Carving a New Path

The following is more of a journal entry than a health-related blog post.  Conveniently, this is my site, and I can deviate from intended content without consequence.  Perhaps you’ll find my post-graduate journey resonates with your own experiences; I’m definitely not the first of my friends to feel empty-handed even with a diploma.  My intention is to share that even when the surface seems radiant, we all carry doubts.

Without further ado, my post-graduate journey:

Last December, I graduated for the first time.  The celebration of my 4 and a half years felt somewhat hollow.  Though proud of what I’d accomplished, my education journey was far from over, with MBA classes starting only a few weeks later.

Months before graduation, I’d made the decision to abandon my previous plans of attending OT school and started looking for a job.  With no opportunities jumping out at me, I enrolled in the MBA program.  I’d always known I wanted an MBA, but rushing into it was more out of desperation than desire.  I needed to feel like I was moving forward, even though I didn’t know what direction I was meant to head.

Occupational therapy was a calling I thought I had until an internship showed me how wrong I was.  I come from a family with established careers.  Doctors, therapists, lawyers, bankers… people who know what type of role they’re meant to be in, committed to obtaining proper credentials, and stayed the course.

I thought I wanted something similar.  The job security of a medical degree was enticing on paper, but in reality, it wasn’t for me.  Therapy follows a script, tailored to individuals and their needs, but nonetheless a script.  I felt my creativity was limited in this role, but I told myself it would be “okay” if I could obtain a pediatric role in OT.  As I did my research, I realized how unlikely it would be for me to start in pediatrics, and I pictured long days with post-op patients stretching out forever in front of me.  The security sounded great on paper, but the reality of being in one role for the rest of my life was terrifying.

At this point, some of you are thinking, “Well, you could move into a supervisory role.”  You’re right, and if I’d stayed that course, I would have done so with haste.  Luckily, I have an amazing support system who made sure I skipped the step where I was miserable.

My boyfriend was the first to speak up.  He made me realize that while I’d been creating a path in my head, that was the only place it existed.  In reality, my horizons were wide open.

When I first struck out in a new direction, it felt like hacking through undergrowth with a machete.  Gone was the comfortably worn path I’d prepared for myself.  There was a certain thrill associated with the terror.  The freedom to choose any direction was exhilarating, but the lack of certainty was nauseating.  As I told the people close to me about my complete lack of direction, I was shocked by the outpouring of support and love that met me.  It was this that kept me from turning back to my beaten trail and catapulted me ahead.

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Their excitement for my journey was contagious.  So I held my hands up and asked, “God what’s the plan?”  I quit deciding for myself, and I sought His leadership instead.  What a difference that made.

I have one more semester left in the MBA program, but my graduation in May of 2018 will be a much different affair than December of 2016.  I don’t have it all planned out – in fact I don’t intend to ever live that way again, but I do have a direction.  I’ve accepted a position with Cisco Systems in their Cisco Sales Associate Program (CSAP).  It’s a highly competitive program that will immerse me in all things Cisco, and I’m absolutely thrilled to have received this offer.

Sometimes, it’s letting go that lets us get everything together.  Staying the course would have been a safer decision.  For the rest of my life, I’d have woken up every day knowing the career that awaited me.  This is wide open.  There are ladders to climb, new departments to explore, and further on down the road, who know, there might even be new companies.  My psych degree tells me that human beings hate uncertainty, but I seem to be thriving on it.  I think that’s largely due to the huge safety net created by the loving people in my life.

So thank you daddy, because knowing you’d kick ass if I needed backup has made me bold.  Thank you mama, because having you as my #1 fan has made me confident.  Thank you Henry, because you’re the best built in best friend, and I always glow with pride when asked about my little brother.  Thank you Lawrence, because without you, I wouldn’t have seen my own potential.  Thank you to my girls (you know who you are), because I know on the hard days one of you will always be waiting with a bottle of wine.

I’m carving a new path.  It’s scary at times, but I’m living for the thrill of seeing where I end up.  I have two takeaway from this experience:

(One)     Never assume someone else’s path has been easy.  Nothing in my life has come as easily to me as I’ve made it look.  I blame my tendency to make difficult things look simple on my years of dancing – placing your body in varying states of pain all while making it look like art.  Be aware that you’re never alone in your struggles, even if the social media twist on reality makes it feel that way.  We all struggle.

