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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

It Gets Better & Other Bullshit that Isn’t True: An Open Letter to 16-Year-Old Me

Dear 16-Year-Old Me:


Hold on. I may have gotten ahead of myself there. Let’s start over.

Hey there. How are you? Not good, I know. You have braces, acne, and are disgustingly obese at 115 lbs. You feel lost, alone, outcast, bullied, and like a total fuck up. You also have a lot of adults in your life that tell you all of those things are true.

As a byproduct of that, you feel like everyone around you is a hypocrite and like you are somehow more enlightened than everyone else, because of how you have “suffered”. You believe the world owes you something. I get it. You’re very anxsty and have a lot to say, but are too scared, so instead you smoke pot, write really bad poetry, torture your parents, dress all in black, and feel sorry for yourself. To make matters worse “Baby One More Time” is topping the charts.

There is very little to live for.

I’m not writing to you about any of that, though, because you’re 29 now and none of that shit matters anymore.

I’m writing now, because there was a school shooting in Chardon, OH, the town your boss lives in. As of this writing, 3 teenagers that were shot are dead. The confusion, the loss, the questioning of why this happened and how we keep it from happening again reminded me of you.

This spring, for you, there will be another school shooting. I know the Paducah shooting happened a couple of years ago, but this one will get way more media attention. It will happen in a school called Columbine. You’ll write a terrible poem about it. Michael Moore will make a movie about it. It will be the go-to shooting to which every other school shooting will be compared.

You’ll identify with those boys carrying the guns. You’ll think of all the people who have made your life a living hell and how, even though you would never take someone’s life, you can certainly see how someone could get there mentally.

The people who were your friends in elementary school, but then acted like they didn’t know you in junior high because the random lottery of middle school coolness chose you to be a pariah instead of a cheerleader?

The guy you had a crush on that you’d known your whole life who told your friend, “She’d be cute if she weren’t such a head case”?

The principal at Lexington Traditional Magnet School who told you and Mom that he wasn’t going to do anything about the bullying, because it was “good for you” and “part of growing up”?

You think, maybe if those people had a gun waved in their face that they’d be sorry. Maybe they’d shut their mouths. Maybe they wouldn’t grow up to just be bigger assholes with a bunch of asshole kids that will inevitably bully your kids.

Yeah. That would show them.

One day there’s going to be a campaign called “It Gets Better”. It’s going to be geared toward LGTB youth (or, in your case, all of your guy friends), but it is meant to be applicable to anyone who is bullied. The moral is that if you can just survive being a teenager and a young adult that “it” will get better, so don’t give up.

I’m here to let you in on a little secret.

“It” doesn’t get better.

I wish I could tell you all of the assholes get theirs in the end. They don’t. Most of them are leading happy, successful lives and have adorable kids. Mike Carr from LTMS? Yeah, he’s the director of the State of Kentucky Education Professional Standards Board.


He sets standards.

For professionals.

On a board.

And if “it” refers to bullying, gossiping, and people just generally being heinous to each other, sorry, that doesn’t get any better either. You know the internet? Yes, Web Crawler and AOL. Those are going to be replaced by Google and Facebook. Now, instead of hearing about all the terrible things people say about you from your friends, you can just type your name into a box and READ all the terrible things.


For added fun, we now herd all of our co-workers, family members, church friends, old friends, and new friends into one space and discuss religion, politics, and the funny things cats do. We call this Facebook. So if you think people are judgmental and hypocritical now, just wait until you see the pictures that people get tagged in without their permission.



The point is that the girl who was decked out in head to toe Abercrombie who wouldn’t let you eat lunch with her and her friends has just been replaced by the confrontational, uberpolitical soccer mom on Twitter. The anonymous peer grader of your 7th grade book report who said you were a whiny, cry baby that nobody liked, is now the anonymous reader that leaves very similar “reviews” on your blog. The guy who dared his buddy to ask you to homecoming just so he could laugh in your face when you said yes, has been replaced by the guy organizing professional development meet-ups that has met you six times but still doesn’t remember your name. And the adults that seemed to not just turn a blind eye to your torment, but actually enjoyed watching it because of all the good it was doing you? Those people have been replaced by the IRS.

“It” doesn’t get better.

But you do.

I know you cannot conceive of a day when you will no longer be enraged by the people who pick on you. But there’s going to come a day when those people are not even going to hit your radar screen. Yeah, if you run into them, you might have a muscle memory reflex that makes you go up and say, “Hey you were a dickhead when we were 12.” But I assure you, it’s far more likely that you will see them and think, “Hey that’s…that’s…what was her name again?...”

