Goal-setting page from a planner.
Starting the day with intention setting…of course!

Today I celebrate a milestone birthday!

Maybe I’m weird or unusual (those of you who know me in real life can now stop snickering…of course I’m weird, ha ha, thank you very much), but I actually look forward to getting older. Aging intrigues me rather than scares me. Maybe it’s because I’ve felt more powerful, more brave, and more centered the older I get. Maybe it’s because I don’t view wrinkles or gray hair or gaining weight in weird places (thanks a lot, periomenopause) as some sort of personal failing. Maybe it’s because I’ve found a way to keep having new adventures and try new things each year.

Or maybe, as I told my physical therapist last week, it’s because I’m “aging up” and get to set a whole new collection of running PRs!

Whatever it is, I’m really looking forward to what my 50s have in store.

I’ve actually been mulling over my intentions for the year for a few days now, so I need to get those on paper. Reflecting back on what I wrote at 49 was really interesting — and I was surprised at how many things on my intention list I ticked off over the year. A few things that will appear on my list:

  • Returning to running — and hopefully a few races! I was cleared yesterday to start the return to run program after over 6 months off of running, and I’ll do my first workout tomorrow.
  • Figuring out what’s next career-wise. This was one of the few intentions I didn’t check off last year. I do think I’m in a better place now to do this kind of work, and have a better sense of what I do and don’t want to do.
  • Leveling up in taekwondo. I test for my 3rd degree black belt next March! In the meantime, I’ve started teaching once a week at my studio, and I am in the process of learning all of the weapons forms well enough to teach them. This is something I’ve wanted to do personally for a while, and something I need to do to earn my full instructor certificate.

Today I plan to bike one of my favorite long run / marathon training routes up in the Cities, treat myself to a lakeside lunch at the end of said bike ride, teach taekwondo, and eat cake. My mom and one of my sisters are flying in this weekend, so we’ll have more celebrations (and hopefully more cake!) then. I haven’t seen either of them since my brother’s wedding in 2019 (!!), so honestly just being able to hug them and be in the same physical space as them is the best present ever.

Here’s to a new decade of adventures!


The longest month on the trimester system? May.

Spring term always brings its own special brand of exhaustion when you’re on trimesters. While we have a break between Winter and Spring Terms, it’s woefully short. Particularly so this year — 12 days from the last day of Winter Term finals to the start of Spring Term. (7 days from the date grades were due until the start of the term, which leaves little to no down time given that there sadly are no course prep fairies on which to offload that work.) Essentially, we have been at it since January 5.

We’re all dragging.

Part of the issue, I think, is that each day is sooooooooooo damn full — with end-of-the-year, wrap-up-the-year, and oh-no-we-need-to-have-a-meeting-about-this-before-the-end-of-the-year activities. Along with the normal, steadily increasing workload as the term progresses. Each day feels like 2 or 3 days, at the end of which we collapse in collective exhaustion, only to wake up the next day and do it all over again.

We’re also in the midst of a Covid outbreak on campus, one bad enough that we went back to masking and a “high” alert level. Information’s been slow, and infuriatingly we’ve been largely left to make individual decisions on what to do with events already on the books. Last week alone, I had to make two quick decisions about two big events — our spring Comps Gala (which we moved mostly online with takeaway food), and our Sigma Xi induction ceremony (which we held as planned because it was too late to cancel our catering order). Activities that seemed safe just a couple of weeks ago no longer feel safe — particularly when I see some students kind-of-sort-of masking and hear rumors that some students aren’t masking in our building when faculty and staff are not around.

(That last part enrages me. Sure, faculty and staff aren’t around, but facilities workers are. And it’s a really sh*tty move to make them feel unsafe — especially given everything they did and continue to do to make sure our campus is a clean, safe place to work and learn, for way less pay than they deserve.)

