Friday, October 20, 2017
A few weeks ago a friend at track asked me one of those"would you rather" questions. Unfortunately this one wasn't about Ryan Reynolds versus Ryan Gosling, because I've got an answer for that. But similar to Ryans' abs (not a typo on that plural possessive, btw) I can't stop thinking about this question.
Would you rather be 45 years old* (*This was the age he gave me but I think it was based on an assumption about how old I am and that 45 would be a significant jump) but get a million dollars OR be 10 yesterday old again and know everything you know now??
Obviously, my first answer was "I'd take the million dollars than use it to buy the organs of young people and stay young forever."
I know - that's a terrible answer. For one thing, organs are hella expensive, and I probably couldn't even get a better spleen for that much. Also, it's gross, a little Sci-Fi-esque, and illegal. Not that any of that bothers me particularly.
But since he asked me this, I have been thinking about this dilemma on most of my long runs, at least for a while. It's a really interesting problem, especially given my deep interest in time travel. So of course I over-analyzed it, and came up with all different pros and cons for each scenario before making a decision based purely on emotional response. :)
But let's start with the rational stuff first, because it is super important to consider.
A few basic assumptions about how time works in this thought experiment: A) If I take the money, I become 45 now, I don't jump ahead into the future to when I would am 45. B) If I go back to being ten, I go back in time - I don't become ten now (because that would be super WEIRD - where would I go? Who would take care of me?)
Option A: Take the Money
Pros: I have $1M.
Cons: I have to pay taxes on that; $1M is like basically nothing in today's economy so the only way that money really makes my adulthood better is if I do super-responsible stuff with it like pay off my mortgage and then invest the rest of it, so really where is the fun there? Oh, and even though it is not a lot of years, I jump ahead to being 45 and then I am older, and deeper into my next age group for racing - totally skipping over the first five years when I am the "young person" in my division. That's a lot to give up.
Option B: Be Young Again
Pros: I am ten years old again, and have my entire life in front of me - all during which I know everything I know now! That means that I could go to college for all different things this time and I would be significantly better at college-ing while I am there, so that's a nice bonus. There's a lot of dumb stuff I would not have to do because I already did it, and know what happens.
Other good stuff: I don't have to pay a mortgage or make my own meals or buy clothes or really any of that. Of course, if I actually knew what I know now, I totally would do those things because I would also understand how much work it was for my parents - so probably I would not actually do much less of that stuff. I mean, this is less of a pro for me, and more one for my parents, but if I really went back knowing what I know now, I would have been a MUCH better teenager - probably because I would not have thought my parents didn't know how hard life was, and other stupid, stupid things that I said at 16.
I could/would be even more unbearable to all of the girls my brother ever dated in high school, because I would know that none of them are going to last. (LOL, I knew that the first time, too.)
There's some stuff I would "invent." I would have made an effort to learn more about computers, and I would invent Facebook, but with better emojis. I might also invent the Roomba, just so that I could then also invent videos of cats riding on Roombas. So there is a fair amount of potential good I could do for the world.
Cons: The Cons here are really the cons of time travel in general: you cannot go back without totally screwing up the future. It would be one thing if, in this thought experiment, I just got to go back to being ten years old, none the wiser. But - that's not how this works; in this scenario, I know everything that I know now. And while that is great for all of my education and personal experience - WTF do I do with what I know about the world? Because here's the thing: if I go back to 1988, that's before SO MUCH BAD STUFF.
PLUS - I would be a ten year old telling - who??? If I start telling my parents that I know all of these things, what do you think they are going to do? I mean, I know my parents pretty well. I am guessing they would not bundle my brother and me into the car for a fun trip to Quantico where I can tell them everything I know! No; I would have been medicated. Which is nothing against my parents - why would they think I was not making it up?? So I just cannot imagine a scenario in which anyone takes me seriously if I start trying to explain the things that happen in the world between 1988 and now. And even if I could make someone believe me, it could make it worse.
