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