How Did I Get Here…?
Hello, fellow human of the internet! I really like to journal, but I never take the time to blog out what I’m feeling and thinking publicly. I’m going to attempt to write out my fitness journey to hopefully inspire and provoke something within you. This is a ton more than just a fitness story, because life isn’t just fitness. This story is really long and happy and sad and about love and God and detailed but whatever if you don’t wanna read it go scroll through buzzfeed or watch Netflix. If a lot of you like it, then I’ll go into greater detail of the shenanigans that occurred throughout. Let’s start at the beginning. Here goes nuttin
When I was 18, I attended a private university in Rochester, NY. I spent my first semester of school living into just about every college freshman stereotype. I ate ice cream and garbage plates at 4 am when I was hammered. I kissed lots of boys, whose names I couldn’t tell you now. I only know what happened the first few weekends because I have old phone pictures. My roommate and I had so much fun. The first few months of classes were interesting enough for me to make a good effort despite the little sleep and awful cafeteria food I was eating. I think I gained the freshman 13. It honestly felt like a crazy vacation that didn’t seem to be ending anytime soon. Mid semester, however, I started to physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually feel why most vacations don’t last more than a few weeks. You see, I wasn’t much of a partier in high school. My mom had a pretty tight hold on the reigns. I have an amazing group of friends that I’d spend my time adventuring with & that I still keep in touch with very closely. My friends, family, and I always cooked and made delicious, moderately healthy, fresh food. I had a speedy metabolism and played lacrosse in the spring. This all seemed to be missing in college, so I naturally went balls to the walls crazy and indulged in all the things I didn’t experience in high school. Maybe I was trying to fill some sort of void. I remember trying to talk to God a lot during this time about the very real distaste for myself I was growing into.
My first attempt at change was in late November 2011. I remember my sister had been gluten & dairy free over the previous summer for health reasons, so I tried my luck there. I believe I made it 4 days. I went to the gym once and was in so much pain from that single workout that I gave up and proceeded back into my steadily forming habits. Then, over winter break, I flew to Los Angeles.
My only visit to LA previous to this one was when I was 12 and my sister had stomach issues half the trip. This time, she was living in Hollywood to pursue a musical dream and living a block away from Sunset Blvrd. I remember landing and wondering why giant colorful tubes were greeting me at LAX. I remember not letting my sister put the car windows up because I wasn’t in the tundra of upstate NY anymore. I remember texting a guy I had liked since I was 14 who also living out there to hang. To summarize, that first week in LA was filled with many memories of fit, happy, musical, passionate, driven, free-spirited humans that I wanted to be just like. To top it off, a few celeb sightings and semi-romantic nights with that guy I mentioned before. It was all so magical at the time. I was on cloud 9 and wanted nothing more than to stay there.
When I landed back in NY, I took one breathe of freezing, bone-cold air into my lungs and decided I would get out of this state as soon as life would permit. The next few weeks were full of rapid realizations of who I was becoming at school, what my heart had experience in Los Angeles, and how I was going to begin moving forward. Turns out that guy wasn’t as great as I thought, and my life wasn’t as great as I wanted to be. I’m really sugar coating this, guys. I hit rock bottom on January 15th 2012. I was soaking in self-loathing, on my friend’s kitchen floor. So, January 16th, I went back to the gym. I journaled that day, proclaiming the beginning of a life long journey to health. I desperately needed something to devote myself to. Remember those conversations with God I eluded to? I, with every fiber of my being, believe that first day back in the gym was God’s answer to my broken prayer. Fitness was the only language I could understand of His at that time in my life. I got myself a MyFitnessPal account. I ran a low setting on the elliptical for 22 minutes while watching How I Met Your Mother on my iPad. Now, if you’re reading this and you are worried about feeling like a moron starting out in a public gym, PLEASE re-read what I just wrote. 22 minutes. Low setting. Elliptical. Watching. Netflix. on. my. iPad. I started from the bottom, and continued like that everyday for the next week or two. It became the only thing I would look forward to during my second semester. Each week I would record everything I ate on MyFitnessPal, and add new difficulties, speeds, and longer times to my workouts. I would eat one cheat meal every week, which would be some sort of Rochester delicacy of my choosing (usually a garbage plate). Over the next few months, little by little I became more and more obsessed with the numbers and the hours. I counted calories meticulously, recorded each and every effort I made toward my fitness goals, and honestly was infatuated with weight-loss. I don’t know much about eating disorders but I was probably floating around in that category for a while. However, somewhere amongst the obsessiveness, were many small blessings. Random people from high school and beyond would reach out to me for advice about health and work outs. Something inside of me would jump around when this happened (I now recognized this as Spirit). I thought I was destined for a career in Music Business at the time because I have a very musically inclined family, I played guitar, could produce well, and was taking a great music business 101 class, but I knew fitness had to fit into it somewhere. Over the next year, I read books about fitness and endocrinology, I tried long distance running, HIIT, insanity, lifting, home-workouts, and many more. Around the summer of 2012 I stopped counting calories when I began working as a sleep away camp counselor, knowing it would be impossible to keep track of calories and campers. Everything I had learned, seemed to be evening itself out over my whole life. I would regularly be approached by friends and acquaintances with questions about fitness and my diet. People would flat out tell me I’m an amazing motivator and coach and should pursue a life in it. It took me a whole extra year after my second semester to come to terms with that destiny.
