Fame to shame and back again

The high school’s athletic department spelled my last name wrong on my first-ever MVP plaque for varsity cross country in 2006. Trevor, the men’s MVP recipient and my then-senior-in-high-school brother, hadn’t noticed the misspelling on his own plaque.

The physical education teacher apologized profusely, taking them back and promising to have them redone.

34119_1433227322690_1029585_nThat plaque –– with my properly spelled last name –– hangs on the lime-green wall in my bedroom at my parents’ house… next to the 2010 version, and above the 2007, 2008 and 2009 versions. Five straight years; every season I ran for the varsity women’s team.

Under the 2010 cross country plaque begins a similar saga for track: 2008, 2010 and 2011.

I had no idea that, when I finally hung the plaques up last Christmas, they’d be taunting me in a year.

To shove my award-winning past down my throat even further, there are plaques for school records held and MVP plaques/sportsmanship awards for individual races/meets/seasons.

34579_1433228162711_6570496_nNow I find racing bibs, seed number stickers and individual metal spikes in my childhood bedroom and throw them out without a second thought or glance.

That 100-pound life of mine? It’s been over for more than two years since I decided to pursue a different kind of lifestyle in college. And I’ve found success –– a lot of success, actually –– but I’ve also let my body down.

I feel like shit probably 75 percent of the time now. My doctor says I’ve reached a healthy weight, proportional to my 5’2″ stature and the lifestyle I lead, but I’m reminiscent of those high metabolism days when eating my weight in food refracted on the scale instead of reflecting.

Achieving a healthy weight doesn’t mean I’m entirely happy with the loss of tone in my muscles, the weight gain in my face and –– while this may seem like a perk –– the need to buy new bras to support a larger cup size.

I’m fuller, more of the hourglass figure women so desperately want… but I’m about ready to trade it in.

I stopped running because I hated it, the running part, I mean. Not to mention the drama on my college cross country team (almost wrote “country” without the ‘o’…not on purpose, I swear!) and coaching methods I did not particularly agree with. Maybe building a method of my own and running on my schedule will be the breath of fresh, cold and wintry air my cabin fever needs in order to be sweated out. Not to mention the 10 pounds I’d really like to shed.

So I’ve invested $100 dollars in my new RUN-BECAUSE-IT’S-HEALTHY-FOR-YOU,-EMILY initiative.

$30 on new Sauconys (the comfiest running sneaker you’ll ever find; I snagged a deal at Dick’s).

$60 on a new sports bra (you pay a hefty price for…well…having a hefty chest).

$11 on bluetooth earbuds (originally $40; I had Amazon credit to use).

So screw you, lime-green wall.

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Welcome home

Home doesn’t feel like home anymore.

Sure, the dogs greeted me and Weezie the cat made a few appearances, but it’s not my home.

My childhood bedroom with its lime green, sky blue, raspberry pink and orangey orange walls close me in after branching out too far.

I can’t relate to 13-year-old Emily anymore. She’s the one who picked those colors and the bedding. I’m still very colorful, but I shed experiences every time I walk through the doorway. I’m back to the beginning, making the glow-in-the-dark flowers on the ceiling into triangles of Mickey Mouse’s nose and ears. My drawers are full of abandoned poetry books, cellphones and hair accessories. My bedroom door took a beating during my “nobody understands me!”, braces-clad phase. Returning is a bit debilitating and a hit to my morale.

I’m so happy with where I am now.

It’s a new place I am making my own. I’m discovering the area’s quirks, little by little. Thirteen-year-old, metal-mouthed Emily used to gaze in wonder as her oldest brother, Jordan, showed the family around the Chautauqua Institution, an area unbeknownst to us. Now 19-year-old Emily is doing what Jordan did.

I run and check out the neighborhoods. I brought my bike back with me from home this past weekend and discovered a really neat park tonight where I plan to spend a lot of my summer. And you just can’t beat the main, bustling street full of family-owned shops and boutiques. I find something new every time I walk/run/bike down it.

I’m secure with being alone and doing things for me. Running for me. Biking for me. Finding new nooks and new swingsets to swing the evenings away on.

