Where is my bro tank?

Where is my bro tank?

The gown engulfed me. It was nicer than our gowns in high school – more legitimate and regal. Just as I felt. I stood to address the small crowd – we were each told to say a few words of gratitude, perhaps share a memory or two. I felt put together and at ease standing at the podium. I thanked my mentors and professors, the academic program, and my peers. I looked at my parents, preparing to graciously thank them for their support and love. I couldn’t muster a word. My throat swelled, my eyes flooded, and the gravity of the day hit me harder than a freight train. This graduating a year early thing was no longer an idea or penciled in plan – it was real. It is real. Standing in front of strangers I squeaked, “I’m going to cry,” and between hiccups and timid sobs I looked my teary eyed parents in the eye and said, “without your support I would have never gotten my dream job.” And then I cried.

It’s surreal. Realizing that three years of being engulfed in this culture and environment that we call college is suddenly over. Twenty minutes before commencement I was constantly refreshing my health economics page to check my final exam grade. Now I’m being handed certificates and diplomas; I’m being asked to address my peers and make small talk with the university president. When did this happen? How am I supposed to instantly go from student to alumna, from Birkenstock and oversized bro tank wearing college kid to pencil skirt and heel clad adult? Can everyone else tell that I’m faking it? Because getting ready for work still feels like playing dress-up and sitting at a desk with my name placard feels like playing school. Perhaps we’re all faking it. Let’s all just fake it ‘till we make it, shall we?

At the end of my freshmen year I wrote a “Year in Review,” with some of the lessons I learned that year. As I embark on this next chapter of my life, I thought I’d share some of the lessons and practices I learned throughout my time in college. Some are introspective, others are logistical; all have led me to this moment of rubbing my feet after wearing heels working all day.

  1. Always make the bed.
  2. Don’t date freshmen boys.
  3. People have to earn the right to see you under the influence.
  4. Have a bedtime routine.
  5. Control the controllables.
  6. I am not the center of anyone’s universe but my own.
  7. Seek inspiration and happiness. Not accolades.
  8. Plan everything in pencil.
  9. When in doubt, go for a run.
  10. Read books outside of class.
  11. Watch documentaries.
  12. Journal.
  13. Laugh at yourself multiple times daily.
  14. Call your parents.
  15. Take notes with real pen and paper, not the computer.
  16. Self-care is nonnegotiable.
  17. Complete assignments at least 24 hours in advance.
  18. Dwell in positivity and cleanse your life of all the things that berate you.
  19. Ask the question.
  20. Apply for your dream job(s).
  21. Pray when everything is going right.
  22. Pray when everything is going wrong.
  23. Do yoga.
  24. Give yourself permission to switch directions, shift priorities, and change passions.
  25. Keep dark chocolate on hand at all times.
  26. Get a hard drive and back up your computer.
  27. Eat what you crave.
  28. Always carry a water bottle.
  29. Listen to everyone, follow no one.
  30. Use a calendar.
  31. Crying is not a shameful act.
  32. Embrace and own your mistakes.
  33. No one actually knows what they’re doing.
  34. Interview your future self. It answers a lot of questions.
  35. Own a lumpy Christmas sweater.
  36. Say no. Embrace and respect your limits.
  37. Learn how to cook chicken well.
  38. Embrace who you are today. Don’t compare yourself with your past self, future plans, or peers. You are the only you in this present moment – and that is more than enough.
  39. Relish the butterflies – it means you care.
  40. Count your blessings in the bad, hard, and disappointing seasons of life.
  41. Wear whatever the hell you want. Wear what empowers you.
  42. Sit at the table.
  43. When doubting yourself ask, why not me?
  44. Remember: The worst they can do is say “no,” which actually isn’t that bad.

Twenty Years

Twenty Years

Last night a friend asked me where I want to see myself in 20 years. And I blanked. I haven’t even been alive for twenty years – and most of my time on this earth has been spent learning to walk, attempting to understand societal norms, and enduring six years of prepubescent, adolescent confusion. The thought that I have 20 more years of navigating who I am and what I want to do with my life is daunting, but it’s also exciting. As my friend said, nothing I can imagine today will live up to where I am 20 years from now. And he’s right. I cannot predict the future, and that is what makes it so enticing. If I knew exactly what I would be doing 20 years from now, I would drop my books, stop training and stop living. I am driven by the idea that my actions, my decisions and my passions create the path I’m following. I choose which path to take; I choose which direction to follow. While, yes, sometimes I reach a fork in the road and have little control over which path to choose, it is my actions and my outlook on life that determines if the rough, off-beaten path is worth taking or too difficult to traverse. No path is too difficult to trek, you just might need better hiking boots.

