Running Mirrors Life

As I have been getting back into running in the last couple months, I’ve begun to think about the parallels between it and life. When you stop and ponder, there are a lot of lessons to be learned from running, just as in life.

I started running when I was around 12 or 13. At first, it was a struggle. I barely even made it a mile or much more than that. I eventually got to the point where I could do a 2.4 mile race in Springfield at Van Horn Park called the Child’s race for kids 15 and under.

Soon, I progressed to running cross country at East Longmeadow High School, eventually building up to being able to run as much as 16 miles at one point. It took a long time to get there (around 4 or 5 years after I started running), but it was well worth it. I did longer runs of 10 or more miles every Sunday during cross country and the summers in my junior and senior years of high school.

The long runs became a time of peace for me. A time when I didn’t have to think about anything but running. Sometimes, they seemed to drag on during hot days or days that were bitterly cold. However, there were times where everything just flowed perfectly and it seemed like I could run forever.

Isn’t that how life works, too? There are days where you feel like you can’t go anymore. Days that seem to drag on forever and nothing is going right. Much like running, where certain runs felt like I couldn’t settle into a good pace at all; I was constantly struggling to get into any rhythm.

Then there are days in life where everything seems to go perfectly. You go to a concert of your favorite artist and they play all the right songs. You go to the Red Sox and Jon Lester throws a no-hitter. Without those bad days, you wouldn’t be able to appreciate the good ones. Just like you can’t appreciate those great runs without having some mediocre or bad ones mixed in.

To quote the famous running book Once a Runner (which I unfortunately haven’t actually read), “You don’t become a runner by winning a morning workout. The only true way is to marshal the ferocity of your ambition over the course of many day, weeks, months, and (if you could finally come to accept it) years. The Trial of Miles; Miles of Trials.”

The gist of this quote was that everyone wanted to know the secret of this runner who was quite good. Was there a certain workout he did that nobody knew about? Was there some special way he trained? The answer, they came to find out from running with him, was that there was no real secret. He simply put in the work every day; he literally pounded the pavement more than most were willing to. It wasn’t about the pace or workouts as much as it was just being consistent.

Looking back to high school, this quote could definitely be applied to my training. After a reasonably good freshman year of cross country, I took things for granted going into my sophomore year and didn’t train all that much during the summer. I quickly paid for it.

Running isn’t all that forgiving. You will be surprised at how quickly you can lose everything you had trained for in a relatively short amount of time when you stop running. Just like in life, when if you’re not consistent with something, you won’t be all that successful.

My times weren’t necessarily worse my sophomore year, yet they weren’t all that much better. Runners who I was close with or would beat my freshman year who trained more consistently than I did left me in the dust in all the races, no matter how much I tried to hang on.

Finally, I’d had enough and realized the only way to get better was to train more. A lot more. I had a fire lit under me due to failure. There was no magic secret. I simply went out there most days and ran, whether I felt like it or not. Gradually, I got better. My junior year, my times dropped a lot and I got the most improved runner award. By my senior year, I was the number 7 runner on the team, getting into the last spot for the Western Mass. Championship. It had been my goal since freshman year. As I was never the fastest runner on sheer talent alone, it was all because of consistency that I was able to improve so much.

During college on the rowing team at UNH, I ran less, but was still in pretty good shape and could still do longer runs/run at a reasonable pace when I did run. However, after college, I began to run and exercise less. Suddenly, after 8 years of running in high school and rowing in college, I had nothing to train for. There was no team to push me anymore. No workouts were given to me, and there was no upcoming race to train for. I still did run some or workout, but it didn’t really feel the same.

Although I have begun running more (only around 2 or 3 days a week right now compared to the 6 or 7 I used to do), it still doesn’t feel quite the same. I certainly can’t run as fast as I used to right now, but that doesn’t seem to bother me as much. It doesn’t really seem to bother me as much, either, that I’m not running as far as I used to. What I am happy about is that I’m running at all.

You see, going with the flow is really the best thing you can do in both running and life. When you force things to happen in life, forcing that relationship you really want to happen or really obsessing over getting a certain time or pace when you’re running, it doesn’t seem to work out too well. Lately, I have been trying to just run. To just enjoy the time and distance I am running, no matter how slow or short it may be. The best runs, I have found, are the ones where you just let things flow. Those long runs that seem like you could keep going forever, or those faster runs where it feels like you’re flying and will never come back down.

Although I have gone through a lot of struggles in life already which I have referenced in previous blog posts, I have begun to take a new attitude towards it due to the lessons running has taught me. You can’t expect to go out there and run 10 miles right away, nor can you expect to run 10 miles after not running in a while. At least not in my case. I have to tell myself, too, that I can’t expect things to happen like moving to New York or somewhere else like I want to without being consistent at saving money, at trying to find a job I like that pays reasonably well, at doing all the little things.

The Trial of Miles; Miles of Trials.

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It’s Not Always Rainbows and Butterflies…

Upon graduating from college, I was nervous about my future. Like most graduates, I didn’t know what it would hold. I didn’t have a job lined up, or really a solid idea of what I wanted to do for a career. Nonetheless, I expected things would work out relatively quickly. I expected I would move to some big city, hopefully Boston, and have a great job. I expected I’d likely find some great romantic relationship within a reasonable amount of time as well. I didn’t necessarily imagine my life would be perfect. However, I didn’t forecast I’d living at home 3 and a half years later, without a clear career path in sight.

