Joy and tragedy

It’s been a busy month so far.

It’s hard to pinpoint the highlight of the month. Graduating was a big deal, but so was getting married. It was great to have a small intimate graduation ceremony — by that I mean having Erik and Alex along with me in Iowa for the first and last time. At the same time, it was great seeing all of my familiar LA and Seattle faces again that I missed so much at my wedding.

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Tragedy also struck my family this month. My uncle passed after a few weeks in the hospital due to a number of different ailments. In between graduation and the wedding I flew in to see him, and in between my bachelorette festivities and the rehearsal dinner I went to visit him. I knew he was close to passing, and it was confirmed when the nurse was on the phone telling his sons that they needed to get to the hospital right away since he was not going to make the night. I kissed him goodbye and as I left, I knew it would be the last time I would see him. It was hard to see him hooked up to so many machines, laying there helpless, gasping for air.

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It seems like adult life comes around full circle. You get the good with the bad. The joyous occasions mixed with the tragedies. One is followed by the other, or in this case, it’s simultaneously served. I wouldn’t say it put a damper on all of the festivities but it gave me a lot of perspective. I watched my aunt — someone who had been married for about 25 or so years, someone who loved this man dearly, hang on to the hope that he would get better. She showed up every day to the hospital bright and early, and left each night long after the sun went down. Meanwhile, amidst the chaos, she tried to forecast and balance all of the potential issues and the “what if”s. He had been hospitalized before, but this time, we all knew this was different.

Being there for his final days made me think about how my life and marriage would unfold in its final decades and years. How would I make it count? Do all of these long hours working really matter? What about the foregone opportunities to spend time with friends and family? How many times have I been absent in the presence of others? How many times have I come close to throwing in the towel in my chosen profession because I pushed myself too hard, too fast?

I’ll try to keep things in perspective. There isn’t a whole lot that is important in life outside of a few things: Have fun. Love fiercely. Do good work. Am I missing anything else?

When the unthinkable happens

For most of my adult life, I’ve lived with the motto memento mori etched at the back of my head where it meets my neck. I traced the letters from Andy Warhol’s various illustrations — someone who was rebellious and poked fun at conventional living. The placement of my tattoo is particularly symbolic in that this idea is something that I keep in the back of my mind every day.

Memento mori and Andy Warhol come together in an interesting way. Memento mori is a statement that literally translates to “remember that you have to die,” which is a phrase that helps one reflect on personal mortality and what it means in regards to vanity, earthly life, and the transient nature of the people and things that surround us. One of my favorite quotes by Andy Warhol is, “Sometimes the little times you don’t think are anything while they’re happening turn out to be what marks a whole period of your life.” These two elements came together in a natural way for me, and as the idea hit me, I ditched class to work on the design of the tattoo during the daytime and had it etched into my skin later that evening.

On Saturday, one of my esteemed colleagues lost his life on a major Seattle freeway to a young 20 year old man who decided that his phone was more important than anyone else’s safety or life. Granted, maybe he was getting a very important message or call, or perhaps he had just learned some very bad news and was distracted. It is worthless to speculate the what-could-have-beens, but regardless of that young man’s circumstances, he should’ve prioritized life over whatever communications were coming his way.

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As a human being in general, we have a certain amount of responsibilities to ourselves and other people to not put them in harms way. I give this young man the benefit of the doubt that whatever he was distracted by was important enough to him that he needed to take his eyes off the road. Given the outcome, I hope that he would’ve done things differently.

Not a lot of good can come from someone’s death in such a tragic way. However, I hope this lesson reverberates with this particular young man, his family, and his extended circle of friends. I hope that this is a lesson that others will learn from, so that my friend’s death was not in vain.

With regards to Sohel Ahuja, I met him in 2012 when I first considered moving to Seattle to work at Amazon. During my interview, he grilled me on how I would work on improving the team’s current product suite. When I was eventually hired, Sohel helped me feel at home, often swinging by my desk to reminisce about In-N-Out and the now-defunct Chano’s Mexican Food joint right outside of USC. Over happy hour, he oftentimes recounted the story of how he and his wife met. I’ve probably heard that story a dozen times. Every time he told that story, it was as if he was falling in love with her all over again. He also had a penchant for appletinis (of which the team relentlessly made fun of him) and whirlyball (something that became an annual team tradition).

