Author Archives: Sarah Lee

About Sarah Lee

Hi, I'm Sarah! I am a junior Neuroscience student in GPPA Medicine who is still trying to figure out exactly what I want to do in my life. One day I want to be fluent in Russian and explore Eastern Europe. In my free time, I love running, playing piano and guitar, and reading. I currently live in Courtyard residence hall as a Peer Mentor but my home is in Naperville.

Living in a sprawl…

♪♫♪ Sometimes I wonder if the world is so small that we can never get away from the sprawl…

Well, it’s week 2 and counting…so I figure it’s time for a mental health check.

Super challenging course load? Check. Required weekly First-Year-Experience programming for freshmen? Check. Rushing to get everything assembled for the Ampersand? Check. Schedule filling up with meetings for every day of the week? Check. Check. Check.

But…Stressed beyond my imagination? Actually…not so. I’m actually impressing myself by being decently calm and collected despite the ever-growing items on my to-do list. My semester will be rough, no doubt, but so far I think I have a handle on things as long as I stay on top of everything and figure what needs to be done when. Alright, I am probably attributing this to it being syllabus week, but I didn’t actually feel like I had a “intro” week to enjoy and get eased in. All of my classes feel like they started off running right away – no time for getting settled or any forewarning. I don’t think a single one of my professors spent more than 10 minutes running through the syllabus before immediately diving into the content, which makes sense since I’m taking all more difficult classes. Usually at last half or the entire first class is dedicated to discussing the syllabus and the course, so I needed to be on my game right away this time.

But all has gone well so far! I’ve been trying to be on top of it by reviewing everything we cover in class on the same evening and then getting ahead for next class too. If I can keep this up, I’m sure things will be okay…but it’s keeping it up that will be the challenge. Like I feared during the summer, I do feel rather burnt out after taking summer classes + doing research and then going straight into 2 weeks of housing training and now straight into fall semester again. Recently it feels like I’ve just had very little personal time to myself since I’m constantly surrounded by other people and have to consciously interact. I’m the kind of person who finds energy and recharges through being alone rather than with other people, so  even though I love meeting all the countless new people I have lately, I’ve been pretty exhausted for the past couple of weeks.

But aside from interacting with the residents on my floor, my staff, and reconnecting with my best friends on campus, I’ve actually been pretty good and trying to meet new people in classes too. One of my favorites is my Russian 201 class. The first day intimidated me greatly – mostly because I am one of the three non-native speakers in the class. Ever since Russian 102, the number of non-native speakers in my Russian classes has been dropping with each successive class as students satisfy their language requirement or find some alternative, presumably easier language to learn. I’ve always loved Russian and can’t wait to keep taking classes on my way to my language minor, but now that the class is 90% native speakers who have grown up speaking, understanding, and hearing the language at home since childhood, I’m anxious that I won’t be able to keep up. Fortunately, though, everyone in the class is so friendly, and the professor seems pretty funny and enthusiastic too. Even though a lot of people dislike language courses, I’ve always loved them, especially in college, because it feels like one of the few classes I get where the class size is small (for Russian usually only 10-15 students) and everyone is encouraged to talk and get to know each other extensively. There are some students in my class who I have known since Russian 103 and 104, so it was awesome to see some welcoming, familiar faces when I walked in on the first day.

Well, I know the bulk of this post has been rather dry so far…but that’s probably because there’s not much else I’ve been up to besides work and school. I’ll try to be more creative in the future, I promise…but in the meantime, the best I can share is that I went to an Arcade Fire concert last week! It has definitely been one of the highlights since my summer final exams ended. Brandon got us tickets and since it was at the United Center, which is so close to where I live on east campus, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to go. As someone who only knew a handful of Arcade Fire songs (and admittedly only two off their newest album), I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect, but the concert was simply incredible. The concert was part of Arcade Fire’s Reflektor Tour, and they opened with the title song, which was one of the few I knew and really loved. The lights lit up all throughout the stage, switching around the room rapidly, and it was really exciting to just feel the craze and eagerness of the crowd. Many people even dressed up in costumes or formal attire (the ticket actually said to do so!) and it was funny seeing people walk in by dressed as cartoon characters. When we arrived, Brandon and I actually had our 300 level seats upgraded to 100 level seats free of charge! I’m not entirely sure why they closed off that level, but we definitely had an awesome view of the entire concert. I had a fantastic time just enjoying the ridiculous amount of streamers, balloons, and glowing lights that surrounded the inside of the United Center – and of course the music was entrancing as well. Because there seemed to constantly be something to new pay attention to, I was on my feet nearly the whole time. My favorite performance was the one of It’s Never Over (Hey Orpheus), which had lyrics that alluded to the Greek myth. The lead singers Win and Régine were fantastic, with Régine appearing on the B stage across the main stage as they sang back and forth.

I'm pretty proud of this photo I managed to take! Régine is stunning.

Well…time to get some more work done if I want to stay/get caught up with eveything, even though the things to do just keep rolling in at a faster pace than I’m going at…but in between I’ll just make some time to add all the Arcade Fire albums I can find to my playlists.

…I need the darkness, someone please cut the lights ♪♫♪

(Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) – Arcade Fire)

Dear Sarah, age 10…

♪♫♪ I don’t know why all the trees change in the fall, I know you’re not scared of anything at all / Don’t know if Snow White’s house is near or far away but I know I had the best day with you today…

Dear Sarah (age 10),

Hi there, it’s me (I mean, you) – but ten years older. Actually, it’s 2014, you’re 20 years old now, and you’re a junior in college, if you can believe it. Twenty. Years. Old. Do you even know what that means? To be double the length of your life so far? Of course you think you do. Because right now you think you know what everything means – and you’re very wrong about that – and you even think you already have the next ten or even twenty years of your life mapped out.

Well…Sarah? You’re wrong. Sweet and naïve, but completely wrong. Take your daily walk to and from Robert E. Clow Elementary School right now, and you’ll realize that your whole world is basically contained within the four block radius between your house and the grade school playground – and even that walk has been “supervised” by your big brother Bob for the past five or so years when you walk together to school every morning and he waits for you by the door every afternoon after the last school bell rings. But Bob also just turned 12 years old, and he just moved on over to Gordon Gregory Middle School across the street from the house. Sure, now Mom says you’ll be able to walk to school and back home alone everyday, but let’s be real – you’re still not stepping foot out of this subdivision alone.

But hey, this isn’t a bad thing. That’s not what I’m trying to point out at all. It’s not like you’ve never gone anywhere or done anything fun. Mom and Dad are always the best at making sure there was some kind of family vacation every year, and it’s always the best time no matter where the destination is. At the age of 10, you’ve been to Taiwan, Japan, England, Canada, and a smatter of the states across America. That’s more than some people at age 20 could say! Whether we’re all on the road to Six Flags or aboard a ten hour flight across the globe, you always knew it would be good time because Mom, Dad, and Bob were there to make it fun (and keep you safe).

