14 Things on Reflecting 2014

New Years is one of my favorite holidays- always has been and always will be. What other holiday promotes staying up late and drinking champagne, plus goal setting and working to better yourself? It’s the best of both worlds. There are many things to look forward to in 2015…but first and foremost I plan on kicking in the New Year properly (psssst, check back on January 1st when I take a look at the upcoming year!)

Last year I wrote this post, one of my favorites, on my Top 13 Moments from 2013. While I assumed I would take the same approach this year for my year in review, this year was different in so many wonderful and strange ways. There was a lot more change in 2014 than there was in 2013. Can I list 14 moments? In a heartbeat. In an instant, and I will, but there was a lot that went on this year that can’t be shortlisted. (Fair warning: there’s a touchy feely rant ahead. Impatient? Scroll down for the shortlist).

In 2014, I got incredibly lost. I fell and I stumbled and I screwed up, however I did it without panicking. I doubted all sorts of big decisions. I took more risks, and not always fun ones. I thought too much and overanalyzed things and (big surprise) it bit me in the butt. The year did not go according to plan, but that’s okay. I didn’t anticipate such a shift within me, when everything around me was new and unfamiliar. You simply can’t shortlist the ways you change and develop and grow as a person when you’re trying to find your footing in unknown territory, both figuratively and literally. It’s not like I woke up one day and decided “okay this is the new me.” There was never a new me and old me, it’s always been just Lauren. We are made, especially in this time of our lives, to be fluid and to expand and develop- that does not mean we have new and old personas but have simply altered our values and the direction we want our lives to go in. That is not a bad thing, and I spent the fall of 2014 convinced that it was. I had this idea that whatever was happening in my head and my heart was a negative, and I fought it, and I felt so horribly guilty for so much of that time because I simply wished I felt like I did before. Change is necessary, sometimes a necessary evil, and I feel sad that I spent so much time consumed with guilt about the natural progression of things.

2014 was the year of change. I changed apartments, I changed room mates, I entered my final year of college, and travelled constantly all summer. After the summer (where I’m sure if you’ve been around you remember my blogging *cough cough* sucked), where I practically lived out of my car for weeks working at camps in Iowa and Indiana, spending another incredible weekend in Chicago, and then traveling to Vietnam for a month, settling back into life as a student-athlete seemed impossible. While going through the motions seemingly helped, nothing truly got rid of that guilty feeling like embracing the change. Embracing the chaos. Becoming comfortable with my uncomfortable new reality.

New Years Quote

My motto for 2015

I am not dictated by my surroundings. I am the same girl that stayed up till Midnight December 31st, 2013- the same girl that ran a 10km (and cried) in April is the same girl that stood on mountain tops in Vietnam and Canada in August. I am comfortable but not content; happy but not satisfied. I’ll probably set New Years Resolutions like the majority of the population, and reach only a few of them (like the majority of the population). To be honest, I couldn’t even tell you what my resolutions for 2014 were! Whatever they may have been, I leave the year in a good place. I am happy, and am no longer overanalyzing the risks and rewards of life (okay, for the most part. I am a college girl still- overanalyzing is what we’re best at). And without further ado, in no particular order…

14 Top Moments of 2014

1. My two best friends, who have been there since that first day of college, came to Canada this past May. We flew from Chicago to Calgary and spent the week with my family, in the mountains, seeing the city, meeting my old friends. The three of us have been inseparable for the past four and a half years and the week was such an amazing tribute to that. From when we first bounced around the idea in the fall, to it actually coming to fruition, it was more than I could have asked for to show my two best friends my corner of the world. 

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Glacier Skywalk, along the Ice Fields Parkway. See 10 Reasons to Visit Alberta for my other go-to’s!

2. Like 2013, I got to spend a weekend (my birthday this time!) in Chicago! Chicago has become one of my absolute favorite cities, and I was so happy to be able to go back. In between a month of working at camps and a month away in Vietnam, it was the perfect getaway and a much needed mini-vacation. We got to see the Cubs play again, and explore Wrigleyville like before! We stayed right downtown this time which meant for more walks by the lake, closer to Michigan Ave and deep-dish pizzas, and even drinks at a bar on the 95th floor of the John Hancock building!