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On a small design project, he and I tag-teamed on a few different tasks as our other engineers were busy launching another product. He was earnestly learning from our senior managers what it meant to truly lead a team. Learning as you go, you make a lot of mistakes, but then again, who’s perfect anyways? His efforts did not go unnoticed because no matter what he worked on, he never half-assed anything. Even if he weren’t 100% perfect at what he did, he gave 100% of himself to it. That was the Sohel I knew first-hand.

In early 2014, I had made the difficult decision to transition to another team at Amazon. Sohel took some time out of his insane work schedule to write out an 8-point bullet list that outlined all the reasons why I should stay. The first four were about my career as a designer and how I was a valued person on my team. The last four were, “5. The team really likes you. 6. Steve really likes you. 7. Katie really likes you. 8. I really like you.” I still ended up transferring out but would run into him every once in awhile around South Lake Union. We would quickly exchange pleasantries but dash off to another meeting. Such is life at Amazon.

Sohel played a supporting role during a huge phase of my life. He and I didn’t always see eye-to-eye on things, and eventually my focus (and reporting structure) was moved over to other people and projects. However, it is was the little ways in which he participated during this phase of my life that stays with me. He left us in the most tragic of ways, but I’ll try to remember the ways in which he genuinely tried to make someone feel like a part of the family.

This Type of Logic is Toxic

I spend a lot more time on Twitter and blogs than I do on Facebook. Most of the time, my timeline is filled with things that are of little importance — people’s opinion of politics, senseless partying photos, quips about sports teams, and more. One of my acquaintances generally strikes up cool conversations on Facebook (given its medium and audience) and can generally elicit some pretty interesting discussion.

Sometimes, though, the things people say completely throw me off guard. Today, my friend asked if anyone would ever consider going vegan, and she got this as a response:

Now, I don’t mind that he has this opinion. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, whether I agree to it or not. However, it’s the logic behind this type of statement that really puts me off.

If you don’t passionately agree with the ideas behind anything, does it mean you don’t explore it? I think that the degree in which you are interested in something should not be used as a barometer against which you should judge how you spend your time. If you find that a subject matter interests you mildly and that you want to pursue it, then you should pursue it. The best types of journeys are the ones you take because you had some sort of spark inside of you. You don’t need an epiphany to journey down a path. You just need some sort of interest (and sometimes disinterest) to carry you throughout that journey.

I think veganism is not only an ideology and a set of beliefs that someone chooses to operate from, but also it is a choice and a way of life. I think anything worth pursuing is worth dabbling into before jumping head first into an unrealistic commitment. For instance, going from platonic friends to significant others to fiancés to husband and wife. You wouldn’t just propose to some random stranger on the street (I won’t judge if you did) but rather, you’d choose to progress through those stages of exploration based on your personal preference.

In the same vein, yoga can also be understood as an ideology and a set of beliefs. It’s not just a workout. I guess if the person had any interest in yoga, they would have learned more about it and would’ve known that.

Additionally, the misguided attempt at deflecting opinion onto “facts” about the vegan diet is absolutely absurd. Vegan protein sources are not limited — when coupled properly you can definitely make complete proteins with complementary amino acids, i.e. rice and beans, etc. They are the most wholesome and healthy proteins the world has ever known, because they are natural! A little bit of research would’ve gone a long way and I would definitely recommend my friend to do her homework to make sure she knows this. Yes, vegans also have meat/dairy substitutes. I use these from time to time as a pescetarian. They come in handy when you’re in a pinch and have a craving that absolutely can’t be filled, but to each his own. I used to scoff at them too until the day came where I really craved a burger. I didn’t crave the meat, but I craved everything else: the texture, the dressings, the warmth, etc. Don’t knock it until you live the lifestyle.