I don’t think I worked out the whole summer of 2012 after staff training more than 3 times. I gained weight, I ate brownies at dinner, I learned how to be a leader, follower, and how to be loved and love God. It was one of the most transcendental, pivotal, points of recovery in my life. I existed to serve others amongst my co-workers, who were all doing the same thing. I left that summer with both insane amounts of satisfaction, and fear. I was terrified of what the future had in store. I had transferred out of Nazareth college and moved back in with my parents in Florida, and I felt very much alone & without the same purpose I had at camp. Moving back in with your parents is never tight.
Although the next few months were at times extremely lonely and desolate, they taught me a whole lot about myself and gave me the opportunity to learn how to be happy in my solitude. If you’re not happy alone, you’re not in very good company. I was working out again regularly and eating all the best foods for me without counting. While all that was great, I found myself more frequently in desperate conversation with God. I kept asking where I belonged and how I was suppose to even get there once I figured that out. About half way through the fall, I remember having a hysterical mental fit in my bed crying out to Jesus, “WHY do I feel like a black hole? An empty waste of space? What do I do??” I don’t know what you readers believe in but I heard God’s voice for the first time clear as day, “Stop loving things that don’t love you back, and let me love you instead.” That’s it. No explanation. Nothing fancy. A plain and simple command from my creator. The tears stopped and I said, “Uh okay.” and went to bed. I woke up the next day with a pep in my step. If you haven’t gathered my all-or-nothing personality type thus far into reading this post, let me give you another example. I mark this time in my life as when I really began to dive into spirituality, specifically Christianity. I wasn’t raised religiously, and my parents gave me an amazing freedom to choose what I want to believe. Until this point I sort of got God. 8 years of Jesus camp left me with the understanding that God loves me, and wants a relationship with me. This, I could wrap my head around. I don’t know if I was consciously experiencing it yet, but at least that made sense to me. What didn’t make sense to me, was all the seemingly hateful things in the Bible and how some die-hard Christians portrayed their faith. Of course, I wanted to be all in. I don’t really do 50%. Something about it, though, seemed very unappealing and the opposite of the voice I heard in my head that night in Florida. I really struggled with believing in a God that hated Gay people, or any person for that matter. I didn’t understand the whole idea of Hell if God loves us so much, and to be honest, according to most Christian opinion, all of my favorite people were going to hell so maybe it didn’t seem so bad of a place. Around this time, I got a letter from camp in the mail. With all the confusion surrounding the articles, books, and blogs I was reading about these humans called Christians, I was really missing camp. I missed the community, the pudding song, the smell of s’mores, the breathtaking view of my summer house on the cliff across the lake at sunset, and the bonds I made with counselors and camps alike. I was really excited when I got this letter, only to find out it was a money slip asking for donations. At first I was just like “eh, trash.” and then a few memories came pouring into my mind. I had eavesdropped on a conversation my bosses were having one day during post crew about how important donations were for the survival of camp and I knew how important camp was for the survival of me, so 100% of me went on a mission in that moment. I knew I wanted to move to LA in the new year, and now I knew I couldn’t leave until I somehow made enough money there to give back to camp. Things really began turning around for me that Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving 2012 was my 3rd visit to LA; the second one I made with my family. Since I had spent the last few months introspectively and alone, I decided to let loose for the long weekend we were there. I went out with my sister and her roommates, and had a few nights I don’t really remember- including Thanksgiving. I kissed a guy at a bar who was way older than I am and then ate a tuna melt at Mel’s Diner. You know, typical 20- something year old antics. I had one really interesting night, though. I was out with my sis and one of her guy friends who’s a musician. We didn’t go crazy. Just an easy-going night at a bar/restaurant and then hung out back at her apartment. I sat on her living room floor half-tipsy listening to her friend play his guitar better than I’ve ever heard anyone play an instrument live (remember, I have a really musically talented family?) Thinking back, it probably looked like all of my attention on him, while all of his attention was on his instrument. I hadn’t seen someone like that since that guy I mentioned earlier from my second LA visit. At this point, though, I had so many other thoughts occupying my headspace, that I didn’t put much intention into the feeling. Even after he proceeded to cuddle up next to me and kiss me for the rest of the night. I don’t normally let guys in, hence my track record record of making out with randos at parties and bars and then running away. No feelings, no problems. Something about him felt different and worthwhile so I went with it. He spent the next 3 days hanging out with my entire family, parents and all. I sat there confused.