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3. Indiana Diving Camp is sort of legendary- the entire diving community probably went at one point or another, and the whole five weeks is like one big social event for age group divers across the country (as well as college divers, college coaches, and a few international athletes!). I had the privilege of working as a House Counselor there this summer, and it was probably the most fun I have ever had at work. It felt like I was at summer camp- getting to dive in world class facilities, get to know divers from the around the country, organizing activities for the campers like slip and slide and charity washes and a “Field Day” that involved watermelons, baby oil, food coloring, and flour! I can’t even describe how fun it was, and I’m thankful for the friendships formed during those few weeks in Indiana.

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The staff may or may not have gotten a hold of the watermelons…

4. Surprising my family for American Thanksgiving, again. Between spring break, May, August, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, I’ve been able to go home and see my family more this year than almost every other year I’ve been away at college! Even though it was a sort trip, from Wednesday afternoon to Sunday morning, it was completely worth it. 

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5. My Senior Meet, the following weekend which my mother and sister were able to attend. I have loved being a Hawkeye from the day I signed my National Letter of Intent, and will remain a Hawkeye long after I walk the stage this upcoming May. Being a Hawkeye has been such a large part of my identity, and has given me the greatest years of my life. The relationships formed here, the lessons learned, the goals set and achieved. A night dedicated simply to acknowledge the part of ourselves that will always be Hawkeyes was just one more incredible opportunity and memory I will never forget.

Seniors  

“Is this really happening? Is it my Senior Meet already?”

6. In November of this year, I was given the opportunity to give a speech as a student-speaker for Iowa’ Athletic Department All-Staff meeting. It was Top 5 one of the most nerve wracking things I have ever done, and spent more time preparing than I have for many exams! The speech was on my student-athlete experience at Iowa and my experience in Vietnam. Despite the nerves, the speech went surprisingly well and I couldn’t be happier I said yes to the opportunity! It was so incredible to be able to share my experiences as well as being able to discuss the program with coaches and administrators further after my speech, when I was able to mingle and answer any additional questions. I received an interview request two days later, and you can find both the 12 minute speech and the condensed version in interview form on www.coachforcollege.org.

7. My hair started to grow again! This might seem like a minor thing for a Top-14 list, but those who know me well know that this has been a serious issue. Due to years of chlorine damage and wear and tear, in February of 2014 things had gotten so bad my hair had started turning white and simply stopped growing. I started wearing a cap to dive at the end of the month, started taking biotin and fish oils, anything that would help, and basically started treating my hair like precious gold. Th biggest difference by far has been wearing the cap- my hair is darker, the top (not damaged part) is thicker, and I’ve actually been able to GROW my hair for the first time in years and years.

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LOOK AT HOW HEALTHY AND DARK IT IS okay I just got a trim before I snapped a Christmas Day selfie, but you can tell it’s not gray or white. 

8. Okay, again, this one is sort of superficial, but I’ve officially converted to 100% Apple. In July I got a (free!) iPhone 5c and for Christmas/early Happy Graduation I got a MacBook Pro! I could not happier to have a computer that works and everything seems to be operating at the speed of light compared to my old HP (that really was lovely, if you like watching paint dry and glaciers melt). I’m really looking forward to figuring out how to sync my devices and enter 2015 magically more organized (you stop that eye roll right now).

9. Running in the spring- during 2014 I entered a four mile “Warrior Challenge” and a 10km road race! The four miler didn’t have particularly difficult obstacles (read about it here) and the 10km was a blast minus one particular hill (read about that one here). Two races in the spring hardly qualifies me as a legitimate runner, but I loved it. I’m still very much a seasonal runner, running from March through the spring and summer and that’s okay with me! I don’t put a lot of miles on my shoes and I’m not tempted to enter every 5km I see. With my college eligibility wrapping up here, I’m hoping to do a few more races than I’ve been used to- but I’m not spilling the beans till January 1st :)

10-14. Vietnam and Coach for College. Okay, lets be real, the reason I can get to 14 of my favorite things from the year so early is because I could think of 14 things from this trip alone. Heck I already started this list with The Top 4 Things I Miss About Vietnam (is recycling old posts for a year in review cheating? Not in my book). The kids were life changing. The city of Da Nang was amazing, and a place I certainly want to return. The towns we visited on the weekends, Hue and Hoi An, I would recommend to any traveller. THE FOOD. The connections I made with the other coaches and teachers, both American and Vietnamese (also see: “Reflecting Nam, Finally”). Vietnam and Coach for College was without a doubt the biggest leap of faith I have ever done. I took a leap, and the net appeared. I found my solid ground on the other side of the world.