I guess I didn’t really plan for the unexpected. I didn’t expect my mom would die from cancer as soon as she did. I didn’t expect I would be diagnosed with bipolar and face many challenges to go along with it. I didn’t really expect it would be as difficult a transition as it has been to go from being surrounded by friends and teammates on the rowing team at UNH to living at home where most friends from before college have either moved away or I’ve lost touch with them.

Recently, I’ve had this thought in my head that it feels as if I haven’t really started any new chapter after college. Up until now, there was the chapter of growing up, then high school, then college, and then, well, there is now. I don’t really know what to call it, though. I haven’t established a career, haven’t moved out of the house to “make it on my own” and haven’t really built any new friendships or relationships for the most part. I feel like I’ve been caught in this weird no man’s land, in between college and making it into the “real world.”

Up until recently, I had a lot of nostalgia for college, and maybe that is a part of why I haven’t fully moved on and started a new life yet. I had in my head a wish I could go back to those days. That things were simpler and easier back then. I didn’t have as much worries, I would think to myself.

The funny thing now, though, is that desire to go back isn’t really there anymore. I now see even though there were a lot of great times, it wasn’t all roses. Romanticizing some part of your life is an easy thing to do. It’s much harder to analyze it objectively and think maybe it wasn’t all you once thought it was cracked up to be. Now, I’m not saying it wasn’t a great time and that I didn’t have a lot of great experiences, but I am saying I have realized more and more there is no sense dwelling in the past.

I will be the first person to admit a big reason I am still living at home is my money spending habits. I have always been a relatively impulsive person, manic or not, which has caused me to be a not so thrifty spender. Oftentimes, I have bought concert or sports tickets last-minute, usually pretty impulsively. The last impulsive purchase, which I mentioned in a Facebook post Saturday, was the meet and greet for Demi Lovato this coming March. Now, it’s not like I didn’t know about it leading up. I knew the day it was going on sale in advance, but didn’t know the price. It was, however, impulsive in that I saw the price, knew it was more than I should spend, yet immediately bought it anyways knowing it would sell out fast. After an initial surge of excitement, I knew I had made a financial blunder. Not that I am not looking forward to meeting her, but I spent money well beyond my means.

You see, even when you think things may be looking up, when you may think you have everything under control, there’s a fine line between being positive and being overly optimistic. When I started taking medications for bipolar a year ago, I thought, “Great! Now everything is fixed and my life will take off!” Obviously, that hasn’t really been the case. When things didn’t happen quickly, I became a bit depressed for a period of time. I wrote in an earlier post how I had fixed my spending habits; I’d learned the value of saving money. Well, that hasn’t exactly been the case up until now.

I’m certainly not saying I haven’t had a lot of great experiences over the last few years. I definitely have, and am grateful. However, there has to come a point where I realize I can’t keep shelling out money for things I really can’t afford. I have made that statement before in the past, but the importance of this matter has reached a fever pitch, if you will. Unless I want to live at home forever, which I’m sure nobody wants to be the case, I have to start realizing what is really important when it comes to spending money.

As much as there have been unexpected/ negative things happen in my life, the point of this post isn’t to dwell on them or say how sorry I feel for myself. There are still a lot of positives I can identify, even though my life hasn’t exactly been a smooth ride since graduating from college.

For one, I still have a chance at life. As simple as it may seem, I have to be grateful I was able to get through my mom’s death. I have to be grateful I was able to get through the worst of my bipolar when it was untreated, along with coming to terms with being diagnosed with it. I have started to run again slowly after not being very active for a period of time, which is something I can be positive about and build on.

As frustrating as it may be to not have a career path right now, it is somewhat exciting. The possibilities are still wide open. Before my dad got his current job as a paraprofessional, I told him it only takes one interview or company to like you to get a job. It turns out he only had to go on one interview in order to get hired. I have to remind myself of that, as it is easy sometimes to dish out advice and not really take it to heart in your own life.

I am grateful for the support I have received from friends and family members. There are a lot of people who really do care, even though I can tend to trick myself into sometimes thinking I am not all that loved at all. Without people caring about me and noticing when things were amiss, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Things would be far worse. I may not have the same chance at life I mentioned earlier.

The point of my post, as the title says, is life isn’t always perfect or what you expect it to be. Although things haven’t happened at the speed I initially thought they would, I still have faith the things I expected upon graduating college will come sooner or later. I have faith things work out how they’re supposed to, even if you don’t see why when you’re in the thick of things. All I can do really today is try to learn from the mistakes I have made in the past, along with being as positive as I can about the future.

 

 

Meeting Halsey

Saturday night, I had the pleasure of meeting the singer Halsey, aka Ashley Frangipane, at the Prudential Center in New Jersey. I will tell the tale of the meeting, but I thought it would be good to give some background about how I became a fan and why I wanted to get the VIP.

As most reading this probably know, I have bipolar. Halsey has bipolar as well, and has been pretty open about it. She’s also done a great job of advocating for mental health. For this reason, aside from her artistry, I feel she is a person I can identify with and gain inspiration from.

