How CrossFit Continues to Change my Life: progress in a new year

[WARNING: CrossFit Cult Propaganda ahead] 

First, I can’t say how flattered I am that people have asked when my next blog was coming. That’s so awesome and I appreciate it more than I can say. I’ve been super busy [taking naps] lately but I’m back for now!

Second, I will admit that maybe not all of the changes that I’m talking about here are totally attributed to CrossFit. Some of it may simply be me growing up and figuring shit out for myself, but what the sport has given me shouldn’t be discounted.

Next Friday will be 7 months from the day I started at CrossFit Jetty. In that time, I’ve lost anywhere from 10-15lbs depending on my consistency in training at the moment. For the sake of my own sanity, I don’t weigh or measure myself often so I truly couldn’t give you a super accurate number. Others are definitely seeing more progress faster than I am, but that’s only due to my own choices. It can be frustrating sometimes but I’m not being cheated out of anything here. I struggled to get to the box 3 times a week during the cold months. I knew late winter would be the hardest for me. I still struggle at times with my nutrition choices but that’s life. I like food. It is what it is. It’ll never go away. I can only do the best that I can do. I’m not going to make myself crazy over the occassional French Fry. I applaud my paleo friends. I wish I had that in me. Maybe someday.

Anyway, while my progress on the scale in seven months may not be considered by many as tremendous, I can’t speak highly enough of what I’ve gained so far. (#Gainz)

First, I have to talk about our little family. It’s worth mentioning that CrossFit is not a cheap fitness solution. I hear often from ‘outsiders’ about how much money I would save if I’d just go to a “regular” gym. “You can do all the same things there on your own” they all tell me. Perhaps that’s true. But I won’t because I know myself. The 7:30AM text on a Thursday from Pooch asking me where the hell I am is what keeps me accountable. Having to get my ass up because Nicole’s waiting for me. When I walk in after an extended absence and I hear Dennis call out “Oh look who decided to show up”, Facebook posts from Ashley or Jackie asking where I am when I fail to wake up; It’s all the little things that keep me coming back and 100% make the added expense worth it. But more than anything, and this makes me a little sad to admit, because of the nature of my job and the crazy ass hours I work, I don’t have much of a social life these days. My daily journey to Jetty is the closest thing to a social activity that I get on a daily basis. I’m sure most of them don’t know this, but without these people I sweat next to 3-5 times a week, I surely would’ve totally lost my mind sometime late January.  (Thanks, everyone.)

I am by no means excelling in this sport. My progress is slow and my inconsistency lately certainly doesn’t help. I barely pass as decent on a good day. But, I keep showing up because I love our community. I don’t know if boxes are like this everywhere or if I just lucked out, honestly. I never thought I’d be a person with “gym friends” who enjoyed being there but here I am, sadder that I’m working during a Friday night Open WOD than I was when I had to work on Thanksgiving.

Next, the confidence. I have never been a person who was content working with what I had. The grass was always, always greener. I’ve always wanted thinner legs, clearer skin and fuller hair but at some point, it comes time to accept that there’s only so much you can do. This sport has made me feel better about myself and my abilities than I ever have in my life.  My body amazes me on a daily basis. Every morning I show up exhausted and I think the WOD will definitely kill me and then I inevitably survive and that’s so awesome. As I’ve said earlier, I have never been really truly ok with my body and what I look like but who cares what I look like when I can do such cool shit?! Never in a million years did I think I’d ever lift 115lbs over my head but ya know what? I can. Like, multiple times. I’m not going to lose 30 lbs in 2 months. But I’m not looking for quick results here. I’m slowly getting stronger and I see that and that’s way cooler than it would be to have skinny legs or Kardashian hair, none of which I really worked for.  But that’s just one girl’s opinion, I guess.

Today I cut off a bunch of hair because no matter how many vitamins and garbage I take, I am never going to have big, voluminous Kardashian/Carrie Underwood hair – it’s simply not in the cards for me. So, I can keep growing my hair and wishing it was something it just isn’t, or I can cut it and do my own thing. Being more at peace and accepting of what and who I am has put me in the best place I think I’ve ever been mentally. I’m learning to work with what I have rather than wishing away all the stuff I don’t like and being down on myself constantly about stuff that doesn’t really matter.