Nam

And of course, you guys (okay I guess this could have been #14). Seeing lauren elyse CAN grow and develop has been amazing. Who would have thought that this post would have over 7000 views?? For reference, my next top two posts of 2014 were between 400 and 1000 views (this one and this one). I was incredibly thankful for guest posts over the summer, and kicked my own blogging butt over October. I have fallen in and out of love with writing, but I’ve got no plans to slow down on the blog now. I’ve got bigger and better plans for the blog when the season wraps up in March, and I can’t wait to take you lovely supportive folks along for the ride.

Happy New Year!!

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Four Things I Miss About Vietnam

I told you I’d get around to this one, but I didn’t anticipate the struggle. When starting this post I actually titled it “Top ____ Things I Miss…” because I figured I would start writing and see what I ended up with. Even after hitting publish on this post, I know there’s no way to quantify that experience. While I type this even, I’m Facebook messaging with one of my girls. We communicate now the same way we did then- lots of smiley faces.

What do I yearn for now that the weather is getting cooler and I’m losing my Vietnamese faster than I could imagine for how little I knew?

1. The Kids. I’m not even going to build up to the end of the post for dramatic purposes and say the kids at the end, because that would not do them justice. I miss how they ran up to the bus every morning when we showed up for school. I miss how they laughed at me when I tried to count to ten, and how complicated their version of rock paper scissors was. I miss how happy selfies made them, and how they cheered their hearts out for their teams on competition days. I miss giving constant piggy backs and trusting a ten year old to ride around with me on the back of their bike.

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2. My Co-Coaches. Linh (“Luten”) and Tut were my saviors the entire time. The saved my butt the very first first day, and blew me away every day after that. Tut never failed to have the kids laughing hysterically, and Linh always told me what to order when we ate street food so I didn’t die of spicy foods. I remember Linh telling me the rain always reminded him of romantic movies, and Tut sharing that he loved jazz music. I miss drawing on the chalkboard, and the kids teasing me endlessly for my lack of artistic talent compared to those two geniuses. I miss creating lesson plans even, and I miss how those two pushed me beyond my comfort zone as a teacher- letting me really engage with the students despite the communication barrier. I remember the three of us teasing each other, and then crying together on the last day. The only day they had difficulty translating what I had to say.

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Our puffy eyes giving away that this photo was taken on the last morning

3. Da Nang. Too vague of a heading? Not too concerned. I had never heard of Da Nang before this trip- Ho Chi Ming in the south and Hanoi in the north sure, but this city in central Vietnam is not to be missed if ever traveling in that part of the world. We were told from our Vietnamese coaches that Da Nang was where Vietnamese vacationed…good enough for us! While the Vietnamese tended to hit the beach around 6am to avoid the suns rays, we soaked up the sun on deserted beaches. We always felt safe wandering the streets. I miss the way people would come up to you in street just to say hello, and to ask where we were from. I miss the supermarket, and the fresh market. How dogs and children played in the street and how every hotel had a rooftop patio. I miss the more touristy towns, like Hoi An and Hue, but to Da Nang felt like home, for a few weeks at least.

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4. Being a Regular. I worked at Starbucks, I know how it is. The baristas knowing your drink without asking, the only conversation needed being about your day. We were regulars. Every single lunch hour, we hopped a block over and enjoyed the freshest coconut water you could possibly find. This man, whose name we learned was “Tum” was the goofiest Vietnamese guy we interacted with. He always knew we wanted our coconut water with ice, and would would fake pour vodka in every single time. We’d watch tv with his kids while he took a machete to the massive stack of coconuts out front. One time he asked me out to lunch (when we had a translator with us)- not sure how that would work out. After we went to a hair salon and Abby died her hair burgundy, he played with it for a solid five minutes before picking up his machete. Some days we didn’t even go for the 65 cent coconut water, but the non-verbal social hour that always ended with us giggling uncontrollably at his antics.

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Did I run out of things I miss? Not in the slightest. But did I run out of time because I have homework due at 9:30am? Yes. And I’m still not packed for the team going to Minnesota tomorrow soooo Part Two can be a work in progress :)

In the Swing of Things

So we’re nearing the end of October, midterms are long gone, and we’re starting to daydream about Thanksgiving break! Just to give you a little update on what’s been going in life…

One: I’ve been doing yoga- multiple times a week. My room mate just spent some time at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs and came back with 2 DVD’s- Yoga for Divers with two different levels! They were made by an old team mate of mine and are amazing quality. I feel like as long as I keep up with it it will really benefit my training!

