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On Missing California

Let's talk about California. When I was a kid I wanted to move to California, specifically Southern California - hereby referenced to as SoCal or SC. I wanted to live amongst the palm trees and sunshine and hollywood.

In high school I wanted to go to UCLA, to this day I can't remember why, but it's where I thought I belonged. When my sister got pregnant I decided to stay in the midwest, for family. And well I fell in love with Chicago. Still I watched The O.C. every Wednesday and wondered what life on the left coast would be like.

Then my love was the East Coast (aside from Eastern North Carolina). And DC. That was my jam. Maybe still is. Then the Marine Corps sent me to the West Coast, against my best wishes. And I went.

I went broken. I went with, what felt like, all the bad decisions of my life hanging over me. I went, leaving my best friends, my people. The people that made me feel like "home" wasn't confined to a  geographical space. I went.

And I hated it. I hated California. I hated how people thought I should thank the airlines that brought me here. I hated the people that thought SD was the only city with food and beer. I hated the blondes and the sunshine and the surfer dudes without direction. But mostly I hated who I was here. I had become the most unproductive version of myself. I drank too much. And when I drank I became loud, obnoxious, self-centered, and childish. I was dramatic and insecure. I was fucking annoying. And I blamed SoCal. I blamed SoCal for the self-loathing, over-emotional, bad decision-making person I was.

But it wasn't SoCal. It was me. It was the culmination of poor choices and selfish behavior. It was me running away from my problems. It was be thinking I was better than everyone else, everyone here. It was also me thinking that if I loved the people here, it would mean loving the ones I left behind less - something I've struggled with since I was 18.

But I can't be miserable for the sake of being loyal. I can't think life is just about sacrifice. Or work. Or others. Sometimes life is about a moment of reflection, self-preservation, and absolute pure beauty.

But there's a starkness to this place, a wild untamable west feel to it all. 20 minutes east and I swear I'm running trails untouched by man since the gold rush. There are mountains, there are trails, brush, deserts.

But's it's the sunshine and the fresh air, the salt sea and the endless summer. It's the tanned skin and countless surfers, changing from their wetsuits to their every day clothes. It's something that can't be put into words, only explored, experienced and then solidified in the soul. It's the unromaticized version of glamour, peace, and love. It's SoCal. And it's been calling me home for years....At least until I run back east.

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Things I Learned...Death Race 2015

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In honor of rumors of a Death Race revival....the things I learned the last go around. 

So many lessons from this weekend. First and foremost the guys at Peak Races are truly twisted when it comes to developing pain-inducing tasks. Time after time I'd hear what was coming up and just not believe it. Just laugh at how ridiculous it was. A buffet of misery. Hats off to you fine arbiters of agony. 

When faced with such impossible tasks, the most you can do is start going. It's even better if you can do it with a little humor. You can do so much more than what you think is possible. I hiked that first lap thinking that was it. 5 laps later I remember the famous mantra "no limits." Well there are limits, we all have limits, we just often shortchange them. 

Barefoot hiking is no joke. Appreciate your shoes folks. When we got our packs back from the leech swamp, putting my shoes on was a better reunion than Zeppelin or NKOTB (even with Marky Mark). 

A good team will get you through a lot. A half naked team tied together in the woods will get you through just about everything. You can't do the death race alone. Nor should you. And I couldn't have asked for a better group. Thanks for the miles Kevin Brodsky, Diana Weishar and Luke A Weishar.

First impressions aren't everything. 

Picking a 53# rock is much harder than you think. Rucking 75# of rock (estimated since they didn't let me weigh it) plus a wet pack is much harder. 250 burpees also suck. 

I can compete, not just participate. And I sorta like that. 

My strengths lie in "school." Memorizing stuff and doing somersaults. Go figure. #nerd

I can lose it. I've always considered myself to be (maybe arrogantly) extremely mentally strong. I used to tell my students that you should only cry in the privacy of your own home under the influence of wild turkey like a self-respecting Midwestern woman. I still believe that. But I couldn't uphold that principle through this. I cried. I broke. The frustrations and fear overcame me and I lost it. I had that moment that death racers and ultra endurance athletes talk about. I've had it before, but never quite pushed through it. This time I did. Through tough love and practical encouragement, I got through it. And I can't thank Norm and David enough for not only putting up with my hissy fit but helping me overcome it, laughing at me, and documenting the whole thing.

