Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A Trip and My Summer Reading List

I'm going to tell you something you probably already know about me:  I love to travel.  (Duh.)  After FOUR(!!!) international trips last year to France, Bangladesh, Taiwan, and Canada, I felt a little panicked for a while at the thought of getting on another airplane for any long amount of time.  In fact, I had applied for funding to attend language school in Bangladesh over the summer, and was slightly hesitant about making the trip.  As the semester was winding down, though, and it became apparent that I wouldn't be going to Bangladesh, I started feeling a little antsy and restless.  Soon, all I could think about was getting out of the country - even if only for a short time.

In a couple of days, I'll be on my way back to Taiwan and I'm psyched.  I've got some work to get done while I'm there, but mostly I plan to see friends, eat cheap Thai food and hot pot, and get some R&R.  I'll admit, it's really awesome to go somewhere new, but sometimes, especially when you want as little stress as possible, it's really nice to go somewhere you know.  That's how I feel now.

When I get back from Taiwan in a couple of weeks, I'll unpack then repack and head up to Madison, Wisconsin where I'll be in language school for the rest of the summer.  I found a place to stay via the internet and will be meeting my summer roommates on Skype sometime tomorrow.  I'm excited to live in a new town, meet some new people, and MOST excited that I'll be living only a couple of blocks from one of the lakes in town and a short bike ride from the Farmer's Market.  

I wasn't expecting a lot of adventure this summer, but it looks like I'm going to get it!  

With all of the travel, I plan to do some reading for fun.  In the past, some of you have seemed to enjoy hearing about what I'm reading, so here's what's on my list:

I'm currently finishing How to Love an American Man by Kristine Gasbarre.  I read it on my Kindle in the fall but enjoyed it more in paperback.

Next up is The Language of Flowers.  My mom read it first, then passed it along to me.  It was highly recommended by our lovely friends at the Sanibel Island Bookshop and my mom loved it.  I'm excited to start!

And if there's time, The School of Essential Ingredients.  Another Sanibel find.  The author, Erica Bauermeister, also wrote Joy for Beginners, which I read in the fall and really enjoyed.  As a lover of all things cooking and baking, I think The School of Essential Ingredients will be right up my alley.

That's all for now.  I hope you're all enjoying some mild, pre-summer weather.  I'll be back soon - talk to you from the other side of the world...

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Positive Thinking

One thing that I really, really believe in is the power of positive thinking.  I know I've mentioned this before, but I was cut from more than one volleyball team in junior high and high school.  And it was positive thinking, positive self-talk, unconditional support from my wonderful mother, and unwavering belief in myself and my dream that kept me going and helped me become a collegiate volleyball player.

Today, I realized that, somewhere along the way, I stopped the positive self-talk and my belief wavered.  I have let self-doubt have way more power than ever would have been acceptable to my 15-23 year old self.

I'm not sure why I did that.  Maybe I let life get in the way a little?  Maybe once volleyball was over, I didn't have the same kinds of goals anymore and wasn't sure how to apply the same strategies to other goals that were less concrete (i.e. get a job as an Anthropology professor) and longer term (i.e. maintain a 4.0 in grad school).  I think a HUGE part of the reason that I decided to take up running was that I can set goals that I can physically work for and on race day, I know I'll be put to the test.

So, GUESS WHAT?!?!?  I'm bringing back the POSITIVE THINKING!  Tomorrow is the Lincoln Half Marathon.  It's RACE DAY!  It's the day that I get to go out and find out exactly what I'm made of.  I've been nervous about this race and have been letting self doubt steal away my positive thoughts.  Well, NO LONGER.

Today, I met Ben from Ben Does Life.  I watched Ben's video a few years ago and a few times since.  It makes me cry every time and I've always found his story inspirational, but, to be honest, I wasn't sure how it applied to me.   I wasn't running to lose weight (that wasn't/isn't my main goal, anyway) and I wasn't running to overcome some major life obstacle.  I was running to set goals and go after them and to overcome the little, daily obstacles.  Today, after meeting Ben and buying one of his t-shirts, I went home and watched the video again (and cried - again).

What I realized, though, is that tomorrow, I am running to overcome an obstacle.

I'm running to regain that unwavering BELIEF in myself that I used to have.

