2011: What I Learnt

Fireworks at Northern Liberties. 31 December 2011

And that’s a wrap. Running season was over, as far as 2011 was concerned. Both MCM and the Philly Half Marathon came and went, capping a successful yet injury-marred season. Finals came and went, and I didn’t just survive, but I thrived. I got out of a very bad relationship this fall, but I feel far stronger and better having learnt what I did and standing for what I believe in. I travelled relentlessly this year for work, yet somehow between school and running and everything else in between, I made more friends than ever and more connections through networking than ever.

I must be doing something right, especially when I look at myself just 3 years ago and struggling to tread water.

And finally, I am learning what is most important to me, what makes me happy and what drives me, regardless of how society, religion, culture, whatever dictates the status quo. Because as my cousin Adrian once said, unusual people do unusual things.

And I’m finding that the mundane bores me, and that the unusual drives me to experiences that I could have never imagined.

Amongst the many things I’ve learnt and reinforced:

Take (calculated) risks, small and large… If I’d never started that first 5k, that first half marathon…it’s led me to a network of friends through running as well as reinforced friendships that I’ve already had through other means. If I’d never taken the chance, I’d never had gotten the job I have today. If I’d never had put my foot forward out there with the men I met, I’d never have gotten the dates I have. And so forth. My cousins, who have travelled the world are constant risk takers and it’s something I keep in mind as I plow forward.

…but don’t bite off more than you can chew. This semester was an example to some extent. Coming into the semester I had 7.5 credits (three classes), three races (two halfs and my first full), a relationship, a post on UPenn’s alumni group organizing events for alumni, and what seemed like endless biweekly travel for my job. Not to mention I hung out with a plethora of friends from the alumni network as well as my running clubs. I was starting to burn out by October and it showed. When handling so many things it came to a point that I had to stop and breathe. And in the case of scheduling the Philly Half 3 weeks after an injury-riddled MCM, I had pushed my body to the maximum it could take. So I learnt that I had limits and where to draw the line.

Be in tune with yourself… Physically, this applied to when I was injured at Mile 17 of MCM. Could I run the remaining 9 miles without destroying my ankle? I took upwards of 10 minutes to examine my ankle at an aid station, and I’m glad I did. I’d been injured before, and no one knew that ankle better than me. Emotionally, in spite of my ex saying it wasn’t possible that I couldn’t possibly know what I wanted out of life, I already saw myself making life decisions through career decisions, through lifestyle decisions, through everyday decisions. Despite him saying that I needed Catholicism to be a good person, I found the faith conflicted with some of my most important core beliefs. So I pushed back because I felt uncomfortable. I pushed back because I was getting away from myself. And I eventually pushed him out of my life, and rightfully so. Yes I know compromise is a very important part of relationships, but there is a line to be drawn between that and incompatibility.

And that even if there is a long winded tunnel, that there is always light at the end…and to enjoy life in the tunnel. I have two years to go for grad school, but I have to remember not everyone gets the opportunity to go, or has the grades/test scores to get in. I have to remember the connections I made, even if the exams are less than fun. With running, I have to make sure my goals are sustainable even if it might seem like forever before I can consistently break a 2-hour half or 4-hour full marathon. And with time and hard work, I know I can get there. And someday I will meet someone, but given what I want in life, I have to be realistic and patient and that if I do the things I love, that the right person will be there waiting for someone equally driven about similar interests (well, more or less).

And finally, that family doesn’t necessarily have to be your biological or immediate family. It’s important to be close to family and to loved ones, but not everyone may be so fortunate. I’ve learnt time and again that extended family and friends have often stepped up where my own family has failed to do so and that in a changing world sometimes one has to create their own family, and that this isn’t a bad thing. That if family doesn’t live up to normal societal expectations, there’s nothing wrong with seeking support elsewhere and drawing support from those who share common beliefs and values.

2011 was a rollercoaster ride. There were a lot of bumps in the road, but I survived and for every challenge, I feel I’ve emerged stronger. I’ve learnt more about myself and the world, and I want to continue setting and reaching my goals in 2012. I look forward to a good year – bring it on 2012 – and I wish everyone here a happy new year, one filled with blessings, memories and happiness.

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