However, I will give the commentator this — sound nutrition does not require such extreme views. However, you can shine that same type of light on someone who chooses to be an omnivore, carnivore, pescetarian, fruititarian, vegetarian, vegan, etc. I can point fingers all day long at how eating meat is detrimental to someone’s health, how evil it is, the million ways that it is disgusting and revolting to consume dead flesh from another once-living being. Or, I can just practice what I preach and allow those types of conversations to occur in a non-threatening manner, and respond to questions and comments appropriately.

You see, this type of logic is completely toxic — you shouldn’t have to be 110% interested in something before you dive deep. Only you can make that judgement. When it comes to your personal interests, life goals, fitness goals, and whatever else you are interested in — you shouldn’t be afraid to make the decision you know you want to make. If I left my quaint interest in triathlon to settle in the dust, would I be where I am today? No. If I let go of my childhood interest in veganism, would I have ever decided to become pescetarian on a whim? No. If I didn’t dabble in five different majors in college and dabbled in fringe startup side projects in my early career, would I be where I am now? Absolutely not.

Don’t let anyone stand in the way of what you want. Not someone on Facebook, but certainly not yourself. If you want it, go get it!

Fitness Friday: Channel Your Gratitude and Level Your Attitude

Let’s face it. Most of what we see online is not true. Very rarely will you see what people are really seeing, feeling, and thinking. Most of the time it’s all one giant highlight reel — everyone effortlessly goes about their daily lives looking happy and relatively healthy.

Because a healthy body is nothing without a healthy mind

Truth is, it’s mostly an act. Everyone has had their fair share of struggles. I personally don’t see why it’s so bad to just be upfront about it. Sugarcoating the process really takes the whole fun out of being human, don’t you think? Let’s take, for instance, yours truly. I’m not at my goal weight now, even though I’m at my goal size. I’m about the same size I was when the Fitbie article was published, but I’m actually about 10-15 pounds heavier. Does it make me a fat failure? No, not really, when you consider that most of what I’ve put on is muscle, thanks to triathlon training. It doesn’t mean that I don’t struggle with bouts of insecurity either, but I have other ways of channeling that — by learning to channel my gratitude and level my attitude.

Everyone has something to be thankful for. Sometime the people with the biggest smile or the calmest demeanor has had to brave a pretty rough storm to get there. At my worst, my outward appearance was just reflecting how I really felt about myself. I just wanted to disappear and be disregarded. It wasn’t until my last semester of college that I really saw the light and began taking care of myself a little better. And, in the years after college, each year I’ve jumped through the hurdles that come with an independent adult life with a little more grace and humility. I could’ve easily played the victim card, but I preferred to be the survivor.

I definitely have an anger problem. On first blush you probably won’t notice it. I generally don’t direct it towards anyone but myself. What gets me up those hills on my runs? Anger. What pushes me to work my hardest at work? Anger. What makes me want to be the best version of myself? Anger. However, in my anger I’ve found a lot of other positive things, like motivation, empathy, patience, understanding, endurance, strength, and positivity — things that might’ve escaped me if I had the privilege of forgoing some of those unfortunate events in my life. Yes, I am angry at what has happened to be, but I don’t let it rule my life. And yet, even though I’ve pretty much been through someone’s version of hell and came back stronger, it takes a person with a pretty big set of eyes to see it for what it is — a second chance to get it right.

So, the next time you start up with the harsh criticisms and the self-deprecation, take a hard look at what you’re doing. What is it that you’re really angry or annoyed with? What is the one nagging thing that you know you should be doing? Turn your attitude into actionable steps to live a better life. Our only true commodity is time. I wouldn’t bother wasting another second of my life living dishonestly with myself through a bitter attitude (or living vicariously through someone else’s so-called awesome life). Try learning to look at the world with an attitude of gratitude and look for the silver lining. I promise that it’s usually there if you look hard enough.

Success: The Hardest Part of Training Is Planning For It

That’s not me. I wish it were, but nope, that’s someone else.

