Dear Me, Love Me [Day 9]

Wednesday, September 9: Write a letter to sixteen-year-old you. Any funny advice or stories?

I actually wrote this letter to my sixteen year old self when I was 21, but I edited it today to cover what has happened in the last two years. 🙂

When I was 16, I definitely had a lot of thoughts, dreams, and hopes about what would happen in the future. Some of those dreams became a reality, and other things I never would have expected!

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Dear 16-year-old Kylie,

The doctor did tell you that you would be tall, but he forgot to mention that your two little brothers would be giants! You will have to remind people that you are, in fact, the oldest.

Big feet will teach you that looking for the size “10” or “11” on a shoebox is more important than seeing if that shoe is actually cute. Size first, cute factor later.

The boy who gives you your first kiss will never be your boyfriend. And the next boy you have a crush on won’t feel the same way either. Hold on to your heart. There is someone amazing waiting for you.

The new church that you and your family started going to? You are going to become so involved with Youth Group and their summer camp as a counselor. You will meet amazing people.

It’s been a year since your Pap Pap passed away. Your Grandma will be sad for a very long time, but she will be part of your family for a few more years. She will see you graduate and go to college and she will be SO proud.

Dance classes will remain one of your hobbies for many years to come. But guess what? You’re finally going to be able to call yourself an athlete because you are going to find a sport you are actually good at…running. You’re actually going to love running long distances. Weird, I know.

Because you love running long distances, you will finally join the cross-country team after thinking about it since middle school. You will love it and wish you had been part of the team sooner!

You’re going to become very close with your younger brothers. I know you fight right now, but you’re going to become their biggest protector in just a few years. It will be awesome.

You will always be the kind of person who has a few really good friends rather than a huge group of “sometimes” friends. There will be many friends who are in your life for just a short time and that is okay. Remember that your friends are not always right and focus on what is really important to you.

You will get your drivers license exactly 6 months after you turn 16 and not one day later! Unfortunately, you will be putting the final touches on a project before you present at school and you will have a seizure. It will involve lots of neurological tests, tears, and will impact the rest of your life. I’m sorry you have to go through this.

Your best friend and family pet, Buddy, is going to be as energetic as ever until he is ten years old. The house will feel so empty when he passes away, but your family’s sadness will fade in time. Colby will make his entrance as a McGraw and you will wonder if there is something wrong with him because he sleeps all the time. Newsflash: puppies are like babies. They sleep a lot. 😉

Even though you think you are going to go to IUP or Slippery Rock because they are teaching schools, you’re actually going to fall in love with the campus at Duquesne. You will love being so close to home.

Pay attention to the people that you meet during Orientation your freshman year of college. Those are the people that will become your best friends and closest confidantes.

You will stop obsessing about your hair and makeup. In fact, you will probably simply brush your hair and wear no makeup some days. Can you believe it? Your aunt still won’t!

You are going to meet a boy who loves you just as much as you love him. He is someone that you will notice the first time you meet him, but you will be friends for a while before you start dating. You will be in a very serious relationship with him for 15 months – learning what it means to love someone that you see every day and love someone who lives far away from you – but he will break your heart. Luckily, you will have the best memories. You will find peace with your break up…but it will take a while. And that’s okay too.

You are going to try so many new foods and start to understand what it means to eat healthy. But first, you are going to chase the dream of being skinny. Being skinny will not make you happy. Don’t count calories and don’t workout because you ate “bad” food today. Eat because your body needs it and workout because you love it. This will be a mental struggle even after you have overcome this problem.

You will achieve a 3.94 GPA in college. No, that number will not round up to a 4.0. When you take your first science class in a lecture hall, I suggest you pay attention. But still, you will graduate summa cum laude. You go, girl!

You are not going to stay in Pittsburgh forever. I know that is shocking. You are going to discover that you want to attend graduate school and you want to attend graduate school in another city. Your heart will be set on the University of Maryland and that is where you will go. You will not know a single soul in Washington, DC but you will get a job, join a running group, find an amazing church, and love every second of it.

You will be pretty indecisive at times. Work on that. 😉

You will realize that “being an adult” means that literally no one knows what they are doing EVER and everyone just makes it up as they go along. TRUE STORY!

You will call your mom six times per day (at least) to ask for her advice. Take it every time.

You’re going to become a Spinning instructor and a PiYo instructor. Do you even know what Spinning or PiYo classes are? You’ll learn. And you’ll love it.

If you think you’re blessed right now, just wait until you’re 23. Your life is going to be amazing.

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Show ‘N Tell Tuesday: The High School Me

It’s a Show ‘N Tell Tuesday! Today, I’m linking up with Andrea to share a little bit about my high school self. This is a trip down memory lane for me and a picture overload for you. 🙂 What’s the first thing you think of when you think of your high school self?