And what have all these good vibez and confidence bubbles gotten me, you ask? Besides a better attitude on a daily basis – a wonderful, wonderful boyfriend whom I’m quite fond of. CrossFit did not give me DJ but it did give me the kick in the ass necessary to stop being so hard on myself constantly.  Turns out, if you’re out there in the world hating on yourself all the time, it’ll be pretty difficult for others to see how cool you are deep down inside. You get what you give. I sound like a fortune cookie, you say? Yep. I do. Except it’s all true and I’m walking proof.

If you asked me last March if I would ever be with such a kind, truly great guy I would’ve called you a crazy person.  I never saw it prior, but it’s really hard to demand what you deserve from people when you don’t actually believe you deserve it. There are some people who I allowed to be pretty shitty to me, in retrospect. I never felt good enough. I always correlated my weight or my perception of myself to my value as a human, which is crazy. When I started to see value in myself is when, I guess, others were able to see it as well since I’d known Deej for like 5 years and it took him this long to figure it out.

Anyway, I’m super happy. That’s really the short version, I guess. I’ll let you know when I nail that handstand.

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2015 New Years Resolutions

sarahmarshall

I don’t like resolutions. I don’t like people who talk about their resolutions. I don’t understand why people wait til the first of the year to try and make changes. If you’re unhappy at any point, do something about it and stop talking about it. Nonetheless, I’ve got a bunch of goals to work toward this year. I finished off 2014 really strong and happy.  I think I’m in the best place I’ve been in a while but anyway, here are the short list of my goals to build on that progress and make 2015 even better and stronger.  NOTE: none of these resolutions have to do with a number on a scale because I’m done with that garbage and I’ve never been happier.

1. Handstands 

This staple in CrossFit is one on which I have a lot of work to do but I’m seeing progress gradually so to be able to do one unassisted in the next year isn’t too far off from possible.

2. Unassisted Strict Pull-ups 

Again, I’m getting there, slowly but surely.

3. Complete and Rx “the Murph” on Memorial day 2015 in a respectable time. 

I’d say above the rest of them, this is the real resolution this year; the one that’ll be measured and pushed for. The Murph is the benchmark workout that really cemented for me how much I love CrossFit. Lt. Michael Murphy is an American hero and a personal hero of mine and any sport that pays tribute to him is one worth paying attention to, in my opinion.  This workout is tough but nowhere even remotely close to what he endured for our country and to be able to pay homage to him in any way possible and be included in a group of like-minded athletes celebrating Memorial day for all the right reasons would undoubtedly make my entire year.  That being said, I’ll spend the next 140-ish days building up the necessary strength and endurance to complete this workout and if Dennis doesn’t program it, I will never, ever forgive him.

4. Clean up my diet 

Less for weight loss and more for just general health. I’d like to be here for a while and it’s time I started behaving accordingly and paying attention to what it is that I’m putting in my mouth. Also, the garbage I eat impedes my progress in the gym which is frustrating to no extent.

5. Back squat 115% of my bodyweight. 

This is just so I can say I can do it. I’m all about the story.

That’s about it. If you’re looking for me, you’ll most likely find me in the gym.

My Very First Progress Update

Now that it’s public knowledge that I struggle with body image and my weight, I’m allowed to do this. What I look like is my achilles heel of my otherwise exceptional [and humble] persona.

I spent the better part of my summer crying and starving and stressed over this dress:

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I bought it on clearance around Christmas of last year to wear to a friend’s wedding. I was absolutely in love with it and its 70% off price-tag.  When it came in the mail, it ran about a size too small, but it was December and I had til late July to fit into it so I made it my priority.

Fast forward to late June and I still couldn’t get the zipper all the way up without help and small war. I was crushed and stressed and miserable.  By some small miracle, on July 25 I was able to get the zipper up (with the help of a friend) but I was not comfortable. I barely squeezed in and the cut outs on the back made me super self conscious of my “back fat”. I spent the whole night of my friends’ beautiful wedding worried about my back fat. In what insane world is that acceptable? There are no good pictures of me in this dress the day of the wedding because until I was at least 6 drinks in, I avoided the cameras unless I was sitting down, so here ya go. This is me in the dress, late July:

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I was bulgy and not happy.

