Thursday, February 26, 2015

I Have Become That Which Grosses Me Out

"Die the hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain."

"Quit sport young or train long enough to see yourself pick up hygiene habits that were previously disgusting to you."

I don't have any brothers, so my experiences with men in their natural habitat are with those who were trying to impress me.  Until I started swimming with teenage boys who proudly do not shower after swim practice.  Even prouder, they claim to have used only paper towels to dry off for an entire season.  Is it any surprise that many of them have mild to serious acne?

Now that high school season is over, the senior training group has started up again and we are practicing early mornings at a high school in town.  I don't have enough to time to shower and get to my MWF 8 am class on-time.


At least I use a towel to dry off.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Things They Don't Tell You About Grad School, Part 6: Done Right, It's A Job

In lab where I sit, the biggest insult that you can level against someone is "you're treating this like undergrad."  What is implied is that you show up right before class, leave right after class, and only do what is required for class.  A very undergrad approach to education.

What is expected is physical presence ~ 9 am - 5 pm Monday through Friday, with bonus points for staying later (no bragging) and for showing up on one-day, and throughout multi-day, holidays.  (Put a different way by a labmate: "You should always be there because you should always have work to do - and if you don't have any, find some.")

These bonus points get you nothing but respect from your peers - but the presence gets you the graduate-level education you are there to earn.  Because the peers know what I have come to know:

Most of a grad school education happens between classes.

A very astute counseling student peer of mine recently texted:

"Yeah, I don't know to what extent he is intimately grappling w the material.  I think counseling is one where you gotta live it too."

He is decidedly correct.  Now I pay more attention to how I interact with people and deal with my grief, loss, defensiveness, etc etc.  My natural skill of reading people was only the first, and quite a baby, step.  Spending time with people, especially counseling students, is the true crucible in which the training gets turned into practical skill.

I volunteer to teach a high-school leadership academy, which is taught in a group counseling setting, and the entirety of each 40 minute session, I have my group counseling professor's voice in my head. I'm living my group class, which I'm taking this semester, three times: once in person, once in practice, and once in my head during that practice.

The same crucible exists for physiology.  Part of my physiology lab experience is co-habitating with a Starbucks, but another part is sitting around a talking about physiology.  I've participated in an hour long conversation about when people breathe out during breast stroke.  I've been labmates' lab rat.  I've been out getting drinks to celebrate a lab mate finishing his quals and ended up talking about statistical analysis and prediction of athletic performance.  You know, like normal people do on a Saturday night.

And as I write this post, I am exchanging texts with a member of my counseling cohort and we are strategizing how we would hypothetically treat another cohort member of ours if he came to us as a client saying that his social mannerism that grate on us, were causing him trouble in dating.  You know, like normal people do on a Thursday afternoon.

Except that, when I have a "real" job, that is exactly what I will be doing on a Thursday afternoon.  Might as well start doing it now.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Thank You, Sir. May I Have Another?

I am a diesel engine.  In physiological terms, I am Type I or slow twitch: one big slow-to-twitch, but slow-to-fatigue muscle.  Interestingly, I'm a decent sprinter over short (SHORT) distances, so I probably have a not microscopic percent of Type IIx muscle fibers.  But don't ask me to do middle sprint distance (Type IIa) without a substantial amount of training.

Which makes my idea of taking up pool swimming all the more harebrained.  I don't have the type(s) of muscle fibers to be good at it.

Luckily, through the right type of training, Type I fibers can be made to transition to Type IIa, in which case I have a chance.

However, another strike against me is that as we age, Type II fibers of both types naturally transition into Type I.  So I'm naturally slow twitch and only getting slow twitchier.  At the same time as my teammates are reveling in and honing their fast twitch capabilities, I am trying to turn an ever-increasing number of useless-for-swimming Type I fibers into Type IIa. 

Have you met my friend, Sisyphus?

And the third strike against me is that these past few months I have been training with an even younger age group.  Middle schoolers are at an age where they physically can't handle a ton of training, but neither do they need a ton of training to get faster.  They could mow the lawn and get faster at swimming.  Whereas I have well-developed, 32-year-old shoulders and the muscle mass that makes them pretty bomb proof, but I actually have to do the training to push back the underwhelming limits of my sprint endurance.