I think awkward. Hahaha

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My friends and I all really really really liked to take pictures, and we would find any excuse to do so. Tall, skinny giraffe? Why not! I’m sure the people in this random Myrtle Beach gift shop didn’t think we were strange at all.

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Casual shot at the park. 🙂 One of our friends was into photography so we were her subjects one summer night. But honestly, there are people TODAY walking around taking pictures with their iPads and selfie sticks, so picture taking may have just gotten weirder over the years. I, on the other hand, like to think I got less weird over the years. Ha!

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I almost wish my high school friends had blogs so they could comment and share their thoughts on the “me” of high school. I would describe myself as kind, studious, and introverted. I was (and still am) a total girl’s girl, so I loved spending time with my girlfriends. I also spent a lot of time with my family, which is not always typical of a high school student! When I think of my younger brother, I remember him enjoying spending time with us, but always being go go go and making plans with a friend. I never felt like I had to have plans and I’m still that way today!

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I spent a lot of weekends at basketball games watching my brother, Alex. For a few years, Alex and our cousin, Nick, were on the same traveling basketball team, so that was even more incentive for me to go because I knew two people who were playing!

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Nick’s brother CJ is the same age as me and he played baseball, so I always went to those games too. I was on the yearbook staff and I often volunteered to take pictures of these events since I would be there anyway. 🙂

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I have lots of pictures of my family in Indianapolis from these years for some reason. We see my Dad’s family a few times a year, but it seems like in high school, we were in Pittsburgh for one holiday and Indianapolis for the next!

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This is my cousin’s daughter, Lucy. My cousins are the same age as my parents because my Dad’s siblings are much older than him. Anyways, I still call Lucy my cousin. She’s ten years old now which blows my mind, but she’s still my little baby doll. 🙂

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I did a lot with my church in high school. I went to youth group on Sunday nights, worked as a counselor at Summer Blast day camp in the summer, and went to a bunch of events with my “church” friends at other times throughout the year, too! Some of my church friends and school friends were the same, like Kristin. 🙂 The things I remember doing most are the 30 Hour Famine, ice skating, small group meetings at Starbucks, and weekends away at JTown, a Christian camp in Jumonville, PA.

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Ice skating at Schenley Park

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My favorite small group girls!

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Me and my youngest brother after the best event at summer camp…

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…when the local fire station sent a fire truck to spray us all down. 🙂

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I was in two musicals in 9th and 10th grade: 42nd Street and Singin’ In The Rain. I took chorus as one of my electives and though I don’t think I have a particularly great singing voice, apparently it was good enough. 😉

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But my hard work in chorus class paid off because we were invited to go on the band trip when I was in 10th grade. This was my first visit to New York City! We sang while we were there, but I mostly remember sightseeing and going to shows. 🙂

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I was also a dancer for most of my life, but if you put me on So You Think You Can Dance, I would get voted off the very first night. Hahaha!

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I have rhythm and I like to dance, but I don’t think I am naturally gifted at it. In our recital videos, I never looked as graceful as I felt. 🙂 Over the years I took jazz, lyrical, and hip hop. I was never a ballerina or a tap dancer, though I did have to learn a little tap for the musical one year!

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My parents let my brothers and I try every sport we wanted…for me that meant dance class, gymnastics, cheerleading, bowling (yes, I’m serious), softball, basketball, and then my senior year of high school, cross country! I liked to run but a bigger part of me just wanted to be on a team and cross country had no try outs;) Running became my favorite, and that’s a good thing because here’s how the rest of my athletic career went:

Cheerleading: after one season as a six year old, I was cut because I refused to do a back handspring without someone spotting me.
Bowling: Just for fun! I was in a bumper bowling league as a kid and then I did the after school bowling program in elementary school.
Softball: I was the world’s worst player…I somehow swung the bat so wrong that I lost two fingernails in the process and could never figure out where left field and right field were located. As catcher, I would turn my head to the side when the pitcher threw the ball because I was afraid of being hit in the face (even with a mask) and I would volunteer to sit on the bench when we had extra players. Hahaha
Basketball: No good or bad memories from this one; I think I just preferred dancing!

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I always knew I wanted to be a teacher, so when I was able to fit another elective into my schedule, I worked in the preschool at our high school. There’s a morning and afternoon program with a head teacher and an assistant teacher. The high school students who choose to take this class are only in there for one class period with the little ones. Sometimes we observed through a one way mirror (we could see the kids but they couldn’t see us) and sometimes we were actually teaching a lesson to the kids. These were my co-teachers!