The next day, I realized this was crazy. This was the day I really came to terms with how severe my body image issues were.  First of all, I could’ve had a wonderful (probably better) time in any dress that fit me. I had made such an ordeal out of “THE dress” and it totally wasn’t worth the stress.  Had I just picked another one, my back fat wouldn’t have been a concern and I would’ve felt better. My friends had a beautiful wedding and instead of exclusively celebrating them, I was worried about what I was wearing. That’s certifiable.

Second of all, I was never putting myself through that again.  It was time to make changes.  Not any one size is better than any other and I’ve always said as long as you’re happy and healthy at the size you are, then bully for you.  But I clearly was not. I signed up for crossfit shortly after and my transformation began, as previously discussed.

I’m not one for bragging about small milestones. I’m very much of the all-or-nothing mindset. But, today, I am exactly 1 week short of 3 months at CrossFit Jetty. Today is also the first time I’ve stepped on a scale in over a month, as the numbers early on grew to be frustrating and I felt weren’t totally representative of my progress.  Also, yesterday, Pooch called me “Skinny-face” and got me wondering. This morning, out of curiosity of how much damage my recent vacation had done and curious what the hell Pooch was seeing that I wasn’t, I stepped on the scale in my kitchen and learned I was down a full 10lbs from my heaviest weight, 203lbs (A number only my doctor, family and very few friends have been privy to until right now).

Being a third of the way to my goal weight loss (30lbs) was pretty exciting but also still not representative of the inches I’ve lost since I’ve started lifting. Since I never took my official starting measurements, I figured just for fun/masochism, I’d track down this stupid dress and give it a shot.

IMG_2162The zipper went up without any help or struggle and there are no back bulges to be seen and I am over the moon. I hate this dress for what it did to me. I never want to wear it again but also I want to wear it everywhere because I beat it without depriving myself or making myself miserable.  I’m [slowly] winning and it’s so cool.

But, it wouldn’t be possible without the Jetty family. I’d be remiss to not thank Dennis and Pooch and Mike and everyone I work out with every day (I haven’t had the chance to meet Ryan yet, but I’m sure you’re also a wonderful coach).  Especially Nicole for getting me out of bed when I’m extra sleepy or it’s cold. Thank you all for pushing me and inspiring me to keep coming back.  I never thought I’d be a person with “gym friends” who missed it while I was away and was genuinely excited to come back and work off all my Mickey-Mouse waffles and soft pretzels, but here I am, in this stupid dress.

How Crossfit Is Gradually Changing My Life

[I don’t like to talk publicly about my body and food issues because it’s probably the most difficult thing I deal with day-to-day. I’ve never had the best relationship with myself and fitness but recently things are a bit different and I’m excited to talk about all the changes I’ve been making. So, sorry for my Crossfit Cult rant, but you don’t have to read it if you don’t wanna]

I’m tired of eating for the bikini that never comes. It never comes because 2 months into my New-Year-New-Me-Diet, I’m frustrated and emotional from depriving myself and I slide not gradually but immediately back into laziness and back into the Taco Bell Drive Thru.

I’m tired of working out for 6 months and feeling generally okay by the time it’s almost warm out and then giving up and letting celebratory beers rob me of my progress.

I’m tired of running like a hamster on a wheel to inevitably end up crying in a dressing room because I’m unhappy and mentally punishing myself for everything I’ve ever put in my mouth. This has been a guarantee in my life at least twice a year since I’m thirteen years old. I’m tired of feeling like the outside has some direct correlation to the inside; unworthy, not good enough, unspecial.  I’m tired of wondering if maybe if I were 20lbs lighter, he’d like me more.

I’m tired of dodging cameras and “misplacing” bathing suits when it’s time to go to the beach.  I’m tired of hiding bumps and bulges because my clothes don’t fit. I’m tired of Spanx. I’m tired of dieting. I’m tired of depravation.  I’m tired of forcing myself to be committed to a routine I’m pretending to like because maybe, someday, I’ll see some results. I’m tired of skinny being the ultimate, unattainable goal.

