Bartolo, My Hero

Now that the reality of Monday morning has set in, I can take stock of the highlight of the weekend: New York Mets pitcher Bartolo Colón hit the first home run of his 19 year career.

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Smile for the camera, Big Sexy. Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports 

There’s nothing I can say here that hasn’t already been said.

He’s an unlikely hero. Overweight, middle-aged. Ironically nicknamed “Big Sexy.” His batting stance lacks awareness of technique. He hunkers over the plate and swings so hard he typically loses his batting helmet.

He’s been a bit of a running punchline and early in the 2015 season he managed a better batting average than a few of the (then LOL)Mets’ position players—including a spectacularly lucky looking RBI double against the Marlins. It’s like he doesn’t expect it… nobody else does either. And just look at the child-like glee on his face as he runs.

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Basically me.

Bartolo is all of us. He represents why we love baseball so much. He defies expectations. He’s the underdog at bat. He’s the kid who elicits groans from the other kids in PE because they know he’s going to strike out and lose the game for the team. But then he gets up and rips one to left field.

I’m not saying let’s put him in the 2016 Home Run Derby or anything, but I’m certainly willing to keep the celebration over this hit running until his next start. And he deserves it. First homer in a 19 year career. He’s proof that it’s never too late to accomplish a dream.

As someone essentially starting life over in my mid-30s (and who will be competing for jobs with people in their early to mid-20s), I’m a bit sensitive to this concept. And right now, Big Sexy is my #1 hero.

I’ve got a home run in me too. We all do. Bartolo is proof of that.

 

 

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On Half-Marathons and Broken Hearts

I have run two half-marathons (my third will be the 2016 Brooklyn Half) and I have had my heart broken a few more times than that. In my most recent heartbreak, I realize how similar running a half-marathon is to the process of picking myself back up when I have fallen too hard for someone.

When starting a race, I’m ok. I’m fine. I don’t get nervous. I may have a few thoughts about how glad I’ll be when it’s over, but I’m more anxious to just get going. Standing in the corrals with thousands of other racers, I feel really alone. But I’m ok with that. I’m just working on being calm and preparing.

I know that the first part will be the hardest. I know if I can just get past the first mile or two, I’ll be ok. From miles 2-4, I’m in the zone. I’m feeling good. I’m forgetting that there’s still a lot of ground to cover. But I’m at a steady pace. I’m even smiling a little. I’m encouraged. I’m attempting to enjoy the race and the scenery around me.

Around mile 5 or 6 is when I start getting a little frustrated. I’m not even halfway through? Where’s the Gatorade? Is that a blister I’m feeling? Oh god, my nipples are starting to chafe. Why didn’t I train more for this?

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Struggling during the 2015 Brooklyn Half

So I walk. I take my time. I rest. I let my energy build back up. Occasionally I’ll start a small trot. I know I’ll finish, but it feels really far away. These few miles are when I am really alone with my thoughts. And that can be scary.

Mile 10 is rough. I’ve come so far and I know I’m so close. But everything hurts. People are passing me. I’m trying really hard to focus on me and only me, but it’s hard. I wonder if anyone I know will be along the finish to cheer me on. But I know there won’t be. So I get a little down. I have to remind myself that I’m doing this for me and no one else.

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The final 200 meters or so… can you see the exhaustion in that smile?

Thankfully, that part goes by fairly fast. Pretty soon I’m hitting mile 13 and I know I just have a couple of hundred meters left and I need to pull every ounce of my energy and strength to finish strong. I refuse to walk across a finish line. I will run. Cue the “you can do it” inner pep talks. (Pretty sure I have actually uttered these words aloud to myself during a race).

 

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Always, always finish strong.

And then I see cheering faces along the finish stretch. I begin to smile. People are ringing bells and clapping. A friendly stranger will run up next to me—”We GOT this!”—and I’ll push across the finish. Usually choking down some tears.

And when it’s over and every inch of my body hurts and I’m walking like there’s a hot metal rod up my ass, I know I’ll be ok. I know because I’ve been there before. I’ve covered the miles and the ups and the downs and I endured.

My heart has been broken a few times. And it will likely be broken again. The aftermath of heartache sucks. There are high moments and low moments; one day it’s all confidence and independence and awesomeness and the next it’s being bummed that you can’t talk to your best friend anymore. But it’s not a sprint. I’ll have good miles and bad miles. But eventually, I’ll finish. And I’ll be running when I do.

 

#MoreThanMean

While walking my dog one morning, I paused on the corner of my street as he was doing his business. A man in a car was making a left hand turn towards my block and practically leaned out his window, watching me as he made the turn. I found myself suddenly very conscious of myself. I was being watched. Who else was watching? Watching me walk. Watching me bend over to pick up my dog’s shit. Watching me walk in a daze because I haven’t had my morning coffee yet.

And I wondered if men have any idea how this feels.

