Sunday, July 17, 2016

Making Everyone Happy

Lately I've found myself in a pretty common trap, one that seems to snare me whether I am back in Boston, at school, or just about anywhere- believing I can make everyone happy. At this point I am pretty aware it's impossible. Of course I grew up listening to people to me tell me that, but it's one of those hot stove concepts, you're never going to believe the stove top is hot until it burns you that one time... Or in this case, several. Events are going to conflict, commitments don't simply go away, and schedules will continue on- ready or not, here life comes. So how will you be there for everyone? Split yourself in half? Clones? 
Truth is, even if you do find a way to physically be there for every event, commitment, shift-you really aren't all there. By being in so many places at once, you can't mentally give everything you have. You may have made it to the shift at work, but the whole time you're thinking about what you have to get done for the next commitment you have, or how you rather be with your significant other, or be home for dinner your family. Is it worth it for anyone that you stretch yourself so thin? Not to mention, giving a piece of yourself to everyone is some pretty risky business, who knows what condition they'll return you in! It's like checking a book out in the library, the family with three kids under the age of five had good intentions when they checked out those picture books, buts it's pretty inevitable that the books are not going to return in the same condition they left in. Lucky for the books, they have librarians to keep track of and take care of them! But who do you have to take care of you? When a piece of you comes back worn out... Who you going to call (ghostbusters!)? Yourself! The only person who can truly take care of you is YOU. Of course life is made easier by having wonderful people around you, and I have been lucky enough to have such a strong support system behind me in nearly everything I do. I couldn't be more grateful for the people that have surrounded me over the course of my life, but even they cannot know for sure exactly what I need! So it's important to take some time out of your day/ life pleasing everyone else, and do something for yourself for once. Stop believing that doing what is right for you once in a while is selfish, it's necessary. As mentioned before in previous posts, it's the same concept as putting on your oxygen mask first in an airplane, if you run out of oxygen while trying to help someone else first-you're not going to be much of a help to anyone. You can't truly be there for everyone, if you have nothing left to give. Every rubber band breaks eventually, and it's only a matter of time before you stretch just a little too far. That being said, helping people to the best of your ability is a wonderful thing. But prioritizing and recognizing what is important in others lives, is of the utmost importance to pull it off. For example, taking a shift at work last minute when you've had plans for a week with someone you care about? Not the best plan if you can help it. While it's nice to pick up some extra money, you can't really put a price on time with people you care about, and the value of keeping your word. The disappointment on both ends really is pretty heartbreaking, and you're left with a situation that is undesirable to say the least... Not something you want to be thinking about on shift. It's better to be honest with yourself and others, than to to make a commitment you can't keep. So next time you try to justify your "solution" to being everywhere for everyone, ask yourself if you're actually where your feet are. If not? Might be time to evaluate the situation! So, give yourself some credit, even if no one else does, love yourself- and continue to "care too much", just don't let that band break. 
~A Duck Learned

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Loss Examined

More often than not , I see people (including myself) focus more on loss than anything else. Whether it's loss of life, loss of relations, or loss of a competition-that is all we see at first glance. Rather than remembering how much someone has taught us in their life, the first reaction is to question why they're gone-when we know it can't bring them back. Instead of learning from mistakes in lost relations, so many people continue on with blame, absent of recognition. Losing a game, anymore, is the end of the world! Why? Without loss, competition would not exist, there would be no drive -everyone would win ... At that point, would there even be such a concept of winning if we were all the same? Progress would come to a halt, mistakes and weaknesses would not be noticed, and strengths would not be harvested.
 Loss teaches. We lose friends, relationships, and business partners every day. Turbulence is not unecessary! People grow apart, no one ever said that we have to keep the same friends our entire life, if it works out? Great! I have a friend I've known since third grade and I couldn't be happier to have her in my life! But just as life is dynamic, so are relations and if we close ourselves off to other opportunities, and other people simply because we are afraid of losing friends... How close are your friends? 
When we speak of death, we avoid confrontation - we become tentative. What will offend someone? Can I ask that? Death puts a mute on our voice, while thoughts scream in our heads. When we do come in contact with death, our first question is usually "how did it happen?". A natural question, of course- but not one that will bring life back. Instead, why can't we laugh about our time with those who are lost? Bring their memory to life? Sure, their physical presence is absent , but they are still a part of our lives. We underestimate the power of conversation, movement, and memory in times of loss. We forget to appreciate those in our lives, all that they do and all that they are. We fail to recognize what surrounds us, and instead harp on what we don't have. And with that, a huge thank you goes out to all those in my life who make loss worth the gratitude I feel for you all, and every day I see on this earth that much better .
Much love and appreciation in memory and present,
A Duck Inspired 

Friday, May 27, 2016

Long time no post (I'm sorry!!!)