I went back to Florida and sorted out my life. Packed my bags, my favorite underwear and all that, and the slip I had received from camp a month earlier. The deal with my parents was, I would pay half for rent and they would pay the other half from January to May when I left for camp again. I never thanked them enough for doing that for me. Anyway, after a month of enjoying myself and seeing some of what LA had to offer, I knew it was time to involve myself in something worth while and get a job. I started up my workouts again, did some juice fasting, got my body to a steady place of moderated health. I got myself involved in a charity called Lights Camera Cure, which is the Hollywood version of Penn State’s THON to raise money for kids with pediatric cancer. Once the fundraising began, I decided that would be my 100% for the time being. I threw myself into raising money for the kids. I canned on Hollywood Blvrd, and told all my friends and family I would shave my head for the cause if they helped me make $1500 for my team. I hit my goal the day of the event and my best friend shaved one side of my head, while my other newly found great friend shaved the other side, leaving a little fluff of hair on top of my head. I shaved off a lot more than just hair that day. I was revolutionizing myself and what it meant for me to be a woman. Around this time I was meeting many new friends through the cancer benefit who were all going through similar times in their spiritual journeys. I cherish those times so much. We were all so broke but so passionate about the cause, music, each other, and seeking God/ the meaning of all this. They are all some of the best friends I have today. After the benefit was over, I sat in my bed pondering what my next move would be. I started to pray and asked God to open my eyes to opportunities in LA that would be right for me to support myself and my efforts to give back to camp. This was the fastest answered prayer I’ve ever spoken. The next morning I woke up to a phone call from the woman my sister babysat for. She needed a nanny and this begun the most beautiful friendship between me and an infant. I spent the next 3 months traveling with her and her mom to horse shows and learning how to take care of a baby. I would do insanity after I put her to bed, ate well, and experienced people, places, and hardships I couldn’t of if I didn’t step into the unknown. I was also making great money, each week putting some aside for camp until I reached $500. I made enough to pay for my dad’s half of rent, donate to camp, and support myself. My parents hugely disagreed with my decision to donate, and for very good reasons in their opinion, but my mind was already made up. (A year later I get them much better.) Toward the end of my stay in Los Angeles, I started to feel a way that had never happened to me before, I liked where I was just as much as I like camp. I was still in music business courses, which was annoying because I knew mid-way through my trip that I had to be in the fitness industry, but I was so involved in life. Every part of it seemed to be overflowing with learning, abundance, and fun. Though there were tough days, trials with friends, and moments that sucked, I was happy. I was healthy & disciplined. I was doing the opposite of most 19 year olds my age. I was making my own rules. Because of the nature of how I was growing into my spirituality, my workouts became meditative. My runs would be comprised of full blown conversations with God. I would ask questions, still my mind while my body moved, and receive ideas that I knew could only come from the Source. Each workout seemed to lead me toward the same realization that my worth in God’s eyes is the absolute most important part of my life. Now, when I say this is true for myself, I mean it’s also true for everyone, but for each person on a different parallel of life. The word “God” that you are reading right now is literally just that. It’s only a word on a blog. You can give whatever meaning you want to it, but let me tell you, when you experience the Love, stillness, peace, and voice of the God I’m referring to first hand and listen to it, you will come to know a place within you that has no definition. It exist outside of time and space. It only knows absolute value and abundance. When you accept this as your own and spread/share it over your whole life and relationships, something really amazing happens. Even the worst of situations can’t bring you as far down as they used to because you know there is a brilliantly bright unseen space inside of you that is forever. I just was beginning to realize all of this at the beginning of the summer (2013) and wouldn’t have gotten even anywhere close to it if I hadn’t stepped back into the gym the previous January. Anyway, at the end of my stay, I was still stuck on the conversation of mortal love. I didn’t understand how I could possess so much Love inside me, but have it seemingly equally matched to the amount of fear, specifically fear of rejection. I was hanging out with that guy again and couldn’t help but feel like something could exist there between us. I didn’t know how to approach the situation, I’m like allergic to having feelings for people. I think it comes from being so independent for so long & how terribly wrong my last romantic(less) encounter went down. Of course this all began to unfold right before I left. My friend gave me “a sandwich” (see How I Met Your Mother for correct interpretation/translation of that) before I left and I sat on the couch in our guy friend’s apartment listening to The Fear by Ben Howard. Every fearful thought I had was matched by the calm voice of a Spirit within me reassuring me that all would be right, to take what I learned here on with me to new places, and that there is so much growth in discomfort, similarly to how your muscles rebuild stronger after an uncomfortably painful workout. I left LA, my friends, my hair, my job, and that guy at bon fire on the beach, with a long kiss goodbye.
