If you could choose any profession and know you would be successful, what would it be?
Me? There are a few off the wall things floating around my head from childhood, like being an astronaut or a marine biologist. One dream was abandoned watching the Challenger explode on TV and the other I gave up because it required too much math. [I know both of those would have required a lot of math.] I want to write a book, and I’m working on that. I want to live like a grown up, and not just like a tall five year old who knows how to pretend she’s a grown up when she has to. Those would be nice. But, one of the abandoned dreams that still haunts me is music. If I could do anything and not fail, I would sing.
Most people in my life now met me after college and don’t even know I sing.
I started singing, as my mom likes to say, before I could talk. If I had a piano to play and someone to sing with, I was in heaven. I can remember singing for hours, until I got hoarse, and then being sad I couldn’t sing more. I used to spend hours creating melodies and writing songs, often with a tiny keyboard and headphones sitting in my bed into the early morning hours. It was probably my favorite thing to do, and up until college, the one thing I was most confident about. I didn’t know what else I would do, but I knew I would never stop singing.
It’s funny though, that by nature I’m shy. Asking me to say my name and something about myself in a small group setting would send me into a panic, but asking me to sing on stage with a microphone was exciting. I sang my first solo when I was 6. I forgot the words and sang the same verse 3 times. Even though I messed up the song, I had discovered the joy of being on stage, and I began to crave it.
Someone told me later, everyone gets nervous, but some people are able to channel that nervousness into positive energy and use it to perform. Others allow the nervousness to paralyze them. I guess I can channel one kind of nervousness but freeze with the other.
Most of my life, I heard only praise for my voice. Things to improve, things to work on, but never really bad things. Most of the time I heard how amazing my voice was. I had family and friends that used to tell me they couldn’t wait until they were listening to my voice on the radio. Up until my freshman year of college, I couldn’t imagine a time in my life that I would quit singing. I wanted to improve and learn, and as time passed, I could only see myself loving it more.
I was one of those kids torn between all of my loves: animals, music, and art. When I was planning college, I decided to major in art and minor in music or try to double major, but there was a mix up with my admissions paperwork, actually a mix up in the admissions department explaining to me how those two majors worked. When I arrived on campus, they had me majoring in art, specifically graphic design which required a minor in advertising. So, music wasn’t even in the mix basically because at that school, you didn’t combine those two things. When I met with my admissions counselor (the future Dean of Communicative Arts, and the most influential professor of all my time in undergrad), he encouraged me to stick with everything the way it was and take music classes offered to non-music majors.
I decided to listen to him. Here’s where we get to the part of the story I don’t tell often. Usually I’ll say the rest is history. Cut to that professor and a few other’s unparalleled influence on my life, me finishing my undergrad never having changed my ‘mistaken’ major, getting married then starting my graduate degree, ultimately ending up where I am now.
I love design and art. I’m good at it. At least I was before I quit to take care of my kids and became a full time special needs parent, but I had quit singing back in college except for the shower, some choir and specials at my home church. I refocused myself on my major classes and left music behind.
The reason for the switch in focus and the loss of something so very precious to me came down to one teacher, one phrase, and one moment I just couldn’t overcome.
During my freshman year, I took a piano class and a voice class. The piano class was amazing. I learned so much, I left class every day wanting to practice and get better, and I did. The voice class, though, was a struggle.
The first couple of class periods were used for a kind of audition, a chance for the instructor to hear everyone’s voice so he knew what he was working with. I was more nervous than usual because it was a small class in a small room, queue shy girl panic. I was shaky and pitchy, I knew that, but I was not expecting to hear what he said. He told me, while shaking his head, I sounded like a bad country music singer, but maybe he could fix that. While I tried to process what he said, he then began a monologue about how so many of us must have sang for small home churches or schools and were told we were good singers pretty much just because there wasn’t much else to choose from. He intended to help us either improve or give up singing. I struggled with every assignment. He was teaching classical method, and I didn’t like the changes he was making. With shaken confidence and a lack of desire to sing the way he wanted me to sing, I dreaded the class and by the end gave up singing almost entirely.