After the PSA from Just Not Sports showing men reading horrible tweets to female sportswriters Sarah Spain and Julie DiCaro came out, I was simultaneously proud of them for putting themselves out there in such a way and also disheartened at the inevitable backlash they, and anyone standing up for them, would face.

There are people out there saying the tweets read were fake (nice name, coward):

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There are people saying this happens to men too (LOL):

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Or perhaps they’re jealous of the harassment?

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Aw, I’m sorry… I didn’t realize you wanted to be told that you should be raped.

Unfortunately there’s also this really weird side effect happening. And it’s called #NotAllMen… the feminist equivalent of #AllLivesMatter (from Jezebel):

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Oh sure, it looks like it’s supportive by calling those vile tweets “shit,” but somehow the poster made men the victims—taking the hit for the supposed small minority of men.

But stay with me, here’s where things get tricky. Going and attacking these men for making these comments isn’t making things any better.

The point of this PSA was to show how bad things can be for women in sports. The very nature of women working in a profession that has long been dominated by men seems to rile people up (how dare they have thoughts on sports). Their male counterparts may receive angry tweets, but they will be about the content of what they write. Skip Bayless is awful, but are people telling him he should be raped? Or that he should go back into the kitchen? No, they mock what he says.

This PSA fired a lot of people up because it highlights the disparity on how women are treated. So many women face harassment on a daily basis. Whether it’s catcalling on the street or threatening tweets, it’s happening all the time. And for men to dismiss it by saying that it’s just a small percentage of men doing it… well, it feels like giving permission to these situations.

I know there are great guys out there. I’m fortunate to be friends with many who love and support me as a woman. I know not all men say and do terrible things to women. But enough of them do. Enough that I can’t just have a relaxing walk with my dog in the morning without wondering who’s watching me.

I never want to discourage men from speaking up in support of feminism and #MoreThanMean and other equality initiatives. I think men are valued in the conversation here. Essential, even. And that’s the point. It’s a conversation. We all need to have a place here. Listen to each other. And hopefully attempt to reach understanding and sympathy.

 

 

5 Things People Need to Stop Making Lists About

We live in the land of listicles. 30 things to do before you turn 30. 20 mistakes to make in your 20s. Movies you’re supposed to see, places you’re supposed to visit, milestones you’re supposed to reach. It’s exhausting trying to keep up. And it sends the message to those of us who live outside the box—or list, as it were—that we’re wrong in some way.

So here’s a list of things people need to stop telling us to do:

1. Anything to do with finances
Life happens. Sometimes it’s an unexpected medical bill, or a necessary work expense (or necessary leisure expense). And sometimes you decide to go into massive debt in your 30s going back to grad school. (eep.) I get that setting myself up for my future is important, but please don’t tell me how much should be in my savings account right now.

2. Anything to do with relationships
Don’t tell me to date someone not my type (whatever that means anyway). Don’t tell me to have my heart broken. Don’t tell me to get married. Don’t tell me not to get married. Don’t tell me to live with someone. Don’t tell me to plan out my reproductive future. Just don’t.

3. Anything to do with a job
Should I be a vice president by the time I’m 30? A partner in a law firm? Should I be making six figures? Tell me, oh wise Internet, tell me.

4. Anything to do with travel
From the time I knew what Europe was, I wanted to travel. But I didn’t make it there until I was 33. My dad went to Italy for the first time a couple of years ago when he was in his 60s. It’s not always easy to make travel happen, so telling someone they should be going somewhere when they may not have the means is just… mean.

5. Anything to do with life skills
Can I fix a running toilet? Yup. Can I sew a button? Nope. Can I hang a mirror on a wall? Yup. Can I read my insurance forms and know what they mean? Nope. Can I paint my own finger nails without messing up? Yup. Can I keep a plant alive? Probably not.

I get it. These things don’t come out of nowhere. I’m sure there are plenty of people out there satisfied with someone telling them that there’s one way to live their lives. I’m not one of those people. I’m 36. I live with two roommates. My bedroom is decorated with Star Wars posters and sports memorabilia. I am in grad school with the intention of starting a whole new career (and a whole new level of debt). I rarely cook dinner. I don’t know what my life will look like in six months. And I’m perfectly happy.

The thing is, if we let people set standards for things like age, we are opening the door for other standards: gender, sexual orientation, race, beauty. I don’t know about you, but my life isn’t—and shouldn’t be—dictated by a list.

 

To Bear or Not to Bear

I have been known for being pretty adamant about not wanting to have children. I’ve heard all the condescending criticism about changing my mind when I find that someone special… blah, blah, blah. But the other day a friend from college messaged me to let me know his wife, also my friend, was pregnant. I immediately started crying. And I didn’t understand why.

I’m 35 years old, single and childless. And I have been ok with that. But lately, I have been wondering… what if I am going to want kids? What if I miss my chance? And no, I’m not going to rush out to freeze my eggs anytime soon. But it is making me think that I’m starting to race against time.

