Monday, December 20, 2010
As 2010 comes to a close, I have to say it has overall been a great year. Throughout the course of the year I moved to DC, found a full-time job, got accepted into grad school, went zip-lining, ran a marathon (and two half marathons), went to a huge family reunion, went to quite a few happy hours with my mom, and met a lot of really great people. Among those are some small daily items that have made me happy, and some really huge life-altering goals that I have met.
Last year around my birthday (which happens to be pretty close to the end of the year) I decided to make a goal and do something that I never thought I would do based on the fact that I didn't believe I could. I wanted to push myself outside of my comfort zone. I ended up choosing to run a marathon. This time last year, I had only run two 5Ks, and now it feels great to have two half marathons, a full marathon, and hundreds of training miles behind me. I also picked up a hobby that I happen to love. There will definitely be a lot of long distance runs in my future, that's for sure.
Given that I had a pretty big year, I did again want to choose one thing, as part of the 11 items, that I never thought I would do. However, I did find it a bit challenging to develop a list of 11 different things to do in 2011. But, I am pretty excited about my list. I think I have a good mix of serious things, fun things, and experiences that will stay with me forever.
Before I unveil my list, my friends and I put together some rules for completing our items throughout the year:
1. The honestly policy rules all. Some of these things are personal, and only we will know if we achieve them and when we achieve them.
2.We can substitute items up until January 1. Although, I highly doubt I will make any changes to my list.
3. For each item on our list that we do not accomplish by December 31, 2011, we must buy a drink of her choice for the other two. Obviously this could get pretty expensive pretty fast, so none of us want to get caught with two or three items we did not complete.
4. Each item must depend on us accomplishing it, not an external source.
5. We will check in with each other quarterly in order to be sure that we are still progressing with our list. Of course wine will always be involved.
6. Every accomplishment will be posted in our blog (so you also know we achieved it) and to track our progressing.
So without anymore delay, here are my 11 things that I will do in 2011. (These are in no particular order.)
1. Run Marine Corps Marathon. The Marine Corps Marathon is the big DC marathon, and it's supposed to be one of the best. Runner's World says that MCM has a reputation as the "People's Marathon" because of its goal to just have a good time. The race has over 30 bands playing throughout the course, and 100,000 spectators to cheer runners on. As the 4th largest marathon in the United States, MCM is going to be an amazing experience.
2. Travel through Europe. This is another item I cannot wait for. This summer, I plan to travel throughout Rome, Paris, Barcelona and possibly London. I went to Ireland once when I was 17, but this will surely be a different experience. I'm so lucky to have on of my college roommates, and one of the most fun and awesome people I know, joining me on this trip.
3. Maintain a minimum 3.7 GPA in graduate school. In five weeks I will be starting my Master's degree in history. I am so excited to finally be moving toward my career goal of becoming a college professor. This is going to be a ton of work, but I know I can do it.
4. Read the 100 greatest novels ever written. Ok, I know this is a multi-year project. This would mean I'd have to read a new book every three days, which is impossible when considering grad school and work. (I do have a head start -- I think I've read about 10 of them.) But I will be starting this goal, and only reading novels from this list published by TIME magazine. If you're interested in what is on the list, you can find it here.
5. Begin writing my own novel. I love to write, and I've always wanted to write a book. I plan to at least start writing, since again, this potentially could be a multi-year project.
6. Make a time capsule, hide it, and find it again in 25 years. In 2011, I will be turning 25-years-old, so naturally in 2036 I will be turning 50. I think when I'm 50 it will be interesting to revisit my 25-year-old self again. I guarantee this list will be in there. Hopefully it will give me some laughs.
7. Learn to play tennis and kick ass in a tournament. First, I want to thank one of my friends who agreed to give me lessons. I definitely have a competitive edge, and I think I'd be a pretty intense tennis player once I actually gain some skills. I played when I was younger, but it's been a long time since I've picked up a racquet.
8. Learn to paint. I always wanted to take art lessons and learn how to paint. I think oil paintings are so beautiful and so original. I plan to learn through lots of online studying and YouTube videos. And who knows, maybe if they're good enough I can start a side business!