Fury, rage, and hatred, they push you through for a while. But peace, acceptance, and love carry you the distance. 

My mother and father taught me the things that enabled me to finish this thing. Not just the ability to stack wood (flush to the front, no extra spaces), but the mental perseverance to know when to attack, know when to defend or just simply push through. To endure. 

Bonds form quickly during times of struggle. Sure death race is a competition, but only in a nominal sense. Joe put it nicely on Saturday when he encouraged all of us to help one another. Another racer put it nicely when she says it doesn't matter who finishes or wins the death race, what people remember is who you were and how you acted. I have to admit I got to the point of Maggie the bitch. I wanted no encouragement or positive thoughts (enter rage), I was vocal about that, and I apologize for that. Especially since I had fellow competitors offer me assistance even though they knew it hurt their chances of winning. People like Chiemi Heil taught me that I still have things to work on. 

David Magida is an athlete, a leader, and an incredible friend. I could extrapolate on how he fed and nurtured us, kept my mind right, or laughed at my (our) misery, but I'll just say that I'm happy to know him. 

Silkies pass for underwear. 

Silkies and gortex (as amazing as they are) are not appropriate attire for burpees, sit-ups, push-ups, squats, and running in a cold and hateful rain storm, nor the sand, nor crawling. Wear some freaking pants Maggie. 

I know I said the desert is the geological Chris Brown, but the VT forest might be a strong competitor. Beautiful and abusive all at once. 

When you need some perspective or mustache advice, ask Patrick Mies II

San Diego and Samantha Wilson have made me a much better hiker. 

When things get really crazy, when you can't remember who you are or what you're doing, look for a familiar face, listen for a familiar voice, and let it ground you. 

Get an education. The job you get with only an 6th grade education sucks. It's really hard. 

I absolutely adore these events. The fill my heart and energize my soul. They make me feel like me. I don't know why, still searching for that answer, but I'm officially an addict. Can't wait to see what's next. 

Life throws you a lot of shit, good, bad, ugly. The best you can do is take it all with a strong mind, a loving heart, and a sense of humor. Doing all of this with a couple good people - that's what the death race, and life is really all about. 

And seriously, appreciate your shoes.

#peakdr

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Things I Learned...Endure the Bear 50K

Photo Credit: Linda Eckert, on the day we met

Photo Credit: Linda Eckert, on the day we met

Originally written in September 2014, after my very first SoCal Ultra. A 50k where I came in first, then was quietly disqualified for reasons I'm still not convinced were legit....

It was a good day at church...things I learned:

It is possible to chafe in silkies....ever so slightly. 

If you do happen to start chafing, simply rolling said silkies under until they more resemble underwear than shorts is a efficient and appropriate solution. Skies out thighs out? How about skies out chi's out? Tips also helps with tan lines. Problem solved, problem staying solved.

While I normally have such good luck taking medical advice from strangers on a trail, when a man offers you baby oil based gel for chafing, DO NOT TAKE IT. Unless you like the burn of what is seemingly gasoline on chafed skin. 

My ankles roll 90 degrees. Like a full 90. 

For being a Midwest/East Coast transplant, I didn't do too bad in the mountains and altitude. 

The views here are, as one runner described, legit. 

I'm pretty bad on downhills...need some trekking poles. 

But with a little Meatloaf and Manfred Mann and a downhill at mile 26, it feels like flying. 

It's a amazing how little it takes to put on a great race. I don't care about sweet medals or tee shirts or fancy after parties. It takes a sweet location, a couple cases of fat tire, and some decent people handing out water.

It's also incredible how a mountain or a course can both crush and then restore your soul. 

Running, especially running distance is the best way I know how to be grateful. I'm eternally grateful for everything and everyone that/who has taught me about physical fitness, strength, personal goals, blah blah blah...

I run for a lot of reasons. But one of the biggest reasons is to find and deal with my demons. Everyone has them, some call them something else - failures, ghosts, flaws, faults, shortcomings, weaknesses. They vary in strength, depth, longevity, and darkness but they're there. I find them on a run because they are partially what brought me here in the first place. I find them on a solo run because I have no one to distract me. I spend miles thinking if all sorts of things, what to eat, funny stories, inspirational quotes, sentimental Facebook quotes. Then they're there. Some are vanquished in a mile or two, some take 100s, some have been with me for 1000s of miles along 100s of trails. And it always find mine but right between "I'm bored" and grabbing the iPod, that's were the demons are, at least that's where mine are. And you have to fight them, because right behind them is peace. Sometimes there's  happiness, or a solution to a problem or even acceptance, but there's always peace.  

