School updates & tales from the (previously) injured

Hey friends! Happy Saturday!

This post could really be titled: “school updates, going with your gut, and things I’ve learned from being an athlete and working my a*s off to get into remission from an ED”. But, I figured that might be slightly too lengthy and aggressive 😉

This week has definitely been a game face, come at me bro, kind of week. School has been a tough one this semester – not because I don’t enjoy learning but because being in a classroom is extremely draining for me. Furthermore, mentally and emotionally I was checked out the first month of classes, which took its toll. I made a good mental shift last weekend and am working my behind off to get on track. I’m beyond thankful for understanding profs but am also wanting to talk about what helped me make this shift from stuck in a locked cage without a key → come at me bro. Before I get into this post, which will discuss the mental component involved with school currently, let’s talk hiking (duh)!

I took Tuesday as an escape day for a small hike. Full write up to come but here’s a snap:

Mt. Pierce – 2/27/18

What did I do last weekend?! Shockingly enough, I didn’t climb a mountain. I wasn’t feeling it and knew I would be going Tuesday so decided to opt for some much needed R&R. I used to seriously suck at rest days and recovering my body from the large amount of physical taxing I put it through. Ever since being injured back in April I’ve grown to be much better. I still have my days and weeks where I push the throttle a tad too much, but this whole thing is a process. People don’t wake up one day and have this stellar capability for self-care.

Let’s talk about rest. Not just rest, but recovery as a whole – rest, mindset, giving oneself space and time. As a weightlifter/hiker/exerciser/ex-distance(wannabe still) runner/bike-rider/previously competitive jump-roper who likes to climb walls and fly down mountains on a snowboard occasionally… my body gets put through the damn ringer. I’ve had more stress fractures than one would like to admit. Two were likely a combination of factors both inside and outside of my control. The others were most definitely a mix of not sleeping enough, being way to high-strung and stressed (hello, cortisol), weird periods, not fueling/re-fueling adequately, and ramping up too quick or just full out over-reaching and over-training for my circumstances.

Growing up as a competitive athlete, for me, is a catch 22. I wouldn’t trade it for the damn world (or all of the mountains being in my backyard) but it’s a mindset that can make or break me. My competitive nature has the potential to drive me into the ground, quickly too. I mean heck, when my April fibula stress fracture happened – while not a quickly developed injury, the pain came out of nowhere, within 1/10th mile of a run I felt it, and ran 2 miles blasting music because I was determined to get through it. That’s what I call driving myself down. Conversely, I can pull myself out quickly when that mental light switch changes position. With having anxiety since early childhood, a decade long eating disorder, other mental health things, various injuries, physical complications from the ED – jumping down the deep and dark rabbit hole is always a potential. It always will be a potential; the degree of likelihood will just be varied. But, kind of like the the growing up as a competitive athlete is a catch 22, so is all of this. You grow through what you grow through and with this experience those words fit the bill.

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With each subsequent injury I’ve worked to cultivate my skillset around taking care of myself – both physically and mentally/emotionally. Nobody is taught, per say, how to take care of themselves. Sure, basic human needs are taught, but really getting to know yourself and both understand and honor your unique human needs – this is learned through trial and error, falling down on your face, and internal chaos. My most recent injury taught me a lot about not only what is important to me but also how far I’ve come despite how I sometimes feel about myself. What do I mean by this? I (like many others) frequently get trapped in the cycle of negative self-talk/catastrophizing/irrational thoughts and find myself feeling like I’m never going to get over this and will just remain running on the invisible hamster wheel. That said, even with these feelings rearing their ugly heads to an increased degree with the injury, I allowed myself to keep going forward. There were some backwards steps here and there so I guess it was much more like a cha-cha but THAT.IS.OK.

“Perhaps as you went along you did learn something. I did not care what it was all about. All I wanted to know was how to live in it. Maybe if you found out how to live in it you learned from that what it was all about.” ― Ernest Hemingway

Each injury with the exception of my first was either during or “post” ED. I’ve talked before about how no matter how much I try to separate these two entities – athletic endeavors and ED – it’s nearly impossible after a certain period of time. I was an athlete way before the development of maladaptive behavioral patterns, and through it all, not to be uber cliche, but channeling that mindset has saved my life more than once.