Hi all!
So I realized I have clearly been in my own little world with school, work, and traveling going on at the end of this school year!
But I'm back to tell you that the past two weeks have been some of the most incredible in my life! I worked at the same class I took at the end of last year for a week, OP, which is basically a class outdoors where you live in tents with your assigned unit and take classes during the day like ropes and ecology etc. , at night you do team building and fun activities with your unit! Long story short, I built relationships I never even dreamed of during that week last year, and on an even deeper level this year as staff and I couldn't be any more grateful for the opportunity and happiness it has given me! I'm on my last full day of being out in California with my family, and my time here has been spectacular as well. I always underestimate the greatness of time simply spent with family, especially after a long and challenging year away at school - and it has been fantastic, Wednesday we went on a hike through Pfiefer State Park out in Big Sur, a beautiful expanse of land, wonderful hiking, and rewarding views. At the top of one of the trails, a couple asked us to take a picture of them (they were adorable, she had a puppy in a special dog backpack), so I took the camera and took the picture ....he asked me to take one more so I point the camera AND this guy gets down on one knee in front of his girlfriend (and my parents and I) and asks her to marry him. It was so beautiful, even more so than the view it took place in front of (valley point), and she said yes (and neither of them fell off the side of the cliff so that was awesome)! As if that wasn't amazing enough (I got great pictures for them don't worry), we ran into a man farther down the trail who stopped me when he saw my Springfield shirt. Apparently he grew up in West Springfield,  and currently lives in the Boston area. He even lived in the town bordering ours back home for a couple of years AND his roommate from college lived in my same hometown! It just goes to show what a small world we live in, and how powerful just simply being outdoors is- if it weren't for some quality hiking and camping I wouldn't have my second family down in OP, and I certainly would not have been able to take the role of spontaneous marriage proposals on top of valley mountains. I may not have even truly realized just how connected we all are in this life.
I tried to keep this one short and sweet because I wrote an article on my time in California that should be scheduled to publish somewhere around memorial day, or the day after! I will share it on my facebook page so I would really appreciate the read/share from all you guys! I know I didn't say much about OP later, BUT I will be also writing about that in my next article!
I appreciate all the support from you guys always, and will try my best to be posting more often now that we are in the summer months !
Thanks again!
A Duck That Is Sorry For Not Posting In Sooooo Long (but still loves all of you so very much!)

Friday, April 29, 2016

Sending Smoke Signals

Its about that time of year- the "burnout" stage. The point in the year, semester, work period where we all just stop caring, fall in a rut, or lose sight of our purpose- our call for help : our smoke signal. There are a couple of different paths we can take at this point, most all of them are broken down into the "easy" and the "challenging". For example, those who remain determined, pushing themselves continually through comfort zones; versus those who lose focus, and simply "get by" . Our first path in this example is pretty challenging to begin with, but at the end of the semester the difficulty level increases tenfold for most, finals are here, seasons are coming to final competitions, and friends begin to check out for the summer. It is easy for us to withdraw, to fall behind on our academics, and to mindlessly trudge through our day. How will you respond?
A couple of days ago, I turned down an opportunity to go see a band I'm obsessed with because I was exhausted. When I had talked to my Dad about it, I told him I knew I needed the sleep, the study time, and a quiet night to recollect so I didn't ruin all the work I had put in over the semester. His response? "If you gave up now, it would be like running an entire race just to walk off before the last lap", and he couldn't have put it into a better metaphor (for his track- obsessed, metaphor loving daughter)- and then most everything made sense. Of course I am still exhausted and fighting my urge to pack up and leave this minute- but I know that I never could, not now, not after everything I've worked for. In the past few weeks I could easily walk away from friendships, teams, and relationships that took work and effort. I could withdraw from everyone and everything with the excuse that summer is near, and people I have become close with will be far. I could throw away everything I have built with people in my life that I enjoy and love, I could conveniently forget the good and the bad we've had together, and just walk away. While this all sounds pretty pessimistic and dark, it is something I have seen happen all too much in just the past three days alone. People turning their backs simply because life gets tough, making excuses for their fear rather than voicing their concerns. Relationships and friendships that could have been preserved, started, or saved with communication, a promise, and a little bit of passion. The road less traveled, while often challenging, is absent of the ruts and monotony that characterize the path taken by so many lately; and as much as I am fed up with the indifference hanging in the air - I refuse to follow in suit. When the bell is rung for the last lap...will you be on the track?
With love & faith,
A Duck With Fire