I'm going to leave you with Ben's video because everyone should see it.  To everyone running tomorrow, be it 5 minutes or 26.2 miles, have a great one.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Truth Time

Truth #1:  You haven't heard from me in a little over a month.

Truth #2:  I have started and not finished 6  different blog posts over the last month.  If you're reading this, it's because attempt 7 was successful.  Yay.

Truth #3:  This semester has been a total blur.  I mean, did any of you realize that it is now May?!?!?!  Did you know that today was my last day of classes for the semester?  Because I barely do.

Truth #4:  I have been in an "interesting" mental space for the last four months.  And I use the word "interesting" because there is no one word that can accurately sum up what my mental space has actually been.  I've been happy, I've been sad, I've been excited and disappointed, distracted, depressed, elated, occasionally focused, anxious, hopeful, stressed, etc., etc., etc.  There are a number of reasons why this has been the case.  Losing my aunt at the end of December has been hard on me and hard on my family, which, in turn, has been even harder on me.  It is always difficult to lose someone you love but sometimes, even more difficult is watching someone else you love feel the loss.  I have also dealt with a couple of personal issues, which I'll refrain from discussing on the world wide web.  On top of that, school has been stressful, I've been writing a dissertation grant application for the last couple of months, and I've been training for the upcoming (in 4 days!) half marathon, all while trying to maintain a (probably much too active) social life.  It's not surprising, I suppose, that I've been in a fog and in a funk for these four months.  I sincerely hope that after the semester ends, I have some time to relax and regroup and get my head screwed back on straight.

Truth #5:  In all of this emotional rollercoastering, I haven't been the very best student.  I have been just getting by, one week at a time.  Now, for those of you out there casting a mildly disapproving look in my direction, as my advisor put it, "Katie, your 'just getting by' is still getting you A's, so I wouldn't worry about it."  True.  But, does it mean I've been happy with the work I've done or what I've learned (or maybe in my case, not learned)?  Not especially.

Truth #6:  What I am happy with is that yesterday, I submitted the above dissertation grant application.  I struggled with it a number of times and I hated it for a while, but in the end, I am proud of what I turned in.  I think it has a fair shot at getting funded and even if it doesn't, it will be a great starting point for future grant applications (which, luckily, are coming up in August, September, November, and January ... yikes).

Truth #8:  Never have I known stress like the stress of writing a dissertation grant application (especially while simultaneously working 20 hours per week and taking a full course load).  I mean, for one, my entire academic and professional future rides on me getting money to do research.  For two, my name is going on this thing.  It's my work.  And people are going to read it and either decide to give me money to take me one step closer to my future or reject it.  Let me tell you, people.  A scary/sick/normal(?) amount of my academic self-worth is wrapped up in people accepting my work.  The result? S-T-R-E-S-S.

Truth #7:  Given how things have gone, I really have no idea what to expect in the half marathon on Sunday.  I went into training in January with a time goal in mind and was super motivated to go after it.  With a couple of injuries that necessitated time off and taking several weeks to get back into shape after said time off, I'm no longer sure whether or not that goal time is still realistic.  I've had some spectacular runs lately and am getting faster.  So, the way I see it, this race could go spectacularly, or it could be just ok.  But after all of the crap that's gone down since January, I am perfectly ok with 'just ok.'  There's always another training season and another race.  I'm planning on giving this one my all and seeing how it shakes out.

This has been a rough time for me (in case you couldn't tell based on what I've already written).  I have struggled mentally and emotionally in ways that I don't often struggle.  I haven't been myself in a number of ways.  But I can tell you for absolute certain that there is almost nothing I love more than crossing everything off of a semester-long to do list and tying up the end of a semester with a nice, neat, big red bow.  Things will get better, because they always do.  I will take a much-needed and well-deserved mental break and maybe a vacation - my god, I hope so - and I'll get back to myself, who is usually a fairly happy, upbeat (if not mildly overdramatic), somewhat motivated person.

Thanks for reading, friends.  Even when my posting becomes so sporadic.

Tell me...  What do you do when you find yourself in a funk?  Or down in the dumps?  Do you have any no-fail strategies to snap out of it? (One of the things that always helps me is looking at pictures that make me happy, hence the Sanibel pictures in this post!)