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My best friend in high school was Maria. We met at church and she went to a different high school, so we always had fun catching up on the weekends. She knew a lot of people who went to my school because of our mutual friends at church, so she was like an honorary Plum Mustang;)

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Maria and I all ready for 11th grade 🙂 NOT! This is the first day of school, but the night before the first day was so stressful! I was always in honors English classes so I had required summer reading, but in 11th grade, I took an advanced history class of some kind that required me to take notes on every chapter in the history book over the summer. Well, apparently I procrastinated HARD because the night before school started, Maria came over to talk me off a cliff since I wasn’t done taking notes. And then she pulled an all nighter and finished taking notes for me so I could go to bed. Perks of having a friend who went to another school!

When the word “selfie” became a common word in recent years, I guess we all assumed no one took selfies before. Wrong.

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All three of us are holding cameras. I can’t. Hahaha

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And thank God we either gave up on or got better at text on photos…

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I was the kind of person who loved going to dances, with or without a date. Luckily my friends felt the same way. The same group of us went to 9th and 10th grade Homecomings together!

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9th Grade

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10th Grade

We got our acts together by junior and senior year and found dates for Homecoming and Prom. 🙂

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This was such a fun dress to wear! Junior prom is one of my favorite high school memories. At our school, you weren’t allowed to attend Prom until your junior year, even if you were asked by an upperclassman, so it made it that much more exciting when you finally were allowed to go. I just remember this night being filled with lots of picture taking and lots of dancing! Our high school didn’t have an After Prom, so we all went to our friend Kristin’s house to watch movies and continue our craziness ha! God bless her parents for hosting our big group!

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At our school, most people wore short dresses for Homecoming and long dresses for Prom. We were thinking these would be nice…

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But this is what we decided on instead. 🙂

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Senior Homecoming

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Senior Prom

Looking back at my pictures, I realized my friends and I liked to go places in big groups (besides dances!).

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Ice skating

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Taylor Swift concert

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Apple baseball at Danielle’s house…we literally played baseball with apples from the trees in her yard!

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NHS Induction

And then one summer one of our friends planned a scavenger hunt for a bunch of us! Danielle and Kayla and I were all friends, and then my cousin CJ joined in with his best friend, Zach!

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I wonder what we ate to make our tongues blue!?!?

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Spelling the word “love”. 🙂

If I had to pick my favorite year of high school, I would say senior year. My brother, Alex, and I got to go to school together for the first time since elementary school!

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He was in 9th grade and I was in 12th grade. He really loved me once I started driving him to school. 🙂

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This was my first car! A red Ford Escape who my friends and I named “Skyler”. Then once Alex started driving, we shared this car. Alex was notorious for coming home with the gas light on!!! One time I left to go to the gym and I KNEW I wouldn’t even make it there without running out of gas. That’s how low the gas gauge was. So I started driving to the gas station and I ran out of gas on my way there. I WAS SO MAD!!! Luckily my Dad came and saved the day. 🙂

Senior year bought lots of fun events, like the Powderpuff football game, where the junior girls play the senior girls and the boys are the cheerleaders. 🙂 The senior girls (my team!) won this year!

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We get professional headshots done for our senior picture in the yearbook but still get pictures taken on picture day. I have no idea what those pictures are actually used for (maybe school ID) so the seniors usually plan some kind of “theme” for picture day. We chose an 80s theme which is hilarious because none of us were born until at least 1991. Hahaha

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These are my professional casual senior pictures. We get a headshot done at a local studio for the yearbook and then everyone does pictures like these, too. Is that a thing where you live?!

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Two of my favorite high school memories: I turned 18 and my best friend and my mom planned a surprise party for me!

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And Snowmageddon! We had an entire week off school and then some because we got SO MUCH SNOW and then a pipe at the high school burst, so while the rest of the town went back to school, we got to stay home for a few more days. 🙂

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I would definitely say I became more outgoing as I got older…but I would still describe myself the same way. I am kind, studious, and introverted. I’m a total girl’s girl. And I love to spend time with my family. I just shared a lot of great memories with you, but there are lot of not-so-great memories that I have from high school all surrounding normal high school things like drama with friends and boys. High school was good to me, but I wish I could be the person I am now in high school all over again. I have grown up and I can honestly say I like myself haha! I DO care what people think about me, yet I don’t care at all. Does that make sense? I wish I would have stood up for myself more instead of trying to make my friends happy in certain situations. But you know, live and learn. If I wasn’t the way I was in high school, I wouldn’t have had those experiences, and I wouldn’t be reflecting on them today. High school was fun, but the real world is fun, too. 🙂

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– What kind of person were you in high school?

– What’s your favorite high school memory?