We are not static beings. Struggles do not remain separate from one another. Life is messy, brains are messy, and we fully bring to the table everything we’ve ever been through into every situation we’re presented with. The anxiety, panic attacks, meltdowns, ED, misophonia, it’s all meshed together into what I call my personal shit sandwich. And, for those wondering, I would not trade my sandwich for an easier one. Not now, not ever. I’m used to managing this one and that makes it safe. Not comfortable, rather extremely uncomfortable, but safe. It’s familiar. New battles are new, but the feelings are similar enough to be relatable to past struggles and therefore able to be worked through at the right time and with enough balls, or nerve, or both.

“Don’t do what you know on a gut level to be the wrong thing to do. Don’t stay when you know you should go or go when you know you should stay. Don’t fight when you should hold steady or hold steady when you should fight…” ― Cheryl Strayed

It’s strange; snapping myself from the rabbit hole to motivated AF to get myself on track in the blink of an eye or snap of fingers. I was talking to a few close friends about this and I think it has something to do with both competing from a young age and also working my way through the ups and downs and out of mental health happenings. It doesn’t make it any less weird to me, but it makes more sense. When I’m in a dark place the only thing capable of bringing me out of this is myself. Similarly, when I’m in a good place, it’s me that keeps me there. Depending on what I’m doing in my life and how I feel about that/how it makes me feel about myself essentially determines everything. It’s keeping the stoke high first and foremost.

I like to think of this process from rabbit hole –> crawling (ok, running) out like I do hiking, lifting, jumprope, and running. I go to a deep place in some workouts, I tell myself to create a tunnel and dig. I used to allow things to happen to me, and one day I decided that wasn’t going to be the case anymore. While this process definitely wasn’t an overnight thing, nor am I perfect at it, it seemed to just appear out of the abyss. By ‘used to’, I mean for the bulk of my existence before I made the decision to put myself into treatment at age 19. This sticks out to me as the most pivotal moment in becoming who I am today. It was putting on my big girl pants, and saying fu*k you to my own BS. It was beginning to work through things instead of using behaviors as a means to get through life and numb it all out. It was the catalyst to really feeling things, and let me tell you, there were a LOT of feels. Most importantly it was the beginning of a beautiful yet messy relationship with my being, leading me to feel more solid behind my decision making process currently; that is to say, I trust myself.

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So, bringing this all full circle, I want to talk about school and what I’m learning this semester. As I mentioned the first month of school has been a crap shoot. I’ve attended maybe 1/5th to 1/4th of my classes, and as of last Friday had completed almost no work. As of yesterday, so a week later, I’ve caught up to nearly 70% (guesstimate) of where the class is at. What happened? That mental shift, using my competitive nature.

Last Friday I had a meeting with a prof which after about a good half hour of crying led to meeting with this prof and my advisor. I went into the first meeting expecting to discuss how I was starting to get some work done but this is not what ended up being discussed which is what led to the latter. With my advisor we discussed things from 1. concerns about current academics, 2. my mental health, 3. my reaction to things (e.g anxiety), and 4. a solution. It was proposed to take a leave of absence, and while unable to fully defend myself in the moment I knew this was the “wrong” choice.

In that moment I felt bombarded, attacked, being told what was best for me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy faculty at my college are willing to go out of their way to talk things out, but that doesn’t change how I feel and what I know I’m capable of. I think this meeting was the final spark needed to fully ignite the trigger and switch the my mind switch from “off” to “on”. Zero to 100 in under a day and so far it’s sticking. I’ve experienced this before, 0 to 100 in mindset, and for me, this is how I function and is something I’m learning to work with, kind of like a superpower. During the period of 0, it’s exhausting. It’s frustrating especially in school because I’m not “that” student. But the 100, which makes up the bulk of my existence, I feel good, primed, ready to go.