And then watching the sun set every night:

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Believing ain’t easy

I almost started crying when I entered the room with the high ceilings. I could still hear our laughter and heavy breathing as we darted in and out of the rows of pews. Fresh in my mind was the vision of us kids running around in the darkness while our parents socialized in the next room. I could still see him looking up at me, for I was taller than him the last time I encountered his presence. That has changed, I’m sure.

It was weird to be back, albeit nice. Except, there were things that weren’t nice. My grandma was scowling like a jealous schoolgirl and things had changed too much. Not only was the basement a mess, but the parsonage had been burned to the ground. Stress was something I could feel strongly in the air. Its prominence burned me much like the charred pile of former house innards laying out in the January winter.

There was no choir. There was no organ; just piano. There were no children that I recognized, there was nobody my age up in the back, getting ready to snuff out the candles after the service to signify their job as an acolyte.

“We stopped doing that,” she said. Well, I think that kind of sucks.

There was no comfort. Or, at least there was very little. The only times I cracked a smile was when Papa fell asleep here and there and when I heard the voice of my favorite choir member singing behind me. At least he was there to provide me with a sense of normalcy; even if it wasn’t a very big chunk of it.

There’s also the issue of not necessarily believing. What am I to do about that? I know I pleased my grandparents by acting as their chauffeur and acting as something they could show off to their friends, but I don’t know if I see this becoming a regular thing. It was fun to make them happy, but if I don’t believe, what am I to do? Sit there every Sunday with a blank look painted on my face, much like I displayed today?

I’m glad I did it. I don’t regret it. I just wish I wasn’t so shrouded with disbelief. Believing comes to other people so easily…why can’t it be that easy for me?

For everything there is a season

It was like greeting an old friend as soon as my feet found the pavement. The snow had melted just enough and the air seemed balmy in all its glory of forty degrees Fahrenheit. I’ve always found it amazing just how different forty degrees can be, depending on the perspective you’re taking. When the seasons change from summer to fall, 40 degrees seems like the coldest temperature on earth. But, when the winter chill backs off a bit and lets in some of that 40-degree air, it’s as if spring has come early. It’s the same temperature and yet, it’s different.

I had considered making up a quick playlist of songs I could listen to while I ran, but I opted to leave my iPods at home, instead. The birds sang as I left the cul-de-sac I have lived on my whole life and let my legs carry me out to the main road and down the hill. I was surprised at how good I felt and let that carry me through the pain as muscles were put back into use after remaining dormant for nearly two months. The pain gave me something to think about and something to distract me from the mountain of homework I had to do and the hardships I had been dealing with on a regular basis.

When I was running, I didn’t have to feel anything but the pain from the exertion I was putting my body through. When I thought about it hard enough, I could feel my heart pounding in my chest, but if I just let my mind wander and let my legs do my thinking for me, nothing really mattered. I ran by a business that owes my dad money and considered trashing it. But, I didn’t. I kept running and made my way toward the hill that stood menacingly in the not-so-distant distance.

My energy deteriorated once I reached the top, but I kept on running. I reached my halfway mark and kept going. I thought about how natural it is for me to run and how effortless it can be once I am in good shape to do it. I thought about the summer and how the three of us took part of this same route in an effort to be in shape for cross-country season. I thought about how fast the time goes and how it doesn’t make sense to try and cherish every moment. If you’re too busy cherishing, you’re not living. You’re just trying to keep it in your memory forever. A memory should be something you remember effortlessly, not something you save onto the desktop in your brain so you can click on it and wait for it to load.

I decided against taking a shortcut and instead went the whole way around and back to my street. I took a left, ran down to the green Pennysaver box and then took a right, thinking in my head about that last 200m that I face with every race I run on the track. I ran halfway up my slushy driveway and then bent over to catch my breath. I always do this, and then I bend my knees carefully before reaching my full height (5’2″ if you were wondering) and then walking around a little bit, my hands over my head.

I entered through the side garage door, made my way through the traffic blocking my way to the house door (sleds, snowshoes, etc) and shed my running sneakers (New Balance this year – a brand I never really gave a chance until over the summer), grabbed my already-full glass of water off of our butcher block-esque island and downed it in a second.