A goal can feel out of reach when you lack proper planning and training. In casual conversation, whenever I hear something like “I don’t have time to work out” or “I could never run a (any distance race)“, I often hear “I’m not worth it,” “I won’t make the time,” or “My health is not a priority to me right now.” My goal is always to help people in little ways so that they can help themselves, and often times I’ll point out the inconsistencies in their logic. The classic one is “I don’t have enough energy to exercise!” to which I kindly point out, “Exercise will train your body to store and utilize your energy more efficiently. What do you have to lose?

One of the key things to remember is that the hardest part of training is planning for success. I’m a total control freak and I thrive on incessant planning. I want to plan my meals, I want to plan my career, I want to plan my training, I want to plan my schooling, I want to plan my travels, etc. Planning planning planning. I can do it all day and all night long and I love every minute of it. (That was another reason why I wanted to get into personal training!)

For people who are not natural planners, tackling down a regular schedule can be a bit difficult and out of character. And for that, I say that you either get some help with your training plans (a friend or hired hands otherwise) or you simply make it a priority. When you realize that yes, you are worth the time you’re investing in yourself, and yes, you are worth the success that you will eventually reap, then hopefully you will give yourself permission to be successful.

A newbie runner asked me to help them put together a half marathon training plan. After some quick digging online and referencing a few plans, I made adjustments to something that already existed and personalized it to his level. That was easy!

What is the true cost of planning, anyways? You take an hour or two to jot out the details of your endeavor (a half marathon, or maybe a week’s worth of healthy meals) and then you schedule some “me-time” to get it done. The savings can really add up: maybe you save $50-$60 a week by bringing lunch to the office (like I’m hoping to this week) or you save yourself a training season of “what-if”s and heartache. Not to mention, you also save the countless hours of ambiguity of not knowing what to do and then subsequently feeling panicky about it. When you know what the end goal is, and when you can visualize it, planning for success is really the fun part.

Two hearty salads (that I’ll eat over four days), baba ganoush, hummus, fat free Italian dressing, celery sticks, and baby carrots…enough for a work week. I THINK.

At work, I personally am crunched for time. Lunch is not at a consistent time and usually hinges on a pretty hectic schedule. On the craziest of days at work I end up eating two of my three meals at the office, and usually at my desk to boot. So, especially for people like me who work more than 40 hours a week, it is imperative that you plan — plan your workouts, plan your nutrition. If I can work more than 40 hours a week and squeeze in 20 miles a week and get my lunches together for the week, so can you. You just have to make the time and ask for help.

Some time-saving tips for you to try:

1. Automate what you can. I know I work for Amazon and I would’ve plugged this regardless of whether or not I worked for them, but you can order most of your purchases online. You know, the mundane things like toilet paper, toothpaste, clothes, GU energy gels, protein shakes, bobbie pins, etc. Depending on where you live you can even order groceries. Order it online and save time! Don’t bother standing in line, dealing with driving and parking, and working through the aisles trying to make a decision. Buy it online and save time and money. Believe me on this one.

2. Plan your training an entire season in advance. Take the guess work out of each morning or evening. Stop wondering what distance you’re supposed to be running or class you’re supposed to attend. Make a schedule and stick to it. Better yet, put it into your calendar and sync it with your phone and email so that you get constant reminders of what you should be doing.

3. Register for your race goal up front. Dangle that carrot for as long as you can. Also, by registering far in advance, you’ll get the best price break and not have to scramble to register at the last minute. If it’s a destination race, also book your accommodations and transport up front to save on costs.

4. Use your exercise time to fully decompress. Working out lets you destress and detach from your crazy, hectic life. Give yourself permission to let go for that short amount of time. Your work and other commitments will still be there once you get back. Use the time to appreciate yourself, destress, listen to some new music or audiobooks, or simply think about nothing. It should be meditative and non-negotiable. (Especially don’t check your emails on your run. That’s just dangerous!!)

I'm 28 and I Don't Know What I'm Doing With My Life…Still

Happy Tuesday, folks!