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Fast forward to the end of this week and I’m feeling really good about getting through the semester. I’m at the point with college where I’m ready to throw up deuces and never step foot in a classroom as a student again. I LOVE teaching, learning, and being involved, but the environment is too stimulating and therefore toxic… Which in theory sounds like a considerable reason to take the time off but I have a feeling I would only become less tolerant/more sensitized with doing so. I’ve established and accepted that a traditional college experience is not my jam, and rather prefer solitude and pursuing my interests actively versus sitting in a classroom. Well, there is also the miso thing. All of this said, I have five classes remaining which includes the current semester. I’m proud of myself for getting through my time at the college I’ve been at since transferring in Spring 2015 from community college. Since day one it’s been a rough road, but through the ups and downs I’ve learned numerous life lessons, connected with some wonderful humans, and developed various awarenesses about my being that will ultimately serve me moving forward.

At this point I’m continuing. I’m continuing because as much as I want to just give the peace sign and say F*CK this, I’m committed to finish what I started. I had a really good conversation yesterday with someone at school who has known me for years. We talked about the mindset I’ve discussed in this post and that ultimately I know, deep down, what I can and can’t handle. I’m not looking at this situation as a negative, but rather something to grow through and use as practice in managing my being. I’m utilizing my athletic nature and ability to tap that mindset.

It’s keeping that competitive side of me wrangled in for good and ready for action. It’s supporting myself to the best of my ability which includes going with my gut, casually winging it, and full-heartedly trusting myself when I say “I’ve got this”.

“Being human means having doubts and yet still continuing on your path.” ― Paul Coelho

Semester beginnings & ramblings

Hi all!

Whelp, it’s been a hot minute.

My last post was a rather deep one. By that I mean it was deep AF.

I took school break off from blogging because I needed it. While I had every intention of posting, I also knew it wasn’t the right time. I even started a few; they remain hanging around in my draft folder. I like blogging because I genuinely enjoy it. Writing makes my soul happy. When writing a post doesn’t lead to fulfillment I know it’s not the right time. I knew that for a little while my being needed me to process and live more than it needed to write. For me, writing is the like the ocean. It ebbs and flows. I’ll always love it, but sometimes I feel closer to it than others. And, that’s ok.

That will inevitably be the theme of this post; it’s ok. Everything will be ok.

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Mt. Tecumseh – Jan. 2018

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Pano from Tecumseh – Jan 2018 (Mt. Washington is snowy peak in WAY distance on left)

First let’s get into what this current semester looks like… I’m focusing much less on academics and much more on research and working. This is obviously meticulously planned and calculated. The classes I’m taking are ASL 2, Introduction to the Deaf World, and Psychology of Child Development. I’ve joined a research lab and will be focusing on concussion and head injury. I’m also working a few nights a week as the manager at my work.

Great? Yeah, kind of.

I’m opting to take Deaf World pass/fail, not because I can’t get an A but because I don’t NEED to, because taking the stress and pressure off will likely prove useful. This isn’t a course for my major or minor (therefore aloud to be P/F), and I feel like I’ll ultimately take more away from the course if I’m not in my head about my grade. It’s not always what we are capable of doing, but what is best for our being – mentally, emotionally, ect.

Second “non-traditional” approach being taken this semester is that my child development course is being done in an “online fashion” even though it’s a face-to-face class. Let me explain this one… So I’ve previously discussed (briefly) about having over-stimulation responses to certain sounds, and that this over-stimulation typically presents itself in the form of a flight-or-fight response. Years later, I have a much more comprehensive understanding of the components of this issue – termed misophonia (miso). My primary trigger sound is typing, which as a college student in 2018 is nearly impossible to escape. Second, third, fourth, ect. (aka the bigger triggers/more difficult ones to work with) include chewing (auditory and visual – so seeing people chew or hearing it provokes the same response), sniffling (please let me know if you know of any locations on earth where people never come down with colds), that nervous/bored habit that when someone is sitting cross-legged and their top leg moves around OR when someone is continuously moving their foot/feet when sitting (obviously visual issue). I could talk much more about this but that isn’t the purpose of this current post. This is just to get into why I’m doing the bulk of my work for this course online and by-myself versus sitting in lecture… because I ultimately have to come and go so much or fully leave that I’m missing a lot of content and it’s 1. distracting for others and 2. emotionally/mentally draining for me. While I do have accommodations (grateful), I’ve also learned and accepted that sometimes being honest about all of this with professors is much more useful on both sides than playing it off as “I need to come and go and test separately”. Like, honestly, we are all human. Talk to people. Let them know what is going on. Be honest. Feel your feels. Do what you need to be successful short and long-term.