Feeling safe – that also means more than you can imagine right now, because you just accept it without much thought. You’re going to keep taking it for granted for years before you realize just how sheltered with protection you were, and once you do realize it, make sure you keep the best memories and never let them go. Remember falling asleep in the car late at night as Dad was driving? You can’t remember where you were all going, but you as long as Dad was driving, we would all get there. And with that, remember falling asleep everywhere? But miraculously, no matter where you ended up – the living room, the backyard, the car – you would always wake up tucked in your bed the next morning.

Or even memories you thought you would leave behind but still come to mind, ten years from now. Remember snuggling close to Mom in that tiny bed at Sleeper’s Inn in London? The TV hummed with an English talk show that neither of you could make sense of. Remember wandering about Chinatown with Bob when Mom and Dad were working at their office? And that one time when Bob spent his allowance buying you Sailor Moon trading cards just because he knew you were eyeing them and it was your favorite show at the time.

Think about all the times you drew sketches of Dad because you told him you wanted to be an artist and he humored you by dressing up in a nice suit and tie so you could practice by drawing him – even though they always came out quite awful-looking – and he always told you they were just wonderful when you were done coloring them in with crayons and color pencils. Just so you know, Dad kept all of those messy pictures, and they’re still in his office right now.

There’s a lot you don’t understand yet, and probably one of the biggest things is just how lucky you are. It’s easy for people to label you that way just because you grew up in Naperville in a nice, safe subdivision that had highly rated schools and teachers – but you know it goes deeper than that. You were surrounded by love since the day you were born, and that’s something rare in the world. Sarah, if I could do anything for you, it would be to slow time for you right now to a standstill and let you be 10 years old forever. Your family has always protected you, steadfast and unfailingly reliable, and if you be honest with yourself, you’ve never properly thanked them for that. Sadly, it might even be several years before you fully comprehend what kind of sacrifices they have made for you to succeed and get to where you will be at age 20.

Your brother, Bob – he’s your biggest hero right now, and frankly nothing’s going to change much when it comes to that. But for goodness sake, grow up already and stop pouting and whining so much when he beats you at Sonic Adventure or Super Smash Brothers on the Gamecube. Trust me, whenever you win, he’s just letting you anyway. And wow, I hope you memorized what it’s like to share a room with him and sleep on a bunk bed – because that’s never gonna happen again. You might bicker a lot now, but believe it or not, there’s going to come a time when you really, really miss it. Soon he’s going to want privacy and more space, and he’ll move into the bigger guest room after your cousin Pam graduates from high school and goes to college. And even then, you’ll still stick to him like glue and spend all your time with him anyway, because you secretly always loved just watching him play his video games even more than joining him and playing yourself. You’re going to keep having epic “Beanie Babies” wars with him, and he’ll dress up your little toys with paper armor and make amazing tanks and planes out of Legos and K’nex. You’ll make stupid bets with him with the loser having to go downstairs and get soda or snacks. You’ll stay up late watching anime on Cartoon Network late into the night on his TV until you fall asleep in his room and he gripes for you to wake up and go to bed. Hold on to this for as long as you can because it won’t last long. You know how smart Bob is, and he’ll soon graduate middle school and head over to IMSA, the math and science academy where he’ll live at a boarding school for high school with other impossibly smart kids. And even if you won’t say it to his face, you’ll miss him so awfully much every single day when you have to go to school by yourself and can’t come home to watch cartoons with him.

And of course, you have your mom and dad’s tireless support. That’s something – the most important thing – that’s not going to change anytime soon. If you can, could you just take a minute to thank them for it? You don’t see it yet but they’re not infallible either. They get tired, worried, angry, and scared, and you do a lot of thing that don’t help with that too. They deserve some appreciation. And for heaven’s sake, stop being such a brat to your mom when she takes you shopping for new shoes and clothes. Yes you think it’s unbearably boring and just want to go read books and magazines instead, but trust me when I say there will come a time when you want to go shopping for clothes and you’ll wish your mom was there to give you advice.

And you have so much time on your hands, would you just practice piano today?! You love it and in just a few years you’ll be busy enough and wish you had time just to fool around with music.

Things like grief, fear, stress, anxiety, shame…all of these terrible, terrible things are just words to you right now. You think you know what they are, but you don’t. And I wish it could stay that way for you, but it can’t. The next 10 years are not going to be easy for you, and many changes are coming very soon. But I can offer you one condolence: I promise that you will be able to handle whatever comes. A lot’s going to happen, and if I could write you a life manual for every year, month, week, day of it, I would – because trust me, there are times that you’re going to feel completely lost and hopeless as to what to do, and sometimes (often, actually) you’ll make the wrong choice. You’re going to cry, get your heart broken, miss people who don’t miss you back, and make all kinds of mistakes. But don’t worry – you make plenty of right choices too. There’s going to be people who walk into your life and stay, and you’re going to go places you never imagined and make memories you keep with you for tens of years to come. And in ten years time, it’s all going to lead you to people and a place that you’re happy with – that I’m happy with – today.

Alright Sarah, you got this. Last tidbit of advice: never stop writing, no matter how awful things are and even if you’ll cringe at it later, because writing will always make you feel a bit better. You’re gonna be fine.

With love,

Sarah (age 20)

And I love you for giving me your eyes, for staying back and watching me shine / And I didn’t know if you knew so I’m taking the chance to say I had the best day with you today ♪♫♪

(The Best Day - Taylor Swift)

Weeks 0: Ready Set Go

♪♫♪ Alors tu vois, comme tout se mêle / Et du cœur à tes lèvres, je deviens ton casse-tête…

It’s been a long and hectic two weeks. Even though I braced myself for the whirlwind that is campus housing training, it still managed to take a lot out of me. When day 1 ended and I crawled into bed on Monday night, I tiredly worried that just one day had run me ragged. There were still many days to come, posters to make, programs to plan, names to memorize…and of course classes to prepare for. But the rest of training kind of flew on by, and I quickly became closer to my fellow Courtyard staff through the endless icebreakers and teambuilding activities.

