Quiet Thoughts on a Loud Election

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Yesterday, I proudly voted for a criminal. Voting for a criminal meant supporting a leader who values the lives of all people regardless of race, heritage, gender, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, or class. It meant supporting a leader who recognized the severity of climate change and its certain destruction to our planet. It meant supporting a leader who values equality for all: women and men, gay and straight, rich and poor, of every different skin tone.

Last night, I watched election results come in with a group of new friends who shared my values—the values of a criminal—and felt my stomach sink lower and lower with each state called. We stress-ate Oreos and brie and Chicago Mix popcorn, sloshing everything down with patriotic Jell-o shots and hard liquor. What other choice did we have? I did my part to avoid a national crisis, but with each passing moment an unthinkable tragedy settled in around us. I turned to the only coping mechanisms available.

This morning, I drifted awake from a dream where I was in the women’s suffrage scene from Mary Poppins: clearly a dream given the unfolding of events from the night prior. I felt emotionally hungover, trying to “cast off the shackles of yesterday.” But it felt like the shackles had found their way back onto my wrists and ankles after nearly a decade’s work of freeing them. Back to square one. Back to fighting the fight all over again. I kissed my husband goodbye, grateful to have someone in my life who shares my fears and fights my fights.

Continue reading “Quiet Thoughts on a Loud Election”

Why I Run: Part 3

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If you’ve read part 1 and part 2 of my running story, you’re probably curious about why I’m still running. I never felt naturally inclined to run as a child, and there isn’t enough ballistic emotional shit still going on in my life to carry forth the trend that motivated me to run in college.

When I first started, my goal was to run X number of miles and finish. I ran another marathon after my first marathon and it sucked. My body and mind were exhausted, and I wasn’t ready to commit to another training cycle…but I did it anyway. It was slower than my first race, and I felt more miserable for a greater portion of the race than my first marathon. I swore off running another marathon when I finished.

By this time, I’d met my to-be-husband and got him hooked on running, too. He’s been a lifelong athlete (baseball, football, basketball) and went on weekly jogs, but he didn’t take running seriously as a stand-alone sport. Just like when I started, running was a means of getting better at some other sport.

Together, we ran around our hometown, college campuses, and so many places in-between. I’m happy to report we’re still running together now. We make a good pair: on days that I struggle getting out the door, Sam pushes me to go faster than I’d go on my own. I’m a morning person and often convince him to get up and run with me at the crack of dawn (or earlier).

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Continue reading “Why I Run: Part 3”

Why I Run: Part 2

Why I Run: Part 2 - Mo Stych // mostych.comSince I’m not a natural runner, it should come as a surprise that I wasn’t fast when I first started running. And I lacked endurance. And I didn’t really know what to do to improve either of those things.

It didn’t stop me from running, though. I slogged through laps around the track outside Couzens Hall a few times a week, running a mile (or maybe two if I felt ambitious). As winter set in, I found myself enjoying my running routine and going a little bit farther each time. Instead of one or two miles, I ran two or three, or sometimes five miles.

My mom, seeing my interest in running, proposed that we both take on a race together. I agreed it would be a (potentially) good idea. We don’t do a lot of things together, just my mom and I, so maybe this could be something we shared. Feeling empowered by our consistent mileage and perhaps a little too ambitious, we signed up to run a half marathon on Memorial Day weekend in 2009. It was two or three times further than any distance I’d ever run. I was terrified to race, but also invigorated by the challenge.

Thankfully, the track path stayed plowed during the winter months, so I kept running. On days when it was too cold or snowy, I moved to the indoor track at the gym and ran there. I felt physically better than I had at any other point in my life. Nothing made me feel as joyful and bubbly and ready to take on the world as running did.

Running did so many other things for me, too. I took chances during my sophomore year of college that I wasn’t brave enough to do my freshman year. Longing for a news room, I joined the Michigan Daily and was elected Co-Managing Design Editor after only a semester on staff. I also ran for a position on the executive board of the Arts Chorale choir. I was voted in as Secretary (and held onto my position through senior year). I also finally decided on a major, which was stressful until I realized I loved learning about art more than anything else. I tried dating some guys during my sophomore year, but all I really got out of that experience was some awkward date stories. Despite being successful in some ways and unsuccessful in other ways, it didn’t matter. The important thing was taking risks and trying new things, and my running dedication fueled these actions.