My passion for her as an artist all started when I saw a girl do a cover of Halsey’s song “Colors” on YouTube in September of 2015. A song about a complicated love story that is filled with passion and heartache, it immediately caught my ear. I looked up the song and fell in love with the way Halsey sang it. Her voice was so beautiful and filled with emotion. I began to look up her other songs and became a fan pretty quickly.

Fast forward to October 2015, when it was announced Halsey would be playing at Madison Square Garden as part of her Badlands album tour in August 2016. Since I had loved Badlands, her debut album that came out August of that year, it was a no brainer for me to want to go. The day the tickets went on sale, I hopped on Ticketmaster and got a good seat. It was quite a thrilling feeling, as the show sold out rather fast.

The night of the show, as I detailed in another blog post, was one I was very depressed, and had been for quite some time. Without going into too many details of the concert, it really lifted me up and made me feel alive again. I think my connection with Halsey as a fan definitely grew stronger that night, as I was captivated by how she connected with the audience and gave different speeches throughout the show, one being about how she got her name Halsey during a train ride home from MSG after seeing the Halsey train stop. I was so impressed with her energy and the feeling she gave the crowd. I could tell not only that all the fans there loved her very much, but that she loved all of them back and fed off their energy.

Back on May 8 of this year, the VIP tickets went on sale for Halsey’s current Hopeless Fountain Kingdom tour. I really wanted to meet her and get the VIP, but they went on sale at 10 AM on a Monday. Knowing I would be at work, I was a little nervous. However, I was able to take my morning break at that time. When I got onto the Ticketmaster site, I saw there was a VIP ticket left, which may have been the last one.

My heart pounded rapidly as I clicked on it. It was a little bit of a gamble to buy the VIP because Hopeless Fountain Kingdom wouldn’t be coming out until June, but deep down I knew it would be a great album. Knowing it was not cheap at all yet thinking I had to seize the moment, I went through and paid for it. It was sort of a surreal feeling knowing I was going to meet her. Not only that, but the VIP tickets actually included a viewing platform on the stage itself.

Months passed and I gave some thought to meeting her from time to time, but it never really hit me until two days before the concert when I got an e-mail regarding the VIP check in instructions. Suddenly, I was overwhelmed with a feeling of excitement, as if I was watching a Red Sox playoff game. That is saying a lot, as I am a pretty passionate sports fan. Driving home from work that night, I could only think about that.

The day finally arrived and I hopped on the bus to NYC where I would then catch the train to Newark. I was excited, yet had a good amount of nerves too. What would I say to her? Will I make a fool of myself?

At last, the time to check in arrived. After being checked in and brought upstairs, the clock was ticking as I waited in line to meet her and get the pictures. I again had a surreal feeling, half-joking to myself that maybe she wasn’t really there and it was all a joke. I did talk with others who were going to meet her a bit, and luckily I wasn’t the only one who was nervous or unsure of what to do for the pictures. One by one, the fans who had met her ahead of me came out, each with looks of pure joy upon having just met her.

It eventually got to the point where I saw her tour manager Sheppard standing right outside the photo booth and there was only one person left before me. After he was done, Sheppard gave me the signal to go into the booth. I almost hesitated for a moment, somewhat not believing he was actually gesturing for me to go in and meet her.

Upon entering the booth, my nerves went away when I was greeted with the smiling face of Halsey with her arms outstretched for a hug. It was such a great and comforting feeling. She then said she liked my shirt and asked what poses I wanted to do. I didn’t come up with the final four until moments before, but I told her the ones I had in mind. She was so great and cheerful throughout. She then asked if I had come alone and told me not to worry, as I would make friends anyways. The security wanted to make each meet and greet pretty quick as there were a decent amount of people in line, but she gave me another hug as we parted and said “bye sweetie.”

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One of the VIP pictures

I heard many others saying how kind and thoughtful she was with them as well. She really seemed to appreciate the fans for showing her support and making their way to the concert.

The concert went great, as I was literally close enough to touch the stage with about fifteen other people in the standing room VIP viewing area. Seeing Charli XCX, another singer I also like, open for her was a great experience, although her set was quite short. I’d seen Halsey before, but up close was a whole different experience. She came right up to the VIP section several times.

At one point, Halsey talked about going from playing a show of a little over a thousand people to selling out Madison Square Garden in just 9 months. “I didn’t do this, you guys did. You need to get fans like mine and then you can do it too,” she told the crowd.

As an aside, in my opinion, being a fan of an artist is a more personal and individualized experience than being a sports fan. I just think it’s interesting to discuss a little since I was really a fan of sports first growing up. Rather than liking a sports team because of geography in most cases, you like a musical artist because you feel you can relate to their music in some way. Therefore, you probably have more in common with other fans because it says more about who you are as a person.

During a concert, the artist gets a chance to thank the fans or give a speech or do whatever they want to do, which you don’t see during a game. It’s also unique in the fact that they rely more on fans to get them to where they are. Without fan interest and streams and concert ticket sales, the artist wouldn’t be able to make a sustainable career. Athletes obviously need fans, yes, but they’re more reliant on teams and scouts and coaches to get drafted or get to the pros. For those reasons, I think being a fan of a musician is different and more special than anything else, but that is really another topic.

I could talk about the concert for another whole post really, but basically it was a special one because it was her “hometown” show as she had grown up in New Jersey. A highlight of the show came when she talked about growing up in NJ, stating that she has a deep and special connection with it.