I’m tired of progress exclusively being measured by numbers on a scale.

I’m tired of having to start over. And I have been tired for a really long time. And then one morning, I found an ounce of insane courage to try this thing that seemed totally undoable, so unlike me and nothing I would ever even remotely enjoy. And I almost immediately fell in love.

I remember laying in my bed, absolutely terrified.  I had already rescheduled once. I had to get up and go. There was no escaping it. Worse comes to worse, I’m terrible and I never go back. So I dragged myself out of bed, got dressed and went.

I was immediately overwhelmed by the smell of rubber.  ‘I will never get used to this’ I thought. I since have.  This place was unlike anywhere I’d ever worked out. And, I was the only one there. Just me and the coach.

“Ok, so we’re going to do pull-ups”

I laughed.

He looked at me.

On my first day, I could do 1 pull up with two resistance bands, kind of.  On Monday, 6 weeks later, I did 10 sets of 10 with the help of a band.  Next week, I’ll work with a band with less resistance and make my arms work harder. Every night I go to bed terrified and convinced that I could never complete tomorrow’s WOD and every morning I walk out of the box so proud that I did and hungry to do more tomorrow.

Last week, I put a power drop snatch up over my head – a movement I’d had a really hard time with since day one. I fell three times.

The first time I fell, Pooch told me what I did wrong.
The second time I fell, he laughed. He told me to adjust my feet.
Time three: “Stop fucking around and stick it, Jess. You got it.”

And, then I did.  65lbs up over my head. I wanted nothing more than to stay there and throw them up all day. It was the best I felt all week. It wasn’t a ton of weight but it was more than I’d ever done. And that’s what it’s about: your own personal best, being better than yesterday.

There are no mirrors in the box so when I wander in after my five hours of sleep, I’m less concerned with the fact that I look miserable and exhausted than I am with the challenge that’s in front of me.  I can’t see the sweat pouring down my face until it hits the mat. Only then do I know how terrible I must really look. But no one else cares. So I don’t either.  And without that distraction, I can power through it.

The people there know me and they push me to be better.  I am much quicker to think that I can’t do it than they are. The time will pass whether you’re working or not, so you might as well keep going. The last one going is always the one with the most support.  And, while it’s never an outwardly competitive environment, I always want to be as good as they are.  I am inspired by them every day.  And they are moms, dads, kids, ex-military, ex-fat-kids-turned-elite-athletes. Each and every one of them amazes me.

And slowly, I see changes happening. Small, gradual ones in my body, but bigger ones to my life.  I’m no longer eating to squeeze into my dress. I’m eating to fuel my body. I don’t want Taco Bell because it will slow me down. I won’t surrender all my hard work to a couple of extra beers. I don’t cry in fitting rooms, but I am shopping for a smaller jean size. I feel my outside starting to reflect who I am – strong, willful and very special.  My weight is not correlated to my worth by any means.  I don’t have the opportunity to slide back into lazy because for the first time, I love what I’m doing. Waking up still is pretty terrible but I’m addicted to being there and getting through it and proving that I can. I love seeing the weight on the bar go up. Those are the pounds that matter. I’m getting stronger every day and I’m not running to nowhere anymore.  Skinny isn’t the goal because I look at the other girls there – real girls, who are there, who are younger than me and not some far away picture of a model who may or not be real – and they’re ripped and it’s amazing and that’s what I want.  They use their body to its full potential and that’s beautiful.

It’s been less than two months, but I drank the koolaid. I’m all in.  I can’t wait to see where this takes me.  I’ll let you know.

Going Viral – Riots, Death and Buckets of Ice

I love the internet. I love it probably more than anything else in the world. It’s amazing. When I think about how far it’s enabled us to come as a society in less than my lifetime, my mind is blown. Sometimes I consider going back to school to learn more about the internet (new and emerging media studies. Watch out Masters programs, I’m coming for you). I think it’s a great and wonderful tool when used correctly. I’ve been so incredibly lucky to be a part of a company that is directly helping reporters outside of major broadcasting companies bring the unrest in Ferguson Missouri directly to the masses. At its height, an independent radio station had over 80,000 viewers concurrently and over 1 million views of archived videos. That’s 10% of CNNs average viewership.  While the events in Ferguson are largely being ignored or spun by major cable networks, the internet is bringing it to the people through an entirely different lens. Feel however you want about what’s happening there but, sorry, that’s fucking cool as hell. 