When I first moved back to Courtyard, I honestly was missing my nice kitchen and living room in TBH very much. My room this year is considerably smaller than my room last year, but it’s the typical size of a Peer Mentor room in Courtyard so I can’t complain. Last year, I just lucked out and got the biggest PM room, which was in a triple cluster. During second semester, the two girls living with me actually transferred schools and moved out so I actually had an entire cluster to myself! It was strangely large and I actually didn’t even know what to do with all the space. Quite on the contrary, this year, I have a tiny single room in a 8-person cluster, and I feel like I can’t even fit everything I want in my room. It took several tries of arranging and rearranging my bed and desk to figure out how to optimize the space, and even now I’m not sure I’m satisfied with my choice. I’m trying to be as minimalistic and strategic as possible when it comes to arranging my things, and I’m having my parents take some extraneous items home for me. But even though it’s small, I do think it’s quite cozy. I never needed much space anyway – only just enough to live in. I believe I can quickly get used to this and feel at home here – it might just take me a little more time to get used to the general location  on third floor and living with seven other girls in the same cluster.

Housing training was largely the same as I expected from last year. The first afternoon included a teambuilding day at the student rec center, which was fun and quite exhausting. We played games like dodgeball, volleyball, tag, problem-solving activities, and the human knot. By the end of it, I think everyone was tired and ready to call it a night. But in the evenings, we have in-hall staff meeting time, which was also important to hammer out what policies and staff expectations to follow for the whole year. I think the biggest thing that was accomplished from the whole day was the fact that I knew everyone’s name on my staff, which has 28 people total. The majority of the rest of training was listening to lectures about programming, community, conduct, and other important things to recall from last year. I’m glad I have a year’s experience now, because I remember feeling overwhelmed last year from the plethora of information just thrown at me all at once. But it was nice to be able to bond with my staff during the week and slowly get to know individuals one by one. Most people know me as a reserved person because I typically prefer to watch things unfold in group settings rather than directly contribute to them. I’m not shy –  I just don’t prefer to be the center of attention or say something unless I have something relevant to say. This year, I do feel myself stepping it up more as a leader to speak my mind more and offer advice and insight.

Classes haven’t even started yet, and I already feel incredibly busy. I’m worried because it feels like my marathon training has taken a backseat because I’ve been so incredibly exhausted at the end of the day everyday. Training starts at 10 AM every morning and I usually don’t find myself with free time again until after 9 PM, so my only option is to wake up early to go to the gym. This would be fine, but it makes me exhausted for the rest of the day when I really need to be focused and peppy enough to keep up with my staff’s spirit. All of the different residence halls in Campus Housing are competing for a prize called the Golden Sparky, which essentially is a prize for the most spirited staff. We can earn points for positive spirit and behavior (making cheers, showing up early, participating) or lose points for poor behavior (texting during training, sleeping, poor sportmanship). Courtyard actually DID win last year, and we’re trying hard to keep Sparky in Courtyard, so I want to try to be on my best behavior at all times. But sometimes I must admit it’s so difficult to keep my eyes open when we’re going over things I feel like I know and I’m exhausted from running 7 miles in the morning. My hope is that I’ll fit in gym time more easily when I can plan my schedules more, and then I can catch up to the proper mileage for training. I hit 12 miles last week, and the next goal is 14!

My first bulletin board of the year! - Hunger Game theme

Last week and this week might be Weeks 0, but I’m feeling busier than ever. But my bulletin board (Hunger Games theme!) is up, my Mockingjay-personalized door decs are all over my hallway (I have a 60 residents this year!!), and it’s time for New Student Days events.

This is going to be a good year.

Et malgré ça , il m’aime encore et moi je t’aime un peu plus fort / Mais il m’aime encore, et moi je t’aime un peu plus fort ♪♫♪

(Comme des enfants - Coeur de Pirate)

You got me wrapped around your leash

♪♫♪ Tracing patterns across a personal map / And making pictures where the lines overlap, where the lines overlap…

Sometime earlier in the summer, I spent two Saturdays at PAWS Chicago’s Adoption Center for volunteer training and subsequent Kitty City and Dog Town training. For those of you who don’t know, PAWS is the largest no-kill shelter in the city, and its adoption center is located on Clybourne and Racine. Ever since high school, I’ve wanted to volunteer at an animal shelter, but I’ve never seem to found the time or the opportunity. Also, I had my own dog to take care of in high school, and I always felt busy enough with school and activities as it was. My dog, a Pomeranian named Zephyr, was also diabetic. This meant that he needed insulin shots twice a day with both of his meals, and usually it was either my mother or me giving him his shots. At first when he was diagnosed several years ago, I was nervous at giving him the shot, and I remember his twitch of pain when I was accidentally too rough due to my fear of hurting him – which of course would make the shot hurt more. But gradually, I became more adept at painlessly slipping the needle in and out for his insulin by coaxing him into behaving with his food. Eventually it became easier to maintain his diabetes by watching his food intake and walking him every day for a good amount of time.

I loved Zephyr with my whole heart, and I’ve never been so heartbroken in my life than I was when he died a little over a year ago. It was the second half of my freshmen year, and my mother was actually in Taiwan at the time. I know she was deeply saddened as well since she had no idea leaving for Taiwan would be the last time she would be able to see him. And with my brother and me both at college now, Zephyr was her constant companion at home when my father worked late nights. I remember my entire family was deeply impacted by his passing, and we all grieved together. I know a lot of people just see it as a pet dying, but I felt like I lost a sibling. Zephyr had been with use for over ten years and I had spent the better half of my childhood with him making memories and having a best friend always there for me. I think anyone who has loved their pet deeply would understand the hole that is left behind once he or she is lost. It took a long time to feel normal again, but slowly I came to terms with my grief, realizing I gave him all the love I had and the best life possible. I still keep my favorite picture of him taped over my bed that travels with me every year when I move to a new place.

This past year, my interest was peaked in PAWS because I heard from a friend of mine that the volunteer process was super simple and that they’re always looking for new help. Their volunteer base is enormous because they’re always trying to dedicate more money to medication, care, surgeries, neutering, and other materials for the animals. It’s really inspirational to see how dedicated some of the volunteers are to spending so much of their personal time outside of their regular jobs to be there just out of their love for animals. They’re also the ones who hold the training sessions, so after just going there for two of the mandatory sessions, I knew that I wanted to be involved too.

Last week, I had my first day at volunteering. I chose to do Dog Town because of course I’m much more comfortable with dogs after having had one myself for many years. Although I completed the training for Kitty City, I think I’ll save that for a little bit later until I’m more confident on what I’m doing. Also it seems like from the emails that Dog Town requires more frequent help because of all the walking that needs to happen! Because of my class and work schedule, I chose a Saturday morning shift. It was actually the first shift of the day at 8 AM, and it’s the prime time for all the busiest work to begin – washing the rooms (no cages! all the dogs get their own rooms. It’s very nice and comfortable!), feeding the dogs, letting them out to walk and do their business, washing dishes after meals, and doing laundry. The volunteers are split into levels, and I was of course a Level One Volunteer. Since it was my first time, I was paired with a Level Two Volunteer, Erica, who showed me the ropes of feeding and walking. Erica, who has both fostered and adopted dogs from PAWS before, was extremely friendly in showing me what to do and I quickly felt very involved and comfortable in my work. For three hours, we walked several dogs (some more than once!), fed them, and helped clean out the rooms. The most difficult task was probably feeding the dogs who needed to take medication. Many of them are very picky and clever eaters, eating around their pills or spitting them out after eating their favorite parts. It took a lot of coaxing and tries to finally get some of them to eat the pill!