With all the emotions I experienced in the last couple days, I feel somewhat tired still as I write this. However, I am very glad and grateful to have had the experience. It’s not every day you get to meet an artist you really love. Also not every day that I find a singer who I truly enjoy as much as Halsey. The meet and greet/ concert experience only made me more of a fan, and I am excited to see where she goes with her music next.

World Mental Health Day Poem

 

Depression and mania, how do you do?

For a while, I was well acquainted with you

My mind it raced all night long

I stood on the deck and belted a song

I’ll write a movie, I’ll write a book

The consequences got but one look

I could do anything, or so it seemed

I’ll be on The Voice, so I dreamed

Family and friends expressed concern

Anger and confusion began to burn

I thought I was fine, I thought I was great

Yet little did I know, I wasn’t thinking straight

I traveled to places near and far

Going by plane, train, bus, or car

Sleeping little, sometimes not a wink

I gave no thought to what others would think

But then as if a switch was flipped

Lower and lower, my mood it dipped

I sat at home and ignored phone calls

Higher and higher I built my walls

Sadness and despair engulfed my being

I could not believe what I was seeing

I had no hope, my dreams were gone

Scarcely venturing past the front lawn

The spunk, the pep, it disappeared

What will become of me? To myself I feared

Yet the switch came on again with no warning

It was a welcomed change, I tackled every morning

The confidence, the travel, it all came back

Hope and ambition, no longer would I lack

I reached out to people like there was no tomorrow

Eager to share the departure of my sorrow

Instead of being happy for my new state

They began to worry and contemplate

How did this happen so rapid, so quick?

There was no sign, not even a lick

Dumbfounded again at their concern

I had bipolar, I soon would learn

At first with fright and hesitation

I was ready to take on the nation

I fought and fought with all my might

Slowly realizing they may be right

The chemical imbalance in my brain

Doesn’t mean I am insane

Soon I began to take medication

That didn’t come without complication

A new combination proved fruitful

On taking them each day, I remained dutiful

My life’s not perfect to this day

But if you struggle with mental illness, let me say

You’re not alone, not isolated

Many go through this fight

It need not be so complicated

If the treatment is just right

Why Your Heart Isn’t Always Right

Oftentimes, you hear the phrase “Follow your heart and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.” It’s something that has been embedded into our culture. You see it all over the media. It has become the cliché answer for many famous athletes, musicians, actors, etc. to give when asked about what advice they have to those who want to pursue their dreams. While it may be good advice in certain respects, it can also be dangerous. I believe there is a fine line between doing what you feel is right and listening to others. While my case may be more extreme or unique than some, it is still something to consider. 

In the most recent manic phase I had last year, I would tell you I was doing not just fine, but great, when asked. I had lost a lot of weight, I was feeling optimistic all the time, was on my way to grad school in California. What could possibly be wrong? So, when many family members and friends expressed concern, I was quite honestly baffled. I thought maybe some were just jealous at my amazing transformation. How I went from depressed to on top of the world so quickly. They don’t know every detail, they don’t see everything that is going on, I thought to myself. I became angry when anyone said anything to me that contrasted with my point of view.

In my mind, I was just following my heart. I was doing what I thought was right, and not giving a care what others thought. Where did that get me? Well, as I detailed before, it got me to the point where I was both physically and emotionally spent, exhausted from a lot of trips from here to there, usually not getting great quality sleep along the way.

Finally, I started to realize that maybe others were right. Maybe my “heart” was actually leading me astray. I had fallen into the trap set by the people I looked up to. Anyone who says they “made it” without the help of anyone, without listening to advice from others, is lying. Too often, it seems more dramatic and amazing if a musician, or athlete, or anyone, paints the picture that they made it to where they are by “silencing all the haters” and doing things their way. You see, the idea that your heart will never lead you the wrong way is, quite honestly, not true, especially for people with mental illnesses.

Perhaps I am, as I said, an extreme example of how taking this advice too far can be dangerous. However, I am not here to say that pursuing a passion is always a bad thing. I have a passion for writing, for example, and am following it by writing this blog. The difference between this and the other things I “pursued” is that I am not worrying others by doing it. Rather, I have received a great amount of support and am grateful for that.

Yes, you may have to make sacrifices to do things that you want to do, to make your goals a reality, yet the idea that “people who criticize you just don’t get you” is not really the best advice. If you are leaving friends and family in the dust because you are pursuing your dreams, following your heart to the promised land, maybe it is time to rethink things a little bit. Is it really worth it to turn yourself into an island? It is possible that all these “haters” really do have a point. Most of the time, people who speak out, especially those that know you, are speaking from a place of concern and care, not because they are jealous and are trying to bring you down.

I am all for going after things, for taking risks and shooting for the stars. With my life’s mission unclear at this point, I find myself trying to listen more to others. Trying to take advice from others more seriously. The main point I am trying to make here is that nobody can become anything alone. In my opinion, the notion of individuality, the idea that you need to be unique and make a name for yourself by yourself, is one that has been taken too far.

This brings me to the flip side of the advice of not listening to anyone else. Another cliché is that “nobody can do anything alone.” While this advice can be dangerous as well, as you don’t want to depend too much on others, it is probably closer to the truth than “follow your heart and disregard the opinions of others.”