Last week, I also witnessed the people of the world come together to mourn the loss of, in my opinion, one of our greatest ever humans: Robin Williams.  We were able to do so in a way that as early as 10 years ago wouldn’t have been possible. The collections of stories from both celebrities and every day people who were fortunate enough to know Mr. Williams in real life that suddenly became available were touching. Whether they came in tweets or on reddit or videos, they all helped us mourn what felt like a real human loss for most of us who never got the chance to know him, but were touched by his work. It also, I’m sure, brought a small level of comfort to his family to know that so much of the world was grieving with them so openly.  

Now lets talk about why I’m really here: The #IceBucketChallenge. 

Let me be straight with you. I love the internet, as I’ve mentioned. I also love really smart marketing.  I especially love when all these things come together, which is what we have here. 

The Ice Bucket Challenge is nothing more than a little bit of brilliant [possibly accidental] marketing, because if ya didn’t know, charities and nonprofits have marketing budgets, too; they don’t just sit around hoping people will find out about their cause and give them money.  Perhaps you’ve seen a St. Jude’s commercial or been too pained to watch a commercial featuring abused animals. Luckily, the internet is mostly free. All us idiots dousing ourselves with water costs them nothing and makes them millions. You’re brainwashed into buying things every minute of every day. This is not different. So here’s my problem with all of you complainers: 

If you are a person who gives of your money or time to a cause (any cause) regularly, that’s fantastic. Bravo/a to you, sir/ma’am. You, however, are in the vast minority.  We are so distracted and spending our valuable time and clicks and money on things that don’t really matter. We’re busy making the uninteresting and the scandalous famous with the share button. So, why is it such a big deal if some people are trying to do some good? A bucket of water over their head isn’t making even a little bit of a difference, you say? Nope, but neither is your bitchy tweet about it.  Your timelines are clogged up with annoying videos? Well, your whiney status takes up as much space, but sorry for bogging down this free service you’re by no means obligated to use with my charitable efforts.  I’ll be sure to be more considerate next time so your pointless, often NSFW posts that you’re sharing in the middle of a random Tuesday populate my timeline much more densely. 

The people making these complaints are by far the worst.  If you’re annoyed by the volume of videos to the point that you must vocalize your annoyance publicly, it might be time for you to step away from the screen and go outside. Pet a dog. Smell a flower. I don’t know, but you need to find something to do with your time. Shut it down for a while. Maybe you should go volunteer. Just a thought.  

The numbers say it outright: this is making a marked difference in donation volumes to ALSA.  Would the donations be greater if everyone just donated rather than dumping water over their heads? Yep. But, before people were dumping water over their heads, no one was donating. The chicken or the egg, my friends. Should the donations be higher, considering the amount of celebrities that have recently become involved? You betchya. But that, we can take up with them. 

Additionally, you are NOT a better person for donating rather than dumping the water.  Most people, especially people 18-30, are either still in school, unemployed or underpaid.  If you haven’t heard, we’ve recently been involved in somewhat of an economic downswing.  Ideally, I believe the challenge works best if you both participate in the water dumping and donate but I do think it’s silly that there’s a mandated amount of $100. In my heart, I think the donation should be whatever you can afford. But, as someone who as recently as last year, often couldn’t afford a cup of coffee after her student loan payments, I get it if you can’t swing it and I’m not mad about it. Dump some water on your head, spread the word. Solidarity. I feel you.  

The next group of critics I can understand on a better level: the ones who have a problem with the campaign because it’s not doing anything to promote knowledge of ALS as a disease. 

You, my friends, are correct. 

