Thursday, November 15, 2012

Reclaiming sea changes, endorphins, and my lunch breaks

Autumn has been my favorite season everywhere I've ever lived - the changing colors, the crisp air, the hearty seasonal foods, the excuses to wear hoodies and drink tea and curl up inside with a book. Perhaps above all, what I think makes me love it is its fleeting nature. The leaves are such fiery colors for such a short period of time, you can't help but be dazzled by their ephemera.

Glorious autumn hike in Salt Lake City last month
I haven't always been so fond of fleeting things like fall. (Metaphor alert!) I'm pretty sure I can pinpoint gaining my appreciation for transitional times to my blissful, liberating summer at Stanford. Following that, at 16 years old on the plane back to Kansas, just a few days shy of my reluctant return to high school, I wrote this in my journal:

I need to not be afraid of letting myself LIVE and fully experience the things and situations and people that bring me joy, no matter what the rest of the world has to say about it. If this summer has taught me anything, it is probably just more selfishness - life is way too short to let fear of risk bar you from truly living. It's too short for wallowing or complaining or ruminating or reliving the past. I am not going to waste another moment of my life complaining about "life in Kansas" - what a waste! 

Rachel wrote me a letter where she talked about wanting to put our angst aside and jointly make senior year our best ever - and reading that made me think, 'Hey yeah! That's within our power!' I want to have outrageously high expectations for this year, just like I did for this summer, because I do believe that many times in life, you get as much out of something as you put into it.

I am on my way home, leaving something behind perhaps, but I have too much to look forward to in the future to dwell on this particular ending. Life is full of endings, of final chapters, of goodbyes, and we cannot let ourselves dwell in them, or we will never appreciate the innate beauty of new beginnings. Even in giving up certain aspects of our pasts, we take with us (consciously or not) the things we have learned, the memories we have made, the experiences we have had, the emotions we have allowed to shape us. The doorways are open everywhere, just waiting.
A photo I took from the plane window as I was writing that journal entry
I think one of the great things about transitions, whether you're initiating them yourself or struggling to adjust as they're thrown your way, is that they offer the opportunity for radical transformations. What's more invigorating than giving yourself permission to be seven again, dream big, and believe anything is possible?

It's why I'm a sucker for New Years.

Those who know me know I'm also a sucker for the Space Needle :)
It's also why I often observe the new moon by burning a candle and writing in my journal about areas in my life I'd like to focus my energy on in the coming month. (Many thanks to my lovely friend and mentor in Ohio, Monique, for introducing me to this tradition.) And it's why, even when the world feels like it's spinning wildly out of my control, I think back to a fable my mom always told me when she'd remind me, "You never know if something is good news or bad news."

(Turns out, it's almost always good news.) On January 1, 2012, I wrote in my journal, May this year be filled with positive and necessary change! I guess I asked for it this year. As 2012 draws to a close, I've been reflecting a lot on the changes that have happened - and also on the ones I'm still working to initiate, on the coattails of larger transitions in my working life and personal life alike.

Life, as always, is a work in progress!

One of those changes is finding innovative ways to temper a busy, full-time work schedule with enough adventure to keep me sane. The last few weeks of October this year saw at my indolent worst. After IMTUF, I went for a grand total of three runs the entire rest of the month. Yikes! And I'm ashamed to report I've eaten lunch at my desk most days, rather than taking a moment for myself to go for a run or read a book or just sit still and breathe.

Jason, a friend of mine who came to work in marketing for REI after many years in a high-pressure, high-stress corporate environment, gave me this (paraphrased) advice before I started my new job: "Take your lunch breaks. Go for a run, or ride a bike, or work out. If you set that expectation on day one, people will just accept that you're the kind of person who goes running on her lunch break. If you wait too long before setting that routine, you're more likely to get stigmatized for trying to take a moment for yourself in the middle of the work day."

At the time he gave it to me, I felt convinced I'd follow his advice to a tee - but once I got started in my new role, I absolutely got wrapped up in the work-around-the-clock mindset. It's tough, when you're settling in to a new place; you don't want to be perceived as the slacker among a crop of hard-working folks. And I'm not! I'm a hard-working Midwestern girl; slacking is not in my nature. But here's the catch:

I am so much happier, calmer, and more productive when I get outside and get my endorphins regularly. So these past couple of weeks, I'm happy to report that I've made big efforts to re-prioritize that in my day-to-day life.
  • I signed up for a gym membership (with a lap pool!) in my office's building, so I can work out on my lunch breaks - and I found a lunchtime workout buddy in my coworker Rachel.
  • When the weather is decent, I'm biking the 26 miles roundtrip to work, instead of driving. (If I did this every day for a year, I would save over $4000 on tolls, gas, and wear/tear on my car!)
The scenery's not too shabby either
  • I'm reclaiming weekday sunrise summits on Mt. Si, before hitting the office. Always worth it.
7:30 a.m. this morning
  • Steve and I are doing a power vinyasa yoga class once a week (and biking to and from it!).
Life is good. I feel fortunate to be alive and healthy. I don't know what yet lies ahead, but I am optimistic. I've felt an awakening in my soul, and will conclude this rambling entry with my favorite quote, from Howard Thurman:

Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.


  1. Yitka, this is an inspirational post. Thanks for sharing. Interested in bouldering? Angel

    1. Thanks, Angel! I might just be. You're my hundredth friend attempting to invite me into the world of climbing...someday I'll cave :) I'm sure it would make a stronger, happier person, as I've seen it do for so many people in my life.