(Two)     Embrace the unknown as a chance to find greater happiness.  Everything in our nature tells us it’s scary, but that fear makes the end result worth so much more.  Depend on your social support system and be dependable in return.  Facing the unknown is better than remaining locked in a miserable known life.

If you stuck with me to the end, I thank you, and I hope you could both relate to and learn from this post.  I’m truly so excited for my new position with Cisco, and I hope the new year brings excitement and joy for you, too!  Cheers to 2018!

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Winter Is Coming

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Photo by Christine Scott Photography

There’s nothing better than an oversized sweater, crackling fire, and marshmallows drowning in hot cocoa when it starts to get cold.  This time of year is when my motivation for physical wellness starts to slip, but my mental wellness is at its peak.  Food, family, and festivities abound in the winter months.

But how do you make time for your physical body without compromising on all of the waistline destroying treats of the holiday season?


Get the people you love involved!  I signed my family up for 8am Christmas Eve yoga this past year, and though my brother wore his Christmas pajamas, we got in a pretty good workout before hunkering back down.  It’s hard to make time to workout when you picture the rest of your loved ones snuggling by the fireplace, so by all means, be the team motivator.  Motivating your loved ones will also motivate you!

Remind yourself that you won’t be nearly as jolly and bright if you come down with a winter bug, and exercise is a great way to boost your immune system!  If you feel a little stuffy, it’ll drain your head and clear your sinuses.  Just remember to wash your hands thoroughly to avoid catching any gym bugs.

Mix up your routineThe exercises you do when it’s warm out don’t have to be the same as those you do when it gets cold.  I’m always an advocate for a little variety because being stuck in a rut makes it hard for me to keep going.  Right now, I’m crazy about hot yoga!  I love that it’s warm, as well as how detoxed and stretched my muscles feel when I get done.

As part of your new routines, find workouts you can do at home.  I have a list of these for rainy days, or even lazy ones, when leaving my apartment after class feels out of the question.  A quick 30 minutes before you shower and start/end your day will make a huge difference.  You can add it to your list of accomplishments, and just like making your bed,  accomplishing this small goal will make a big difference in how you perceive yourself.


The earth will warm back up soon, and sweaters will be traded for swimsuits in the blink of an eye.  Make sure you’re treating all facets of your wellness so you can feel great with every seasonal change!  Stay warm, and as always, love the skin you’re in.

#APerfectFit

Flow Through the Seasons

Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.

F. Scott Fitzgerald

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Thanks to: Christine Scott Photography

As much as I love to be warm, there’s something about the leaves changing colors in the fall that does my soul some good.  It’s been my favorite thing about the Carolinas since I moved “north” in 2012.  In Georgia, we never really had four seasons, and I’ve decided it’s not as bad as I thought it would be.

Today I have a very simple message, but it’s one that I believe needs to be said.  It’s one that I’ve needed to hear at points of change in my own life.

Be gentle when judging yourself.  Accept changes you make in your life.  Recognize that how you got to this point was an important part of your journey, but it is by no means the last chapter in your book.

We all have a construct of our personal identity.  We know who we think we are, and it’s based on so very many things.  Who our parents are.  Where we grew up.  The sports teams we cheer for.  The clothes we wear.  We look for people with similar identities, who don’t threaten this carefully constructed image we have in our minds.  And sometimes we forget a very important truth: we don’t have to be that person.

The beauty of being human is in the ability to change.  It’s easier said than done, but we don’t have to repeat our mistakes or even the mistakes of our parents.  We can change our minds about who we are when we recognize a flaw, and with effort and patience, we can change our being.

Encourage positive change.  We all go through seasons of highs and lows, peace and strain, certainty and confusion.  Each season is preparing you for the next, teaching you how to adapt.  If we were all born the same way we were going to die, life would be pretty bland.  How lucky are we that there is always something to learn?

P.S. I can’t wait to start a new season in my life and have an exciting announcement about post-grad plans coming to you soon!

#APerfectFit

Love Your Reflection

Since I’m trying to re-establish blogging as part of my busy work week, I wanted to get back to the basics this week and remind myself why my work matters.  So let’s talk about the girl in the mirror and why we love her!

Worldwide, women are under pressure to meet beauty standards.  Those standards are different wherever you go, and even within a culture, everyone has an opinion.  That means you are never going to be everybody’s cup of tea.  No body meets every beauty standard.

