The Art of Rebuilding

Yesterday, I turned 31. 

I woke up before anybody else did that morning to get gas and go to the grocery store, since there were pretty slim pickings at the house. I wanted to have fruit and veggies in the house on my birthday.

I ended up run/waddling into the restroom at Safeway, since I had apparently left the house “too soon.” Oops!

I was very disappointed to not find a “birthday award” in my Starbucks account. I was looking forward to a free drink, as I had scored one last year on my birthday. Anyone know what the deal is these days or am I missing something?

When I came back home, the baby was already awake. As soon as she saw me, she started making those little sounds of desperation that babies do when they’re hungry and know food is near.

My husband and I had bagels and cream cheese for breakfast together. Then he left for work.

I spent the morning with my 10-year-old cooking and cleaning in preparation for the Noonday Luncheon I had planned for that day. I thought it would be nice way to celebrate – invite others to support jewelry artisans around the world in developing countries. No one came, due to sickness and schedules and other reasons they remained silent about. Well, except for the Noonday ambassador and my mom. It was a small little party. Lots of jewelry to try on! My 10-year-old enjoyed that.

Our pressing financial needs are ever before me, so I was still working from my phone all day, though, in retrospect, I could have been working “smarter.” There’s still so much to learn.

My baby joined us all at the dinner table in her highchair and ate banana for the first time.

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My dad spent hours making me the richest, 3-layer chocolate cake known to man, with buttercream filling and a layer of FUDGE for the frosting! We were all barely able to finish our one piece.

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My husband and daughter found a creative way to put “31” on the cake, so I was able to blow out a birthday candle.

After all the eating, we played Scrabble. It’s one of my favorite word games.

The point of this whole thing is to paint a picture. An incomplete picture. A picture of a life that is being rebuilt.

When I was in Taiwan, there were times I felt I had reached the peak of my existence. I didn’t need more friends. I didn’t need more adventures or stamps in my passport. I felt so alive and full. I had purpose. I had a community. Life was SO GOOD.

But if I am to let the past be a school that teaches me how to move forward, I would have to say that’s it when you reach the peak of anything, it’s only a matter of time until you have to descend. And this all for the purpose of scaling the next peak. 

I’m a sucker for analogies, so here you go:

There are mountain climbers who like to bag peaks in a matter of days. One such trek involved Mount St. Helen, Mount Adams, and Mount Hood – two climbers went up all three peaks over Memorial Day weekend last year. (Read their story here.)

Accomplishing that doesn’t mean they were just hanging out on mountain tops all weekend, hopping from peak to peak. They had to get to the top. Then they had to climb down to get to the top again.

I’ve realized, after 3 decades of life on Planet Earth, this is what life is like. Taiwan was the peak of just one mountain. And when I think about it, there were other smaller mountains I had already scaled before then:

  • Winning a Father’s Day essay contest
  • Winning the 5th grade spelling bee
  • Getting to perform a speech in front of 3 different audiences before I was even 14
  • Taking 3rd place in a speech contest
  • Employing myself as a piano teacher when I was only in high school
  • The colorful, exciting, and successful college years

Unexpectedly returning from Taiwan and not getting back on the plane almost three years ago, I found myself at the base of a brand new mountain.

And it took me a while to start climbing. Honestly, I really just wanted to turn around and climb the same mountain again. I missed what it felt like at the top.

But the reality is, the weather on a mountain, even the land and the snow conditions, is always changing. Even I did climb back up to the top, it wouldn’t have been the same. 

So here I am. Not even close to the halfway point of scaling another one of life’s mountains. This time, my husband and two daughters are climbing with me. 

And I always thought I would only need to build one life for myself.

 

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Running Solo: a gift & a lifestyle

No time to read? Then listen! Click here to listen to the audio version of this post. 

I’ve been thinking that the time we have to be single is really the time we have to get good at being alone. But how good at being alone do we really want to be? Isn’t there a danger that you’ll get so good at being single, so set in your ways, that you’ll miss out on the chance to be with somebody great?

The thing about being single is, you should cherish it. Because in a week, or a lifetime, of being alone, you may only get one moment. One moment, when you’re not tied up in a relationship with anyone. A parent, a pet, a sibling, a friend. One moment, when you stand on your own. Really, truly single. And then… it’s gone. ”

-How to Be Single (2016)

When the movie How to Be Single came out, I took myself out on a date. It was Valentine’s Day.