Two: I can’t stop taking selfies of my hair. I started wearing a cap in February, when my hair stopped growing and started turning white #chlorineprobs. Now after months are tender loving care my hair is LONG and I am OBSESSED. Remember this photo from this post? Yeah I didn’t take it for the post. I took it because my hair looked awesome

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Three: I’ve been asked to be the student speaker at the athletic department all-staff meeting in November. So I don’t have a lot of public speaking experience, but I’m REALLY excited. I’ve been asked to talk about experience at Iowa and the Coach for College program I did in Vietnam. I’ve started drafting speeches already, and thank god I started early because I am finding it IMPOSSIBLE. I have absolutely no idea how to summarize the last four and a half years of my life at Iowa, and no idea how to describe a month teaching in Vietnam. I need way more than 20 minutes- more like a lifetime and a couple photo albums.

Four: I have learned…that I am NOT the kind of blogger that should be blogging everyday. I work better with larger pieces that I afford to dedicate more time to, and I love including and editing media, doing a little promotion, and just giving each piece the attention I feel it deserves. I’m going to finish what I started, but hey. Worth a shot :)

Five: Three more blog posts in my self proclaimed Blogtober challenge, and I have to ask myself…did it work?

Well I’m definitely back in the swing of things in terms of life, and writing. But I don’t know if it was writing (almost) every day that did it, or just time passing by anyways. Maybe I didn’t need a challenge, or a goal, or a quota.

Maybe I just needed the time to pass.

Reflecting Nam, Finally

It’s been over two months since I’ve com back from Vietnam and I’ve never actually published any type of summary, or conclusion.

Even now it seems like some type of dream- like I picture the whole experience in my head as if someone else lived it. To be honest I haven’t given the experience the reflection it deserves. The reflection it demands is more like it, as the person that arrived in Da Nang is not the same person who left.

As part of committing to my corner, and committing to myself, I resolve now to revisit. I resolve to remember, put into words what I learned and what I experienced, and to acknowledge the change that happened within me as a result even if it was minor- even if I don’t know exactly what’s different.

So, where to start? I figured a good place to beginning would be the actual record of what I felt, tasted, experienced, lived, breathed in. Here’s a few excerpts from the journal I kept while I was there…and be prepared for more Vietnam reflections in the future.

“Sometimes my dumb brain doesn’t think twice about this kind of stuff. Of course I can drive the 6 hours between Iowa and Indiana 4 times by myself this summer. Of course I can fly all the way around the world to coach a sport I know nothing about. I don’t know if it’s arrogance or if it’s confidence, it’s smaller than that. I just believe I can. It brought me to Vietnam.”

“I want to sear the colorful rooftops and bridge into my mind forever. How my hands looked in the ocean when I went out a little further by myself this morning. How peaceful. The little old lady with no teeth who serves us our iced coffee with milk. How it felt to use my hands to crawl up the last few steps of Marble Mountain, and how to wind whipped around my face at the top overlooking the pagoda.”

“Officially halfway through teaching. Six days down, six to go. Two competitions down, one to go. Two weeks down, two to go. I don’t know how many days are left exactly versus how many I’ve already been here and I am not going to count to find out. The longer I’m here, the more I find myself on “Nam” time- aka not wanting to stress about the logistical details of well, anything.”

“I’ve been in this state where I feel like I’ve been here forever and I”m never leaving- like this is my life now. I go to work, I hang out with my friends on the weekends, I run errands. The city of Da Nang has won me over, heart and soul. It makes me want to travel more; I want to find my corners and pockets of the world.”

“I hope these kids walk around with a strut when they get a goal, make a save, execute a pass, or make a great defensive play. Yes, I’m thrilled my team came second. But I’m even happier with how Tram stood up tall and confident after she made her first shot. Those are the life skills to be learned here. You win some you lose some. Take pride in your accomplishments. And you don’t back down.”

“It’s so strange to think about that first Sunday at school. Even that first Monday, in the classrooms across the courts. It seems like six months ago. Like a different person. I was so afraid, I didn’t know what to do. I guess the plot twist here is I may now know what I’m doing, but I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to leave these kids. I don’t know what to feel. I can’t believe the opportunity I’ve been given actually has an ending point to it. I’m going to miss so many things- big and small”

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Those big and small things I’ve been missing? They’ll be coming up in the next week or so :)

Five Future Things

Yesterday when I posted my blogging comeback (as I’m going to refer to it as) I referenced how happy I was to be back and how I’m looking forward to the year and blah blah blah and I know everyone is sitting there asking themselves WHY. It’s okay folks, you’re good. Let’s take a look at five of the reasons why I could not be happier for the next few months.

