I’ve been staring at my hands for three days trying to figure out what’s bothering me about them.
On the surface, they just look like my hands. My short, stubby fingers. One is crooked from playing trombone in high school (I wish I were kidding… actually, no I don’t). One is crooked because I broke it playing basketball in 5th grade, before I stopped growing and everyone else got tall. The others are all mangled from when my brother wound them up in the car window as I was reaching through for more papers on my paper route one day in 8th grade. They’re all knotty from the juvenile arthritis that set in when I was 15. On my left hand I wear a Claddagh ring that my grandmother gave me the day I graduated from college. On my right, I wear a ring that I truly can’t remember where it came from. I’ve been wearing it since my junior year of high school, at least. These are my hands as I have always known them to be and they haven’t changed drastically.
On September 3, 2013 (one year ago today), I couldn’t run a mile. I couldn’t even run 25 yards. I know this because I tried. It was my first day running.
What I remember about that day was that I struggled to run for a full minute as the group that I joined for new runners introduced very starter-level intervals. When it was over and I got back to my car, I texted a friend to say that I didn’t think I was going to make it. That day, I felt all but certain I was going to fail at running (yet again). I think I actually whimpered a little bit when I got back to my apartment and stood at the bottom of the long, steep staircase, looking up and wondering how I was going to drag myself up those when it hurt just to walk.
It was embarrassing because I knew that I hadn’t really done that much at all.
This morning, September 3, 2014, I went to the park where I spent all of last fall and all of this past spring working on becoming a runner. I walked a little bit to warm up, and then I ran two miles.
I don’t want to say how long it took me to run those two miles. But I ran them without stopping, and a year ago I couldn’t even hope to come close. That’s all that matters.
If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, you may have picked up on a few things about me in terms of my living situation. If not, here’s the short version: In 2008 I left my teaching job, moved home with my parents for what was supposed to be 10 months, and I’ve been here for five years. I’m 30 years old. For five years I’ve been dreaming about having my own place again.
A lot has changed in those five years — my career track and sense of self, for starters.
So it was kind of a big deal this past weekend when I signed a lease on a new apartment.
Cause for celebration, right?
Do you ever find yourself thinking about what it was you were doing just before everything changed?
And not only that, but how normal it seemed?
Sometimes I wonder if it’s weird that I remember these things and hold on to them as some sort of basis of comparison. While I’ve recently been accused of not dealing with change, when a lot of things change quickly, it’s sometimes difficult to organize that. I still remember that last little bit of “normal” before everything went haywire, and whether it’s a coping mechanism or not, I reach back to that.
This past Saturday I had the unique experience of celebrating life in two completely contrasting ways: a wake followed by a birthday party.
Obviously the party was a lot more upbeat and happy; it was a celebration. The wake was exactly how one expects a wake to be: there were a lot of hugs and flowers, and there were a lot of people crying. Yet, in their barest and most simplistic forms, they each represented the same thing. Continue reading
As I write this, I’m sitting in the classroom where I first read about Romeo and Juliet and Miss Havisham: my 9th grade English classroom. A new teacher came into this room the next year, and while the teacher’s desk is now in the back corner as opposed to the front center, while the desks are now facing the back of the room as opposed to the front, and the blackboard has since been replaced by a white board, this room is still familiar. The same sickly green paint typically reserved for hospital rooms covers the walls, and the view out the window hasn’t changed (aside from the house across the street that burned to the ground and was rebuilt). I can quite acurately walk to the spot in this room where I sat and read Great Expectations. I can see the spot where the new girl was sitting in study hall when I wrote her a note welcoming her so that she would feel more comfortable here. She looked nervous. Where I sit right now is very near the area where I would rest my head against the side board during 9th period and wait for the day to be over.
I wasn’t a stellar student in 9th grade. I could have had amazing grades if I had just tried a little bit, but I didn’t really care. My attitude toward academics would change in a few months, but I was a much different person in 1997-98. Once the fog lifted off of 7th and 8th grade, arguably the worst two consecutive years of my life, I was actually relatively happy. In truth, I had just as much of a love-hate relationship with myself in 9th grade as I did 10 years later with the 9th graders I was teaching. But in my mind, it is always springtime when I think about 9th grade. Everything seemed just on the verge of happening: softball season would be starting, school would be over soon, summer league would start up, I would finally be done struggling my way through biology with a teacher who seemed to hate me for reasons unknown. Junior high would be over and high school would be starting. More importantly, I was making new friends, coming out of my shell a bit. New friendships are fabulous because there’s always that sense of, well, newness. Continue reading