“One for How to Be Single, please,” I said at the movie ticket counter.

By the time the narrator was speaking the words I quoted above, I was in tears. As a “chronically single” female at that point in my life, I was feeling every word. It was so true!

I also felt the words of Paul:

 “Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: it is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do…

“Now about virgins: I have no command from the Lord, but I give a judgement as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy. Because of the present crisis, I think that it is good for a man to remain as he is. Are you pledged to a woman? Do not seek to be released. Are you free from such a commitment? Do not look for a wife. But if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.”

-I Corinthians 7:8, 25-28

Without getting too theologically deep but also to avoid taking Scripture out of context, Paul was basically addressing certain lifestyles that were being practiced among some of the Corinthian church members and SEX. Sex was everywhere, just as it is now. Sex has always been there, from the very beginning of time!

Movies like How to Be Single and shows like Sex and the City (I’ve seen every episode of every season, btw) just prove that sex is everywhere and, in many cases, sex is everything. This doesn’t make it easy to be single, and it makes it even more difficult to be celibate.

Because unlike some of the characters of the movie, I was chronically single and celibate. No past boyfriend or relationship. Had I experienced pain and heartbreak? Oh, yes – one does not need to be in a romantic relationship for that. (Can I hear an “Amen!” from anyone else who was experienced unrequited love or affection?)

A celibate life from the ties of a romantic relationship: that’s what Paul is saying would be better for everyone living for God, but he knows that it’s also not possible for everyone. And it’s definitely not a requirement for following God, either!

So many people get married. And many others don’t. And there’s a myriad of reasons for both cases.

But the both the movie and even the words of Paul imply that being single is a gift. “I wish that all of you were as I am. But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that” (I Corinthians 7:7).

I was single until Sunday, April 17, 2016 (the same year that movie came out!) when I went on my FIRST DATE EVER with my husband, then a single dad. It changed everything, my future, my life plans, even my goals. It’s true what Paul says about the troubles you will face if you marry; anyone who is married can testify to this!

Before that moment, I believe I did get good at being alone. Being good at being alone doesn’t mean the loneliness and longing goes away, either. You just get good at it. At filling your Friday nights with friends and community and your free time with new adventures and meaningful experiences. You get good at dealing with nasty pests, like mice and cockroaches, and watching a movie all by yourself because you want to – not because there’s nobody else to watch it with you.

I took full advantage of not being tied down. I left the country after graduating from college. I traveled and explored cities and did things other people would tell me later were dangerous to do alone. But I did them anyway, because I could, because I was free. I was overseas for three years before I came for my first visit!

I made so many friends. Had so many adventures. Experienced so many life changes. I learned how to depend on other people and still maintain my independence. And I learned the hard way that even good friends are not everything. I still needed God, and forgetting about that always threw off my single equilibrium. 

Staying celibate was not easy. I faced several situations where I could have changed that easily, but I didn’t. Because it’s not just marriage that brings trouble. Sex brings trouble as well; and I’m not talking about forgetting to use contraception. 

The single life is a lot like training for a marathon and then maintaining the fitness level it takes to complete such a race.

One mile can feel extremely difficult at first, but every week your mileage increases; and soon 10 miles feels like a walk in the park and 5 miles becomes your morning jog. The whole time, you’re building up your stamina, speeding up your metabolism, and strengthening your body. Even when it hurts and your muscles are sore, you’re still getting stronger and faster just by sticking to it.

And then, on race day, you know you’re ready. You might be nervous, but you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that YOU CAN DO THIS.

Once you start running, the craziness really begins. Muscle cramps, heat exhaustion, emotional sabotage, hills, the last 6 miles – all of these begin to threaten all you have worked for. But you keep running, because you can; you know you can. You even start yelling at other people to keep going. You become a cheerleader for others on the same course, because no one is running this race alone.

Then, THE FINISH LINE. You feel so awesome and so strong, and the most insane thing pops into your head: you want to do it again! You have no regrets about all the hard work and the early mornings and disciplined eating because of what you’ve become: an independent, caring, and strong person. 

I have no regrets about choosing a single and celibate life. It made me the person I was when I met my running partner, and God decided that it was no longer good for me to run solo. Being single was amazing, and to be perfectly honest, I still miss it some days when I admire the lives of my single friends from afar.

