Tunesday: Highway Unicorn (Road to Love)

I started this blog in April of 2014 on the cusp of running my first marathon, the race I decided would get me out of my ten year running slump, and the experience I decided would jumpstart my very own blog. This blog.

And it worked. For the time it took to train and run the 2014 Chicago Marathon, I had a really solid posting schedule and regular things to talk about that I felt comfortable sharing on the internet.

And then it didn’t, because I stopped running regularly after the marathon (burnout?) and I couldn’t really catch a rhythm in my posting or topics or… anything. My personal and professional life were pulling me in a million different directions and I wanted to follow all of them but just couldn’t keep up with any of it (more burnout?).

I stopped posting here regularly, too.

But I learned something on that road to 26.2: you can stop doing something, but that doesn’t mean you can’t come back harder, better, faster, stronger.

So here I am.

As of right now, my life is in a great, stable place compared to 2014: I am married to the wonderful man who was then my boyfriend; my dog is no longer a puppy and all the thrilling things that come with that growth; I have a wonderful, full-time job in my most desired career path (public youth services librarianship, working with community schools); and my husband and I have recently bought a house that is a 15 minute commute tops for each of us.

For the first time in a long time, all the pieces of my life fit together nicely and while it’s not all perfect or smooth or effortless (work is great but is still work, our house is going on 90 years old and the previous owners did some *interesting* things to it, our dog is 3 and out of puppyhood but still has his charming little foibles…), there is nothing foreseeable on the horizon to plan or worry about or consider.

From house breaking to wedding planning to job commuting and hunting, things were just never as calm as they were in that stretch between April and October of 2014. I mean, while we were house hunting at the start of the year and then closing and moving in May, we were also planning a two week, four city European vacation of a lifetime on top of me going through my first year of my job and, for the entirety of 2018, I barely had time to find the box with the towels so I could take a shower let alone drag myself out for a run or write a blog post for fun.

Or, I guess I had time, but I also had burnout. No question mark.

We just got home from that marvelous trip Saturday night, but during our last few days away I would keep musing to my husband about the life we were returning to; now that we weren’t packing or unpacking or exchanging currency or comparing hotels or hardcore meal planning to save money… we might have the headspace to do and thoroughly enjoy the things that we want to in a way we haven’t been able to in a long while.

And for me, that is running and writing.

So when I woke up the day after our vacation ended (Sunday at 6:20am to be precise) and my weather app declared that running conditions were GOOD… I laced up and headed out.

And just like that, she’s back.

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Well, no. It wasn’t just like that. I had just been on a trip to Europe where I drank at least a glass of wine literally every day and sampled each of the four cities we visited’s multiple culinary must-haves (and then some). And I had just spent, no joke, twenty hours traveling and was seriously jet lagged. On top of that, I hadn’t run in months. It was slow and a little awkward, but it was something.

And I learned something else during my marathon training: something is always better than nothing.

I don’t currently have a curated running playlist and I’m really picky about my running music, and I decided to shuffle the entirety of Lady Gaga’s repertoire for my run. I knew my girl would deliver. And she did.

Run, run with her top down, baby she flies
Run, run with the fury of a saint in her eyes

We can be strong. We can be strong
Out on this lonely road. On the road to love

This song isn’t strictly about running, but pair those lyrics “baby, she flies” with “we can be strong” and you’ve got some hardcore techno rock motivation to keep the pace up and keep. on. moving.

And keep moving I did, for 3.2 whole miles. And it was hot. And it was sweaty. And it was a little slower than I prefer. And I am still sore two days later.

But I did it. I got it done.

And guess what? I did it again today, too.

I’m back, baby. Stronger than ever before.

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Write to Change the World

I promised you big things would start happening soon and this weekend, I did so much to set huge possibilities into motion. Because y’all, just so you know, I plan to change the world.

This weekend, I attended a one day writing class geared toward, you guessed it, changing the world through writing and presenting thought leadership into the world. A local political group I am affiliated with joined up with The Op-Ed Project to give a one-day, eight-hour, intensive op-ed writing workshop.

img_4025I had never heard of The Op-Ed Project when I found this opportunity, and wasn’t even sure what an op-ed was, but after a bit of research, I was all in. In a society where the majority of opinion pieces come from white males, the Project’s main focus is to raise the voices of marginalized people, especially those of women, in order to introduce dynamic thought leadership into the world. Of course, all people of all genders, races, and orientations are warmly welcomed to attend any classes.