9. Sit in a park in DC for an entire Saturday and just enjoy doing nothing. Every weekend since I moved here I've wanted to just sit and read in Georgetown, but it just never happened. So in 2011 I am determined to pick a day and just relax and enjoy my surroundings. Maybe I'll even do it twice.
10. Be more dedicated to my blog. Lucky you! I have a tendency to become lazy and slack on updating my blog. I promise to post at least once per week, and I will aim to post twice weekly. There will be a lot to read in 2011.
11. Go skydiving. Last, but certainly not least. I'm not afraid of very many things, but if there is one things that absolutely terrifies me it is heights. I hate roller coasters, high buildings, balconies, stadiums -- you name it. As I mentioned earlier, I started a tradition of doing one action every year I never thought I would do. This is certainly it. Now is as good of a time as ever to overcome my fears.
Honorable mention: Go to Panama. My brothers Sean and Brendan will both be living in Panama next year as they continue to work toward building the Solace Group. I want to visit my brothers so badly next year because I know it would be so much fun and so great to see them. The only reason this did not make the list is because I do not know if I can afford it next year. However, it is not out of the question, and I certainly would love to add it on.
So there you have it. The 11 things I am going to do in 2011. Please feel free to comment on my list and let me know what you think. Maybe you will consider making an 11 in '11 list of your own!
On a side note, DayOneAndAHalf is now on Twitter. Follow me for the latest updates on my blog and for links and other things related to my post. I'll love you forever if you do!
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Anyway, I love a book that forces me to think -- although I do read before going to sleep, and sometimes that can keep me up at night, and thus, be a problem. Regardless, it's made me think a lot about the small decisions we can make in life and the ripple effect that they can have, with or without our knowledge.
This isn't a novel idea. Movies, TV shows and books have all dealt with this idea, and I've thought about it quite a bit myself. What if my parents had never taken my brothers to tour the University of Delaware? Would I have ever considered going there? I never would have met my friends, or had the opportunities I was given as a result of my undergrad degree. I never would have written for The Review, which in turn, would have likely deterred me from interning at CBS for the news department, and which in turn, may have prevented me from getting a job or getting into grad school. And reaching farther back, if I had given up on graduating high school due to my health issues, I certainly would never be where I am now. It's weird to think that even the decisions you make when you're 13 or 14-years-old can really change the course of your life.
This book has made me think about all the recent bullying episodes and teenage suicides that have occurred throughout the country this past year. If these kids realized how far-reaching their actions were, would they have acted the same? I think particularly of the student at Rutgers, Tyler Clementi, who jumped from the George Washington Bridge a few months ago after his roommate and another girl streamed a video of him kissing another man. Now they face invasion of privacy charges and probable prison time. They caused the end of another life, and the devastation of his family -- not to mention their opportunity to receive an education, and then a decent job. Would they have acted the same if they knew their ripple effect?
With the invention of the Internet and social networking, it's easy to make a snap judgment and irrational decisions and broadcast them to the world. I think they will have a stronger and faster effect than they ever have in the past. It's a scary idea, and I think one that society will have to come to terms with over time.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
To be honest, I’ve done a lot of things in my life that should make me feel a sense of accomplishment. Ten years ago, I became sick with chronic Lyme disease. Up until that point, I never faced any problems with my health. From then on, my life became a day-to-day quest for survival, as doctors and specialists performed spinal taps, MRIs, CT scans, brain specs, blood tests, and a countless number of other tests to figure out “what was wrong.” My parents, thankfully, researched every degree of my illness and took me to a Lyme disease specialist in Boston to discuss how serious chronic Lyme disease can be if left untreated. We estimated that I had originally gotten sick when I was approximately eight or nine years old, and that the disease steadily built up in my body, showing sparse symptoms for years, until I crashed over the span of a week.
