Orange is the New Black – advocacy or voyeurism?

Recently I came across a very frustrating review for the second season of Orange is the New Black.  The hugely popular Netflix show takes place primarily inside a women’s prison after the show’s protagonist, Piper, was sentenced to one year for a drug offense she committed 10 years prior, during a period of irresponsibility and adventure-seeking in her early twenties.  You go in thinking it’s going to be a “fish out of water” story and, to some extent it is, but what Piper really learns is that she’s more like these women than she thinks.

That is, in effect, what this Washington Post reviewer said, but I mean it differently than the writer did.  The review states:

Since entering prison as a fragile and fallen Mary Sunshine from gentrified Brooklyn who was busted on a decade-old trafficking charge…the show’s second season… strongly suggests that the woman formerly known as Piper is perhaps exactly where she belongs. This is home now.

The implication here is that because Piper assaulted another inmate, ended up in solitary confinement, and went a bit nuts as a result, she’s revealing her true nature and that it was the yuppified Brooklyn life that was the real facade.  What I mean, instead, is that the women in the prison are generally, like Piper, goodhearted women who made a mistake (or a series of mistakes), who are being treated like human waste as a result of those mistakes, and who sometimes end up resorting to actions they may never have taken on the outside.  I challenge anyone to spend days on end in solitary confinement in a prison and not go bat-shit crazy.  Photographer Richard Ross did it voluntarily for one day in a juvenile detention center and called it “unbelievably dehumanizing”.

The reality is that what we do to people in prison is inhumane and – worse – unnecessary, given that the vast majority of prisoners are non violent. Fully HALF of all federal prisoners are in on drug offenses and another 37% on public order offenses.  For females, the percentage of drug charges was even higher (58%) and the percentage of violent crimes more than 2% lower (5.9% total compared to 3.8% for women).  And we know that prison is dismally ineffective at preventing future crimes: according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics73.6% of individuals released from prison were arrested for new crime within 3 years, regardless of prior history or the amount of time served.

And this is why I haven’t yet watched the second season of Orange is the New Black, even though the entire season was released on Netflix last Friday. I am hesitant to rejoice over a new show to binge watch and to get excited about diving into an escapist TV drama, because it just feels a bit wrong.  I am uncomfortable with the voyeuristic nature of the show – that it allows us this opportunity to peek into this normally unseen world of women’s prisons. And I worry about the messages people take away from it. Of all the back stories they shared of the inmates during season 1, at least 4 involved crimes of violence (2 murders, 1 instance of abetting murder and one armed robbery). This is a striking proportion, given what we know about who is actually incarcerated in these facilities.  I know it makes for better drama, but I worry it sends the message that, even though we can understand why the women did what they did, clearly they deserve to be in prison.

But, I don’t really blame the shows creators and producers for the unnerving feeling I get when I hear people talking about the show.  I understand that certain sacrifices to Piper Kerman’s true experiences must be made in the name of drama and story-telling, but I do think that the intention behind the show is advocacy.  I mean, what’s a better platform than a wildly popular binge-worthy TV show?  And even though I’m sort of sickened by the voyeurism, isn’t transparency exactly what’s needed? Isn’t it easier for society to look the other way when we don’t know what’s really going on?

It’s just that our society is so entrenched in its view of what prison means and what kind of people should or shouldn’t be in prison, that I wonder if very many viewers actually take away the intended message.  Or are most people like the Washington Post reviewer and missing it completely?

In the end, I will most likely watch the second season because I do think the positive messages that can be taken from this show are too important to ignore, and it’s certainly not worth a boycott because some people just don’t get it.  I only hope that as the show develops, more people will begin to see that we need to change our approach to how we deal with crime in this country. We cannot incarcerate ourselves out of this problem and, indeed, it only makes things worse:  as we saw, Piper’s character went in a model citizen, albeit with a musty skeleton in her closet, and was driven to a near homicidal rage. So, I’ll keep watching and I hope you do too. But don’t just watch and drool over the drama: try to take the time to check out the work that the real Piper is doing to advocate for change: http://piperkerman.com/justice-reform, and become part of the movement yourself.

