I Got Rid of My Scale and Fell Down the Stairs: The Kara Lairson Story

I should really let these two incidents speak for themselves; more importantly, I should really commit to writing blog entries more frequently as one of these incidents is a major victory while the other was soul crushing and pretty devastating.

Before I get into discussing these two items of both success and disdain, I just wanted to share this picture. 6 years ago, I ran my first half-marathon.

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It hurt so much afterward. It sucked SO MUCH. Kentucky’s runs aren’t a joke because they’re all hills and this one was, without exaggeration, mostly hills. I remember cresting a hill and immediately seeing another three hills in the distance. I was not a big hill runner then and I’m not a hill runner now. ANYWAY.

So, the scale. I feel like every person who has ever endeavored to lose weight knows this battle: the scale. It doesn’t matter how much ass we kick, it doesn’t matter how healthy we eat, it doesn’t matter our physical capabilities and noticing them increase. All that seems to matter, in the battle of weight loss, when it comes down to it, is what that number says after a couple of weeks of hard work. If that number doesn’t change or go down, or GOD FORBID, IT GOES UP, then anything we’ve done, any sort of progress we’ve made is totally moot and should be discounted. At least, that’s how I felt.

Last summer, I got down to 96kgs (211lbs), which is a mere 12kgs (26lbs) away from my goal weight of 85kgs (187lbs). But, you know the whole thing with life and fuckshit and just mentally derailing. I went home, I partied a lot, I lost a lot of things that were (and still are) very important to me, including my motivation. I crept back up to 104kgs (229lbs). I gained 8kgs (18lbs) in the span of a few months. I got back on to the wagon recently, started going back to CrossFit, running again, got back into the groove of intermittent fasting but the weight was not coming off like it was before.

I cut down on alcohol. I started hiking on the weekends. Kept running, kept going to CrossFit, making good food choices and yet, every single fucking time I stepped on the scale the number was either the same or higher than it was the few days or weeks before. I would wake up feeling great, full of energy, step on the scale and within SECONDS feel like shit about myself.

Okay. Let’s recap here. I go to CrossFit anywhere from 2x-5x a week.  I run 5-7km at least once or twice a week. I hike mountains on the regular. I drink water and Americanos– no soda, no juice, nothing. I intermittent fast like it’s my job. I DID A 185lb deadlift two weeks ago. But. I’ll be damned if that number didn’t define everything about me and who I am and what I’m capable of and how fit I am and no the fuck it does not.

So, I got rid of it. Bye. Now, in the heat of the moment and fueled by the desire to break my bond and reliance on my scale, I felt like I had made an amazing decision. I took the weight log off of my FitBit dashboard. I removed the weight off of my Fitstagram profile. I started to disentangle myself from the web of deception I had woven throughout years of battling my weight and for the first couple of days, I felt great.

But, the panic. Oh my fuck, y’all. The absolute panic I felt the first time I went to weigh myself and realized my scale was not there. How was I supposed to feel about myself then? How was I supposed to know if it was a day I was going to be nice to myself or if it was a day I was going to spend berating and punishing myself for taking up more space? Fortunately, I’ve developed better coping mechanisms in the past few months, I talked myself through the panic, and I went about my day. What I’m noticing now is my self-esteem is gradually improving. More and more every day, I’m finding that I’m hating myself a little less. The numbers on the scale can’t define me if I don’t know what they are. I’m still active. I’m still doing all of my things– the only difference is I’m forced to look at what I can do and noticing physical improvements without tying an arbitrary number to it. I appreciate the subtle way my clothes are changing shape. I notice more definition in my biceps. My cardiovascular strength is revived. There is so much more to my physical health than the scale.

Fuck the scale.

Which, now, brings me to the second part of the title– I fell down the stairs. This week, I had a pretty fucking excellent week leading up to the Gyeongju Cherry Blossom 10k. I started this new eating challenge with a friend of mine that’s essentially removing all processed sugar from your life, as well as dairy, alcohol, and coffee. Let’s go ahead and establish I have no intention of ever removing coffee from my life long term. I love it. It brings me joy. It stays. But, I was interested in changing my eating intentions and creating stronger habits, especially in in challenges that would force me to cook at home, so I agreed to try it with her.

I knew ahead of time, too, that there would be days that I did drink. For example, my very dear, old friend, Aaron, came to Korea to see our friend Katelyn, so I went up to her city to visit with both of them and of course, there was drinking.

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We had a great time. They came down to Daegu, we threw down, and it was just so enjoyable being around them, showing them Daegu, and catching up in each other’s lives.

