Essays (sort of)

Words, My Blanket (freewrite)

Really loving something becomes wrapping yourself in it, cloaking or even shrouding. My bedroom’s debris of dog-eared books and library receipts, uncapped pens and torn sheets of paper, surrounds and precedes my physical self nearly as much as the clothing I choose to wear and the food I eat. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been wrapping myself in words, tucking pages into every spare moment and lines into many conversations.

I am done with college, and I’m lucky enough to say that I’ve been able to have an immersive four-year education and a couple short-term jobs in the things that I am so drawn to that I can’t help but surround myself with them: books. I have been exposed to and informed about ways that leverage in the world of media can be used to help foster diverse listening, understanding, and subsequent necessary action in the “real” world, the three-dimensional one simultaneously mimicked and created/predicted in print or screen media. But I’m still trying to figure out what I’m supposed to be doing with words in the long term, or even next, or even now.

A couple months ago, I took drawing back up for the first time since middle school, an era when my near-constant comics production that kept my hands inky and cramped. I hadn’t realized how much I missed drawing—the very process is calming, and it helps me two-dimensionalize and crystalize thoughts that are (hah) longer than a tweet and shorter than a short story or essay, a type of thinking I’d been having trouble processing for awhile. My wrists are happy to be ink-smudged again, and I’ve had the joy of tidying up my own mind by drawing, but also of getting to have a couple friends use my drawings to explain a concept to someone else, or get a small work commissioned as a tattoo or art piece, or bought as an object on Threadless.

I love drawing because I know I can’t draw well, so all I can do is draw as expressively as possible and try to process and convey whatever message I mean to discuss as effectively as I can. I’ve made some friends through drawing, and I watch in awe as they draw a man with five antlers, or a huge woman on a tiny pony, or a beard that becomes a waterfall, or something else that’s arbitrary but based in the layers of an image rather than in the conveyance of a string of words with noun and verb like my two-dimensional, Times New Roman brain chooses to do. Where visual artists draw a picture, I find myself trying to draw a sentence. Even when I try my hand at visual art, I can’t help but keep functioning by the code of words and narrative.

For awhile, I’ve felt like I don’t have much to write. I miss the feeling of scrawling or typing lengthy, careening threads of texts and then finding that bit, the piece worth keeping that helps make sense of some concept or experience previously left hanging unprocessed, but I don’t want to just write and write to fill air, and I don’t expect anyone to value my work inherently, as if just because it’s there it is worth sharing and lauding and discussing and possibly even paying. I just keep a notebook of small thoughts, and tell myself I’m thinking drawing-sized thoughts right now. And it’s okay. And if I have something that needs to be written, I can write it when the time comes.

Never once have I regretted choosing words as my focus in developing a personal skill-set. I want to find long-term work in editing or marketing of books, and I don’t see that as in-conflict to my love of reading or writing at all. Rather, the opposite is the case: reading is an eternal bolster and source of wonderment. I have been happy and honored every time I’ve spent eight hours buried in a savory text, pulling or pushing punctuation, jotting out review lines, or helping writing become more concise and able to better convey its thoughts out on a journey in a world where things are often skim-read and misconstrued. Anytime I start to yearn for career paths that are less competitive for postgrads, or jobs that perhaps pay a bit more at an entry level, I can’t imagine hanging up my plum-colored velvety cloak of words. I can’t see myself being as happy in an environment in which two-dimensional, monochromatic print won’t be expanding and twisting and molding my mind every day, wrestling and merging with old thoughts and adding buttery, flaky layers to the way I look at every mundane thing I encounter in a day, the bristled upholstery on the bus or the milky edges of the clouds, the facial expression of the woman next to me in the checkout line or the wind-burned lines in the face of the man on the street corner.

To wrap yourself in something is to commit to it with the certainty that it will transmit warmth back to you in exchange for your devotion, your body heat. I’ve wrapped myself in words and they’ve showered me in tiny crystalline gifts of understanding, but I am still wondering how tight I need to cling, how much further I have to go and longer I have to wait, until I find an economically sustainable long-term job in words. Until then, I’m taking refuge the only way I know how—pulling the words in closer.