What I Ate (Or Didn’t Eat) Wednesday

I think about food constantly. I am definitely not one of those people who “forgets” to eat. I had a conversation with my coworker last week about how I don’t understand those people. I eat lunch and think about what’s for dinner. It’s just how I roll. 😉 But there was a time in life where I didn’t just think about food…I obsessed over it. And that led to some very unhealthy habits. How are we even supposed to know what to do anyway? Paleo, vegan, “clean eating”, counting your macros, the Zone diet…IT’S ALL SO CONFUSING! I listen to Chalene Johnson’s podcast “The Chalene Show” and she said something powerful recently: you don’t want to go ON a diet, you want to HAVE a diet. Something healthy that you can continue to do for the rest of your life. That makes so much sense. But of course I am just now coming to this conclusion and it took me awhile to get here. A few years ago, I fell into the calorie counting trap.

When I was in high school, I danced and ran cross country. During my junior year, I also started going to the gym for fun. But I never worked out because I felt like I had to. Being active was just something I did. The same goes for food: I honestly can’t even tell you what I ate back then because I know I didn’t like a lot of pretty normal food…think scrambled eggs or lasagna with red meat…my picky childhood habits still existed. Ha! In any case, food was food to me. I ate what I craved and I ate when I was hungry. And now that I think about it, my high school lunches usually consisted of the salad bar, a side of fries, and a chocolate chip cookie. I’m dying. Hahaha

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June 2010

Anyways, like I said, I just didn’t give much thought to what I ate or how I worked out…or how I looked. That all changed when I went to college. The four years I spent at Duquesne were four of the best years of my life, but I became SO hard on myself. Freshman year, I was a statistic. The usual girl who gains the freshman fifteen. Except it was like the freshman eleven, so I was kind of proud of myself. Ha! I had just continued living my life the same way…eating what I wanted, working out how I wanted…but I threw some other things in the mix too. Like snacks in the library when you’re studying. And alcohol. And snacks with your friends when you’re watching a movie. 😉 Plus, I just wasn’t moving as much. I was still dancing, but I wasn’t running anymore, and going to the gym was like social hour for me. In any case, I felt bloated and gross by the time I went home for the summer and I knew I was going to do something to change my ways.

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April 2011

It started off REALLY well. I LOVED indoor cycling classes at my gym and I started just being more conscious of what I was eating. If I knew I was going to indulge later, I would try to eat healthier earlier in the day. It was very balanced throughout the summer and all the way through my sophomore year. I even became a certified Spinning instructor! And I really did feel a change! But that was the extent of my thoughts about food and exercise. Point for me.

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April 2012

Then, I discovered the app My Fitness Pal and that little app rocked my world. Suddenly I was counting the calories in EVERYTHING. I certainly wasn’t eating less, but I really cared how many calories were in whatever I was eating. I worked an office job that summer so it was pretty easy to control what I was eating because I could only eat what I packed in my lunch box. If you aren’t familiar with My Fitness Pal, you can enter a bunch of statistics about yourself and it calculates what how many calories IT thinks you should be eating. It’s not very accurate (because everyone is totally different) and it doesn’t take into account what is in food…protein, carbs, fat, sugar…it just counts calories. So that’s what I did. And I became a maniac.

All of these crazy thoughts were just in my head. I fell into the trap of thinking 1200 calories per day was the way. I am not saying this is the wrong number for everyone, it was just the wrong number for me. Using My Fitness Pal to track my calories, I remember getting excited when it told me how much weight I would lose if I kept up these eating habits. And I remember how I excited I was when it said I didn’t reach my calorie goal. So wrong. But at this time, I really thought losing weight and getting to that number I had in my head would make me so happy.

I didn’t want to be the weird person who didn’t eat certain things so I would order them or eat them, even if it was just a few bites. I did get to the point where I didn’t want to eat at restaurants because that food didn’t come with a label that told me how many calories it was. I was the girl at the table Google-ing the restaurant’s nutrition facts while I looked over the menu. I also was the grocery store’s number one fan of everything low-carb, low-fat, low-calorie. I am sure my mother loved grocery shopping with me. But I wouldn’t let myself believe that I was doing anything wrong because I still ate “bad” foods sometimes…even though eating that food made me seriously panic on the inside.

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Exhibit A… 🙂

 I didn’t even let myself believe something was wrong when I was at the hairdresser and I got so dizzy sitting still that they called an ambulance. I was dehydrated…but I was probably also hungry. Other weird things started to happen to me too…and I knew they weren’t supposed to happen. Like I started missing my period. I was tired more than usual. And I craved sugar all. the. time. I remember telling my boyfriend at the time that I was worried that I was doing something wrong, but that I just wanted to be healthier. And because I was losing weight, I felt like that meant I was getting healthier. He told me to delete My Fitness Pal but of course I couldn’t do that. Besides, the only comments I ever heard about the way I looked at this time were, “Wow! Have you lost weight? You look so good!” So even though I was questioning what I was doing, I kept right on going. I was losing weight in all the right places (which I had identified as my stomach and hips) and even though I was getting closer to that number in my head, I had no intention of stopping. I was so proud that I looked so good!