I tried out a couple of different recipes, ate some grains intentionally for the first time, and was forced to try to find foods that fell into my eating categories when I forgot snacks. One day, I ate a bunch of grapes and walnuts because that was, legitimately, the only food I could find in a mart that was something I could eat inside of this challenge. But, it’s truly forced me to consider what I’m eating, the ingredients in prepackaged food, and also, just how cheap it is to cook at home and prep food for the week. My taste buds are also popping right now– fruit tastes SO SWEET to me. It’s amazing how much your tastebuds change when certain things are removed. IMG_2822

Finally, I come to Friday. This past weekend was packed full of plans for myself, hugely active plans, that involved several different cities in Korea. As I am less than 50 days away from leaving a country I’ve called home for 4 years, I am desperately trying to pack in as much as possible in my free time. The plan was I would run the 10k, take a bus to Busan to meet my friend Alex, and we were going to hang out in Busan, go to SpaLand, which is a huge sauna and bathhouse, and then dick around in Busan with each other. On Sunday, I planned to hike Palgongsan, the tallest mountain in Daegu.

On Friday morning, I packed up my gear for my race, packed bath items for the sauna, packed my changes of clothing, updated my running playlist, and went through the checklist of everything I normally do when I go out of town for the weekend. The one thing I did not do was pack my snacks ahead of time and prepare for dinner on Friday night. I left my job at 6, got on the subway and immediately went to DongDaegu, the train station. I bought some tangerines and some tofu pockets with rice. I should have taken a later train and eaten dinner in Daegu because EVERYTHING CLOSES AT 9 IN GYEONGJU. I got to Gyeongju, checked into my hostel, and started the fruitless search for food. At one point, I misstepped, and my ankle rolled a bit, but I caught myself. My adrenaline spiked, and I immediately thought– “You have to be careful, Kara, you clumsy fuck.” Legit, that was my thought. I finally found a restaurant that was open. The guy at the bottom sent me upstairs– he thought I was with the foreigners up there, and on the way back down the stairs to get the menu, my ankle collapsed from under me and I fell down the stairs. I tried to catch myself, but I landed hard on the same ankle I had lightly rolled earlier and I just fucking knew I wasn’t racing the next day.

The swelling and pain were immediate and it was so intense for a second it took my breath away. I honestly, truly thought I might have broken it this time, that I would be spending my last two months in Korea in a cast unable to do most of the things I wanted to do. I gingerly walked on it, I still had full range of motion, and while I tried to convince myself there was a chance, I knew that I had lost the chance to run. With tears in my eyes, I went to a convenience store, bought a bandage, a cup of ice, and tylenol, and went back to my hostel defeated, sad, lonely, and hungry.

I strapped the ice to my ankle inside the cup and my husband called and I just sobbed. I was so upset. I had been looking forward to this experience, to having these final moments in a city I love so much, only to have it taken from me in a stroke of bad fucking luck the night before the race. I went from angry to sad to devastated to hopeful to infuriated and back around again. I laid in my bed in my hostel, foot elevated, ice cup strapped to it, hoping maybe there would be a miracle and my body would heal itself quickly enough in 7 hours for me to run this 10k.

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But, that didn’t happen. I woke up in pain. I dressed like I was going to race, but I hobbled back to the train station, crying, and bought a ticket back to Daegu at 6:58am. I was crushed. I had so many friends reach out and express their sympathy, but there was nothing they could do. There was nothing anyone could say that would make me feel better, there was nothing anyone could do to make me feel less shitty about the whole situation. My plans for the weekend were decimated. I was denied an experience I had been treasuring for so long. I was fucking furious. I shut down on a lot of people. I stopped speaking to most of my friends on Saturday, but was finally coaxed out of my hate cave by a few people who I am just so fucking grateful for.

Instead, on Saturday, I ate sushi. I bought new BTS buttons. I bought a new bullet journal to transition into my new adventures when I leave Korea. I ate an oreo tart. I watched the new Jumanji movie with three people who have become so very important to me. I ate a cheese tart. On Sunday, I walked, gently, through Daegu with Robert. I ate a lamb sandwich and peach pie. I started a new role playing game. I made the most of a weekend that threatened to undermine me.

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I just went back and re-read my blog entry from after I finished the Run the Bluegrass Half Marathon and I was going through a lot of similar things then that I am now. I was struggling with a lot of the elements in my life that I could not control, but I was still pushing through, even when I felt like I wanted to quit or when I forgot about the important things in my life.

Who I am is not created and defined by a missed race or an Oreo tart or a number on a scale; who I am is created and defined by how I rise and respond to challenges, if I approach people and situations with kindness, grace, and understanding. I am created by the compassion I can give myself in moments when I want to hurt or traumatize myself because I am not living up to my self-imposed high standards.

