On Continuing to Be an Aerial Beginner

img_5114

I can do some cool tricks on the silks now.

I can’t do anything.

That’s the duality that lives within me every single time I peel off my sweaty socks and spray my hands with sticky adhesive before approaching the aerial silks, whether it’s in my friends’ home (pictured above) or at the aerial arts studio, where I’m once again taking classes.

Oh yes, I’m starting a whole project in which I learn to master 12 different circus skills in a year! Check it out here: My Circus Year Preview

Of course, I know you can’t truly master something within the parameters of a month, but in my mind, if I just applied myself, thought real hard about it, and took two or so classes a week, I’d actually become an expert. I’ve really only been applying myself to the silks for about 8 days now (got a bit of a late start to the month), but it feels like I’ll never improve.

I know that’s a foolish mentality, because I already have shown some improvements. I used to never be able to flip upside-down unless I had the silk carefully wrapped twice around my wrists for security; now, with the aid of spray adhesive, I only have to wrap my wrist once, creating a more elegant and tricky look. I’ve managed to once or twice wrap the fabric around my foot while hanging from the air, something I usually can only do from the security of the ground. I’ve learned a few new tricks to add onto existing ones, and they’re pretty and impressive (see above photo. It looks great, but is hilarious to watch me try to get into). My soreness is starting to be less intense after each session.

And yet.

And yet, as with anything physical or any new challenge at all, I can’t help but feel once again like the weaselly child I used to be, always picked last for team sports in PE and then smashed in the face with the volleyballs. There’s something to be said for athletic intelligence, and if you don’t have it, I fear you come across as slow or somehow stupid. All of my fancy book-learnin’ does me no good when I’m in the air and the instructor is saying “no, your left foot INSIDE the fabric. Inside. INSIDE!” Aerial arts are exhausting and hard in a whole new way, and all of the strength that I’ve accumulated through years of weight-training and hiking does me almost no good as the sweat beads on my forehead and I tell myself “INSIDE the fabric. INSIDE, dang it!”

I’m going to keep on keeping on, of course, but I certainly will need an attitude adjustment for the rest of the year if it frustrates me this much to not be good at something after 8 days.

See you next time!

Advertisements

Tiny Tips for Enhancing Your Food

I love to cook, and I love to add little things to my food to make it even tastier than it was the first hundred times I made the dish. I’ve also been a vegetarian for over a decade, so I’ve had a chance to perfect lots of different veggie fare, sometimes even in the hope of impressing meat-eaters. Here are a few tiny tips that may help improve the quality of your food!

— Add marjoram to store-bought pasta sauce to enhance the flavor of the tomatoes. While you’re at it, dump in some extra garlic powder, or even some red chili flakes if you like things spicy!

— Use a stove-top popcorn maker for your movie-watching treats. Not only is popping your own corn cheaper, healthier, and less wasteful, but it’s fun! I like to use avocado oil in my Whirley Pop popcorn maker, because it tastes almost like what you’d get at Harkins.

— Add a drop of olive oil to your rice while it’s building up to a boil. I’ve found that this makes it fluffier and less sticky.

— For delicious Asian-style fried zucchini, stir-fry zucchini cubes in olive or avocado oil, then add chili garlic sauce, soy sauce, and fresh garlic. Boom!

— If you’re making a quesadilla or a grilled cheese, it’s always fun to throw in a few sliced green onions for an extra little crunch and burst of flavor.

— Refrigerate chocolate-chip cookie dough for at least twelve hours before you bake it. The cookies come out thicker and softer!

— Wait until almost the end of your cook time to throw in your garlic. Otherwise, it may burn and smoke up your pan. The best flavor comes at the end!

I hope you enjoy these little tips and that you get out there and get cooking. I was feeling hungry today.

See you next time!

How to Be Disappointed

Step one: set an expectation for something.

Step two: have that expectation not be met.

Boom, you’re disappointed. It’s that easy!

Disappointment is something we all must endure, and for a lot of us, it hurts way worse than those fiery, fierce emotions that scream out of us like ghosts. Instead, it lingers, alternatively freezing and simmering our insides until we feel all twisted up. Some people even prefer to be outright yelled at than to hear the phrase “I’m disappointed in you.”

I’m disappointed in myself today. I took my “first” aerial silks class back at my local circus arts studio. I’ve taken classes there before with that exact instructor, but it’s my first actual lesson in over eight months. The only other student was a lithe, graceful girl who could turn herself upside-down without a single grunt, skillfully climb the fabric all the way to the top, and even practiced a little routine in which she looked like a music box ballerina. In contrast, I felt (and looked like) the old, twisted jewelry you might find in the bottom of that music box. I was sweating profusely, tugging at borrowed shorts that barely covered my butt, struggling with the most basic of moves as though I’d never even tried aerial arts before…

And I was disappointed.