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August 2012

When I got back to school in the fall for my junior year, I rediscovered my love of running. My friends and I had moved off campus and into an apartment and I loved waking up in the morning and running around the city. It was so pretty and such a refreshing way to start the day! But because I was still a maniac at this time, I also loved that running was one of the few exercises that burned the most calories. So if there was a day when I didn’t get to run, that was very very bad.

Finally, I started to hear some negative comments, and because deep inside I knew I was doing it wrong too, these comments really resonated with me. One friend told me he had never seen me eat a piece of pizza and he knew that I would never eat something like that. Just so you know, he usually ate lunch with me and I usually ate salad. And a cookie. Because #allthesugarcravings, remember? Another friend (behind my back) mentioned to one of our mutual friends that she noticed I had lost weight…and I looked too skinny. Those two things really stuck with me because I didn’t want to be that girl. I also didn’t want to be the kind of person who ate at The Cheesecake Factory and then came home to run (even though I already worked out that day). And yes, that did happen.

I kept running (because I love heart love running for more than the number of calories it burns) but I decided to back off calorie counting. Because I had started to doubt myself in this whole journey, I had discovered the term “orthorexia“, which is defined as an unhealthy obsession with eating “healthy” or “right” foods and I kind of thought that fit the bill for me. I wanted to be in control of my food, I wanted to eat only fruits and vegetables and chicken, and I judged other people HARD for their food choices. But when I finally decided to make a change, even though I felt like I identified with orthorexia, I didn’t seek professional help. I felt like because I could recognize this in myself that I didn’t need to get serious help. And that ended up working for me. Instead, I told my mom, my best friend, and my boyfriend at the time what I was thinking…and I told them to watch me. Because I was going to be watching myself. No extra workouts. Giving up the long list of restrictions. And DELETING My Fitness Pal.

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January 2013

I will not lie to you…it was very, very hard. I counted calories for so long that I could still count them even without using the app. I still judged other people for their food choices. I worked out extra hard on days I knew there would be “bad” food choices. And I couldn’t bring myself to reintroduce certain foods to my diet without feeling guilty…but you can’t expect instant change overnight. Also, my family got a puppy, so I had a new obsession. 🙂

I still don’t actually like how I think about food and exercise, but I’m getting better. Ask my friends and family…I probably talk about food and exercise TOO much…but I am just trying to find balance now. I was very unbalanced for so long. I want to be in a place where food is just food and I don’t label it as “good”, “bad”, “healthy”, or “unhealthy”. I really want to know when my mentality shifted so much. Why did I used to be the kind of girl who didn’t think about food or exercise and still loved life? How did I became the kind of girl who judged herself SO MUCH? We all say that we are our own worst critic and I really believe that is so true. But I also believe that we need to work on loving ourselves because we only get one body. Even though I lost weight in this process, I really was not in any way living a healthy life. I was eating the most random assortment of food and working out for way too long. It’s hard for me to be at the weight I am now because it is almost 15 pounds heavier than I was at my lightest…but I honestly don’t believe that my body is made to be at that low weight. I am 5’9!!! Maybe with the right nutrition and exercise, I would get back there. I don’t know. I don’t care. I do know what I don’t want to weigh (don’t we all know that number? ;)) but anything under that certain number in my head is okay with me. Why? Why am I suddenly okay with weighing any number?

Because I’m really happy. Because I have forgiven myself. Because I eat healthy (actually truly healthy…not Kylie is crazy healthy) foods. Because I work out 6 days a week and that is MY choice. Because my clothes fit. And I can buy more if they stop fitting. 😉 Because my friends and family will love me anyway. And because I deserve to eat a cupcake when I want to and not feel bad about it.

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Full Circle

A year ago, my mom and I came to the University of Maryland to meet my advisor and check out the campus. I had been accepted to graduate school, but I had no idea what this place was like. I knew that I could make my decision just by seeing everything…when I visited Duquesne, I just knew I was supposed to be there. And the same thing happened when I came here.