To make a very long story much shorter than I should, I endured approximately five years filled with chronic pain and debilitating cognitive effects until I finally felt alleviated from the illness. I was home schooled for about two and a half years through middle school and high school, and was a part-time student for another two years. I had difficulties just walking the distance down the hallway of my home to bathroom, and sitting up for a car ride through town. I hated waking up in the mornings, knowing all I could do was face another day of lying in bed in excruciating pain.
On Sunday, November 21, I ran the Philadelphia Marathon. I have to say, without a doubt, that it was the greatest accomplishment of my life thus far. Knowing that I could finish running 26.2 miles was such an exhilarating feeling. After 18 weeks of training, and obsessing over this run, crossing the finish line was truly a feeling I could never put into words.
I decided about a year ago that 2010 was going to be the year to run a marathon, just to say that I had done it, essentially. It was definitely on a whim that I decided this, since I hadn’t even run a 5K at that time. I had never been a runner. I didn’t even know if I would like it. I waited for a while to tell anyone that I wanted to run a marathon simply because I didn’t have the faith in myself that I could complete something so difficult. A few months, and two 5Ks later, I finally started telling my family and friends that 2010 would be the year. There was no turning back.
On Marathon Sunday, the day started at 3:30 a.m. for me, since I woke up naturally at this time. I had set my alarm for 4 a.m., so I didn’t miss out on much more sleep. I just lay in bed thinking of what I needed to do to have a great run, and tried not to get too nervous. Because of my training, I knew I could run 18-20 miles pretty comfortably. What’s another 6.2 miles at that point? It’s just two 5K’s, or one 10K — nothing. Finally, I got up at 4 to start my pre-run routine, and to just generally get mentally and physically prepared. It’s funny, because even after four and a half long months of training, it’s not the physical part that stops you from running. It’s mental. I still had my moments up to mile 12 where I wondered if I could really do this or not. The difference between those that finish and those who don’t is the ability to say “yes”, when your body and your mind are screaming “no.” It is inevitable that at some point you will hit a wall, but regardless, you have to push forward.
My brother, Brendan and my dad dropped me off at the starting line at around 5:45 a.m. It was still dark out, and the sun wouldn’t start to come up for at least another 45 minutes. I picked a spot on a curb and sat until about 6:30, just focusing on the run, and listening to my music. My priorities were just to clear my head, drink water, and stay warm.
At 7:00, I was lined up with the 23,000 other runners who were taking on either the full marathon or the half marathon that morning. Right before I started, my only thought was, “Oh my God. I am actually going to do this.” I couldn’t believe I was about to run a marathon.
Overall, I felt pretty good during my run, but not as well as I had hoped. The night before, I started coming down with a minor cold (of course) so I had a sore throat and I was congested. That’s always the gamble of racing — I had singed up in April, so there was really no way of knowing how I would feel, or what the weather would be like. I felt a little sick throughout the first 15 miles or so, but after that the cold didn’t bother me.
I was so lucky to have my entire family there on the day of the marathon. My brothers flew in from Panama and San Diego, while my parents, and my brother Kevin drove from Connecticut. I think they might have been more excited than I was at points, but it was great to feed off their energy. I saw them at miles 1, 5, and 13, and Brendan even ran miles 1-5 with me to help pace me.
My legs started to get sore during mile 23, but even then I was able to run the vast majority of the last few miles (and the race as a whole). I was glad that I had trained as hard as I did, and that I was only feeling pain when I was should have.
After I crossed the finish line, it didn’t take long for shock of it all to hit. I really did it. I never thought I would do anything like this is in my life, but I actually did it. For the first time, I felt like I had come full circle from a girl fighting to survive to one who came back to run a marathon. This wasn’t just an accomplishment of finishing the run, but of reclaiming my life when so many didn’t believe that I could. I had come so far in the last 10 years, doing so much that seemed impossible at one point. And that is an accomplishment that even I can appreciate.
Monday, November 8, 2010
I consider myself to be a creature of habit. I'll eat the same foods every night for weeks until I get sick of them, then I won't go near it for years until I finally decide to put it into my rotation again. I wash my sheets every Friday morning — no exceptions. My roommates can attest to this. I have a specific pre-running routine, which I won't discuss at the risk of losing my readers. I can be very particular about my routines, and I don't like to throw off my scheduling. Resolutions by definition mean that you must resolve to never do, or always do, a particular action in the future, and therefore break your routine. Ugh.