I flew into New York to see my hometown directly after LA. It’s funny, going home after being gone for two years. Everything being pretty much the same makes the changes within you seem much more obvious. I went to visit my favorite teacher, mentor, and now great friend. We caught up and I spoke for a class of seniors about life and how crazy your path can end up being. I got to see some of my best friends growing up. We laughed, cried, and adventured together. I told them about fitness and God and they told me about school and experiences abroad. After the weekend, I went back to Florida for the most peaceful month of my life. Literally a month straight I went to the beach everyday, read books about the human ego and spirit, and reflected on my time in LA and life over the past few years. I went to camp after my month break to myself, and had another ‘best summer of my life’. I’ll go more deeply into detail about camp in another post.
After camp I was met by another freak out moment of transition. I got enrolled in a certification course through the University of North Florida and flew myself back out to Los Angeles. Something was very different this time around. I moved into a new apartment, this time with my name on the lease. I was paying the full price, buying my own furniture, and scrambling to find work. I got my job back with the infant, who was now turing one and still knew who I was. I’ll never forget that reunion. Life got very real very fast. It’s so hard transitioning out of the summer camp environment and I think I just need to accept that about my life. I did the best I could, had a great first few months back, but something inside of me wanted to be back in NY more then ever. It made no sense to me, because I had such an insane experience in LA the last time around. The novelty was wearing off, I was becoming bitter, and I slipped out of my routine. I feel like it’s important to mention this, because if you’ve read this far and are truly looking to be inspired to start a journey in fitness, you must know that there will be times, maybe weeks or months, were you disconnect. You don’t want to get out of bed, you don’t want to get your course work done, and maybe you put it off for months. The time adds up and then you end up yet again on the floor in a puddle of your own tears asking God why. Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve had some of the most amazing moments with my friends over the past 5 months living in Los Angeles, especially in the new year (2014). I’m just saying, there have been some really tough nights, really tough prayers, and times I get messages from my mom asking if I need to come back home. The point is, a few months ago, after another mental breakdown, life turned around again. I stopped, journaled, and purged my life of thoughts and things that weren’t working. Some of my best friends from back home visited me in LA. I reached some closure with that guy after a pretty intense out of the blue heart-to-heart. I got more serious about my workouts again, putting a lot of emphasis on my diet, enjoying myself, and mixing things up. Priorities back in check.
So how did I get here? Honestly, all of that. The big beautiful mess that my life has been for the past few years has me right here writing a very honest blog post that I’ll probably get lectured to by somebody for being too transparent in. The picture you see above is years of blood, sweat, and tears. It’s years of searching within, learning how to love without limits, abandoning shame and fear, embracing patience, creating my body into a masterpiece. I don’t know who you are and what you’ve been through, but if you’ve made it this far into my rambling I’m so happy you’re here. There is an amazing, scary, adventurous life waiting for you if you take one day and make a change. One January night in the gym can change your life. One moment of letting some random guy kiss you like you deserved to be kissed can change the way you understand love. One heart break can lead you in a new direction. One conversation with a God that you’re not entirely sure you believe in can give you timeless wisdom. Please go, now. Close your laptop and make something of your fitness and health. I promise you will discover so much more about yourself than just a shredded body.