Happy

I have a playlist of songs on my phone that has the same title as this blog. They are songs that make me smile, songs that I love to sing along to, songs that simply make me happy. I listened to the playlist a lot last year. When I was having a bad day, or missing home I would put on the playlist, trying to manufacture happiness when I really wasn’t feeling that way. It didn’t always work, but the songs would still bring memories to mind that made me smile.

Lately, I find myself listening to that playlist for all the right reasons. I listen to it when I’m having a great day, and I find myself listening to it more and more all the time. I feel better than I have for a long time, I’m happier than I’ve been for a while. I am really starting to enjoy school. I’m taking advantage of the Rec Center classes to try something new, trying new foods, making new friends, getting a part time job. I’m already making plans for the summer and beyond. Plans that include a trip to BJAC with some of my best friends, a semester abroad, a Birthright Trip and so much more.

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Wave’s agility is looking better than it ever has. She’s dabbling in 24″ and handling it so incredibly well. She’s a far cry away from the dog who used to demolish every jump on course. I’m learning to expect her to jump well and keep the bars up. I used to run a course and wait to hear the bars coming down. This is a much better way to run. Her contacts are getting faster, and her poles are more reliable. I finally feel like I can begin making plans for her too, not just my own. Plans of tryouts and nationals, and I truly believe that when I make those goals, she will be ready for them. She will have the skills she needs. This is the first time that I’ve truly felt that way about her. I look forward to training her again. She makes me laugh, and think, and she challenges so much that I thought I knew. Training has become fun again. I look forward to my weekly classes, and training in a way that I haven’t in a really long time. I’m planning my training sessions better, taking more notes, and having more fun doing it.

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This week Wave had an amazing night at class. She jumping was perfect, her poles successful, and she excited a really tough serp perfectly. Something that I’ve always been concerned with in agility is the rhythm. That feeling when you and your dog are on the exact same beat, it’s calm and collected, and just feels so perfect. This week was one of those days. A luxury of training on mats is the ability to hear when the rhythm changes. You can hear when footfalls become frantic or off the beat. But it is those runs where it’s quiet. You don’t hear scrambling or frantic feet, you just hear the flowing sound of the dog’s feet and yours. I live for those moments.

I’m excited for what lies head, both in a and out of agility. I’m excited for new experiences, seeing old friends, and everything in between.

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Prepping

I leave this weekend for my first EOTT. An EOTT that I was not planning on attending, one that I sent in an entry for just 12 hours before closing. In the moment it felt silly, and not practical, but I jumped in anyway. And so, I had about three weeks to prep for an event, along with college life, and making new friends. But having the goal of EOTT made me more excited than I’ve been in a while.

I was home last week for Thanksgiving, and I spent most of that time binge-watching Scandal with my mom, which is one of our favorite things to do (besides agility of course). And while I was home I was looking at the chalkboard wall in my room, one that has been filled with goals, and quotes, and plans for the a long time. But before I left for school last year, I wrote my mom a quick note on it, just telling her I loved her, and that note has stayed there all this time. But beneath that note, you can still see the goals that were written there previously, the top ones being “Get into an Ivy” and “AWC”, among many others. And one of those goals was EOTT 2015. The EOTT 2015 goal had been written there 3 years ago, with a quick note from my mom that simply read “get moving”. It’s funny that now I am attending that event, and only had 3 weeks to prepare.

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The idea of attending EOTT has been in the back of my head for a while… apparently since 2015, but I have never attended. This summer my mom said that I should bring Zippy, one last hurrah for my boy. But it felt dumb, it felt like there was no point. But more importantly, it felt like admitting failure. At the beginning of the year I had the dream of taking Wave to EOTT this December. It was a big goal, but one that didn’t seem unattainable. It soon because obvious that we weren’t ready for competition like that, and so goals got readjusted like they have so many times before. And when the idea of taking Zippy came up, it felt like admitting that Wave wasn’t good enough, that Zippy, my mom’s dog, was the only one I would have the chance to realize those goals with. That’s obviously not true, but I was discouraged, and so the idea was brushed off.

