Life

My Biggest Challenge Yet

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Here it is! My first blog post after completing my first year of dental school. The year was long – yet somehow seemed to fly by at the same time. No doubt I learned a ton this year about life, love, and everything in between, but the purpose of today’s post is to share a really exciting experience I recently had – completing a half marathon! This is by far one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done, and I’m so excited to tell about it!

running1I’ve never considered myself a “runner.” Heck, I really don’t describe myself as athletic at all. Sure, I participated in my fair share of middle school sports, but I more or less did them for the social aspect. I’ve also completed a 5K and although it was tons of fun, I primarily did it to have a good time with my friends.

My journey to completing this half marathon began when I started working out after class last fall. After sitting in lecture after lecture, and then not wanting to study right after school, I just had to get my body moving, muscles moving, and blood flowing (skeletal muscle pumps anyone?)! After a while, my working out became a habit and a few friends started joining me. Then one day, my friend suggested that we try to run a half marathon. Without even hesitating, I said, “yes!” Sure I knew it would take a lot of work, but honestly my main thought at the time was how cool it would be to say that I ran a half marathon. While I still think it’s cool to be able to say that I ran a half marathon, I think it’s even greater to be able to say everything I learned along the way. So here it is – what I learned from completing a half marathon. running

It’s okay to fall off the wagon – just make sure you get back on. When my friend and I began training we had a pretty strict schedule of running days, cross training days, and rest days. We stuck to our training plan for the first month or so, but alas, life and school (mainly school) kept us from training as much as we would have liked. There were often weeks in which we would miss three or four days of training. Initially we would get discouraged, however after a while we realized we were doing the best that we could do. Therefore, if we missed one day, three days, a week, no matter. We just looked at our schedule and picked up where we left off.

Exercise really does help your mind! I know, I know, this one is obvious. I’d always heard that working out boosts your metabolism, helps you lose weight, improves your brain function, blah, blah, blah, but let me say…IT REALLY DOES! I never worked out consistently during college, mostly because I was so worried that I was wasting time by not studying. However, as I said earlier, I started exercising as a much needed break from studying. As the semester progressed, I found that I was actually performing better academically than I had the previous semester (I blame the myokines).

I never regretted exercising. This relates to the previous paragraph quite a bit, but I just want to reinforce that I never regretted going to a work out. Whenever I had a hectic week with tests, quizzes, and projects, I would try to squeeze in a some sort of workout, even if it was only twenty minutes on the elliptical. I always debated going to the gym because it was time that I could have studied, but in the end I was always glad I went! running3

Exercise is better with a friend. Like I said, it was my friend who initially suggested the half marathon, and I’m so glad she did! We had so much fun training and getting to know each other better. I don’t think I would have had the courage to register without her, and I definitely wouldn’t have had the determination to jog the entire 13.1 miles without her encouragement when I needed it most.

Exercise helped me achieve balance in my life. The most important thing I gained from this half marathon was that it gave me a goal outside of school. Being in professional school, it’s very easy to get caught up in school being the number one goal. Training for this half marathon gave me the opportunity to achieve success in another area of my life, and helped me realize I could achieve more than I ever thought possible. Looking back on this experience, I can’t express enough how happy I am that I pushed myself to complete this goal. I don’t know if I’ll ever do another half marathon, but at least now I know that I can. IMG_1801How about you? How has exercise impacted your life or helped you achieve your goals?

“You only ever grow as a human being if you’re outside your comfort zone.” -Percy Cerutty

makemestfu.net http://thebalancedlifeonline.com/finding-balance/the-balanced-life-run-club/ http://runninginplaceandgettingnowherefast.blogspot.com/2014/04/finish-lines-not-finish-times.html

Things I’ve learned one year out of college

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Well, it’s officially been over two months since I’ve posted. Yikes! I guess I’ve been looking for a little inspiration since I’m not in Spain anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to fill your news feeds with more posts about Spain, but I figure I may lose some credibility since I’m not actually there anymore. Oh well, on to the next adventure!