When answering this question last night, there were some basic things I wanted to include in the 20-year-Samantha-life-plan: a family, a dog or two, a home near the mountains, multiple bikes… But as I continued thinking about where I’d like to be by age 40, I realized there’s so much that can happen. The possibilities are limitless. And words cannot describe how fortunate I am to be able to have that perspective on this question.

Too many individuals have to live day-by-day. Too many individuals lack the liberty to dream big, and lack the security to dream free of worry for their health, their families or their futures. I do not have adequate knowledge to propose a solution to such societal ills; however, I do have enough passion to understand that something needs to be done. I cannot sit idly dreaming about winning triathlons and earning multiple degrees in the next 20 years while realizing that so many individuals are dreaming of just surviving to tomorrow. Whether it be a life stricken by war, poverty, inequality or violent intolerance, it is a life lacking the freedom to dream.

In the next 20 years I want to make a difference. I want to help individuals fulfill what I believe to be the innate right to dream. Yes, I want to race and hopefully win some triathlons, but I also want to further my studies in bioethics to garner a greater understanding for the barricades preventing individuals from dreaming. This semester I have been fortunate enough to take courses specifically pertaining to my biomedical ethical interests, and these courses have broadened my understanding of the discourse that is human rights and access to the rights I have taken for granted.

There are some crossroads intertwining my passion for triathlon with my passion for the study of human rights and bioethics. The following are two of my favorite organizations at this crossroad:

Every Mother Counts. Every Mother Counts is a non-profit advocacy organization with the mission to make pregnancy and childbirth safe for every mother. Pregnancy is the leading cause of death for women ages 15-19 in the developing world. One woman dies from childbirth complications every two minutes. A family was in my 20-year plan. Too many women world-wide lack adequate access to healthcare to live that dream. Every Mother Counts has partnered with one of my favorite companies in the endurance industry, Oiselle, who donates 40 percent of their net profit to organization. Oiselle (pronounced wa-zelle) is a women’s running apparel company with a mission to provide the best running clothes for women in terms of comfort, performance and passion. Oiselle’s powerful mission to revolutionize women’s running as an industry and sport has helped many female athletes, including myself, find the strength and confidence to take flight on and off the track.

Girls on the Run. Girls on the Run is an organization that unites girls through running. Through a 12-week program culminating in a 5K race, girls learn that they have the power and ability to do anything. The program focuses on gaining self-confidence, self-understanding, strength of character and a passion for taking care of oneself. I found myself through running. Running has been my therapy, my coping mechanism and my love. Lacing up my running shoes has a therapeutic effect and grounds me. Without running I would not be who I am today. Girls on the Run helps girls discover the psychological, physical and emotional benefits of lacing up their shoes without the competitive aspect of other youth running organizations. Find a Girls on the Run Council near you.

As I become more enthralled in my studies this semester and more committed to my passion for triathlon, I have realized how fortunate I am to be able to dream, and to dream big for that matter. My aspirations require a lot of hard work, support, time and dedication, and I am extremely lucky to have access to all of these things. As I continue navigating my path toward my goals and dreams, I aspire to also provide others the support and access to what is necessary for their dreams.

Twenty years is a long time, and I hope mine will be filled with plentiful training sessions, exciting races, friends, ethical quandaries and the opportunity to help others discover the reality of their dreams.

I encourage you to investigate Every Mother Counts and Girls on the Run. Consider donating. Buy some cute Oiselle apparel, which is also donating. Then lace up your shoes and go for a run. It’s the best therapy.

College: Round 2

College: Round 2

It’s good to be back.

After a year of constant transitions – including completing my freshman year of college, driving across the country for my dream internship, moving to a place where I knew all of two people (via Facebook – I never actually talked to them before arriving), driving back to Indiana only to completely change my training, mindset and perspective, to take on intense treatment for my tibial stress fracture and then to pack everything up once again to move down to Bloomington – it’s nice to finally settle in, if only for two semesters.

I’m out of the dorms this year, but am still living on campus, this time in an apartment. I’m living with my best friend, who’s also my role model and mentor. And it’s fantastic. We moved in less than a week ago, but I already feel at home.