I was disappointed because I wanted to show off. I was disappointed because the other girl was so much more impressive than me, and I immediately started perceiving myself as too big, too ungraceful, too unworthy to even be in the same room as her. I was disappointed because everything I had learned before seemed to go out the window.

So what can we do when we feel disappointed? The first step, I think, is to honor the feeling.

Nothing’s going to go right 100% of the time. For me, things tend to go right at a much smaller percentage than they go wrong. I build things up and then watch as life knocks it all down. And I seethe, and bubble, and wish there was a way to not feel like that.

So I may go watch a sad episode of “Glee” so I can force out some cathartic tears. Or I may go rock out at karaoke to prove myself I can still do something well. Or I may rant to a friend who generously offers a listening ear. But what I can’t do, any longer, is give up at the first sign of disappointment. Otherwise, I’d have given up everything I’ve ever tried.

Thank you for reading this sort of unconventional post here on Little Bit of a Lot of Things. Stay tuned for more fun circus arts posts (and lots more frustration)!

See you next time!

How to Lessen Airport Anxiety

Before 2018, I had only been on two plane trips, each not longer than two hours of flight, and both so long ago I have hardly any recollection of them. Then, summer 2018 arrived, and with it came flights from Phoenix to JFK in New York City to Dublin International Airport to the Lyons airport in the south of France to Valencia, Spain, to Tenerife Airport South in the Canary Islands to Madrid to Moscow to….

The point is, I’ve been to a lot of airports by now and flown at just about any time of day, on any type of plane, in nearly every possible seat (even first class once!). As much of a bundle of anxiety as I am, I have learned a few tips and tricks from my experiences to help alleviate that anxiety. Here are a few ways to make your trips to the airport go smoother.

First, really, arrive two hours early. I know it sounds like way too much time, but it’s so much more relaxing to be at your gate an hour and a half early than it is to sprint through the airport, rolling suitcase careening wildly around, to barely catch your flight.

Second, to maximize your luggage space, wear your biggest items of clothing. Recently I traveled to Ohio and needed to bring lots of coats and huge snow boots. As sweaty as I was for just a few minutes in the airport wearing most of those things, it saved me a ton of room in my suitcase and I was able to peel all the layers off once I was seated on the plane (and all those coats make for a nice cushy pillow).

Third, know that every TSA is different, but chances are, you’ll have to take your shoes and jewelry off, so make sure you wear socks (airport floors. Yikes) and easily unclasp-able jewelry. Some airports need you to separate your liquids from the rest of your things, so place your tiny shampoos, toothpaste, etc, in their own little bag that you can easily pull out from your larger suitcase. Consolidate as many of your things as you can so there are fewer to pick up when you’re through. And don’t try to rush the TSA people! They’ll beckon you forward when it’s your turn.

Fourth, locate your gate information if you didn’t already have it on your ticket. Right after security, you should be able to find a big screen with flight info on it. Find your flight number/destination and then see where it tells you the gate number. Gate information is usually available by five hours before the flight. Once you’ve figured out where to go, get there, grab a seat, and relax!

Finally, choose a few “friends” you can keep an eye on for your flights. Flying can be super scary, but if you have a few faces to focus on, that can keep you grounded (heh) during the experience. Does one of the flight attendants have a cool lanyard? Does the little kid two rows behind you have her own tiny yellow suitcase? How about that guy with the mohawk? If you can keep tabs on your “friends” while in the air, you’ll always have a familiar feeling and you won’t feel so lonely.

Going to the airport can be a nightmare, but think of how awesome it will be to get where you’re going! Now get out there and spread your wings!

See you next time!

How to Write a Letter to Your Future Self

Hello, again. It’s me. Back from the internet absence. You know, your basic low-level holiday sadness creeping in, wresting hands away from keyboards and motivation away from minds. It’s chill.

I’m back in my childhood bedroom for a few nights and I discovered something hideous but oh-so-valuable in my desk drawer. It’s a letter from me to me, over eleven years ago, including photos, and boy is it a hoot. The photos feature an extremely regrettable haircut, ill-fitting glasses and uni-colored yellow outfits and a hideous and angry red skin infection blazing across my forehead. Though sometimes I feel as though I’ve looked the same since the day I came out of the womb, it’s slightly reassuring to find that my looks have improved somewhat since eighth grade. But it’s the letter that’s the real treasure.