So where should you be focusing your energy?

IMG_6800Instead of conforming to your society’s standards, take a look in the mirror and see what’s there.  Then, find a way to love what you see.

Easier said than done.  We all have our hangups – a freckle we can’t see past, a curve we wish would shrink.  You are your own worst critic, and that’s okay.  We all have the potential to make changes in our lives, and as long as those changes are healthy, it’s okay to make them.  Just make sure you make changes out of love for yourself, not out of pressure to conform.

So how do you love your imperfectly perfect self?  Here are a few exercises for those days when the girl in the mirror isn’t living up to the standards living within you:

(1) Take “time off”

Nobody has the energy to be “on” at all times, and time off is at the heart of my self-love practice.  Light a candle, power down your networking apps, and pour a glass of wine.  Sink into the tub or under the covers.  Open the book that’s been gathering dust on your nightstand or turn on a mindless flick.  Just be.

(2) Accomplish small goals

Every morning, I make my bed, and no matter what happens during the day, I have accomplished that one, very small, goal.  It sounds silly.  For me, it works.  No matter what else happens, I have done this one small thing for myself, and at the end of the day, I get to pull the covers back and escape.

(3) Quicken your heartbeat

Get a workout in!  The amazing thing about exercise is that it works if you’re tired or if you’re too hyped up to wind down.  A meaningless day that drains you of all energy or a strenuous day that wires you with stress can both be reversed with a little cardiovascular training.

(4) Phone a friend

Call someone who sees what you are having trouble seeing: you are amazing.  Let them remind you of all the good you bring to the world, the enrichment you give to their life.  We all need a hype man sometimes.  Embrace their compliments and love!IMG_6774

(5) Just dance

Okay, maybe don’t dance, but do something you love!  If you don’t have a hobby that you can’t talk about without smiling, it’s time to find one.  Find something that makes you feel good about yourself, that lets your talents shine.

Whatever you choose to do, make sure you are keeping the outside world quiet so you can clearly hear your own needs! 

How do you remind the girl in the mirror that she woke up flawless?

#APerfectFit

“What’s Your End Goal?”

Up until about a year ago, I thought I’d have an “Ah-hah!” moment when I became an adult and knew what I was doing with my life.  Then, I realized that becoming an adult is accepting that nobody knows what they’re doing, and becoming a responsible adult is just doing the best you can.  Fake it until you become it, as they say!

I have a simple short-term goal: receiving my MBA and finding a job to pay the bills.  My long-term goals are a little less quantifiable, though.  I want to find a fulfilling job; one that provides a two-way street allowing me to impact the world while developing me as a person.  I also want to inspire women to find love for themselves, which I believe starts with finding love for Jesus.  This blog is my meager attempt at building the foundations towards that goal.

But in all truth, there is no end goal for me.  I will die with goals I haven’t yet met, because as I reach one milestone, I set the next one.  That’s the burden of being a goal-oriented person.  Goals are always evolving, adapting to fit my capabilities and emotions.

If you aren’t sure what your purpose is and feel surrounded by people who seem to have it all together, you are not alone.  Just know that even when you feel purposeless, God has a reason you’re here.  He just doesn’t always make His reasons known.

So well-meaning people of the world, please stop inquiring as to my end goal.  There is no end goal.  There is a series of goals that will continue to evolve as I continue to grow.  We aren’t meant to know our end purpose, and it’s high time we stop trying.

#APerfectFit

What does “wellness” even mean?

My definition of wellness involves physical, mental, social and spiritual health.  I  place the most importance on spiritual health, but I try to tend to all 4 facets on a daily basis.  Some days, one area needs a little more attention than the others, and that area gets prioritized.  This encompassing definition of wellness means it’s perfectly healthy to skip a morning at the gym for a brunch with your girlfriends if you’re lacking in social health that week.  However, you have to be careful to prioritize in a way that maintains the quadrants equally, instead of focusing on your favorite each day.

What do I mean by that?  When I was competing in the pageant system, physical health fought to become my single definition of wellness.  I was surrounded by girls with phenomenal bodies, and I was going to stand on a stage next to them.  I didn’t skip workouts.  It didn’t matter if I hadn’t had a real conversation with my roommate in a week or given myself some time to rewind all month.  I focused all of my energy on that one aspect of health, and it resulted in neglect of the other areas.