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We came down for the weekend right before Easter. We were on Spring Break and it was perfect timing! I had a meeting scheduled with my advisor and I had to figure out where I was going to live. Of course, we also made time for some fun adventures, like going to D.C…
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…after all, it is only 8 miles away. I have such good memories from this little weekend trip. In typical tourist fashion, we drove to D.C. and just expected to find parking. We ate dinner at Good Stuff Eatery and luckily, we found a place to put our car. We were not so lucky at the National Mall…I mean, it is The National Mall. 😉

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This picture was taken in motion…check out the tour bus to the left. The area that we parked in was reserved specifically for tour busses. My mom does drive a huge SUV but I don’t think that would fool a police man. Ha! So we quickly (illegally) parked and ran to take pictures. #touristproblems

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We went to Palm Sunday service at UMD’s Memorial Chapel…

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We explored the Inner Harbor in Baltimore…

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And of course we went shopping :).

I lived in the city when I went to school at Duquesne…I moved out of my house and did the whole college thing. But I didn’t really “go away”. I definitely gained a new love for Pittsburgh while I was in school because I met friends from so many different places around town and loved living near all the entertainment that a city brings. But I figured if I was going to be in school for a few more years, why not change it up? Why not go somewhere new? I had no idea how I was going to feel leaving everyone behind, but after the first visit to Maryland, I felt excited. I figured out all of the little details on our trip and now it was time to just be excited…so much so that we spent the 4th of July here because I just HAD to show the rest of my family where I was going.

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All of a sudden, it was August, and it was time to move in.

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I would be living with a random roommate, but lucky for me, she was also starting grad school. And she turned out to be super nice. 🙂

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It was a really big deal for me to leave home for the “first” time. And it was an even bigger deal to not know a single soul in my new city…but surprisingly, that didn’t scare me.

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First day of school 🙂

There are also a lot of things about moving somewhere by yourself that you don’t think about before you go…and no one tells you about before you go…that you just kind of figure out along the way. Example: I have a lot of friends, but they aren’t here. I can text them and call them, but I didn’t have someone to immediately invite over for dinner on Friday night. I didn’t have a partner in crime to go shopping with. My family wasn’t around to go to church with me. I am super happy that I ended up living with someone for my first year away because I don’t think I realized how much time I would spend alone. I actually am the kind of person who enjoys alone time, but it is definitely a challenge to make yourself do things by yourself that you wouldn’t usually do. It stopped feeling like a challenge and started feeling refreshing. I wasn’t about to sit in my apartment all day every day…I wanted to go do things, so I went and did them. When there were events happening that I wanted to go to, I went and made friends once I got there. Deciding to move and physically moving all of your things is one thing…deciding to make your move the best thing of your life, well that takes something special.

I did a lot of running…

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…and I did a lot of organizing. The weekend that I got here, I intentionally didn’t unpack all of my things so that I would have something to do once my family left. 😉

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I went to football games with my roommate and welcome week activities with other grad students.

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I baked…

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…and I FaceTimed with my dogs. Ha!

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And slowly but surely, I started to make friends. I met friends at church, I met friends in my running group, I met friends in class and at work.

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Friends to be had everywhere…but I had to make the choice to go find them. There were MANY weekends in my first semester of school where I drove home to Pittsburgh. It was something that I wanted to do, but I also needed to do at that time. I still wanted to feel connected. There were also times when I decided to stay put for the weekend…and then I would see pictures of my friends out and about and feel so left out. That made no sense to me because I love where I live, where I go to school, and what my life is like now. No one tells you what the transition feels like…I didn’t want to live a double live driving back and forth all the time, so I had to learn that my friends will still be my friends even if we aren’t together all the time.

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No one tells you that you might find it completely normal to go to the movies, go out to dinner, or go explore a new part of town…all by yourself. And just when you start to think you’re a weirdo, your family or friends come to visit and you get to brag about your new home.

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I found “my people” slowly but surely…now if I want to go to brunch or try a new fitness class or just hang out…I know who to call. But I’m also totally comfortable doing things I want to do all by myself. No one told me I would learn to get to know myself even more. 😉

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I have learned SO. MUCH. about myself in the last year. I feel more confident, more independent, and dare to say it…happier. I DEFINITELY was not unhappy at this time last year. I was student teaching, loving life, getting ready to graduate and go on vacation with friends. But I feel older. And wiser. And more thoughtful. I am more talkative…I didn’t really have a choice in that one ;). I am more connected in my faith and I think the move made me be more connected to the people in my life, both here and in Pittsburgh. When I think about what I was doing at this time last year, I realize I could have NEVER even pictured what my life would look like right now. And I am so happy to say that I love who I am becoming. That thought that we can plan and plan and plan…and still not know what to expect…is so exciting because WHERE does that mean I will be next April at this time? And where does that mean you will be? How much have we all changed in just one year? What will we be doing? How will we feel? What will our lives be like?

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I have no idea. But I can’t wait to see.

