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A Ferret Called Wilson

Chasing Happy, Chasing Dreams

Month

October 2012

Wishing for Role Models

Dear Penn Public Safety,

This evening at approximately 9:00 pm on 45th street just south of Chestnut, I was riding in the bicycle lane when a uniformed University of Pennsylvania security officer came riding in the bicycle lane against the flow of traffic. I hope I don’t have to explain how dangerous this is.

I have been a cycle commuter in Philadelphia for six years. I am a member of the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia and I take pride in my identity as a cyclist. I like to believe that my choice to ride instead of drive helps alleviate pollution and congestion problems in the city, and I make a point, however difficult it may be, to demonstrate good cycling etiquette on the road. Nonetheless, I am constantly exposed to carelessness, aggression and abuse on the roads which puts my life in danger every day. Both on campus and off I am acutely aware of the tensions present between pedestrians, cyclists and motorists.

I like to believe that the University of Pennsylvania is making a positive impact on the community that I have called home for the better part of a decade. However, it absolutely destroys my spirit to see university representatives blatantly disregarding the rules of the road. Cyclists have it so hard in this city because really, everybody hates us. I want to believe that at least we cyclists are trying to do our part to better the circumstances, but when even security and law enforcement refuse to respect the road and their fellow cyclists, I simply lose hope.

Here’s to hoping tonight’s incident was no more than an oversight.

Sincerely,

xxxxx

Left Foot, Right Foot

Running is a metaphor for life. Every hardship you face in your daily world is represented and condensed in a run. From the monday morning drag to the friday evening crash, every experience has its parallel in running.

Even the most seasoned runner has days when she simply does not want to start moving. You would think that concentrating on the rewards of the run would help — the feeling of accomplishment, the rush of energy when the run is completed, the flushing out of your body’s gunk and sluggishness, the health benefits — but before you tie your laces they are still an eternity away. The more you think about the run ahead, the heavier your legs begin to feel and the more you just want to climb back into bed and pull the sheets over your head.

In order to get moving on these lethargic days, runners have to come up with tricks to get themselves out the door. I’ve learned to get up and put on my running clothes before I even leave my bedroom for my morning pee. Somehow being dressed for a run makes it seem like more work not to run than it does to just go outside. Once outside, on really bad days, I’ll tell myself that I’m just going to walk the distance, or the time, instead of actually running. But that’s when everything starts to move. I can’t stand wasting time. I might get half a block away from my house before I’m annoyed at how slow I’m moving and I start to jog. As one foot moves in front of the other, my pace will slowly begin to pick itself up and my back straighten. I’m running.

Working on my dissertation, a huge project that seems to never end, is the same way. There are days when the amount of work I have to accomplish seems so huge that I don’t even want to leave my house. If I dilly-dally around at home for too long, thinking about and planning out everything that I have to do, it becomes harder and harder to leave until at some point I know it plainly won’t happen. However if I put on my clothes and walk out that front door, I’m halfway to my office before it occurs to me how much work the rest of the day is going to be. It helps that my commute is downhill and after a while momentum will literally carry me to the finish.

Whenever my life seems to overwhelm me, or the distance I need to travel seem dauntingly far, I tell myself quietly “Left foot, right foot. Left foot, right foot.” Even if my body feels to heavy to move, the amount of responsibility too heavy to carry, I think about my morning runs when the simple process of putting my left foot in front of my right foot puts me that much closer to the finish. It seems small, but a run is nothing more than left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot. In the same way any task in my daily life is nothing more than the tiniest steps, each one carrying me closer to my goal.

You may never know where your next project will take you. Completing my dissertation is the farthest I’ve ever been able to think for the last six years of my life, and I still have no idea what will come next. Uncertainty is scary and it breeds inertia, and paralysis of the mind. But every day that I run reinforces my confidence that I will get there. Even though you know in your mind that this is the way life moves, your heart will not believe you without practice. My practice for life is my run. Every day. Every day. If I can get through my run then I can get through everything else. Just by putting my left foot out and following it with my right.

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