It's like the dilemma in 11/22/63 - if you go back and try to prevent even a single bad thing, it can irreparably change the course of history in ways you cannot even imagine. Even if you have the best of intentions, you cannot possibly know the scope of the consequences of your actions. I am going to use homegrown terrorism as my example here (because, as you probably don't know - American terrorists were something I was very interested in during my undergraduate, but when I finished school and was looking for potential avenues for doing something productive with this interest, there was no federal interest - Ugh, how's that working out, guys??): let's say I could make someone in the FBI believe me about Timothy McVeigh, and they were able to stop him. On the one hand: saved lives and took a terrorist off the streets. But I am also aware of what can happen when a larger group perceives a threat from the government, based on the singling out of a member or leader - it could just have easily provoked another Waco-style standoff (which is exactly what McVeigh was retaliating against). So history may be changed, but it could be just as bad if not worse.
Obviously this is an extreme and dark example, but that's the point - you don't know. And that is why time travel is such a bad idea. None of us can see the totality of the universe, or how even small decisions ripple out to create change over time. Returning to 1988 with what I know now could potentially mean that 2015 looked just like it was imagined in Back to the Future or it could mean a 2019 that looks like Blade Runner. Or both.
So yeah - on balance, from a purely rational perspective it certainly seems like taking the money is the way to go!
But, as I said, I decided this one for myself based on emotions, not rational thought. Because as much as I like to consider all the evidence and use data and blah blah, the truth is that I am just a squishy mass of feelings (ugh). Luckily, my emotional decision is the same as my rational one: take the money. And not even take the money, just ... don't go back.
Yes, it would be amazing to be young again, and have a chance to learn more and do more; to travel more and see things and all of that.
But I would be alone. A do-over is only exciting if you get to try new stuff, and that means you may never cross paths with the people who come into your life because of choices you make.
I met my best friends after 1995, because of my choices about high school, college, and graduate school. If I did my life over, I would never see them again, or talk to them again. Yes, I would make new friends, but I would also have to live with the loss of people I love deeply now, and I would never get to see what their lives become. It would be a huge, gaping hole.
I definitely would not be married to my husband. Not because I would not want to be, but because love is an organic, amazing thing - and if I went back, and had 18 years of our relationship with me, when I finally cross paths with him in 1999 our relationship would unfold in completely different ways, that probably would not bring us to where we are today. How could I walk away from all of that, and from him?
The truth is, I would rather be older but share my life with the people who are important to me now, than to give them all up to be young again. Yeah, to get a million dollars would also be nice, but I don't even need the money. As hard as getting older can be, I would not change it for anything. I have done cool stuff, and turned into a person I like, surrounded by people I love (yes, even my brother). I have no interest in leaving any of them.
Wednesday, August 16, 2017
In my Psych class, I like to do a little experiment with my students. I usually do this about halfway through the semester, when they are comfortable enough in the class to be honest in their writing because they know I am not going to collect it, and even if I did I would keep it confidential. So I hand out a piece of paper to everyone in the class - half of them get one writing prompt, and the other half gets a different prompt. The first half is asked to spend 5 minutes writing about the little things in life that make them happy, whatever those things are. The other half gets a little blurb about how smartphones increase stress, and about the expectation from employers, friends, family, and pretty much everyone that you will always be available because of technology. Then I ask them to write about what is stressing them out. When everyone has written for 5 minutes, I asked them to put that away and to try a maze puzzle. I tell them it should be fun and give their minds a break before we go on to the next topic.
The differences are amazing.
The students who wrote about what stresses them out get ANGRY at the puzzle. They get angry at me (a lot of them accuse me of giving them an impossible puzzle or of the task being dumb). Several of them finish it, but it in a "f-you puzzle" sort of way. They say that the puzzle is easy, but stupid. They don't enjoy it. When they have to start over, they slam down their pens and puff out their cheeks, and generally look like they would rather be sticking hot pins in their fingers.