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What Sports Can Teach Us, Even When We Don't Play Them

As I sit here alternating between a giant grin and a few tears, celebrating the Cubs pennant win EDIT WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONSHIP, I find myself questioning “Why?” Why do I base my emotions – sad or happy - on a team of men I’ve never met playing a made up game which arguably offers the world little to no tangible progress or “good.” I mean I love sports, playing them, the lessons they taught me, the health they give me. But I’m not playing the game anymore, I’m just watching it. Could this time and energy be better spent somewhere else? Is it wrong to buy into the hype? Should I really be this invested?

I grew up a Cubs and Bears fan, not by choice, simply because my father ran the TV, we only got 4 or 5 channels and sports was always one of them. I rooted for the Cubbies and the Bears but couldn’t tell you players or stats or even the little known rules of the game.

Then I left home. I went to Chicago and watched the White Sox win the World Series in 2005. I saw the joy and energy that came with it. I saw a city celebrate. I saw, in the middle of a country in two wars and an economic slump, people believe in something, in magic almost.

Then I went further away, to Rome, and watched the Bears crush the 2006 season. There was this crappy little bar that catered to American students abroad, Scholar’s Lounge. Irish Car Bombs were $5 and they served Budweiser. Because of the time difference, the owners agreed to keep the bar open late for Sunday games, if we could get enough people in there buying drinks. So the diehard Bears fan on the first floor used to convince all of us to hop on the last bus of the night, sometimes in pajamas and watch the Bears dominate. I loved Rome. I loved traveling and adventure, but I was (and still am) chronically homesick. For those three or four hours, in the middle of the night, I felt like I was home.

From there I joined the Marine Corps and realized I’d probably always be away from home. Through deployments and various duty assignments, I made second homes, and third and fourth and fifth. But I always had sports. Sports were both a constant and a marker of time. Baseball season gave way to Football in the fall, then back to spring training. Players and coaches rotated out, but I still had sports. Sometimes that meant watching football at 2am in Afghanistan, or finding the one bar to play the Cubs games in Virginia. It was a way to show where I was from, a conversation starter with other Chicago fans. And believe me, we’re everywhere. I also found that just because I wasn’t playing the game, didn’t mean I couldn’t learn something.

Through baseball I began to see the technical side of life. I read somewhere that baseball is a game of failure and perseverance. Take batting averages for example. Ty Cobb still holds the record at .366. Which means for 65% of his time at bat, he failed to connect the bat to the ball – a basic premise of the game. And he was the best. It’s this high failure rate that requires the greats to maintain both skill and patience. Equal parts dealing with the pitch you’re thrown and preparing for the pitch you want. It’s placing the ball in the tiny corner or pocket of the field. It’s exploiting errors. It’s standing in the outfield for 9 innings just to catch one fly ball. It’s throwing 10000 pitches just to perfect one.

Through football I learned grit - the kind of grit embodied by greats like Walton Payton. When patience and technical skill took you so far and you still hit a wall, grit says you simply smash through it. Walter Payton used to train on this hill near his boyhood home of Alabama. Every day he’d go and run the hill until he just couldn’t do it anymore. He didn’t have a technical trainer. He didn’t measure his electrolytes or study his form. He just went until exhaustion. He trained his body in a different sort of perseverance. Sure work smarter, but then work harder.

Through both I learned the power of tradition and nostalgia – both good and bad. I read about the black stain the "Black Sox" cheating scandal left on baseball. I learned about the racism that kept Satchel Paige – possibly the greatest player to ever play the game – from ever reaching notoriety and probably kept him from reaching his full potential. Through both I learned about legends and communities. I learned of the mix between the business of the leagues and the romanticism of the game. I learned that sometimes our heroes disappoint us, they can still be our heroes. As adults we’re able to praise aspects of character without condoning the faults. Things in this world are complicated, sports are no different. Baseball is a game of duality, of storied histories and "wait til next year." A game of stats and folklore, where faith and reason merge into a compendium of math and magic. Life is like that too.