My ears stung from the cold and my breathing was wheezy with each inhale and exhale I made.

“How’d you feel?” my dad asked.

“All right,” I replied. “I started out too fast and was dead by the end, but it felt good to run. I’m gonna go lay down now.”

I entered the family room and plopped onto our brand-new couch to catch my wheezy breaths. After thirty minutes passed without my daddy turning on the TV, I went upstairs and grabbed The Lovely Bones and continued reading from where I had left off right before daddy had picked me up at the school just barely an hour previously. We sat there, father and daughter, reading our books of choice: his a Yankee book that someone had gotten him and mine a novel that had been made into yet another movie based off of a book. He wore one of his many pairs of $0.99 reading glasses and I wore the sweat and dirt of a girl who had almost made it through one of the toughest weeks of her sixteen years of living, and was coming out on the other side unscathed and perfectly fine.

At 4 o’clock, I tossed my book down and ran the shower upstairs in the bathroom that all of my brothers had vacated and bestowed unto me (we painted it a light brown and pretty light blue and got rid of the old Mickey Mouse theme that had previously reigned).

Before shedding my clothing, I focused on the length of my hair in the mirror. Back in ninth grade, it was a shock of bright-red curls. Now, it’s back to its normal color (brown/blond/red depending on the season and amount of sun received), though the curls have been kept (I have not dyed my hair since November 2008). I’ve decided that I want it to be long for when I take my senior pictures. I thought to myself Oh yeah, it will be long enough by the summer after this one!

And then it hit me.

I will be taking my senior pictures this summer. It’s crazy just how much time flies and how one change in your thoughts can create a chain-reaction of changes throughout your entire mind. At the moment, I am halfway through my junior year of high school. In June, I will sing in the Chamber Choir and watch some of my best friends ever don those white and blue robes and graduate from our little sliver of the universe and move on to bigger (and better) things. This hit me hard because I realized that I haven’t exactly enjoyed my high school experience that much. In recent months, Misery had taken over my entire being and forced me to look at everything pessimistically. But now, happy little Emily is back, and she plans on staying happy and little until she is forced to grow up in a year and a half.

The cherry on top

I had two choices.

Either I lose my sanity and do the musical this year, or I keep my sanity in check and just focus on school and running instead.

Guess which option I chose?

If you’re thinking the first one, you’re an idiot. I may be crazy enough as it is, but I still have my sanity. I think.

Anyway, they changed the musical to “The Wiz” and I was like, “see ya!” And, that’s that. I’m done. I chose my road, remember? It doesn’t involve the yellow brick one that probably appears in “The Wiz.” I chose the lovely red brick one.

So, instead of spending my nights at the school, I’ve gotten stuff done. Good stuff.

I did a project on the novel Jane Eyre. It definitely had the “wow” factor to it. I made a powerpoint, and modeled the sentences after the Dick & Jane books. (Ex: See Jane. See Jane run. Jane runs fast. Run, Jane run!) The best part? Because I was trying to get the point across that Jane Eyre is, in fact, gothic literature, I used Emily The Strange as Jane. Yeah, that’s right. 13-year-old Emily starred in my little movie as Jane Eyre. I was so proud of myself, and I could tell that my AP English teacher was impressed. The icing on the cake? The cherry on top? “Aha!” by Imogen Heap accompanied Jane (Emily) on all of her little adventures. I will never tire of that song. Ever.

Ever since I decided not to be involved in the musical, my life has gotten better. I have no unnecessary stress. Right now I’d be down at the school, but instead I’m here. I’m writing for two newspapers, a website, my blog, doing homework and running cross-country…I don’t have time to participate in silly musicals. There’s no point. It’s hard to walk away, but what’s done is done. My presentation wouldn’t have turned out as well as it did if I had had to be at the school rehearsing last night. And, that’s that.

What every girl wants

My room situated in one of the four corners of the second floor (third if you count the basement as a floor); right in the front. I have two windows: one on the side of the house and one on the front. The side window looks out onto the roof of our first-story garage right next door. The front window looks out to our walkway up to the porch and the driveway that leads up to that garage I just mentioned.