For me, having kids isn’t a selfish thing. It’s not about what I want. I don’t long to be a mother. It’s not something that I really ever imagined. But I’m realizing something and it’s really scaring the shit out of me. I think having kids is about sharing something so important with someone you love. Two people coming together and creating life from their love. Yeah, this might be something you all know… but it’s just hitting me. And it’s something I’m afraid I’ll miss out on.

This might be because there’s a person in my life that’s making me look to the future more than I ever have. But for whatever reason, it’s not working. At this moment I can’t imagine caring for someone as much as I do for him. I can’t imagine sharing my life, and possibly a family, with anyone else. Without him knowing, I have been questioning my whole theory on the kids thing.

I figure I have about 5 years before this decision will come off the table. I mean, if my health and body are holding up, maybe more. But suddenly that doesn’t seem like a lot of time. To meet someone that I love deeply enough to want to create a family… that doesn’t come around often. If you do the sad and pessimistic math there, I don’t have long. It took me a long time before I found this one person… if it takes that long again, I’ll surely miss the boat.

The frustrating part is that I’m starting to want these things… but as time goes on it is becoming less likely I will get them. I don’t want to have a kid for the sake of having a kid. I want to be able to share something with one person that I can’t share with anyone else. And it’s making me pretty sad to think I won’t.

I would really love to hear from people who started families later… met their significant others later. I really need some reassurance right about now.

Secure in my Insecurity

I’m pretty much an open book. And I’m sure to many people I appear confident and strong. But the truth is, I’m an insecure mess.

Don’t get me wrong, I think I’m pretty terrific. But for some reason, when I’m in a relationship, I worry about being terrific enough for that person. As a consequence, I say and do things that create friction. I become passive aggressive. I say things I don’t mean in order to get a reaction. I become anxious. I write blog posts on the topic…

Sometimes it feels like I’m not even in control. This little monster just takes over and I lose my head. And then I make things worse. And the whole time I know this. I’m aware of it; I loathe myself for it. I just can’t stop it. I really think that my last few relationships ended because of my insecurity. Even if the person wasn’t good for me and I knew it, I wasn’t secure enough to walk away. My last relationship definitely put my insecurities to the test. And though I really thought I was improving, I was overcome by them and destroyed a truly good thing.

Until I am magically cured of this affliction, however, I just make an effort to be super conscious of it. I’m a work in progress… always trying to improve. Others may not see it, but I know I am.

 

 

The Dark Knight of Hope

Take Me Out to the Ballgame!

Take Me Out to the Ballgame!

Ah yes, baseball is back and all is right in the world.

All of the slates have been wiped clean. The bad memories from last season are forgotten (mostly) and those who were at the top are back on equal footing with the rest of the bunch.

Fans and analysts have spent the spring watching minor league prospects show their skills to the big guys in hopes of getting the call-up. Spring is also the stage for returns, whether it be a post-PED suspension redemption, or a chance to see how a recently rehabbed elbow fares against live batters. No player’s return has been more closely watched, and perhaps more hyped, than that of New York Mets right handed pitcher, Matt Harvey.

The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Rises

Dubbed “The Dark Knight of Gotham” by Sports Illustrated in 2013, Harvey was touted as the savior for the joke of a franchise. That is, until he tore a ligament in his elbow and was scheduled for the dreaded Tommy John surgery. He would be out for over a year. Just when Mets fans had gotten their hopes up for salvation, they would be doomed to go on without him.

Harvey stayed relevant in the media, as any true New York athlete (and playboy) should. Always impeccably dressed, he attended Rangers games with his model girlfriend to see his good friend Henrik Lundqvist tend the goal and he caused controversy at Yankee Stadium for being at Subway Series rival Derek Jeter’s final game. Whenever interviewed he would mention how healthy he was feeling, perhaps indicating he might return before 2015. What a tease.

And so the baseball world watched with bated breath as he pitched to live batters for the first time in the regular season. April 9th, 2015 became Harvey Day. He was back on the mound, facing the preseason favorites for the pennant (and World Series), the Washington Nationals.

His stats are now famous: he pitched 6 scoreless innings, allowing 4 hits and getting 9 strikeouts. The Mets won 6-3.

It’s easy to dismiss the Mets as a joke. Perhaps it’s because of their proximity to the Yankee dynasty. The Mets are like the doofy kid brother that lives in the shadow of their handsome prom king-class president-valedictorian-varsity letterman older brother.

But the fans. Mets fans are hopeful. Mets fans are naively optimistic. And it’s beautiful. It’s one of the best parts about sports fandom in general. Every year is a fresh start. Every year is full of possibility. Every year could be the year.

But this year feels a bit different. Mets fans are singing the same “this is our year” tune, but there’s a renewed sense of hope. It seems that Harvey has been the catalyst for this. The doofy brother just got a movie montage makeover. Morale is high. The team seems to be bolstered by his return and the fans are, well, fanatical.

Will he be the one to save the Mets? We’ll have to wait and see. But it sure does look like dawn on the horizon.