I wasn't making a big deal about it in the cyber world or the real world because I was lucky to even have a group willing to give me a spot in a lane, but since mid-November I just haven't been tasked with the training that will make *me* faster.   I realized that a while ago, but just in case I hadn't, adding 20 seconds across 6 events (and 8 of those in 100 fly alone) in last weekend's meet drove home the point.   

Anyway, I just finished (NOTE: yesterday as I wrote this) my first 3-hour senior group practice since October and despite not being able to lift my arms, I am weirdly ecstatic because FINALLY.

So much acute muscle failure and a lot earlier than I was getting it last fall, but better late than never - because my championship meet of the season is in two weeks.

Thank you, sir.  Can I make it double?

Friday, February 20, 2015

Things They Don't Tell You About Grad School, Part 5: You'll Be A Starbucks Franchisee

Someone graduated last semester, some lab mates brought in supplies, and now I share my desk with the local Starbucks franchise.   You're welcome to stop by for a latte, but don't expect much from my barista skillz.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Frostian Philosophy

This morning when I woke up for swim practice it was -9 degrees Fahrenheit.

I was reminded of this past August when I ran in Death Valley and it was 125 degrees hotter than it was at 5:15 AM this morning.

If public school hadn't been canceled and practice had actually been held, maybe I would have spent those 90 mins staring at the black line considering which death I would have preferred.

Instead I went back to bed, the temperature of which was something comfortably between -9 and 116.

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

- Fire and Ice, Robert Frost

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Living, Breathing Californium 252

I considered calling this post "Don't Be Sad It's Over, Be Glad It Happened At All," but I'm not yet in a place to embrace that bordering-on-trite statement.

Now that Honey Bunny can no longer check any box under "gender" and create mini Honey Bunnys, she is eligible to find her "forever home."  Back in October, when she was unadoptable because her weight precluded spaying, I took her under the auspices of "foster to adopt." (Ha, you can spay the pet, but you can't stop the caretaker from using the now-irrelevant pronouns!)  However, over the past 3.5 months, just as it became clear how dear she is to me, it became clear that I shouldn't adopt her.

I could adopt her, but I shouldn't adopt her.  A pet is an anchor, and as much as I am anchored here in Bloomington and grad school, I am not anchored nearly enough in personality and interests to maintain a pet.  Evidence?  I was three days into dreaming about putting together an 8 week trip a la Let's Go to Eastern Africa this summer before I realized that having Honey Bunny wouldn't allow it.  I was arranging to take her with me to hotels for overnight swim meets this spring.

I am comfortable admitting that I don't want her forever, but I am not comfortable with what I might be condemning her to.  Life with me wasn't perfect, but it was more than decent and who knows where she'll end up and what conditions she'll be in.  What comes to mind when I let myself imagine the possibilities of the rest of her life is a gut shot.

Anyway, she went back to the shelter on Friday.

I was already having trouble keeping it together in the shelter and then I did a horrible thing.  I stuck my hand into her cage to pet her one last time and she pushed her head under my fingers to be scratched, with so much trust.  The adorable and pitiful look on her face as she tilted and reached up to meet me, unaware that I had broken that trust, will always be my last memory of her.  Then I fucking lost it and had to sprint out of there and sob in my car (and now I'm crying in a coffee shop as I write this.  Hello, neighbor working on French homework.   Your subjunctive conjugations are just that wrong.).

Another shot to the heart is the relief I feel in my schedule because I no longer worry "I've been in the office for 14 hours, so she's been in her cage staring at the wall for that long."  Just like I now feel guilty about maybe condemning her to worse life without me, I always felt guilty about condemning her to a less-perfect-than-I-could-really-provide life when she was with me.  I just traded one guilt for a different one.  I broke her trust and feel better (in some ways) for having done it.

She weighed 2.5 lbs and had an emotional impact far outside her weight class.  Like a living, breathing Californium 252, which at $27 million per gram is the most expensive substance in existence.  I have to believe - because it's the only thing keeping me sane - that this selfish decision and the emotional expense and the guilt that I didn't protect something that needed my protection is worth the flexibility and freedom that I retain.

I also have to believe that the shelter will find her another good home.  But I will always question whether I should have been less selfish and given her my home forever.

To throw another log on the fire of loss, I also decided to take out my tongue ring on Friday.  14 years seemed like long enough (which incidentally makes my tongue piercing older than the majority of the kids that I currently swim with).
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