I was clearly following a set of guidelines for how to compose the letter, because I swing elegantly from “hopes and fears” to “favorite books! OMG!” but that makes it even more adorable (and sometimes, jarring). It’s interesting to see that my 13-year-old brain put “getting a boyfriend in high school” right next to “the Iraq War” in my “worries” section. It’s also fun to read through the list of crushes I had back in the day and realize that they haven’t meant anything to me for nine years or so.

I highly recommend trying this exercise out for yourself. It’s hilarious and strangely moving. Here are some tips for composing a letter to your future self.

First, set a time frame. The original letter was sent to me with about a year’s delay from a former teacher, but since then, I’ve been continuing the tradition and making myself wait four years between composition and opening. Four years may seem arbitrary, but it’s about the time you need to complete a whole set of schooling (high school and college) and a LOT can change in four years. So when I write my letter this time around, I’ll address it to myself in 2022.

Second, decide if you want to follow a guideline or not. I’m sure you can find guidelines online for this project, but it’s also fun just to wing it. In the original letter, I had “hopes and fears,” “favorite books/movies/songs/shows,” “talents,” “what I look like,” “crushes and friends,” and “current events.” Since the original letter I’ve made sure to include speculation about what I’ll be like when I finally open the letter. It’s fun to see if my predictions come true (although a little cringey to find that I don’t ever live up to my past expectations).

Third, find a quiet place and a long time span to compose your letter. I like to write mine holed up in my room at the end of each year, right after Christmas time, to give a proper summary of the year. It’s a great idea to try to write at least four pages to yourself; otherwise, you’ll have waited four whole years or more for something paltry and half-assed. Plus, once you get going, you’ll find that you have a lot to say.

Fourth, if you want, include photos. My original letter eleven years ago coincided with the MySpace age, but that page has long since fallen defunct, so it was awesome to have access to those old photos in the form of hard copies. Sure, your camera roll can hold thousands of photos of you from any day of the year, but if you print out a few and tuck them into your envelope, you can get a really good sense of what you looked like exactly during that time.

Finally, be as specific as possible! Although it may feel weird now to write “My crush is a guy named Jeff Goldblum, from paleontology class,” in four years or so you don’t want to pick up your letter and see “my crush is Jeff” and ask yourself “wait, what Jeff?” Unless you ended up marrying Jeff Goldblum from paleontology class. In that case, huge congrats.

Now get out there and write! And in 3-5 years, enjoy the fruits of your labor!

See you next time!

How to Hike Like You Were Born on a Mountain

DSCF4187

I used to be terrible at hiking.

Being from the hottest ring of hell in Arizona means that my outdoorsy childhood days were spent in the swimming pool, not out pounding the trails. In fact, I didn’t really have a chance to take a serious hike until just before I started my college career, when my father signed me up for a “wilderness welcome” trip before the beginning of the first semester.

My first official serious hike was Angels Landing in Zion National Park, Utah, which is not an easy hike by anyone’s stretch of imagination. You go up, then up some more, then up a little bit more through a series of ever-steeper switchbacks, until you come across the saddle of the trail, which leads to a collection of chains shoved into the side of the cliff to cling to while you make your shaky ascent. At the top of the trail, I gazed down at the beauty of Zion, practically pooping my pants for fear of having to do it all again in reverse. By the time we miraculously reached the ground again, my legs were quivering like they were made of vegetarian Jell-o and I had uttered at least a few vows that I’d never be doing that again.

That was six and a half years ago, and now I consider myself a reliable and strong hiker. I won’t be sized up against PCT through-hikers any time soon, nor will you find me relying on my Sherpa companions halfway up Everest, but I can summit a mountain as well as anyone else these days. Here are some tips I’ve collected for improving your hiking.

First, acknowledge your level of strength. If you accompany a group of accomplished hikers on a trip and pretend that your fitness level is equal to theirs, then push yourself past your limits and cry and vomit through the whole trip, you’ll have a bad time. In the same vein, if you know you can be a speedy hiker yet force yourself to move at a glacial pace for some arbitrary reason, you will also have a bad time. Pick trails that will be a challenge but not an impossibility, and move at your own pace if you can help it. Also, if you know you have a condition like asthma or are prone to rolling your ankle, it’s especially important to monitor yourself.

Second, know how to take a proper trailside break. Some people fling themselves to the ground for ten minutes each and every time they need a rest, but that will hinder you in the long run. The best wisdom is to never sit down unless the break will be longer than ten minutes, otherwise your muscles may begin to cool down and tense up. Try to keep your pack on as well, to maintain your equilibrium.