For those of you found a running partner, grab their hand and never let go. Don’t look back unless it is to be grateful for where you are now. Hold on to them even when you feel like you could run faster on your own. Hold on to them ESPECIALLY when you begin to regret having a running partner in the first place. They need you now, and you them; you two will finish this race together.

For those of you who are still running solo, keep running. If you feel like doing something new, just do it. If you feel like Netflix on a Friday night all by yourself, just do it. If you feel like going to 5 different events in one night, do it! Get good at taking care of yourself, for that’s a more challenging task than people give it credit.

You don’t know when your time of running solo will be over, nor do you have any control over that. (When I met my husband, I ate the words I had said to a friend only weeks earlier: “I won’t meet anyone.”)

So.

JUST. KEEP. RUNNING

re-cap

I like closure just as much as I like boundaries. I also enjoy order and organization and experience minor bouts of frustration and anxiety when my expectations aren’t met.  I hate not finishing anything, but it’s been a few weeks – months now? – since I’ve picked up Yell Less, Love More or How to Deal with Your Strong-Willed Child; and quite frankly, I haven’t felt like I needed to. So I’m not going to finish the parenting books I’ve started reading. WHAAAT!?!

You see, life never happens the way we expect it to. It took me 30 years to learn that, which, when you think about, makes sense. And the unexpected, non-sequential path of my life has me laying aside unfinished parenting books and picking up another topic with which to feed my mind: pregnancy.

PREGNANCY!!!!!

Before I go on, however, I must rewind and quickly catch you up on how non-sequential my life has been. (Now, if you have been reading my blog or have followed me on Facebook, you might already know that I spent six years of my life in Taiwan after college.)

It all began the summer of 2015. I was home for a visit from Taiwan. I was scheduled to fly back to my lovely overseas life in August and start down the path of pursuing my Master’s degree. I never flew back to Taiwan. I’m still here, in fact.

After that drastic change of plans, I sought out therapy, which many do these days in the midst of crisis or life trauma. I started job-hunting, which made me immediately miss the easy work situation in Taiwan for native English speakers. And I re-learned how to live under the same roof as my parents. (It had been ten years.)

I was pathetically dependent on my parents for finances at the very beginning, which I hated, but I kept track of every penny I borrowed and paid it all back by the end of the winter of 2017.

Meanwhile, I had graduated from my therapy sessions and was ready to step out on my own. I was in American now, not Taiwan. Things were different. Coping with homesickness and culture shock and lack of closure with my family in Taiwan made things difficult; but in true fashion, it wasn’t long before I had filled up my time.

I had landed a job as a teacher, which kept me immensely busy throughout the week. I enrolled in a mountaineering class, so I could learn to climb the mountains of beautiful Washington State and meet other people who loved the mountains, too. I pulled back from church involvement. (Again, in true fashion, I had jumped in head first to help out and fill holes; but I was in a unique time of life – after a life of chronic ministry involvement – where I realized I actually didn’t HAVE to do anything. It was freeing!) And, of course, I was running a race once a month with other running friends and training for a full marathon.

You could say I hit the ground running  (literally and metaphorically) once I committed to the idea of living in America.

But that’s just it. Living in America remained an idea until some rather permanent things began happening. 

At the very beginning of April, I got on TINDER. (For those of you who may not know what this is, there’s google. For the rest of you, I had my reasons!) I’ve always been a loyal tinder-hater due to the bad wrap society gives it as well as the horror stories I hear from people using it. Well, I was on spring break when April started, so I actually had time to flip through and read the articles my iPhone likes to suggest on a daily basis. One of them happened to be about Tinder success stories. It was a positive spin on this dating app that I’d been hating on for pretty legitimate reasons. Come on, it’s basically a hook-up app!

Well, Tinder is free, and I like that, and I had already done my free trial on match.com and was not interested in paying a dime – let alone a dollar – to meet a guy. I was interested in meeting people but didn’t believe in subscriptions. So I started swiping right if liked the guy and swiping left if I didn’t. All you see are pictures the person made available and whatever blurb he decided to write about himself. These blurb bios were anything from “Call me ;)” to paragraphs about interests, personalities and work lives. “Matches” occurred when two people mutually swiped right on the other’s profile. I made sure the age-range and distance radius in my settings were appropriate. If something did happen, I wanted the guy to be relatively close in distance and age.

Being on Tinder was kind of a joke, and after a day or two of swiping and exchanging pointless words with my matches, I deleted it. The positive part of the whole arrangement was that no one will get my phone number without my permission and I can delete someone forever if I want to. Or delete the app altogether.