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My last course, ASL 2… for starters I dig sign. I was absolutely petrified when I changed from neuroscience to psychology because it meant I would need to take a year of a language. My anal side felt like this was a bad idea… My GPA was/is amazing which I’m proud of and didn’t want to jeopardize that. I always thought learning a language wasn’t my “thing”, after all I took Spanish 2 twice in high school and still walked out with maybe a C?! I’m happy that 1. It went much better than anticipated and 2. I love it. That all being said, due to current higher anxiety levels which in turn make the miso more heightened, for me, it’s been an interesting semester thus far. Physically being in class is draining and I do think there is more to this than simply I’m currently more sensitive.

So, that was a hefty load to drop.

What am I doing outside of class, research, work? Well, I’m using my week day time wisely as much as possible and taking some escapes as needed. Note: always needed.

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Yay, snow!

This week I took Tuesday to go snowboarding in the morning and then went rock climbing at night. Days like this help bring me back down from my over-stimulated school self. I’m becoming painfully aware that I not only find profound bliss but also that I consistently need these things in my life. Going hiking on the weekend and then just lifting during the week with a run and bike here and there is great and all but it’s not enough for me to feel sustained. I’m not saying I don’t love those things, but there is something to be said about the magic felt when being outside and/or pushing both my physical and mental body – hiking, snowboarding, climbing, long exhausting runs. While lifting and very high-intensity workouts do help, being in a gym is stimulating and I find that the benefit really ends up only neutralizing the hit I take with being there. That said, how I feel and function physically is greatly improved by these things which makes them worth it.

It would be very easy for me to slip far down right now, with the uncertainties of school (both current and looking at graduate school), heightened mental health happenings, and feeling out of my element sometimes unable to escape. I’m trying to not put a ton of emphasis on negatives that arise, and rather take them for what they are and move forward. It is what it is and at the end of the day how I handle things matters. Conversely, the positives, the escape days, weekend hikes, being with people who feel like home… well this is where the emphasis is going. All of it. Because it matters so much, it needs to be there, and to sum it up with minimal word usage – the more I can stay absolutely stoked on life, the better my chances.

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Mt. Eisenhower summit – Dec 2017

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Casually plotting world domination.

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View from Mt. Jackson – Jan 2018

The thing is you have to fight the whole time. You can’t stop. Otherwise you just end up somewhere, bobbing in the middle of a life you never wanted.” ― Alexander Maksik

Wrapping up the semester

Hi all! I feel like I’ve been just posting at random. This semester has been a loaded one and I’m going to get into this a bit.

First off, pictures from what I did on Thanksgiving… Hiking in the Presidential range with a very dear friend.

pierce summit nov 17

Oh hey there

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Decisions decisions…

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True friends are the ones who fulfill our souls

YES, I spent my holiday in the mountains. YES, it was amazing and I’m beyond grateful to have re-united with this gem of a human. NO, I wouldn’t trade this day for the world. And YES, I’m hiking every holiday for now on because I believe holidays should be spent celebrating what we are thankful/grateful for, appreciative of, blessed to be a part of.

Deep belly laughs, mountains, hand-warmers in my pants, friends, sunshine, and frozen sandwiches = the perfect day.

This break has been much needed. This current fall semester is a full plate and while I’m legitimately loving it, it remains taxing. I think having re-charge time is essential, for everyone. I realized I haven’t really talked about the semester much yet, and it’s ALMOST DONE. What am I up to this semester? Well, I’m taking four classes, two of which are independent studies and one of them is fulfilling my capstone (think senior project?).