 

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Assessing the 2014 Open

The last blog I posted was about how much I was dreading the 2014 CrossFit Open.  Five weeks later, I must say that I am SO glad it’s over.  I performed much better than I anticipated, but five straight weeks of irrational anxiety and obsessive checking of the leaderboard is emotionally draining, not to mention the physical toll that the workouts take on my body.

So it’s over, but how did I do?  From looking at the online leaderboard, it’s hard to tell much besides your overall ranking since they don’t calculate your percentages nor does it provide numeric totals for the number of people completing each workout.  Luckily, I’m an analytical nerd, so I put together a helpful spreadsheet:

 WORLD Worldwide Total # Wordwide Workout Ranks Worldwide Overall Ranking Workout rank:
% of those completing
Overall rank: % of total roster
Total Roster 79740
14.1 71159 5072 5072 7.13% 6.36%
14.2 62912 3385 3464 5.38% 4.34%
14.3 65891 2551 2575 3.87% 3.23%
14.4 59720 4136 2696 6.93% 3.38%
14.5 52549 1987 2374 3.78% 2.98%
Total = 17131 Avg = 5.42%
 MID-ATLANTIC Mid-Atlantic Total # Mid-Atlantic Workout Ranks Mid-Atl. Overall Ranks Workout rank:
% of those completing
Overall rank: % of total roster
Total Roster 6317
14.1 5638 416 416 7.38% 6.59%
14.2 5061 333 318 6.58% 5.03%
14.3 5247 245 239 4.67% 3.78%
14.4 4773 370 254 7.75% 4.02%
As of 14.5 4269 186 230 4.36% 3.64%
Total = 1550 Avg = 6.15%

How well I did depends on the denominator.  Do I compare my final ranking to the total number of people that signed up, or only the people that completed the workouts?  Clearly, I’d prefer the former but is that a true representation?  It’s certainly accurate to say that of all the people that attempted the Open, I finished in the top 3% in the world and the top 4% in the Mid-Atlantic.  But, all it takes to sign up is $20 and the internet. So the most accurate assessment is probably to look at how I finished each workout compared to the total number of people who completed that workout, and then take the average for all five workouts.  If you do it that way, I finished in the top 6% (5.4% in the world, 6.2% in the region).

This is a pretty good improvement from last year when I finished in the top 5% of the total roster, with my percentile rank averaging in the top 9% for all five workouts.  But, this year my numeric ranking in the region went down by 19 spots, which means that even though I got better, some people either made better progress than I did from 2013 to 2014, or new people signed up who are better than me. That kind of stings, but I can’t really dwell on 19 people out of more than 6,000.

So how were the workouts?  My best workout was the last one, which was also the most brutal: a descending ladder of thrusters and burpees for time. This one frustrated me because I knew how fast I needed to complete the workout to finish the Open with the highest female ranking in my gym, yet I failed.  However, this workout was so grueling that I decided not to re-do it.  Honestly, I don’t think I could have improved my score.  My shoulders are still killing me from Saturday – I tried to bench yesterday but couldn’t even do 3×5 at 115lbs, when I did the same rep scheme at 130lbs just last week.  Today my left shoulder is killing me so badly that I think I may have actually done something to it.

My second best workout was the third one, which was an ascending ladder of deadlifts and box jumps, although I did step ups instead (this was allowed).  I actually liked this workout, even though it was potentially dangerous with all the stress it could put on your back and hamstrings. I was pretty careful though and got through it with just some sore muscles for a few days. I was pretty proud of my performance on this one and I think I’d like to try it again one day to see if I could maybe reach 150 reps. (This year I got 142 reps.)

Unsurprisingly, my worst performance was the first workout, which was an AMRAP of double unders and snatches. I’m terrible at both movements, and I’ve struggled for YEARS to get my double unders. Therefore, I can’t be anything but pleased with the fact that I was still able to do fairly well on this one. At least, my double unders were not a completely limiting factor for me, which they would have been in previous years.