As I said before in blogs, I did have an attitude that I was taking on the world by myself. Let me tell you, it can be quite exhausting. It drains all your energy to constantly feel like you are defending yourself, trying to explain why you’re right and they’re wrong. It makes it especially difficult if you are doing this with close family and friends.

I was thinking of how I was going to build a life for myself, trying to draw inspiration from musicians, athletes, anyone, who I felt had made a success story by themselves. However, I didn’t really consider that these musicians had teachers growing up, that they had family who believed in them, and ultimately a record label to sign them, fans to support them, and radios to play their songs. Athletes always had coaches and numerous family members/friends to help them along the way.

This last paragraph may seem silly to some. You may have read it and thought “Well, duh, isn’t it obvious that you need support of others to achieve your goals?” Yes, it is obvious to many. However, when you’re caught up in the moment, in the midst of the worst period of a mental illness, things like that aren’t really so obvious. What is obvious to you is your world, your reality. That reality, however, is skewed by your brain chemistry, something you can’t control.

I guess this whole experience has made me more sensitive to others with mental illnesses. I certainly see how you can be caught up in your own world. No matter how much people try to tell you otherwise, you feel you’re right and they’re wrong. When people laugh and call others “crazy”, I think of how they may be suffering from some type of mental illness that they can’t control without the help of professionals or maybe medication. The catch 22 and sad part of all this, and the challenge to getting people to take the medication or see a professional, is that oftentimes people can’t see what may be off, just as I couldn’t when I was caught up.

Now, that last paragraph could become a whole post on its own, but I think it’s time to wrap things up. Like I said in the beginning, my case may not be an ordinary one of how not listening to others can go awry. However, I think it can apply to anyone. It can be little things, like if people are always telling you to try doing a simple little thing differently. Or if your mom is always on you, telling you not to wait until the last minute to do your homework. You see, I think anyone can benefit from trying to listen to the advice of others more, rather than trying to tackle the world head on by themselves. It is possible, maybe even probable, that the world would be a better place that way.

On a side note: This ended up being the longest post I have made so far. Before writing it, I was struggling to even find the words to say anything. I didn’t have some big inspiration I may have had in other posts. So, if you want to do something, sometimes the biggest thing is just taking the first step and then letting the pieces fall as they may.

It’s OK to Fly Solo

Many people who know me are aware I love going to concerts and sporting events. They also know that I frequently go to these types of events alone. I have been asked many times why I don’t go with others or what it’s like. Well, I decided to make this post to explain.

A pretty simple reason why I go alone frequently is I usually decide last-minute to go to these events. Being familiar with StubHub after using it several times over the years, I know the best way to get a good deal for a lot of events is to wait until the day before or oftentimes the day of to get a ticket. For this reason, it makes it more difficult to just ask someone at the last-minute to go somewhere. To be honest, I like the thrill of scoring a deal at the last-minute.

Overall, going to a concert or sporting event alone is not nearly as awkward of an experience as many may think. In my opinion, it doesn’t take away from the event at all being by myself. I sort of become one with the crowd in a way, especially at a concert. If you think about it, you are all there for a common purpose, to see the artist or team you love. Usually, there will be friendly people who will talk to me, whether it’s in line for the concert or at the seats at the Red Sox. I had a great talk the last Red Sox game I went to with a gentleman who had gone to Game 6 of the 2013 World Series by scoring a last-minute ticket just as he was about to go home and give up on scalping one.

I’ve met a lot of great fans at concerts as well. I remember waiting overnight to see Halsey at the Today Show in NYC this past summer and a group of girls allowed me to sit on their blanket. We ended up conversing a decent amount, sharing stories with another group and having a good time. It made me feel like I wasn’t really alone at all. Waiting to see Big Sean on Good Morning America this past summer as well, I met a nice guy from the Philippines who was studying in NYC for the summer. We ended up talking a good amount too and it made the the time go by pretty fast. Waiting in line for Melanie Martinez or other concerts, the excitement of everyone is palpable. Aside from a few outliers, you’d be surprised at how friendly most people will be, as they are all fans of the same artist and geared up for the concert.

Another benefit of going alone somewhere is you get to know the place or city a lot better. Usually when I went to the Red Sox or Bruins growing up, it would be with my dad. I didn’t have to coordinate anything, as I would rely on him to know when to get off the train and where to go. Finding seats alone seemed like a daunting task. Now, I have gone on the T several times by myself and have gotten relatively familiar with it. I have also navigated the NYC train system quite a few times, along with other cities, by myself. All of this gives you confidence that you can plan things by yourself and be independent in that way.

If anyone thinks they will be judged for going alone somewhere, I’m here to say that isn’t the case at all. Nobody really cares that you’re there alone. They’re not going to think you’re some weirdo or loser with no friends. As I said, you really do become one with the crowd. When I’m at a concert and singing along to the words or when Mookie Betts launches a home run against the Yankees, I tend to forget that I’m alone. I am experiencing a moment of ecstasy with thousands of other people.

Now, I’m not saying that I am against going to events with others. It can be a great time to go to the Red Sox or Bruins or Bruce Springsteen with my dad, relatives, or friends and share the experience together. The main thing, really, is that if I want to go to an event and nobody else is available to go, then I have no problem flying solo. So, if anyone out there reading this has any reservations about going to a concert or sporting event by themselves, I would encourage you to take the leap of faith and do it. I can almost guarantee you won’t regret it.