This post isn’t about my voice or whether or not I could have ‘made it.’ It’s about the fact that I never tried to pursue music in any way going forward because I believed him. That one sentence. The words that followed. I believed him over every other positive word, every other person telling me I should sing. I decided my voice wasn’t anything special, that I had just been a big fish in a small pond, and that I didn’t have what it took to keep singing outside of my little pond. No more auditions. No more volunteering to sing every opportunity I had. I only sang with friends for fun, in the shower, and in my home church choir and a few specials when I was asked. It was so rare, I can still remember my oldest son, at least ten at the time, walking into the kitchen while I was singing, and with a surprised look on his face said, “Mom, you can sing.”
As a juxtaposition, the admissions counselor I spoke of earlier, he was my freshman drawing instructor. He’s one of those people whose gift for teaching is evident the moment you meet him. He could essentially tell you your work was garbage (although he would never actually say that) in a way that encouraged you to learn from it and inspired you to to work harder and do better. No unnecessary flattery. Just positive instruction that lead all of his students to be better artists. I don’t think I ever heard any of his students say they didn’t love him as their professor. I left music behind to continue improving in art and design. Looking back, I believe it all boiled down to the one dream crushing instructor and the one dream building instructor.
During a time when my support system was changing, when I was having to grow away from my family and friends, when I had to begin to build my own internal support system, truly believe in my own abilities and base my confidence on that belief, there was a voice that shook that unstable foundation and changed the course of my life.
I don’t know if anything would have been different for me had I chosen a different school, a different major, had different instructors, or hadn’t taken what he said to heart. There would have been other discouraging people along that road for sure, and I don’t know that I would have been strong enough to withstand their discouragement either. There’s a pattern in my life of confidence lost, faith shaken, and life altered, and to follow a dream and truly succeed, you have to be able to push through the negative voices and trust your own. The purpose of this post, though, is to share just how big an influence our words can have.
I don’t know where that instructor is now. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t remember me or what he said to me. I can guarantee it doesn’t keep him up at night. But, it is still with me. I can still hear his words as if he had spoken them yesterday.
I gave up something I had loved doing for most of my life because one man told me I wasn’t good enough. One man.
Discouragement far out weighs encouragement. Out of all the positive I heard, that one negative influence impacted me so much more.
Teachers, instructors, coaches, these people we trust to help us grow and learn, these people we show our weaknesses to in hopes they can help us grow stronger, their words have the power to change the course of our lives.
If you are one of those people, a teacher, instructor or coach, please be aware of the power you hold and strive to be the voice that encourages your students or athletes to reach deeper inside themselves and work harder to develop their abilities even if those talents and abilities lie in another arena. Speak life. Try to be the voice that still inspires them 20 years later rather than the voice that crushed their dream and haunts them decades down the road.
I won’t be attempting to break into the music industry in my old age. I won’t be studying or teaching music. Closing in on my fourth decade of life, I’m good singing in my kitchen and Sunday School classroom, and I look forward to holding grand babies and singing the lullabies I wrote when my babies were small. Maybe I’ll go back to singing in church when my kids’ schedules no longer make it impossible to make practices, that is if I decide to stop teaching Sunday school (which I can’t imagine quitting right now).
Even though, I’m ok now, in those moments when I allow my mind to wander “what if?” I can still hear his words, and I wish so much I could have withstood his judgment. I wish I was writing a whole other story today, maybe one of failure, but one where at least I tried and failed rather than gave up without a fight.
Woman runs a 5k, doesn’t die, decides to sign up for another.
Woman runs a 10k, doesn’t die and starts thinking about longer distances.
Woman decides to run a marathon and figures a half marathon would be good to mix into training. She also decides to mix in a 30k. Gets injured training for these races, but runs them anyway, hobbling a lot.
Woman persuades unsuspecting friend who has never run more than a half marathon to run the full marathon with her.
Woman and friend run marathon. Woman runs injured. Has to walk a lot. Reaches 20 miles in considerable pain. Stops for a quick pic. Crosses finish line in tears. Finds her friend, goes directly to the food, then goes home to collapse into her husbands arms swearing she will NEVER run another marathon again.