I was most surprised by my performance on the second workout, which was an overhead squat and chest-to-bar pullup ladder in which you had to do a certain amount of work in three minutes, and if you completed it, you got another 3 minutes.  Neither of these movements are very strong for me but I was able to get into the third set of three minutes, which I was really proud of.  However, I had to do the workout twice to accomplish that feat. I missed it by one rep the first time I tried it. I’m glad that re-doing it ended up being worth it.

I have nothing to say about the fourth workout. It sucked and was just a glaring reminder that I failed to reach the goal I set for myself last year of getting a muscle up by the 2014 Open.  Oh well, maybe next year.

For now, I’m just going to be glad the whole thing is over, because this is what it did to me:

Trying to regain consciousness after 14.5. Thanks to Rithy Keng for capturing this lovely moment.

Trying to regain consciousness after 14.5. Thanks to Rithy Keng for capturing this lovely moment.

2014 CrossFit Open

The first workout of the 2014 Open is announced tonight and I’m kind of dreading it.  As anyone can tell from my posts last year at this time, the Open is an incredibly stressful time for me.  The thing is, I put a ton of pressure on myself in every aspect of my life, but I spread myself so thin that it becomes impossible for me to meet those expectations.  Right now I do not feel like I am at my peak physically. In the past month I’ve mostly focused on recovering from my back injury and getting back to where I was earlier this year.  I haven’t gotten a muscle up yet.  I haven’t even been watching what I eat.  Frankly, there’s so much stress in my life professionally right now that I just haven’t had space in my head to worry about CrossFit.  And that’s exactly why I’m not looking forward to the Open.

In CrossFit, there is always the possibility that you could have done a few more reps, so it’s almost impossible not to wonder if you could have pushed just a little bit harder.  And in the CrossFit Open, a few reps can mean an enormous difference in the rankings.  It’s easy to say be happy with whatever you did because it was the best you can do, but what if it wasn’t the best you could do?  I am almost never 100% satisfied with my accomplishments, because I always think I can do better, push further, achieve more.  Knowing myself, I just don’t think that I can realistically go into the Open experience with a laid-back, “who cares as long as it’s fun” attitude.  But I also know that I haven’t prepared myself to excel in this competition. This is not a good combination.

Right now I’m just hoping that the workouts they pick this year will suit my strengths and not highlight my weaknesses too much.  And I hope they go back to the basics a bit instead of trying to make crazier versions of past year Open WODs.  Maybe, just maybe, the improvements I’ve made over the past year will be enough to help me to at least match my performance from last year.  And don’t get me wrong, I am proud of my 2013 performance. I finished in the top 5% in the region and, if I remember correctly, I was in the top 25 in the state of Maryland.  It’s just that I still think I could have done even better in a couple workouts if I’d approached them differently, trained better, or been more rested beforehand.

For better or worse, when the workout is announced in about 40 minutes, it’s going to change the way I think about this weekend. Hopefully it’ll be a fun one.  Maybe it’ll be perfect for my strengths.  Front squats and burpees perhaps??  I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

My Breaking Point

Yesterday I reached a breaking point and ended up, literally, flat on my back. I was in my basement doing some heavy back squats and on the last rep of my first set, I struggled a bit to get the weight up, leaned forward ever so slightly and felt a very distinct pop in my lower back. At first it didn’t hurt that badly, and I thought, “I just need to stretch, roll it out and I’ll be ok to play field hockey in an hour.” But as soon as I tried to stand and walk, I realized that was probably not true and I started to freak out.

The thing is, I hadn’t worked out Thursday OR Friday and it was already Saturday. Next Thursday I’m going on vacation and won’t have access to a gym for a week, which means I can’t waste time NOT working out while I’m at home. My plan had never been to take two days off in a row. It had happened because I had to be at the office early on Thursday, then take a 5:30pm train to NYC that didn’t end up getting into the city until almost 10pm. Then on Friday I had scheduled my return trip so that I’d get back to BWI with the perfect amount of time to get to the 6pm crossfit class. But, due to the fact that Amtrak hasn’t improved since the dark ages and can’t figure out how to operate in weather that is a normal part of winter for many areas of the country, my train was delayed 2 hours, plus we sat at Baltimore Penn station for about 20 minutes. I ended up getting home at 8pm and frankly, I wasn’t interested in working out by then. And this is shortly after another week where I was unable to get to the gym for a crossfit class when I thought I would be able to. Once it was because of a minor accident that crippled Baltimore traffic, and the other time is was because my plane was late. And those were the only two days that I had planned to go to the gym at all that week because of work travel. So I wanted to make up for lost time yesterday morning and figured I’d get in a few sets of squats before field hockey. The problem is that I was rushed, and I probably put too much weight on the bar. That, or it was the universe’s way of smacking me in the face.