Don’t ask me why, but I decided to give it another chance a mere day later.
“Hi, Victoria! I saw ultimate frisbee and couldn’t help but swipe right!”

I had decided to mention personal interests in my own blurb, so anyone passing by on the Tinder train would know I liked running, hiking, and playing ultimate frisbee. Apparently, it worked, because those words began a conversation that has yet to end. And I don’t ever intend on terminating the life-long conversation I have begun with this man, who became my husband on September 10, 2016. 

Only a year earlier,  I had been faced with the proverbial “road not taken” and, “sorry I could not travel both,” made a rather difficult and life-altering decision. The life-altering part of that decision had just begun. 

As you can imagine, my time was no longer filled with mountain-climbing and running and late nights of lesson planning and grading. I was marriedNot only was I married, i was also a brand new step mom to my husband’s (then) 8-year-old daughter. Single life had ended; family life had begun.

Halloween 2017 is almost upon us. I will be 29 weeks pregnant this Friday. It’s been 2 years, 2 months, and 4 days since I was supposed to board an airplane back to Taiwan and start on the path of pursuing my master’s degree.  A lot has changed.

I’m not in Taiwan anymore, and it’s actually rather painful to admit I don’t know when I will be again. I’m living in little 2-bedroom apartment in the town of Snohomish, Washington, with my husband and step-daughter, expecting a baby girl to join us in January of 2018. 

So much for closure and boundaries. 

There you have it: why I’m laying aside the unfinished parenting books in exchange for pregnancy ones. The adventures never stop, but it’s like what Robert Frost wrote:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

 

 

Personal Rewards System

I have this huge jar of “Chocolates of the World.” It was one of my Christmas presents. The serving size is 3 pieces, at 210 calories per serving. That’s right, I count calories.

These last two weeks, I was on “cleanse” diet, complete with fiber pills, probiotics, vitamins and and dietary restrictions which prevented me from indulging in any of my international chocolates. Now that those two weeks are over and the restrictions have been lifted, I can have as many chocolates as I want!   

Actually, I can’t. No, it’s not because I count calories. In fact, let’s scrap the term “calorie-counting” all together and apply this rule: “Burn more than you consume.” (That’s the motto of OolaFitness. Read more of my Oola thoughts here.)

Also, I LOVE chocolate. I enjoy every bite I take of some chocolatey substance. And the number one way to kill enjoyment is over-indulgence. Over-indulgence leads the way to addiction and impulsive behavior, and soon the very thing we once enjoyed is making us hate ourselves. This applies to a lot more than just chocolate.

Sound extreme? Well, over-indulgence is an extreme thing.

So here’s what I’ve set up for myself: a personal rewards system. These types of systems are practiced in all kinds of organizations, classrooms, and bureaucracies, so why can’t it work in my personal life?

Here’s what is:

(These rewards are given on a daily basis. No rollover allowed.)

  1. To-do list completed – one piece of chocolate
  2. To-do list + blog post written and published – two pieces of chocolate
  3. To-do list + blog post written and published + at least 1,000 calories burned during my work out – three pieces of chocolate.

Rewarding ourselves is key to personal motivation. Everyone responds to incentives. How are you going to reward yourself for what you’ve accomplished?

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home sweet home

It’s the age-old interrogative sentence that haunts all of at some point, no matter how physically far away we are from “home.” And where is home exactly?

Today in social studies, I warned my students that after the lesson they were going to want to leave America and travel the world for the rest of their lives. (Most of them are  more or less convinced I am from Taiwan (like literally of Taiwan blood), and they were rather shocked when I explained that I actually had roots right here in Washington and am, in fact, FROM America.) 

My lesson took them through a running tour of Taiwan, Mongolia, North Korea, & South Korea. I inspired them with time-lapse videos, geography videos, pictures, and horizon-broadening facts about each country. (I could tell the diversity of my presentation had everyone captivated; that’s a win in the teaching world!)

For me, this was actually the first time I had taught anyone about Taiwan. For years, I have been teaching people about America and the confusing and varying customs of the West and have even walked fellow-foreigners through the process of moving to Taiwan from their home country.

At first I was overwhelmed; where do I start, what do I say? But then the researcher mentality of an educator settled over me,  and the lesson I gave my students made me crazy homesick. And happy at the same time.

