Mile 662: 1,114 Miles to Wilmington


“I don’t want to live a lie that I believe.”
–30 Seconds to Mars, “Do or Die”

Miles Since Last Time: 78.75
Total Miles: 662

In spring 2012, I wrote a paper called “Pied Piper vs. Faun: Storybooks and Female Empowerment in The Sweet Hereafter and Pan’s Labyrinth” for my senior film seminar. One of my professors encouraged us to submit our papers for publication in journals. I shrugged, asked “Why not?” and was directed toward Film Matters, an undergraduate film journal published by the University of North Carolina Wilmington. About a year later, my paper was officially accepted. Yay!


This past January, I received an email inviting me to submit the paper to Visions4, a film festival and conference also hosted by UNCW. It’s completely organized by undergrads, for undergrads (or the recently graduated, in some cases), and featuring a day full of undergraduate work.

They were accepting films (which I didn’t have) and papers (which I did have). Again I asked, “Why not?” and submitted. In February, I found out that it had been accepted, and Friday, April 4, I did a fifteen-minute presentation over “Pied Piper vs. Faun.”

It was terrifying/exciting/scary/amazing.

Sure, I may have had a minor freak out in the days leading up to the event and whisper-yelled “This is impossible!” at my computer screen while I tried to make cuts to my presentation. I definitely finalized it about five hours before I was on a plane to North Carolina. Yes, I was somewhat intimidated by the other seven scholars who were presenting papers and the filmmakers who had made such lovely films. (I mean, they were using a lot of three- and four-syllable words, and I said the name of my paper incorrectly when I introduced myself.) Plus, my mouth was so dry during my fifteen minutes that my lips were sticking to my teeth.


I cracked a few jokes, though, and people laughed at the appropriate times. Success! (Even though it wasn’t really enough to return the saliva to my mouth.)

The feedback was positive, and I got to watch a lot of good short films and hear smart people talk about all kinds of movies. I toured Screen Gems Studios and saw the Sleepy Hollow set. (Seriously, I was IN the library, but I couldn’t take pictures or touch anything, which is probably for the best.) I walked on the beach, had coffee in Atlanta, and fell asleep on not one, but FOUR planes. And last but not least, my team won the one-hour, one-take video race. Success again!

Of course, I had to miss a few days at the gym–but if you’re going to skip some workouts, I definitely recommend spending that time in North Carolina.

One of the things that surprised me most about my trip was how it reminded me of what I really miss about college. In the last year and a half, I’ve partly forgotten what it’s like to be constantly around creative people who are passionate about their art and making stuff. The whole experience was really quite invigorating. It’s made me think a lot more about how I spend my time and how I should be spending my time.

Basically, I need to make more stuff.

I suppose my little trip to Visions4 helped me adjust my vision, eh? See what I did there?

Sorry, guys. That’s the risk of hanging out with a self-recognized dork.

Mile 583.25: On Owning Your Achievements


“Up in the air,
Chasing a dream so real.”
–30 Seconds to Mars, “Up in the Air”

Miles Since Last Time: 133.75
Total Miles: 583.25

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been putting in extra miles every day. I’m going out of town this week to present a paper at a film conference (more on that another day), and I didn’t want to fall behind.

When I left the gym yesterday, a man stopped me as I passed.

I’ve seen him before. He has a pretty distinctive salt-and-pepper beard and he always brings his own towel (whereas I usually just wipe my face on my shirt sleeve–because I’m classy like that). Yesterday, he was next to me on the elliptical for a little while. He stopped me on my way out to ask a few questions about my workout, and I did the weirdest thing: I lied.

Here’s pretty much how the conversation went. For the sake of simplicity, what I said is in italics, and the truth is in bold.

Towel Guy:
How many calories did you burn?

Oh, um, uh…a lot. Just shy of 1,600.

Towel Guy: (raising his eyebrows)
How long were you on there?

I, uh, um, I did… Two hours and ten minutes.
I did about eight miles. It was actually about ten–which was the whole point of the two hours and ten minutes. Like I said, I want to stay on track.

Towel Guy then made a bit of a whoa face and walked around me while I went on my merry way.