  1. Independent study/TA for psychobiology
  2. Independent study/TA for sports nutrition
  3. Sign language 1
  4. General education course

My schedule however is great, I have classes M/W/F and have T/R to meet with students, grade a bit, work on my classes, work, let my brain chill. I’m very fulfilled. I’ve been teaching some and have subsequently fallen in love. I’ve realized that I’m “doing it right”, life that is… my path. I’m doing what I am meant to be doing, for me.

I’m happy. I am on a path which I feel 100% good about… Not 99.9%, 100%.

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But… really

Never would I have thought in a million years I would be happier with my education as a psychology major and nutrition minor than as a neuroscience major. Never would I have thought that “casually” pursing a career as a therapist would be my path. It was always doctor or physical therapist. Well, maybe the story changes. Maybe I realize that I am so extremely passionate about mental health and than I want to work with people from a different angle. Regardless of career specifics (e.g MD, DPT, ect…) I’ve always wanted to work with female athletes dealing with RED-S, female athlete triad, anxiety, ED’s, over-training, stress management, ect. SO, just maybe, instead of being a doctor, I can work with these individuals in a different capacity, as a therapist. A novel approach (insert sarcasm). I understand from a first-hand perspective how key having a support system is, and how essential a therapist who “gets you” is.

On the other side, solidified by this semester, I totally dig teaching. It’s fun. I like the process of preparing to give a lecture, lecturing, and *hoping* to receive questions (you know, the ones that you know the answer…). I’m thankful I’ve been given the opportunity to teach in both of my independent studies and that each lecture has gone well and shown me that teaching is something I’m not only interested in but enjoy doing.b73bef1adf3f8167dd580f8f09485639

So, what’s the plan? Well, for one I’m going to keep casually winging it as I like to call it because it seems to be working wonders. For seconds, my eyes are on a PhD in clinical psychology. I’m not saying this is 100% what I’m going to do. I’m terrible at commitments, hence why winging it has worked so well. But, for me, this feels right. And for the few close individuals I’ve taken time to discuss this with, their feedback has been all of the positive and uber supportive type.

I feel like there is so so so much more to talk about… because there is. I’m not going to bombard the blog with a 20 page life update and will rather keep this short and sweet (not long and spicy?). Things on my mind for the next few posts: what recovery feels like, why I like casually winging it, and what the heck am I doing (e.g do I still lift or just climb mountains).

“All good things approach their goal crookedly.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

XO, S

Why I love running & WHAT is my college major?!

Hi all! Happy Friday Smile I’m really excited that it’s almost the weekend, mainly because I’m heading off for a hike on Saturday with a friend who I met via social media (how cool is this community of people?!) and Sunday is a run day!

In my last post I talked about how I changed my major, but didn’t get into the nitty-gritty details… read: what I changed to. Since starting I’ve been Neuroscience, and I’m now a senior, on the five-year plan. The five-year plan is extremely common at my school, especially as a transfer from community college. Focus Sarah, focus… anyways, my major is now psychology. This was a hard pill to swallow at first. Mainly my ego was extremely against this because the two majors are very similar (same department) yet so different. I felt that neuroscience was “harder” because it sounded intense. That is point blank one of the worst decisions to stay in a major… because it sounds more appealing to your ego.

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Descending Mt. Hancock

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I have loved my psychology courses at this point. Don’t get me wrong I’ve also loved most of my science coursework – genetics, anatomy & physiology, and biology. I did well in chemistry but the lab gave me anxiety. This SHOULD have been my “aha moment” that something just wasn’t right for me, but that didn’t happen, and to be honest that’s ok. I enjoy the lecture portion of science courses, but feel very uncomfortable in a lab. I’m not sure why, it’s just not my niche. Besides that, the neuro curriculum is very great for pre-med/vet/phd, which for forever was my plan. I thought I wanted to pursue medicine. It seemed like a great fit – I want to help people, I’m very interested in disease processes and holistic health, I am good at school, and I get along with people well. Great. I’ll graduate, go to medical school, become a doctor, and work in healthcare. Ok ok ok, I can do this… this is the plan… no detours aloud.