The students who wrote about what makes them happy? Here's the interesting part - they tell me the puzzle is hard, most of them think it is impossible and are genuinely impressed when someone finishes it. (For the record, it is hard - mostly because the lines are really small and the puzzle takes up the whole page, so it is doable but takes forever.) But they don't care! They laugh when they make mistakes. They keep trying over and over, but they don't get angry. They ask their neighbor for advice; they come up with strategies like using different colored pens to keep track of routes they have already tried. They have fun.
I am sure you are like "Duh, everyone gets angry when they are stressed." Yes I know. That's not what matters here - what I want to point out is how quickly I can do this to my students. They write for 5 minutes. Half of them don't even actually write for that long by the time they find a pen, read the prompt, check their phone, realize everyone else is actually doing the work, and get started. FIVE MINUTES. And their entire attitude shifts - for better or for worse.
Circling back to where we started: the world is crazy and overwhelming 24 hours a day. It is hard to get away from things (thanks, internet!) but it is ESSENTIAL that we learn to carve out space to take care of ourselves, and to disconnect from the things that are stressing us out. Even for five minutes.
I know! If you have spent like more than 30 seconds with me, you know that I am the LAST PERSON who should be preaching about relaxing and unplugging. My cats won't sit with me because they know as soon as they sit down, I will get up and start vacuuming. I can't make it through a half hour show without wandering around and Googling things like "How much does my hair weigh?" I work too much (and I enjoy it). It is physical effort for me to relax my muscles. But lately, I have been trying to be a lot better about this whole self-care thing, especially in light of what I see in my students during this activity, and in myself as I have gotten busier and busier at work. It is not pretty. There are days when everything is a "f-you puzzle" and I don't want to be like that. I like challenge, but I also want to enjoy it.
So I have been trying to take better care of myself. It has been a struggle. I read a bunch of stuff about it. Most of them suggest meditating. Reading about sitting still makes me antsy! So that is not for me - at least not yet. I have made changes in my diet (okay, sort of, in my head, I PLAN to make changes in my diet, eventually). I take naps. Which I did before, except now I claim they are "essential to my mental health" and not just what I do every day when I get home. How you talk about these things matters! But it is still hard, because I am not used to taking care of myself, and sometimes I have to remember that it is not the same as being weak.
The biggest place that I have had to make a change is in my running. If you know me, you also know I run a lot. I used to be really competitive, mostly with myself. I get upset when I don't hit a specific pace, or run a boatload of miles each week. That is a challenge that I enjoy, and don't want to give it up. But - I have also come to realize that running is how I take care of myself. It is my time to unplug. Inevitably, when I run I end up thinking about work, and what color I want to paint my bathroom, and whether or not my hair weighs enough that if I cut it could I get any faster. But I am also making a conscious effort to think - for at least five minutes - about how amazing running is. About how much I love my sneakers, or about the cool things I get to see because I am exploring a new road, or just about how much fun my next race is going to be. I intentionally try to make pockets of time to stop thinking about the stuff that swirls in my head all day, and instead to silence everything except the fun things. So that when I get home and find I didn't hit my target pace, it's okay. And when there are 15 new emails, I can deal with them without feeling like I never have time to myself.
I am not good at this yet. I probably never will be; it will always be work. That's cool thought because I like work, I like a challenge. And if you know me, you know I am a challenge - even to myself. But I can do anything for five minutes.
Tuesday, April 25, 2017
So I love Pinterest, and I follow a lot of boards about fitness. I also steal a lot of pictures from Pinterest, like every single one in this post. For example, this one pin that comes up a lot:
And this pin enrages me. Because that woman is skinny. Not that it's bad to be skinny, and many people exercise for exactly that reason. No. This pin pisses me off because it doesn't portray a woman who is actually doing strength work. (Last I checked, sitting on a stool wearing next to nothing isn't something that badass women spend a lot of time doing at the gym.). And then it also pisses me off because it perpetuates this weird belief that women who have muscle are fat - or usually we say it in a more PC way "don't lift heavy, you'll bulk up." It also suggests that strong is only acceptable as long as it conforms to expectations about sex-appeal.
