Photographed by Winnie Au.
About this time last year, I was not making much money. And, I was stressed out about it. Granted, I did this to myself — I had just quit a well-paying (but dead-end) job at MTV, and my plan to freelance was not quite working out as planned. So, while I was trying to figure out a way to make a livable wage by writing, I picked up sporadic retail and temp jobs to keep me afloat. I felt stuck; money was dwindling, I was feeling malnourished, living without health care, and experiencing panic attacks. Then, my Zen Buddhist father suggested something to lift my spirits and provide a mental escape: running.
I decided to try it. I dug my rarely-worn sports bra out of a drawer, pulled on my leggings, and loaded up my iPod. I spent a good 30 minutes warming up and getting pumped for what I imagined would be a substantial, hour-long jog. But, once outside, I barely made it past the five-minute mark before I needed a break. "Of course, this is supposed to suck," I thought to myself, "I haven't really exercised since high school." But, I kept at it. Everyone has to start somewhere, right? Over time, I was able to make it past five minutes, logging around two miles per day — a big feat for me. But, was I actually enjoying running? No.
To motivate myself, I'd make a game out of each session. I'll run a mile to the beer garden, meet my friend for a drink, and then run back, I'd think. Or, I will laugh-run my way through this entire comedy podcast episode. Or, I'll run to this place where people have spotted Kim Gordon, and then maybe I'll see her, too! All of my runner friends kept telling me it would become easier, that my forced habit would soon become involuntary, and that my mind and body would start to crave the feeling. But, that's not what I was seeing. Despite making noticeable progress in how far I could run, nothing changed the fact that I simply don't like running. It feels like a chore. I don't like showering every day. I don't like people seeing me sweat in public. Frankly, I also get bored. Still, I tried really hard to like it. I kept up my mileage, logging seven to 10 miles in a good week. Getting healthy, running every day, feeling positive afterwards, and still kind of hating it every minute — this is normal, right?
I wish I could like it, but I bet everyone wishes exercising were more fun. And, there's probably a workout out there that I'd really enjoy — but running isn't it. Fast forward a year later, and my directionless life surprisingly turned around 180 degrees. Through a series of small-time online writing gigs, my contact info landed in the inbox of an editor at R29 and I ended up joining the team as a staff writer. Looking back to where I was a year ago, I'll always wonder how much running played a role in my overall change — in health, in spirit, in self-worth. After all, sometimes you have to do things you hate in order to get the results you want — which, for me, meant escaping from my troubles for 40 minutes at a time in order to rebalance and reboot for a few miles. These days, finding the time to run when I get home from work is difficult; I don't get to do it as often anymore. But, I'm not complaining.