Coming to Bloomington was a bit of a shock to the system at first – I spent the majority of my summer being a bit of a hermit, training, working and then religiously watching The Mindy Project alone in my apartment. I went to bed early, woke up with the sun and enjoyed following my own schedule with zero distractions from anyone other than my roommate and the bunny we pet-sat for a couple weeks. I was able to focus on placing myself first, something I neglected last year at IU, and I formed some great habits. I took care of my body, relished in simplicity and rekindled my love for cooking. What began as an eight-week internship with my dream publication became eight weeks of self-discovery, healing and prioritizing, with a nice internship on the side.

Now, it’s time to test these lessons I’ve learned, and the exam has already begun. With Welcome Week.

Welcome Week is known to be a bit boisterous, with a lot of activities, drinking and partying. Essentially the opposite of my summer. Needless to say, it has been and continues to be fantastic to catch up with friends, meet some new ones and be surrounded by tens of thousands of others my age, but it has also been overwhelming. Gone are the quiet streets of La Jolla. Instead, hoards of girls in high-waisted shorts and guys in bro tanks fill the scene. Beer cans, empty liquor bottles and red solo cups line some streets and yards, and as comical (or depressing – depending on how you look at it) the scene of a large public institution may be during a hot and humid week in August, it’s also reassuring. It reminds me that while, yes, the party culture is present and thriving – so is another culture, a culture of watching a documentary with my roommate; of going for a bike ride with friends, or catching up with those you’ve missed over pad thai and frozen yogurt. A culture of going to a party and encountering intellectually stimulating conversations, laughs and zero pressure to drink. This is the culture I have found and embraced at IU. This is why I am proud to call myself a Hoosier.

A large part of this week has been welcoming the freshman class of the scholarship program I’m a part of at IU. Thinking back to a year ago – the thoughts and anxieties that ran through my mind while moving in, the first party I went to, my first friendships, and the inevitable mistakes I made – has forced me to experience an upheaval of emotions this week. Some regret, some angst, some fear, but also plentiful happiness and a lot of gratitude. Gratitude for the patience of those around me and for my own patience. College is tough, but it is also magical time. If there’s anything I’ve learned it’s that you cannot live with regret, with mistakes come knowledge, with knowledge comes preparation, and with preparation comes a brighter tomorrow. While there are some things from last year that result in me shaking my head, they also result in me stepping forward with greater confidence, experience and knowledge for the exciting road ahead.

Many of us crucify ourselves between two thieves – regret for the past and fear of the future. – Fulton Oursler

The pangs of regret that we all inevitably experience at one, or several, points in our lives do little to promote our happiness. The fears we have of the future, its darkness and entrapping corners, do little to help us navigate it. While banishing regret is easier said than done, especially when triggers arouse emotional responses and memories, it’s a worthwhile effort. Living each day without fear, fear of consequences, the unknown, regret, is equally as challenging and rewarding. With a new school year comes new beginnings, and these beginnings start with me. I’m making the conscious decision to banish regret, live without fear and begin each day with a bold step forward. A step toward my dreams, toward the unknown.

Here’s to another year as a Hoosier. Another year of self-discovery, newfound passions and cream and crimson. Another year of hard bike rides, healthy runs and bigger dreams. Another year of friendship, learning and exploring. Raise your glass, whether it’s filled with cheap beer, water or a protein shake, to year No. 2 – the best year yet.

Game plans, banana bread and the Mojave Desert.

Game plans, banana bread and the Mojave Desert.

Between packing up my short-lived California life into my mighty Volkswagen Rabbit and trekking across America to rekindle my Hoosier roots, it’s been a crazy couple of weeks. Here are some highlights of the road trip:

– The car didn’t overheat in the Mojave Desert.

– Going for a run in my favorite place on Earth (Boulder, Colo.) along with a plateful of the greatest gluten-free pancakes I’ve ever had (Reason No. 5463 I love Colorado).

– Reporting a brush fire along the highway in Colorado, essentially saving the entire state from sheer mayhem.

– Starting and finishing Matt Fitzgerald’s Racing Weight and Matt Dixon’s The Well-Built Triathlete, complete with notes and diagrams.

– Reuniting with my mom and having four 15-hour days of driving to catch her up on every minute of every day I spent in California.