This is Lassie, one of the pups I walked. He's only 4 months old. I love his nose!

It was wonderful to be able to walk the dogs. Walking Zephyr used to be my clockwork routine after I came home from school from elementary school through high school, and it was always a meaningful time for me to spend with him because I felt like decompressing from the day. I hadn’t walked many dogs since he passed, and on that Saturday I had the chance to walk dogs for hours. Erica and I always went together, and the Level One dogs were always well-behaved and I had no problems making the two circle route around the Adoption Center. That’s not to say that the Level Two or Three dogs are not behaved – Erica handled them fine – they’re just more prone to pulling or being excited at seeing other dogs or people. I remember Zephyr was the same way, particularly toward big dogs! There’s a good rule they have where it’s one dog/puppy per volunteer to make sure no one loses control, but even so, the puppies that Erica and I walked still had a knack to get their leashes tangled up around our legs and with each other, especially if they saw cyclists or pedestrians that they wanted to sniff or investigate. I could certainly say there wasn’t a single dull moment!

It was so lovely to be surrounded by animals and other animal-lovers – and it was only my first time volunteering there! I can’t wait to go back again, and I hope to make it a regular habit to spend some time there. I’ve really missed just being around animals, and I think this could be the perfect way to spend some time for others and myself at the same time.

And now I’ve got a feeling if I sang this loud enough / You would sing it back to me, you would sing it back to me ♪♫♪

(Where The Lines Overlap - Paramore)

The rhythm of life, still beating on

♪♫♪ Alors tu vois, comme tout se mêle / Et du cœur à tes lèvres, je deviens ton casse-tête…

I can’t believe it’s August. Seriously, where did my summer go? Oh that’s right, to research work, psych class, and, of course, organic chemistry lab. But I’m so relieved that this class will be over and done with in a matter of days…just need to get through this last final exam this week. By the time this post is up, unbelievably, I’ll even be done with it all. For the first time, I have a professor who does the “drop-any-exam” policy, meaning that I could drop the psychology final for my class because I was going in with a good grade already from the other three exams. Thank goodness, because I’ve had my hands full with so many other things! I turned in my final paper a couple days ago and I think it turned out nicely (how multitasking with laptops in class affects academic performance…it’s pretty much what you expect haha. Inverse relationship: more multitasking = lower grades. I guess I should take my own advice in the paper and more strictly stay off my laptop during lecture now…oops).

The final lab practical actually went well last week! We had to synthesize luminol for chemiluminescence, which is what forensics uses at crime scenes to detect bloodstains. It actually wasn’t too bad of a procedure, thankfully not involving distillation of any kind, and the hardest part was probably just heating things at over 200 degrees Celsius. I was relieved that one of my friends warned me not to burn my product, though, because I saw some people’s product turning black. I kept an eye on mine to make sure it stayed a yellowish color, and all went well (other than a few accidental brushes with the burning hot heating mantle). I was also careful to avoid my thermometer bursting, thank goodness, which is what happened to a neighboring student and scared me breathless because the glass flew everywhere. No one was hurt other than the thermometer thankfully, and everyone was a hundred times more watchful of their own thermometers after that. Note to any orgo lab students in the fall: keep your thermometer cooling down with your solution until at least 100 degree Celsius! The sudden temperature change from over 200 to room temp when you pull it out will make it explode, and this will terrify everyone around you and you will shamefully have to get the dustpan from the stock room and a new thermometer. While I didn’t have a very good percent yield, but the chemiluminescence portion went quite well. It felt like the longest seconds of my life, watching my professor watch her iPhone stopwatch to see how long my luminol would last. But that sucker managed to glow a brilliant bright blue for 20+ seconds, to my absolute relief.

In a matter of days I’ll be starting Campus Housing training and then right after that it’ll be time to shuffle into classes every day again. I don’t anticipate training to be difficult though, since I’ve been through it all once before last year, and I doubt very much protocol has changed. Honestly, I’ll probably be yawning through most of the lectures on community, duty, how to tutor, and so on, but it’s going to be so incredibly exciting meeting the whole new staff. Courtyard always has the largest staff by far (nearly 30 people), and with only a small fraction being returner staff (including fellow UIC blogger Holly, who is the Senior Resident Assistant!), there will be many many new faces to see and people to meet. I’m actually more nervous about getting ready for my residents, because I’ll have roughly 50 or more this year! That’s kind of a jump up for me from last year, when I was lucky with only about 30 residents. I’m worried that it’ll be hard to get to know everyone as personally, so I’ll have to step up my game in the first couple of weeks and try to put names to faces as soon as possible. And of course, I’m looking forward to meeting my co, the RA to my PM. I’m already thinking about door decs, bulletin boards, and floor decorations and what I can possibly make before the year is started. I’m not exactly the most artsy person when it comes to decorations and crafts, and it’s always been a struggle for me to be really creative with them…hopefully they come out somewhat appealing to the eye.

This is kind of what I was worried about when I started the summer – that I would feel burnt out at the end of classes and then jumping straight to training and then classes. But there’s no time for that, because who’s got time to be tired? I’m planning on taking this one free weekend (well, training starts Sunday, so really a little less than two days) to pull myself together and rally. I’ve got a long list of things to do that I’ve been putting off in lieu of more important things (school and work of course) and it’s time to catch up – namely little things for myself, like updating my music/running playlist at last because it’s sorely overdue, finish packing up stuff to move over to East campus, printing out some sheet music and chords to have ready to mess around with when I have time, and practicing that darn Bm chord on the guitar (the “real” way, not the “kiddie” way I’ve been playing it haha).

It’s not much, but these are little things that are keeping me sane lately. And I do want to cram as much reading of Neuroscience and Physics in as possible before the school year starts because I am so anxious about the heavy course load I’m taking this semester. I’m trying to scrape together a mental list of motivation to keep me going because, to be honest, I would love a vacation right about now!

