the company you keep.

“Do not set foot on the path of the wicked or walk in the way of evil men.  Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn from it and go on your way.” -Proverbs 4:14-15 NIV

“For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these.” -2 Timothy 2:2-5 NASB

I don’t care if you don’t believe in the Torah/Bible/God; scripture can offer some really good advice if you know how to read it.  For example, in this quote from Timothy, take “God” as a symbol for living peacefully and good.  It provides the same meaning and is certainly applicable to any faith or faithlessness.

How did I get these quotes?  Well, I Googled quotes that could demonstrate the idea of “the company you keep”.  And these were my favorites.

Today, I became (yet again) a victim of online bullying.  It was a rash, brash, offhand, unprecedented comment from an uninformed, unimportant individual.  In the past, I would have blown up over it.  I would have sobbed, raged, replied, and probably done a lot of things I would have regretted later.  But that was me before I started paying attention to these kinds of things.  That was me before I began thinking about the company I keep.

It made me realize the company I choose to keep does not behave like this person.
Meaning he meant nothing to me and he couldn’t hurt me.
Meaning he doesn’t know the truth but the people who matter do.
Meaning I don’t keep his company because he is not considerate, respectful, classy, and of good sportsmanship.
But the company I do keep is all of these things.

In thinking of the company I keep and who I want to be, I debated my options.  I could delete the comment and move forward.  But maybe this person was making a point?  Maybe I had overlooked something that had evoked his reaction in the first place.

Aha – indeed, I had.  I realized he was either being completely tactless and cutting me down without reason, or his tactlessness arose from a misunderstanding in what I was saying.  And yes, this was all about hockey.

First, I chose to leave the comment.  I didn’t reply.  I won’t reply.  It’s not worth it, and it exposes his lack of anything human.  And it makes me look better in the meantime.

Second, I e-mailed the captain of the team.  I thanked her for her candor, congratulated her team for their season, then made her aware of the situation in case someone else might have taken what was said in the wrong way.  I know I didn’t have to do it, but I felt like it is good to clean things up and it can’t hurt nipping a potential problem in the bud.  It also gave me a chance to explain why I left the one team for another: sportsmanship.

The comment that was left and a teammate’s supportive, subsequent reaction to that comment were the perfect parallels to the situation.  It showed how my old team lacked the sportsmanship and respect I craved and how I gained so much more in those fields and others by switching teams.

It reminded me of this past Sunday when I spent time with a friend.  I’ve gotten along swimmingly with his whole family and realized there’s a reason for that.  Kind of like there’s a reason why I can throw my closest friends from all over the world in a room together for the first time…and they love each other.

We always tend to migrate towards the same kinds of people.  And I’ve been trying increasingly harder to base my “kind” of person off of his/her character.  His/her goodness.  His/her positivity.  Even though I haven’t always been the most positive person, it’s amazing how letting go of a little negativity and surrounding yourself with good people will really change your outlook on life.

You really can change your life by the company you keep and surrounding yourself with good things.

As the quote above from Proverbs tells us, don’t be tempted by that evil path.  Just because others act one way does not justify your reaction in their footsteps.  You have to own what you do and you are responsible for the consequences.  Every step you make should be towards the kind of person you want to be, no matter how big or small that step is.

And this person’s bullying is exactly what Timothy’s quote is describing: This person may have been reacting from a misunderstanding, but it was still completely uncalled for, demonstrates his lack of good character, and proves that he is insecure about another’s accomplishments.  He had to cut me down for my pride in the wonderful people I have discovered on my new team and by the honors I’ve received for being a part of their society.  Clearly, I have a LOT that he lacks.  And he doesn’t like it.

While I can’t change him and it’s not my responsibility to try, I can just hope to lead by example and to continue supporting my teammates, choosing better, and maintaining a close watch over the company that I keep.

you’re almost there.

I broke both laces on my dance shoes last night in class.  I’d never broken a single lace in my 16 years of dancing, so it was surprising and also extremely frustrating.  Nonetheless, I took laces from an old pair, restrung my new ones, and got back up to finish class.  Then I stayed after class… making practice about twice as long as usual.