At this workshop, my peers and I learned how to hone and trust our expertise and find the value in our knowledge of numerous topics. We also explored not only how to fit big ideas and current events into our areas of expertise, but how to build credibility and confidence in our ideas. Most importantly? We were imparted with the idea not only that we mattered, but that we have a civic duty to add our narratives to wider thought cacophonimg_4019y in order to challenge the status quo, arouse change, influence leaders (or even raise ourselves to leadership positions) and ultimately change the world.

The biggest cherry on this sundae of promise is that, am I (or any of the class’s participants) to turn in a viable op-ed to the Project within a month of our class, we will be paired with a writing mentor from a pool of famous essayists, renown editors, Pulitzer prize winners. It’s truly the change of a lifetime. And I am not throwing away my shot.

“If you say something of consequence, there may be consequences – but the alternative is to be inconsequential.”

Of course, it’s scary to put your ideas out into the world, especially when your goal is to challenge ideas, to provoke thought, to inspire change in very powerful people and positions. But, going back to my favorite musical of the moment, which I have found myself doing more and more in this political climate and with my more challenging writing, if you stand for nothing, what will you fall for?

And so, world, you will soon know what I stand for. Because, to be sure, despite my youth, and perhaps because of it, I have big ideas for this nation and this world. And I think, if I can be effective and convince you to give them a chance, they might just work.

Speaking of young woman changing the world (and Lin-Manuel Miranda, at that…), have you seen Diseny’s latest, Moana? As if this blessing of a movie could come into my life at more perfect a moment, I finished watching this beautiful story just this morning and I. am. inspired. I had this song (and its reprises) stuck in my head even before I saw the film and let me tell you… they now have squished their spot in my heart right next to my favorites from Hamilton.

Because now that, when it comes to op-eds and what they can lead to, I know what I know?
There’s just no telling how far I’ll go.

And now, for me, it’s time to write (like I’m running out of time).
Have a good week, y’all!

Irons in the Fire

I’ve been called a lot of things in my life. Some were positive things, some were negative things. Some were merited and many were not. In any combination of these situations, my favorite thing that I have been called is “a hustler.”

My first reaction to this allegation was identical to when I was sorted via Pottermore (a.k.a. the most official Hogwarts House sorting there is aside from the actual Sorting Hat). I was sorted into Slytherin and hit with a wave of confusion and a hint of defensiveness.

Me? A Slytherin?! I’ve always thought I’d be a Ravenclaw (smart), maybe even a Hufflepuff (kind). But Slytherins are the bad guys! They cheat and steal and lie and sometimes even kill to win. Slytherins are the hustlers of the wizarding world. I mean, there’s not a witch or wizard who went bad who wasn’t in Slytherin!

And then, the pause came… because not all Slytherins go bad. They’re just most likely to. But what are they known for above all throughout history? Not their potential evil, but their ambition. And just because the phrase “hustle” has one bad connotation, doesn’t mean the word overall is negative. After all, what did I always get praised for on my youth sports teams? Was it my height? Nope. My great hand-eye coordination? Nah. It was my relentless hustle.

I’ve grown to truly accept and even embrace this about myself: I am a Slytherin. I am ambitious. I hustle hard to get what I want.

As a hustler and a lady with drive, I often get down on myself for not being enough soon enough. Because on top of being ambitious, I am also impatient. It comes with the territory. Not only do I want results, darn it, but I want them now! I set a goal and am, at times, relentless in pursuing it, forgetting that age-old adage that good things take time, that the journey is the reward.

Sometimes, especially recently, I get caught up in the immediacy of my desires and forget to remind myself the difference between setting the stage and stagnation. I have to remind my go-getting, Hamiltonian self that Burr did have a point: that sometimes you are not standing still, but lying wait.

For the past year and a half, I haven’t made any big moves in my career as a librarian or as a writer. I’ve been working behind the scenes, certainly, and submitting myself to the daily grind of reading, writing, writing, researching, reading, reviewing, reading about writing, writing about what I’ve read… Despite all this, I haven’t felt much, if any, progression. But that was my own miscalculation. You see, I mistook myself for stagnant when, truly, I’ve been steadily gaining steam, building potential energy, actively casting irons into the fire.

I was recently shown that those irons have been heating up quite nicely.

Some time ago, I put my name into consideration to serve on the evaluation committee for the Rebecca Caudill Young Readers’ Book Award (one of the Illinois state sponsored book awards akin to the nationally recognized Newbery Award). And last week, I got the call. Or, the e mail, as it were.