Et malgré ça , il m’aime encore et moi je t’aime un peu plus fort / Mais il m’aime encore, et moi je t’aime un peu plus fort ♪♫♪

(Comme des enfants - Coeur de Pirate)

Don’t forget the rest day

♪♫♪ Now I’m laughing at my boredom, at my string of failed attempts / because you think it’s important, and I welcome the sentiment…

Despite classes and work going on, it actually hasn’t been too hard to carve out some time every day for a good workout – and I really need to if I want to keep up with this marathon training. But even now after several weeks, I’m still behind the designated schedule when it comes to the long runs (this is week 5 of 16…and my long run is supposed to reach 14 miles. I think I should be able to hit just about 11…yikes.) But it’s true that I haven’t been strictly following the schedule either, and I’ve been treating it more like a guideline to training rather than a strict regimen. I just have the feeling that if I followed it to a tee, I’d probably get bored really quickly or worse, push myself too much and get hurt. So I’ve been changing up the workouts here and there to match my own pace, mostly depending on how much time I have that day and how tired I am from getting through the day. I’m nervous because it’s kind of risky taking my chances by “modifying” my weekly mileage since I’ve never done a marathon before. I really hope it works out down the road in October!

Even though this summer has been reasonably hectic,  I’m really not nearly as busy as I usually am during the school year when I’m juggling many more classes, working as a Peer Mentor, and keeping up with all the extracurricular activities going on. So even though it’s been an 8 AM to 5 PM daily schedule, I feel like it’s still a much lighter load. I don’t have to bring my research lab work home with me, and I only have two classes to worry about, so I actually find myself not as stressed and actually sleeping at decent hours! When I head to the gym either before classes or after work, I’m running at least 50 minutes a day on the track inside the student rec center.

That is something that makes me nervous though–running on the track instead of outside on real pavement. I am worried that by the time the marathon comes around, I won’t be properly acclimated to running outside, which in my opinion is about a thousand times harder than running in a flat, temperature-controlled track room. I know that I should be practicing my long runs outside, but I actually really dislike running outside in the city. At home, in the suburbs, there aren’t many cars in the subdivision. But here in Chicago, it kind of feels like I’m always running into stoplights and cars and have to stop or jog in place until I can get going again. I also don’t like feeling myself breathe in all of the smog and car exhaust around me…I’m not sure if it’s a myth or not, but I’ve been told before that it can actually be more damaging to your lungs to go running in the city than it is to just not workout outside at all. I don’t know if that’s an exaggeration, but the thought has always stuck in my mind, and now whenever I run outside in Chicago I always wonder if my lungs are actually suffering from all the smoke I’m inhaling. So whether it’s for peace of mind or the sake of not becoming a traffic accident, I almost always run indoors. I know that’s probably going to come back and bite me on race day, but I guess I’ll try to deal with it then like I usually do.

Just a fun picture of what my roommate Chevelle and I do with our time off :)

One big thing that I tend to forget is the all-important, necessary rest day. When I do have more time than usual on my hands like I do this summer, I pretty much want to squeeze in a workout every day no matter what, weekends included. I get addicted to the workout high and it feels wrong to skip even a single day. But, as I’ve learned the sad, hard way before, rest days do not equal cheat days at all — they’re recovery days. And my body needs them, whether my brain wants them or not. I like to lie to myself and tell myself that I can take it, that it can’t hurt to push myself a little more–and sometimes this is very effective. I hit new best times and personal records with this kind of mindset. But after running for about two years now, I’m wiser enough to know now that it’s not always a sustainable kind of thinking. Some time ago, when I was a beginner runner, I once pushed myself way too hard by not taking any rest days at all throughout the whole week. Then one day during a casual run, when I hadn’t even hit 5 miles yet, I felt something in my knee kind of go pop and I felt a terrible strain when I tried to continue. A cold sweat ran through me and I immediately stopped, terrified that I had finally risked too much and injured myself by not properly caring for myself.

But I was extremely lucky. I slowly stretched out my knee, feeling awful soreness and no agonizing pain. I considered a good warning from my body, and I ended my running that day and did some yoga to just relax, feeling like I dodged a bullet. I learned my lesson from then and would always factor in a rest day sometime in the week from then on. It would be a nightmare to injure myself seriously or even slightly because of the huge setback to my fitness and health, regardless of whatever training I’m doing. I’ve been a lot more careful to stretch since then and to make sure I alternate between hard runs and easy runs–and of course, incorporate at least one rest day a week.

So with all that, here’s kind of a sample of a week of marathon-training-running for me right now…

  • Monday: 4 miles run
  • Tuesday: 7 miles race pace
  • Wednesday: 4 miles run
  • Thursday: Rest Day
  • Friday: Long Run – ideally 10+ miles
  • Saturday: 5 miles run / Cross training (usually swimming)
  • Sunday: 3 miles run

Andddd essentially repeat the above but slowly adding to the mileage each week. I’m following the 16-week marathon training plan loosely, and hopefully it’s not a case of me thinking I know better though. When October comes around, I’m determined to be physically and mentally prepared to make it through that 26.2!

So we will drink beer all day / and our guards will give way / and we’ll be good ♪♫♪ 

(Be Good - Waxahatchee)

The honeymoon is over.

 ♪♫♪ Burn it down till the embers smoke on the ground / And start new when your heart is an empty room…

There’s this one scene in Lilo & Stitch (yes, the lovable Disney cartoon movie that came out in 2002…I feel old) where Lilo, a lonely little girl, is trying to teach the incorrigible, destructive blue alien Stitch how to be a “model citizen” by emulating Elvis Presley. The duo follows around Lilo’s older sister Nani, who’s going to interviews all day to try to secure a new job for herself. Predictably, whenever Nani seems to have a stroke of luck, Lilo and Stitch somehow manage to stir up mischief and ruin her chances – whether it’s by causing a large disruption in a hotel lobby, knocking over all the produce in the market, or scaring away all the people on the beach. It’s a part in the movie where you sympathize with Stitch, who despite being an alien that was created for evil and destruction (it’s a kid’s movie, don’t hate), still inherently wants to try to be good and find a family and acceptance for himself. But even when he tries his best, he ends up misbehaving, being destructive, and causing a ruckus around him – and then he’s left to deal with the disappointment from others and a good amount of self-loathing.

I feel you, Stitch, because that’s kind of where I’ve been for the past week. Not that I’m a blue alien from outer space causing mass mayhem, but there have been some bad days recently that I’m just trying to get over and out of my mind. There have been a few days where I woke up, went to class and work, and then came home feeling like I couldn’t stop screwing up the whole day. It seems like when things get rough, it all happens at once. The TA gives me a public scolding in lab, I carelessly screw up making serial dilutions at work, almost get an accident during my bike commute, talk back to my mom because I’m in a bad mood…I kind of feel like Stitch in that scene, trying so hard everywhere I go, but still messing it up. Then when I try to take my mind off myself by surfing Facebook or opening up some Snapchats on my phone, I see my classmates doing spectacular things in London/Copenhagen/Tokyo/NYC, making big accomplishments in their jobs and internships, enjoying happy times with family and old friends…I’m so happy for them but also can’t help but be jealous at the same time – and then, even worse, just utterly disappointed in myself. The other day, a familiar thought came to my mind while I was biking to west campus for work: the honeymoon is over.