I’ve gotten a flurry of Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ love for my birthday last week. Thanks again for your outpouring of love and support, especially all I’ve gone through this last year. It means the world to me.

So, on to the title of my post. Pretty loaded, huh? Well, it’s the honest truth. I think people have a tendency to frame the conversation — meaning that they want to express to people the version of themselves they want people to view them as. Perhaps not as genuine or honest, but it’s their only way to communicate their (somewhat) true selves. One of my friends (both online and IRL) has a priceless Twitter bio which sums it up perfectly: “Let’s be honest. I’m a nobody. But I’m working hard to change that.” There’s an element of truth to that for all of us, but I also suppose it depends on how you define yourself.

Historically I’ve always defined myself by my career — what I planned to do with my life, what I studied, what I’m working on. There’s an element of predictability and truth to that. You are what you spend your time thinking about, right? I design and design, mostly fatiguing my mind and interest on it until I find something to distract me long enough until I stumble upon something that will inspire me to pick up the pixels again. And so the process repeats. However, let’s get some facts straight here — as of last week, I’ve pretty much been doing the same thing, over and over (in different ways) for 15 years. If my personal philosophy holds true — that you shouldn’t do something for more than 10 years — then I’m approximately 5 years overdue for a major career change. However, in my attempt to change my career I’ve faced a number of “signs,” if you will, that keep bringing me back into the design sphere.

Let’s start with my reiki studies. Reiki is the study and practice of energy healing. In one of my texts, a short passage caught my eye.

If you a have a talent to help people and you choose not to, then you are stealing from yourself by denying your gift.

I stopped after reading that passage and thought about it long and hard. Was I really stealing from myself by denying this gift I have of design? Am I even helping people with my design work? I’ve come across a handful of scumbags in my design career. I’ve come across people who have told me to my face that I don’t have any real skill in design. On the other hand I’ve had plenty of happy clients, projects deployed, and work on display for the world.

Then I thought about what I’d rather be doing. Wait, let me rephrase that. Is there something I’d rather be doing? Design is difficult and taxing. It’s a problem that won’t go away. Will I be fulfilled by hacking away at the problems presented to me forever and ever? Maybe…maybe not. My focus as of late has turned to healthcare, wanting to get back to patient care. It takes a lot of time to retrain for a new career, especially in medicine. I’ll need a pretty lengthy runway and I will probably still need to design to survive. Will it be the best use of my time? Will I be able to affect the change I seek through this different medium, or am I just spinning my wheels?

Some of you are probably wondering what has caused this change in tune (again). There’s been a few things.

One, I’ve been removed from most of my friends and family and spending time solo. Wait a minute. I spend most of my time alone in my own head.

Two, I attended the LAUNCH Conference on some complimentary Broke Startup Founder tickets and met some amazing people that inspired me. I met a couple of other broke startup founders who were doing amazing things. I some incredibly smart people that were going to change the world. I saw one of my heroes and froze and then lamented that I never got a chance to shake his hand. I spent most of my time there live-casting the startups as they were pitching but also keeping a pulse on the general attitude of those around me.

Third, the projects that are availing themselves to me are inspiring. I’m a bit superstitious so technically everything is in stealth mode and I won’t tell you about them…mainly for fear that they’ll go away once I talk about them. (Weird, I know.)

Fourth, it’s always so difficult explaining to my parents what exactly it is that I do. Social media? UX design? Mobile apps? Where’s the money? I don’t know, mom and dad…but it’s there somewhere.

Fifth, I’ve had somewhat of a new lease on life. A few years ago I had a bit of a cancer scare. After a couple years of refining the way I live my life and the things I eat, as well as the way I’m taking care of myself, I’m proud to say that all suspicious traces of whatever was in my system is completely gone. I got the lab reports back in February. I like to think of it as “free and clear.”

