The Olympic Peninsula — bald eagle, epic beaches, giant driftwood, and Twilight.
“Don’t be a weirdo.”
That sentence — in one of its many iterations — was everywhere growing up. It wasn’t ‘Don’t be weird.’ Weird was a way you acted, some one-off thing. Nope, weirdo was something you were. It went beyond actions into some shameful personal transgression. Being weird was a phase. Being a weirdo — a character flaw.
And I was a weirdo.
It’s like having a tumor. You can’t see it, but the x-ray is telling you it’s there, so it must be true. People are telling you you’re weird, so you must be. Sometimes, it was because I was too quiet. I would play alone in my bedroom or read. This, apparently, is anti-social, which is a highly suspicious behavior among normal little girls. Hence, I had to come out and play in front of everyone — something I was loathe to do. You can’t read in a living room full of people. Or you at least can’t read without everyone trying to turn it into a social endeavor. What are you reading? What’s it about? These question were, naturally, followed by judgement. Why do you want to read that? That’s such a boring topic! Here, why don’t you read this book about a nice little girl and puppies. And I didn’t want to play pretend in front of my family after I was considered too old for that. Besides, adults just messed up my over-wrought stories and (poorly) mapped-out imaginary worlds. I did not want to change the way these characters interacted, thank-you-very-much.
And then, there were times when I was conspicuous. These were less frequent — but that’s just how my personality shook out. There were times when I couldn’t stop laughing even though all the funny things were only in my head. That, apparently, was also a problem. Gallows humor in an eleven year-old girl is another thing that’s heavily frowned upon. Morbid stories — with too many deaths and epic battles — weren’t kosher for fifth grade creative writing. Nope and nope. Being shunted aside because your brain poured out of your mouth was just as bad as being dragged from the corner where you’re minding your own business.
This, I believe, is what’s called a ‘no-win’ scenario. A catch-22 for you more literary folk.
At least, when you make a mistake, it’s a temporary slip of mind. People can steer you on the right path, hook you up with your true passion. See, you don’t have to be weird! Here’s a way to be normal. Just do this, you’re good at it, and we accept that. But when everything about you do is off, there’s no way to land on your feet. Gee, you get good grades — but don’t really seem to be paying attention, so you can’t be working hard. Except wait — you’re too over-eager. I guess you should try … try something where you don’t have to work with people. Ever. Like, just work in a box. Yeah.
When you’re a weirdo, you can’t ever really be good at anything. You’re a weirdo — it denies you personality. Words like nice and friendly, smart and creative don’t stick to you. You think you’re made of something different; not flesh, but maybe some type of rubber. But the genius of rubber is you can stretch it into anything, and it’ll always bounce back. This — this undefinable elastic quality — becomes your personality. Your weirdo code-of-arms is a bouncy ball or one of those metallic blobs you throw at the wall — where it slides down with the gait of an amoeba.
And really, is there anything more weird than feeling a personal kinship with an amoeba.
Some people go to Disney land growing up (for the record, I did that, too). But some people also go see metal railroad bridges in the middle of nowhere. My parents strongly preferred the latter type of vacation. Hence, how I spent part of my summer when I was fourteen. It was spectacularly uncool — like nearly everything I did growing up. I wanted to hang out with my friends and read Harry Potter, not go see a railroad bridge. Specifically, we went to see the Kinzua Bridge in northern PA.
And my dad said, ‘Hey, let’s walk across that.’
So we did — go across, I mean. Not really walk. More like use the splitter-giving wood railing as a guide dog. I would have crawled — if there weren’t gaps wide as my foot in the floorboards. Did I mention the thing was built in 1882? And refurbished to accommodate heavier trains in 1900? I was certain that’s the last time the ‘pedestrian walk way’ was built. It was living history; no one bothered to remind it that in 2001, there were child labor laws, standards to be upheld. Your walkways shouldn’t be small-adult hazards. It wasn’t just ‘don’t step on a crack’, but ‘step through a crack and plummet to your death.’
But I didn’t crawl. But I did whine. I also took frequent pauses, and when I did, it was breath-taking. I remember stopping to watch a deer drink in the creek bed below. It’s one of those idealistic Appalachian valleys they put on post-cards. And the bridge? The bearer of the murder walkway suspended me in the middle of it all. That was nice, or as nice this bridge was going to be to me.