I’ve been thinking about this post for a while and tweaking what I want to say. I personally feel that I’ve gone through a lot of changes my first year out of college. I don’t know if anyone else can relate to these observations, but I think they’re worth sharing nonetheless. So here we go, here are a few things I wish I would have known before I graduated from my undergraduate university…

It may seem like everyone knows what they’re doing, but in reality, no one actually knows what they’re doing. I think this was my biggest misconception of life after college. I thought that my college diploma held all the answers. I thought that not only my career, but everything else in my life would just naturally fall into place. I thought this because everyone else who had gone through this transition seemed to know what they were doing. Everyone knew their next step and had a plan that made sense for them.

It wasn’t until I actually graduated that I realized how untrue all of this was. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. My plan to seamlessly transition into professional school had flopped. I had to figure out my next step and make the most of it. Then I slowly began to realize that many of my peers were in the same boat. We were all just trying to figure out the next step and make the most of it. Once I realized this, things were much less stressful.

 Work is wonderful and frustrating. I’ve had a history of successful summer jobs throughout high school and college, but I never really had an “adult” job until after I graduated from college. Let me tell you, having a job is wonderful, but also frustrating at times. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of putting in a hard day’s work and feeling like a productive member of society, and if you are lucky enough to do something you love, it’s even better! That being said, there are days that are frustrating. There are days that will make you angry, as well as days that will make you cry. A good friend once told me, “You just have to make sure the good days outnumber the bad days.” The nice thing about a bad day is that even it eventually must end. Then you go home, go to bed, wake up, face another day, and vow to make it better than the day before.

Maintaining friendships is hard. Maintaining friendships is something I’ve really struggled with since I’ve graduated from college. Living in campus housing for five years equipped me with a built in community in which I had at least ten friends within a five minute radius (and probably five times that amount within a ten minute radius). That being considered, living outside my college bubble has impacted my social life. Not only my physical location, but my amount of free time (due to my “adult” job) has impacted how much I’m able to communicate with my friends. So, after a year, this is what I’ve learned…it may sound heartless to say this, but you can’t have lasting friendships with everyone. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day. Maintaining meaningful friendships takes an investment of time. Friendships really are an area in which the quality versus quantity rule applies. Now this isn’t to say that I don’t value all of the shorter relationships I’ve had. I’m definitely a big believer that each person was placed into my life for a reason so that I could learn something from him or her. I just know that since I’ve graduated from college, investing more of my time into just several friendships has been more practical than trying to maintain hundreds of friendships without being able to devote adequate amounts of time to each.

You don’t have to grow up. This last one is a secret. Sure you may have to grow up in terms of being financially responsible, but in terms of your dreams (the things that truly matter), you’ll never have to grow up. Don’t be afraid if your dreams change. It’s only natural. As your life progresses, your goals and dreams will follow suit. Don’t be afraid to not like your job in your chosen career field. There’s no rule that says you have to work in one career field for the rest of your life. Do what you enjoy! So what do you think? Is there anything I need to add? What have you learned since graduating from college? If you’re a year out or even five, ten, or more, let me know your thoughts.

“Don’t be scared to walk alone. Don’t be scared to like it.” John Mayer

The Tale of Chompers the Car

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This is going to stray from my usual topics of travel and food, but I just can’t resist sharing this with you!

I’ve never been one to name inanimate objects. I leave that to my sister. For as long as I can remember, every car, cell phone, and iPod of hers has had a name. Heck, even my electronics have had names – despite my disdain. One particular object, my car, was given the name “Chompers”. The name Chompers was a combined effort of my sister and my friends, and was inspired by the license plate frame I USED to have on my car. To make a long story short, my dad was really into collecting shark teeth for a while and bought a license plate frame depicting the jaws of a shark. My friends told me I should name the car “Jaws”, and my sister suggested Chompers (or maybe it was the other way around?). Chompers seemed a little less sinister than Jaws, hence, my car became known as Chompers (ugh – why?). I’ve never quite understood why one feels the need to name objects, especially electronics, but I’ve certainly gained some insight as of late.

It all started with me staying the night at a friend’s apartment this past week. My close friends and I have a rotating weekly get together. Since I live in a rural area, I sometimes stay the night depending on where we meet. This week was a bit of a drive for me, so I decided to sleepover at my friend’s place. I also didn’t have work the next day, so I’d scheduled a doctor’s appointment on my day off. Staying at my friend’s house was the ideal situation. I would be able to spend time with my friends, and arrive at the doctor’s office with time to spare. Or so I thought.