Continue reading “Why I Run: Part 2”

Why I Run: Part I

Why I Run: Part 1 - Mo Stych // mostych.com

I’m not a natural runner.

When I was younger, I was the kid on the soccer field examining a bee on a flower instead of chasing the soccer ball. I searched for four-leaf clovers while waiting for fly balls in the outfield of a softball game. I spent a lot of time climbing, getting dirty, and exploring the world around me, but I definitely wasn’t doing any of these things quickly. Running never struck me as necessary.

I ran track in 5th and 6th grade because my friends did it. We had to run a mile before every practice, but I usually walked part of it. Shot-put was fun, but I didn’t like sprinting short distances. Or sprinting long distances. Or jumping over handles while sprinting short or long distances. I was worse than mediocre, placed on a relay team with my friends because I was never going to win anything on my own (they didn’t tell me this is why I was on a relay team, but I knew the truth). It was alright, but I didn’t miss it when I entered junior high.

In junior high, I could play the sports I wanted to play: tennis, volleyball, softball. And yet, I was still running a lot. Warm-ups, cool-downs, speed training…always trying to get faster, always an emphasis on the go, go, go! I trained for weeks to make the 9th grade volleyball team, which required me to run for 30 minutes without stopping every day of tryouts (4 days in a row). It sucked in the way that everything sucks at the age of 15. When I (barely) made the team, I was relieved that we never ran that much in practice.

Continue reading “Why I Run: Part I”

Journal Entry: Hometown, Nostalgia, and Trusting Our Hearts

We were fortunate enough to spend Labor Day weekend in our hometown of Traverse City, Michigan. It’s been almost a year since Sam moved from TC to Chicago, and I’ve been in Chicago for about seven months. Moving from a town of 15,000 people to the third largest city in the USA was definitely an adjustment. We’ve learned to live a little bit differently—in some ways life is easier, in other ways it’s harder—but now that we officially feel settled in our new apartment, Chicago is growing on us.

Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes - Labor Day Weekend in Northern Michigan, Traverse City, Leelanau - Mo Stych Blog Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes - Labor Day Weekend in Northern Michigan, Traverse City, Leelanau - Mo Stych Blog Pyramid Point Hiking at Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes - Labor Day Weekend in Northern Michigan, Traverse City, Leelanau - Mo Stych Blog

Previously, every time we’ve visited home in northern Michigan, it wasn’t easy to pack up and drive south to Chicago. We missed the open roads, fresh air, public beaches, home-cooked meals, and patches of grass welcoming an afternoon snooze. Those drives back to Chicago were tinged with the feeling that, somehow, I wasn’t strong enough to make our lives work in Traverse City. Like I did something wrong in the five years we tried to establish a life in our hometown, and it was my fault that it never felt right living there. When a place is so beautiful and peaceful it must be easy to live there, and I just didn’t try hard enough to be happy.

Continue reading “Journal Entry: Hometown, Nostalgia, and Trusting Our Hearts”

Madeline Island (Apostle Islands Day 2, continued)

Madeline Island Day Trip - Apostle Islands National Lakeshore Camping and Backpacking Vacation

Check out part 1 and part 2 for more about our Apostle Islands trip!

After our confidence-boosting hiking, we made it back to Bayfield and returned out wet suits after our tour was cancelled. We asked the woman at the kayak place if she had any thoughts about where to go for dinner. Without hesitation, she advised us to go to Madeline Island and visit one of the restaurants there. Sam and I thanked her for the information about how to get to Madeline (there are ferry rides every 30 minutes) and made our way back to the car. Since our ferry to Stockton Island cost us so much money, we ruled out budgeting for another island while we were here. But going to Madeline was only $10 or $15 each, and we’d just received a hefty refund from the cancelled kayak trip, so we decided to treat ourselves.

But first, I needed a bath in Superior. Because why not? That’s what I did all summer in Lake Michigan, so why not here? Let’s put it this way: our lake baths were very short. Like, maybe 30 seconds? In case you’re wondering, swimming in Lake Superior when it’s drizzling and barely 60 degrees outside is not something I’d recommend. Unless you’d like a taste of onset hypothermia.