And by that, I just mean that the exciting adjustment period where everything is new, fascinating, exciting, and full of promise has once again dulled and rusted, and some of it feels like my own fault. I often feel like this is a reoccurring phase for me, because whenever I enter a new environment or circumstances that are different, I just get really excited. I do. I definitely felt that way when this summer started and I got all settled in my beautiful apartment room at Thomas Beckham Hall and locked in my schedule for classes and work everyday. I was full of anticipation and enthusiasm for my first week and felt fully ready to make the summer special in Chicago. But now? Over halfway in, I’m not quite as eager when I stumble out of bed in the morning…

It takes me back to when I first stepped foot in Commons West as a freshmen two whole years ago (wow, time flies…), which was probably the prime example of a “honeymoon” period that eventually crumbled too. When I first came to UIC as a bright-eyed freshman, I wanted to take on the whole world, stand out and be a leader, fall in love, get all the grades I wanted all the time, make my parents happy and always be proud of me…I wrote all of this down in my journal then, because someone once told me that if you write down all your wishes, there’s a better chance of them coming true. During my first GPPA Medicine class, when Dr. Chambers warned us about the temptations of complacency, I mentally took note but, without meaning to, I also deemed it irrelevant to me. After all, I thought in the back of my mind, surely my motivation is impenetrable and tireless, never to be daunted by any looming challenges to come. During my first meeting with my Honors College adviser and my future Fellow Dr. Cohen, I naively brushed off their concerns about adjusting to college, telling them, “I’ve never been happier in my life.”

But of course, as the year progressed, I settled in – the residence halls became a little smaller; the other freshmen, comfortable with a closed friend circle, were less eager to meet me and know me; the classes were no longer filled with bright new things to learn but mundane repetition and a constant source of stress and worry fluttering constantly in my mind. The city is no smaller and Chicago still holds my heart, but I became more conscious of my limitations. As I crossed off items of my Chicago/UIC bucket list, I gradually stopped adding to it too – not intentionally, but maybe just some of the first spark was lost. I spent lonely times wandering the city, getting lost in more ways than one. I did poorly on exams and felt ashamed of the grades. I got my heart broken. And everything that once seemed so sensational faded into reality.

So this listless feeling of pessimism and sadness isn’t new to me. I’ve been here before. I’ll indubitably be here again. I go back and read my blog posts from the start of summer and I just want to go back to that time, and maybe prevent some of the major mistakes I made. I know it’s impossible, but it’s still hard for me not to dwell on the failures I’ve had and not wish I could do something to change them.

And then…some things that are really bringing me down recently are even definitively out of my power. One of the only things that is worse than self-disappointment for me is when people I really care about are sad, and there’s nothing I can do about it. I end up realizing that I had actually been relying on their happiness, selfishly just counting on them to be always there for me and using that as an invisible source of constant support. And now they’re at their worst, and there’s nothing I can do to make it better, fix it, make it whole again…and I feel like there’s a hole in my chest because I’m helpless to help them.

And so I do all I can do for them – I tell them that I love them, so so much, and nothing in the world can change that. I pray that this might be enough for now. I continue my routines at classes and work, trying to stay focused when my head feels too cluttered to think straight. I distract myself by running miles and miles and miles on end, thinking those endless circles on the track might take me someplace else. But no amount of footsteps can take me away from reality and the truth that no matter how fast I can run, life is always faster. And I crash to the realization that all I can do is hope that these terrible feelings eating me inside all pass soon, and that they take all the strife away for a little while too.

I’m not naive enough to just put my faith in false positive platitudes anymore, but I still do hold on to this: just like all of the honeymoon periods come and go, so do the times like right now. I have a lot to be grateful for right now that I can’t forget about. And there are spectacular times to come. I just need to rely on myself to have patience for them. In the meantime though…thank goodness for writing, running, and music, because they still remain the steadfast sources of catharsis and escape when nothing else is.

‘Cause all you see is where else you could be when you’re at home / Out on the street are so many possibilities to not be alone ♪♫♪

What a marvelous view ★

♪♫♪ The whole place was dressed to the nines, and we were dancing, dancing / Like we’re made of starlight, starlight…

Every July, when all of the people in America are getting pumped up to celebrate the anniversary of our country’s independence, my family prepares to celebrate something else too–my mom’s birthday! Since my mom’s birthday is on July 3rd, we typically tend to celebrate it along with the 4th of July. I didn’t have work or class on Friday, Independence Day, so I was able to come home early on Thursday night right in time for my mom’s birthday.

My family’s birthday celebrations may always be a little bit different as years go by, but they still do have one thing in common: there must be cake. And no one loves cake more than me! Whenever someone’s birthday comes around, someone always goes to either Costco or Jewel to buy a huge, delectable birthday cake that feeds way more than just four people, and because of this, it usually stays in our fridge for a while for all of us to indulge in (although usually I whittle it away the fastest haha!) until it’s gone. And since my brother, mom, and dad have birthdays in June, July, and August respectively, there’s basically a regular supply of cake in our fridge all summer long…no qualms here! ☺

So when my dad picked me up on Thursday, we stopped by Costco on the way home to pick up a huge bouquet of flowers and an enormous cheesecake to bring home to surprise my mom–not that she was surprised really. It’s become so common for us to do this for Mother’s Day, anniversaries, and birthdays. I even managed to convince the baker at Costco to write a nice birthday message on it. After living on my own, preparing my own meals, and working hard at school and work for a few weeks, it felt so good just to relax and be with my family at home. I also got to play with Charlie again too, and between the two of us, I don’t know who was happier to see the other!

Other than cake, my family doesn’t usually make big plans for birthdays other than a birthday dinner. But this summer, both my brother and I were home for July 4th weekend (which is sadly becoming increasingly rare as we both get older and get more summer jobs, schooling, and other obligations to attend to), so we were determined to make it special. After bothering my mom for a bit about what she would like for her birthday, she mentioned that despite living so close to Chicago for over 20 years now, we had never been on a boat tour on the Chicago River. It’s something that she had mentioned before, actually, and it had always seemed incredulous to us that we have been here so long without ever really touring Chicago. And so, my brother and I immediately pulled up Architecture Tours on the Chicago River on our laptops and within the hour, we had booked four seats on a morning tour for the very next day! I was pleasantly surprised how easy it was, since we got tickets for 4th of July. The tour boarded at Navy Pier, so early the next day we left in order to avoid as much traffic as possible and hopefully snag a parking space. We arrived around 11 AM and nearly all of the parking garage space were already gone, but we got lucky and managed to find a spot. Before long, we claimed our tickets and boarded our boat for our 11:45 tour.