Woman wakes up the next day feeling like she could conquer the world, signs up for another marathon.
Woman has to stop running because of her injury. Woman has lots of time to obsess about running.
Woman trains like a pro, foam rolls and eats like a pro, stays disciplined, focused, and determined to make this marathon what the last one couldn’t be because of injury.
Woman has tiny panic attacks all night before the marathon, and nearly can’t make herself leave the hotel for the start line. Vomiting never happened, but was a real possibility.
Woman runs the marathon like a pro (albeit quite a bit slower than one), never walks, never really struggles, climbs the course’s big hill like a boss, finishes with confidence and finally feels like a marathoner.
Woman remembers meeting a woman from North Dakota in her first marathon. This woman planted a seed in the new marathoner’s heart, 50 marathons in 50 states.
Woman runs two more marathons and plans to follow in her new friend from North Dakota’s footsteps, almost literally.
50 marathons in 50 states before 50 (years of age).
Woman has 12 years and 3 months to make this happen.
My relationship with these objects is complicated. It is most definitely love/hate.
I used a foam roller to recover from my anterior tibial tendinitis, and to maintain my life during marathon training. There is absolutely no way I would have survived dropping my kids off, running 20 miles, picking my kids up, making dinner and getting everyone to their activities without my foam roller. I am most definitely an advocate for their use, however I loathe using them.
Rolling around the floor on a giant pool noodle — ok, not really but thats what I thought it looked like when I bought the first one, an aquatic flotation device — it’s just not a graceful comfortable activity. Why can’t it feel more like yoga, where at least if I nail the pose I can feel like I accomplished something beautiful and strong. When I’m done with a good foam rolling session, I feel more like the noodle.
Leaning on the pool noodle is the ‘jaws of pain’ aka the R8 Roller. That’s the weird thing with all the fun looking wheel things on it. They’re not wheels, and they’re not fun. They’re connected by springs. You put your leg in between those wheels. It hurts. A lot.
I use the lacrosse ball to roll my shoulders. I put it between my body and a wall or the floor, and that actually feels really great. However, when I use it and a dumbbell to pin the fascia in my hamstring as I stretch my leg out, that doesn’t feel great.
That funny looking striped ball is for my foot. Different levels of hardness within the same ball helps me get into the tricky spots on my ankle and my heel without bruising them.
The stick with the giant beads on it is what I use in my car (and the lacrosse ball) to roll while I’m sitting in car rider line waiting on my kids, at practice waiting on my kids, at games or tournaments waiting on my kids. It’s nice and portable, and earns me lots of weird looks from other parents parked and waiting on their kids.
These instruments have spent most of their life with me in the corner with my free weights and yoga mats. I’ll stare at them, knowing I should pull them out and use them, feeling some kind of weird guilt, like I’m wasting their gift and will be struck down with a horrible injury any day. Or it’s more like I know they’re good for me, but I hate using them so much. I avoid them, that is until I can’t.
I’ve had other injuries before, but plantar fasciitis, that one is the worst. It isn’t the worst really because of pain or level of injury, but because of its persistence. It just wouldn’t go away. I was back up and running after abdominal surgery faster than with the plantar fasciitis. I took off more than 3 months, and that was about 6 months after symptoms started. It’s a booger.
After a while doing the runner thing, “if I ignore it, maybe it will just go away.” I then decided I would get serious about treating it. I had dry needling done. Massage. PT. I was doing the exercises the PT gave me at home. I avoided any activity that involved pushing off with my foot, running, jumping. Pretty much just avoided everything fun. I broke down and saw a podiatrist. I gave up my “barefoot” shoes and had custom insoles made, which I think made a world of difference. However, I feel like the key to my recovery, is the fact that I dedicated myself to foam rolling and stretching every day. No excuses. Every day.
I stopped ignoring the injury, saw the doctor, did what he said all while I tortured myself with these helpful tools consistently for a few months. Now I am running again pain free. Coincidence? Not likely.