I got the other side, and it was just like the side I’d left. And then, I had to inch my way back across — at least this time, knowing the boards should all hold my weight. My dad, of course, is striding across the railroad tracks, looping across the bridge in twice the time it took me to complete the round trip. I’m still glad a train didn’t come along. I would have pressed myself against the railing and cried. If that bridge had been shaking, the sunny day ordeal would’ve turned perilous. I wouldn’t have wanted to be there during a storm.
I crossed the bridge — there and back again. It took several hours, and was suitably thrilling for a fourteen year-old book worm. But my mom didn’t cross. She got out there with us and turned around. When we got back, she asked how it was. I’m sure I said something like, ‘Horrible, and dad just kept telling me it was no big deal.’
Years later, mom mentioned how she regretted not crossing the Kinzua bridge. You see, it blew down in a storm (I did tell you it was old and definitely a bit unsafe). She said she wished she would’ve done it. And that stuns me. It took a few hours! You let your teenager limp her way across it. What held you back — no, really, what was it?
She couldn’t say. It wasn’t that she has a fear of heights. It’s not that the weather was bad. Maybe the thing was just imposing — somethings just are. There are things that are bigger than us that are (even objectively) a bit unsafe. There’s a risk in engaging those things; they’ve got a power of their own, an intrinsic ability to humble you. But to go out there, to risk several hours of questionable walkways, is worth something you didn’t even know existed. It’s a change jar for your nerves — slowly accumulating to a point where you realize you might be stronger than you suspected.
And not crossing a bridge is a silly regret to have. Especially because you can’t go back. That chance is gone — the bridge is literally no longer there.
I spent a lot of time traveling this summer; one of these trips was Planned and one was Very Much Unplanned. There was some ground, sea, and flight involved; and of course, a fair bit of walking. Last night, I put my suitcase away; I’ve been home two weeks. I looked at it, realizing I was slowly pulling things from it. I just needed to feel like I’m going somewhere; travel is a reassurance you have a destination in mind, a solid place in the universe. Both of my travel moments came out of feeling frustrated; they both came from a sense of lose, a thing that stemmed from a deep sense of failure. There is a bitterness attached to the first trip, a thing I hope fades in time; I know this isn’t the trip’s fault or mine. It’s a thing of timing, a twist of circumstance connecting things in my head; the things that happened after the trip were set before the plane took off, put into motion after I said I was going, but before I left. The second came after a wave of exhaustion and boredom, conquering the need to overpower being ground beneath emotions too heavy and brittle, impatient expectations. I told myself this trip would allow me to wait, pull me away from world; it took me away, whisking me into a self-made fantasy land where time lost meaning; my needs piled up, all large dreams put in boxes and stacked away.
Because dreams, the things I want in life, have no room in suitcases. I can’t find myself or achieve long-term goals on a plane or site seeing. Some people soul search during travel; my soul gets enough action. The places I’ve visited aren’t going to achieve my dreams or air brush meaning into my life; beautiful vistas or exquisite art won’t make me a more complete person. Higher revelations aren’t my thing.
My boyfriend quipped that I should “take pictures with my mind.” I said, “I already do.” That doesn’t prevent me from toting around a digital camera, trying to get some okay photos; out of a hundreds of pictures, there are always a couple that I find decent and encapsulating of what it meant to be in that moment. There are no pictures of food; it’s food, I’m pretty sure I’m not sucking down something thousands of people haven’t seen before. If you’ve got the recipe, I’ll take that, but no, no thanks to plate of French macaroons. I have no need to make a memory book or scrap book my life; yes, I’ve had it suggested I should make a scrap book with my pictures. Sorry, the flickr album must suffice.
This one, I think this next one is my dirtiest traveling secrets: I don’t keep a travel journal. I don’t keep a real journal, either, so I’m not surprised. I kept a journal for a while, and really, what did I get out of keeping it? It was a ‘Book of Problems Written By Someone Who Really Has So Few Problems in Life It’s Laughable.’ Being a detail oriented person, I would write down details, which meant I recorded how things went wrong and how I might change that next time. If you’re running experiments, it’s the way to keep notes; for running a life, I found it made me a needless worrier, trapped in a vortex of things I was doing wrong. I can’t do everything right, but it’s equally true it’s not all wrong.