The Biopic

The biopic starts when she’s smiling as a baby, her outdated eighties toddler clothing mixing daisies and plaid, her baby pictures an odd juxtaposition with the fact that we (in the dark room in the velvety seats in front of the screen) all know that she died of a coke overdose at twenty-nine. We’re waiting for the film to mention that. They interview her parents. Stoic mom with feathered hair, leather-skinned dad with a choked-up voice. Stories conflict a tiny bit. Divorce. Different colors of wallpaper fill two backgrounds.

They establish her prowess, her genius, by showing a few shots of her, rust-red Gibson in hands, plucking away at notes in her late teens. She looks so much younger. Her cheeks are rounder. Her navy athletic shorts fit horribly. From my perspective in my dark velvety seat, I like that.

They make a sudden cut to her fame, magazine covers spinning out of thin air with her picture on the cover. Video clips with her skin tinged purple from the spotlights on a massive stage. I want to step back, to see her sitting on that brown couch again, plucking out notes, to see the way a thread of thought becomes a note and a song. I want to watch her scratching on a notepad with a dull yellow pencil, and bringing her ideas to someone and recording a rough first take filled with voice cracks. I want to paw through her notebooks and listen to her slowly explain her process in her speaking tone. Instead I get a read-aloud part of a Rolling Stone interview. I don’t know who’s reading. They’re not shown onscreen.

I can’t look away from the way that the man who loved her looks at her. The narrator says they fought when they were drunk but I think to myself that I fight everyone when I’m dead sober. I wonder if he would stop in the doorway and listen as she practiced in their home, not announcing his presence, just leaning against the doorframe. Or if he was the type who didn’t like all that sound in his house. I wonder if he complimented her songs, or if he knew which ones were about him, if any.

Do drugs really facilitate art for some people? Does art facilitate drugs? Nagging thoughts facilitate art for me, the kind that won’t leave me alone until I put them to rest by writing them down. These are the thoughts that her songs had always echoed and answered for me, her honeyed chords that drifted through my bulky headphones.

The biopic focuses in on the drugs themselves, leaving their links to anything in her life, art or anxiety or interpersonal relationships, nebulous. I watch her become thinner and hate myself for considering it beautiful, then watch her become emaciated and feel a wave of grief. Her tattoos sag.

I leave the theater once the biopic has ended. It ended on a positive note, though I don’t remember how they did it. Shaking the hand of a celebrity I admire is often, in fact, seeing them bored, a tired artist waiting for going back to the van for some food or a nap or waiting for the opportunity to wash their hands after all the shakes.

Watching the biopic of a celebrity I admire is less of a process of finding answers than a finding of the holes in a story. I’ve read the interviews in the Rolling Stone, but I don’t get to study the full range of expressions possible in her face, the types of things she says during dinner from her seat at the kitchen counter, the actual joys and frustrations behind the watered-down snippets of dialogue we encounter on the glossy page of a magazine, one I’m sure she regarded with the same disdain as myself when hearing my own voice in a recording, or saying something hollow, a fast “I love you” or “It’s okay,” to avoid having to express things more complex that could easily be misunderstood. Instead, I want to walk astride her, sun setting beyond the concrete, hands in our pockets. In silence.

“Guys”: In Which I Unpack a Small Linguistic Pet Peeve

It came to my attention a bit ago that there is no female equivalent for the word “guy.” Hear me out, quick. If you are a young male, you are a “boy.” If you are an adult male, you are a “man.” The word “guy,” used chummily, could be a way to refer to a boy to make him feel older or to refer to a man and make him feel younger, but generally is used to describe or address males in the age limbo between being a “boy” and a “man.” Case in point: “twenty-year-old-guy” seems more suitable than “twenty-year-old man,” and definitely more suitable than “twenty-year-old boy.”

If you are a young female, you are a “girl.” If you are an adult girl, you are a “woman.” A woman can also be referred to as a “lady,” but this word seems to be less of an equivalent for “guy” and more of a pairing for “gentleman.” Though there are people who can use the word “Lady” in a relaxed but dignified way, it usually carries the general feeling of being addressed by someone elderly, or being lectured by your parents. (“Young lady…”)

It’s funny to me when straight male friends seem a little surprised or ruffled when they hear a female friend and I talking about or referring to “boys,” using that word as the descriptor. (What, you’re not all “Men”? Is this not an Old Spice ad?) The most obvious layer to this is that “talking about boys” is a cliché and is therefore pretty funny to use as a phrase. It gains a bit of salty irony stemming from the false notion presented by some media that all girls do is sit around and braid each other’s hair and “talk about boys.” By “talking about boys,” we seem to be intentionally failing our own Bechdel tests: separating ourselves from males only to talk about them, rather than our own jobs, hobbies, talents, or interests. But how do straight men refer to “dateable women”? I can’t say for sure, partially because I am not male, or a serious confidante for male friends about girls. But, I’m pretty sure I’ve heard guys use the phrase “girls,” at least some of the time.