It’s still a complicated love/hate relationship, but I don’t think I could sever these ties without giving up running. And, let’s just be real, I become the worst version of myself when I’m not running. So, I can either endure the torture and be the happiest me, or lose my sanity because I don’t like the stupid tools. It’s complicated.
I buy weird food.
I cook weird food.
I eat weird food.
I love weird food.
I tell people that I’ll eat anything, but that’s not really true. I base that premise on the fact that I will eat weird and/or gross things because there’s a benefit to be gained. I most definitely won’t eat anything.
I will pretty much eat any vegetable that exists. Some textures are tough for me. Like mushrooms, depending on how they’re cooked, sometimes I can’t eat them, other times I love them. That’s kinda the deal with all veggies for me, though. It can depend greatly on how they are prepared. The only one I just won’t eat ever is eggplant. Not my thing.
I prefer to eat vegetarian, although I have slacked on this since my family is so busy, and preparing two meals all the time is exhausting. If I could get my kids to like eating their vegetables, that would help. Right now, veggies are just the bribe for desert. However, if I personally have an option, I will choose meatless every time.
I’m not super big on breads. I like bread with dinner when we go out. I’ll eat sandwiches on bread. I like tacos on flour tortillas. I don’t really like cake. Not super big on pancakes or waffles or biscuits. I know, I’m from Georgia, what’s wrong with me? It’s not like I won’t ever eat bread, but once again, given a choice, I prefer bread free meals. For example, give me scrambled eggs and greens over biscuits and gravy any day. Given my love of vegetables, I actually like zoodles and other vegetables used as vehicles for great sauces better than pasta. That doesn’t mean I never eat pasta, it just means, given a choice, I like the veggie loaded option.
My weakness is candy. Sugar is my nemesis. I could go on and on about this addiction that plagues me, but there’s not much candy I don’t like.
I will eat foods I don’t like just because they are healthy.
I will refuse to eat foods I do like because they are not healthy.
My definition of healthy, though, doesn’t always come from popular opinion or science. It’s about my body, how it feels, and what I want it to do.
I am always reading and learning about food, the good, the bad, and the ugly. How food affects performance. Ancient foods, foods from other cultures, I’m a ‘listen to everyone, follow no one in particular’ kind of girl, a food agnostic to use a term coined by Matt Fitzgerald (Diet Cults is a good book; you should check it out.)
Sometimes, I find a health food and LOVE it. Sometimes, I like the health benefit enough to overlook the less than desirable taste or texture. Other times, I imagine I’ve discovered the reason the food didn’t make it out of ancient culture and into modern popular culture.
This is where the weirdness comes in, I think. For example, just because some ancient Greek messenger people ate a particular berry for energy and health on their hundred mile runs across difficult terrain, I decide I need to try it, too. I’ll search for it and eat it even if it tastes like dirt. True story.
That berry is called sea buckthorn, Hippophae. It’s super pretty, and kinda looks like it would taste like an orange grape or at least a grape tomato (two things I love). I read about it in The Road to Sparta by Dean Carnazes. They apparently contain more than 190 different bioactive compounds, and are one of the only known natural sources of omega-3’s, 6s and 9s in a single food. I HAD to try it.
I found it at a little natural foods market next to the place I workout, and bought it in ‘juice’ form. I use that word lightly because this was more like crushed up pulp, which is good, more fiber, using the whole food, etc. It was thick and dark orangey brown. It coated the measuring cup that came with the bottle. It coated anything it touched and stained it a bright orange. I don’t usually like to smell weird foods that are probably not gonna taste good before I eat them, but there was no avoiding it with the way this smelled. Just to round out this description, this is what I found on the internet with regard to it’s flavor, “astringent, sour and oily, unpleasant to eat raw.” I’m thinking to myself, “Yeah, for people who don’t like weird food like I do.” “Whatever, it can’t be worse than drinking apple cider vinegar like a shot.” (Which I do sometimes.) But, see, I didn’t know what I was getting into.