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Stressing Our Differences

It is prime time for stress, at work, school, life in general... the seasons change and yet our lives keep on going leaving us yearning for a chance to put a pause on everything. The buzz on self-care is never ending, leaving some of us more frustrated than relaxed. Recently I attended a conference at Harvard University with our group of peer educators on campus, the key note speakers preached the wonders of meditation, telling us that "mindfulness is not possible without meditation" using metaphors such as playing the piano, and then following those same metaphors with the admittance that they had never even played the piano! How were we supposed to sit back and listen to speakers who could not relate to the metaphors they were preaching? Or listen to someone tell us that we could not possibly be mindful or self aware without the act of meditation in our lives? I may not be the best at handling my stress, I may benefit from meditating, but I would by no means claim that I am not aware of my own self... All around me I see people getting into petty arguments, passive aggressive communication (or lack thereof), and self isolation. I also see many people thriving, loving what they do every day and doing it well - living life to the fullest and looking to the bright side whenever possible. My point to all this is, everyone handles stress in their own way. Some of us internalize, others project it on each other, and in some cases I've had friends who simply don't stress at all. My biggest pet peeve in this entire world is when people tell others that their stress is more significant than the next guy. Comments like "oh that's nothing" or "she's overreacting" , no! If I can write an essay in a half an hour and the person next to me takes over two hours, does that mean that I can negate their stress? What if that same person is great at math and can finish a problem set in half the amount of time as me? We all weigh things in our lives differently, we all have strengths and weaknesses that make up who we are. There is no reason, no acceptable excuse, for putting another person down simply because you do not experience the same type of stress. If we all came together and supported each other more often rather than comparing ourselves and making our stress a competition; if we built an atmosphere of understanding rather than hostility- maybe we wouldn't be so stressed in the first place. That being said ,we're all human, we have this innate nature to compete and compare, and of course, we all screw up. Maybe you didn't mean to let that comment slip, or to avoid your friends, or sound hostile- its okay. An apology goes a long way, whether it is immediately after that "oops" moment or even a week later. The most important part of apologies like this is to explain why you snapped that day, rather than simply hiding behind an excuse. For example, I could say "Sorry I snapped at you." or I could say "Sorry I snapped, I have just been so stressed lately, and I'm really not handling it well, I didn't mean to take it out on you" that way, I take responsibility but also give reason. If a friend says that to me, I'm usually more inclined to be concerned about that friend rather than being upset about the situation. In times of high stress, its important to keep in mind that we aren't the only ones, and if you see a friend struggling- its better to say something, than to completely ignore it. Its amazing how far a simple "how are you?" can go . 
Take care of yourself in anyway that you do, keep kicking ass at life, and keep an open mind. 

Wishing the best and utmost support for every one out there! (Just keep swimming, just keep swimming!) 
~ A Duck Just Doing Life 

Friday, March 18, 2016

Filling Our Cup

More often than not, and I am guilty as well, I hear people saying three words much too often ....No, not "I love you"(although opinions on that later), but "I hate people". A statement that slips off our tongue unknowingly when someone cuts us off in the street, or fails to hold the door, or maybe even when you see something tragic on the news. But, in the past couple of weeks, I've found that people are quite remarkable. At school, I see people everyday juggling competitive majors, jobs, and sports. A teammate who just clinched all american status while in one of our toughest majors at Springfield, and completely humble at the same time. One of my residents in the air force wakes up several morning a week at 4:30 to go to PT, then comes back for classes and track practice- he's on an air force base in New Jersey during our spring break. I see people around me everyday pushing their comfort zones, getting involved, and helping others be their better self. Then there are the people you don't see everyday, the people who are in the back of your mind always, people back home, or even a someone you have come in contact with no more than twice. Upon coming home, I've been inspired and lifted by the people around me. Of course, being home with my family and dog is usually all I need to recharge for my next return to classes, work, etc. But this break I have taken so much away from my interactions with others. When I went to get my hair cut, only the second time ever seeing this particular hair dresser, she remembered I did track and which school I had gone to- it had been months since I've met this woman for the first time, and she still took the time to remember what I cared about. The mother of two small kids, with a crazy busy life, remembered mine - and that simple thought meant more to me than I could ever explain in words. I went to see our school band concert last night, and was blown away by the talent some of these kids had. Kids I watched grow up, some even my campers over the summer years ago, and they were absolutely incredible. The transformation, the dedication they have put into what they love was beautiful. During the show, the band director had select high school students introduce the songs they performed. One walked up, potentially one of my favorite humans in the world, capturing the hearts of the crowd immediately. Cracking jokes, walking across the stage, he transitioned into a beautiful poem from which the piece was based and suddenly the crowd, howling with laughter just seconds before, went silent with awe. This kid, never ceases to amaze me, warm my heart, and support me in everything I do - and for that I will always be grateful, as I am grateful to everyone who makes themselves a part of my life, and lets me into theirs. To the boy who still takes my calls when I need it most, and threatens to drive two hours just to give me a hug, and offers to drive me to orchestra rehearsals because he knows I miss it- the same boy I've hurt in the past. His forgiveness and care leaves me in awe everyday, no matter how much we get on each others nerves. "The squad" back at school who never fail to listen to any thing I have to say, no matter the hour, or the stress they are enduring themselves. It is people like this, the people we say we "don't deserve", that we deserve the most. The people I described are a mere few of the crowd I've been lucky enough to be surrounded with throughout my life. People I have let into my life as they have opened the door to theirs. A concept so many people struggle with is self-care and self-love, myself being the worst culprit, a concept I am beginning to learn and accept whole heartedly, especially after this break. We need to remember that we deserve the people who support us, that they are there because they want to be, and those people you try so hard to please? The people who can't seem to give you the time of day? They aren't worth it. Our hearts can only stretch so far, and we sure as hell should not be bending over backwards for the people who can't even extend their hand to us every once in a while. It is time to realize that we deserve what we put out, that we are worth supporting- we are worth the time of day. With so much going on, and so many people dealing with the same stress, it is easy to lose that self love, to give away everything you have to others rather than leaving some love for yourself. So lets start being aware, and leaving something for ourselves- respect, love, and appreciate what you are to others and start living life for you! 
Let's fill that empty cup.
~A Loved Duck 