Fast forward to this fall, and my friend asks me to go to EOTT with her, a fun trip to go and watch some great competition. I agreed, and then my mom brought the idea of bringing Zippy back up. And suddenly, it made all the sense in the world. If I’m going all the way there, why not bring him. Managing my mental game has always been tough for me, and this would be a great place to practice. And so I entered, and immediately began studying course maps.

Last week, I realized what attending EOTT meant for me, this year, in this moment. I was always too scared to enter before, too scared to face that failure. But now I know that there isn’t any failure that can come from this weekend, only growth and learning. And I couldn’t be more excited to lay down some runs with my best boy.

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Quiet

I took a break from writing. And I’m not sure why, other than I felt like I lost my voice. I’ve felt that I didn’t have much to say, or that what I had to say didn’t matter. That’s not a feeling I’m accustomed to. I have always been opinionated, maybe a bit too much so, and have never had trouble speaking up. But recently I’ve had trouble writing. Nothing I write sounds like me. It hasn’t felt honest.

A lot has changed since my last blog post. I left Bucknell, and started at UMass, a whole summer has come and gone– a summer that consisted of a best friend coming to visit, a Regional event, and many s’mores. A first title, a blue ribbon, an A on exam have all happened in recent months. I’ve been at my new school for just about two months, and I’m finally settling in. Settling in to training with someone new, making more time for myself and for my dog, and for allowing myself to work through everything I’m feeling.

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Fall has always been my favorite season, and not only because of my birthday (by the way, I’m not a teenager anymore and I’m kinda freaked out about it), but fall has always been a fresh start. New pencils, new teachers, and even new schools. My mom always joked that college was the best time of your life because you could be anyone you wanted to be. You could reinvent yourself into the person you always wanted to be. And that always made sense to me. Except now I’m realizing that’s not really true. Who we are is who we are. And yes we grow, and change throughout our lives, but who we are at our core isn’t very variable. We are who we are.

I made a goal this year of staying connected with the people who matter most to me. I have a tendency to assume that the other person will reach out, and so I don’t have to. But that’s not how friendships work, and I’m working on being better at it. This means keeping in contact with my friends who live across the country, or those who are in Europe. I’m taking the time to see some of my favorite people more, and making sure to keep conversations going with them. Because your people matter, and I seem to be learning that more and more all the time.

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My brain is always running at 100 miles an hour. Its just how I’ve always been. There isn’t much down time in my head. Decompression is a skill I have had to grow better at, whether it takes the form of a hike, or a nap, I’ve gotten better at quieting down my head. Today, as I was walking through the woods with Wave after a good jump training session I noticed something: my thoughts weren’t racing. I wasn’t obsessing over what had happened in our training session, or thinking of all the homework I had to do when I got back, or anything else. I was just there, in those woods. I was just being.

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Thats not something I’m used to. And I could point to a couple changes in my life recently that could point to why that happened, but it was a welcome change. I was able to just embrace what was happening in my life at that moment without worrying about the past, or the future. And so while I don’t think we can change who we are, I’m learning that a lot of growth happens when we’re not expecting it to. Sometimes you’ll notice a big change when you’re walking through the woods and you’ll be ready for it.

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Keep Going

I seem to go through waves (ha) in life. Sometimes, I have so much motivation and energy to accomplish all my goals, and others, usually after a bit of time when I don’t feel like progress is being made, I have a huge lack in drive. I train out of habit, and don’t put my all into it. And this seems to be something I go through in most things in my life.

I often feel like I don’t do enough. I don’t write enough, I don’t train enough, I don’t study enough, the list goes on. And then I’ll get a spur of motivation, a hint of a goal, and I do all the things. This January that was the thought of EO tryouts in December, and a new online class that I wanted to be on the top of the leaderboard for. And so January was filled with training. Wave was conditioning, and remembering how to use her brain in a way we hadn’t put into practice in a while. And things were going really well, I was excited, and we were really loving the game again. And then she ripped a pad on her foot. Not a big deal, nothing to freak out about, but suddenly we couldn’t play for a few weeks. And not having the option to play real agility didn’t make me want to train little stuff in my dorm room, instead we just hung out. And maybe because this coincided with the semester picking up, and the magnitude of the classes I’m taking coming into full force, and the addition of a part-time job, and the daunting prospect of transfer apps, but all the sudden there were so many things that I didn’t want to do. So many things that I couldn’t manage to get done, and frankly, didn’t try my best at.