And even though the Abercrombie douches have been replaced by the Yuppie douches, their impact on your day to day life is next to zilch. Right now, in spite of making every effort to be different, all those black clothes and torn up jeans signify is that you are letting people tell you who you are. The reason the Abercrombie girl bothers you so bad is because you believe her.

The Twitter bitch?

You just feel sorry for her and go on with your day.

So if you’re holding out for “it” to get better, all the adult world is going to bring you is disillusionment and disappointment. The hypocrites are still hypocrites. The assholes are still assholes, and, yes, will probably raise more assholes. There are bullies and preps and jocks and freaks and we all still have to figure out how to get along.

But YOU will be different.

Age = time. Time will give you context. It will give you tools. It will give you opportunities to meet more people, several of whom will love you for all those things that, right now, make you a freak. You’ll call them friends. Time will pile on responsibilities that put all of “it” into perspective. Time will teach you who you are. Then it will change who you are. Then it will teach you all over again.

But most importantly, Time will give you things to live for beyond fleeting acceptance, which I know REALLY IS important when you’re a teenager.

In your case, their names are Hannah and Emma. They’ll think you’re very cool. Even without black eyeliner.

Just do yourself a favor and play the odds. Statistically speaking, you have not even lived half of your life yet. That means there’s less than a 50% chance that you’ve met the most awesome person you’re ever going to meet. Eaten the greatest meal you’ll ever taste. Told the funniest joke you’ll ever tell. Heard the most beautiful song you are ever going to hear. You haven’t even gotten to see Brittany Spears have a nervous breakdown and shave her head yet.

No, she totally, totally does.

And there will be a black president.

And something called an iPod.

And you’re actually a really great runner.

And, yes, you’re going to get paid to write one day.

And, in bad news, you’ll be using all that algebra you keep skipping, because you’re going to create websites for a living.

And marry an Asian guy.

And start liking barbecue.

It’s ok to empathize with those kids at Columbine. But don’t think they are heroes or victims. They’re just kids who didn’t play the odds right and ended up missing everything.

Everything that matters, at least.

Which brings me back to the beginning.

Be nicer to your mother. That huge tab you’ve written up for the world in all of your journals? All the things you think life owes you? She’s the one who has been picking up the check. And Dad, too. Plus Karma is a bitch, kid. Did I mention Hannah and Emma? You’ll find out soon enough.

If you’re half as smart as you think you are.



Thursday, February 9, 2012

Running to Music - The Glory and Psychosis of My Run Mix

So I am in the market for a new music listening solution for my runs.  I love my Bluetooth headphones, but they are seriously going to get me killed.  Anyone who has seen me at a race knows that I get very into the ZONE.  You could set off a bomb next to me during a 5K, and I probably wouldn't notice.  When I'm running and have my music playing, I go totally shark eyed.  I could be looking right at you, 2 feet in front of me, and I would not see you.  This has led to an unfortunate, reoccurring issue on my night runs.

I scream at innocent pedestrians.

Last night, I jogged right at a guy and did not register that he was coming toward me until he was a yard away.  From his vantage point it went something like this:

Hmmmm.  Look at that chick running.  Isn't it a little cold to be out here? Why is she staring at me?  I'll give her the friendly nod and maybe she'll turn away.  Nope, still staring at me with dead eyes.  She's going to run into me if I don't....

*Blood curdling scream in his face*

"What the f*$#, Lady????"

Indeed, sir.

I've been looking at these

and these (PANK!)....

and John's posted that they were currently testing this:

Light-weight running vest with integrated speakers right below the ears.

RoadNoise has come up with this light-weight running vest that has speakers integrated into the material right below your ears.  That means nothing in your ears to distract you from traffic, other runners, or pedestrians that will now be carrying mace in Gainesway neighborhood.

Let me tell you why I will NOT be buying this product.

My embarrassing run mix.

We were discussing running and jamming today on the Twitter machine.  One of my favorite mentorunners and founder of LexRunLadies (@KrissieB) said the following:

"I don't know about other runners, but once I didn't need distractions from running, I stopped running with music."

Just like I once could not imagine running a whole mile without stopping, I cannot imagine a time where I would not want/need to listen to music while running.  Music takes me away from the pavement, labored breathing, pitiful shuffling sound, and brutal reality of how many miles there may be to go.

Here's the thing, though.