In addition to altering my day-to-day life, I think resolutions are trite and unoriginal. I looked on a few websites to see what the top 10 New Year's resolutions are, and I didn't see anything that I wouldn't expect.
1. Stop smoking. (I don't.)
2. Get fit. (I am.)
3. Lose weight. (I don't need to.)
4. Enjoy life more. (How do you monitor this?)
5. Quit drinking. (That's crazy.)
6. Organize yourself. (Have you met me?)
7. Learn something new. (Obviously I already know how to do everything.)
8. Get out of debt. (Thanks a lot, grad school.)
9. Spend more time with family. (I would if I could.)
10. Help people. (A little vague.)
Resolutions and I just do not work.
My friend did make a suggestion, though, that she wanted to make a list of 11 things to do in 2011. I really liked this idea, because it's original, and it doesn't limit me to feel like a failure when I screw up my one and only resolution. Plus, I can keep my normal routine, for the most part. So we decided to all create a list of 11 things (33 total, for those of you keeping track) we are going to complete in the year 2011. These items can range from just-for-fun, to self improvement, to community-minded. We want to motivate each other to complete the 11 items before December 31, 2011, and to stay on task throughout the year.
I started thinking last night of some things I wanted to do. **Spoiler Alert: I know one list item will be to run the Marine Corps Marathon next October, and luckily, one of my fellow list-makers wants to run her first marathon. I'm very excited to have a training buddy. Another one will be to maintain at least a 3.7 GPA in grad school. I intend to extend this goal throughout the 5 semesters I need to earn my Master's degree. I've mentioned in another post that I plan to travel throughout Europe — another item.
Besides those three, I have eight slots available. If you have any suggestions I would love to hear them. I will definitely post my completed list when it's compiled, and you can also make sure I do everything I put on the list. I'm sure this will lead to a number of posts, so stay tuned.
Thursday, October 7, 2010
On Saturday, my brother Brendan is racing in Ironman Hawaii. For the last three years, it has been Brendan’s primary goal to qualify for Kona before he reached the age of 30. My family and I were lucky to witness him qualify last Thanksgiving during Ironman Cozumel (after finishing third in his age group), which he completed in 10 hours and 24 minutes.
Ironman is known to be one of the most grueling athletic events in the world, consisting of a 2.4-mile swim, followed by a 112-mile bike ride, and culminating in a 26.2-mile run. When I first heard Brendan was racing an Ironman a few years ago, my immediate reaction was, “All in the same day?” and quickly proceeded by “That’s absolutely insane.” My reaction hasn’t changed much. Ironman Hawaii is the world championship, allowing only those who qualify and a few luck lottery winners to compete. The reason it’s so selective is because the heat is sweltering, the ocean is rough, and the race curves through lava-covered terrain and volcanoes. I know what you’re thinking — no big deal.
Let me tell you a little bit about Brendan — nothing ever stops him. I remember being forced (against my will) to play Monopoly with him when we were kids and thinking it was the most horrible experience ever. Our games would last for 3-4 days, and he would not allow me to stop playing until I had mortgaged every property, and given him every dollar that I and the bank had. He wasn’t happy with just winning—he had to have complete and total domination. I hated it. Side note: years later he admitted to me that he would take extra money from the bank, being that he was always the banker since I was too young to do any complex Monopoly math. I’m still bitter.
As we got older, things just progressed down this road of extreme competition. We couldn’t just play basketball fairly; he had to block every single one of my shots. It was never satisfactory to play MarioKart64 for fun; he had to lap me at least once to make it a legitimate win. And when I went to my college orientation, it wasn’t enough to just sit while I went to the seminars; he had to get in a fight with YouDee the Fighting Blue Hen. But this is another story, altogether.
I insist that although my brother is hyper-competitive and extremely determined, none of these stories really provided me with the emotional scars that I tend to exaggerate. Having a brother who does the unthinkable, such as Ironman Hawaii, only makes for great stories and an interesting life. And I am sure that he is happy to be the first of my three brothers to receive a lengthy blog post.