It felt like every part of me was glowing with unexplainable feeling as I showed them my home city of Taipei, the forever-long changing of the guard at Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall, and the video of my dragon boat team’s championship race. My students were immediately enraptured by the beauty and all the people, their fascination being expressed through words like, “It’s pretty!” “Coool!” “I wanna move there!” “I wanna go visit you!”

 

Mission accomplished. The seed of world travel and exploration and expat living PLANTED. 

I was simultaneously overjoyed to teach them about something so integral to my life and yet also so fiercely gripped with nostalgia. 

And the whole thing had me thinking…

6 years ago, I was torn to be so far away from all the marriage, birth, and even death that my friends in the States were experiencing. I wanted to be with them still, but I knew I could only be in one place at a time and was learning to accept that.

Over 6 years down the road, I’m undergoing the same extent of emotion; but now all the friends and loved ones I so dearly miss are in Taiwan. I want to be with them, but I know I can only be in one place at at time and I am learning that it’s not easy to know where you’re supposed to be in life.

I could simplify this issue and say I have two homes now, but I’m no longer sure that’s entirely true, either.

Home….. bittersweet home. 

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When the weekend really does end

I’ve been meaning to publish this post all week; now it’s late Sunday night – so late it’s already Monday – and, needless to say, my weekend is coming to an end. Last weekend was different because it was the bookend of Christmas break, the vacation I get here in America as a teacher

Vacation.  A week off. A trip to some other part of the world. Christmas break. When life feels like a perpetual three-day weekend of awesomeness.

And then the weekend finally ends. And Monday comes. And Mondays right after vacation are the WOOOOOORST.

Fine, I’ll hand it to the people who are all excited and like to hit the ground running and all that junk, but let’s be honest. If you’ve been working for a while now, it’s almost cruel how awesome vacation feels. Going back to work feels like going for a run after Thanksgiving. But what am I saying? I ran a half-marathon after Thanskgiving.

THE POINT IS, the weekend that never ended is now over. And I need to go into work tomorrow morning, and then for 4 more days after that until another weekend that will end the same time this one did; and that cycle just keeps repeating itself until spring break.

So how does one survive this awful transition from vacation to work? I have a few suggestions but am completely open to input.

  1. RELISH YOUR TIME OFF. Nothing like a day off. Nothing like a week off! Even a foul weather day can come as a pleasant surprise.
  2. KEEP THEM SEPARATE. Keep firm boundaries for yourself as far as what you do when you’re in work mode and what you do in vacay mode. For example, binge-watching a TV series. If I do too much of that during the week, I put myself into weekend mode, and all productivity shuts down.
  3. EARN YOUR VACATION. Make every minute at work count. It’s going to make the days off feel that much better. Most of us have all probably accepted by now that work is a necessary part of life. It’s not our whole life, but it’s there; and there’s no vacation without it!
  4. GRAB ON TO THAT ONE THING, NO MATTER HOW BIG OR SMALL, THAT REMINDS YOU OF THE DIFFERENCE YOUR JOB IS MAKING IN THIS WORLD. I work in education, so you might think that’s a no-brainer for me. But after a few weeks of feeling like you’re changing the world one student at a time, the novelty wears off. I daily need to remind myself of how important my job is to my students and set that in front of me as I explain, for the seventh time, what a verb is.

So now my weekend, like most of my weekends in the near future will be, is ending. In fact, it’s already over; I’m just staying up late to tell you all of my deep thoughts on the matter.

And I hope we all have a great week. 🙂

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The Year of Integrity

 

My “bridge book” between 2015 and 2016 was Oola. That’s right, pronounced just the way it’s spelled: OOLA. The subtitle read, “Find balance in an unbalanced world.”  The subtext read “The 7 areas you need to balance and grow to live the life of your dreams.”

I have no intention of doing a book review or summary here, but I will say that this book – that the concept of Oola, rather – has had and is still having a profound influence in the way I am approaching this new year. In fact, it’s completely altered my perspective of living life.

Timing is everything, and I got this book at just the right time: at the tail end of a 3-year trek through a valley of sunshine, depression, self-pity, and pain, during which it sometimes felt like I was doing what I love but mostly felt like I was simply doing what I had to do. It was a stagnant and difficult season.