The next morning I woke up to go to the doctor’s office. I packed my things, ate breakfast with my friends, said my goodbyes, and walked outside to my car. Despite the limited parking, I’d found a spot close to the apartment complex the night before. As I walked to the street and began the well known ritual of scrambling to find my key chain to unlock my car door, I realized I didn’t see my car. Wait. what? My car was GONE.

As you can imagine, a slew of four letter expletives ran through my mind, yet I still felt oddly numb. This couldn’t be happening. Sure enough there was a sign a few feet from me stating, “No Parking Monday-Friday 7 AM to 4 PM”. At that moment, I suddenly realized that every one of my previous visits had been on weekends, thus parking at this spot was never an issue. After calling to cancel my doctor’s appointment, my friend and I reconvened to plan our course of action. Evidently, the street I parked on was used for loading and unloading for students at a foreign language school up the street. (A foreign language school?! C’mon! Betrayed by my own flesh and blood.) After speaking with personnel at the school, I was given a number to call, and eventually found out that my car had, in fact, been towed.

Towed?

TOWED?!

Gosh, if there was ever a time to wish for a parking ticket this was it. Heck maybe even a speeding ticket. At least I’d still have the car.

After getting the address of the tow lot, my friend selflessly drove me the 20 minutes to retrieve my car (of course the lot was 20 minutes away). Upon arrival we saw a sign reading “Vehicle Impound Facility”. It sunk in even more. My car had been impounded. I don’t know why the word “impounded” carries such gravitas, but it seems to strike a nerve more than “confiscate”, “seize”, or “expropriate” ever could. Ugh. My car had been impounded, and now I was dealing with the consequences.

As we continued to the facility, I couldn’t help feeling a bit nostalgic for my car. Weird, right? It’s a machine. Yet as I continued through the lot, I saw all of the other cars that had been impounded. Some were missing windows, some were missing tires, some had been completely totaled from accidents, and my poor car was here among them. I couldn’t help but feel like I was part of some bizarre Disney storyline in which I was visiting a car graveyard. My poor car. Taken by strangers in the morning, to a strange place, and all because of my carelessness. Poor Chompers.

There was a lot of administrative work that needed to be done before I could have Chompers back, but after obtaining a notarized letter and paying a steep fine, my car was finally returned. Although the day was incredibly stressful, I learned some valuable lessons. One, I have amazing friends. Driving me to the impound lot was but one step in time-consuming process to regain my car, and my friend stayed with me until the end. Two, and this is just something I feel the need to share,  it’s important to act with kindness and respect in the midst of confusion and chaos. Even though I was only there for a fraction of a day, I witnessed how difficult it can be to be the customer service at an impound lot – dealing with frustrated and emotional people. I can’t imagine doing that every day, and I now have a high level of respect for these individuals.

In the end, I still don’t care for the idea of naming electronics, but perhaps Chompers will be the one exception.

What about you? Have you ever had an experience similar to this? How did you deal with it?

“Many people pray to be kept out of unexpected problems. Some people pray to be able to confront and overcome them.” – Toba Beta

Sunset on the Prairie

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I often identify with the saying, “I’ve left my heart in so many places.” The more I travel, the more I realized this to be true. I especially feel this sense of nostalgia every time I visit Manhattan, KS. I thoroughly enjoyed visiting friends and driving around my old college town this past weekend. I also took some time to visit one of my favorite Manhattan spots: the Konza Prairie.

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There’s just something about it, isn’t there? Something that fills me with peace about how far I’ve come, but also reminds me of the continuing journey ahead. Press on.

“It’s from which you get your strength. The red earth of Tara.” – Gone with the Wind

Photos by Megan Coffroth

Shifting focus

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I used to have an “About Me” page on my blog, but in this ever changing world, it’s been difficult for me to keep it updated. Thus, here is my attempt at sharing some updates about me. I originally started my blog as a way to keep my friends and family updated on my adventures in Spain. I thoroughly enjoyed sharing all of my experiences with you, the readers, and getting feedback via comments and e-mails. In fact, I enjoyed blogging so much that I’ve decided to continue! The only problem is I’m not in Spain anymore…therefore, the focus of my blog is shifting.