The thing is, I wasn’t upset about missing the gym because I’m afraid that I’ll get fat if I don’t work out. I was upset because I have certain expectations I set for myself regarding my performance at the gym and I don’t want to miss opportunities to put in the work that’s required to get better. Last year I set a goal for myself that I wanted to increase my back squat significantly, and I achieved that goal the other week – going from a 215lb back squat to 250lb. But, when I made the lift at 250, I knew that wasn’t my limit. I felt like I could have gone higher and I only stopped because of time. I know I could have missed the next lift if I’d added weight, but I still think that I have more than a 250lb back squat in me. So when I set out to do some squats yesterday, I was trying to push myself. I was also doing a weight and rep scheme that was less than I had done successfully before so, while I knew it would be challenging, I didn’t really think I would fail. But, really the problem is that I was afraid to put too little on the bar because then I might not get to my goal of surpassing 250 for a one rep max.

All I want in life is to do everything I do to the best of my ability. And I have high standards so I usually expect that doing things to the best of my ability means that I need to excel. But it’s becoming harder and harder to be able to put in the time and effort necessary to excel in work, my hobbies, and my personal life. I love my job, and I especially love my job when things are a little bit crazy and I am really busy. I also love the traveling that comes with my job because i hate commuting and sitting in my office, plus I enjoy getting to explore other cities and spending time with my colleagues and the people I meet in my sites. But lately things have perhaps been a little too crazy. Here’s an example of how busy I’ve been: before Christmas, I had to pack up my the contents of my filing cabinets because they were replacing the carpet in my building. I had to stay at the office late one night just to unpack the files so I could return the crates they were in, but I still haven’t been able to actually put the files away. Instead they have been sitting on my desk for 2 weeks.

This doesn’t really bother me in and of itself, but when I can’t get my workouts in, that’s when I start to get resentful, because I will go out of my way to make sure I can get to the gym. I don’t allow a busy schedule to be an excuse. But lately I feel like it’s been beyond my control. How am I supposed to anticipate that it’ll take me an hour and a half just to get from my office to I-95 on a random Monday evening? Often, I’m able to figure something out. The week of the crazy traffic and the flight delay, I still managed to get to the gym, albeit very late, and at least do the metcon (i.e., the “cardio” portion of the class). But I missed the strength portion, which was especially frustrating because we were doing linear strength progressions for five different movements – all do which were exercises I wanted to improve on. So I missed those workouts, but I also missed the progressions on the days when I already knew I wasn’t going to be there because I’d be out of town. And it’s not very easy for me to try to do it while I’m traveling. In a hotel gym, access to a pull up bar and/or barbells is rare. It’s frustrating to know that the way to improve on a lift is to set up a schedule of gradually increasing the load, while giving yourself enough time to properly recover between sessions, and yet I simply cannot guarantee that I can keep that kind of regimented schedule.

Not only that, but I can’t keep any kind of weekly commitment. This winter I volunteered to coach some girls from my neighborhood high school who signed up for an indoor field hockey league and I’ve only been able to make it to two of their games. It’s a pretty laid back league and they don’t really need a coach but these girls don’t know a lot about field hockey and I want to help them improve their game, hoping that they will enjoy it more and continue playing even after they leave high school.

I just feel so frustrated with life right now. Why can’t I be committed to my job, continue to improve at the gym, and do some activities in my free time that give me joy? It doesn’t seem like I’m asking for too much and yet when I try to make up for missing out on one of those things during a rough week, the universe smacks me down and tells me, “Now you will have none of this!”