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Because of who I am, I don’t settle for being mediocre. I never have, probably never will, and I hate feeling like I’m not good at something. And so when I couldn’t figure out how to steam coffee right at my part-time job, and I got a B- on the test I thought I aced, I was mad. I got angry at myself and angry at school because I must just not be good at college. College just must not be where I am going to thrive. I think this was the pressure of the idea of applications talking, but when I called my mom crying, convinced college just wasn’t for me, and that I was going to hate the next three years of my life, she reminded me why I was here. That I wanted to go to college to find myself, to learn, and to figure out who I am, and want to be as a person. College isn’t about being the best, its about doing your best. And thats a hard concept for me to grasp. My best has almost always made me the overall best, things that I haven’t succeed at, or haven’t been the best at have been the things that I haven’t tried my best at. And so coming to college, and trying my very best and not being the best, and still getting that B- really shook me. And when this same thing happened a couple of times it really made me think that I simply wasn’t good enough, and that college would constantly be a struggle. and that just isn’t a feeling I am used to having, and I didn’t know how to react to that. Do you come back fighting, and study impossibly harder for the next test? Do you say okay, and learn to accept a B, and allow yourself to step back from obsessing about grades?

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And so for the past few weeks I have just done my best. And right now that best may not be my usual best, but its my best right now. I’ve been focusing on school, taking things one step at a time. Last night I managed to get my application in to Brown, because that still is the goal, and will work on my next few over the next couple weeks. Wave has been home for about a week, and will stay there until spring break, and I couldn’t miss her more. But right now my focus had to be on school, and getting my applications in. Taking agility out of it, Wave still takes up lots of time and energy that I just didn’t have time to spare for the time being. And so agility has taken a backseat, because its had to. My leaderboard spot on the online class has fallen, boxes on my training plans for February went unchecked, but that is the way it had to be.

So what do you do when you really feel like your best isn’t enough? You keep going, you continue trying your best. You keep doing what you are doing because that is your best, and that is all you can ask from yourself. The rest is out of your control. You keep training, you keep studying, you just keep going.

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This blog wasn’t much about agility, which is rare for me. Most of my writing, and free thoughts focus around that, but that hasn’t been the biggest part of my life for the past few weeks. And so it is what it is. Agility will make its way back into my main focus, once apps are sent in, and things are checked off my ever-growing checklist. And in just about a week I’ll get to snuggle my Wave, and play a little agility, and press the reset button.

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Searching and Finding– 2017

I haven’t sat down and written in awhile, too long really. Most of my writing has been in the form of lab reports or essays, and there hasn’t been nearly enough writing from my heart.

A lot has happened since my last blog post– I finished my first semester of college, survived finals, and made the Dean’s List. Wave had her first trial, learned contacts, and came very close to a Q. My last post was all about finding, or making a home wherever you are. Finding your people, trees, and training where you are, even if it is hours away from what you consider home.

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2017 caused me to confront a lot of things about myself. Being denied from colleges, graduating high school, moving to another state and starting a new chapter in my life will force you to do that. 2017 was a year of growth– it had to be. The same kid who applied to colleges almost a year ago to the day, couldn’t move 8 hours away and be independent. I had to realize what I wanted from the four years of my life, and beyond. I had to leave my comfort zone, and push to be better. That came in the form of attending tryouts, and being successful there, to traveling to another coast, to entering Wave’s first trial.