When I traveled, I got sick, missed a ferry, lost more than a little time hunting down hotels and internet cafes, and drove for hundreds of miles at a time; I learned that you need to budget for these things. But guess what? I get sick at home, miss buses, lose a little time hunting addresses down, and I end up waiting to meet with people. The mistakes aren’t a reason to stay home. The only car wreck I’ve been in happened less than five minutes from my house, on my way back from the gym. That time I got stung by a bee? Backyard. Flu? Crutches? Yup, during the normal routine of school. Staying home, insulating myself never kept me safe; for the record, that was a big bee, and I shut it between my legs so it stung me twice.
I have the pictures, eschewing the soul-searching; I don’t want to talk about deep meanings or grand vistas. The reason I went, and would go a thousand times again, is because of the details; life is in the details, and travel is when all the details are amazing; the intricacies of the world aren’t about rent, what you’re making for dinner, or what night you have to do laundry. Yes, those things are part of travel, but they’re not the sum of it; the color of the rocks under bare feet, the feel of the sky pressing down over endless plains, the soft lines in two thousand year old pottery, the broad strokes of light in a favorite painting you could touch with your nose you’re so close. These are travel, these are the details I keep; I think, “I don’t want to lose this. I want to feel this freedom and passion because I know the world is made of more than I will ever see.”
And that? That’s why you should throw out your travel journal and refuse to scrap book. Although I will keep the camera. Somethings are just meant to be photographed.
In the past month, I’ve taken two long trips; I was able to do this because I’m working part time as a waitress. I’m ridiculously broke now. A year ago, I made myself a set of promises, and some of things I’ve done were things I told myself I would do while I talked myself into a different career path. I learned a new language and wrote a book while taking time to explore my interests outside of school; I learned I quite like academia, but there are other things in the world I missed while being absorbed in school work. Some of things that happened were a surprise, things I didn’t think I wanted now or really ever. I imagined myself being this lone adventurer, quirky and single, but I came out of this with a serious partner; I explored and traveled with others, finding I’m better with people when I climb out from behind my defensive barriers that would make trench soldiers proud.
I needed to talk myself out of my years long dream to be a doctor; I grieved for what felt like a failure on my part. I felt like I wasted money and time on a dream I should have realized wasn’t right for me. I knew I was starting over, and in that anger, I fell back on the things I pushed away while I told myself the only thing I wanted in my life was a career in medicine. And there’s the thing; in the end, I wanted other things in my life besides medicine, and I knew because I did my fucking homework, that to be a doctor, you have to want that; only that. It has to be a passion because it’s hard work, a long struggle. At the same time, I realized the things I liked about medicine — the aspects of pathology, research, and contributing to my community — I could do in another career. So I divorced medicine and set out to explore and built my skills in medical research, aiming to get my PhD in translational medicine.
And here is where it gets difficult; here is where I failed. I failed hard, quick and unexpected, except it wasn’t quite so sudden if I think about it. There’s the knowledge that this wasn’t a permanent failure. There are lessons there, things I’m trying to get a handle on now; I don’t want to doubt myself because confidence is a fickle thing. If it seems I’m a bit less excited about my career at the moment, that’s only because I had a set back and am not working towards it full time right now. It’s difficult for that enthusiasm to come through; so I fill conversations with the other things I have in my life. When I’m asked, “Well, why don’t you do this? You really want to be in this area of biology?” I get frustrated because yes, yes this is really where I want to be.
It takes lose, voluntary and otherwise, to expose things; you can’t see what something means to you until it’s gone. Maybe it’s the way the brain works; we feel like something will be with us forever. I can’t imagine a life where I’m not always curious, working to acquire new knowledge; I can’t imagine a life devoid of adventure, either. I have limits, but in the mathematical sense; there are certain numbers I can’t reach, my curve goes off into space before I can get there. That doesn’t mean I don’t have a set of values, things I can do, numbers that I happened to come across. I don’t know how all of these things makes sense, but when I worry about money and failure, I remember I love the journey, the need to adventure to some place worth seeing.
I wasn’t quite as perky this morning, but I still don’t remember a time I’ve been this energetic on this little caffeine. Anyway, I can tell I’ve dropped some water weight, but I’m not surprised by that either. However, after 3 days of fasting, I think I’m going to break it tonight. The thing is, I miss chewing things. My body is sending up little crazy signals telling me I should be chewing, and I’m totally okay with that.