Happy birthday to my beautiful mom!

The boat tour was 75 minutes long, and it was definitely well worth the cost of under $40 per person. I hadn’t been on a boat in quite a long time, so it was really fun to be on the water! Our tour guide was entertaining and informative, telling us all about the different building and their architectural history as well as background information about Chicago. He had little humorous quips that kept everyone entertained and pointed out little landmarks that might not have been as well known, such as the closed down post office that had once been the largest in the world. He even pointed out the building of the traffic court in the city — “I’m quite familiar with the inside of that one,” he joked. I knew most of the information from reading or from school, such as the Chicago Fire or stats about the Sears (“Spelled W-I-L-L-I-S, pronounced Sears,” the guide explained to out-of-town tourists.) Tower, but it was interesting to hear it all again anyway, particularly about the influence of Spanish and French architecture that is still seen on our skyline, and then the change to Daniel Burnham’s style, modern, and postmodern architecture. My parents were surprised to learn that pretty much the entirety of Chicago was originally built on a swamp. Cruising down the Chicago River, it was wonderful to be able to experience the skyscrapers of Chicago from the water and just relax and enjoy it with my family.  I think the weather was absolutely perfect for once – not too hot, not too cold, and just enough wind to feel cool outside without being chilled. The water shined under the sunlight and my mom, who absolutely loves taking pictures, had lovely photo ops all throughout the cruise and after.

The view from the boat.

“Enjoy it,” the guide said. “Because Chicago really has only two seasons: 1) Winter. And 2) Construction season.”

By that, he explained that pretty much the moment the cold winter weather lets up, numerous buildings begin construction all around the city. The skyline and the buildings are constantly changing because of the intense competition and demand for bigger and better designs, and it’s no wonder that Chicago is such a forefront of architecture in the world. Even though Chicago – particularly the Central Business District – was decimated by the famous Chicago Fire in 1871, reconstruction began immediately, and within 2 years many new building were already erected. By 1893, Chicago hosted the World Fair, with the Chicago Columbian Exposition being designed by Daniel Burnham and Frederick Law Olmsted. It was incredible to hear about the tenacity of the architects and how this spirit still continues today. Every day, architects and engineers every where are still competing to build the biggest, tallest, and most impressive building. As someone who has never really understood architecture outside just a historical or landscape context, I found it interesting to hear the buildings described in more of the builder’s perspective for once.

My mom took this sweet picture of my dad and me walking without us knowing!

After the tour ended, my family spent a glorious few hours under the sun wandering about Navy Pier and enjoying the beautiful scenery. We had lunch and listened to a live band play as the crowds gathered quickly throughout the day to enjoy the Independence Day festivities. Even though I know Navy Pier is kind of underwhelming or boring to native Chicagoans, I had a great time because we were all together. To avoid traffic, we headed back in the early afternoon and made it home to Naperville in good time. Not long after we got home, the news on the TV even said that Navy Pier had even closed its entrance because it was at capacity! It’s amazing to me just how many people gather just to watch fireworks there, and to be honest, I wonder if it’s worth the crowds, the crazy traffic, and the madness of being there. But now that I think about it, if you’re with friends, I guess that kind of craziness would be worth the memories and the good time. Maybe one day I might actually try to spend a 4th of July night there just to see what it’s like. But I’m already with my family, and as for my mom, dad, brother, and me, we just drove to a gas station not even 5 minutes away from our house and watched the Naperville fireworks in a far distance. They were tinier in the horizon and probably less flashy, but also just as bright as they lit up across the night sky. We sat in the cool grass (forgot our blanket and lawn chairs, oops) and swatted mosquitos while counting the number of sparks flying around us. I don’t know how I might be celebrating 4th of July years from now, but I can’t imagine a more perfect day than the one I had with my family this year, making memories with my loved ones that I’ll keep forever.

Don’t you see the starlight, starlight? / Don’t you dream impossible things? 

(Starlight - Taylor Swift)

I feel your heartbeat ♥

♪♫♪ Oh you got a fire and it’s burning in the rain / Thought that it went out, but it’s burning all the same / And you don’t look back, not for anything…

A few weeks ago, when I was reading over some of my old writing from high school. I found a very old essay that I wrote for my AP English Lit class in high school. The topic was to compare a selected poem that we read in class with another piece of art, such as another poem, book, song, or painting, and I remembered that assignment so well because I chose to compare the class poem in the class to the song “Fall Away” by The Fray. I think I picked it just because I have always internally swooned whenever I hear Isaac Slade’s crooning voice, and I related the song to the poem by noting how both employed second-person narrative and similar themes of blame and distancing from pain. (If you’re curious, here is the song and lyrics. It’s not one of their most catchy or popular, but I’ve always found it to be very evocative.)

I stored away all of my old essays a few weeks ago and I wish I could pull them out again because I can’t recall the title or author of the poem. But I do remember feeling very proud of that essay, which rarely ever happens for me because I usually cringe at reading my old writings. But occasionally serendipity strikes, and I find myself feeling accomplished when I finish writing something – and expectedly I would when I’m writing about The Fray, one of my favorite bands. Last week, I also got to see them live for the first time!

The concert was at the FirstMerit Bank Pavilion on Museum Campus, which is not far from TBH, where I live at Halsted and Roosevelt. With the surprisingly cool weather, I even decided to walk there to meet up with Brandon. After going to a few concerts now, I should have known that there would be opening bands to take up an hour or two before the real act begins. But it was my first time at the Pavilion too, so I was pretty excited to look around and explore a little bit. It was a chilly night for summer, and the Pavilion is located right next to the lake. I was thankful I had brought a jacket because the wind that carried from the lake was relentless the whole night. I even saw people buying sweatshirt and jackets just to have something warm to wear – and then proceed to buy cold drinks for sale like lemonade and beer.

All of the lights

Finally, The Fray came on around 8:00, and by then the crowd was more than ready for the main event. I will admit, I only knew a few songs from their entire new album Helios, but I had spent a couple days beforehand just streaming the music on YouTube while I did homework. I was glad I did, because I recognized all of the songs they played, and to me, it’s always way more exciting when you’re hearing a familiar song being played. They also played some of their biggest hits too! I thought they had an excellent set list because there was a pretty even balance between their new songs and the audience’s old favorites that had everyone in the crowd singing, like Over My Head, How to Save a Life, Look After You, Heartbeat, and You Found Me. Even though Brandon and I technically had standing seats, we found some empty seats. By the time the concert really got going, nearly everyone was standing and singing along anyway. Everyone was able to see everything pretty well thanks to two enormous screens that displayed the stage brightly and clearly. Even though I was in the way back and far away from the stage, I could see the details of the stage and each of the members of the band as the camera panned around. And then with all the flashing lights around me, it was easy for me to get lost in the rush of the music, the crowd, and the adrenaline.