These videos aren’t intended to educate the viewers directly.  They’re throwing the name of the disease out there with the hopes people will read a little bit about it and find it in their heart to donate. Hell, I would hope that before anyone donated anything to anyone they did some research on where that money is going. Unfortunately, I’m not sure that’s what’s going on.  Whoever came up with this idea did a great job on making their campaign viral, but they still have a long way to go in attracting long term donors and friends to the cause.  Because, like everything else viral, this has another few weeks of shelf life, tops. And then, the influx in donations will stop and we’ll all be back to our cat videos and people falling down.  Should people care more? The answer to that question is always yes. But, the majority of us are dumb and we’re not going to naturally. The trick is to make us listen.  Global Citizens Project is doing a great job of it. While it’s on an enormous scale, it’s an idea. Work on making your information, and not just your name, viral.  

What I can’t argue with is the spirit that’s evolved behind this movement, which is what I think it’s become – a movement.  I’ve seen people compelled to donate to charities that mean more to them. ALS is a great cause, but it’s not the only cause and that should be recognized.  I’ve had friends drawn to the Parkinson’s Foundation, Wounded Warrior Project, The Kind Campaign, Save the Music, Planned Parenthood, Global Wildlife Conservation and Cancer Research. Give to ALS or give to anyone who is going to put your money toward a great cause, preferably one that means something to you. If your $20 can go to help someone instead of your weekly manicure or a couple rounds of beers, you’ve done good.  

If you’re complaining for neither of those reasons and are just a whiner, just shut up. You’re the worst.  I hope you know that. 

P.S I implore you to learn more about ALS here: http://www.alsa.org/

Why Sometimes I Just Need To Shutup and Drink Some Wine

Within the varied relationships in my life, specifically my friendships, there exists a really interesting dichotomy: There are the people who’ve known me my entire life, or at the very least, a good portion of my life, who think of me as a really, generally ‘together’ person.  To them, I am responsible, I always arrive on time, I am the designated driver more often than not, I am in charge of dinner reservations, travel plans and making sure everyone is where they need to be and not throwing up anywhere too public. Then there are the people who met me 2013 or later. Overall, to these people, I am a train wreck.  To them, my life is always in shambles, I’m always making terrible choices and I just can’t seem to clean it up. Amongst one group of friends, I am the most grownup while amongst the other, I am the smallest baby.

For a while I couldn’t figure out why these people, who in the past year and a half I’ve come to really, really love, saw me as such a walking disaster. I couldn’t wrap my head around what I’d done to deserve the reputation of being such a hot mess. My [very good] friend (the very same friend who I maybe unfairly called out for calling me like-a-man in a previous post…) also recently voiced his confusion about my reputation to me, which made me wonder about it even further.  He’s only really known me a few months, but he’s gotten a good enough grip to understand that generally, I do okay for myself.

(Here’s the part where I make it up to him for telling the internet he’s a misogynist when he’s not at all and actually just made a joke at my expense that he wasn’t close to being the first person to make) We had a conversation really recently about why it is that I’m perceived the way I am and he said to me “They don’t know you that well. Because getting to know you, I realize that you’re not at all who they make you out to be”.

In that moment, the sun shone out of my face.  I’d spent the last year and a half-ish hinged on the acceptance and validation of these people who really, truly believe for some unfathomable reason that I’m a disaster.  And in that time, I’d slowly started to believe that about myself and I’d started to do things and act ways that reinforced that reputation. What a horrible, vicious circle.

So there I am, going about my business, thanking the universe that someone doesn’t think I’m failing at life and then, it happened. One day at work I was bopping around the internet reading lists of things I have to do as a woman to not die before I’m 30 and one jumped out at me.

10 Important, Independent Lessons Every Girl Should Learn While She’s Single (link at the bottom)

Pretty positive this was going to be a list encouraging me to go out and get drunk as often as possible, I clicked on it despite my growing hatred for these stupid lists.  Most of these things, although they made sense, had been said to me over and over again. One of them, though (item #2, specifically), it was a revelation:

2. Mastering the Art of Self-Soothing

It’s great to have someone around to take care of you when you’re sick, hug you when you’re sad, or just listen to your problems.

For the times you don’t have that, however, you should learn to master the art of self-soothing. This is when a nice bottle of wine and a hot bubble bath comes in. It’s always good to be able to brush yourself off and keep going.

This is why my new friends think I am a disaster. I do not possess the skill to do this. Yet. I look like a disaster all the time! I’m doing this to myself!