When I graduated in December of 2016, I had a lot to think about.  One evaluation I made involved looking at my beliefs and how they were driving me.  This 4-dimensional model of wellness is something I’ve always stated was part of my belief system, but my actions hadn’t been adding up.  I realized I still believed it was the best model of wellness for my life, but I was letting the picture-perfect models of Instagram alter my reality.  I was prioritizing based on the mindset I ended up with after scrolling past perfect picture after perfect picture on social media.  I knew I had to make a change.

I took a serious look at my mental health and recognized how harshly I was evaluating my body.  My physical health was no longer about true health.  It had become more about being as toned as the (often edited) photos than about BMI and clean eating.  This twisted perception of physical health was certainly impacting my mental health.  It was also hurting my social health, as I couldn’t skip a day at the gym.

In my last post, I admitted my physique isn’t what it once was.  Despite a few new curves, my body is still strong and healthy, and now, I have a mindset of strength to match.  My social calendar is always open to new bookings, and I can truly say I am happier than ever.  All that despite facing a new challenge in my life.

Working part time while staying on top of my MBA coursework has simply been exhausting.  If I didn’t have amazing people in my life building me up, it probably wouldn’t be going as well as it is.  As disciplined as I try to be, I don’t have time to do everything I want to do.  I am slowly becoming proficient at prioritizing, but it’s a skill I’ll be working to improve for the rest of my life.

There are moments when I see a fat girl in the dressing room trying on clothes that are no longer the size 0 I once wore.  There are moments I want back the abs that generated buzz.  They are fleeting and becoming more infrequent with each passing week.  My investments in social activities have resulted in waves of love and support, and my mental health is doing much better focusing on my daily successes instead of my physical appearance.

It’s difficult to talk about appearances when everyone’s perception has been effected by numerous positive and negative events.  Your body is the vessel through which you can impact the world, and physically taking care of it is important.  But I encourage you to recognize how much more there is to health than weight.

Tonight is going to be a candlelit bathtub and wine kind of night for me.  What do you need to do tonight to be well?

#APerfectFit

Worth It

I have the best job of all time.  Working as a personal trainer means clients lay it all out for me.  They tell me what their fears and weaknesses are, and they entrust me with their goals.  I not only get to know their weight, their body fat index, and every other quantifiable measure of their health, I also get to know mentally where they are at.

My clients come to me with their own goal, and it’s usually to lose X number of pounds in X number of days.  I get that.  I always start by explaining it’s not as much about the scale as it is about your overall fat percentage, and we go from there.  I want to help them achieve their goals.  I know feeling in charge of their body will give them confidence in their life, and I also know losing the fat is going to improve their health in the long run by taking pressure off their joints and strain off their cardiovascular system and so much more.

At the same time, I have my own goals when I meet a new client.  I do not believe the number on a scale is as important as the client’s outlook on fitness following a package of sessions with me.  I have three goals with my clients:

  1. Meet the client’s goals (if they are reasonable).
  2. Educate the client on what is healthy.
  3. Give the client the confidence to continue workouts long after their sessions are over.

I recently received a Facebook message from one of my favorite clients, and it warmed my heart to hear about her progress.  While we worked together, she did start to drop pants sizes and meet her goal.  After her sessions with me ended, I continued to impact her life through what I had taught her.

That’s “great” not “fear” – iPhone problems.  Messages like this are why what I do means so much to me.  The number on the scale may be a quick and easy assessment, but it is not the best indicator of real health.  By teaching people what health should really look like – from the food choices down to the active minutes in their day – I have a lasting effect on my clients that goes far beyond the sessions they pay for.

I want my clients to know what a healthy lifestyle should be, and I want them to leave me feeling comfortable in a gym.  I may not get feedback from all of them, but I am so proud of those who have stayed in touch.

 

If you answered “yes” in the above poll, reach out at your local gym.  I’m sure there are staff members and trainers who would absolutely love to educate you on the equipment.  They will work with you to come up with a workout plan that makes you comfortable.  It’s their job, and I promise you won’t be the first person.  If you answered “I use to” in the above poll, I would love for you to comment and explain how you overcame the discomfort.  Everyone should be able to feel at home in the gym; it should be a safe, judgment free zone.

“Healthy” is a lifestyle.  To be healthy, you have to make decisions about your daily living, and you have to stay committed.  #APerfectFit