“The 7 areas you need to balance and grow to live the life of your dreams” are fitness, finance, faith, field, friends, fun, and family. In the book, these areas are actually referred to as OolaFitness, OolaFinance, etc, as they all relate to living the OolaLife. There are also Oola BLOCKERS, obstacles that get between you and your OolaLife, and Oola ACCELERATORS, the things that maximize the forward motion of you OolaLife. (All of these Oola concepts and more can be found at  oolalife.com. If you are intrigued enough to go read the book yourself, you can buy it at the Oola Store.)

One of the Oola accelerators is integrityI found this chapter of the book particularly inspiring. I suddenly saw how keeping integrity WITH MYSELF is the key to consistent self-motivation. Integrity with myself? Yes. As in, keeping my word to myself. 

How many times do you break a promise….to yourself?  Aw, next time. I didn’t get around to it today. Maybe I’ll go tomorrow. How many times have you lied…to yourself? I was gonna start working out this week but there was just no time. I have yet to read that book I said I was gonna read last month. How many times do you let yourself down? Man, I really needed to buy that, but I just don’t have enough money. I have to cancel tomorrow’s hike; too many other things came up. 

Suddenly, Oola blockers like self-sabotage and guilt made sense. I feel lousy and unreliable and therefore am not up to a challenge. My lack of integrity with myself has been keeping me not only from reaching goals, but also from setting them! Productivity, time-management, and finance-control have been serious struggles over the last few years because I haven’t been in living in integrity with myself!

In 2016, I am resolving to live with more integrity, integrity that starts with ME holding MYSELF accountable for the things I say I will do, things I want to do, things I need to do. Integrity that drives me to take  ownership of my life. 

Life happens. You can find those two words on plaques, t-shirt, coffee cups. But those two words aren’t enough. The life that was happening to me for the last three years was really not the life I wanted to live. Today, I am still not where or what I want to be. That changes now. 2016 is the year I make life happen.

Happy New Year! May 2016 be the year you make the life of your dreams happen.

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Why I Run, Part II: the seed of motivation

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When I graduated from college in 2009, the economy was not so hot. Many people I know stayed in school and immediately started working on their respective master’s degrees since that option was much more appealing than going back to the minimum wage work day. I, on the other hand, left the country and moved to Taiwan to teach English and do ministry. 

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In Taiwan, I kept up my running. I was getting plugged into a community that cared about personal fitness, so motivation and encouragement were not hard to come by. My new lifestyle also included a nearby riverside trail, which made outdoor walking, running, and biking totally accessible and convenient.

From time to time, I would ice my right knee, which was something I was used due to post-surgery soreness. Then one day, only 2 months after moving to a foreign country, the soreness didn’t go away. In fact, it got worse, exponentially worse with every step I took. An excruciating commute to work led me to the floor of my classroom, where I realized I was not going to be able to teach that day. I couldn’t move my leg without an awful pain shooting through what felt like my whole body, not to mention my knee had swollen to the size of a softball.

Soon, I was in a taxi, initially on my way home until I heeded the advice of the very thoughtful, English-speaking taxi driver, who drove me to the nearest hospital, which happened to be one of the biggest and best hospitals in the area.

There, in a foreign country, I submitted myself to the emergency room, waited hours for blood tests and an MRI, then finally saw a doctor who used a syringe to extract this greenish-yellowish goop from my knee. It was an infection, and I was to report back on Monday for a follow-up appointment with another doctor.

That weekend, I kept movement to a minimum but felt a lot better with all that infected goop out of my knee. On Monday, I returned to the hospital and was instructed by the doctor to return immediately if I had a fever or chills, as these were symptoms of an infection in my blood that needed to be removed, which is exactly what I did on Thursday. I spent Thursday night in a hospital; and on Friday, the doctor surgically removed the infected tissue from my knee, as well as the screws that were in there from my ACL operation. (I got the screws and pictures and everything as souvenirs!) Then I was put in a hospital room where I remained until the infection index in my blood went down to .0009 or something like that. It ended up being 12 days. (They gave me an option to stay longer. So nice of them.)

My right knee was not getting a break. Hospital life, however, ended up being a surprisingly refreshing “break” from everything else. 

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I was so happy and thankful to be home from the hospital free from that awful infection (which likely was a result of an abrupt environmental and/or lifestyle change, also known as moving to a foreign country where you walk everywhere instead of drive). Perhaps I should have done some professional pt sessions to jumpstart my recovery, but I didn’t. Been there, done that, was my conclusion on the matter.

Restoring range of motion and strength were now entirely up to me. Thanks to living in the city, I walked everywhere, but it was quite a few months before I got my run back on and even regained full strength. I stayed relatively active, even travelled a lot, but was not necessarily fit.

