Twenty-Three

Well, that’s it, folks. I’m another year older, another year wiser, another year full of whatever cliche is printed on greeting cards and circulated throughout the country. Now that I’ve had a few days to reflect on my birthday (and the passing of another year), I have a few solid thoughts.

22 was hard. It was a difficult, challenging year for me. From writing a thesis that took up what felt like an entire year, to living off-campus with a mix of girls different than the girls from my sorority with whom I had grown accustomed to living, to a seemingly simple, yet devastating back injury that prevented me from doing what I had loved most and shut down any final possibility of achieving what I had wanted most for so long in running, 22 (and my senior year of college) was chock full of obstacles and challenges. There were late nights and early mornings, plenty of tears and awkwardness, muscle relaxers, pain killers, weeks of physical therapy, and nights when I was glued to my bed with a hot pad on my back. 22 was not always fun. But, somewhere in all of that, I rose. I made new friends–or, rather, found new drinking buddies (I’m looking at you, group of sassy, amazing women who made the final few weeks of Senior year what it was for me)– I worked hard and wrote a paper of which I am so proud (and would love to continue researching in my future), and I left John Carroll’s campus with minimal regrets and as a changed person–exactly as I had hoped when I stepped on to it in August of 2011. 22 was the year I never gave up, no matter how difficult it felt at the time.

On Sunday morning, I laced up my Saucony Kinvaras and walked across campus to the start line of what would become my first 10k in well over a year, only my second race since a two-month running hiatus. It was a rainy, dreary morning, but it was perfect fall running weather. I was excited; I had a race plan, and I knew if I stuck to it, I was going to be just fine. When the gun went off, I set out accomplishing that plan–staying relaxed for the first few miles, and then seeing what I could do at the end. I knew there were going to be challenging hills in this race (this is Seattle, after all), so I wanted to be prepared for that. I also hadn’t raced this far in quite a long time, so it was necessary that I prepare for feelings of tiredness, fatigue, and general exhaustion–just in case. All of this preparation paid off; I felt myself racing towards the finish with renewed energy. As I crossed the finish line, I was well ahead of my goal time for that day, and had set a new personal record by almost 40 seconds.

I began my 23rd year with an achievement, a personal best, a moral and personal victory. I ran a personal best, in spite of being injured 6 months ago, in spite of losing confidence in running, in spite of having to take time off to recover. I put 22 behind me–with its struggles and heartbreak and disappointment–and set foot into a new year, one that hopefully follows the tone of that first day. I have a lot of exciting things in mind for this coming year: adventures, internships, projects, and (of course) a few races. I can’t wait to see what great things this year brings.

x. M

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Northwest Tea Festival

One of the things I’m making a point to do in the first few months of living in Seattle (which is also something I would recommend to anyone living in a new city) is getting out to explore and try new things. Seattle has so much to offer as a city (more than anything I’ve previously experienced) and I really want to take advantage of that in the best way possible. It’s been helping me feel more connected to the city and is helping me find a sense of place and purpose here, besides being a UW grad student.

The most recent experience out in the community I’ve had in Seattle was at the Northwest Tea Festival last weekend. A few weeks ago, I was in a sandwich shop and noticed a poster for the festival, and KNEW I just had to attend–I love tea and cannot go a day without it. The poster promised tea samples, informational and educational sessions, and plenty of tea products to peruse and purchase. I couldn’t wait.

After reading through all of the tea tasting sessions and educational sessions, Nick and I decided that Saturday would be a great day to visit. When Saturday morning rolled around, I pulled on my best teacup sweater (a birthday present from my mom) and hopped on the bus to Seattle Center, where the festival was occurring. After paying the $10 admission fee (a small amount considering the amount of tea we sampled, the free reusable shopping tote, and the free porcelain tea cup that we received), we entered the main room of the festival, which was essentially an expo where tea vendors of the Northwest could sample and sell their goods.

It’s safe to say that we sampled pretty much everything the place had to offer! There was so much tea to be consumed and enjoyed. I learned so much about tea leaves, tea preparation, and the tea culture of the Northwest (it’s about as popular as coffee out here!). I took note of some tea houses to visit, and even bought some DELICIOUS black tea from India to enjoy for months to come (provided it lasts that long, of course!). What a wonderful experience!

Me and my tea sweater at the Space Needle in Seattle Center!

Me and my tea sweater at the Space Needle in Seattle Center!

Get out and experience new things where you live, whether you’re a newbie or a local! One of my favorite things to do is to Tripadvisor my own city and see what recommendations it has for visitors to your town. Read the newspaper, follow websites that detail the happenings in your city, do something different you’ve never done before! Explore your home as though you’re a visitor; it may surprise you–you may find where you live is fresh and exciting, even if you’ve lived there forever.

Happy exploring!

x. M

Different Perspectives & New Experiences

So much has happened since my last post! It’s been a crazy week or so, getting settled into my program and getting back into the swing of things with school–which, as promised, is not at all like undergrad and not at all what I expected. It’s better.