Isaac Slade on the big screen!

It seemed like the show was over as The Fray left the stage. But even as the lights started coming up, people continued cheering loudly for them to come back for an encore. Very few even left their seats. Then, after a few minutes passed, the band reemerged on the stage, with guitarist Joe King holding a mop, cleaning up what appeared to be a mess on the stage! It was both confusing and comical to watch until the band mused on their slow, humble beginning before mainstream fame and mentioned they spent time as custodial workers to get by.

To preface their encore, the singer declared, “Nobody cleans a toilet like Isaac Slade!” The band played two songs (Break Your Plans and, my favorite, Never Say Never) and the audience was much more satisfied when the lights came up the second time. Because of everyone who stayed for the encore, it was ridiculously crowded as everyone tried to exit at once. But even that gave me a little rush because it was just exhilarating to be part of the crowd. It might seem silly but I still get so excited over experiences like these. Things like concerts, going out to the lake, and other pretty normal things just make me really happy. Even though I envy people I know who are studying abroad or doing great things in other cities and other countries this summer, I’m still so happy to be here in the city, still falling in love with Chicago more and more every day.

Cause if you love somebody, you love them all the same / You gotta love somebody, you love them all the same ♪♫♪

(Heartbeat - The Fray)

Running in a rainbow

♪♫♪ Boom clap – the sound of my heart, the beat goes on and on and on and on~

Since I started running about two years ago, I’ve done a whole lot of races, from 5Ks to 8Ks to the Chicago half marathon. While I enjoy the challenge and adrenaline that come from these runs, it’s always been on my running bucket list to do a color run. For those who aren’t familiar, a color run is basically a 5K that features a ton of color dye being thrown at all the runners…might sound a little crazy but it’s a whole lot of fun! It’s not only great because it’s just a big, messy fun day, but it’s also nice because it’s a kind of run where no one has to worry about finish times or who is faster than who. People just run, get colorful, and have a fantastic time. I spent some time scoping out all of the color runs happening in Chicago, and it turns out that there’s a whole lot – the Color Run, Run or Dye, Color Me Rad, Fun Run in Color…the list goes on and on. Then, a few months ago, I chatted about it with my best friend Armita, who lives in Berkeley, California. Armita and I have known each other since first grade, and I’m always sad I don’t get to see her as much now because she goes to school at UC Berkeley. It was awesome to find out that she got a paid research position in Chicago this summer because now we can finally hang out! Well, we searched for a long time, and finally we found a great deal for the Color in Motion 5K, which would work for both of our schedules. Back in April, the race had a special April Fool’s Day discount, so we were also able to register our friends Nava and Brandon for the race for free! Before long, we were all registered months early, and just last week the Color in Motion 5K turned out to be on of the first things we did together in Chicago!

I was super excited that I would be able to run with a group of friends for the very first time. I don’t really have many friends who run, so usually when I line up for a race, I’m by myself and stretch alone. I always see a lot of people getting pumped and ready with their groups of friends, and sometimes I get kind of lonely and wish that I could just sneak into a group of friends and run along with them…that’s not weird, right? Haha, well I was really happy that I had a group to run with because it made it so much more fun.

We arrived pretty early, but it was still quite a challenge to find parking. After we had finally parked and walked to the run site, we spent some time just taking lots of photos while we were still looking clean in our spotless white shirts. But of course the temptation of our four bags of color dye was too much, and it wasn’t long before we opened them up and started dousing each other in shades of blue, red, green, and yellow! I thought we were already decently messy by then, but I had no idea what was to come…

With the crowd’s thunderous cheers and the sound of KISS FM’s radio music, the race started at 9:00 AM as people poured onto the race path. Nearly all of the volunteer groups there were supplied with countless color packets of every color, so immediately there were shades of purple, orange, pink, etc. flying everywhere! After that, the 3.1 mile run course consisted of intervals of running in between color dye stations where volunteers would blow colors at all of the runners. Many times I thought it felt like running straight through a rainbow, and even though I knew it was probably bad to breathe in the chemicals of the dye, I would always charge straight through the color stations. By the time we finished, we all had green, purple, blue, pink, and red on us from

She's the best :) Sarmita since 2001 ❤

head to toe! Afterwards, KISS FM held a color party at the finish site where more people were throwing out color packets to spray on everyone. There seemed to be hundreds of people just cheering and trying to get as messy as they possibly could!

By the time we were ready to head home, I felt sure that I would be spending the rest of the day in the shower. Luckily, Armita and Nava had brought extra towels for everyone and we were able to spare Brandon’s car from looking like a rainbow on the inside. Later that day, Armita, Nava and I also ate some greasy burgers from Jim’s and some delicious Coldstone ice cream…it was quite the day of indulgence. And to my very pleasant surprise, the color dye came off quite easily! I felt much better after just one shower, and even my shoes were clean after going through the washer just once. I had heard from friends who have done color runs before that the dye is most annoying to get out of shoes and clothes, so I was really relieved to find out otherwise. After all, I only have one pair of good running shoes (nice ones with good padding can be quite expensive, and it’s a good investment to prevent knee/shin injuries), and I’m counting on them to not fall apart…at least not for a couple more months.

Speaking of which, I started my training for the Chicago Marathon a few weeks ago, and it’s just the first weeks of a loooong 16-week process. I actually started kind of late because I slacked off while living at home, so now I’m paying the price by trying to hurry and get ready! Typical full marathon training is at least a 20-week commitment, so I’m kind of running (pun intended, ha) on a tight schedule. Mainly I’m finding that I have to listen to my body instead of strictly following the schedule. Those few weeks of not running much at home are hitting me hard, so I’m trying to build back my endurance as quickly as I can so I can get ready. As per the schedule, I do one big “long run” each week, and I’m hitting just about 10 miles for that right now when it should be 12…hopefully I can catch up the schedule soon! But the last thing I want to do is to injure myself, so I’m still trying to know when to take it easy and take a rest day, especially if I’m exhausted from classes or spending hours in the lab.

Despite the crazy training schedule, I’m delighted that I was able to just relax for the color run with my friends and forget about counting miles or times. I’ll definitely have to sign up for more fun runs like this in the future because even though I love running and how it makes me feel, it’s even better when I can share the experience with others.

Before...just a boring group pic. After...we're a work of creative art!!! (Top left to right: Nava, Armita, Brandon, me)

Boom clap – you make me feel good, come on to me, come on to me now! ♪♫♪

(Boom Clap - Charli XCX)

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