I had a fantastic time in California. My internship with Triathlete Magazine exceeded my expectations, and I made memories, friendships and professional connections to last a lifetime; however, I learned far more than I bargained for outside of the office. Between my first bike crash, first professional byline and first series of anxiety attacks, it’s been an exciting summer to say the least. I’ve learned more about mental toughness than I thought possible, and with it have come some valuable lessons and difficult decisions. I am gradually learning that living a healthy, happy and fulfilling life is an emotional investment, and I am finally making some deposits in the bank. I’ve spent the last few months placing my efforts, time and energy into making others happy, into satisfying their demands, interests and needs, leaving myself vacant. I lost sight of what is important to me, as I was blinded by what I had presumed to be important by others’ agendas. This lifestyle led to anxiety, injury and a lot of bloating. And no one likes bloating. I became dull, mentally, emotionally and physically. I lost sight of my dreams and aspirations – I handed the pen I once gripped so tightly my knuckles turned white to others, letting them write my life by their standards. I lost trust in myself. I lost my emotional compass and my abilities as a student and athlete. And, now, the pen is back in my hands.

A lot has happened since April and as I grip this pen, a bit more relaxed and at ease now, I have noticed that with the good, the bad and the ugly have come tremendous lessons and leaps toward happiness. This time, on my terms. Everything that has happened was with good intent; there was no malice or ill will, but it just wasn’t right for me. And if I’ve learned anything these last five months, it’s that I have to listen to my heart, head and gut. If any one of the three speaks out, it’s time to reassess. I’m never letting go of that pen again.

So, what’s the game plan now? A series of things, integrated in hopes of leading to a healthier and happier me. Here’s the plan.

– Tackle my perfectionism and practice acceptance. Reorganize my toolbox of mental toughness and dust off the forgotten tools I once handled so well.

– Coach myself and learn as much as I can about triathlon, training and my strengths and weaknesses. While this is a bit of a risk, the benefits far outweigh the costs at this stage in my athletic development. I have had to back out of five of the six races I registered for this year due to injury, and I feel out of synch with my body and training. Now is the time to experiment – I am young, motivated and have plentiful resources.

– Run with the Run Club at IU. Buy a singlet and race. Ditch the Garmin for a while. Have fun running again.

– Work with a qualified physical therapist and strength coach to become bullet proof. Lift heavy and get strong. Do a pull up.

– Stick with my current commitments and find peace in simplicity.

– Train more with the IU Triathlon Club. Make new friends with compression socks. Discuss bike porn.

– Schedule meal times into my calendar. Make them a priority. Cook a couple times a week, because it’s fun. Make banana bread.

– Foster my connections from the summer and beyond. Ask for advice. Freelance. Treat every door that is slightly cracked as though it were open with a welcome mat. Do what I love with passion.

Shavasana weekly.

– Blog regularly.

– Smile often.

If anyone has any advice on how to make delicious gluten-free banana bread, or on how to do a pull up, please let me know. Both would be appreciated.

Habit forming role models

Habit forming role models

As promised, I’m back at the keyboard.

I wanted to avoid this and continue scrolling Instagram, but I thought better of it. I can watch 10 second videos of professional triathletes riding on the trainer some other time, for now I have a habit to form.

While this daily blogging habit idea has been a personal goal for quite some time, the extra push needed to make it a reality came from a role model of mine, Lauren Fleshman. Yes, I know – I said I wouldn’t base my personal “flashes of brilliance” on others’ own habits, but Lauren Fleshman is an exception. While I’ve only interacted with her via twitter (@laurenfleshman), I feel like I know her. She is a fantastic writer, writing about the true struggles a professional athlete, mom and entrepreneur endures with zero boundaries, making her blog incredibly relatable and inspiring. I hope to muster up the courage to bare all, the good and the bad, the successes and the pitfalls, with those around me. When I am unsure of what to do or where to go next, I find myself on her website, scouring the Ask Lauren Fleshman questions and answers, sure someone else has experienced this dilemma. More often than not they have, and Lauren further confirms that we are not alone. We are never alone.

Lauren Fleshman is real. She is brilliant, witty, passionate and genuine. She is an incredible athlete, but an even better person. Her stories serve as a reminder that no matter what happens down the road, it will all be okay. No matter how insurmountable today’s challenges may seem, nothing is impossible.

While, yes, this is essentially an elongated tweet expressing my admiration for an elite athlete I have never met – who happens to be married to another idol of mine, Jesse Thomas, but that’s only slightly relevant – it is also a sentiment toward the future and what I aspire to become. An individual as powerful, humble and determined as Lauren Fleshman. Someone with the courage to share my story with the world, because for all I know there may be another young girl, looking for a reason to keep dreaming, and maybe, just maybe, I can eventually be the one to help fuel that dream. By sharing my story. By helping others realize they are not alone. By shining light on the endless possibilities before us. Here’s to dreaming – and then writing about it. Thanks, Lauren.