Given all his determination to be the best and to achieve his lofty goals, it was actually not much of a surprise when he announced that he’d be moving to San Diego to pursue his dream of racing Ironman Hawaii. Even if moving meant riding his bike (as in bicycle) across the country, and quitting his rather impressive New York City job. And now, with Kona just days away, the idea that no one really understood years ago is finally a reality.
On Saturday I’ll be following the race at home online, and through videos that my dad texts me throughout the day. I just want to take this opportunity to congratulate Brendan and say how proud I am, and the rest of our family is, of his accomplishment. There are few people who would ever think to follow through on something as grueling and challenging as one Ironman, let alone the unarguable ultimate triathlon. I couldn’t be happier for you. And obviously for myself, since this time I’m not competing against you.
This is supposed to be the point where I wish you good luck, but that seems unnecessary since I never had any doubt that you’d make it to Kona. Just kick some ass.
Sunday, September 26, 2010
I recently finished reading Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy, consisting of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest. Overall, I loved the series — enough to recommend it to my dad, who is and always has been a very serious reader.
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo follows Mikael Blomkvist, a journalist convicted of libel for a scandalously true but anonymously sourced story, as he is hired to investigate a missing persons case from 40 years ago. He issues the help of misfit Lisbeth Salander, a world-class computer hacker and investigator, to uncover the truth. The Girl Who Play With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest are a more continuous story focusing on Salander, who is wrongly accused of murdering two journalists and her legal guardian.
Without giving much away about the plot for those of you who haven’t, but absolutely should, read them, I enjoyed the trilogy for several reasons. Larsson was a fantastic writer who could invent the most outrageous events, but still have his plot play out logically. I haven’t read much of crime fiction in the past, but I always had a difficult time “buying” the storyline. There’s no way this can happen, or this is too far-fetched for real life. Yes, his stories are extreme, but I did find them generally believable.
Secondly, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was originally titled Men Who Hate Women. The books all revolve around a general theme of abuse and misogyny that is rarely present in books, especially from male writers. That said, there are some extremely graphic descriptions in the novels that are bound to be disturb readers. I didn’t always like reading about these events, but I certainly have to give Larsson credit for allowing his writing to be free of censorship.
Seeing as how I enjoyed these books so much and appreciated Larsson’s writing, I took a few seconds between chapters of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo to read the short blurb about its author. I was surprised to find that he is dead.
Larsson was just 50-years-old when he had a heart attack, without any major risk factors besides being a lifelong smoker. Not only is he dead, but all three novels were delivered to the publisher shortly before his death, leaving them to be published posthumously. He would never know the massive success that his novels would have, as they have sold over 35 million copies worldwide and have been adapted into both Swedish and Hollywood films.
Of course my blessing/curse of journalism education kicked in, and I needed to research and read every single detail I could about Larsson’s death. It just struck me as so strange, especially after beginning the second novel. Blomkvist struggles with the decision to publish the works of his slain journalist friend, knowing that his writing could inflict danger to himself, his co-workers, and his friends.
Apparently, this wasn’t too far from real life for Larsson. As a journalist in Sweden, Larsson originally made a name for himself as an editor for the magazine, Expo, writing openly about neo-Nazis and right wing extremists. Larsson received multiple death threats because of his out-spoken views against these groups. The Swedish police claim there was never any foul play in Larsson’s death, but given that his own life and subsequent death could be the plot of any of his novels, the situation does raise suspicions.
I also found it fascinating that there is a massive legal battle brewing between Larsson’s girlfriend of 32 years and his family.
Larsson was raised as a child by his grandfather, who inflicted the anti-Nazi sentiment onto his grandson after he had been imprisoned for speaking out against the Nazis during World War II. His grandfather believed strongly in equal rights, clearly influencing the work of Larsson later in life. He met his girlfriend and life partner Eva Gabrielsson at age 18. Interestingly, the two never married because according to Swedish law, a couple must register their address upon entering legal matrimony. Because of the frequent threats to Larsson’s life they never officially married in order to protect their privacy, leaving his father and brother to inherit all rights to the books, the movies, and, of course, the money.