And this is bullshittery.
I'm all for motivational images about being in shape and all that. But I am not for sending that message in words over a background image that tells the exact opposite story. Because what this image actually says is "It's okay to work-out, but it's really important to look hot while you do it."
Being strong can look like a lot of different things. For example: powerlifting. Like these ladies who could probably bench press my car, and are in fact "training to be strong."
Being strong doesn't have to involve massive amounts of iron plates. Even being able to move your own body through space, against gravity, requires an enormous amount of strength.
Have you ever done a handstand? I have. It's really effing hard - and that's using both hands.
A few months ago, I'm not sure I would have noticed this right away. But in October, Outside magazine published a spot-on piece about the blatant sexism in the stock footage used of female athletes. They wrote, not inaccurately, about the overwhelming use of images of women doing sports while wearing sexy outfits. And then also pointed out the dearth of actual women who deadlift in their underpants.
It was the first piece in what has become a new mission at Outside: to accurately and equitably represent women in sport and outdoor fields. Who knows what could come from this. The sport and outdoor industries have a history of seeing women as smaller men who like to wear pink gear, and only recently have substantial strides been made in terms of clothing and equipment that is in fact designed for performance.
I do think that part of why the change is slow has to do with images like the "train to be strong not skinny" one above. As long as we - women - continue to accept the idea the way we are portrayed, the longer it will take before athletic clothes don't double as a "sexy wrestler" Halloween costume.
The longer we accept the idea that we need permission to not have our workouts be about being skinny, the longer it will be until women feel comfortable being strong.
And the longer women accept the idea that lifting heavy will make you bulky (oh, and that even if it does, that it's a bad thing) then the longer until I can find pants and shirts that fit the strong body I have, and I'm getting really sick of not having anything to wear when I workout.
Although, I guess I could just wear my underpants, while I just sit on this stool looking all strong not skinny...
Thursday, January 12, 2017
Today I skipped lunch - I was hungry, but I made a decision to not eat. This sounds way more dramatic than it was. The truth is, I was at a workshop with a provided lunch, and none of the options were something I could/would eat. In the past, I would have eaten anyway, then felt bad - physically and emotionally. But today I a) realized something about myself, and b) realized something else about myself.
The first thing that I realized is that it feels less terrible to be hungry than it does to eat things I should not or don't want to eat. I have some weird food stuff; I am incredibly lactose intolerant, and there are some other things that I know will make me sick if I eat them; I am almost entirely vegan and feel pretty strongly about not cheating on that choice. The worst part is, most of the foods that I am most sensitive to - and that tend to be veggie friendly - are the ones that I love the most. For example, I can no longer tolerate things that have been in a deep fryer - but I love fries more than breathing. So you can see where this is a serious problem for me. It is not a life or death allergy here, but my intolerance is significant enough that a basket of fries equals a day or two of GI issues and generally feeling like junk (specifically like the junk I put in my body). So today, when faced with going hungry or eating tiny sandwiches with just a little bit of cheese on them, I chose to go hungry. Hungry I could solve a few hours later; hungry didn't hurt me - this was First World hunger we are talking about here! But eating dairy, even a small amount, would have hurt. It takes me days to get over it, and I realized today that being slightly uncomfortable for a few hours is WAY better than being really uncomfortable for a few days.
Okay - this might seen SUPER obvious but you have to know me. I love food. I have been removed from buffets by my husband because I had been there too long (like that is a thing...). I spend something like 99% of my waking hours thinking about what I am going to eat next, and that includes when I am eating. I do not skip meals. When people say they get so busy they forget to eat, I do not believe them. THAT IS NOT A THING. YOU ARE A LIAR.
So yeah - for me to make the decision to go hungry over eating food that is literally right there in front of me, looking so freaking tasty I can barely stand it - that is huge. I can't say that I am going to make that choice every time, but this was a big step in terms of me putting what actually is good for me (not eating dairy; sticking to my beliefs) before what I want to do (eat all the things).