I don’t really know what came over me when he asked me those questions. In the moment, though, telling the truth seemed like bragging. I don’t know anything about him or his workout routine, but for some reason, I was worried about making him feel bad or something.

By the time I got in my car, I’d decided that I was a bad feminist. How dare I downplay what I was doing just because I was concerned about some random dude thinking I was a show-off!

Then I realized that this was not the first time I’ve done something like that.

A few months ago, a woman on one of the treadmills asked me how long I’d been on the elliptical. I told her I did seven miles every day. What I didn’t say was that I did eight that day because I always do a little extra on the weekends.

I guess that means I’m not a completely terrible feminist, right? Since I worry about the feelings of men and women alike?

When someone puts you on the spot, you tend to revert to your default settings and say the first thing that pops into your head. My setting, apparently, is to refrain from seeming braggy. Well, here’s my advice to myself and anyone else who has a similar default:

It’s not bragging if it’s true. Lying about your achievements doesn’t help anyone, especially you. Generally, if someone stops you to ask a question, he or she is genuinely curious about your answer (small talk not included). How other people feel about facts is their problem. Own your accomplishments. Just don’t be a douchebag about it.

Mile 449.5: How Nerds Celebrate Losing Weight


“Believe what you read.”
–Matchbook Romance, “Monsters”

Miles Last Week: 54
Total Miles: 449.5

A couple of weeks ago, I tried to get some advice about how to celebrate when I finally hit the fifty pound mark. Since I got exactly zero suggestions, I reverted to one of my default methods of rewarding myself: buying books.

No, I didn’t mark the day with an epic cheat day in which I downed a dozen cupcakes or with a huge shopping trip during which I splurge on a new wardrobe. I rewarded myself with a couple of new books. Specifically, I invested in some reference books about writing.

I am now the proud owner of The Emotion Thesaurus, The Positive Trait Thesaurus, and The Negative Trait Thesaurus. All three are by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi, promise to help writers figure out characters, and are highly recommended on Amazon. I’m thinking they’re really going to help me finish this freaking novel.


Just a couple of new thesauruses–or is it thesauri?

Maybe I’ll celebrate finishing the novel by consuming a tub of ice cream. You know, whenever that day comes.

I’d probably vomit, though, so that may be a bad idea. I’ll just figure it out when I get there.

The Only Thing You Need to Know About My Uncle Jesse


“She cried so when I left her, it like to broke her heart,
And if we ever meet again, we nevermore shall part.”
–Gene Autry, “The Yellow Rose of Texas”

Jess C. Stonebarger 1926-2014

Jess C. Stonebarger

Chances are that you didn’t get to meet my great uncle Jesse before he passed away last week at the age of eighty-seven, but there’s really only one thing you need to know about him: his attitude about dying.

He was pretty okay with it.

Sure, he had about four different kinds of cancer and was on dialysis, but he never lost himself. He remained the same Uncle Jesse that we’d always known and loved–sweet, ornery, and never short on something smart-ass to say. (Seriously, his fluent sarcasm was admirable.)

He wasn’t angry. Or scared. Or sad. In fact, he didn’t want anyone to be sad or to worry about him. He was a peace and ready to be with my late aunt Betty again.

My uncle served his country in World War II, took care of his family, made everyone laugh, and, in the end, knew that he’d done well in his long life. He wasn’t the kind of man to let a little thing like dying ruin his feeling about that. We should all be so lucky to say that one day.

We’re gonna miss you, Jess. Rest in peace.

Mile 395.5: This Is How We Do It


“To all my neighbors, you got much flavor.”
–Montell Jordan, “This Is How We Do It”

Miles Last Week: 46
Total Miles: 395.5

Last week may not have been great–what with the almost dying at the gym and the gaining of the weight and whatever. So how does one come back from that?

By breaking one’s 65-minute record, that’s how.


5.11 miles in sixty-five minutes–take that, elliptical!

*drops mic*

*also collapses*

*army crawls around mic on the floor*

*still counts army crawl as exercise in MyFitnessPal*

Mile 349.5: The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Week


“When all you got to keep is strong,
Move along, move along, like I know you do.”
–All-American Rejects, “Move Along”

Miles Last Week: 46
Total Miles: 349.5

Last week was a bad week, and for a lot of reasons–except for Friday. Friday was good.