This baseball season taught me the importance of a team. There have been a number of stars in Cubs history – Mark Grace, Ryne Sandberg, Ernie Banks, Sammy Sosa, Billy Williams, Ron Santo – stars who never won a championship. But this team, this young scrappy Cubs team won it all. The entire infield was in the all-star game. The pitchers could rake. Outfielders caught, the catchers smashed it. Some guy most fans wouldn’t recognize hit a grand slam.  Baez went from MVP to double E to redemption.  You have to have all the pieces of the puzzle. It doesn’t hurt to have a few puzzle masters either.

This team had fun. From the suits to the smiles – never taking themselves too seriously. This is no small feat for any professional sports team, let alone one with a 108 year old weight around their very young shoulders. As David Ross says “it’s going to get worse, just breathe.” Or as Joe says “We’re fine.” They didn’t crack, they didn’t choke, they came back in the 8th, the 9th, and of course the 10th.

Fandom is commitment. Through the bad seasons and the championships. Through divorce, death, moves, people rarely change their team. I know I won’t. The Cubs play in the same stadium as they did 100 years ago. There’s a lesson here. While we celebrate this week, this year, or even this decade, eventually we’ll be the underdogs again. Then we won’t. Ride the highs, move through the lows, but stay committed.

Looking back, I started to follow teams during their good years, so I guess you can call me a bandwagoner. I’m ok with that. And I hope this year brings a few new bandwagoners turned diehard fans. We accept you. All we ask is that you stick with us. Suffer through the losses. Because that’s what communities do. We suffer together. We celebrate together. We find common ground. We exalt our heroes. And while the bond I feel seeing a stranger in a Cubs hat or a Bears jersey is not one of my strongest bonds, it reminds me that we could all find common ground, even if it’s just sports. They say never to talk about religion, politics or sports, but I’ve found that I’m probably going to agree with you on one of those topics, and that’s a good place to start.

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Music and Miles

This week is the 5th annual Firefly Music Festival in Dover, DE – my favorite music festival and one I’ve managed to get to for the past four years – and I’m missing it. I won’t be as dramatic as to say I’m heartbroken, but I’m really super bummed. I love music. I sound like a overanxious camel when I sing and I haven’t played an instrument since I was in high school, but man can I jam to some Bob Segar and Meatloaf. I love music. And not just the hipster underground alt rock and hip hop music that I’m supposed to love. I love that crappy 90s rap and twangy country. I love the bouncy pop and knock-off punk. I love a song you can dance to, cry to, run to.

I’ve been thinking a lot this week about the connection between music and running. For most, myself included, music makes the miles go by so much faster. There comes a point in any race where I need to pop my headphones in and go. Even here, I listen to my audiobook until I can’t stand the view of the treadmill or the sand anymore. Then I go to my favorite playlist, close my eyes, and go somewhere else. I don’t focus on the strain of my lungs or the ache in my feet. I focus on the poetry in the lyrics or the passion in a beat.

Music is a drug, a safe and legal one, and when mixed with running it’s potent – in the very best ways. It’s a sound track to my high. Music has a way of punching me in the gut. It has the ability to accompany a mood, amplify it, calm it or even overcome it. Sometimes all at once.  Just like running. Our whole lives have a soundtrack. And when a song from that soundtrack comes on midway through a run, that mile is dedicated to that memory. Because running takes so little brainpower, it’s hardwired in our bodies, you can devote your entire mind and spirit to that memory. You can reflect on it, relive it, and safely tuck it back into your memory. Music transports me to that first bus ride in Italy, to a long country road, to my front porch dancing, to that last 10 miles on the mountain.  More than that, it gives me back my emotions. I don’t simply feel joy when I hear a song from a joyful occasion – I feel the same joy - with all its specific nuances and context. Amazing grace doesn’t just remind me of the sadness I feel at the death of a loved one, it uncovers the exact sadness and love I feel hearing my mother hum it.

Music and miles are portals, free of space and time, a break to the past, the future, and the true present. Running strips us down to the core, the very basics of the human body. One foot in front of the other. Breathe in and out. Drink water. Eat calories. Move forward. When that simplicity is coupled with the complexity of music, something magical happens. All of it can come rushing in, you lose yourself and find yourself all at once.  It’s overwhelming to be sure, but what beauty you’ll find there. The capacity of the human spirt to feel all of those things, experience all those things, process all those things. The ability of the human body to cover those miles, to move that fast, to endure that suffering. To me this is the most terrifying and humbling experience. It’s how I feel when I stand on the bow of a ship. Like there is this incredibly complex, vast, and interconnected thing right in front of you that you know so little about.  And the deeper you go the more you realize just how much you don’t know, can’t know. All you can do is appreciate what you don’t understand and wonder at the beauty of it all. Turn your music up, put one foot down, then the other. Be humbled. Be overcome. Be grateful.