From Then to Now

Upon waking up, Facebook reminded me of a post I made a year ago. On this date, I announced my decision to leave Holyoke Medical Center after working there for almost two years. This caused me to start thinking about how my life is now compared to what it was then. Back then, my mind jumped rapidly from idea to idea, usually without any real reason. As I had explained in earlier posts, that could be called a manic phase. I was probably around the beginning, or maybe middle of it, but didn’t really know what was going on. I simply felt like I was doing really well considering I had been very depressed for the last few months.

The exact thought process is still somewhat hazy to me, as every decision happened so fast, but I remember at one point switching from planning on moving in with cousins in Springfield to deciding on a whim that I would go to grad school in California. Looking back, it is hard to see the logic in the decision. Possibly, I was thinking it was then or never to make a move for the future. I thought if I didn’t do something drastic right then and there, my life wouldn’t work out. Obviously, I didn’t decide to go to California for grad school. It definitely was the right decision, as I didn’t have the money for housing, nor was it planned out well at all.

A staple of the phase I was in last year was spur of the moment trips that were not planned out well at all. One of them included going to see the singer Melanie Martinez in DC and New York on back to back nights. Travelling by bus, I gave no real thought to the extra costs of food or the toll not having a real comfortable place to sleep would take on my body. Another spur of the moment trip was taken to Toronto to see the Blue Jays play the Orioles for the Wild Card game. Although a fun trip and great game, it was still a rather foolish decision to go there by myself and spend the money I did when you factor in the Air B n B, the food, the bus, and the ticket, among other things like a trip to the Hockey Hall of Fame.

The whole phase culminated in another spur of the moment decision to book a trip to California with no plans of where to stay really. I remember thinking I would visit the grad school, but one night ended up buying several tickets to concerts and a hockey game. I was luckily able to stay with a cousin who was kind enough to take me in, but the visit was cut short, as he could see I was very emotional. I was at a breaking point after all the crazy trips and travel. Again, I had no thought of the cost of getting around to all these concerts and events I had planned. I ended up selling all but one of the tickets. I remember breaking down right before the flight back home, as I had misplaced my wallet the night before in downtown LA. Thankfully, I was able to get it back eventually, as I left it at a convenience store, but again, that goes to show the state of mind I was in.

As the month has now turned to September this year, I am glad to have started a new position recently at a running store doing something I enjoy. After a couple of recent jobs didn’t work out, I am glad to find something more promising. Although still in training, I can see how gratifying it can be to fit someone with the right shoe. You have the opportunity to really help people out and possible change the quality of their life for the better.

I reread the article I shared last year to go with the post about leaving Holyoke Medical Center, which talked about the impact bias. The basic gist of it is that people overestimate their future happiness. Someone may think they will be so much better off when they get a new car, but the excitement soon wears off and they are back to living their normal life.

I fell into this trap somewhat when I started to take medications a little less than a year ago. I thought my life would take off and be perfect very quickly. Although it is definitely better, as I haven’t gone on any impulsive trips in the last year, it isn’t exactly how I imagined. For one, I thought I would have moved out of the house by now, but I am grateful to have a new job opportunity that will allow me to start saving at least some money. The whole point of the article was enjoying the now, the today. That is the real experience of your life, not some far-fetched future vision of what it may be and how happy you may be. As many have heard before, nothing is guaranteed but today. As cheesy as it may sound, it’s true. I shouldn’t be dreaming about how things will be if a certain event takes place. Rather, I should stay in the moment and try to enjoy what I have now.

If I had to describe my life now vs. a year ago, I would say it has seemed to slow down, but in a good way. I am no longer making rapid fire decisions for the most part. I am able to think about the whole picture of a choice and not put myself into those poorly planned situations. Jumping into something without a plan can be exciting and bold, but for the most part, it is more likely than not to lead to negative consequences. I’ve learned that it is OK to not have my whole future planned out, whereas at this time a year ago, I was in quite a rush to make things happen, with or without a solid plan.

At this point, I am trying to go with the flow more and trust things will work out how they are supposed to. I am probably more optimistic than I have been in a while at this moment. Unfortunately, I had a false or artificial sense of optimism this time last year due to my mind playing tricks on me. As tough as it was to finally realize that, I feel I am a better and stronger person now that I have been through it. The roller coaster ride of emotions I was on has now slowed down. As fun as roller coasters can be, I’d have to say I’m quite alright with hopping off the ride for now.

There’s A Song For That

Anytime you’re feeling blue

Here’s something I’ll say to you

Just turn on some music and soon you’ll say

I found a ditty to make my day

And anytime feelings of euphoria you exude

A multitude of tunes will mirror your mood

If you’re feeling peaceful like a dove

And want to talk to the man above

You know what to do

Yes, there’s a song for that too

When you’re feeling hopeless or lost

You’ll be surprised there is no cost

To listen to a song to carry you along

There is no right, there is no wrong

And do you know how many concerts there are?

There are a plethora near and far

All you have to do is hop in your car

Or a plane or train no matter where you are

When you get there, you will see

You don’t have to simply take it from me

Going to a concert can uplift anybody

And produce feelings of ecstasy

When the lights go out

There’s not a doubt

You think to yourself, “This is what life is all about.”