A dream came true four years ago when I was offered my first positions as a library intern (no doubt leading to my subsequent positions as a *real* librarian). Another dream came true three years ago when I began reviewing young people’s literature for School Library Journal. And now, one more dream is coming true as I embark on my first award committee endeavor. It will be a lot of reading. It will be a lot of writing. But something about my past, something about my hustle, tells me I am more than up for the challenge ahead.

And what’s more? All of those irons that still remain in the fire? I am more than willing to wait for them.

Tunesday: Everything Has Changed

Allow me to present a song that, lately, has given me the drive to keep going and going and going. Sure, it’s not particularly boppy and the lyrics aren’t inspirational in that traditional/running sense that you’re used to seeing here… but it might as well be to me.

You see, Everything Has Changed by Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran was my first dance with my husband at our wedding two weekends ago.

All I know is we said, “Hello”
And your eyes look like coming home
All I know is a simple name
And everything has changed

We hemmed and hawed so much over our first dance song, changing our minds weekly (sometimes even more often than that!). Out of all the songs in all the world, you’d think there’d be one that just fit instantly, seamlessly, right? Almost two months before the big day we still didn’t love anything, and figured we’d just have to settle.

When I first heard this song early in my wedding planning, I wanted to love it because I love Taylor Swift (and Ed Sheeran, to a lesser degree). But at first glance, it was a song about meeting, not enduring. And the lyrics “everything has changed”? And “I just want to know you better now?” I mean, sure my last name was changing (and all my credit cards and identification and user names and omg..), but wouldn’t our love be the same? And isn’t this guy my best friend? Don’t I know him better than I anyone else? How could I possibly know him any better than that??

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On our honeymoon in Riviera Maya, Mexico

Then, in those last two months before the wedding, I listened to this song again in desperation and boy, everything had changed!

Of course the guy I was about to marry was my best friend, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t getting to know him better, wouldn’t be getting to know him better, every single day of the rest of our lives. And certainly, our love would be the similar on the other side of “I do,” but so much of how we would function moving forward, how we would refer to one another (from boyfriend to fiancé to husband), and even how the rest of the world saw us, would change. And our love would hopefully change, too… by growing stronger.

Suddenly, with a new perspective, the song that didn’t work before was the perfect fit.

THE BESTAll I know is a new found grace
All my days, I’ll know your face
All I know since yesterday
is everything has changed

New Year, New Challenges

I spent last year in a kind of haze. The haze consisted of getting used to my new job, my new house, my new puppy, and planning my wedding. While it was a productive, fun, and sometimes stressful year, I definitely fell off the goal-setting + blogging train.

What better time to catch that train again than a new year? And in typical, how-things-are-going-to-go-in-2016 fashion, I’m not posting this on the first day of the new year. Or even the first week. I just got to it when I got to it; I got to it when it felt right.

So, now that the time is right, let’s talk about what the time is right to do this year:

30 by 30
I made some good advances in my 30 by 30 goals, and wrote nary a word about them. In this new year, I’m hoping to address my 30 by 30 achievement backlog and also chart my progress as I hit new things. I’ve got the better part of three years left, so let’s DO this!

Reading
As part of my 30 by 30, I want to read 50 books a year and have done so since I began the challenge. Last year my ultimate goal was to read ALL THE THINGS so that I would have a good, solid base for my readers advisory*. And it went so well: I read 122 books! Now, I’m a children’s librarian and read a lot of children’s literature (but it all counts! more on that on a later post) but I only counted books that are 150+ pgs of fiction or 75+ pgs of nonfiction toward my goal… but that’s still a lot!

The thing is… I’m kind of burned out on reading. What? A librarian?! Burned out on reading?!?? Yeah. It happens, I hear. And it’s happening here.
So I’ve flipped things. I’ve decided to stick to 50 books as my goal, but I will focus on books I want to read instead of books I think I should read. Granted, I am sure I’ll be reading a ton of things I think I should (the Youth Media Awards are just around corner…), but I have so many great titles on my TBR list that have nothing to do with my work (in theory), but I always feel so fulfilled when I finish a great memoir or can chat up a mom about a best seller or Tweet @MindyKaling about her lolz.
Something that’ll help me on this reading journey is my friend Mary’s 2016 B.Y.O.B. Reading Challenge (#BYOBooks2016) over at Literary Distractions, which I’ll talk more about SOON(ish).