At the time of his death, Larsson has synopses for a total of 10 Millennium novels. A partially completed fourth novel was on his laptop, which is held in possession of Gabrielsson. She has no intention of publishing.
More than anything, I just find this story interesting. I don’t know the likelihood of conspiracy theories, and I’m unsure of how much life does actually imitate art. But I do know that the books were great, and that I can’t help but wish all ten could have made it to print.
Monday, September 13, 2010
I've always really admired Sean's ability to pick up and leave to follow his passions. For example, Sean recently left a stable job to live in Panama and start his own business. I think his past travels have made him so well rounded, and demonstrated his abilities to adapt to foreign cultures.
When I graduated college, Sean would tell me to take some time off and travel; experience the world. Clearly, I didn't. I got a job, made some money, and fell into the routine of the day-to-day real life.
I can't say I regret my decision to not travel because it gave me the opportunity to save some money and build my resume credentials so I could move to DC. However, I have had moments where I wondered what it would have been like to travel the way my brother had when he was my age.
I was lying in bed last night thinking about how much I would have liked to experience Europe, but never did because of money, relationships, time, extensive planning, etc., etc., etc. There's always an excuse not to do something.
So I am taking this opportunity to officially announce that I am going to Europe next summer! I haven't thought much about my plans, or where I will find the money to do this, but I am absolutely going.
If you have any suggestions on places to visit, or if you would like to join -- please let me know. I am also accepting donations, with checks payable to the Caitlin Wolters European Adventure Fund. So please, donate generously.
Sunday, September 5, 2010
On Saturday I ran through Northern Virginia and into Old Towne Alexandria. For those who don't know the area, Alexandria is one of the most historic (and in my opinion, beautiful) areas of the country. George Washington referred to it as his hometown, and many of our founding fathers frequented the area in which I am fortunate enough to run.
To be honest, I don't know if I could classify Saturday's run as that, but more as a scenic moving tour along the Potomac River. At one point, I stopped to look out across the river and could clearly see the National Monument and the Capitol Building. It was breathtaking.
I thought of the people who worked to have this city built, and for those who drove the United States to become one of the most powerful nations in history.
The root of it all? Happiness.
People came here for freedom -- freedom of religion, freedom from taxation. People came for land, and for opportunity, and for wealth. People came for resources and a chance at a new life. But they all came here to be happy.
I know my happiness is the only thing that will and ever should really matter to me. If our founding fathers and our ancestors came from oppression and poverty to attain happiness, I know I can also do whatever it takes to make myself happy. I'm never going to settle for anything that I shouldn't have to, and I'm never going to let my opportunities depend on another person.
I'm better off this way.
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Ever since I was young, my dream was always to become an author -- writing book after book of award-winning material while inspiring the world with my creativity and talents. As I got older, this notion changed, mostly because it's nearly impossible to be that successful of a writer, never mind the meager pay and low gratification. But I still loved to write, and even went on to study writing and English literature in college so that I could use those skills at some point in my career.
Free writing is a bit scary though, for anyone. Having your ideas and your thoughts available to anyone at anytime is actually kind of frightening. How much do I want people knowing what goes on inside my head? I've put off starting a blog for that reason, and a few others. To me, writing has always been exceeding personal, and I've debated how much I want to share about myself and my ideas. I've also wondered who would read it, and what I would say. Would anyone really care?
I give up. Here I am. But it wasn't completely out of nowhere. I've been wanting to start this for over a year. And, lately, I've started trying to do more things outside of my box so I am never too adjusted to my comfort zone. I'm 23-years-old, and I never want to regret having the opportunity to fulfill a dream or a whim and never taking the chance.
So in the last few months, I have registered for my first marathon, applied for my Master's degree, and relocated to DC. Just because.
But this isn't a blog about doing new things and living life to the fullest. I find that a bit cliche. In fact, I don't really know what this is about. It just is. So keep reading.