My musical taste is insane.  As in, unlistenable to other people.  Furthermore, my playlist is not even really "functional" from a running point of view.  There are songs that are downright slow, and I'm sure make me slow down with them.  There are plenty of songs on my playlist that ONLY exist because the beat and tempo makes me pick up the pace.  But the majority of the 6+ hours of music that is on my "Run Mix" is picked because of the place it makes me go mentally.

Songs that take me back to a different time.
Songs that take me to a place I once went.
Songs that make me solve problems.
Songs that make me laugh out loud.
Songs that make me want to call people I haven't seen in a long time.

And a lot of songs that make me think about things I feel safer thinking about w/ a few thousand endorphins coursing through my veins.

Because I like my fellow runners, and also do not need more ridicule while I am huffing and puffing along the Lexington streets, I will choose not to subject passersby to my frankly unbalanced music selection.  I do, however, feel comfortable sharing my playlist here for your enjoyment, bafflement, amusement, and good-natured mockery.  Here's what's shufflin' while I'm shufflin':

"9 Crimes (Demo)" - Damien Rice
"Angels" - Christine Denté
"Anna Sun" - Walk the Moon
"Are You Gonna Be My Girl" - JET
"Ballerina" - Leona Naess
"Beautiful" - Christina Aguilera
"Beautiful Girl" - Poe
"Before He Cheats" - Carrie Underwood
"Bittersweet Symphony" - The Verve
"Bloodbuzz Ohio" - The National
"Bootylicious" - Destiny's Child
"Bouncin' Back (Bumpin' Me Against the Wall)" - Mystikal
"Come To Jesus" - Mindy Smith
"Crash Into Me" - Dave Matthews Band
"Criminal" - Fiona Apple
"Daddy Untwisted" - Over The Rhine
"Dirrty" - Christina Aguilera
"Dream On" - Aerosmith
"Drops of Jupiter (Live Version)" - Train
"Dude (Looks Like A Lady)" - Aerosmith
"Empire State of Mind" - Jay-Z and Alicia Keys
"Fallin'" - Alicia Keys
"Fergalicious (Explicit Version)" - Fergie
"Get Busy" - Sean Paul
"Glitter In the Air" - P!nk
"Gravity" - John Mayer
"Hang" - Matchbox Twenty
"Happy With Myself?" - Over The Rhine
"Heard It All Before" - Sunshine Anderson
"Hole In My Head" - Dixie Chicks
"Hollaback Girl" - Gwen Stefani
"How to Save a Life" - The Fray
"Ice Cream" - Sarah McLachlan
"I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)" - The Proclaimers
"Jack and Diane" - John Cougar Mellencamp
"Jungle Boogie" - Kool and The Gang
"Kung Fu Fighting" - Carl Douglas
"La Grange" - ZZ Top
"Labour of Love" - Frente
"Landslide" - Fleetwood Mac
"Leavin'" - Jesse McCartney
"Let Me Clear My Throat" - DJ Kool
"Lucy" - Over The Rhine
"Milkshake" - Kelis
"My Happy Ending" - Avril Lavigne
"My Sharona" - The Knack
"November Rain" - Guns N' Roses
"Oh, Atlanta" - Alison Krauss and Union Station
"One" - Mary J. Blige/U2
"Party Rock Anthem (feat. Lauren Bennett and GoonRock)" - LMFAO
"Praise You In This Storm" - Casting Crowns
"Pride and Joy" - Stevie Ray Vaughan
"Pumped Up Kicks" - Foster the People
"Ready To Run" - Dixie Chicks
"Respect" - Aretha Franklin
"Rock the Boat" - Aalyah
"Rolling in the Deep" - ADELE
"Rootless Tree" - Damien Rice
"Run This Town" - Jay-Z, Rihanna and Kanye West
"Satellite" - Dave Matthews Band
"Selah" - Lauryn Hill
"SexyBack" - Justin Timberlake featuring Timbaland
"Shake Ya Ass" - Mystikal
"Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)" - Beyoncé
"Sleep Baby Jane" - Over The Rhine
"Someone Like You" - ADELE
"Stronger" - Kanye West
"Tempted 1994" - Squeeze
"Trouble" - Ray LaMontagne
"Tubthumpin'" - Chumbawumba
"Umbrella" - Rhianna
"Us" - Regina Spektor
"Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" - Wham!
"Walk On" - Susan Ashton
"What Can I Say" - Brandi Carlile
"What Goes Around.../...Comes Around Interlude" - Justin Timberlake
"What's The Frequency, Kenneth?" - R.E.M.
"When Doves Cry" - Prince
"White Trash Wedding" - Dixie Chicks
"Yummy Down On This" - The Bloodhound Gang