*the fancy, technical term for what happens when you ask a librarian to recommend a book.

General
My 30 by 30 really covers a lot of ground in terms of my personal and professional goals (run more, write more, be social, etc.), but in terms of general goals?

  • Blog more.
  • Keep an offline, handwritten journal.
  • Slow down and appreciate.
  • Take more pictures (with my amazing new cameras).

And that’s it!

So now, continuing in my 2016 just-go-with-it style, I’ll say farewell to you and to Chicago because tomorrow it’s off to New Orleans for my Bachelorette Party Weekend: Take 1 (#ItsBrittanysBachNOLA).

Birth of an Idea

Some days are just good for having epiphanies. And today seems to be one of those days.

It also happens to be my 27th birthday.

What’s this epiphany I’ve had, you ask? Well, it’s about the fate of this here blog.

In the months, well, almost year, since I finished the marathon, this little site I started has been in limbo. I built such a home here, and I didn’t want to leave it. It had such a great run as my training blog and I tried to transition it into my writing/author website which just.. never felt quite right. I didn’t want to blog here like I had before, lest I look unprofessional. But I wasn’t quite a professional yet, so what did it matter what I did in the time between now and if when I am published?

Cue conundrum. Cue uncertainty. Cue silence.

With a whole lot on the horizon -the dawn of a new personal age and just shy of 7 months from literally becoming someone new when I get married (but what’s in a name, really?)- I’ve been sorting out today to pave a better tomorrow. And in doing that, I figured it out; I figured out what I want for this blog.

I am back to Briterati: setting goals, achieving them, blogging about it.

A new writing website will launch sometime. But for now? I am just fine and dandy enjoying the present. And sharing it here, with you.

So bear with me while I get this site back to its good ole self, and remember that it’s never too late to start something new or to change your mind, whether you’re 27, 87, 17, or anything in between.

Set Backs: Not Always Negative

Life progress: exorbitant
Novel process: non-existant

You might remember that just about a year ago, my life got flip turned upside down: I got off my lazy butt and ran a marathon. Celebrated two years with the dude of my dreams and got engaged weeks later. Accepted a full-time position in the career I went to graduate school for. Moved from the city of Chicago to the unfamiliar Western suburbs.

All in a three-week period.

I was reeling then, as one might expect. But still, I expected this year, 2015, to be somewhat low-key despite the inevitable wedding planning and life-work-balance adjustments. I thought that I’d be able to get back on a reasonable running schedule, and that I’d be able to easily pound out the novel that’s been growing hot brewing in my brain.

How wrong I was.

I’ve missed 2 out of 3 races I signed up for this year. And that was after decided not to sign up for another 3 races I really wanted to run. #runnerproblems

Oh, and my soon-to-be family of two became a most definite family of three.

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Yep, we rescued a puppy.
His name is Mac, he was born on May 20, 2015, he is a black lab/Weimaraner mix, and we (all three of us!) couldn’t be happier.

And while every day of the past three weeks since we brought our boy home have been completely filled, none of the filling has been running or writing. Well, that’s not true. I’ve been running after a not-quite-housebroken puppy and writing down questions to ask the vet. That kind of thing.

My idea, my novel, it’s still brewing inside me, as strong as ever. I’ve never had an idea I’ve been so passionate about, so sure of, for so long. I think that’s where my frustration comes from with this project: I’ve had so many false starts with writing this story, and I keep getting stuck and having to pull back and reevaluate the plot, the characters, my intentions and goals…

And my running, well… I’ve been putting it off to spend more time with my puppy, with my family. Granted, we go on lots of long walks (all the better for a solid, 8 hours of sleep… we hope… one day…), but none of the quick 3 mile jaunts that kept me feeling fit and energized around this time last year. #marathontraining

So even though my goal was to reach “the end” by 2016, and to keep my running less-than-sporadic, I don’t think I would have been happy with the end product in either case. Taking the route I did, letting my creativity and workouts take a backseat to living my life, I know when things finally settle down at home and I get serious about my running and writing goals again, it will be a fast and furious sprint to the finish.

But for now, I am enjoying building my family, planning my future, and letting my ideas simmer, take shape, and become the best versions of themselves; letting my family bonding walks be what get me through until, one day, I can take the pup with me on a quick 3 mile jaunt.

I can’t wait for those days to come, and I won’t stop thinking about it.

And now, in a nod to the old days of this blog, a song for you: one about hope, about dreams, about looking forward and staying positive.

Also, the inspiration for my dog’s name.