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Many things have happened within the past year, and so it is only fitting that my blog reflect those changes. Last May, I graduated with bachelors degrees in Biology and Modern Languages (Spanish). I studied Biology because I new it would provide a way for me to reach my ultimate career goal: becoming a dentist and helping provide healthcare to under served areas.  I studied a foreign language because learning about different cultures fascinates me, and I think it is beneficial to know Spanish in today’s global community. After graduation, I spent my summer working, applying to dental school, and preparing for my upcoming trip to Spain. As evident by my blog, I loved my experience in Spain and I look forward to returning someday. However, I now have some exciting news to share…I’ve been accepted to dental school! After five years of challenging undergraduate courses, studying for the DAT, and spending a large amount of time shadowing other dentists, I’ve finally been accepted to a DDS program, and I couldn’t be happier!

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I’m not quite sure what this means for my blog, but if you’ve enjoyed reading about my interests in Spain and seeing my photos, I can assure you that these types of posts will continue. I love learning about Spain, Mexico, Central, and South America, and I hope to continue to share my thoughts on the cultures in these regions. I’ve also just recently begun to dip my toes into photography and cooking, so I’m excited to see what I can learn. Just be expecting some dentistry related posts too!

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Photos by Megan Coffroth and a-thousand-words.tumblr.com

When all is said and done

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It’s been a while since I’ve updated my blog. As you know, I was in Spain for about three months this fall. I returned home at the end of November, and my life has taken some pretty crazy turns since (but that’s a post for another day). Today I want to share with you the most important lesson I learned while abroad. I learned tons of life lessons during my Spanish experience, but there is one that topped them all: Never stop learning.

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My role as an English Language and Culture Assistant was to assist the teachers of the bilingual program with their classes. The students in the bilingual program not only have an English class, but their math and technology classes are also taught in English. These students also have a French class ad their general language (Spanish) class. Trust me when I say it’s pretty humbling to be in a classroom full of 12 year-olds who can speak three languages…and are super excited and motivated about it.

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The lesson to keep learning was also reinforced through my personal studies of the Spanish language. While volunteering at the school, I also received three hours of Spanish lessons each week. Even though I have a degree in Spanish, these lessons still rocked my world. A large amount of the material was a review from my college courses, but the information I didn’t know was incredible. In just three short months, I learned so many slang terms and colloquial words. I can only imagine how much more I would have learned had I stayed longer. I’m making a conscious effort to listen to music in Spanish, read books in Spanish, and listen to television/radio broadcasts in Spanish so that I can continue to learn.

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Cuenca

Both of the aforementioned experiences demonstrated to me the importance of learning, but the experience that inspired me the most was living with a host family. My host father not only spoke Spanish, but also English, French, and German. He consistently asked me questions about English and American culture because he wanted to learn. He also told me that his next goal in life is to learn to play the piano, and I have no doubt that he will do it. His motivation to learn has inspired me to be a lifelong learner.

It’s really difficult to sum up the experience of a lifetime into one blog post, and I’m sure I’ll draw inspirations for future blog posts from my time abroad, but for now, I’ll keep the lesson simple: Never stop learning.

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Photos by Megan Coffroth and life1nmotion.tumblr.com

This is Halloween

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For the past month or so, the students and teachers at the school have been preparing for Halloween. Halloween is not a big tradition in Spain like it is in the United States, so it’s been really fun to be able to watch the students get into the Halloween spirit! The students in the first, third and fourth sections of the bilingual program made a horror film including their own adaptation of Thriller. The students in the second section of the bilingual program made Halloween decorations for the school’s main entrance. The decorations consisted of popular Halloween symbols and explanations of their histories in English and Spanish. Today we celebrated the culmination of our efforts during the “recreo” or break period. Today’s festivities included the premiere of the video, a viewing of the decorations and a Jack-O-Lantern contest! Here are some photos! Happy Halloween!

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“Double, double, toil and trouble; Fire burn and cauldron bubble!” – William Shakespeare

Photos by Megan Coffroth