And that leads me to my second realization, which is more important and what I have been thinking about for the past few hours. Why did not pack a f*^#ing lunch?
I have been a lactose intolerant vegetarian for YEARS. I can never find anything to eat (which is why I just usually eat whatever and feel sick), and I should not have expected today to be any different. In fact, this morning I stood in my kitchen debating whether or not to pack a lunch, and decided against it because "that is weird - people will think I am weird."
WHY DO I CARE WHAT OTHER PEOPLE THINK?
But I do care! I am super weird about my food stuff. I HATE telling people that I have food allergies, or even that I am vegan because I hate having to talk about it. I know that a lot of this stems from being an introvert, and hating any conversation that requires me to justify my choices or existence. Like, for real - would you want to be questioned about why you are eating certain things, and do you get enough protein, and hear a bunch of stories about people I know who have the same thing and what they did to cure themselves, blah blah blah? Yeah, me either. So I just don't say anything. But then I also don't do anything to make sure that there is food I can eat. So I end up being this stupid vegan martyr - which is what everyone hates! I either am sad and hungry, or sad and sick because I ate the stupid cheese.
And that is really dumb.
I realized today that I should just always pack a lunch. If I don't need it, awesome. Take it tomorrow. If I do need it, awesome, I have it! Bonuses to this plan include: have to buy more fun lunch boxes! Always have something to swap (I pack amazing lunches, imho)! Have TWO lunches if I want because I am a hobbit and there is nothing worse than going to all day meetings where they forget about second lunch!
So this is my weird food thing, and my personal realizations - but I bet that everyone has things they do because it is easier than the conversations about why they are not doing them (or vice versa). And that is dumb. I don't know about you, but I definitely have let what I think other people might say about my eating habits stop me from being healthy and happy. As I sat there today, being proud of myself for not doing something that I knew would make me sick, I was also so disappointed in myself for not having done something so simple that would have made me feel even better. And that probably no one would have cared about! So yeah - from now on I am going to pack a lunch. And if we are in a meeting together just know that I pack a kick-ass vegan lunch and I will be happy to tell you all about it - but I am a hungry person, so no swaps unless you have something quality, like Oreo's (yes, they are vegan!).
Sunday, January 1, 2017
So, it has been a LOOONG time since I wrote anything here. Like many other projects, this is one that I started and then wandered away from long before it was done. I mean - when is a blog done? Also, I barely started! This cannot possibly be done.
And this blog is just one thing in a list of things I started and have yet to finish. I have a barely begun race t-shirt blanket; about 15 books that I read 30 pages of (never mind the ones I bought and haven't started yet); and most recently I purchased all the ingredients to make my own bath bombs and soap - then promptly put it all in a box, and stuck it in my closet.
Well, no more! This year is going to be the year when I finish things - and it starts with this blog. I hesitate to call this a resolution, so let's go with a new habit. I am going to make writing a habit (lucky you - you get to read it all)!! I am also going to make finishing things a habit, starting with the race t-shirt blanket that has been moved to three different locations, in a variety of plastic bins and bags. I am the worst.
The upside of this habit - other than feeling accomplished - is that it is going to force me to carve out time for myself to get these things done. I mean, yes, I already carve out a whole lot of time for running, but that is actually different. Training for a race is actually easier for me than convincing myself to sit still and get working on a project, even when the project is something I really WANT to do. Maybe it is the focus that is needed, maybe it is the idea of not being able to finish in one sitting; I am not sure why it is so hard for me - but it is something I know I need to be better about, at home and at work.
So it starts today, with this quick post! Then I will probably procrastinate by browsing Amazon for organizational tools I don't really need, then I have a 10k, and I probably will need a nap at some point... But this is just the first day of my new habit, so even this one small task being completed and published is a start, right?. Small steps, daily mindfulness, and getting it done - that is what matters.
And naps. Naps also matter. A lot.
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