Thursday, April 12, 2012

Defining Moments

Today I’m going to talk about defining moments (I believe this is a title of a Sex and the City episode. I rely on SATC for late night TV and life lessons).

Over the weekend, my family and I reminisced about a humorous but painful memory of mine. There was a strange phenomenon that I experienced in high school – all of the teachers who loved my sister, Kelly, loathed me. I’m not talking about one or two teachers… we counted about five. I was a pretty enthusiastic student, so I got along with just about every other teacher - but these select five and I must have had some serious rows in another life.

One teacher, Mrs. Greenlees, was my cooking instructor freshman year. I was paired with a group of kids that either didn’t show up to class, or could care less whether our sugar cookies came out edible or not. I found myself stressed and doing most of the work, and decided to take a different elective the following year (stressed about my cooking elective? Even 14-year-old Kate was an over-achiever…). But towards the end of the school year when we were selecting classes, Mrs. Greenlees cuttingly told me that she thought it would be better if I didn’t take “Advanced Cooking.” I replied with a generous amount of sass, “Don’t worry, I’m NOT.” (Yes, I’ve always been told I’m mature for my age – it must have been my grown-up demeanor and not my attitude that intimidated her).

That's me on the left at Disney World senior year.
So much sass.

This happened nine years ago – and I still remember it clearly. Growing up, I was used to being told I was great at most things (thanks mom and dad for your words of encouragement - I still believe you can do anything you put your mind to…), and this was one of the first times I can remember being told that I was just not good at something. I had a bit of an aversion to cooking for years after this – and anyone who took psych 101 could tell me why. But once I got an off-campus apartment at school, and had someone else to cook for, I started to find out that Mrs. Greenlees was wrong about me.

I began to build up positive experiences with cooking, such as getting loads of compliments from Keith, and learning how to bake things from scratch with my parents. Now, I love trying new recipes, and I’m beginning to gain some confidence in my kitchen. I didn’t let my disagreeable interaction with my stupid (sorry Kelly, I know you liked her) teacher ruin cooking for me, and now it’s one of my favorite little hobbies.

Okay, yes I admit this seems a bit overdramatic and perhaps something I should have put in my private journal and not share with the online world. Everyone has interactions like this that stay with them – but my question to you is; do you let these moments change who you are?

One time while I was waiting to meet someone at Penn Station, one of those not-for-profit employees who want you to give them money to support wind energy development or some other important cause, said something to me that I thought was really interesting. While living in Boston, I naively gave a similar person my email and phone number since I didn’t have my credit card on me. She called and called trying to get me to donate an unrealistic amount of money for a college student, and it left a really bad taste in my mouth. So when I told this poor guy that I had a bad experience once with a similar organization, he said “If you always let one bad experience influence you, you may be shutting yourself to out good experiences.” Well said. I still don’t want to donate $50 a month to your cause.

I had a defining moment last year with running (you knew this was coming). I’ve said before how miserable the Brooklyn Half-Marathon was for me – I was undertrained, had no iPod to distract me, and was severely dehydrated by the end. I had already signed up for the Cape Cod Marathon at that point, and I distinctly remember saying to myself around mile 11, “Kate, there is no way you can run a marathon, this is too awful.” I stopped running for about a month or two after the race, and on the rare occasion I did, I didn’t do anything over four miles.

I'm only smiling on the outside.
I was almost positive that I didn’t want to run a marathon – my list of excuses was much longer than my list of reasons why I should do it. But then I did a seven mile run with my favorite running cousins and Keith – and I was hooked again. We went at a conversational pace, the weather was beautiful, and it felt so great to get my legs out on the road without wanting to stop. After this run, I decided I wanted to run the marathon, and run it I did.

Smiling ear to ear!

And in five weeks, I’m going to run the Brooklyn Half again. Not just because there are hot dogs and beers awaiting me at the finish line, but I want to prove it to myself that I have matured as a runner, and add  it to my list of positive experiences.


  1. Yes, I have had my moments but unlike you, will not share them publicly! And in addition to the beers and hot dogs after the run, your Mom and Dad will be there to cheer you on.

  2. Mrs Greenlees was a POS old lady who was stuck being the second Cooking teacher in the bubble of WWP...She probably knew you would be the fabulous person you are today and needed to make herself feel better...

    And "Advanced Cooking" was just another birdie class...

    andddddd I think there were about 3987293 teachers who liked you better than me!!!