"I ran to be free. I ran to avoid pain. I ran to fee pain. I ran out of love and hate and anger and joy." -Dagny Scott Barrios

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Just Because You Don't See It

I've been staying up north the past couple weeks in preparation for the upcoming deployment. As such, I've driven the California coastline (or sat in traffic) more than a few times. Each time I look along the coast, I can't help but to remember the miles and the lessons I learned on that 161 mile run. Except for the times I've driven the route in the dark. In dark I don't see the blue sea or the green hills. I don't get that instant feeling of joy, accomplishment, sobriety, that I got during those 161 miles. Why? Because it's dark? Because I don't see the waves? The trails? The lessons? Well, yes. Since I've been a child I've hated the dark, been scared of it. I can remember coming home from college the first time and driving up in to the yard because my Mom forgot to leave the outside light on. Or the time I bribed my fire watch partner at OCS to stay with me as we patrolled the parking lot in the dark Quantico night. I hate the dark. It scares me. It hides all the beauty of the world.

Fast forward to ultra running. There is something about when the sun sets during a run that just crushes my soul. It's how the kids at Hogwarts feel when the dementors show up - like I'll never feel happiness again. I mean I know the sun is going to rise again (or more scientifically accurate the earth will rotate into the light again). But there is this small fear that maybe today will be different. Maybe today the sun won't come up, it'll all be over, and all those beautiful views will be gone - forever.

But would they? I mean just because we don't see something, does it mean it's not there? Are the seven wonders crumbling if we don't look at them? Is the sea any less majestic at night? Are those breathtaking views, the ones that make you believe there must be a God. Are they only sacred if you experience them?

Of course not, we cannot be that arrogant or self-centered. We cannot believe that things only exist as we experience them. We can't possibly believe that perception really is reality. Those trails, those hills, those lessons are there. Just waiting. The mountains are there in the dark. The miles are there in the future. The pain and its lessons are there in our past. They are all there, whether we see them or not.

The same goes for people, for friendships, for memories. Just because they aren't there right now or because we can't touch them, or even speak to them; it doesn't mean they aren't there. There's this theory of time, Kurt Vonnegut among others, writes about it, saying that everything that has happened is still happening - in that moment. So your favorite hug, reunion, kiss, birth, memory, is still happening, and will happen forever in that moment. Sure you can't see it now. But that doesn't mean it's gone. A mile in the dark is still a mile. A mountain, still a mountain. This is a comforting thought.

It's a thought that allows us to keep pushing on in the dark. It's one that allows us to leave the places, and the people we love. It's what allows us to look towards the next race, the next sunrise. It's what allows us to smile and wave goodbye. Because we don't need to be scared of the dark. We don't need to be scared that we'll forget what we can't see. We don't need to be scared that it's not there anymore. It's still there. In that moment. And moments are permanent.

"All time is all time. It does not change. It does not lend itself to warnings or explanations. It simply is. Take moment by moment, and you will find that we are all, as I said before, bugs in amber." - K.V.

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Silkies Drink Pairing List

What to drink when it feels like you're wearing nothing at all....Orange Rum Light or dark.

Orange is light and fun, so is rum. So is your mom when drinking rum. Orange was also my high school’s colors and I drank more rum than 40 drunken pirates. Also I had a thing for pirates in high school.

Garnet Port

Maybe because port is a deep garnet, maybe because I call these silkies maroon and I think of getting marooned on an island and being forced to drink port because let’s be honest, it’s the emergency alcohol.

Graphite Grey Goose Vodka.

Yeah it’s a little obvious, but silkies weren’t meant to meant to be subtle.

Gunmetal Bourbon.

Guns. Metal. Bourbon. America.

Black Scotch

Because scotch is what I drink when I feel like my soul is black. Or maybe scotch is what makes my soul black.

Navy Brandy

Because….Brandy you’re a fine girl, what a good wife you would be, but my life my love and my lady is the sea. And it’s what I imagine Admirals in the Navy drink.

RoyalCocktail

Here’s your free for all. Because royal is a serious sounding name for a very unserious color. Royal is the color of the sea, international waters, and anything goes - except for amaretto sours. Those should never be allowed.