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Calling Home

If I had a dollar for every time someone has confessed their desire to go home to me this week , I would probably be able to at least restore all the dining dollars I've used this semester. For a lot of us it is the busiest time of the semester and spring break seems worlds away, BUT I'm here to tell you : you got this. So many people seem ashamed when they tell me they want to go home, they feel defeated and childish- but that couldn't be farther from the truth! Touching back at home base is not a point of weakness, or immature- for some of us its just what we need. So many people underestimate (or simply forget) the power of a mental break. It seems that all we do anymore is trudge through everyday, and push our limits in ways that are not always healthy. Of course, we can't just blow off assignments or deadlines at work , but in a society where we do so much "extra" we rarely stop to think "why am I doing this?", and we start to lose purpose. That is not to say that you should just up and quit whatever you can't immediately identify purpose in, but evaluating our day to day life and what we do is not always a bad idea- and for some people, it takes a trip home to touch ground again (and that's perfectly okay!). For example, this week my back has been acting up to a point where even sleeping (my favorite activity) is not so enjoyable all the time. For this entire semester I've just treated pain and pushed through because I love track, I love my teammates, and I love everyone back home who watched me and helped me, essentially, to become the person I am. I put on a stubborn face and push through rather than stepping back because I convince myself I have to. I convince myself that I would be a disappointment to my team, that I would be forgotten by people back home, and that I would probably get fat (okay maybe not, but I did eat an entire pint of Ben and Jerry's last night and yes, I do feel like I am what I ate which happened to be "Chunky Monkey" ) if I take a break to heal. Long story short, if I actually stood back and evaluated my situation I would see that my team will go on, my friends and teammates back home will not ignore me because I'm riding the struggle bus, and as for getting fat-I really just need to control my intake of peanut butter cups. All in all, health is priority! I forget, and I've seen an overwhelming number of others (friends and classmates alike) forget as well! Time off of  practice in my training season will not kill me just as wanting to go home, or needing to take some time for yourself will not make you any less of a person. At this point in the semester, year, and our lives we have to remember that "you can't pour from an empty cup". We put so much pressure on ourselves to help others, that we forget we are not invincible. When we realize we're not the next superhero, its overwhelming.  So don't be afraid to make that call home, take some time for yourself, or go to others for help. We can't always do life alone, especially if we've formed our lives and schedules for others rather than ourselves. So take a deep breath and a step back - you aren't alone. You can do this- I know and believe it wholeheartedly.  So lets keep communicating, because no one can know what you need if you don't ask. Lets be patient, because not every one deals with personal situations the same way.  Lets be confident because we are gonna kick ass in our last couple weeks before break and in life. Lets listen to others but, more importantly, ourselves and our body because we can't do anything 110% if we aren't feeling 110%  (so STAY HEALTHY...yes I am a hypocrite, I'm working on it). And lastly, Lets do this. 
Go forth and conquer! 
~A Duck Confidently (and Tiredly) Flapping her way through life 

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Expecting the unexpected

Let me start with: I'm sorry friends, I know I skipped a week but it just goes to show that everything slips away from us every once in a while! The important thing is, we're alive and I promise I will not make a habit of skipping out on all y'all ! 
These past two weeks have been absolutely and utterly ridiculous, I can't even begin to describe them because I couldn't honestly tell you where the days started and ended... But needless to say, I ran into a lot of highs and lows, routine and spontanaeity, and just the plain unexpected. This week, for me, has been all about breaking comfort zones and accepting the fact that I cannot always dictate where life takes me. This means opening my mind and my heart to situations I wouldn't normally ! For example, over the summer I developed this crazy fear of falling ... Yet I found myself climbing our rock wall on campus on a whim one day, and starting to learn pole vault for the majority of the week. Did I magically get over my fear of falling? Of course not. Is my mind more open? Absolutely. Small steps don't necessarily move mountains, but they bring us that much closer to overcoming what we once thought to be impossible. Life can be full of unexpected twists and turns, ups and downs, tears and laughter -but without them I doubt we would truly know what life is. One of my good friends made a really great analogy and joke the other day.  She turned to me a said "Kat, Life is like an EEG, without the ups and downs , you're probably just dead". While a hilarious and dark analogy, it just goes to show - those low moments in our lives aren't so bad after all! Without them, would we know if our highs truly exist? So instead of just watching life throw curve balls at us, let's throw life a couple of curveballs ourselves-be proactive. Climb that Rockwall (even if you only make it halfway up before panicking). Stop ignoring your fears. It's time for us to know we are NOT invincible but we ARE unstoppable. Keeping an open mind is just the start of a life more beautiful than we could ever imagine- a life that should never again be clouded by a closed mind. 
Much love to all of you on this fine Valentines Day! 
A Duck Empowered 

Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Best of a Bad Situation

This past week I've realized again and again the impact we all have on one another, and the power that comes with simple interaction every single day. We can be the best of a bad situation simply through how we act , speak, and gesture towards the people we come in contact with day in and day out. Caught in such busy schedules we often forget that  just a simple smile to a stranger could make that individual's day- isn't that powerful? A funny note left on a whiteboard, a couple minutes of pure listening to what a friend has to say, a simple hug or laugh- all small gestures that could remind the person next to you that they mean something. So often we take the little things for granted, we either don't notice them, ignore them, or stop doing them all together - why? With the power we have to make a positive impact on somebody's day, week, life- why wouldn't we take the opportunity? There is nothing worse than feeling like you mean nothing- we have the influence necessary to stop that nonsense! So before you avoid contact with that stranger you're passing, ignore a text from a friend because "you're in the middle of something", or forget to call your mom for the third time this week - remember that you could be the best of a bad situation, that you could put the smile on their face that they haven't had for a week, or release the laugh they've been holding in for much too long.

Now, think of who those people in your life, the people who bring you the most happiness, who do those little things that make you laugh, the things that could make you smile through your worst day (you know, those days where you refuse to smile, that friend who'll get in your face and do the most ridiculous things you've ever seen just to see that frown disappear for even a second. That friend you almost resent for making you smile when you don't want to, but you love too much to be mad at?). Keep those people in your life, they probably look to you for the same- life is too short to please people who simply don't give a shit about you. That's not to say that you should be rude- still smile at strangers (in a less creepy way than that sounded), just stop bending over backwards for people who would take a step out of their way for you! It' s simply not worth the frustration, again, make the kind gestures, but when it comes down to it- you cannot be responsible for an individual's happiness when they don't give your own happiness a second thought.

My last point is probably going to be the most hypocritical of all and that it- stop being so damn hard on yourself. All of us have our strengths and weaknesses, we all see ourselves in a different light, with a different worth- but realize you aren't some wrong-doing beast. Take positives out of every situation, no matter how small, and work with them. For example, this weekend we competed our first full pentathlon of the season and out of three Springfield athletes that participated I was the only one of us that didn't qualify for championships. After all of our double practices, frustration, and work- I came up short. I was devastated, I didn't want to hear my teammates tell me I did a "good job" let alone look them in the eye, I saw myself as a disappointment, failing at the only thing I truly work my ass off for. I see my personal loss as a disappointment to the team I care about, to the coaches that put everything they have into our training, even to everyone back home. Do they look at me as a failure? Of course not. They see an 80 point improvement from last year, they see a dedicated teammate, a stubborn athlete, and a girl who cares just a little too much. Were they disappointed I didn't qualify? Well I hope so! They care about my success, they know how much it all means to me - those are the people we need in our lives. The people who are disappointed for us rather than in us, the people who will sit in an empty hallway and watch you cry for fifteen minutes while you tell them you aren't good enough (until they want to slap you in the face but don't because they know they've been there before), the people who remind you of even the smallest victories (even if you're too stubborn to hear it), the people who remind you what you mean to them- the people who make the best of a bad situation. 

~ A Hypocritical Duck who just wants to see y'all smile

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Being A Head Case

Throughout my entire life I've been taught mental toughness, a skill vital to athletes, students, and life in general...but when is it okay to not be okay? Recently I've had terrible mental blocks in the one event I love most,  it turns my stomach knowing I can't contribute to the team, makes me overthink everything I do- and just like that I find my mental toughness leaving me. But has it left for good? Of course not, next week is a new training period, the bar will be put back on the standards and high jumping will resume, just as life goes on. But what is it exactly that causes us to fall to that mental block? Personal relationships? Stress? Lifestyle? It's different for everyone, and excludes no one-we can't all be okay all the time. Just as a friend reminds me many times over-it's okay to not be okay. I can't say that I know how to fix mental blocks or change my mindset as a self-defeating athlete, but I've found that so far- surrounding myself with supportive friends, great coaches, and people that refuse to make excuses for my poor performance has been my best bet. Taking time to identify what impacts my thoughts and actions is only helpful to a certain extent, there is a fine line between hyper focus and constructive self-criticism, a skill I will never quite master. I guess my main point here in what will be a fairly short and hypocritical post for the week is- don't be so hard on yourself if there's a bad day, class, week, meet/game's okay to not be okay every once in a while. While easier said that done (if I had a dollar for every time someone told me I was too hard on myself , or that I need to get out of my own head ... I wouldn't have student loans to pay off) , it's a valuable skill we could all use in a day that is so focused on being the best of the best for everything and anything we do. No one is invincible, so stop holding yourself to a destructive and unattainable standard- remember why you started whatever is throwing you for a loop, and reconnect with that passion as best as you can. Everyone slips, loses sight of what we're here for- but it does not mean we are useless as beings. 
So stay realistic and look to tomorrow, we all have a lot to offer, in different capacities, to this world (whether you see it or not) ! 
Let's see what we can do!
A Duck who forever be a head case 

Monday, January 18, 2016

Leaving the Door Open

Since returning to Springfield as a new RA I've left my door open quite a bit. I tell myself that its to be more approachable, to be more transparent with my residents and others in the building,and to be open to them emotionally at all times possible. I found out very quickly, that leaving my door open taught me more in the past week than I ever would have imagined.

