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Once, I was interviewing a pageant director for a human interest piece. She kept telling me I should enter a pageant, and I kept politely declining, but she kept pushing, so finally I told her I thought the swimwear/fitnesswear portions were objectifying and ridiculous. “Oh! Those are so you can show the judges how physically fit you are! Pageant queens have to be in very good shape because they travel so much.”

. . . 

I thought that was BS then, and I think it’s BS now: you can’t tell how fit a person is based on the way she looks in a bikini or a sports bra. I will give her a little credit, though: you do have to be in good shape if you want to travel—or at least if you want to travel well.

Traveling is in the cards for me this year: this summer I’ll be spending two weeks in Greece on a school trip, ten or so days in Israel with my grandpa, and nine days in Uganda with Invisible Children. And I’m hoping/planning for many weekend excursions throughout the year.

But for me, traveling well means walking the cities, rafting the waters, eating good foods, being entirely uninhibited, and learning my surroundings before the days begin—by going on morning runs.

I stay in decent shape all the time, so walking, rafting, and the like are always doable for me. But eating well and living freely? Those are harder for me, as I have a historically abusive relationship with food, and I’ve always (since I can remember) struggled with self-image and all that gross emotional doubt stuff that means worrying about how fat my thighs look instead of fully realizing my surroundings. 

And then morning runs? Ha! I am so out of shape right now that a few miles is a HUGE deal, a real energy- and time-drainer, and it’s just zero fun.

So here’s the plan: for the next 16 weeks, I’m going to focus on my health. I’m going to run, and I’m going to build muscle, and I’m going to eat lots of good food. And when I board my first international flight of the year (to Greece), the only baggage I’ll have will be the kind that you check (although, let’s be real: good packers only carry on) and will include running shoes.

 

In 2014, I’m going to eat, sleep, learn, read, write, laugh, and run in four different countries and at least five different states. Let’s. Go.

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I won’t outline every moment of every day of the Fourth Estate Leadership Summit 2013. I could, but I won’t. I will tell you that we heard from some of the most esteemed and devoted members of the human race (new U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power for one; Jay Naidoo, Sophia Bush, and 1500 fellow attendees for a few more). 

 

The Summit is an annual event hosted by Invisible Children. It is a gathering of activists of all ages, though most of us were 20-something-ish. The event itself is three and a half days long and is part-TED talks, part-film festival, part-concert series. It’s unbelievable.

 

This was my first year in attendance. Beforehand, I was excited but also very nervous that I wouldn’t make friends. I’m really bad at getting to know people in such situations. I was freaked. I shouldn’t have been. The Fourth Estate is the nicest group of people ever. I’d made friends before I’d left the airport.

 

So by the time I left on Sunday morning, I was hugging folks and sad to be leaving and utterly exhausted and unable to process it all (because you can’t fit so much mind-blowing into three days unless you get very limited sleep). All I wanted to do was cry; I was just so overwhelmed and sad and confused.

 

Now that I’ve processed a little, I’m going to process more: by typing out my thoughts/feelings.

 

The event motivated everyone to be active, get back to work, end the LRA for good. It made us all want to raise more cash, take trips to Central Africa, work for Invisible Children, and devote ourselves entirely to justice for all. But, um, hello: I’m about to be in school again. And work again. And, oh yeah, I’m the new Editor-in-Chief for the school paper and I have no staff and I’m freaking out and OH YEAH ALL OF THAT. When can I raise money and run the IC chapter I’ve inherited by default and save the world when I’ll be too busy editing sports stories and reading Faulkner? And oh gosh I would love to intern with IC or move to Uganda when I graduate, but wait: gradschoolteachingjobhusbandbabiesherbgarden401k WHEN IS THERE TIME?

 

I know in my heart that the world needs people who’re doing what they love and what they’re good at. And I know in my heart that there is exactly enough time for all of the important things. But the idea of going back to a world of short-term, small-scale stresses and successes makes me want to cry/die/quit everything. At this point in my life, the easy way out is to give up at the little stuff and devote all I’ve got to ending Africa’s longest-running war. If I were to do that, I’d do a lot of good. But I’ll do way more good by:

 

working hard in school

being an awesome student ambassador, recruiting great students for a great institution

recreating a gorgeous school newspaper

taking care of myself

devoting only what I have to devote to the LRA cause

 

This is sustainable. This is proactive and balanced and for the best, I have no doubt. It’s just hard to handle the idea of it after a weekend that was so energized and unbalanced (such beauty could never be balanced) and life-destroying (in the best way possible).

 

It’s a struggle I happily endure, though I’d rather endure it with your words of wisdom in my back pocket. Leave them in the comments, or email me at ellenorr@mac.com, if you prefer.

 

Love love love.

I’m currently sitting in DWF International Airport, Gate E33, waiting for my flight to Los Angeles. I arrived in my usual fashion—a good hour earlier than needed. So I’ve been hanging out, hydrating and caffeinating and carb-loading, preparing for the next four days of my life: The Fourth Estate.

 

For the uninformed: Invisible Children, the nonprofit organization that is devoted to bringing LRA warlord Joseph Kony to justice (“KONY: 2012”), is hosting this activist leadership conference called The Fourth Estate Summit. Google it. I won’t waste your time trying to explain what the next four days will entail, because I don’t fully comprehend what’s going to go down (though I have the schedule memorized by heart, you know).

 

I haven’t slept well in days. I’ve been in a constant state of excitement and giddiness for the last 24 hours. And now, it’s finally here. I’m really about to board a flight to LA, and then I’m going to take a shuttle to UCLA, and then I’m going to check in at THE FOURTH ESTATE.

 

I’ll be blogging about this incredible experience—maybe nightly, maybe in one big post after the whole ordeal. We’ll be on a tight schedule and won’t have much time for sleep, let alone blogging, so we’ll see how I’m feeling. But for now: let this post mark the beginning of one four-day weekend that I imagine will have a huge impact on my entire life.

 

Peace out! Write again soon!