I kinda wish I had filmed the whole thing. If there had been video, it would show my ecstatically happy face (a face like you’re about to realize all your athletic dreams, and finally be fast and strong and run like the Greeks, yeah that face) turn to pure disgust (like I had just put ancient Greek compost into my mouth) the very moment it touched my tongue. Then the wheels start turning in my head, “I’ll put it in my orange juice.” Now the orange juice tastes like ancient dirt. “I’ll mix it into some oatmeal.” Now the oatmeal tastes like ancient dirt. “I’ll just hold my nose and chug it like medicine.” Cue the gagging and spitting the contents of my mouth into the kitchen sink. My stomach revolted. My esophagus went into reverse. My tongue was searching for a way out. This stuff was NOT going down. Perhaps my entire body had decided at once that it would now exact revenge on me for all the crazy dumb things I had forced into it, and I became physically ill. There wasn’t any kind of eating of any kind of substances at that point or for the rest of the morning. I had to forgo my workout, and didn’t eat anything until lunch.
Apparently, this little berry is much more palatable when fermented or cooked. You just can’t get it fresh where I live because, well, I don’t live in Greece. I hear a similar berry grows out on the west coast of the U.S., but I don’t know that I’ll be trying it any time soon. I think I’m just gonna have to get all the benefits of this “oily and unpleasant” berry from other foods, and I can add it to the list of things I WILL NOT eat. So, that’s eggplant and sea buckthorn. For now.
I am not very strong, and by that I mean the literal physical sense of the word. I can’t lift really heavy things. I can’t even lift my own body weight up off the floor for a push-up or pull my own body weight up into a pull up without assistance. (I’m working on that, though.)
I’m not very fast, or even a little fast, at anything. Seriously. I will never be the first to cross the finish line or the first to finish a WOD. I’m not often last, either, but it has happened. I don’t think I’ve ever been first. Ever.
You know what I CAN do? Endure. I won’t ever lift the heaviest, and I won’t ever finish first. But, I can go forever. I can endure with the best.
The first time I pushed past 800 meters in the pool, I was literally shocked at how my body responded. One lap before, closing in on the 800 and what I had originally planned to be the end of my workout, I thought I would pass out, sink to the bottom of the pool and have to be rescued by the cute little lifeguard half my age. I had to push myself with every stroke. Praying and willing myself to the end. I. Was. Miserable. Then I got to the 800, and it’s like a switch flipped. My body fell into a rhythm. Breathing. Stroke. Kick. I felt better than I did the first lap. Better than I have ever felt in a pool. I felt like I was flying. I started to panic a little in my head because I wondered if this might be a sign of mental confusion right before collapse. I had never heard of a swimmer’s high, but I was experiencing it. I swam another 800 meters and felt like I could have gone longer. I swam a mile! And, I wanted more.
The first time I experienced the runners high was when I broke 5 miles for the first time. Same kind of thing. I thought I would never hit 5, but once I got there, I felt like I could have run for another 5. I only did one extra mile because I wasn’t interested in getting injured, but it was the best mile I have ever run! That’s also the run that made me feel like a runner. That’s the run that made me feel comfortable calling myself a runner.
This past year, I did a rowing challenge at a crossfit gym. I didn’t have much extra time, so I had to do a lot of the rowing right before the WOD. I was worried that would decrease my ability to handle the workout, that I would be slower and weaker, but I actually found those to be the best workouts I had ever had there. I enjoyed them better than any others at least, and I walked out feeling that same kind of ‘high’ I felt running and swimming.
The point of me sharing this? I hear people say things like “I could never run that far.” I could never swim that far.” “I could never commit to that kind of workout.” “I’m not strong.” “I’m not fast.” “I’m just not built for that kind of thing.” Excuses and self doubt. In those kinds of conversations, I often feel like they’re talking themselves out of it more than they’re trying to explain things to me. I don’t need an explanation. I’m not their coach, but I always want to say, “you don’t know for sure, do you? You will never know unless you try.”