Apostle Islands National Lakeshore Camping - Madeline Island

Apostle Islands National Lakeshore Camping - Madeline Island

Continue reading “Madeline Island (Apostle Islands Day 2, continued)”

The Funny Thing is…

(a few of the things filling my life this past month)

I know what it looks like. It looks like I’ve neglected writing in this space for quite some time (almost a month…how can that be?!), just as I’ve done in years past with previous blogs. The one difference this time, though, is that I’m not neglecting writing. In fact, I may be writing more now than I ever have previously. You just don’t see it here…yet.

Right now, there are eight saved drafts in my queue all lined up and ready to post. They are nearly finished, but I’m not comfortable posting them quite yet. They look good, but they’re not perfect. They’re not what I want to share with the world. I promise you that when they’re ready, you’ll see them.

One of Sam’s biggest pet peeves is when people complain about not having enough time. As someone who’s always felt like I’ve never had enough time, I used to take offense to this statement. I shrugged it off as Sam not being ambitious enough, or involved enough, or motivated enough to feel the pressure of needing more time. How could he possibly understand when he didn’t have a gazillion extracurricular activities occupying all his minutes like I did? 

The reason my perspective was so flawed back then is because my husband works harder than anyone I know. I knew it back then, when he rolled his eyes every time I said I didn’t have enough time, and I know it more than ever these days. He’s incredibly dedicated to his career, and he’s been a better employee at all his jobs than I’ve ever been at any of mine. And, yet, he never complains about not having enough time like I do.

“There’s always enough time,” he says. “It’s about prioritizing what’s important. You have the time to do what you want: you actively choose not to do certain things because you’re doing others. Having the time isn’t the problem, prioritizing what matters is the problem.”

(Did I mention my husband is also smarter and more observant than I am? Because he totally is.)

Since moving to Chicago, I have yet to volunteer, join a club, or do essentially any of the “experience-building-network-things” I buried myself under in Traverse City. This is, honestly, a huge surprise to me. I thought I’d be bustling around, making connections, going a billion places, carrying the torch of my previous life here in the city.

Instead, I’ve turned inwards. I ask myself what I want to do, and then I do that. Last night, for instance, I wanted to make a planter for my new plants so I stayed after work and played in the shop. This past weekend, I could’ve scheduled some blog entries but instead I made dozens of cookies and homemade breakfast pizza. I jump into bed at 9 pm on Friday nights so we can crank out 15-18 mile runs at 5 a.m. on Saturday morning. These are the things that I’m prioritizing right now, and I’m enjoying them so much more because I’m focusing my efforts instead of spreading myself too thin. 

I’m working on embracing a quote I heard a few years ago:

You can do anything, but not everything. 

Until moving to Chicago, I didn’t realize how much I needed those words in my life. I should’ve known Sam was right all along (he usually is), but I’m stubborn and need to figure it out for myself sometimes. Through a series of lazy evenings, self-reflection, and learning that I really can read a book before falling asleep, I’ve found that my mental health has positively flourished since arriving here.

And yet.

There are all sorts of new stressors in our lives these days that keep us from fully settling. Moving into our new apartment (which we love!) has made a big difference in adjusting to this city, but we’ve barely been in this apartment for three weeks. Plus, we spent the last five days up in the suburbs dog-sitting for my cousin’s family. Oh, and I went to the emergency room for the first time in my life. It’s a miracle we’ve managed to unpack most of our belongings at this point, let alone sit down and finalize a blog post.

So, this post is not an excuse. It’s recognition that I’ve prioritized other things in my life instead of spending every night clicking away on a computer or trying to find the right words that will make people read my blog. Instead, I am watching Mad Men or reading a book or cooking something new or heading out with friends or enjoying these last beautiful days of summer walking the city streets or dreaming travel plans with Sam or writing things out by hand because I miss paper or simply sitting outside and watching the world around me. Somehow, right now, these are the things that matter to me. These are the things I want to fill my time, because they fill my heart.

My goal is to be back here, fresh, after Labor Day weekend. I have so many exciting, wonderful, and also terrifying adventures to share from these past few weeks. I want to make sure I’m ready to do them justice before putting them here.

Get ready. They’re coming.