In my recent memory, I can’t remember being upset about being called a girl, by anyone, in any context. It’s societal convention, and I’m pretty young. However, there are ways that I, and girls in general, can feel different depending on how we’re referred to. Like most women I know, I don’t walk around in constant meditation about the fact that I am female—I have cool things that people of all genders have like jobs, classes, interests, hobbies, and friends, and it’s always possible to daydream about what I’m going to do later or what’s for dinner.

The fact that my personality is defined by so many factors besides my gender, though, makes it so that most of my thoughts about my gender-times-age identity are caused by external stimuli. Some of these are nice: I feel a positive sort of ‘womanly’ from most compliments on my appearance, for example. Often, though, being called out as a woman can be a negative experience. When I am on a run and get catcalled, I am not looking for a stranger’s reminder that I am a woman, and I definitely don’t want to know that I am a desirable and physically mature woman to any grimy stranger.

Girls/women also lack the linguistic cushion between childhood and adulthood that the word “guy” provides for males. You’re a woman, mature and ready for the world, or you’re not: you’re just a girl. A “guy,” by connotation, is older and mellower than a “boy,” but still makes mistakes. He goes out with “the guys,” and they get to do vague and unrestricted “guy things.” A “girl” is young and needs to be sheltered and protected, but a “woman” needs to be mature and composed, and fully capable.

I don’t know if I’m a “girl” or a “woman.” As I’ve grown older (take this with a grain of salt, I’m twenty), I’ve realized increasingly that adulthood is not a state of having all the answers. Instead, it seems to be mostly built from making your own decisions, to the best of your ethical and rational abilities, and with composure. Even that definition is a bit idealistic—we all have days in which we are tired, or frustrated, or overly emotionally invested in something to the point where it clouds rational judgment. But even in light of this abridged definition of adulthood, I still can’t say that I’m fully “woman” or “girl.” I usually just let whoever is addressing or describing me choose their own adjective, and leave indicators of gender-plus-age out of short bios of myself. I prefer to be identified on paper for my ideas than for my gender identity, though I happily identify as female. In the limbo between girlhood and womanhood, perhaps the best thing to do is focusing on being “me.”

Alone

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There are some songs that remind me of making grilled-cheeses and feeling sinkingly alone. Anything off the latest Daft Punk album, Amy Winehouse’s “He Can Only Hold Her,” stuff by The Strokes. These are beats and melodies that call to mind the smooth, hard linoleum floor of the tiny kitchen in the taupe little prison-apartment I lived in last summer, and the hours I spent staring at books, the computer, the ceiling, the rug, the overly bright illuminated mirror, and, by extension, the desolately empty streets of Dinkytown in the summer, the aisles of strangers in the grocery section of the Target store where I got my bike spokes stolen, and the duct-taped seat in the corner booth of the Hard Times Café, where I’d occasionally treat myself to a two-dollar chai to enjoy as I sat alone in the window with a Wallace book. It’s less picturesque when you’re feeling your phone like a lead weight in your pocket, waiting for some indication from the rest of the world that they remember that you’re there and that you matter to them, for some unclear and inherently needy-feeling reason.

But I’m not there anymore. I’m back at school, where, when I need someone to talk to, there’s a warm hug around every corner. But the school year is almost over and I have no idea what I’m doing this summer. There’s this bizarre, stupid pressure here to get a big internship each summer that will sparkle on your resumé and give you a great thing to talk about in the fall and a nice profile picture, but all my plans keep falling through as I get denied increasing (alarming) numbers of jobs. These past few days, though, it’s been me who’s been letting plans fall through, choosing to sit alone in my dorm rather than going out with friends like I usually would.