My Running Story

The first time I heard someone say they were going for a run…well, I can’t even tell you how old I was. For as long as I can remember, my aunt has gone to the park or the track to jog almost every single day. When I was younger, she was one of my favorite people to spend time with (she still is!) so hearing her say she was going somewhere without me was just not cool. 😉 Sometimes she would let me come with her and I really would run and try to keep up! But I never made it too far and my mom was always nearby to pick me up when I needed it. Even with my aunt’s inspiration, my running career didn’t start until high school. Occasionally I would go running in my neighborhood, which, by the way, was completely uphill no matter which route you took, and that was about the extent of my running abilities until I went on vacation. Then I was one of those “OMG I love running on the beach” people. But let’s be honest, the beach is a prime running location!

Senior year, I decided to take running a little more seriously. I joined the cross country team. Do you know why?

Because I wanted to be on a team.

I am not a talented team sport player, so I figured I couldn’t really mess up in cross country because I was only in competition with myself and the clock. I learned so much about running during that year and I still use some of that knowledge to this day! What shoes to wear (I got shin splints real quick), what to eat before and after a race, what not to eat before and after a race, how to breathe properly, how to stretch…some good stuff.

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All of the seniors were recognized at the end of the season with a huge banner in front of their house. Remember when I said I wanted to be on a team? Hahaha

Then I went to college. I will spare you the woe-is-me-freshman-weight-gain story because there really wasn’t MUCH wrong with me at the end of freshman year besides the fact that I just felt gross. I had gained about 12 pounds and I ate and drank pretty much whatever I wanted but I had so much fun. Life is about living after all, right? The summer of 2011, I committed to being more healthy. I started going to the YMCA more often and Spinning became my #1 workout. I loved it so much that I spun my way through sophomore year and found myself in a certification class to be a Spinning instructor. 🙂

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No one likes to Spin during finals week. 😉

During the summer of 2012, I worked in the one of the Education department’s offices at Duquesne (where I went to school). This meant I had to make a decent commute downtown from the suburbs and I kind of felt like a real person for the first time. Was I supposed to wake up early and workout? Or was I supposed to work out after work when I most likely felt like crashing on the couch? I settled on morning workouts and I would do 30 minute fartleks around my neighborhood (we moved…now it is flat, thank goodness). I had no idea I was even doing fartleks, I just knew I was running quickly for 30 seconds and then jogging for 30 seconds…or maybe I would sprint mailbox to mailbox. I was basically doing speed work for short distances just so it was over quickly and I could get to work. Then I went back to the beach and fell even more in love with my soul mate workout.

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From the summer of 2011 to the winter of 2013, I typically ran 5 miles a day 6 days a week. I was starting to get really excited about how far I could go and how fast I was getting! On any given morning at 7 AM, you could find me running around downtown Pittsburgh. During holidays, family members joined me. In the warmer months, I signed up for races. It was a really great season of life.

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August 2012

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September 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

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Christmas 2012

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February 2013

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July 2013

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September 2013

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October 2013

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November 2013

By this point, I had run 2 half marathons, a 10 miler, a 10K, and three 5Ks. The half marathons were more “serious” races for me…I had a goal to finish under two hours, and I did that in 1:54 and 1:56. In the 10K, I wanted to finish in less than an hour and I just made it with a time around 58 minutes. The 10 miler and the 5Ks were just for fun (and yes, I realize how ridiculous it sounds to say I ran ten miles for fun but…). I did Color Me Rad twice and I ran the Jingle Bell Run during the holidays with friends. I have no idea what happened to me during the Jingle Bell Run but I was flying. I finished in 21:05 and that is honestly my favorite race to date because it showed me how much my body is capable of in the running world! But maybe you can see how with all of these races and an almost every day schedule of running, my body started to say no to running. I just wasn’t ready to listen. I was signed up for the 2014 Pittsburgh Half Marathon and I was convinced I was going to change my entry to the full marathon, so I started “building up my base”. Aka running more miles than I was ready for. And I ended up not even being able to lift my left leg to put pants on.

It was never a catastrophic injury…meaning I didn’t fall over while I was running or feel a great deal of pain. On New Years Day 2014, I went for a run around my neighborhood. Just 3 little baby miles to start the new year off on the right foot (or sweat out the alcohol…you will never know;))! But less than a mile into the run, my left hip just felt weird. Not pain exactly, but enough to make me say “enough” and turn around and walk home. I didn’t feel defeated because I was listening to my body and I honestly didn’t think anything serious was wrong…until this pain continued to happen every time I went running. I took a few days off (because who needs doctors) and then I paired up with my best friend Elliptical. Nothing seemed to be helping this pain/ache heal, and when I could feel the pain during my favorite hip hop cardio class, I knew something was actually wrong. I finally made an appointment at the UPMC Center for Sports Medicine. I was not messing around. After a few appointments, a bunch of x-rays, and a prescription to continue not running (I was secretly dying inside), the doctor informed me that I had a tiny tear in the muscle in my left hip. This is an injury that typically isn’t surgically fixed unless you are a real athlete…which I am not. I do not get paid to run. I am not in the Olympics. I just really, really like it. So my job was to go to physical therapy and not run. After that, we could talk about running again. The doctor promised it would be possible, but it definitely wouldn’t be the same as before. I may have actually sobbed and yelled at him while he was telling me all of this. I am a really great patient. 🙂