So here I am, unable to exercise at all, and in fact barely able to move. What’s worse is that I’m petrified I’ve done something to myself that will affect me the rest of my life. What if my back never heals and I have to deal with chronic back pain for the rest of my life? What if I can never get back to where I was before I hurt myself, let alone reach all the goals I have set for myself for the future? But even if I do recover fully, it won’t change how hard it is for me to juggle work and the gym in the way I want to. It feels like I have to make a choice but I have no idea what to do.

The end of the Israel Connect Program

I haven’t had time to keep up with this blog over the past week because it has been incredibly hectic and exhausting. We basically had four half days to see the biggest sites in Israel, and we still had to practice almost every morning at 6:30am.  It was a great experience but I’m glad it’s over and we are finally moving on to the competition stage of the trip!  The opening ceremonies for the Maccabiah Games are tonight but the field hockey games don’t start until the 21st.  Luckily, we were able to organize a scrimmage with Holland this morning.  I was excited but also nervous.  It’s been a long time since I’ve played in a game that actually mattered.  We won 4-1, which was great but the main purpose of this post is to recap the Israel Connect program.  I took about 200 pictures so I’ll try to only post the best ones.

My last post was about our trip to Tel Aviv and the beach so I’ll start with our second day where we explored some very, very old caves. Unfortunately I don’t remember a lot about the purpose of the caves, but I took a lot of pictures because they were really cool looking.  It was hard to pay attention to the tour guides at times because it was ungodly hot, we were all exhausted from getting up early, and my feet hurt both from practice and walking.  Also, we had so little time at each place that they had to fly through the explanations and since I’m not familiar with biblical stories, it was too much for me to follow.  Here are some pictures:

These were just the first set of caves we went through.  We also went through some dark caves where birds and water were stored but my pictures didn’t come out very well.  After that we went through some caves that hadn’t been fully excavated, which meant we had to crawl through very small tunnels and we couldn’t bring anything with us, even cameras.  They told us to wear clothes we could get dirty because we would be practically lying in the dirt, but our coach must’ve done a face plant somewhere along the route!  Actually she was trying to be funny.  Classic Tonj (inside joke on the field hockey team).

100_2650

The next day we went to Jerusalem.  I thought Jerusalem was really beautiful, both because of the geography of it (it’s built in a valley surrounded by hills) and the old buildings, but to be honest, I didn’t really have a spiritual experience or feel like I was home.  It’s the holiest city in the world but to me it was just interesting and beautiful.

7.17 import 008

Of course the highlight of the trip to Jerusalem for most people is the Western Wall.  However, it was actually really difficult for me.  I wanted to feel something like a higher power or a deep emotional connection to the spirituality of the place, but as I was walking in and I saw the sign indicating where the women had to enter to go to our special, smaller section of the wall and after I had to change into an outfit that covered my knees and shoulders but men could walk in wearing whatever they wanted, I couldn’t help but think that this is exactly the kind of stuff that I hate about religion.  I don’t have a problem with the idea of believing in God as a concept of course, but it’s how God has been used to oppress people that I cannot stand.  I don’t want to be part of a religion that says I’m not as good as a man, and in orthodox Judaism women are horribly oppressed, and not even allowed to study the Torah because that is only for men.  So the Wall was a bit hard for me to swallow.

Luckily, the next day was an adventure day: the Dead Sea, Masada, and dinner in a Bedouin village.  I was not expecting to be so incredibly blown away by the Dead Sea and Masada.  I’m not exactly sure what I was expecting but the vast beauty of the place was almost overwhelming.  If I had any kind of spiritual experience on this trip, this is definitely where it happened.  I was just in utter awe of the beauty and strangeness of nature, as well as man’s ability to accomplish amazing things like building a giant temple on top of a cliff in the desert thousands of years ago.  I definitely want to go back with Wes when he arrives.  The Bedouin dinner was fun but we were all just completely exhausted.  I basically stuffed my face with the delicious food and wanted to pass out, but had to wait an hour or so for the buses to take us back to the hotel.  Thankfully, we did not have practice the following morning.

