"Deeper! Dig deeper!"
Those words echoed from the walls of Michigan State University IM Circle dance studio. They came from my former dance director, Sherrie Barr. And when Barr speaks, you must deliver.
The dance program at my alma mater taught me a few things. Pedicures will not last a day. Tights are sweatpants. Elevator music, commercials and television shows have the best tunes for choreography inspiration, and it's completely appropriate to dance wherever you are inspired, even in the middle of a lecture hall with 450 students.
But the one thing that surprised me is that through the rigors of my dance efforts, I found enjoyment in an unexpected place: running.
It happened all of the sudden. After a really horrible day in dance class, I felt defeated. I was embarrassed and frustrated, and Barr wouldn't give me a break. I couldn't connect with my body that day. When class ended, I immediately started running.
As quickly as possible, I needed to get away from my instructor and from the walls of that studio. I wanted to run away from the anxiety.
That day I mutilated my feet. It wasn't a good idea to run in ballet flats, but it did make me feel better.
Within weeks I found myself running more often. Looking back now, it became a way for me to release my dance frustrations. Who would have known that a classical and contemporary trained dancer would look to running for support.
Naturally, I eventually wanted to challenge myself more, so I signed up for my first 5K.
In my first race, I ran for more than myself. I also supported my father, whose kidneys aren't in the best shape. The National Kidney Foundation Lucky Feet 5K Run/Walk felt similar to a performance. The road was my stage.
After graduation, I relocated to Chicago for work and school, and running became a lifestyle for me.
Life was frustrating when I first moved. I wasn't sure if I was where I wanted to be, and I didn't know where life would take me. To reinforce my decision to move to Chicago and find myself as a Chicagoan, I signed up for more races.
I ran the Race for the Cure, AIDS Run, BIG 10K, Hot Chocolate 15K and Chi Town Half Marathon. Then I ran the ultimate race in 2015: the Bank of America Chicago Marathon.
Life moves so fast, especially in a big city, but running allows me to take everything in and appreciate my surroundings.
Running pauses life and keeps me grounded and focused on only one goal for the moment. I become responsible for keeping my own two feet moving and gain a feeling of complete control.
Running isn't always easy, but the self-gratification is worth every mile.