In an online conversation with friends yesterday, one friend mentioned the number of “delicate” emails they were composing, to which another friend replied that every email right now needs to be delicate. It’s true. We’re all raw, all frayed, hanging on by our fingernails until the end of classes, the end of finals, commencement, the submission of final grades. Hoping desperately that no one asks us to do anything that requires us to dig into nonexistent reserves — and knowing that we will, in fact, be asked to do much more, with nothing in the tank, before this is all over.

New month, new adventure

2 yellow flippers, a pull buoy, and goggles laying on the floor
Still life infused with chlorine

While I don’t completely live by the phrase “Do one thing every day that scares you”*, I do try to do things on a regular basis that stretch me outside of my comfort zone. Some of these are big adventures — moving across the country to a state where I knew no one — but many are smaller — becoming a regular blood donor again after a bad incident drove me away for a decade.

I’d hoped to do one such big adventure for my 50th birthday, coming up later this month. I pondered hiking the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim, a several-day trek on the Superior Hiking Trail, or some other solo outdoorsy trip.

Then I got injured, started the never-ending cycle of physical therapy, and put the adventures on hold while I healed.

So I started to look for something smaller, something that still made me nervous but that I could do while inhabiting my healing body.

And that’s how I landed on Masters swimming.

We gave up our family gym membership a while ago, and along with it access to a pool. I swam competitively up until 8th grade; worked as a lifeguard and swim instructor through high school, college, and grad school; and basically grew up in and around water, swimming every chance I could get. I enjoyed getting in the pool every once in a while and peeling off some laps. I missed that when our membership ended, but not enough to seek out opportunities to swim, since I was doing so many other active things.

As my injuries dragged on and as my return-to-running date became fuzzier and further out, I contemplated a short-term gym membership somewhere with a pool, but the options weren’t great. And I realized that not only was I missing cardio, I was missing the structure of a plan. I wanted someone to tell me what to do, to create some accountability, to push me out of my usual habit of swimming leisurely and only doing sets I enjoyed.

It took me a few months to work up the courage to actually sign up and show up. At my old gym, the Masters group that swam in the early morning was a total Bro Fest — loud, brash, and completely unwelcoming. I worried that I’d end up in a group just like that — fast, former collegiate swimmers who’d be annoyed at me for being so slow and bringing down the caliber of the group. I worried about getting back into the pool after a long absence, of not being able to complete the sets, of failing at swimming.

I ended up signing up for the Masters group run by my elder kiddo’s swim club. I figured, for better or worse, I knew the coaches, and surely they wouldn’t make too much fun of me knowing that I’m Resident 9th Grader’s mom, right?

I was terrified to attend my first practice, which was on Monday. I had trouble falling asleep, and checked and rechecked my swim bag the night before.

But as soon as I walked in the door, someone recognized me as a newbie, and came up to say hi. And introduced me around. As it turns out, Monday is a more lightly-attended workout, so I didn’t even have to share a lane (and “drag down everyone around me”, another fear of mine). No one cared that I didn’t do all of the sets, or that I put my flippers on for the kick drills because I’m more comfortable doing so. Parts of the workout were challenging because I was out of practice, but I did way better than I expected. The coach even noticed a small thing that was affecting my stroke that I’ve never been able to diagnose, and correcting it has already made a difference in my endurance. I went back on Tuesday and did even more of the sets and it was still challenging but more doable. Circle swimming was not as hard as I remembered, and as it turns out my swimming speed was totally on par with the other two swimmers in my lane. And I met even more people who went out of their way to welcome me and engage me in the conversation of the group.

And the coaches didn’t make fun of me, either.

I’m still not sure if this is going to be a one-month-only thing, or if Masters swimming will be something I incorporate more regularly. I do know that this group does not swim in the summer — but I’ve heard rumors that my younger kiddo’s swim school might be starting a Masters group for the summer….

What’s one thing you’ve done recently that’s scared you?

*Which, contrary to popular belief, was written by Mary Schmich, and not Eleanor Roosevelt. If you’d like to go down the same rabbit hole I did regarding the history of this quote, start here.