It’s less that I need an outlet for my suffocating Teen Angst than that I need the companionship of my friend group on a regular basis. The hardest part of living alone for me last summer wasn’t saving money, or shopping and cooking for myself, or even minor disasters like getting in a car accident. It was the fact that I would come home every night and be alone, wake up every morning to an empty, boxy apartment, and watch a sad trickle of people wander in and out of the weights gym as I did my thrice-weekly coach-mandated lift workout as my only (near) human contact, besides the motherly smiles from my middle-aged coworkers. Though I kept myself fed, exercised, worked, and cared for, which I thought would be the hardest parts of living alone, it was the actual alone part that did me in. I’d wake up at 4:30 AM unable to fall back to sleep, feeling sick to my stomach, and berate myself for being “too emotional” or “needy,” unclear of the rationale behind my own behavior.

Perpetuating this fear is the fact that I will probably end up moving somewhere after college and having to live alone again, only for multiple years rather than a month or two. I have this strange overwhelming needfor other human beings that itches and aches and makes virtually zero sense to me, and all I’m left with is the ever-appealing result of lying in the middle of the rug, Cheerios strewn everywhere, texting every one of my friends “Hey how’s it goin” and hoping that someone will reply.

A quote that may be an old wives’ tale describes young John Lennon as getting in trouble for saying that what he wanted to be when he grew up was “happy.” I am pretty sure I want to grow up to love and be loved. I don’t think there’s an internship for that.  As I’ve been watching my other internship plans fall through, though, I’ve been realizing that it would be okay for me to go home, spend time with friends and family, run my dog in the woods, and write. I can work at an ice-cream shop or running store and stop telling myself from within a swollen head that I need to be “the best” at everything, or anything, to have a future I can be happy with.

On second thought, I’ve changed my mind about the existence of an internship for love. It’s unpaid and starts when you first make eye contact with your mother on the day you are born. Some nights you work overtime, as a warm hug and listening ear for a friend who is struggling with a breakup, or making sure that someone makes it home safely between cars on the dark and crowded street. Some days, the work is light, a friendly chat at lunch or a smile on the sidewalk. Your promotions come from making new friends or volunteering or making a relationship work or having a child. Perhaps my desires to have a better GPA or fuller CV are taking away from my work on the love-internship. I seldom daydream about the car I’ll drive home from work in someday, or the house I’ll pull into the driveway of, but I do often wonder what faces and voices I’ll be coming home to. But an internship is a project, and I’m doing far better today than I was even a year ago. Perhaps my recent cravings for solitude are a sign of the fact that I’m gradually understanding the fact that love doesn’t necessarily have to mean a body in the seat next to mine. In the meantime, though, I should chip away at my schoolwork so I have time to see my friends.

A Letter To Myself, Hundreds of Mornings

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You woke up tired and aching a bit. Eat a good breakfast and write a page or two of anything you’d like. Empty document. Staring down into the brown of your mug, you can feel the pouchy bags under your eyes. Remember, you were a person before you were a student.

For half an hour, go for a run by the river, or become a tiny figure hidden in the crowds of the city streets. Realize you don’t have to sacrifice your body for your mind, and that your mind doesn’t thrive only on black-on-white pages or haunted glowing screens. Draw in deeply through your nose and let clean, brisk outdoor air flow in.

When you talk to people, be honest about the negatives and effusive with the positives. Be genuine with the questions and frequent with the nods. Hold the door for people because their hands are full, not so you can be the “type of person” who does.

Wear a watch instead of checking your phone. Stare at the warm face across the lunch table instead of down at a thin little mechanical box whose insides you can’t understand.

It’s okay to check your email maybe two or three times a day. Simon told us over soft guitar that he could gather all the news he needs from the weather report. Don’t let Productive guilt you or hold you down, and set Productive aside when you need to. Take twenty minutes to lay down your thoughts on a blank sheet instead of spending eight on a newsfeed.

Look at what’s on top of your desk and in your bookshelf and remember you’re here because the contents of each work satisfy an intrinsic longing for something beyond the damp small-town newspaper you’d be picking up off your beloved childhood porch at home right now. Thank your home for instilling your passion and curiosity, no matter what it looked like.

Yes, you’ll have to sit back down at your computer, and open that document, and prop those textbooks back up precariously on the piles on your desk. You’ll have to start, which is painful, or start fixing things you’ve done poorly, which is often worse. Don’t think about the percentage that will stamp the paper later, though. The aftermath. Think about the present, and the ideas that are composing the paper. Spin and weave your present ideas as strong, golden fibers.

Look through the paper into my eyes. Yours. Hazel looking into hazel. Cracks and light spots and morphs and nuances, brown to green. Look alive. Look bright. You’ve done this before, and you’re going to be fine.