As a note, before I launch into the list of things I learned from this little experiment, I’m glad I didn’t pay for this cleanse. I thought about it, laughed at the price, and then read the pages of health information. Let’s just say the health field is filled with people who have a loose grasp on anatomy. Your stomach is acidic, but your pancreas pumps out enzymes that lower the pH of your food when it enters your small intestines, and this part, where the digestion takes place, is at pH 8. And your liver, for the last time, does not need detoxifying. If your liver and your kidneys were not working, you would be dead. If you want to lose actual weight, a juice cleanse isn’t for you. I wouldn’t go on this cleanse for more than 3-4 days. These companies suggest you eat vegan before you go on your cleanse, so they’re effectively prepping you for a week long commitment. If you put your body into starvation mode, your standard of health will decrease. A few days at depressed calorie intake on a cleanse should be fine, but don’t go the master cleanse route and fast for two weeks. You will lose muscle weight, and you’ll be less fit and healthy. So let’s stop talking about ‘detoxing’ and try to figure out what this means in terms of improving health.
On the flip side, I didn’t do this cleanse to start eating pizza and nachos again. I’m going vegan for this week and eating the remainder of my veggies and fruits. I read articles about people whining about how hard juice cleanses are and how terrible juices taste and how they weren’t healthy and how only nutty people cleanse and they’re just going to eat a fat steak now. If you’re going to do this, work with an open mind, and for all that is amazing, don’t do the master cleanse. Use a nice grapefruit juice to replace the SPICY LEMONADE.
Here are some takeaways from my DIY juicing experiment.
* I don’t eat enough fruits and veggies on a regular basis. I live in a culture where it’s permissible not to, and it’s easier to get good tasting non-vegetable food.
* I have improved energy, but I didn’t notice anything major with my skin. Some people say their skin gets ‘glowy’, but I didn’t see that result. I did have some digestion issues early on, but those cleared up. I don’t own a scale, but I did drop some water weight. I was able to run errands, work out, and go to work for days 2-3 of the cleanse without problems.
* Green juice is the answer to my fruit juice woes. I went into Whole Foods, and the two green juices I found (one being Naked) listed 5 fruits as their top 5 ingredients. I think the mostly-veggie green juice is what makes all of these juice cleanses work. My green juice included 1 kiwi, 1 apple, and a few handfuls of spinach and kale. I would consider adding parsley or celery in the future, but this recipe is simple, and it’s as many veggies and fruits as I eat during a normal day. I have effectively doubled my veggie/fruit consumption per day with an extra 15 minutes of work.
* You can do juicing with only a blender. I was skeptical I would be able to make this work with a blender because every other person who wrote about their DIY juicing had a juicer or dropped several hundred dollars to buy one. I can confirm that with a blender, pasta strainer, a funnel, and a bottle of some sort to keep the juice in you can make decent juice. Just make sure to add water, a bit of lemon juice (if desired), or coconut water to the veggies in the blender.
* I like to eat some fruits and veggies whole. I’m not going to grind up my other pineapple. I love pineapples! I was so sad when I had to throw away the pulp from the pine apple/cucumber drink. I love eating those two things raw, and my strawberries have been patiently waiting for this fast to be over.
* That said, I can expand the amount of fruits and veggies I eat everyday by blending together fruits and veggies I don’t like to eat whole. The perfect example is grapefruit. I loved the grapefruit/apple drink. I drank it right now, and I want more grapefruit juice. The same goes for kiwis and carrots. I can get cheap veggies and fruits, mix them together, and increase the amount of veggies and fruit I’m eating.
* I’m still skeptical of store bought juices. There are some good brands out there; I’m obsessed with juice now, so I went out and looked last night. I would consider buying some of those brands, but the majority of easily available juices aren’t vegetable based, and even the natural ones are designed to be very sweet by adding concentrated fruit juice. The only juice I found that listed vegetables as the first plant ingredients were tomato/carrot juices. We’ve designed our juices to include no pulp, too. As a rule, when you drink a bottled juice, it shouldn’t be clear. Juice isn’t soda, and the fibrous parts are good.