The last day of our tour was a somber one: Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum, and Mt. Herzl, the national cemetery for the Israeli military.  Yad Vashem was very moving of course, and it was good for me I think because it helped me realize that, even though I am not a practicing Jew and I don’t really want to be, I will always be Jewish because it is my heritage and I am part of this community that was victim to one of the most horrific atrocities in history.  As far as I know, all of my family had already left eastern Europe before WWII.  In fact, most of them were already in the U.S. during WWI.  Yet, those who died in the Holocaust were just like me.  It could have been me.  No matter what I think or feel about religion, I will always be Jewish and there will always be people that will hate me for that fact alone.  So in some ways, ending the tour with Yad Vashem was a great reminder to me about why I am here competing in the Maccabiah Games with thousands of other Jewish athletes from around the world.

For the competition phase of the games, we have switched hotels and are now located on the beach in Tel Aviv. Not too shabby, eh?

View from our hotel rooftop

View from our hotel rooftop

Israel Day 2

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It might be a bit challenging for me to type this post because I may or may not have a broken finger, but I’ll get to that in a bit. Day 2 in Israel started with a 5:45am wake up call, since we had to be downstairs to meet the buses and head to our practice field by 6:10am. Our field wasn’t too far away though, so we got there pretty early.

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walking to the field

Unfortunately, the field doesn’t have any field hockey goals or lines, and it’s grass.  I think my experience with club hockey has prepared me more for these kinds of hiccups than the other girls. Even the high school girls are used to turf, which is a far cry from the lumpy baseball outfield we played in at Seneca Valley.  Anyway, I’m fairly used to having to improvise in terms of lines, goals, and field quality so it didn’t bother me but the coaches are looking into getting us some goals.  It’s probably best so the goalies can get some practice in defending an actual field hockey goal instead of the smaller futsal goals we have access to.

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practice field

We started off doing some interval runs, during which I felt pretty good, then we hit around for awhile to get used to the field and went into drills.  As usual, my fundamentals were weak but I have a lot of opportunity to work on them.  We ended the practice with some 3v2s, which I usually enjoy, especially on defense. I started the drill on defense and the first time I went out I played alright I thought, but the second time I felt totally lost. There was one play where I thought my fellow defender was going to clear it but she didn’t and then I got stuck kind of flat footed. So when I got another chance to go I was

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determined to fight like hell for the ball. I succeeded but I went in for a jab while the girl on offense was swinging for a shot and my finger got caught in the middle, and of course I wasn’t wearing my glove at the time.  I’m used to getting hit in the finger and i usually play through it but it started swelling up really badly and much more quickly than I’ve ever experienced before. Also, practice was about over and I figured it would be best to just ice it and see the trainer back at the hotel. Unfortunately, the trainer didn’t have great news. Although she said she doesn’t think it’s broken, she doesn’t really know and unless I want to go to the emergency room, I should just wait to see if it gets better in a few days. She put it in a splint and told me to come back before our afternoon practice to figure out a way I can protect it while I play. The only silver lining in this is that because it happened on the first day I have a lot of time to heal before our games start. Hopefully I will still be able to play while it’s healing.

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Where we spend our time between games

After we got back from practice we had breakfast and then got to spend some time at the pool before lunch. It felt great to relax and cool off in the pool. Unfortunately I had to keep my hand out of the water because of the splint, so swimming was a bit challenging.  Overall though, not a bad way to spend a day: field hockey in the morning, pool in the afternoon, and more field hockey in the evening. I could get used to this.

Welcome to Israel!

So here I am on my first night in Israel to represent the USA field hockey team in the 19th World Maccabiah Games. I tried out for the team last summer so it’s been a year since I first decided to do this and now it’s finally here. So far we haven’t done anything but check into the hotel, unpack, eat dinner and have an orientation meeting. Training starts tomorrow at 7am.