So yes, you can say that I’m 28 and I don’t know what I’m doing with my life…still. I’m certainly farther along now than when I was 18 but sometimes I’m not so sure. When I was 18 I was bright eyed and bushy tailed. I wanted to change the world. I stopped at nothing to make enough money to send myself to college. I explored different majors, internships, and even schools. I sought to meet as many people as I could. I spent more time in nature. I’m 28 and, to some extent, doing the same thing — except now I’ve dropped out of grad school (too boring), dabbling in other potential part-time endeavors (massage therapy school), working on other startup ideas (never-ending), and working for other startups (on-going). The projects won’t stop coming (THANK GOODNESS) but certainly I wouldn’t be getting offers for projects if I didn’t bring some sort of value to the table, right? The design community is this never-ending cesspool of disgustingly amazing talent and utter mediocrity. You’re kind of one or the other.

Maybe my self-projections were right. Maybe I was never meant to work for someone else. Maybe I’m doomed to a life of permalancing and chasing the next big idea in my sketchbook. I suppose if that’s the worst that can happen to me, then it can’t possibly be that bad.

Motivation Monday: Getting Excited About What's Next

Change is pretty hard to face.

I spent the weekend pouring over my personal training books. A lot of it was technical and scientific, and the material is admittedly more difficult than I had anticipated. However, the single thing that kept me motivated was the light at the end of the tunnel.

The prospect of being able to help other people achieve their fitness and weight loss goals excites me. I want to be a part of that journey. I want to help other people change their lives and become the people they truly are on the inside. I don’t want people to be trapped inside of a body that they don’t feel represents who they are.

There’s a lot of work that goes into changing your lifestyle. You’ll have to admit that what you’re doing isn’t working. That one’s for sure. But, not only do you have to plan and actualize steps you’ll take to achieve your goals but you’ll also have to visualize what success looks like for you. That will be different for everybody. Some will want to finally fit in their skinny jeans again. Some will want to be able to party on the beach without feeling self conscious. Others will want to cross the finish line at a marathon or triathlon. Whatever it is, I hope that the work I’m putting in now will enable others to achieve those goals!

Accepting Change and Moving On

Happiness is really a choice. Change? Not so much.

Change hits me really hard. For some reason I’m just really uncomfortable with it. Many times…rather, most of the time, change is really for the better. I’ve had quite a few things that brought along a lot of change…graduating college, moving out, ending relationships, leaving projects, ending tenures, starting/failing/re-starting grad school. The list can go on and on.

I think what bothers me most about change is that sometimes I feel like I could have done something better. Sometimes I wish I would’ve spent my time differently. Sometimes I wish I had focused a little more. Maybe if I had done something a little differently, the entire experience would have been better, worse, or otherwise different. It’s a classic case of analysis paralysis. Let me be the first person to tell you, if no one else has already, that change is hard and that I understand. Just know that everything happens for a reason. I’ve personally gone through a lot of change this month and it’s been one rollercoaster after another, but I can honestly say that things will work themselves out.

The reason why I take the concept of change so hard is that I personally see change as an end to something. Changing jobs or roles in life, moving on from dead weight, and growing all involve some sort of transformation. If I could just learn to flip a switch and see it as a beginning I think it’d be a lot easier on me. Change is a new beginning. You can wipe your slate (relatively) clean and transform. It’s a necessary step to reincarnation…so embrace it.

Some things I’ve done to accept change and move on:

  • Talk it out. Sometimes it helps to have a cathartic session with another person who is willing to listen.
  • Reflect on your experience and remember the good things. What made your experience enriching? What did you get out of it?
  • Get excited about what’s next. Now that you’re in a state of change, you have been handed a wild card from life. You are completely in control of your next move. Call the shots and take charge.
  • Give it time. Most people will go through the five steps of grieving (denial/isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance). It’s totally normal and no matter is too small that it needs to go ignored.
  • Do something to honor your feelings. Allow yourself to feel the way you do. This isn’t the time to deny or deprive. Do something nice for yourself…you deserve it.
  • When you’re ready to make a decision, don’t look back. Keep looking forward and move towards the future.

What else do you recommend?