Because I didn’t know I would love running until I gave it a shot, and I mean really gave it a shot. I HATED it training for my first 5k. The only reason I stuck with it was because it was for charity and I had already told too many people I was doing it.
I was terrified of swimming. It took me months of talking to a friend who was a swimming instructor about getting in the pool. My first time, I’m pretty sure I looked like a drowning duck. I was embarrassed to be there in the water. I’ve seen 4 year olds better at swimming than I was as an adult mother of three. I don’t think I really learned how to swim as a child as much as I learned how not to drown. My motivation for taking up swimming so late was my autistic son. I wanted to take on that fear so I could better understand how he feels about things I think are simple, but that’s a post for another day. I did it, though. I got in the pool and pushed through the embarrassment and discomfort of being an adult trying a new sport.
And, trying something like Crossfit, or any kind of group fitness thing, was a scary and uncomfortable thought, but I was injured, bored and focused on my New Year’s resolution for that year, “No Fear.” That pretty much meant that if an opportunity presented itself that scared me (without good reason), I couldn’t say no. I learned a lot about myself doing non-running things in a box (gym) setting, and I made some amazing friends and connections I wouldn’t have made otherwise.
The point here is that I would never have known that my strength lies in my endurance if I had never pushed past that horrible first five miles, past that 800 meter distress or committed to rowing some stupid number of meters AND get my workouts in. I would never have made the connection that my endurance is my strength. I would still be sitting on my couch telling myself I can’t do it because up until I really tried, I couldn’t do it. I had proven myself slow and weak in pretty much everything until I decided if I couldn’t be faster I would go longer.
My body seems to be built to get stronger the longer I go, but endurance is something anyone can build over time. You just have to push past ‘the end’ over and over again. Then the end will start to look like the beginning.
So, even if you aren’t strong, even if you aren’t fast, you can endure, and endurance is how you win the race against yourself and all your excuses.
During a conversation with a friend about a dilemma she was having, she asked me how I seem to have an answer for every question. She laughed. I laughed and responded that I must just know it all. 😉
I laughed at her question, but I get it all the time. I have since I was a kid. I don’t have a real answer as to why (imagine that) except that I question everything, and I read, constantly.
I don’t read fiction, though. I don’t have time for fiction or reading for pleasure. Sitting down with time and space to truly immerse myself in a story. Yeah, I don’t have time for that, but I do have time for blogs and articles, books I can download to my kindle or phone, a chapter here or a snippet there. Anything that I’m curious about, I’ll research until my curiosity is satisfied or I’m so deep into another rabbit hole I forget the original curiosity that got me there. I read and digest and formulate new questions and curiosities. The only belief I hold with unwavering certainty is Jesus, and even in that belief I am always learning and growing. Everything else is fluid, changeable, moldable, teachable. I’m a ‘listen to everyone, follow no one in particular’ kind of girl.
I was home schooled before it was cool. My dad loves history and the ‘other side’ of the story. He made history real and fascinating for me. Math not so much, but you know, he tried. He taught me how to dig deeper than the story the text books tell, to look for the stories of real people. I began at a very young age putting myself into different times and places, historical situations and imagining what it would have been like to be there and what side of history I most likely would have been on given my gender, race and economic status. If you’ve never tried doing that, you really should. If you’re honest with yourself, it is eye opening and heart changing.
I take that same perspective into most other things in my life. Everything around us is always changing, revolving, repeating. Really, it’s all a complex intertwined web of stories. I love stories. Life stories. Event stories. Bible stories. Personal stories. Professional stories. Real stories. And, I love to share my story with whoever wants to listen.
I have friends and family who like to listen to my ramblings, and they ask about my blog (from years ago) and why I stopped writing and publishing things. I keep hearing things like “you should blog that.” But, what I would write about today is very different from what I wrote about then, and I always wonder if anyone besides my mom would want to read it. My old blog was about autism and food allergies, but my son is old enough now to have his own voice. It took me a while to find my own again, but here I am, a curious know-it-all who loves to solve problems and tell stories.
I like to run and eat, too. So, there will be a lot of those kinds of stories here.
Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you are able to find something here to help you with your own story.