I came back to Springfield early for Track intersession, something I am always excited to be invited back for , but this time it was bittersweet knowing that I would not be able to compete because of RA training. Part of me wondered why I was going to bother leaving my family, home, and dog a week earlier than I had to if I wasn't even going to compete- of course I appreciated the time to practice and work on technique and being with the team, nonetheless I was pretty bummed. BUT, I learned a lot this week, so bear with me?

The first couple days of practice I was making wonderful progress, not huge improvements but definitely key technique progress and after years of working on my ducky bio mechanics, I was beyond pumped. However, like any streak of progress starts it must end, an end brought on by the inevitable "bad day". My blocks weren't right all of a sudden, I kept stopping short before hurdles, I wasn't clearing heights I believed I should have been, and to top it all off I didn't know that the lift I was in had started earlier than the rest of the team so I missed a good majority of it- awesome. I was so frustrated on so many levels, I could have cried, thrown something, and curled up into a ball in the corner- sounds dramatic right? Well, here's the first couple things I learned from that day: don't take yourself so seriously, and don't assume that someone else's frustrations are insignificant. I laugh at myself sometimes for taking a sport, that I am mediocre at best, so seriously when I love it so much, but that's just it- I love it so much. I have never been so passionate about one thing for so long and that is why I get so frustrated when people dismiss that. Some people look at me like I'm ridiculous when I get so worked up and I get even more angry! We are all passionate about different things on different levels, and it is okay for you to be indifferent about things- but don't automatically assume that everyone else should too. Judging one's situation closes a door for us to learn from that person- so if learning's your thing, judgement shouldn't be. That being said, I've noticed we're a part of a society that feels the need to always be proving ourselves in something to someone- stop. Start performing, learning, competing for yourself- its incredible how much you improve, learn, and have fun when you aren't under that pressure all the time. So loosen up and make yourself a priority!

On the morning of my first RA training I was pulled aside by my AC and all I could think of was *oh god, I already screwed up, shoot!* But what I got instead was an address I never expected to hear, "You are excused to go to your track meet tomorrow" *BEST DAY EVER*. Which brings me to my next lesson: everything works itself out. I expected the worst (not being able to compete) but prepared for the best all week,  training hard and carefully, picking up my uniform just in case- and it worked out in the best way possible. Sometimes life's surprises aren't as bad as we make them out to be, and if they are- well we're all humans, we all have the ability to adapt, and that's just what we gotta do. As for the meet, well I still have a lot to work out and, as always, I was probably harder on myself than I needed to be- but if you're like that, at least try to be constructive. Sure I beat myself up, everyone else who does that -you know who you are. But after throwing myself a small one-person pity party on my 5 minute walk around the facility following my major screw up, I snapped back and did what I came there to do- compete. Don't let one failure prevent you from potential success, its quite unproductive. Take that walk, throw yourself the pity party with the streamers, balloons, the whole bit- but then knock it off and get it done. Long story short, I learned that I have some really great coaches who understand the frustration but refuse to let me wallow in it, progress is what we are after and that's what we're gonna get.

Lastly, I've learned a whole lot from my residents already, most all of which I already am friends with from this previous year. I had a teammate randomly cross through my open door with what appeared to be a friendly conversation in passing, but turned into a conversation lasting over an hour- a conversation that made me feel as though I wasn't alone in my frustrations. Though we are completely different athletes, her being an incredibly successful sprinter, and me being the awkward duckling multi-eventer- our frustrations were one of the same. This lead me to learn that, no matter how different people appear to be, it doesn't necessarily make their problems and frustrations different. Oftentimes we assume that one person has it more difficult or easy than us simply because of who they appear to be, when in reality we are more similar than we could have ever imagined. So instead of simple assumptions and settling for that feeling of isolation in our difficulties, or pitying someone who doesn't need it- lets open our mouths and talk. Not all discussion about what we go through day-to-day has to be a "rant". But maybe, just maybe, even that one conversation could bring us closer, happier, and a little less paranoid that we're "the only one". Sure we're all different, but it doesn't mean we're alone in our thoughts and concerns. Even just tonight I learned from my residents and just how open some of them are. It is just so refreshing to know that while some appear to take life lightly, they don't forget how to be a decent human being. I can't wait for a semester with these people, on this campus that, while I don't always love returning to- I always learn more than I could ever imagine.

So thanks for letting me drone on about some of what I learned this week and gush about my residents (even if they do pull down my door tags every once in a while- grrrr)! I appreciate each and every one of you!
Continuing to leave my door open (literally and figuratively) as much as humanly possible!