Fitness Fridays: Set Your Intention

It’s that time of week again! I wrapped up an awesome Team Dress for Success orientation last night (hey, it’s not too late to join!) and it was super motivating. To top it off, I had an amazing run this morning as my ever-loyal boyfriend decided that he’d bike alongside me for the entire 10K trek. When I came in to the office today I was admittedly a little tired from the bike ride to work but I tried to stay focus amidst all of the work I still have ahead for a successful season. Check out my vlog below or keep reading…it’s your choice!

What really started setting my day on fire was an amazing call I got from one of Dress for Success’ past clients. (If you don’t already know, Dress for Success helps women transition from unemployment to work by providing them with career development services and work-appropriate attire for their interviews and eventual employment.) Her story: she used to have an amazing job and fell on hard times. (Sounds familiar.) Hard times ended up escalating and she started living out of her car. Her family eventually took her back in while she is trying to get back on her feet…and she is trying…trying VERY hard. Interview after interview, application after application, she remains diligent and focused. She has set an intention of being able to land a new job here in the city, preferably in an office-type environment. Her goals are clear and as she called to give thanks for what we’ve provided to her, she very tearfully unloaded her story. I was touched that we were able to give her the help she needed and invited her back in to take advantage of our other resources so that she can give herself even more of an edge.

So, you may ask, what does finding a job have to do with Fitness Friday? Well, it’s not too far removed actually. Setting an intention is necessary whenever you are trying to achieve any goal, no matter how large or small or insurmountable it may seem. The next time you head out for a workout or for lunch, ask yourself what you are trying to achieve. If you’re heading out to lunch, are you looking to stuff down whatever you can find at the closest fast food joint? Or, are you really looking to nourish your starving body and tired mind? Set your intention, change the way you look at things, and you might be surprised at your results!

The Feeling of Liberation on a Bicycle

There’s something really amazing about being able to experience the city on two wheels instead of four.

The weather has been absolutely great for riding lately. Even if it’s a bit on the warm side, there’s nothing like the feeling of wind in your hair to keep you cool. I’m riding a mountain bike and most of the time I ride on the sidewalks. Hop, skip, dodge a pedestrian, stop for a car, ride, repeat. There’s a feeling of liberation — freedom from the tether of a desk or a car, escalating gas prices, parking tickets, worries. Instead of contributing to a problem I’m trying to fix it. Instead of worrying about the minutiae I’m focusing on my journey and my destination.

I go up and down sidewalks and, in my mind, I imagine trail switchbacks that I hope to one day ride. I see the Hollywood sign but all around me I see evidence of real life, not the contrived or imagined that is so typical of Los Angeles. I see faces, people walking to and from work, excited tourists from all over the world visiting Tinsel Town hoping to catch a glance of the next up and coming starlet. I see homeless people pushing their carts and huddling together in the evenings. I hear international exchanges everywhere. I ride through quietly privileged neighborhoods and bask in the foliage, ample sunshine, and impossibly wide streets.

Every so often I end up riding on a major street. Most of the time I’m cruising around sidewalks and residential neighborhoods. The whistles and cat calls come…it’s pretty much expected. What’s nice is when I pull up to a stop sign or crosswalk and catch eyes with a driver. They’re usually surprised by a bicyclist, for one. Two, they’re usually surprised that I’m a girl. (The males here seem to outnumber the females quite a bit.) So, I might get a few choice words or a silent acknowledgement, but then I’m back in my world again.

It’s not very often that I get to catch a ride with someone. When I do, I honestly feel like I connect with them on a different level. There’s almost a silent understanding, some sort of positive waves being exchanged. The feeling of being able to experience something so liberating and so joyous with someone else is indescribable. It’s like a new invisible bond is formed and sealed between you and them in that space and in that time. It’s irreplaceable. It’s not the same feeling that I get when I’m walking with someone, sitting next to or across from them, running, or even swimming. It’s a feeling I only get when I’m on a bike.

It seems as though when I want to let off some steam or think, I go for a run. When I want to challenge myself, I go for a swim. But, when I’m looking to return to a “happy place,” I go for a bike ride.

Then there’s the feeling of coming home safe…that always makes me happiest.