* I want to try one of the green juices from the cleansing companies. I couldn’t find any, but maybe in the future I’ll be able to try one. I want to know what the physical difference is between the green juice I made and the ones those companies are selling. That said, I wouldn’t pay to do this cleanse. Not $60-$80 a day for a labeled bottled and juice I could make myself. I spend that much money on my entire grocery bill, and I still have food left over I’m not going to juice, and I could, if needed, do two to three more days of just juicing on what fruits and veggies I have. I also don’t feel comfortable supporting the companies selling these cleanses because the websites do promote a lot of pseudo-science and feel-good anecdotes as supported health claims.
* The DIY method is definitely cheaper, and I can fit parts of it into my budget. I can make the green juice for under $20 a week, and with $25, I can make an additional fruit juice. I liked the cashew milk, but I think I’ll just stick to my cartoon of almond milk because it’s less chunky and has less calories. That said, 1/4 cup soaked cashews, 1 banana, cinnamon, and nutmeg with a splash of almond milk would make a great alternative to sweet and salty desert cravings.
I had a variety of expectations going into this “drink your veggies” experiment. On waking up after day 1 (really, day .5 because I started this at around 2 pm Saturday), I’m surprised because I slept the same amount/sleep schedule as normal, and I am wide awake. Not ‘toothpicks propping open my eyelids’ or ‘wired on a large coffee’ awake, but ‘I actually got up when my alarm went off instead of sleeping through it for half an hour’ awake. I’m limiting myself to 1 cup of coffee (I measured it!) a day to keep any caffeine withdraw headaches away, but I think I could have done without the coffee this morning. I can’t remember a time in the last several years I could have said that. I thought I would wake up and say, “Screw this. I need to be awake to go to work.” But here I am, and I was in lab at 8 am.
With that said, the one down side I’m having also surprised me. I thought without eating fat or dairy last night, I would feel less bloated, but this isn’t the case. My stomach felt a bit tender this morning, but it’s not abnormal for me to feel nauseous in the morning. I thought I wouldn’t be bloated, but I didn’t find that to be the case, at least when I woke up. With that said, maybe allowing more pulp in the juice is causing the bloating. I plan to remedy this by making a citrus based juice later. I think the high alkali content of the green juice might be bothering my stomach.
Anyway, I drank my green juice for breakfast this morning. I wasn’t clear on what I was drinking, so I’m going to break down a little what I’ve done so far. From what I can tell, these juice fasts are built around the green juice. I’m starting to understand why: you’re drinking liquid spinach and kale. I drank 2 very pulpy green juices and 1 coffee mug of cashew/banana juice last night. I blended all my ingredients, so they’re probably WAY more chunky/pulpy than their counterparts you would get from juicing programs. I made 3 bottles of green juice and used 2 recipes of cashew juice to make 3 servings. I left the cashew mix less strained, but I did a fair job straining the green pulp. I put it into a pasta strainer and pressed it down. Then, I added more water to the pulp and let it sit over night, which is how I got 1 grande iced coffee serving for breakfast. (See: the handy plastic cup I didn’t throw away.)
- 1 large handful of kale
- 1 large handful of spinach
- 1 average sized kiwi, peeled
- 1-2 Granny Smith apples, whole
*The recipe I took this from says to add 1 banana. I didn’t do that on the first day, but maybe I’ll try the green juice with a banana.
For 1 bottle:
- 1 cup of raw cashews, soaked in water for 2 hours
- 1 banana
- 1 cup of water
- a pinch each of cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg
(I used WAY more water to dilute 2 recipes of this to 3 servings. I drank one serving last night, but I’m going to try and make the remaining two servings last as lunches today and tomorrow. We’ll see.)
-1 seedless cucumber
*You could add apples and cut back on the pine apple. This one was hard to strain, and I made only 1.5 bottles from this ‘double’ recipe.
Grapefruit-apple-coconut Mint Juice:
-1 red apple
-1/2 container coconut water (natural, unsweetened)
-Sprigs of mint
(I peeled the grapefruit and chopped up the apple, and blended it all together. This juice was to replace the lemonade, and it strained really well. The mint might make your stomach feel better. I a full bottle plus a bit more out of this recipe.)
Here are pictures of ingredients and how I strained them and filtered them. That said, I would embrace the pulpiness of these drinks. I went to Whole Foods, trying to find a packet of the cleanse drinks sold nationally, but they didn’t have the bottled drink versions. I really want to find a comparison ‘green juice’ to see how my blended version stacks up. From what I can tell, the green juice is what is making the difference for me.