I have said countless times that my great skill in life was being a student. I was so, so good at school. I never needed help. But then, school ended. And it was suddenly up to me to figure it out and navigate life on my own. And here I was, fresh out of college in my big girl job and I had no idea what the fuck to do. So surrounding me, here are all these 24-30 year old people, who have it slightly more figured out than I do. So, every time something is just a little bit wrong, I obsess and I go on about it for days to anyone who will listen. All I have to do is shut up! I don’t have confidence in the decisions I make – which I know are right and correct – without having them endorsed by these people who I’ve come to rely on to validate everything I do. I find myself sometimes asking questions I already know the answers to. And that, my friends, is ridiculous.  I spent the first 22 years of my life as a super smart, independent person. I can do this.

How do I expect to live my life if I require validation from everyone for literally everything I decide?

I need to learn to live my grownup life without assistance. I need to learn to be confident in my own choices, live my life and own it. And when things suck, I need to learn to figure it out on my own, have a couple glasses of wine and stumble through it. Because if I’ve learned anything, it’s that life goes on and nothing is the worst thing that can happen. It’s nice to have friends to rely on, don’t get me wrong. It’s also nice to be able to do things on your own.  (By on my own, I mean under the general supervision of my mom, of course).

So, Thank you anonymous friend [and Jen Ruiz at Elite Daily] for kicking me square in the ass. I could not be more grateful.

I am a girl.

I’ve gone most of my life declaring myself “not a feminist”. In light of recent events, though, I’ve started to sit back and really consider what that means and I’m having a pretty substantial change of heart.  I’m not trying to get all political on everyone, but I think this is worth saying.  Also this isn’t organized at all so just get ready for brain babble if you’re about to read this.  

I’ve lived my entire life hoping to one day – in the distant future – be a mom to a hockey team of little boys and a wife to a husband, and I mean that in the most traditional way possible.  I want to – one day – pack lunches and cook dinner and taxi to and from various practices and host holidays in my home and in order to have time to do all these things, I hope on some level to be provided for by my husband. 

So my first question that I’ve been asking myself recently is “why boys?” 

Female adolescence was hard and I’m not sure if I could adequately guide another human through that. I often find myself saying “I can’t, in good faith, bring another female into this world” which now, makes me really sad. I don’t want to have to be disappointed that I was born a female nor do I want to face the day where I’m even a little upset my kid is a daughter and not a son.  Girls should be afforded every opportunity that boys have. Why should they be ascribed to be the more difficult sex? Speak to my mom, and of her two kids, I was a breeze to parent while my brother was a handful.   There’s absolutely no saying I can’t cart my daughters to hockey practice. And, one day I plan to. Because when I’m blessed with children, no matter their genders, they will be strong and fun and kind and  independent because I will make them so.  

Also, as I mentioned, these are all things I want way down the line, at some point in life.  I hope to live my own life first with a job that I like and travel and do as I please. One day, hopefully, I’ll have someone to share my time with. I’ve never questioned these things and I don’t expect anyone else to because it is 2014 and I work hard and deserve to get whatever I earn. I will not even discuss this point further. 

The other thing I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about is my status among my male friends.  I’ve always been proud of my “bro-ness”. The fact that I hang with dudes and love sports and beer and laugh at off color jokes is quite a selling point of my personality. I’m a lot of fun. For a while I was the only female in an all male set of first cousins. I’ve discussed this before. I’m really great. But, why are these qualities attributed to “bros”?

This hit me like a ton of bricks when a friend of mine asked me how I felt about shaking hands in a professional scenario. The question struck me as odd. “uh, fine?” I responded. He then told me he always felt awkward shaking hands with women because of their small, weak hands, I suppose. I felt myself getting angry as I said it. My ears were red. I felt it happening. “I have a great handshake. My dad taught me when I was pretty young. Every interviewer I’ve ever met with has commented on it” and without missing a beat he responded “yeah, but you’re practically a dude”. 

I knew he intended it as a joke, but it didn’t fly. I’m unsure if I’ve ever been more offended. I am, or was, always proud to be “one of the guys” but I am a girl. I am not “practically a dude” or even a little bit of a dude. Being a self-sufficient, professional person with a unique set of interests does not make me more masculine – it just makes me more awesome.  