We don’t need to talk about most of the reasons that some people might have seen a slightly murder-y glint in my eye at times. We should, however, reflect on a couple of things:

I felt like I was dying every day at the gym.
There was pain. So much pain. And soooo much sweat. Even though I didn’t change any of my workout, my legs were on fire halfway through it. I didn’t want to sacrifice any miles, so I slowed my speed and upped the incline just to feel like I was doing something. I still felt like I was slogging through a tar pit–a tar pit on fire. Every day. I did make myself go the usual distance, but my legs were definitely not happy about it.

I ate terribly (well, slightly more terribly than usual).
There may have been a few too many snacks… and Reese’s peanut butter hearts… Goddammit, why are they so delicious? I might also still be eating emotionally due to the Sherlock finale. It was intense, guys.

I gained two pounds.
I know that people fluctuate and that it’s silly to dwell on a relatively small gain, but the most frustrating thing is that I knew before I weighed myself yesterday that I had put on a couple. I could feel it. Of course, I feel exactly the same after losing fifty pounds, but when I’m a little bigger, suddenly I’m like “WHAT IS GOING ON?”

I’ve had bad weeks throughout this project, but nothing quite like this so far. I don’t recall regaining that much weight in one week or having that much trouble on the elliptical since I started this thing last April. And to top it all off, I can’t honestly say that I’ve lost fifty pounds, anymore.

Much like Alexander, who had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day in Judith Viorst’s children’s book, I am just going to accept that everyone has bad days/weeks at some time or other and move on. Even if there are people who have perfect weeks all the time, I think I’ll just lie to myself about it. Sometimes, there’s nothing wrong with a little denial.

The good news is that there were no invisible, inflamed tar pits at the gym today–that I know of, anyway. We’ll see about tomorrow.

Mile 303.5: Shouldn’t I Feel Different?


“Am I the only one I know
Waging my wars behind my face and above my throat?”
–Twenty-One Pilots, “Migraine”

Miles Last Week: 46
Total Miles: 303.5

Yesterday, I prepared to step onto the scale after my time on the elliptical, as I do every Saturday morning at the gym. I wiped every drop of sweat I could from my face–I definitely didn’t want those ounces to count against me. I took a deep breath, stepped onto the small black box, and moved the counterweights until the needle seemed balanced. Then, I looked at the number–

–and saw that I’d lost 50.5 pounds.

I’ve done a lot of thinking about what hitting the fifty-pound mark would be like. In my head, my reaction would typically fall somewhere between collapsing on the floor in a giggling, hysterical mess and announcing my milestone to everyone in the gym, who would then celebrate me with a round of slow claps and/or fist bumps. (No hugging, of course, because we would all be sweaty and kind of gross.)

In reality, I took another deep breath, grabbed my keys, and went home.

A few weeks (and about ten pounds) ago, a couple of friends asked me if I felt any different after making some progress. The simple, honest truth is that I don’t. Not even a little bit. I don’t even think I look different.

Sure, I intellectually recognize that my clothes don’t fit the same. I’m able to fit three fingers into the waistband of pants that I had no hope of wearing a year ago. (Why am I so obsessed with talking about my pants?) I can comfortably cross my arms while wearing my wool coat without worrying about going full-Hulk. I know that there is room in my wardrobe where there hasn’t been before. I even see that I’m able to last longer on the elliptical. But I can’t say that I feel different. None of it seems like it’s really happening.

And please don’t think that I’m trolling for compliments or need an ego boost. I’m just trying this thing where I’m honest about stuff, and the truth is that I thought I’d feel more accomplished or excited, at least.

I think this is what they call a “mental wall.” That’s a thing, right?

Perhaps it hasn’t sunken in yet. Maybe it’s that I still see how far there is to go. Or I could be looking into the wrong types of mirrors. I don’t know.

For now, I think I’ll treat myself to some homemade angel pie and that always-uplifting zombie drama–The Walking Dead.