Green Whiskey

The original silkies, the original drink. Neither of those points may be true but nothing goes better with war-worn silkies (yes they can get thinner) than whiskey. It’s the first post-deployment drink. It’s the drink of NJPs and holiday duties. It’s the the drink of Marines kicked out of birthday balls across the globe. It burns, it’s abusive, and you keep coming back to it. Just like the Marine Corps.

Sand Tequila

Because sand reminds me of the time I drank too much tequila and ended up walking naked back to my Mexican hotel. Side fact: Mexico uses its prisoners to rake the beaches in the middle of the night.

Now these are merely suggestions, because the only real rule with silkies is if they fit, go 2 sizes smaller. #silkiesneversaydie

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Surround Yourself with People who Challenge You: Or How California Changed Me

We, especially in the fitness world, have all heard some form of this advice before - to surround yourself with people that challenge you. My favorite mantra is "If you're the fittest person in the gym, find a new gym." I love that idea. I love the idea that you pick your people, your running partners, your lift mates, based on them pushing you to be better, stronger, faster. You run with people that go just a little faster than your comfort pace. Life with people that make you throw another 10 plate on the bar. Yoga with people that have mastered crow or handstands while your favorite position is still corpse pose. You work out with people that are better than you, because that challenges you.

But that's not what this post is about. This is about picking people in every day life, not just fitness, who challenge you. Because challenges ALWAYS make you better. This is both incredibly difficult and incredibly simple - especially for us who have strong opinions and values. It's hard for us to be around those that feel, vote, or think differently. Just like it's hard to learn a new movement, or feel like we're struggling to keep up on a run. We either think they are less educated, less compassionate, less intelligent, or just plain wrong. We either find no common ground or we do nothing but fight on that ground. We either avoid these disagreeable subjects or come to them ready for battle. We begin "discussions" armed with our own arguments, our points and counterpoints, our facts and research. But I'm not just talking about political, religious, or social issues. I'm talking about how we live our lives every day. Here is why surrounding yourself with people who challenge you is so incredibly simple - because you don't need to find someone smarter, more fit, or more experienced than you. You just need to find someone different, someone who thinks about things differently, approaches things differently, finds happiness and joy and passion in different things. This might be the easiest task in the world.

When I moved to California I hated it. I thought the people were shallow and unambitious, the weather was  too sunny and picture perfect, and the radio stations were awful. Overall, I thought the pace was too slow and lazy. I thought the happy hours lacked depth and significance. People talked about yoga, not international politics. People met, spent hours together and never once asked "what do you do?" People spent whole days lounging at the beach, napping, brunching. It drove me crazy. I thought, do you know how many emails could you answer in that time? How many miles could you run? How many meals could you prep? I thought the girls that spent their evenings trying to "find a man" were frivolous and hurting my feminist cause. I thought it was ridiculous to spend more money on make-up than race fees. I thought these people were a little behind me, that if I just explained, ok preached, to them the values of work ethic, social justice, and overpacked schedules, that they too would give up their lazy lives and become overstressed, anxious, go getters. I had assumed that I had figured out how to live and they just hadn't yet.

I was wrong. I'm not saying I'm giving up my ambitions of saving the world or my weekends of 14 appointments. Or that'll put makeup on this week. I'm saying that people challenge you in the most surprising ways. I'm saying that it's ok to slow down, let a little sunshine in, and pour a cocktail at noon. I'm saying it's ok if others are more or less ambitious that you are. I'm saying that different goals are less or more. Moreover, that the goal of being happy is a valid and admirable goal. I'm saying that we all have things to work on. But mostly, I'm saying that challenging yourself can't just be in the gym, or the classroom, or the debate hall. Truly challenging yourself has to be about every day life. Try it. Talk to someone that looks at things completely differently. If you like to throw weights around while listening to Rob Zombie, try yoga. If you're a ultra marathoner that mocks those super fast 5k guys, sign up for a road race. If you're someone that has been focused on your hair color more than activism, talk to an activist. If you're someone that hasn't put makeup on in 2 months, grab fresh manicure or shade of lipstick. You'll probably change a few things about how you live your day to day life, and maybe you won't. Maybe your views will change drastically, maybe you'll just strengthen your original ideas. Surround yourself with people that challenge you, not because they are better, but because they are different. Do this and you'll surely connect with a few more people and learn more about yourself and the world. Most importantly, you'll surely learn a little more empathy. And empathy is half of the secret to peace, happiness, and progress. But more on that later....

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