I sometimes push myself to take no breaks on a trail (a personal challenge of mine was to reach the saddle at Angels Landing years later without stopping), but that’s a pretty silly thing to do. Your body needs a chance to suck in some extra air and stop pumping lactic acid into your muscles for a few seconds, so don’t be ashamed to pause, take about ten deep breaths, and then head on.

Third, snacks!!!! I’ve been on so many hikes where I don’t think at all about the food I shove into my bag, and then I’m at the summit with miles to go back down and everyone’s enjoying elaborate sandwiches and cookies and I only have half of a bag of near-rancid almonds. Having something delicious to look forward to will motivate you and also provide the fuel you desperately need after all your hard work. Try to bring something with some sugar, fat, and protein (that’s why trail mix is a great idea, with its mix of nuts and chocolates). Having a little something salty is a great idea, too.

I’ll write more about the foods I bring on a long backpacking trip later, but for a day hike, a little variety of sweet, salty, and protein-y will suffice.

And seriously, don’t forget your water! A lot of people underestimate how much they will need to sustain themselves on a trail. It’s a great idea to always bring at least 3 liters no matter where you plan to go. A lost hiker will never kick themselves for having extra water around.

Fourth, find something to chat about if you’re with pals. The hike will fly by if you all get started discussing your favorite books or the latest season of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. I once summitted Kendrick Peak in Northern Arizona and didn’t even realize I had gone nearly five miles because I was so enthralled by the frat boy in front of me listing all the Broadway shows he had memorized. If you’re someone who needs music, that can be a great motivator as well, but be warned that playing music through a speaker instead of headphones is pretty bad trail etiquette.

Fifth, take lots of photos! When you’re weeks and years past the hike, you won’t even remember how difficult it was. You’ll just be so grateful you did it.

I hope these day hike tips help you feel more confident hitting the trails, because hiking is for everybody and will take you to some amazing views of our amazing world!

See you next time!

How to be a Better Roommate

For the past six years, I’ve lived in a variety of situations: a tiny room by myself, my dad’s house, a shared bedroom in a dormitory, a loft in an apartment with three male roommates, one third of a half-house unit, as part of a four-girl suite, and now in a house with three roommates again. I’ve been an awesome roommate (including being the only one who EVER cleaned the shared bathroom for TWO. YEARS) and I’ve been an awful roommate (including leaving dishes in the sink for so long that a spider made a web around them lol). Here’s a short list of ways to be a better roommate.

First, if you’ve got laundry in your unit, respect the machines. Don’t monopolize them. One guy I lived with constantly would wash his clothes, toss the wet clothes into the dryer, and promptly forget about them, meaning that any time I wanted to do my own loads, I’d have to re-wash his mildewy one for him, then finally set it to actually dry.

Second, set a timer on your phone to remind you to do your dishes within x amount of time, from 1-6 hours after you made them. Obviously, you can’t be expected to immediately scrub down a pan still sizzling from the stove, but if you have a reminder set, you’ll get back to it in a timely manner without leaving it for the spiders (again, a low point in my roommate career).

Aside: don’t even live in a loft if you can help it. It’s awful.

Third, provide something that the other roommates don’t, whether it’s an item or a skill. Do you have a handheld vacuum, perfect for getting under cabinets and corners? Bring it! Not many people have those! Or are you an excellent baker? Make some treats for the house if you have some spare time! You’ll be immediately beloved.

Fourth, you’re never too old for a chore chart. Some people whine and complain that they shouldn’t be assigned chores because they’re an aduuuuuuult and they can haaaaaaandle things. It’s been my experience that if others aren’t assigned chores, they all become your chores. You don’t even want to see what turns up in a vacuum bag after 6 months of no cleaning in a house with a dog and four people constantly coming and going. It could even be as simple as saying “Hey, I’m going to clean the bathroom this week” and hopefully your roommates will say “ok, I’ll get it in another two weeks then!” and not “what? You’re my personal maid? Ok!”

Aside 2: I may be slightly bitter about some roommate situations.

Fifth, try not to exclude your roommates. Everyone has a different schedule, but if you know Roommate A really wanted to watch Brooklyn Nine-Nine but worked until 8 pm, it would be pretty rude of you to get Roommate B and Roommate C together to watch it at 7 pm just because you had some time then. Try to extend courtesy to the people you share a home with, or it can quickly feel like an us-vs-them situation.

Finally, if you have a car and your roomies don’t, you will be like a god if you offer them a ride to the grocery store, gym, school, etc. I’ve always biked around but needed help for big grocery trips, and nothing made me happier than when my roommate would schedule us a grocery trip together.

It all sounds like basic stuff, but sometimes you slip up and let spiders make webs on your dishes, and it’s always good to be reminded of the basics.

See you next time!