I’m really excited to see Israel and play field hockey for the U.S. team, but I am also apprehensive.  If I had to guess, I would say the average age of the girls on my team is 19 or 20.  There’s one 15 year old, several recent high school graduates, and a handful of girls going into their junior years of college.  One girl is a 5th year senior and another girl graduated a year or two ago. I am BY FAR the oldest.  I have been playing field hockey longer or as long as many of them have been alive.  This doesn’t intimidate me on the field. I think that my years of experience will serve me well, especially because a lot of that experience has been playing against and with strong competition, including playing with men who are faster, stronger and sometimes more skilled (if they come from a country where a lot of men play field hockey).  I do think that I have some issues with my fundamentals because I have not been coached for the past 13 years (and when I was coached, the only good coaching I got was at summer camp), but I think I can hold my own overall.

No, I would say that the biggest apprehension I have about my age is just how out of place I feel. These girls are SO young that I probably have more in common with their mothers than with them.  Not only am I 30 years old and 9 years out of college, but I’m married with a full time job and I own a house.  That said, I’m not exactly a boring old fart. I still go out and stay out late and despite my marital and living situation, I would NOT consider myself “domesticated”. I do like to cook but I could care less about window treatments or gardening, and I don’t even use pinterest.  But when I looked around myself at the Philadelphia airport yesterday and I was awash in a see of acne, braces and awkward spindly arms & legs, I could not help thinking to myself “what am I doing here??”

I do think that there are a number of older athletes coming for the games, I just haven’t had the opportunity to interact with them yet.  Sports like soccer and basketball are sending multiple teams of many age groups, and I think we were just stuck on the plane with the younger teams. Also, only a handful of teams are coming to Israel this early because we are participating in a special pre-event training camp. There will be a total of 900 athletes from the U.S. and only 300 are coming to the training camp. Hopefully I will meet some people my age, but it will be a little difficult because I’ll have to branch off from my team. I’m not quite sure how to do that though. Can I just go up to the Rugby team and say, “Excuse me, but you guys look old. Are you over 24?” That would be weird, right?

Anyway, our first day of two-a-day training starts tomorrow. We do that for four days and then the rest of the athletes arrive and the Israel Connect program begins.  That will be when I get a better opportunity to see the country. Until then, it’s hockey, hockey, and more hockey.  Here’s hoping my 30 year old bones can keep up with these youngins.

performance metrics

Because I have a relatively long commute (45-60 minutes), I’ve taken to listening to audiobooks. It’s great because I’ve been able to “read” so many more books than I ever could before.  Currently I’m listening to “Moneyball”.  I’m not overly interested in baseball, although I enjoy a game and a beer on a cool summer evening, but I like listening to non-fiction books and I’ve already listened to most of what the library has to offer.  So far it’s pretty interesting.  Although I’m still pretty much at the beginning of the book, my current takeaway is that Billy Beane’s perspective on sabermetrics stemmed from his own experiences as a baseball player who was born with all the talent in the world but who never really reached his potential on the field.  I can’t say I relate to having that kind of natural talent, but I did find myself relating to some of the frustrations he experienced that eventually led him to quit playing.  A “mental skills coach” for the Oakland A’s named Harvey Dorfman said this about Billy:

“He believes in his talent.  What he doesn’t believe in is himself.  He sees himself exclusively in his statistics. If his stats are bad, he has zero self-worth.”

This kind of thinking has plagued me my whole life.  I have always lacked self-confidence, and I’ve always had a hard time believing in myself without some sort of external proof that I succeeded.  For example, no matter how many years I’ve been playing field hockey, how many goals I score or tackles I make, I have always been self-conscious about the fact that I didn’t play varsity field hockey in college.  This was a choice I made because I wanted to go to UNC, but I wasn’t good enough to play for their team (they are perennial national championship contenders).  And yet, I constantly feel inferior to other women I play with just because they played for their college teams.  It wasn’t until I made the Maccabi USA field hockey team that I really felt myself relax about it.  It was almost as though someone had finally said to me, “Don’t worry Rachel, you are good at field hockey.”  But I am anxious about how I’ll feel when I go to Israel and all the girls on the team are/were/will be collegiate players (one of whom even plays for UNC…so jealous).  I really hope though that this experience will be a turning point for me to gain some confidence about my playing ability.

