The Girl Who Laughed at the Ashes: 2017 in Recap

You know, at some point I’m going to need to stop burning my life down if I want to keep anything.

Sorry, that was for me. I was looking back on my writing, and noticed that I’ve used the analogy a couple of times in the past few years. I keep insisting that things have to burn and break if I want to inevitably grow in any way.

And that’s true. I’m a firm believer in that. Still, I’ve realized that I’ve probably done quite a bit of demolition work in my life these past few years. I’ve cleared the field a few times, looking at the way my life was turning out, shaking my head, and firmly saying, “…NOPE.”

I don’t regret it– I’m a little frustrated with myself, at times, for getting into situations that I so clearly need to leave, places that were unsafe and unstable, that have been a huge emotional suck for me– these past few months especially. I know that these personal things have gotten in the way of my career, my work, my ability to be the person I wanted to be.

Yet, I’ve come out on the other side and I feel stronger and more like myself than I have in a very long time. Yes, everything burned down, but I discovered so many beautiful things in the process. I realized that I could stand on my own and say no when I needed to. I realized that I was stronger than I previously thought. I realized that, in the end, my gut had been trying to tell me things I already knew. Despite what I’d been told– I could trust myself and my instincts.

In the aftermath, I was immediately surrounded by so much love and support that I was frankly a little blown away. I have struggled with asking for help in the past but this time, when I reached out, I had a number of people hold me (physically and metaphorically), validate me, encourage me, and let me know things were going to be okay.

And they were. Even though there were times when my stomach wouldn’t stop aching, where I couldn’t sleep, where it felt like I couldn’t breathe, things inevitably got better– as they always do.

On New Year’s Eve, I was standing out on a black sand bay in Kona, at a mellow get-together that was warm, inviting and full of good food. I had danced and smiled. I walked out onto the shore, the full moon reflecting off the water and the lava rocks, everything looking like silver had been painted over the world.

And I laughed. I looked back on all the ridiculousness of my life and that was all I could do. What a farcical, unexpected, tumultuous journey I had been on! There have been a few times in my life where I’ve said that, if you’d told me where I’d end up, I would’ve laughed, but this time I had to actually laugh.

Then, I smiled and said a silent prayer of gratitude. As ridiculous as it had all been, this past year had also brought a number of wonderful, beautiful things and people into my life. I was grateful for the friends and family that had been there for me from the beginning, I was grateful for the people the universe had conspired to bring into my life when I needed it most, and I still feel very blessed that I had been given so many wonderful opportunities despite it all.

I had chosen, perhaps, the path most ridiculous, and I was still able to come out the other side with a smile on my face.

There are worse things, I suppose. In the end, I am the girl who looked at the ashes of her life and laughed under the moonlight.

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So, what’s happened this year?

I posted this update on Twitter, and I actually find them to be a fairly succinct view of where I have been:

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When I look back at my resolutions for last year, I got 3/5? Sort of?FullSizeRender

BUT! I have hopes for the new year!

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So, 2018. Let’s do this. I’m moving in a few weeks (a few blocks away from my current place), I am happier than I deserve, and I’m seeking joy and laughter in every moment I am blessed to live.

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The Year I Burned It All Down: 2016 In Review

I had plans for this post, I did. I have been slowly crafting it in my head. It was going to be about goals, about big things, about my body and trying to do new things. I knew I was late with a New Year’s Wrap-Up/Resolution post (which I normally love doing: see 2015), and I felt like I had to bring in something good to make up for that.

See, I had set out a semi-private goal for myself in mid-October. After hitting my PR of 280 for a deadlift, I wanted to hit 300 lbs by the end of the year. It would be a few weeks after the Honolulu marathon, and I’d have some time to get back to lifting before making my attempt. I thought that’s what I’d end up writing about.

Yesterday morning, I went for it. A little delayed, sure– I’d jumped back into CrossFit with a vengeance at my fave non-CFO box, CrossFit Kona while I was home for the holidays. This resulted in lots of gains, but also a back pull in the middle of the week. Then, a friend of ours has been helping my boyfriend and I try some new gymnastics stuff, so I wanted to let my core rest before lifting something heavy.

Monday morning, on a whim, I decided to go for my attempt. Was I tired and still monumentally hungover from celebrating 2017? Yes, yes I was. Did I eat before like a smart person? Nope.

But I went for it. I had my whole plan set out. I got up to 235lbs easy. I tacked on 20 more, rested for a moment, then pulled.

I swear, I see a strained muscle before I fully feel it. Suddenly, I see white for a second, then I feel the electricity shoot through my body. It burst right along my lower back, down my right hip and quad. I immediately dropped the weight and sat back, my entire lower body screaming.

And just like that, I knew I was done for the day. I was tempted to try and rest and go again, but I knew that would only make it worse. So, despite my romantic notions about how I was going to start 2017, I slowly started to put my weights back and knew I’d have to give it a go another day.


And, somewhere in there, is the allegory. Or, at least, the metaphor.

Let me explain: I’ve been struggling with what to say about this year because I feel like I’ve grieved it and rebuilt it multiple times already. I did it in March, in May, in August. As a writer, Lord knows I love romantic notions. I have been working towards them since childhood; I have been trying to write the narrative of my life from the beginning.

Then, something happened. I looked at the story I had been writing, this epic ship I had been building to sail off into the sunset. I had put blood, sweat, and tears into it. I had babied it from the beginning.

And then I looked at the life I had built and I burned it all down. 

Let’s be honest, that’s what I did. I did some pretty crazy shit this year, which included the systematic destruction of a life and routine I had been planning for years. I set it aflame and walked away. And I don’t regret any of it. Not for a moment.

The thing is, the whole, clichéd, rebuilding-from-ashes theme is probably a cliché because we all have to go through it sometimes. We can move down the path of our lives and try and course correct along the way, but sometimes it takes a complete destruction to actually forge something much stronger.

I know– you’ve read that somewhere before. I have too, and to be fair, I believed it (hell, it’s kind of what I did when I moved to Hawai‘i).

Here’s the thing I realized this year, though: the process of rebuilding isn’t always romantic. It won’t always fit your timeline. It won’t always happen with fanfare and confetti. Sometimes it’s the quiet acknowledgment that you have to set down your barbell and try again another day.

There’s something strangely beautiful about that, though. What would it mean if I stopped assuming that success was this shiny, noisy thing and accepted the joy already in my life? What would it look like to stop seeing success as some, forever-moving finish line and see the moments of hard work, of coming back to the mat, of thankless and private hours of sweat and tears– what if that was success instead?


 

With that, here are 5 things I’m happy about, despite the burning-it-all-down:

  1. I diversified my writing to include things about running and religion. I still love writing about education and race, though!
  2. I kept running (and got my first first-place!), started CrossFit, started Muay Thai, and started teaching Yoga again (and scored my first consistent gig!)
  3. I was in three back-to-back shows.
  4. I like to think I got offline more, got outside, and spent more time with the people I love face-to-face.
  5. I wrote. A lot. Never as much as I want to– but I put more words to paper this year than I have in a long time.

And, of course, some things for 2017:

  1. Keep writing. Stop procrastinating on the writing I have.
  2. Turn-Off Autopilot. (more on what that means here)
  3. Get a strict pull-up and start Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu.
  4. Rest/Active Recovery 2 days a week. Working out multiple times a day 6 days a week is not a thing I should keep doing.
  5. Get rid of all the clutter/books I don’t read/clothes I don’t wear. Adulting. Let’s do this.

 

Alright, 2017. Let’s do this.