You feel connected with the crowd

You’re singing along nice and loud

Your favorite artist is standing there

Not one soul has a care

The connection is magic

To miss out would be tragic

There’s no better feeling in the world I swear

So come one come all, and follow my lead

For the advice I mentioned, I want you to heed

On a journey you will be taken

With the power of song, your soul will awaken

Red Sox/ Yankees Weekend Preview

This weekend, the Red Sox and Yankees face off for a crucial 3 game series at Fenway Park. The Red Sox will have either a 4 or 5 game lead over the Yankees going into it, depending on whether the Yankees win or lose tonight at the Mets. Though the Yankees have a 7-5 advantage in the season series, the Red Sox have won 4 of the last 7, including taking 2 of 3 last weekend at Yankee Stadium. No matter what happens, with a lot of talk about the rivalry being renewed with all the young talent on both teams, there should be a great buzz in the air at Fenway.  With 2 of 3 games last weekend going right down to the wire, fans of both teams should be in for a treat. Here, I give my analysis of the pitching match-ups, some questions/ keys I have going into the series, and ultimately, the prediction of who will win it.

Pitching Match-Ups:

Pomeranz (12-4, 3.39 era) vs. Montgomery (7-6, 3.94 era), Friday, 7:10 P.M.

This is possibly the most interesting pitching match-up, with both players coming off pretty solid outings in the last series. Pomeranz went 6 2/3 innings while giving up 7 hits and 3 earned runs in a win Saturday vs. the Yankees, while Montgomery went 5 1/3 innings while giving up just 2 hits and 1 earned run in a no decision vs. the Sox Sunday night, despite some hard hit balls for outs. Both pitchers have relatively similar stats this year and each had success vs. their rival the last time out, making this the toughest one to call as far as the advantage. If I had to give a slight advantage, it would be to Pomeranz, as the Sox are 15-8 in his starts this year, while the Yankees have gone 9-13 in Montgomery’s starts.

Sale (14-4, 2.51 era) vs. Sabathia (9-5, 4.05 era), Saturday, 7:10 P.M.

This is another intriguing match-up. While Sale has pitched very well in 3 starts vs. the Yankees this year, giving up just 3 earned runs, he has yet to earn a win, with the Sox scoring 4 runs total in those 3 games. In a dominating performance Sunday night, Sale registered 12 strikeouts in 7 innings against the Yankees while giving up just 1 earned run and 4 hits. Sabathia has been dominant against the Sox this year, beating them in both starts and giving up no runs. The Sox lost those games by a total of 11-0.

I would give the advantage to Sale here. Although it is possible he may not be quite as dominant the 3rd time around against the Yankees, Sabathia is just coming off the DL. That alone is cause to believe he won’t be able to replicate his first two starts against the Red Sox. Sabathia has struggled some against the Red Sox in previous years and I have a feeling the 3rd time this year will be the charm for the Sox against him. For reference, I had a feeling Luis Severino, who had been on fire, was due for a bad start. Last Saturday, he gave up 10 runs to the Sox. I also had a feeling the Sox were due to win a Sale start vs. the Yankees after losing the first 2, which they did on Sunday night. Here’s to hoping I’m right again.

Gray (7-7, 3.37 era) vs. TBD, Sunday, 1:35 P.M.

This one most likely favors the Yankees, depending on who the Sox start. Sonny Gray, who’s having a pretty decent year, has gone 6 starts in a row pitching at least 6 innings and giving up 2 or fewer earned runs. He’s allowed no runs in 2 of those starts. Doug Fister, coming off a rough outing on Monday, is a likely candidate to start, but the Sox aren’t sure whether he will or not.

Rick Porcello would also make sense since he would have 5 days rest coming off a start Tuesday. Although Porcello has been shaky in some outings, with a 7-14 record overall, he has gone 3-0 in August while striking out 19 batters and giving up 10 earned runs. While Porcello has been a far cry from last year’s Cy Young performance, he has showed signs he may be turning the corner. If the Sox do start Porcello, I feel they have a much better chance to win the game than if they started Fister. However, no matter who pitches, the Sox have shown an ability to come back and have produced some late inning magic this year, with 9 walk off wins.

Food For Thought:

Don’t Judge Me?

Everyone knows Aaron Judge started off the season on a tear, batting .329 with 30 home runs and 66 RBI. After the All- Star break, however, he’s been a different story, batting just .185. The pitchers adjusted to him and he is now in the midst of another historic run: 33 games in a row with a strikeout, the most ever in a single season. However, Judge has hit 2 home runs in the last 3 games, including a 457 foot bomb last night. He’s gone 4 for 13 in those 3 games, possibly showing signs he may be turning a corner. That could be bad news for the Red Sox. If Judge does turn things on this series, it could really spark the Yankees. Although he has been held in check this year vs. the Sox so far, with only one home run in the 12 meetings, it is only a matter of time before he does some damage. Could this be the series? We shall see.

Baby Sox Mania?

We all know about the Baby Bombers, but the Red Sox have some young talent of their own. When Rafael Devers hit a home run off Aroldis Chapman in the 9th inning to tie the game, everyone in the stadium, including the announcers, were shocked. The home run sparked the Sox to a 3-2 win in 10 innings. Devers has batted .348 with 6 home runs and 13 RBI in 18 games this year, showing no signs of being fazed by the MLB. Another hero of the series last weekend in New York was Andrew Benintendi, who has been on fire in August, batting .372 with 5 HR and 12 RBI in the last couple weeks. 3 of those home runs and 9 of those RBI came against the Yankees last weekend.