Love On Top

Hi! Haven’t written in awhile (cricket noises), just slammed this out and any ideas/constructive criticism for a second draft would be fantastic (will definitely update/work on)

______________________

Killing time while studying for finals, I noticed that a friend of mine had tweeted that “womanhood sucks” because, while listening to “Love On Top,” she realized she would never be as perfect as Beyoncé.

I feel like there’s this weird dichotomy inherent to being female in the 21st century where, since we’re no longer expected to be silent housewives, we’re expected to be everything- that just because we can be strong and beautiful and “successful” in the financial, societal sense we suddenly are placed under this immense pressure where it’s no longer even that we can be successful, but that we have to be the whole package to be feminists and fully take advantage of the freedoms our foremothers fought to give us. Basically, we have to do what Beyoncé did a few days ago: we each have to be a successful businesswoman who, without promotions or help, makes millions off of her own work that she appears plastered all over, a glowing, perfect supermodel, while still being married and raising a child.

I am currently working towards an English degree at a liberal arts college and intend to join the workforce once I graduate, either in publishing or teaching (I think). Sometimes, though, since I’m not on the track towards med or law school or anything with a guarantee of money or even a normal grad program, I get this crippling fear that whatever I’m doing doesn’t really matter, because no one will ever want to read anything I write or think my opinions are intelligent enough to influence young minds or literary thought. That my parents will begrudgingly (but lovingly) take me back in, and I’ll never find a way to really leave. However, the person I talk to fairly often when this sort of thing bothers me makes a big difference: she was a stay-home mom.

After college, my mother worked as an artist and in communications at several newspapers and hospitals, while also supporting her med-school husband both financially and emotionally. Moving away from her dream job at the Star Tribune to stay with my dad, my mom spent time in Portland, OR, and the couple finally settled in Duluth, MN, just before I was born. Did my mom instantly seek a job? To my knowledge, no, seeing as she decided to spend her days pushing me in a stroller as she trained for marathons, taking me for walks outside and playing stuffed-animal games, teaching me to read out of hand-drawn books, and raising me with the love and support that has made me strive to be strong and confident and disciplined and kind, and brought me to this dorm-room desk far from home where I sit today.

This woman is not a business executive, an underwear model, or, like Beyoncé, someone extremely successful in her business while wearing little more than underwear. And, don’t get me wrong: I LOVE Beyoncé. I do. But Beyoncé didn’t wipe my tears or scraped knees when I was in elementary school, give me the encouragement I needed to even leave the house in middle school, or run into my room screaming when we found out that I got into an elite university I never even dreamed I would apply to.

I have no idea what I’m going to do with my life, or how I’m going to make it meaningful. I know that it won’t come easily, and that I’ll definitely gaze longingly at some Beyoncés, or even some girls in my classes at school, and be insecure about my difficulties with sequential thinking and math, my squirrel cheeks and my dented front teeth, my lack of social graces, and my mediocre grade-point average that I work my hardest for on a daily basis. What I do know, though, is that I can’t be everyone’s everything, but I will definitely be someone’s something. As a writer, editor, teacher, parent, and/or who knows what, as a feminist and a friend and a daughter and a human I vow to do something good. I think “Love on Top” is fantastic, but now I’m going to take my headphones off and go for a run.

Thoughts Before Lake Placid

On a regular basis, I make myself hurt. I make myself sick. I make myself want to puke, and want to curl into a little sloshy puddle of human somewhere warm and not stand back up. Adults don’t mind. In fact, they encourage me to do so. In fact, it was adults, namely, my parents, which first started me in this cycle when they strapped skis to my three-year-old self’s tiny purple snow boots.

I love skiing. I love it. From the cool, clean forest wind on my face to the smooth feeling of glide, every aspect of skiing gives me shivers of joy. There’s something about the light, quick shuffle of feet it takes to climb a hill that gives one of the greatest adrenaline rushes out there, along with tucking swiftly down a hill and stepping around a curve. When I started rising competitively in high school, though, was when I began to realize that “being good” doesn’t mean it never hurts. In fact, sometimes it hurts worse. “Being good” just means one has practiced more or is in some way more fit, technically skilled, or otherwise apt to succeed than the rest of the competition pool.