On Friday I decided that I would not be attending our optional Saturday practice the next day. I made up my mind to sleep-in that day instead.

Like clockwork, Saturday morning I woke up at 8:00 without the help of an alarm (which I had promptly turned off the night before). I was pissed. I rolled over and fell asleep again.

I woke up the next time to “Rapunzel! Rapunzel! Let down your hair!” and heard the sound of quick footsteps on the pavement in my driveway just below me. It took me a second to clear away the dreamy haze around my thoughts to decipher the meaning behind the shout and the footfalls. When I realized what was happening, I jumped right out of bed and ran downstairs. My dad beat me to the door, and just beyond it stood a group of boys covered in rainwater and showing it off on their naked upper bodies.

“Where’s Emily?!?” they called.

“She’s sleeping,” my dad replied.

“Umm…no I’m not!” I said and then stepped outside to confront my visitors.

The whole cross country team was beaming at me as I stood there in my sleeping shorts, old stained Super 8 shirt, and extreme bedhead (but, what did I care?). Kevin (the one who yelled the thing about Rapunzel) lifted me up to wake me up and left me soaked from the water on his body. They had run all the way from the school up to my road and figured they might as well drop in and say hi to me. Before they all ran off, I grabbed my boyfriend and kissed him.

I woke up to a group of shirtless boys standing on my front porch looking for me. That’s probably what every girl wants to wake up to in the morning. It sure did brighten my day considerably.

The Lollipop

I was little. I was stupid. That’s all I can say to defend myself on this subject.

We were at the Cracker Barrel years and years ago when there was one near us, and before or after going in to eat (I can’t remember), we were looking around at all of the cool things hanging out at the gift shop. My mom and I were looking at the stand of huge, colorful lollipops and she lifted one out of its socket and asked if I wanted it.

I stupidly shook my head no. I was little. I was stupid.

I had this strange idea in my mind that little kids like myself weren’t allowed to have those giant lollipops. I must have thought there was alcohol in them or something. I couldn’t believe that my mother was offering me a lollipop – I shook my head to diminish what I thought to be her “bad” parenting.

Ever since then, I have been kicking myself for not accepting that lollipop.

So, after watching my friend Kevin run at the New York State track meet at Syracuse, we saw a sign for the Cracker Barrel. Since they have become sort of extinct in our secluded neck of the woods in Western New York, his parents decided it was a good idea to stop there for some ice cream. Instantly I exclaimed: “yes! I can finally get me a giant lollipop!” And then, of course, I had to tell them the story of The Lollipop. Well, instead of getting only ice cream we ended up having a whole huge meal (which I was totally okay with). Then Kevin and I were lollygagging around the candy section of the gift shop (with me singing “I’ll take you to the candy shop. I’ll let you lick the lollipop.“) and I picked out the identical twin to the lollipop my mom held up to me so long ago.

Two dollars and seventy-nine cents later, it became mine. I had this crazy idea that I would lick it once a day everyday to see how long it would last, but I have since decided not to do that (“then it would get all nasty,” said Kevin). Instead, it is sitting on the shelf of my desk, waiting for my tongue to begin its process of withering away into my mouth in a sugar-coated frenzy. I have yet to remove its wrapper and taste the sugary goodness within. Maybe I’ll never taste it. Who knows? Maybe I will just keep it for its sentimental value.

‘Tis the season

It feels good to be back in the swing of things. After taking two months off, I am back and hopefully will be better than ever.

Instead of going home to a TV chock full of possibilities and a cupboard of chips and unhealthy snacks, two of my best friends and myself go running everyday after school. After cross-country ended, we all sort of stopped. Now we have greeted running like an old friend we’ve missed greatly.

The feeling of running is like no other. That freedom; the endless possibility. The knowledge that though yes, cars and modern transportation are faster, our legs can also do the job just as well. Give us time and we will run for miles and miles.

Track is just around the corner, and I intend to make this year even better than last year (and last year was phenomenal for me). I feel great, running feels good, and the air just doesn’t smell as sweet as it does when you’re running. The heavy breathing, the struggling to talk to the person you’re running with – I’ve missed it greatly. I cannot wait for the Track season to begin. My intentions and confidence will take me far.