Along those same lines of growth and confrontation of self, comes the idea of making changes when they are necessary. This means realizing that maybe the school I chose in April really wasn’t the best choice for me. And that is okay, it is okay to say that something isn’t working out, and look to make changes. I love my school for the academics, I love the class sizes and the opportunities, but I am not happy with the location. I didn’t realize that I wanted a school with more things around, more to do. Figuring that out was important, I know what I want in a college, and can now make a better descion now if I decide to transfer. Last Spring I thought I knew exactly what I wanted in a college, and on paper Bucknell checked all of those boxes. The campus was beautiful, the classes were small, and I could bring Wave. But being surrounded by farm land, with no so much as a mall within a 100 mile radius isn’t something I like. The social scene at school is good, but there are only so many frat parties someone like me can go to without loosing my mind. And so, I am trusting my gut when it says that I can be happier somewhere else, that I could enjoy my college time more than I think. And so that means diving back into the process that I disliked so much– college applications. And so the spring will be stressful, and filled with a lot of the same anxiety that I felt this time last year, but now I know. I know what I want and don’t want in a school, and I really believe that I can make a decision that will ultimately make me happier.

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Going to school meant training without my people, those who saw me through my worst, and my best, and supported me through all of it. I was, and still am to an extent,  unconfident in my training skills. I don’t always believe that is where my talent lies within this sport. I get caught up in the theory of training, and mentally making plans, and often don’t find myself doing the physical training enough. Some of that stems from being a perfectionist, which I’ve written about before, and some of it stems simply from a lack of confidence and trust in myself. And so going to Pennsylvania terrified me. It’s no secret that Wave is not an easy dog when it comes to agility. She is amazingly talented, but she is not an easy dog to train. There have been months when it feels like no matter how hard we train, no progress is being made. But we continued to plug away, and since leaving for school she has blossomed into an agility dog. Her contacts, something I put off for so long, are fantastic. And my favorite part of those contacts are that I trained them on my own. It was my training that made those contacts so strong, fast, and confident. And for that I am incredibly proud of both myself and my dog. It was not easy to go away with a dog, a goal, and not much of a plan to college, but in the four months we were out there, we have begun to become a team.

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2017 was a year of finding myself, trusting myself, and following that. I am still trying to figure out who I am, and who I want to be. I am trusting myself on this process, whether it be in training contacts, or knowing that I can be happier in a different place, I am trusting. And so I am going into 2018 ready.

Enjoy this video of my crazy year.

Here, and Now

Almost a month has passed since I moved into a college– since I moved into a new place knowing no one, since I left the safe bubble that is home. Biology quizzes, calculus homework, and my first essay have all come and gone. We’re settling in here, into our routine, into being independent. A month has gone by, which seems impossible because how has a month already gone by, but also how has only a month already gone by?
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I didn’t realize how many places and people had become our home over the past 18 years, but especially the last few. Horse barns, and dusty buildings, and our patch of woods had all become home. I found myself in the past year, I figured out who I was and who I wanted to be, which I guess is a side affect of growing up, but it also felt like more than that. It felt like overcoming a lot of the things that I needed to. I had finally felt comfortable in my life when I had to leave everything I knew– I think that was why it was so scary to me. I had carved my little place that was home, with all the people in it I needed, and I didn’t ever want to leave that place. When I moved into school I suddenly felt like I was the same freshman who went into high school four years earlier. I felt shy and nervous, and was trying my best to make sure people liked me. I forced myself to get over the fear and the nerves and acted like the “me” I was at home. The me that I really liked, who was funny and outgoing, and felt comfortable with herself. Once I overcame the scary freshman stage I began to feel comfortable here too. I fell into a routine that seemed to work for both Wave and I, that involved early morning walks, and frisbee, and getting out of our dorm room as much as possible. I found friends who I really like, and I enjoy spending time with. Friends that I can do all the #CollegeThings with but who can also sit in my room and talk for hours.

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The first two weeks I missed home so much. I missed my people. Too many of my friends were still at home, awaiting their turn to load up the car and head to their respective schools, and I couldn’t help but feel like I was missing out. I couldn’t help but feel like I was missing out on the latest shenanigans at class, or the nights at the barn that always lasted too long for all of us, but we soaked in every minute. I was having trouble enjoying what I was doing here because I was too focused on what I was missing at home. Slowly my friends all headed off to school to start their own adventures, and I began to miss home a little less. I made a few friends, fell in love with my neuro class, and missed home even less. And that brings us to now.

