Listen Up

img_0578The United States is going through an identity crisis. Or perhaps more accurately, it’s going through an increasingly intense cultural shouting match. The narrative of “us vs. them” has seeped into everyday life; both my news and my newsfeed are consumed by divisiveness. Outrage is ubiquitous. Political decisions are followed by opinion pieces are followed by protests are followed by Facebook posts. We have reached a point where nearly everyone is angry or afraid or ashamed. No one feels represented. No one feels protected. Even if you personally don’t feel endangered, this cultural antagonism threatens something vital in us all. This feeling isn’t specific to one group – both liberals and conservatives see their values under attack.

All politics aside, one thing is clear: something is happening.

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989 Miles to Go: Starting Points

The beginning of a story is essential. It’s where everything starts. In science, you can’t have Δx unless you have x. In literature, you can’t have a climax unless you have an exposition. You can’t have a chicken without an egg… but that’s a bit circular. Forget about the chicken. Without a beginning that is catchy or engaging, we’d never get far enough into a story to care about its end. This story is no different.

Realistically, the dramatic arc is very predictable. Either I will run 1,000 miles or I will not run 1,000 miles. Along the way, I will be disheartened and encounter difficulty. I will probably have some quirky experiences that provide lessons about life. I will have days of triumph and days of failure, and in 11 months and 21 days, I will know whether this story has a happy ending.

We all know happy endings are never that clear.

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Easy reading is damn hard writing.

These wise words come from Nathaniel Hawthorne (maybe) and represent the essence of one of my two 2017 New Years Resolutions. Last year, I read a lot. I wrote some – mostly for work and on my personal blog. This year, I want to push myself further. I haven’t written a short story since high school. Fiction is not my forte. I firmly believe that writing broadly and without reservation will help me become both a better writer and a better reader. Reading and writing are essential parts of me – and they are both parts I want to continually build on. Therefore, in 2017 I resolve to write more – more blog posts, more short stories, more poetry. To help keep myself accountable, I intend to enter writing competitions and post my work here.

I must admit, my true inspiration for this New Years Resolution came from an unlikely source. Poo. More specifically, I was one of the winners of DefeatDD’s third Poo Haiku campaign. This was the first “writing competition” I’ve entered since elementary school – and it energized me. Winning was just the icing on the cake.


Seriously, I’m an award-winning poo-et. It’s my only claim to fame. Let me have it.

Unlike reading challenges or my 2017 fitness goal, my writing goals for this year are a bit more nebulous. There is an endless selection of writing competitions that take many different forms. I plan on trying my hand at a few different styles of writing and getting inspiration where I can. My hope is to enter at least one competition a month – but I’m not sure how realistic this is. Also, some competitions have restrictions about posting your entry before the winner is announced.

To circumvent this, I will likely post what Anne Lamott calls “short assignments.” It’s the same concept as eating an elephant one bite at a time – breaking down a larger story into a series of smaller components. I like the concept, and it seems like a good a place as any to start my hand at the great wide world of authorship.


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Three brothers are wandering through a desert when they come across a merchant who has lost his camel… It sounds like the beginning of a fairy tale. Or perhaps a Paulo Coelho novel. These three brothers, the merchant and the camel are central characters in the origins of serendipity. After being accused of stealing the camel, the brothers are saved from an unfortunate end when the camel in question appears in an instant of fate and good luck. That’s what serendipity is. Fate and good luck.

I’ve certainly had my fair share of both fate and good luck. As much as I pretend to be a faithless curmudgeon, I have a stubborn belief that the universe won’t push me off a cliff. I might jump off the cliff, but even then I believe there will be a feather mattress at the bottom. I might freak out a bit while I’m falling, but in the end, I know I will be alright. Call it faith. Call it privilege. Call it serendipity.

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A few days before my 27th birthday, I texted my sister.

“Thoughts about signing up for a half marathon in Yellowstone?” 

This seemed like a remarkably good idea at the time. I was full of pre-birthday idealism. I’d never been to Yellowstone. I’d never run 13.1 miles. Both of those things seemed cool. How bad could it be?

But then she said yes.

This has been five years in the making. On January 1, 2012, I participated in my first ever 5k race. I was actually pretty fast back then. Since then, I’ve finished twenty-eight races including a few that required me to crawl through the mud. Some of them had puppies. Those were the best ones.



In that same time, I’ve been in a constant battle between my love of running and my love of ice cream. My race times have gotten slower and my lbs on the scale have gotten higher. I’ve started many years with the determination to reverse these trends. This year, my sister is getting her revenge for making her run a half marathon.

“New Years Resolution/goal for next year: run 1,000 miles.”

1,000 Miles. Let that sink in. 

We’ve both (foolishly) agree to try and complete 1,000 miles of running in 2017. That comes out to be a bit more than 19 miles a week. Training for a half marathon makes this a completely possible – and quite advisable – goal. It doesn’t make it any less scary.  And I am terrified.

In my efforts to write more this year, I’m dedicating a portion of my blog to my “fitness journey.” There are plenty of blogs in the world that talk about fitness and running and people’s pursuit of these things. I can’t imagine I’ll be telling you anything you won’t already know. I certainly won’t be telling you anything that isn’t expertly covered by people who actually know what they’re talking about. But my hope is to track my progress while showing how a normal, regular, every-day, out-of-shape person goes about running 1,000 miles in a year. Wish me luck.

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