Life goes on, even when I feel like it won’t. or even when I feel like I’ve missed something so important to my life that it will be incomplete without it. One missed race does not make me a failure and one missed experience does not mean my life is void of fulfilling experiences. One door closes, and another one immediately opens and maybe, just maybe, the events of the past few weeks have been trying to lead me to this moment.  There will not be another Gyeongju Cherry Blossom race for me, sure, but there will be other races. There will be other chances to rise to occasions, to be strong, to push through adversity. There will be other experiences, other adventures, other new things to try, feel, see, and breathe.

There will always be cherry blossoms.

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CrossFit: One Year Later

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If there’s one thing I know that’s true about this life, it’s that everyone fucking loves to drag CrossFit. What’s the saying? A CrossFitter, an Atheist, and a Vegan walk into a bar and within 15 minutes, everyone knows? People love to hate on CrossFit, and I think it has a lot to do with the enthusiasm surrounding CrossFit and the “If you just try it, you’ll love it!” mentality.

I used to be one of those people. I was a person who mercilessly mocked CrossFit without ever really knowing what it was. I just knew a lot of people did it, they were really happy about it, and I loathed them for it because, honestly, who the fuck could be so enthusiastic and upbeat about exercising? No, I don’t want to try your stupid workout and no, I don’t want to go to “your box,” or whatever the fuck it is.

…until last year.

Last year, around this time, I was feeling pretty good about myself, but, in all honesty, I was drinking A LOT and eating a lot of bullshit and really just ignoring the signs that maybe I wasn’t the healthiest version of myself that I wanted to be. I was having some personal issues and instead of coping in a way that was beneficial to me, I was turning to alcohol and food to sort of fill the voids in my life. I went to Busan for St. Patrick’s Day and the annual color festival, Holi Hai and on the Monday after the weekend, I saw a picture of myself that absolutely fucking floored me and honestly, it took every single thread of dignity in me to not break down into total fucking tears at work.

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The picture. THE picture. This is the picture that changed everything for me. This is THE picture that made me realize enough was enough and I could either sit on my ass and cry, complain, and wallow in my pity, or I could shut my fucking mouth, practice some self-love, and do something about the way I felt on the inside and on the outside.

status I took to FaceBook to express and vent and it was through this status last night that I realized how much I have changed and how much CrossFit has given me. The night before I went to my first class, I reached out to a friend of mine who had lost a massive amount of weight through CrossFit and she encouraged me to go, to at least check it out, and make my decision. Another friend, who was a member of the gym, also encouraged me. I went to my first CrossFit class at 10:30am on March 22, 2017, and I’ve never looked back or regretted my decision to become a CrossFitter.

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In the past year, I’ve lost 33 pounds (15kgs) and while that may not seem like a lot to most people, it was such a game changer for me. The weight loss, while an excellent bonus, isn’t even the greatest part– the greatest part is gaining confidence in my abilities and knowing that if I just push a little harder, if I keep going for just a minute longer, there is no limit to what I can achieve. When my body says no, my mind says “Just a little more, Kara,” and I find it in me to keep going.

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In the past year, at CrossFit Suseong, I had the pleasure of working under two of the nicest people I’ve ever met and two of the most encouraging. My first coach was someone I admired so deeply; he was so compassionate and wonderful, especially during workouts. He made CrossFit what it was, and still is, for me– a place where I can be exhausted, out of breath, and the last person to finish and still worthy of every single moment of exhilaration I feel after finishing. During one workout, our WOD was 50 squats, then 50 pushups, then 50 situps, then 50 back extensions, then 50 pullups, and finally, 50 burpees. Burpees are my enemy, and when I got to 30/50, I wanted to quit. I wanted to throw up. I wanted to cry. My coach got down on the floor next to me and said “You don’t quit, Kara. Keep going!” He counted me up to 40 and then counted down my last 10. I have never appreciated a person more than I appreciated him in that moment.

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Some of the hardest minutes of my life have come inside CrossFit Suseong. I have been angry, frustrated, and defeated. I have wanted to scream at the top of my lungs and be left alone. I have not finished workouts. I have capped out on time. I have had to scale my workouts, reduce my weight, and admit that there are things I cannot do. But, I have never quit. My coaches won’t let me quit. My fellow CrossFitters won’t let me quit, and every single fucking time I complete a workout that looks impossible on the board, I am reminded, again and again, there is no limit to what I can do if I just give myself a chance and actually believe in myself, instead of just defeating myself before I ever start.

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CrossFit gave me the courage to join Gaelic football. CrossFit gave me the courage to trek through a jungle in Vietnam. CrossFit has given me the courage to try all kinds of new activities that I would have NEVER tried without the confidence I’ve gained from CrossFit Suseong. I’ve lost weight, sure, but the amount of appreciation I have for my body has changed, the recognition of strength in my legs has changed, the GOALS I have for myself have changed; I am no longer weight focused, but endurance focused. I think about the things I want to be able to do, like a strict pull-up, or a handstand push-up, and those are my goals, not fitting into a certain size or weighing a certain amount. CrossFit has given me the tools and the capacity and the ability to change these ideas about myself and how I view my health. I am so fucking thankful I joined my CrossFit gym.