Until that conversation, it’s never occurred to me that my personality makes me more or less like a girl. In my head, I’ve always just been a girl who likes what she likes. I’ve always been able to do for myself. I install my own air conditioner every summer and carry heavy things.  I don’t get mad when my boyfriend-at-the-time goes to strip clubs because who cares? And, I love beer and sports and trucks and running around in the mud. I also love clothes and makeup and arts-and-crafts. I sometimes leave the house not put together or wearing basketball shorts because, again, who cares? I want to learn to fly airplanes and to me, the only reason that’s an unreasonable goal is because it’s really fucking expensive, not because of what’s between my legs.  The term “bro” had never assigned a gender to me before. I always just thought of it as kind of a lifestyle. That sounds ridiculous, but it’s true. Guys who act like me are bros so therefore, I too, am a bro. That’s always been my logic. I will not be calling myself a bro anymore.

The fact that it’s expected of me to put forth more effort than I already do towards being feminine in order for people to view me as a woman is sickening.  How much of my own self can I give up before I’m just not me anymore? I am never going to not curse at the TV when the Rangers are playing like shit. And, if you don’t appreciate my ability to house pizza like a champ, you’re obviously not meant to be in my life.   

Next. I don’t make it a habit of walking around feeling unsafe.  For a generally nervous person, I’m pretty secure in my ability to not be attacked. I don’t want to park far away from the building because I’m lazy, not because I’m scared. I wouldn’t call myself oblivious, I’m always aware of what’s going on around me, but I rarely second guess walking to my car alone at night or going somewhere by myself or with a group of females. By no means am I a small girl. I’ve always just been prepared to defend myself. No big deal. And then #YesAllWomen happened.  I read a lot of tweets about how women hold their keys in a way that they could be used to protect themselves when walking to their cars. Yes, I do that. I read tweets about women who check their back seat to make sure the car is empty before getting in. Check. Countless tweets about women carrying mase. I’ve been meaning to get some. These are all just things I’ve been taught to do since day one. So then I sat back and thought about it: has my brother? 

Nope. 

Why am I expected to walk around in fear? Because that’s just the way it is? But why is that the way it is? Why aren’t we creating a world where women are only equally as vulnerable as men? We’re teaching women to take all these extra steps to be safe: carry your keys like this, don’t run outdoors with your music too loud so you can hear someone coming behind you, double check your car before you get in, only park in well lit areas. But why aren’t we teaching men not to target women? It can be said that these are good tips for both sexes for general self defense. But why, then, aren’t we teaching our boys? I like to call these questions that will never have answers. 

So now the world is telling me not only do I have to be concerned about random acts of violence on the streets of my hometown and workplace, but also, I should be worried that every dude I ever reject may turn on me because they feel entitled to my body? Nope. Not having it.  By the way, to the guy in Penn Station who got way too close to me and my friends last night and mumbled “holy moly” whilst he ogled us in our shorts and cowboy boots: you can kindly go fuck off, sir.  What happened in California was clearly a tragic collision of mental illness and horrible male entitlement and obviously not every man we say no to will react this way, but it needs to be acknowledged that there are those out there who will. I am not a reward for living your life by any set of standards, nor is any other person, male or female.  My company and my anything else is mine to give.  People are not the cheese at the end of the maze.  Your reward for being a “good person” is not companionship or otherwise and everyone – men and women – need to understand that. Finding a person to share my life with is for sure my ultimate goal, but it’s not something I can earn. It’s just something that happens and it will happen when it happens and until then, I’m just over here, hanging out. 

 

So, I’m kinda over not being a feminist and I’m really done with the negative connotations that come with being a feminist. I’m tired of not liking my body or worrying if I fit into some weirdo, arbitrary mold of what a girl is supposed to be. I am a girl because I was born that way. That’s all there is to it. One day a man will appreciate me for who I am, or not. Who knows?  That’s the beauty of it. I guess I am blatantly a feminist, I suppose, because I think I deserve whatever I earn, just as my male peers do. I have the right to get whatever I want from life – whether it’s a family or a career or both – as long as I work for it.