Six weeks and many hours of Netflix+elliptical later, I was cleared to run. I legitimately left my doctor’s appointment and went straight home to change and get outside. It was so fun! But I was really surprised at how different I felt. It wasn’t as easy as it used to be and I didn’t feel motivated to get out there and run again the next day because I was too scared.

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March 11, 2014

Instead of changing my half marathon entry to a full marathon entry, I tore a muscle in my hip. The worst part of the whole injury was that I essentially did it to myself. I added too many miles to my schedule too quickly and my muscles weren’t strong enough (as in I really only ever picked up weights if it was raining or something equally as silly). I spectated my first race last May…and it was actually really fun. I thought I was going to be really depressed watching everyone do what I couldn’t do, but it was fun to be so supportive, especially because I knew so many people running! I ended up selling my race entry to a teenage boy (our moms work together) and it was his first big race so it was a great feeling to know I could give him that! And even though I wasn’t officially running, I still had a tight schedule to keep as I ran to different places on the course watching my friends! The most exciting moment was finding my best friend at mile 24 and running next to her for a few seconds to give her a pep talk during her first marathon. 🙂

IMG_2930Running and I have an interesting relationship these days. My brain wants to be invincible Kylie of 2013 and my hip is always quick to remind the rest of my body that I cannot, in fact, run every day. I have to actually follow training plans now (which I should have been doing all along…sigh) and I have to actually cross train, strength train, and stretch. All of those things that us runners sometimes slack on because we are so excited about just the running part.

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First race post-injury: The City Spree, June 2014

I ran a “Hat Trick” this past fall…a 5K and a 10K on Saturday and a half marathon on Sunday. I think it’s safe to say I’m back in the game. But really, I don’t feel that way all the time. Many, many days when I step outside, I have the mindset of my old running self (which is great for motivation) and then I actually start moving and I remember…my body is different now. I don’t feel like I move as quickly and sometimes I don’t even feel like a “real” runner because I’m not out there being hardcore on the daily.

Really, who decides what a “real” runner is?

I’m deciding for us.

Real runners are people who run. PERIOD.

And take selfies. #realrunner

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I’m currently on week 6 of a training plan (I’m training for a 10-miler) and I am frustrated that I am this far into the plan and running every day is still not an option for me. Example: last week I ran on Wednesday, so on Thursday I should have done no running at all. And I didn’t. I had plans to go to the gym and lift. But the gym is 0.7 miles from my apartment…so I thought…what if I run 0.5 there and walk the rest of the 0.2…and then run the 0.5 home and walk the rest of the 0.2…

THIS IS WHAT RUNNER’S BRAINS DO PEOPLE.

THERE SHOULD HAVE BEEN NO RUNNING ON THURSDAY.

So I did that ridiculous bit of running which really did what? Add 1 mile to my day and get me to and from the gym a tiny bit faster? And then I woke up on Friday and immediately knew my run that day was not going to feel good. It’s times like these that make me secretly hate the people who can run every day and take it for granted OR don’t use their gift. Yes, I call it a gift. But I have to remember that I was one of these people once. I don’t get to be upset with other people for their abilities. I just have to focus on my own. And that is hard. I get frustrated and want to stop trying. But I never will because running is my most favorite thing ever and I will do whatever it takes to make sure I can participate in the sport for as long as I can. If the day comes that I really do have to hang up my hat…well, I’ll probably cry first, but then I’ll have to find a new passion to pursue. I know there are MANY people who do not understand the thrill of the run. But for me…it’s relaxing even when it’s hard, it’s rewarding, it helps me focus, and it relieves stress. I get to see beautiful sunrises and sunsets and I get to do something good for my body.

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In the meantime, I’m focusing on trying to enjoy the running that I am able to do, and I’m going to try to take better care of my body. Because I only get one body and I beat it up pretty badly before. Plus, there is a bright side to the whole I-can’t-run-everyday thing. It gives me time to Spin and lift weights and go to yoga and do all of those things I felt like I didn’t have time for before. Now I just need to practice appreciating those things. Because usually, I’m wishing I was outside looking like this.

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Run happy, everyone. 🙂