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I had a running friend and roommate who ran pretty regularly. I tried to keep up with her, but I wasn’t prioritizing it enough. Her will-power and consistency was inspiring. A group of us traveled to a place called Taroko Gorge, where she was running the Taroko Half Marathon. Witnessing all these people running made me realize that I wanted – needed – to do something like this, too. It was time to commit. And running a marathon was on my bucket list. 

> > Read WHY I RUN, PART I: meeting my physical self

> > Read WHY I RUN, PART III: the bucket list

> > Read WHY I RUN, PART IV: the conclusion of the matter

Why I Run, Part I: meeting my physical self

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Over the last few months, a few people have asked me, “How did you start running?” At first, this question took me off guard; because until now, I’ve been surrounded by people who also run so the question was simply never asked. Also, I’ve done so much writing about my running journey that it has never occurred to me that I’ve actually never shared how this all started for me. There has been bits and pieces and references but nothing complete. So here it is. Unabridged and in 3 parts. Enjoy.

I tore my ACL when I was a junior in college. I wasn’t doing anything awesome. During my college years, I was an active and involved student who ran around attending and planning events; I was no athlete. You could hear me at athletic events, but I didn’t play any sports. Only intramural stuff, which never went anywhere. How did I tear it? Concert. The initial injury happened at an outdoor mosh pit, and then I completely hyperextended it at another show by simply coming down on it wrong as I was vigorously jumping up and down to the band’s final song.

Not being an athlete, I was not prepared for such a physical setback and the wait-time between the doctor’s diagnosis that my anterior cruciate ligament was indeed torn and the surgery. The operation was a good month away; meanwhile, I limped, used crutches, and was slow. Not my cup of tea. I did not enjoy being slowed down AT ALL.

Finally, the day of my first ever surgical operation came. The anesthesia pulled me under, and the next thing I knew my was friend holding peanut butter toast in front of my face. My butt was completely asleep. My friend took me to her home, where I spent a prearranged week away from school to recover. The muscles of my right leg were emaciated, moving around was inconvenient, and painkillers were a necessity.

Physical therapy was where everything started. I had to regain range of motion in my right leg, and I literally needed to learn to walk again. It was in the moments I spent after my pt sessions icing my sore knee that I had a “physical awakening.” I had become aware of my physical self. 

I always knew it was there. I use my physical body every day. But it was in that moment when I met my physical identify. It was like I had come face to face with my physicality in an almost transcendent way. She was talking to me.

Physical self: Hello, I am your body.

Conscious self: Hi. I think we’ve already met.

Physical self: Yes and no.

Conscious self: What do you mean?

Physical self: You know me, but you haven’t really been including me in your life.

Conscious self: What are you talking about? I use you every day!

My physical self didn’t say anything else after that. She really didn’t need to. 

My doctor told me to get off the crutches. (Yeah, I was still using the crutches. Apparently, I had trust issues with my physical self.) Building up strength was essential to my healing process. So in addition to my weekly pt sessions, I started taking walks all over the campus in my free time. And as soon as my range of motion came back, I started biking 3 mornings a week before class. The image of my emaciated my right leg after the cast was removed days after surgery drove me on to regain and restore physical strength.

The doctor also told me that I would be able to run again six months after the operation. Now, when he told me this, it didn’t really mean anything to me at the time. Like I mentioned earlier, I was no athlete. However, there was a suppressed aspiration that getting reacquainted with my physical self  had freed.

All my life, of all the athletes I would watch on television or see in real life, I admired the runners, bikers, and swimmers most. As a kid, I would root for joggers from inside the car as my family and I drove by. There was something there; it was literally like my physical self was waking up. 

I marked August 11, 2008, on my calendar, exactly 6 months after my ACL surgery.

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I ended up working as a housekeeper that summer at the Cannon Beach Christian Conference Center in Cannon Beach, Oregon; so when August 11 arrived, I celebrated my post-surgery progress by running on the beach. I was winded after 15 minutes. But I didn’t stop.

I got up to 3 miles that summer, running on the beach nearly every day. I kept it up throughout my senior year of college. I got up to 4 miles on a treadmill. I also started distance-biking on local trails. I had begun actually living with my physical self. And it was awesome.

> > Read WHY I RUN, PART II

> > Read WHY I RUN, PART III

> > Read WHY I RUN, PART IV

 

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