~An Awe-inspired (and Still-Freezing from hills at track this morning) Duck

Saturday, January 9, 2016

My Cup of Coffee

Happy Weekend Everyone!
What woke you up this morning? Was it the smell of coffee? The mock AP test you had to take? Early shift at work?
While recalling what physically woke you up this morning, is wonderful (I was woken up by my lovely and persistent pooch)- what I really would like to know, is what truly motivates you each and everyday? I find so often, that so many people cannot see what truly motivates them, or they are still struggling to find it. Maybe their motivation is in a state of transition, temporarily lost in a change of schools, or between jobs. To me, knowing my motivation has a always been a huge part of who I am. It bothers me when I sleep walk through my day, when I don't know why I am doing something, or when I don't feel any passion or drive for the task at hand.
There are so many times throughout the year that I find myself questioning what drives me, and when I find others doing the same. Maybe its a busy time in school, mid terms or finals, suppose you are prepping for championship season in your sport, or maybe its nearing the end of the quarter at work- we all run into "those times", its a part of every day life for every one. What matters the most- is how we respond and regroup.
This semester in particular was challenging on several levels. Academically, I believe I can get several people to attest, but I can also say that the majority of us put our heads down and got through it (quite successfully might I add!). This semester, however, also challenged me athletically, showing me what I am able to do - revealing the potential I hold, and leaving me fighting to maintain progress, instead of my typical burn out and regression cycle. I was challenged in the relationships I held with people- but through the challenges I built bonds and experienced situations that have taught me more than I ever would have expected going into the semester- because nearly nothing that did happen, was expected. And though it was one surprise after another, I learned a fantastic amount not only about those around me, but myself as well. Now, I am fully aware of how cliche that all sounds, but for the most part its true!
Throughout my life I haven't been one to embrace change, I like routine and order, and when the peace is broken in the organized little safe haven I've built myself, I am not a happy camper. What got me through each change this semester was going back to my roots, and recognizing my purpose. There were times, of course, that you don't even want to think about purpose- you just want the madness to stop, which is normal but pretty damn unproductive. Not to say I haven't done that, but when I did find myself in that mind frame, I most always sought a friend and stayed with them until I could cool off and get back to work.
As for recognizing my motivations, it wasn't always so easy, things change, and humans are dynamic- what motivates us could change in an instant. For me , I was always motivated by teammates and track in high school. When I got to college, I was a part of a different team, people I haven't grown up with and spent hundreds of hours with - so of course it took a while to warm up to that motivation again (which I am happy and grateful to say I have!). My career plans have always been a huge motivation to me. When I wanted to be a veterinarian, I volunteered at an animal shelter every weekend, and fell in love with University of Vermont and Tufts (top vet schools in the country currently). But after over 11 years of having my heart set on being a vet, I changed my mind one day looking at colleges and decided that Physical Therapy was for me. All my research had to be redone, gears were changed, and suddenly I was on track to look at Springfield (which I immediately fell in love with).
There is nothing  wrong with changing focus, but know that there will always be judgement. So often, I see schools teaching kids tolerance and acceptance, and while tolerance is a beautiful thing - in our current state, total acceptance is not attainable. I have seen opinions muted, generalities spread, and controversy banned simply because we are "afraid" of hurting the feelings of others. We have set up an environment which we say is free and nonthreatening, but in reality there are very few people who feel comfortable sharing their true and unedited opinions in public and especially in the classroom - because debates are "not appropriate". In high school, I learned the most from classes in which we had debate nearly every single class, we were never uncivil or crude- we simply discussed our opinions and were not afraid to disagree. Now that debate has seemed to be eliminated in so many class rooms and in general, I see more and more passive people every where I go. People who don't seem to have an opinion on much of anything, seemingly indifferent to even the most controversial of subjects. I find it interesting how so many believe that we can truly make progress and change, in an environment that is so afraid to speak their mind. Without differing view points and controversy we remain stagnant and resentful. We believe that no one hears us or understands our situations, its like everyone has their blinders on and their fingers in their ears going "LALALALA I CANT HEAR YOU LALALA" . Well maybe its time that we opened our ears, and shook those blinders off. Maybe its time that we speak up AND listen, rather than yelling over the person in front of you with a different opinion, or simply not speaking at all. Speak up and listen up cause its about time we start making healthy change rather than worrying about spooking people like horses. Freedom of speech is our right, so use it- but don't use it as your excuse to be a jerk, you aren't the only person living on this planet. You have the power to practice tolerance by listening and at least trying to understand, but that doesn't mean you must sacrifice your own opinions and values to accept something you do not believe in- you aren't doing anyone any favors.
With that rant aside, if you decide to change your focus, don't worry about other people throwing their judgement out there. In some cases, it may even be out of concern! When I suddenly changed my focus to PT, nearly everyone questioned me about it. I had people scoffing at the idea, questioning my investment, and telling me that I was "too smart" for Springfield. The fact that they had these opinions did not bother me. There were often times that they even changed initial judgments after I told them that Springfield was a fantastic school for PT, and that I was motivated by helping still just as I was when I was interested in veterinary care.They simply wanted to ensure that the decision I was making was right for me. Did I need to explain myself? No, but I did because I wanted people to understand, and I knew I would be frustrated by those who just had no idea. Point is, don't let others waver your stance and motivations simply because they are questioning you about it, there will be skeptics in everything you do , it does not mean you have to try and please them (they're called skeptics for a reason).
With a new semester and a new year upon us there is so much that is dynamic, motivations have shifted, and people are eager for change! So maybe instead of being skeptical, we try to understand. And instead of trying to please everyone we please OURSELVES!  Crazy concept right? I must be such a selfish individual to even think if that! But ever hear the expression "you can't pour from an empty cup"? I've learned so far, that I have been the most successful in helping my friends, when I help myself first. Just like when you're on an airplane and the flight attendant specifically tells the parents to put their oxygen masks on in the case of an emergency before their children's? That instruction goes against every parent instinct they have - but what happens if you run out of air before you can successfully put on your child's mask? Then both of you are screwed, whereas if you put on your mask first, you would've been able to effectively put your child's mask on as well. The same concept can be applied to helping out a friend or family in times which they need it most. Be the best you, and know how to teach others to be their best selves- doesn't sound so selfish now, does it?
Now , I know this post is super long and ranty and lecturey and I apologize profusely, but I just have one more point to add that kinda smacked me in the face yesterday, and that is the importance of going back to your roots. Since being home, I have spent time at high school track practices and meets with a team that I only know half of- why? I'd like to say that its just because I need the access to equipment they have, and that I am not attached by the heart to a team that I am not even an athlete on anymore, but then I'd be lying through my keyboard. I will always find a home in that team, and I will always find comfort in going back whether I know 30 people, or just 3 of them. Most people assume that I go back to teach and simply try my hand at saying this they wouldn't be completely wrong. I do love the opportunity to show people I care about, whether I had known them for three weeks, or five years- what I know from a coaching standpoint, however, I will never teach them as much as they teach me everyday. I have experienced more in the past three weeks spending hours with a team, that time forced me to walk away from two years ago, than I ever will in a coaching class at school. They give me the motivation to continue doing track at school, to complete weeks of rehab when I'm injured, and to be the best athlete and student I can be- for them. When I lose the motivation to do it for myself, I know I will always be motivated for them because there is nothing I want more than to see each and every single one of them succeed in every thing they do, and to always remind them to learn when success doesn't simply greet them at the front door. When I witness them succeed, my heart couldn't be happier- everything becomes worth it. I could not be more grateful for everything thing they have taught me and allowed me to be a part of, and I would never be able to recognize that, if I had simply forgotten my roots.
AND I am grateful for all you reading! Thanks for enduring my long posts that may not even make sense, but it means the world to me that you at least take the time to read.
Best wishes in this New Year and may you all be your best you :)
With Love and Gratitude,
A Duck Doing Her Bestest