I think that this need for external validation is also what drives me to obsess about my performance in CrossFit, and why I’m so damn competitive.  The fact that CrossFit is a performance based fitness program is one of the reasons I fell in love with it.  It wasn’t just another hamster wheel, it was working out with a purpose.  You could almost, sorta win at working out.  Seriously, it was like CrossFit was made for me.  But as I’ve improved and reached a point where I can no longer rely just on natural ability, I’ve started to become frustrated with my limitations.  Every day I think of another thing I need to improve on because if I don’t improve, I can’t be the best and if I’m not the best, how will I know I am any good?  It’s easy for some people to say that you should just give it your all and be proud of what you’ve accomplished, but that doesn’t come so naturally to me.  I need a benchmark on which to base my success.  CrossFit provides that and it’s both the beauty and the curse of it for me.  Every workout is measured and we even have benchmark workouts that everyone does and can be used to compare yourself to people around the world.  But it also means that you can always say, “I could have gotten a few more reps” or “I could have gone just a little bit faster”.  Finding peace with those extra reps or lost seconds is a challenge for me, and it’s an even tougher challenge when I’m face to face with a real life competitor who was able to edge me out (or worse, blow me away).  I don’t want to think that I could have tried harder.  But it’s hard for me to accept that I tried as hard as I could when I see someone else who achieved something more. 

Look, I wish that I could be proud of myself for just getting out there and trying, regardless of the outcome.  But at the same time, I like being competitive and I like pushing myself to be the best.  Maybe it’s not always healthy and maybe it can keep me from truly enjoying some things, but I do think that overall my life is better because I have never and will never be satisfied by settling for second best.  I may never achieve the things I set out to accomplish, but I wouldn’t be able to stand up tall if I didn’t say I tried.

dumb kids

Today I saw this story on yahoo.com. This is a pretty good example of the kind of stuff I deal with in my job.  The article doesn’t mention his age so I’m not sure if he’s a juvenile or an adult (17 year olds are juveniles in PA).  However, his family had to bail him out and there’s no bail in the juvenile system (except in Massachusetts).  As the article states, it was pretty stupid of Issah to try to pay for his McDonald’s using fake money.  But that’s really all it is: dumb.  Sure, McDonald’s lost some profit but if he pays it back, no harm no foul.  Of course, he needs to be held accountable for his actions, presumably through more than simple restitution.  The question is, why on earth would prison be appropriate??  It doesn’t sound like he will end up in prison, thank goodness, but the tone of the article definitely implies that prison would be the default response and that he’ll only get out of it because of some diversion program.  I get the idea of accountability.  That’s a no brainer.  But what I don’t get is the idea that Pennsylvania tax payers should have to pay $30,000/day for this stupid kid playing with fake money to be in prison with rapists and murderers.  Does that make any sense?  As for punishment, there must be other kinds of punishments that can get the message across that it’s not okay to avoid paying for what you buy.  My guess is that if he loses his football scholarship, that would be a pretty significant punishment.  I think that’s excessive but it’s more reasonable than prison.

The article doesn’t state whether this kid has a prior record, but the idea that he may have screwed up his scholarship by getting arrested now implies that he had a clean slate before.  The criminal justice system is supposed to ensure that our community is safe and that people who break the law won’t do it again.  But, there’s no way to really ensure that people won’t break laws so you have to make decisions about how to utilize the resources of the justice system effectively to do the best you can to achieve public safety – kind of like a triage process.  If you waste resources on people that aren’t a threat to public safety, there are fewer resources available for the serious criminals.  That’s why we tell jurisdictions we work with that it’s not advisable to put first time minor offenders on probation (let alone in jail). If a probation officer has a caseload of 50 and some of those kids pose a real risk to public safety, do we really want them spending their time on those kids that just made a stupid mistake and probably won’t do it again?  I can tell you from talking to POs that unnecessarily high caseloads hurt their ability to pay attention to the kids that really need their attention.  It’s a waste of their time, a waste of county or state funds, and an unnecessary intrusion into the lives of troublemaking kids who may have made stupid decisions but probably won’t become lifelong criminals.