On the drive home, I was thinking about dancing.  How Scottish Highland can really suck sometimes.  You’d think dance is just dance, but I tell ya… First, you have practice.  Long, long practices.  It’s generally the same dances week after week which means you’re working either on stamina, grueling details, or both.  And no matter what, you’ve got to be trying your hardest – even in a practice run.  If you don’t, you’ll either not improve or pick up bad habits or both.

Then there’s competition.  Most competition is done in the hot summer months.  Our costumes are several pounds, namely the traditional kilt.  I’ve got yards upon yards of pleated fabric, knee-high wool socks, and a long-sleeved velvet dress.  You sweat a LOT dancing outside in that stuff and you have to be strong enough to elevate with your weight plus the kilt.  Growing up, that was especially challenging for me because I didn’t wear a dance kilt but instead a heavy military one.

So what’s my point in all of this?

Well, I was imagining practice.  I was imagining competition.  I was reliving that feeling of keeping every muscle tense, every movement precise, every jump as equally high and perfectly timed, even maintaining the right look on your face (performing smile or determined countenance)… and I remembered the mantra that always plays in my head.  I never noticed it before, but I most certainly am constantly chanting to myself while I dance:

You’re almost there.  You’re almost there.  You’re almost there.

But sometimes I’m not really almost there.  I just have to tell myself that.  I get through the first half of Step One and I tell myself, “Excel through the turn!  You’re almost there!  You just have to do it on the other side!”  Step one, I’m saying this.  Then I say it for Step Two.  Step Three.  At Step Four, “You’re halfway done!”  And when Step Six arrives and I just want to drop my heels and lose my form, “You’re seriously almost there!  Pick up your elevation!  Make this the strongest step!”

I definitely hit a wall dancing.  Nearly every time I compete, I get to about the middle or 3/4-point of the dance and I just want to slouch, slack, quit.  I have to talk to myself to make myself pick it up, telling myself I didn’t work all this time and all this dance right now to quit.  I already dressed up and did my hair, too, and that’s a lot of work!  So go!

Then when I finish the dance, I feel horrible.  I’m sweating, I’m sore, I’m panting and I can breathe because my vest is so tight…but I walk off and feel such a wave of relief that it’s done.

And I tell myself, “You’re almost there!  Three more dances left.”

You’re almost there.

That gets me through more than just dancing.  It also gets me through the following:
-a track workout
-a XC workout
-a hockey practice
-a sprint
-a timed mile
-a 5K
-a half-marathon
-a hockey game that my team is winning when the score is really close
-kickboxing
-PLANKS
-basically any kind of physical labor
-musical performances
-driving
-a day with a long, time-sensitive to-do list
-work
-cleaning my room
-essays or reports
-a book, especially if I don’t like it much
-school
-anything checklist worthy
-anything I look forward to and write on my calendar
-etc.

Yes, any time I feel like my strength, endurance, patience, motivation, determination, whatever is being tested, it’s a matter of almost being there, of pushing aside walls, making up checkpoints, and constantly crossing them off as I reach them.

It’s amazing how much You’re almost there can help me get through anything.

the health of a zombie.

This past week bore a lot of bad news for me.  I guess something had to counter my hockey team winning Nationals?  Which I’ll never forget, despite nearly getting my lights knocked out in Game 3 and suffering the consequences of that hit the rest of the weekend.  But it was a series of health concerns that were “resolved” afterwards that brought me down.  “Resolved” because they know what’s wrong, but in quotes because the problems either can’t be resolved yet or are never going to be resolved.


I guess the saddest part about the news (despite having to put off a surgery to afford it) is that I’ve been diagnosed with Meniere’s Disease.  In reality, I should realize that my condition could be so much worse.  The problem with my hearing loss COULD be a tumor.  Instead, it’s just excess brain fluids on one side of my head.  But I can no longer enjoy music the same, hear people when they whisper, be around high pitches without getting an instant migraine, or make turns in dance class without seriously struggling to stay on my feet.  Yep, the imbalance issue is probably the hardest to overcome.  And the looming threat that my condition could worsen.  Without any way to cure it.