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Making a Comeback

Hey everyone! 
It's been a long time since I've written a post and I think it's about time I start back up again. Something that's been frequenting my thoughts in the past 7 months is being humble and grateful- for me this has been on my mind in times of loss, extreme happiness, and just about every other situation I can think of because I truly believe we could all benefit from being a little more humble and grateful! For example, this semester was one of the toughest I have ever had, as it was for a lot of people I know. I experienced the death of someone dear, the loss of several great friends, and an overwhelming amount of work and activity throughout the semester-but it is what it is. Personally, my theme for the past semester was exactly that, because in life, "stuff" happens. If you have control over the situation and can change it-great! But in many cases there are just certain things that are completely out of our control, in times like these it is so important to learn to adapt and accept it - stop harping on it, and move on.  So many people focus on what is lost rather than what still remains, they look at the negative instead of the positive-we all do it. Looking to negativity in a situation that is not ideal is natural, so let's break our habit! I'm not in any way saying that we have to be this happy , bouncy being every waking moment of our lives ; honestly that's exhausting just thinking about it ... But if we all make an effort to look at the positive side of one negative situation everyday, maybe we won't see quite as many situations as negative at all! For example, the passing of my late mentor this year devestated me for over a week, a natural and healthy reaction . But now, I look back and am grateful for all he taught us, I look back and am humbled by the wisdom he brought to every class and every life he touched. Recently, I made a visit to his classroom expecting to be flooded with emotion; yet I was comforted more than anything else. I made a vow to myself when I found out he had died that I would never let him leave my life again. Thinking back on his life and my interactions with him gives me direction and motivation. He has given me the aspiration to "do everything with purpose and focus" , a point that does not come so easily in our everyday lives. Not every move has to be calculated and precise, that was not his meaning - but when we do everything in such a rut , with such routine day in and day out, we forget why we're here. We forget our purpose! That's no fun...! Remembering to think in terms of humility and gratitude puts us in the mind set of purpose without us even realizing it, and with the New Year here , it's not a bad time to start. So with all the positive energy I can muster - Happy New Year, I can honestly say that I am so grateful and humbled by every single one of you! 
A Duck Reinspired