1. The Season. I’m not talking about the season as in Fall (although that will be great too) I’m talking about the diving season. The 2014-2015 Iowa Women’s Swimming and Diving season. After three years of eligibility, a red shirt year last year where I choose not to compete for the college because I wanted to do five years, and more ups and downs than I can count, I’m itching to get started. I’m dying to get back on the boards. The feeling of competing for the Hawkeyes is unlike anything and I miss that feeling. This season is going to be the “last” of a lot of things, and these five years have been the time of my life. I can’t describe how fortune I feel to have met the people I have through this team, and the impact they’ve had on my life. This season is going to be the best season yet; the accumulation of a lot of hard work and a lot of support from those around me. While I still have some lofty goals for the season, I can already recognize that I wouldn’t change a moment of the process. This season may be my last a Hawkeye, but once a Hawkeye always a Hawkeye :)

2. The Food. Let’s be real, I can’t write a blog post and NOT reference food. It’s like some type of disorder. BUT SERIOUSLY I’m living in a new place with a new room mate who loves food just as much I do, plus she’s a pretty good cook (remember her here or here?). I also have one less class this semester aka more time that I can spend playing around in the kitchen. AND I learned a surprising amount about food and was inspired in Vietnam (that’s on the post to do list). I’m ready to play around with more flavors and ingredients, while still getting better at the simple recipes like roasting vegetables. I want to improve my meal planning and meal prep, while not falling into any type of rut. Aaaaand I’m pretty excited to write about it and share it all with you guys!

3. The Apartment. So as I’ve mentioned a multiple times before I MOVED this summer and I’m absolutely obsessed with the new place. We have vaulted ceilings! And a parking spot! And a balcony! It’s still small but it’s nice and open with lots of space for friends to stay over, and we plan on hosting some awesome team dinners. It’s still a work in progress getting set up, but it probably will be for a while, but that’s okay. It was a nice change, and a great opportunity to clear some things and organize all my crap stuff :)

4. The Big Girl Things. I should make this title longer. More like, figuring out the big girl things. I’ve already figured out health insurance, car registrations, and paying bills, but with graduation and the real world looming there’s bigger things to figure out. Like a JOB. It’s going to be stress inducing, yes, but I know once I get it figured out I’ll be ready for it. College is great and all but I’m looking forward to the next chapter whatever that may be! The tricky thing about this particular job search though is my plan is to continue diving through the 2016 Olympic Trials…which = lots of  training time. If anyone has some ideas for a job that will help my accommodate my training schedule, I’m all ears!

5. The Unknown. The best things that have ever happened to me during my college career were the unexpected ones. The nights that you could re-live over and over, the team dinners that turned into weekly routines, the meets where you completely zoned in and delivered a great performance. I basically know what to expect when it comes to classes and practices and team dinners, but I’m just looking forward to everything. I can’t wait for the jokes I haven’t heard and the recipes I haven’t tried. The bus trips and hotel stays that haven’t happened yet. It’s not always going to be easy, or fun, but what I’ve learned over the past four years is that every thing happens for a reason, and you can’t predict the future. I’m sure something this year will hit me like a ton of bricks, and other things I have planned will fall through. I don’t know. But either way, the known and the unknown this year will blow my mind. It’s going to be a continuation of the time of my life.

What was I doing instead of blogging for past five weeks? Oh you know, roughing it in Central Vietnam

Siiiiiide note when was the last time I blogged twice in two days?? #winning. Happy Hump Day!

 

Let Me Fill You In…

I have been MIA recently, and with decent reason! My schedule last week looked something like this: Monday 3am wake-up, flew back to Iowa, moved apartments from 2pm-10pm. Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday/Friday up at 6am, bike to practice, train for 4 hours, bike back. Wednesday and Friday we lifted weights from 2-3:30pm, Thursday we went to the res for a beach day (hello sunburn) and Friday I came to see the boy for the first time in three weeks!

This week looks even different, training five hours a day split into three different workouts, and next week looks even different because I’m off to INDIANA on Thursday!

My summer is practically planned out down to the minute, and while I wish I had a little more flexibility in how it turned out it’s going to be amazing. I’m looking forward to everything I imagine it will be and everything that I never would have thought it. I’m basically packing for the entire summer over the next 72 hours, and will be swinging through for a couple hours now and then to swap out suitcases. I’ll be staying in six different locations, working seven weeks of sport camps, training my ass off when I get the chance, and experiencing the summer of a lifetime.

Thanks for being patient with me! I promise photos and food and life happenings will still be around :)