With a walk off hit last night, Mookie Betts is showing some signs he could have a big series. Xander Bogaerts also may be turning a corner, with a home run in the 9th inning last night, along with 3 hits on Tuesday night. If those four young guns can continue hitting well, the Sox will have a great chance to take this series.

Prediction:

The Sox will take two out of 3. Now, obviously I am a Red Sox fan, so this could be taken with a grain of salt. However, the Sox do, I feel, have the edge in 2 of the 3 pitching match-ups. That, combined with the fact that they have an AL best 38-21 home record and the Yankees are 29-33 on the road, should be reason to believe they can take the series. Even though these 3 games arguably mean more to the Yankees, there has been some real magic this year at Fenway Park, reminiscent of 2013.

Why a Fan is a Fan

Thousands of people are gathered in a stadium. A man steps up with a bat and smacks a ball high in the air. Now, none of these people know the man hitting the ball. Yet, they still want him to succeed in the worst way. As the ball sails further and further, the crowd rises and begins to yell. The ball finally lands over the fence, and the crowd is sent into a frenzy. Why is this? Why do millions of people call themselves baseball fans? Fans of a team of players they don’t know. They don’t have any actual say in what happens in games. Their life won’t change either way whether their team wins or loses. Yet, they still live and die with every pitch.

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Rogers Center, AL Wild Card game 2016, Orioles vs Blue Jays
Even as a big Red Sox fan for almost my whole life, the idea of being a fan still confounds me at times. I suppose it is more understandable for a kid to be a fan, to live and die with their team. After all, they are more innocent and haven’t really experienced as much in life. For an adult, however, it gets more complex. The thought of writing this article came to me this weekend really, as the Red Sox are in a crucial series with the Yankees, battling for first place in the AL East. Memories of old came back to me as it feels the rivalry, albeit different from the past, has been growing in intensity.

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Red Sox vs Orioles, September 2016
I guess you could say I was born into being a fan. Since my dad followed the Red Sox his whole life, I took to watching sports at a very young age. I would study the paper, soaking in all the stats and standings my little mind could handle. When I was around five or six, I tried to bargain with my dad, telling him I would sleep late if he let me stay up to watch a game that started at 10. I remember crying at maybe six years old as the Sox were eliminated from the playoffs , sitting with my dad listening to the game on the radio. At 11, I was heartbroken yet again when they lost the ALCS to the Yankees on a walk off home run. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one.

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Marcus Stroman of the Blue Jays, one of my favorite MLB players
As the years have gone by, I feel like the heartbreak when the Red Sox lose, the feeling that the world is over and nothing will ever be the same, has lessened quite a bit. Just a couple of days ago, the Red Sox blew a 3-0 lead in the 8th inning to the Yankees and ended up losing the game 5-4. Years ago, many objects in the house would have taken a beating and I would have been quite upset for a long time after. Not that I didn’t let out a few choice words this time. However, I didn’t react in quite the same way. I knew the Red Sox would have a chance to win the next day (which they did) and was able to get over the loss much quicker, without harming anything in the house.

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Red Sox celebrating after beating the Yankees, “Win Dance Repeat”, July 2017
Even though the losses are less bitter, I don’t really think the thrill of victory has lessened too much. Just as I was jumping for joy when Big Papi hit a walk off home run to win game 4 of the 2004 ALCS, I was thrilled to see Christian Vazquez drill one over the center field wall to complete a wild walk off win just a couple of weeks ago. I jumped for joy in the same spot in my living room as in 2004. The World Series win in 2013 for the Red Sox was a special one, arguably as exciting as 2004. After the Boston Marathon bombings, everyone remembers Ortiz proclaiming it was “our —- city” and the team rallying together for the city and all of New England, ultimately winning it all. I have fond memories of watching the last game at a bar at UNH, with a wild celebration taking place. Thankfully, I got out of dodge before things escalated too much.

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Yankee Stadium, July 2017
Maybe I just answered the question in that last paragraph, at least somewhat. Part of the reason fans are fans is that they feel the team is representing their city, their region, a large part of what they stand for. New Englanders want the Red Sox to win so badly because they feel they represent the characteristics of the region: toughness, tenacity, and the never say die attitude. Perhaps the reason fans love their team so much is they have fond memories of watching games growing up with their dad, or their friends and other family members.

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Big Papi’s last game in Yankee Stadium, September 2016
When you go to a game with thousands of other people cheering as that ball hit by that man who you don’t know sails over the fence, you feel a connection, a sense that you are all there collectively willing the team to victory. In some ways, watching the game night in and night out, you do begin to feel as if you know the players, at least you know the way they play the game and what they’re like on the field and towards the fans/media. When players like Big Papi give speeches to rally a city as he did in April of 2013, it makes you believe that these players, at least some, are in it for more than just the millions of dollars and the fame. Some really do care about the fans, the city and team they represent, and it shows. That is why fans are fans. That’s why they watch so many games, live and die with every pitch, and shell out thousands of dollars over a lifetime just to watch these guys play. So, the next time someone questions why you do what you do, why you’re a fan, just stop and look around when you’re at a game. You’ll know you’re not alone.