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It wasn’t until I began to stop missing home so much that I began to miss agility. I had missed all that agility had brought to me, the people, the laughs, the pure happiness, but I hadn’t missed the actual game. I think I could only miss one thing at a time– so I missed home and everything that meant, and when that faded I immediately began to miss my sport. Wave and I played agility for the first time in almost a month tonight and I am completely over the moon. I feel in tune with her again, and with myself. I had missed agility but in the past week I had missed it so much more. So we played tonight, and Wave is tired, and my heart is full.

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The other day I was using my GPS on my phone and it said I was 15 minutes from home. It took me a minute to realize that it had readjusted and “home” now mean Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. I wanted to shout that this was not my home, and that my home was seven hours away where all my people were. But then I realized that this was my home now. That doesn’t make Home any less of my home, but this can be a home too. And the more Bucknell feels like home, and the more we make it feel like home (cue more agility instantly) the more we like it here.

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College was a big adjustment, and we’re still figuring it out. But I don’t miss home that much anymore. I’ve figured out how to make here feel like home, and its pretty nice here too.

Change

Change has always been a word that scares me. I don’t do well with it, and in my perfect world, nothing would ever change. Life is not that consistent, and never will be– change might be the only thing we are guaranteed (also death and taxes, but not the point).

I spent close to two weeks this summer visiting an EOJ teammate. Another teammate came up and spent a few days playing agility and the whole experience was incredible. We played agility, a mountain, camped and cut lots of our hair off together. I didn’t get homesick really, which was a big surprise to me until my flight home got cancelled. In reality it wasn’t a big deal and I got home only 12 hours later than I had planned, but I was ready to come home and like I said, I don’t do well with change.

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I’m writing this instead of packing for school. Im writing this about 20 hours before I head to Pennsylvania. The past week or so has been filled with goodbyes, something else I hate, and don’t do well with. Goodbyes to friends, and mentors and those people who are both. Last night I said goodbye to my best friends. We hugged and said “see you in a few months” and tried not to cry (I haven’t had to say goodbye to my mom yet, still have a few more days with her thankfully). I’ve already planned my trips home and it won’t be long, but goodbyes are still difficult. Saying goodbye to my high school, mostly the teachers, wasn’t something I had expected to be so hard for me. I was so excited to leave high school but when it finally came time to do that in early June I was shocked at how I felt. I said goodbye to the teachers who changed my life, the people who helped make me a better person, a lot of the friends who were just school friends, but held a special place in my heart. I realized that I was saying goodbye to the familiarity of high school, the safety of a routine, the comfort of the known. As I get ready for college I’ve realized how little I know about it. In reality, I don’t know what my life will be like in college. I don’t know what to expect, and I think that is the scariest part to me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m endlessly excited for a new chapter in my life, but not knowing what to expect is giving me trouble.

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The other night my mom and I talked about agility while I’m at school, what jumps to bring, where to train, where to trial. All of the sudden I will have to play agility without my mom which is something I have never done. Agility has always been our thing. For the past eight years we have spent countless hours every single week driving to class, analyzing runs, and signing our favorite songs. That part of agility is over for us, and that is really scary to both of us. We will still compete together, and train as much as possible together, but it won’t be every week anymore. I’m so thankful for the bond my mom and I share through this sport. We choose to spend time together, and enjoy almost every minute of it. I will always be thankful to this sport for giving us that.

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When I leave for Pennsylvania in ~20 hours, I don’t know what to expect. I have plans and an idea, but I don’t think that anyone can really know what college is like until you’re there. But I’m excited, I truly am, and that’s a new revelation for me because up until a few weeks ago I was just nervous. Nervous of the change, and not knowing what to expect. But now I’m a mix of both, and I think thats how every freshman feels. Though, not every freshman gets to bring their speckled force of nature who makes everything better.