The funny thing about racing is I always forget how much it hurts until I’m in the meaty thick of the race itself, and my muscles are conductor wires for liter on liter of thick lactic acid and, man, it just hurts. Some people finish races and say that they “just don’t like racing,” they “just like practicing” and “long easy skis.” Um, excuse me? You “I-Don’t-Like-Racing” people are almost as bad as the “Fellowship of Oh Man I Was Having My Period,” because heaven knows no one fast has EVER had their period while racing. (Same with you weirdos who only can race well when “it’s cold” or “the snow is good.” Let’s just all wait around for your perfect day… oh wait, it never comes.)

Yes, racing hurts. And I don’t think I’ve ever had a race where everything goes perfectly. From pole straps coming undone to bad kick, something always goes a little bit funky. But hey, isn’t that life? Does a day ever go by exactly how you expect it to? When I woke up yesterday morning, I had no idea I was going to traipse around Boston for a day, then end up in a dress and cheese-head later in the evening, but that’s how it went, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. A part of me feels like when something goes wrong, the distraction gives me an adrenaline kick that makes me go even faster. For example, I did a state meet in high school where I lost one of two chips on-course. On realizing the chip was gone, I panicked a bit, but upon finishing, I realized the loss of a chip had given me an adrenaline rush that propelled me forward, along with distracting me from the stress of the competition.

If I’ve ever complained about skiing, slap me. Go for it. I need skiing. Looking forward to practice after classes has got me through more days than anything. Skiing gives me a chance to feel strong, feel graceful, be healthy, release tension, channel aggression, learn self-discipline, develop self-confidence, make friends, travel, and eat hella more carbs and good ol’ PB than anyone involved in Model UN or drama. Skiing gives me a chance to get lost in the woods, for HOURS, for a REASON. With COOL PEOPLE. It’s incredible. So why, then, do we skiers occasionally resent it?

I was talking to one of my roommates about how I was having a hard time finding a writing publication to be a part of because of the time constraints of classes plus skiing. I rolled my shoulders back. I ached like there was an extra bone stuck haphazardly between my shoulder blades.

“You could always quit skiing next year,” she suggested.

It took the suggestion of quitting for me to realize that I could never, EVER quit. Skiing isn’t an escape for me, it is my life. I don’t ski to put it on a résumé and look accomplished. Skiing isn’t making me richer, or more famous, or helping me find a job. I ski because I freaking love it. Every second. When I am eighty years old I want to be out in the woods, tufty white hair blending in with the snowy birches, hunched over on my classic skis, striding and listening for birds.

So, why resent it? Why do it if you don’t love it? I love it. I love every second. Thank you, skiing.

There Comes A Point

There comes a point in every race when you have to choose.

Your lungs burn as your throat, a hollow glass slide, feebly, uselessly tries to pump enough air to your screaming capillaries. Sore? Don’t kid. It hurts to pick up a limb, every lifting movement a colossal effort from lactic-acid-saturated muscles that, deprived of oxygen and tearing themselves apart, scream “Stop!” every time you take a stride.

“Stop?” Your mind says. You mentally hesitate for a second as you tuck and ride a downhill. It is beginning to occur to you that you could stop. You think of what you could say at the finish line. Excuses? No, we’ll call them reasons.

My shoulders hurt.

My feet have been bothering me again.

I forgot to take my inhaler.

If I had been further ahead in the starting lineup, I wouldn’t have gotten stuck behind that girl in the green suit and…

I didn’t have enough kick wax, I had to run up all those hills, it was so tiring…

I had way too much wax on and my downhills were so painful…

I had cramps.

I’m tired.

I’m stressed (about a test, because I’m a smart girl too).

I didn’t warm up long enough.

For half the next ascent, you toggle between these, trying to pick one that will satisfy your coaches, Mom on the phone, and, most importantly, yourself. Something that will wrap pity around you like warm comforter from the hotel bed you were so rudely roused from this morning before the race.

And then it hits you. If you drop out, if you quit, others may pity you temporarily, but you will not pity yourself. The truth will weigh on you like the extra minutes at the end of that race that could have been neatly shaved off. You will know, and it will eat you alive.

 Your heart leaps with adrenaline as you pick up your tempo. You see the girl in the green spandex at the top of the hill. Your fingers are going numb and your lungs ache, legs ache, shoulders burn, but every fiber of you now pounds with energy, vivacity, ferocity.

There comes a point in every race when you have to choose.