It didn’t feel right.

I’m not sure what the “plan” is, and quite frankly I don’t think I need to know what the plan is. I think being accepting of not knowing is the best place I can be in right now. I’m open to what happens. Sure, I am anxious, very anxious, but what is meant to happen will happen and I am focusing on that. I’m going with the fact that I enjoy psych coursework, understand it, and can use it in a wide variety of ways post-grad. I’m also super happy that I was able to take courses such as behavioral neuroscience and drugs and behavior for neuroscience which also count for the psych degree, and allowed me to really understand the physiological mechanisms in the brain.

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Just call me the bird whisperer

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A quote I posted a while ago has really been speaking to me lately: “You must go on adventures to find out where you belong.” – Sue Fitzmaurice

Yes yes yes. This is so true, at least for me. Experience has been the best teacher. Experience has allowed me to be accepting, vulnerable, open, and thoughtful. Here I am mainly talking about recent experiences which have opened my eyes to what else exists in the world besides the goals I’ve had my mind so intensely set on achieving, and therefore limiting my perception of the bigger picture. I’ve processed A LOT in the past six months. I’ve cried, journaled, questioned, experienced a plethora of emotions AND felt them versus shoving them down and away into a deep dark hidden black hole. I want to understand my dreams, not just on a superficial level, but on the deepest level possible. I am working to understand what motivates me and sets me on fire instead of what enlightens my ego.

This is where hiking, running, and fitness come into play. For years I have considered the gym to be a part of me, but more in a sense of my place to unleash my energy, not a place to explore my life purpose. I used to be very involved in the outdoors. I also used to run a lot. Both of these, outdoors and running, have made minimal appearances in my life up until last summer. Sure I’ve been in the gym lifting and taking some group fitness classes but not much else. I felt very in shape but missing connection. Since getting back into being outdoors, mainly with hiking, and adding running into my mix, I have felt more alive than I have in years and quite possibly… ever.

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Mt. Jackson. Winter wonderland.

I truly believe that things come and go as we need them. I got myself back into hiking and running for a reason – clarity and understanding, The two activities for me are not just a form of fitness but a form of being true to myself and are activities which set my soul on fire. I’ve talked about hiking on the blog before so right now I’m going to focus on running. I was a sophomore in high school when I first started running, and to be completely honest, at that point I didn’t love it, I did it as a means to work out more and it was a coping mechanism entirely intertwined with my eating disorder. Fast forward to graduation and I found myself training for my first Spartan Race and excited about the experience yet still very stuck in my head. After playing around with racing for a few years I ended up dealing with a considerable injury which sent me over the deep end with where I was mentally. Since this time I haven’t run much. Sure, I would do a mile or two here and there but nothing beyond that. After getting back into hiking and being outdoors over the summer, I began running again. In the beginning it was slow and low mileage, to test the waters and make sure I was adding it for the “right reasons” as I’m now much more aware of when I’m doing things which are maladaptive coping mechanisms.

In the past couple of months running again feels entirely different that it did when I began in high school. It’s freeing, therapeutic, enlightening, and bliss. I love it. I can’t even explain it. It’s like the feeling I had before my first Spartan but without being in my head. It gets me out of my head and helps me process, kind of like hiking does. It feels good, but most importantly, I feel good. Right now I am enjoying the process of getting back into running and allowing myself the space I need to understand why this activity is becoming more and more a part of my life again – but with positive attributes instead of negative ones. I think that all along I’ve been an “endurance junkie” (I mean look at my past life aka childhood with competing in jump-rope) but have never understood the meaning behind it and therefore it was never something beneficial towards my growth as a person. I’m now understanding this side of me more, and I’m very very open to exploring this part of my life which I closed myself off from for so many years. Another point I will add is how both hiking and running increased my ability to step back and look at my education as a big picture versus being hyper-focused on my ego’s goals. These two things have given me the space to find my thoughts.

For me, running is clarity, therapy, adventure, and a challenge. It allows me to push my physical limits and also helps me grow into a space where I feel the most “true to myself”.

“All great changes are preceded by chaos.” – Deepak Chopra