It’s funny how I used to use My Fitness Pal to obsessively check my vitamin levels, calorie input versus output, etc.  It felt so stressful at the time but I realize now it was a different kind of stress.  It was self-induced and it was stress I placed on myself for self-improvement.


Now it just feels like survival stress.


I can no longer indulge in cheese and not read labels.  I know I would have restricted cheese in the past by choice, read labels by choice even, but now that choice is taken away – if I want to keep my hearing levels up.  Snacking on my box of Trefoil cookies, I have to keep a constant tally on a sheet of paper every time I pull one out so I can count how many milligrams of sodium I ate and record it on my app.


Yeah, it’s not diabetes.  It’s not allergies.  It’s not a lot of things.  But after being so happy this weekend and seeing things taper off so rapidly – back into a similar funk to where I was before – it kind of makes me slump more than I’d expect.


Especially when my work hours are longer than usual.  And my apartment, which I’ve hardly seen in the last two months, is messy and full of dirty laundry that I just haven’t been around to take care of.  Or I come home and pass out.


It’s so hard to feel motivated right now.  But it’s scary when I get emotionless and zombie-like.  That happened in February.  I spaced out.  I was spaced out most of March, too.  Then, yesterday, I was the last person in the office and I just started bawling at my computer screen.  For no reason.  And again while driving.  That’s about the third time this week I started crying while driving.  It’s like I can’t find the time alone to do it anywhere else.  (And it’s kind of a dangerous, blinding habit…which requires sunglasses to hide the shame if a passerby looks over and sees loony me.)


So, boohoo, I can’t eat cheese.  Or loads of sauerkraut.  And I have a national title.  My life is sooo hard, right?


On the upswing, I bought a planner and I’m trying to crack down on myself.  It’s time to get things in order.


I’m excited for my debut with the Heather Belles, a violin piece I was asked to play with a group, and the possibility that I will begin volunteering with the Cleveland Clinic soon.  Not to mention, I’m joining a gym.  WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?  I swore to never…


the least expected.

I really like things that are the least expected.

I’ve gotten accustomed to always expecting the least out of anyone.  I figure if I don’t have any faith in them, I don’t have to worry about ever being disappointed.  But what kind of life is it to have no faith in your friends?  To never have any expectations?  Admittedly, anticipation  keeps me moving forward.  Expectation must be a part of that anticipation.

But what about when the least expected isn’t a good expectation at all.  Like when I am in the most exciting moments of my life and the people who I want to actively partake just trudge on with their ordinary lives and think they’re making up for it by occasionally asking me how I am.  Like when I’m at Nationals for hockey and you don’t need to text me because there is online streaming, results, and a half dozen free apps that could keep you updated without asking.  And asking just proves to me that you’re not paying a damn bit of attention to something that’s important to me.

Yet what I didn’t expect was the numerous people who have texted me, messaged me, whatever-ed me and proved to me that they are up to date, that they are paying attention.  People who are so far away, too!  There is no one in my office at work who is paying much attention to my tournament, the people who see me the most and – in some cases – are the closest to me, yet I’m getting text messages from Colorado, SnapChats from Hawai’i, messages from Germany,… so many other people going out of their way to care about me.

I didn’t expect that.  And I know that part of being a long distant friend is taking a little extra effort to maintain that friendship, but when someone is close and takes advantage of that…thinking that means they don’t need to try as much, even if it’s subconscious,…well, forget that.  Just FORGET that.  You don’t mean anything.  Not in the long run.  And that’s the only run that matters.

physics and life.

Last night, I was driving with my friend Minnie from her house on the north side of Charlotte, North Carolina to Indian Trail, just before the South Carolina border.  We’re playing in the Southeastern Region districts and, if we win, we will be traveling to Boston for USA Hockey Nationals.  We had just carpooled from Raleigh and had a lot of long conversation about life right now.  And school.  And GMOs.  And Physics.

