasks as a programming assistant, from answering phones in the main office to braving Massachusetts highways on last-minute airport or U-haul missions.
Now, I'm home, a little dazed and disoriented. Explo made me think a lot--about what I want to do in the future, about the transient nature of most human relationships, about which parts of my identity I value most.
I may be home, but I'm still going--relentlessly chasing a horizon of vivid, beckoning colors, of brilliant light. Their radiance dances through this thick fog, illuminating a series of path heads to unexplored realms.
Tags: pixie cut
Dress, China | Flower crown, Forever 21 | Moccasins, Goodwill
They've been following me recently.
In a flurry of fluttering wings and dainty limbs, they materialize. Dancing in the summer breeze, several delicate, sand-colored creatures flit about me. I meander to the right, they trail behind. I stroll back, they follow.
Some are bold enough to seek respite on my body, clinging to the folds of my shirt, or descending briefly onto my arm. But with the faintest of movements--a stirring, a deep inhale--they are gone again, airborne.
Then they return, with even more courage. I've become irked at the moths' persistence. I've felt unsettled the nights I open my window shade to discover a fiercly fluttering being grazing the mesh of the screen. I've even shouted at them before--I don't know what you want, but I don't have it! Friends have even joined the effort, waving their arms wildly, shielding me from the small band of flying fiends.
It was only fitting then that the girls I advise at Explo adorn me as a "moth queen" for costume day, just over a week ago. Since the program allotted each living group $50 to purchase their RAs costumes, the getup is now mine to keep. Unlike the other RAs, who were sentenced to rubber chicken head masks or my little pony dresses, my floor presented me with a carefully-selected white lace dress, dainty flower crown, faux floral corsage, and moth pin (we then proceeded to create white posterboard wings, haphazardly decorated with marker).
Here, I've already found myself wearing the flower crown that they purchased in one of my weekend ensembles. The moths may drive me crazy, but I can see a lot of myself in their behavior.I, too, appreciate beautiful blossoms, gravitate towards light. I, too, revel in tenacity and audacity.
I, too, flit from place to place, striving to grow by plopping myself down in unfamilar territory, by pushing beyond my conceived notions of possible.
Until next time, my fluttery friends.