My program had a four. day. orientation. Yes, that’s right: four days of listening to presentations, awkward socialization (which actually turned out to be pretty great), and FREE FOOD. It’s good to know that even in graduate school they still understand that free food is the best way to keep students happy. Luckily for us students, however, these were spread out over the course of two weeks, giving us plenty of time to fit in other activities, which I certainly did!

About a week and a half ago, my program invited whoever was interested to partake in a hike at Rattlesnake Ledge, a four mile round-trip hike that, while not too difficult, was certainly not an easy uphill climb. Gaining approximately 1160 ft throughout the hike (told ya it wasn’t too challenging!), the hike boasts an exposed rock ledge at the very top, at which we took advantage of excellent views and stopped to eat our sack lunches. After snapping a few pictures and munching on my flatbread peanut butter and jelly sandwich and my farmer’s market fresh pear, I began the descent down, which, as always, seemed to last half as long as the ascent. At the trailhead, there is a small but beautiful lake, appropriately named Rattlesnake Lake, which provided some final beautiful views of the Pacific Northwest wilderness before returning to the hustle and bustle of the city. I look forward to returning to the wilderness many times–I certainly appreciated how quiet it was, compared to my city apartment!

The view from the top!

The view from the top!

Walking toward Rattlesnake Lake after our hike.

Walking toward Rattlesnake Lake after our hike.

Crystal blue waters.

Crystal blue waters.

Water and Mountains are two of my favorite things.

Water and Mountains are two of my favorite things.

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Rattlesnake Lake from the Ledge over 1,000 feet up.

Rattlesnake Lake from the Ledge over 1,000 feet up.

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After the hike, some of my museology friends and I decided to pay a visit to the Henry Art Gallery. We were mostly interested in Martin Creed’s “Work No. 360: Half the air in a given space,” as it was closing that weekend. Upon hearing about it during an informational session at the Henry that week, we just HAD to go see it. Essentially, Martin Creed’s installations consist of filling spaces full of balloons, allowing museum visitors to interact with the piece in essentially any way they wish. What this meant to us was diving right in (metaphorically, of course!). Once the museum worker opened the door and gave us the OK, we poured into the room, swatting at balloons and burrowing ourselves into the room full of balloons. While I expected to feel anxiety at the claustrophobia-inducing space, I found it so ridiculous that I couldn’t stop laughing. I was instantly reminded of all of those matter models we had to watch in middle school: It felt like all of the balloons were individual atoms bumping into each other. Beyond that, though, it felt like a wild, absurd adventure–a trip into Wonderland, if you will. All in all, a very good time. While the exhibit is now closed, I would highly recommend it if you are ever presented with the opportunity to be in a room full of balloons. Definitely a perspective-changer.

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37,000 balloons.

Later that night, we went to pub trivia night at the Roosevelt Ale House, where I learned it’s okay to be a nerd and geek out over weird things–it just might get you the correct answer to a question! While our team did not end up winning the contest, we certainly had a ton of fun, and I can’t wait to go back and redeem ourselves soon (we just need a person or two with some sports knowledge)!

A few nights ago, I had another new experience, this time involving food. As a child, I hadn’t really been exposed to foods of the greater Asian continent, given my mom’s migraines and sensitives to MSG, so I had never really developed a palate for the foods of the Far East. That, in addition to my food intolerances to both rice and soy, kept me away from these types of foods for most of my life. However, what is a girl to do when she’s surrounded by a plethora of ethnic foods?! Give it a try! After much deliberation, I settled on an Udon (pronounced you-don) place cleverly named U:Don on The Ave, a popular street in the University District packed with restaurants, bars, and little boutiques. Essentially, the restaurant serves wheat flour noodles served in broth or with sauce, which you can pair with tempura-battered veggies or spring rolls. I chose to have my noodles Soup-style in the green onion and ginger dashi broth with some tempura broccoli and green beans. Delicious. There was only one problem to my food adventure (and it was a big one): chopsticks. Being extremely inexperienced with chopsticks and chopstick-foods, I did not quite know how to use them–or even really how to hold them–and, being surrounded by those who had grown up with chopsticks as a part of their culture, I felt as though I at least had to try. I certainly wasn’t going to be the girl who had to ask for a fork! After taking a few moments to study others’ technique, I made my best effort… and failed. Trying again and again, I eventually maneuvered the slippery noodles into my mouth, enjoying every last bite. I will certainly be returning soon to practice my chopstick technique.

Not for the chopstick-challenged. Or, rather, a new challenge for the chopstick-challenged.

Not for the chopstick-challenged. Or, rather, a new challenge for the chopstick-challenged.

On top of all of this, classes have also begun! This means reading, reading, and more reading (and lots of tea and coffee to accompany it). A lot of this reading is finally practical and relevant to my life, though, so I certainly do not mind. In fact, I find it pretty enjoyable (#nerdlife)!

Whew. If you actually read all of this, throw me a comment or something because you deserve a pat on the back or a unicorn or something (Hi Mom!). However, if you DID read all of this, I like your taste. 🙂

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Rainier Vista sunsets are my favorite.

Smell you later,

x. M