“I hated Electromagnetism,” said Minnie.

“Really?  Physics II?  I hated Physics I.”

“Physics I, I can understand that.  I can SEE it.  Electrons?  No.  I can’t see it.  It doesn’t work for me.”

“Huh…for me, because  I can see it, I think I know what I’m looking at and I make false assumptions.  With Physics II, I’m given the rules that I can’t see, so I work within those constraints…”

“I see,” said Minnie.  “With the stuff you can see, you transpose your experiences too easily on what you’re doing and you cloud the truth.”

“Yeah, I overanalyze it…”

Just like life.

I overanalyze life.

I’ve noticed lately I’ve become more and more confused by things that are simple.  I’ve been over-thinking everything.  I’m never sure anymore what’s a real answer or an appropriate response to an emotionally-charged situation.  I keep longing to just tell everyone to slow down and just stop overcomplicating things when they could just be so simple.  And knowing that there are simple answers just makes my complicated outlook that much more confusing and unbearable.

So life as of late has become my Physics I while my head is so occupied with Physics II, with the itty bitty pieces that are making things work but the itty bitty pieces that I also can’t manipulate, the ones that will do what they do without my help.

Sigh.

Words of Wisdom: Perseverance

quoteQuote for today: “Forget all the reasons why it won’t work and believe the one reason why it will.”  I saw this quote regarding perseverance and liked its simplicity as well as how it has applied to the things I have done against popular belief and how I continue to do those things.  It’s easy to let people tell you why you can’t succeed.  Sometimes they say this out of statistical evidence, personal opinion, or even jealousy towards your visions.  I’ve always been one who thrives from doing things I’m told can’t be done.  I find being told it can’t happen makes me absolutely determined to do it.  Maybe this is why my athlete director sat me down once and said, “Kid, I really like you.  You’ve got… spunk.  And a lot of it.”  It was that spunk that pulled me through creating a hockey club at my school so that I could finally play the sport I wanted to play for an official team.  We lost all but one game the first season, then went to the championship the next year for the state medal.  My perseverance and persistence to raise $3000 in two days and train enough players to make a team landed me with an enormous scholarship from Case Western Reserve University.

The same time of perseverance is what got me a summer traveling abroad this year, to pursue a double major that the faculty thought was impossible to achieve.  Against all odds, I have completed enough credits for a major in Environmental/Civil Engineering and French while also being an active member in a co-ed service fraternity, archery club, collegiate and extracurricular roller and ice hockey, NCAA XC, NCAA T&F, Premiere Scottish Highland Dance, and several instrument groups.  I’ve managed to travel to a couple dozen countries in the last year to compete in research and pursue my dream of traveling and understanding cultures.  I obtained three internships during the course of a year when I was told none exist.  This lead me to compete in research with AISES in Alaska, a trip which was completely free thanks to funding I managed to find last minute from my school and the ASCE group in Cleveland.  But determination doesn’t have to be so elaborate.  It’s also the reason why I eat healthy food and work out regularly .  It’s why I pushed myself to bike around the Finger Lakes in 2009, hike the Calanques of Cassis and Marseille on my own this summer, and finish a 130km journey by CityBike from Arles to Fontaine-de-Vaucluse and back (the latter two are described on my blog, kfdevault.wordpress.com).

Let’s not be mistaken; this isn’t an entry about the things I’ve managed to do.  This is an entry about the things I’ve tried to do against popular belief as an inspiration of why you can do any of the simplest – or most complex – things you wish to do without hesitation.  If you want it, just get it.  I’m a firm believer in “If there’s a will, there’s a way”.  Maybe I’ve just been lucky enough for my life to follow suit as such, or maybe there really was something in my perseverance that landed me with a great job after years of struggle against the current of likelihood.  All I can say is, whether it’s a new job, new hobby, or new diet, you just have to convince yourself it’s what you want and you’d be surprised how thrilling the journey to success will actually be.

Happy Monday!