Fall is Coming to Denmark

The weather is slowly getting chillier.

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This is my first full experience of “real” fall weather since high school. Naturally it’s causing me to become quite nostalgic, conjuring up good memories and bad. I’m revisiting photos and feel myself looking at a stranger. How I want to be that naive girl from the past and how I am also glad that I have grown up and moved past those rocky formative years.

Regionals 2008 Regionals 2008 2

I miss being so thin and feeling so fast and strong. I miss running through the mud and the creeks and sprinting hard up the last and final hill. I miss long slow runs with a chilly breeze while the leaves turn yellow. I wish I wouldn’t have demanded so much of myself back then. Sometimes the voice in my head was so cruel when I ran (or really when I did most anything), so demanding of improvement. Sometimes I wanted to quit back then all together, but I long now to be running down a West Virginia country lane with good friends and shoes caked with mud.

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I don’t really understand why I miss these times so much. Perhaps its as simple as being reminded for the first time in a while that there is such a thing as seasons, which makes me think back to earlier times when I experienced seasonal differences every year and wasn’t surprised by them.

I don’t know why I’m having all the nostalgia for high school and West Virginia right now. Perhaps the early onset of fall this year is reminding me that the sun is slowly setting, not just on the shorter and shorter days but on my time in Europe. I worry that this year will be some sort of peak in my life and that I will not readjust to my old life. I also don’t want to readjust to the life I left behind because it was filled with unhappiness, anxiety and depression.

I truly am so happy here and I am terrified to lose this upon my return, but I guess I just have to remember that my stay in Copenhagen really has just begun.

West Virginia Fall #1, Acrylic, 8 x 16 (my sister Alex and her cool hat)

West Virginia Fall #1, Acrylic, 8 x 16
(my sister Alex and her cool hat)

Seeing signs of fall reminds me how easy memory can be triggered and how richly one can remember. I can feel old anguish all over again. At the same time I can also can feel old happiness, like the faint autumn sun streaking over my face on an early morning run: flashes of yellow, red, orange, brown, blending together. I want to hold on to this memory, this feeing forever.

Countryside Run

I went on the first run I’ve been on in over a year today. It was pleasant and easy unlike many runs I’ve been on before. It’s been years since I’ve ran competitively or participated in any competitive sport for that matter. It used to compose such a huge part of my identity, but I don’t look back at it as an entirely positive experience.

Junior Year Cross Country Portrait

This is me on the very left, junior year, with my cross country team

Today when I ran I did it for myself. I was feeling lethargic and unsettled and needed simply to move. Before I was much more critical. I started out running cross country with my coaches thinking I had a lot of promise, so I tried my best, sometimes not listening to my body for when it was time to stop.

My first two years I was on varsity. By my sophomore year I became quite anemic, needing to take naps during the day and crying when I woke up from them because it was 8 o’clock I had hours of homework to do and I felt more tired than when I went to sleep. I didn’t realize there was an issue till the end of sophomore year. It’s quite common for young women who run and also young women in general to develop an iron deficiency, so if you are a young female runner I highly recommend getting tested for serum ferritin, your stores of iron. By senior year my iron levels were a lot better and I was ready to take on my last season, but midway through I had to stop due to a hip injury.

I tried on and off during college to run but it always ended up being an activity that I was too critical on myself for. I’d go out wanting to run times I had achieved while actually training competitively and judged myself for my body not looking the way it used to when I was in shape. In college I battled with depression. When I was depressed I often sat for hours not moving at all. There was no one I wanted to see, nothing I wanted to do. I was doing my work for school but little else. I spent more time hiding how unhappy I was than I spent actually trying to heal.

Last semester in Freiburg I got into better shape simply because of the amount of walking it took to get most places there. Working at a farm also helped with gaining a little more muscle. People working at the Lebensgarten were very, very in shape, but not because they wanted to show everyone how muscular they were or beat someone in a competition. They just love to be out in the sun, farming and they know when their bodies are tired. They know when it’s time to sit out and drink coffee and when it’s time to call “Feierabend”.

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Lebensgarten Dreisamtal

So here I am with a new fit body that for once was gained almost purely by accident in an attempt to achieve something good for the earth, as opposed to getting it by being hard on myself and pushing limits that weren’t meant to be pushed. I hope to approach life in a similar way. I want to stop being so critical, overanalyzing every perceived flaw that I have in order to finally give myself over to something greater, to be in tune with the world around me, to finally love myself the way I show love to the world around me.