December 10– Wisdom. What was the wisest decision you made this year, and how did it play out?
You have a drawer full of unmatch socks from which you have managed to free one black sock. Now, in a fury of flying stockings, you are frantically digging for the other black sock, brushing your teeth, still pulling your pants on the rest of the way and cursing those extra nine minutes of awful sleep you took the liberty of allowing yourself.
My wise choices are the other black sock: elusive in a big assortment of bad choices, neutral choices, and well-that-was-fun-but-let’s-not-ever-do-it-agains.
2010 has a clear pair of black socks: applying for a summer internship with a local health department and getting a gym membership.
I starting looking and applying for jobs in March, knowing that things were a bit slow and for a lot of organizations that I would be interested in working with, grant dollars would be uncertain and limited. The idealist almost-grad in me (almost Master!) was holding out for the high paying full-time, permanent positions that I knew had to be out there. So when I saw the posting for a summer internship in public health preparedness for a local health department, I glossed right over it. I had convinced myself I was beyond interning and part time jobs and no financial security. As the job search got bleaker and bleaker and more classmates and professors sent me the same job notice with “Perfect for you!” in the subject line, I decided to take a stab and sent in a roughshod resume and cover letter.
Two weeks later I interviewed. Two days later I was hired for the three month summer internship with no benefits, but actually pretty good pay. Today, I have finished my first week in a promoted position with the same department. Still no benefits, still a temporary position (ending next July). But that is still 8 more months on top of the 6 previous months of gauranteed employment and experience. Invaluable to a young professional. And I got a pay raise, which could not have come soon enough as I stare down the barrel of beginning my student loan repayment next month.
The matching wise decision I made this year was to purchase a gym membership. To run.
I get on a bicycle now and then, and I occasionally dip my toes in the pool. I have even treated my lovely self to 20 minutes in the eucalyptus sauna.
But I really go to run. And of its contribution to my health and well being 20% is physical and 80% is mental. I have discussed previously how emotionally intense I can be, and I once mathematically characterized it to a friend who couldn’t quite understand where I was coming from. Imagine you can experience/feel any emotion on a spectrum, let’s say from 1 to 10. 1 being a slight recognition that there is a feeling, but it is so faint you aren’t even sure what emotion it is. 10 being feeling every emotion via some physical manifestation; pain when I am angry or sad, restlessnes when I am joyful or scared, and fatigue when I am sad or frustrated. I would venture to guess that most people can feel emotion at all levels of the spectrum, depending on the situational context.
I am only capable of 1, 2, and 10. And 1 & 2 is like what I buzz along in when I am in traffic. Or at my cube. So anything that elicits any actual emotion in me is experienced at a 10. Every time. And that is exhausting, even when it’s good emotion. And you can’t operate at a 10 all the time, so instead you either sleep so as to feel nothing or you share the burden with other people, which can be distressing and exhausting for them. Running lets me leave a lot of that on trail/track/treadmill. It is the great mental and emotional equalizer; it allows me to calm down, to think about things rationally, and evaluate before I pull people into the storm.
Every pounding footstep pushes down fear and anger, every drip of sweat washes away sadness and stress, and the constant motion allows me to appropriately use up the energy that joy and nervousness build up inside me. For 35 bucks a month, I get some awesome mental health benefits, with some physical health fringe benefits. If I didn’t run, I would likely have to pay someone 35 bucks an hour for the same results!