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Every single day is a challenge when it comes to CrossFit. I know it will never get easier, but I will get stronger. The weights I lift will get heavier. The endurance I have will increase. I’ll probably always hate burpees, but I see the merit in them, even if I want to throw up every time I see them on the WOD board. But, these are challenges I welcome in my life because I am no longer limited to what I feel like I cannot do– instead, I can see what I CAN do and all the ways I can improve. CrossFit has been one of the ultimate challenges and sometimes, it wins, but I still go back. Sometimes, I take a break because I’m scared but I still go back. I will always go back. I will always go back because it is the challenge that motivates me, the idea that every single day can show me another way I have improved myself physically. Every time I step into the Box, I have already defeated the part of my brain that says I’m lazy or unworthy because I’m there. I showed up.

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I would not be the person I am today without CrossFit, without my coaches, without CrossFit Suseong, without the friends who have joined me in the Box and the people who became friends inside the gym. My health is so much more than weight loss now– I am so much more than just the weight I can lose. CrossFit has given me new things to work for, new ways of seeing my body, and a new understanding of what it means to be strong and capable. I love CrossFit, even if it means doing fucking bar over burpees or burpee box jumps for the rest of my life.

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I am just so much happier now than I was a year ago.

 

 

 

2017: Enough

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2017 is a garbage person. 2017 is a fucking bully and I’m glad it’s over. Before composing this final (and much delayed) blog entry of 2017, I was thinking about the good and bad things that occurred this year and honestly, I’m perplexed at how a year could have been so fucking good to me and so fucking bad at the same time. I wish I could say I was ending this year on a high note, but it seems like me, and others, are all just counting down the days until we can wash the bad taste of 2017 out of our mouths.

 

Before I get into the nonsense of the past few months, I want to recount the good things that have happened to me this year. I traveled to two different countries, Japan & Vietnam, by myself. I conquered the idea of traveling alone and not only did I conquer it, I fucking excelled at it. Traveling alone was always one of my biggest fears– the idea that I could not overcome my loneliness. But, I found that throughout traveling alone, I became more comfortable with the idea of myself and keeping myself as company. I think, for a long time, because I’ve dealt with a lack of self-worth and the fear of not being good enough that meant that I wasn’t even good enough for my own company. This idea is slowly changing and I am embracing my qualities. This will always be a work in progress for me as, honestly, I’m just too good at hating myself. But, even I can admit I’ve done serious work this year and I’ve progressed exponentially.

I also started CrossFit and finally ran the half-marathon I’ve wanted to run since I first came to Korea: the DMZ Cherowon Peace Marathon. This could have been a blog entry on its own, and probably should have been, because the feelings I felt after crossing the finish line will never be replicated.

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I crossed, cried my eyes out, and then immediately thought I was going to throw up. It was so much hotter than we expected it to be and it was so much harder for me than it should have been. In the last couple of weeks of my training, I hurt my feet and ankles and my training really suffered. The longest run I did while training was 15k, and that was in July. So, the last few kilometers of the race were fucking brutal.

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But, we finished. We drank beer. We felt proud.

In congress with the running of the half marathon and CrossFit, and I know I’ve talked about this before, but it was such a big part of my year, I started playing Gaelic football. At our end of the year dinner, I even won “Most Improved,” which is a huge fucking honor considering I had never played a group sport before March. There were times I wanted to quit and there were times I was furious with myself for making a mistake, but throughout the sport, I slowly learned how to take constructive criticism, and I honestly believe this experience helped me grow into a more confident and well-rounded person.

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I also got married this year, which is honestly still a huge shock sometimes. In fact, I referred to Robert as my boyfriend today in conversation. We got engaged on Jeju Island earlier this year inside of a volcano, which is pretty telling of the kind of relationship we have and the kind of person Robert is. In August, we went to Seoul and got married in the district office without much fanfare or panache– again, that’s the kind of people we are. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

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So, because I got married, I had the pleasure of having a bachelorette party (three weeks after I got married) and I was surrounded and loved on by some of the best women I have ever known. They put together games for me, organized the hotel, figured out dinner, and helped me get very, very intoxicated.

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I also had a few opportunities to travel around the country and do a few things I had never done before. We went to Seoul ComicCon, which was the first year it was ever hosted in Korea. We traveled to Namhae to experience Oktoberfest in Korea and had a few relaxing days camping on the beach during the 10 day long vacation, Chuseok.

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I spent St. Patrick’s Day on Gwangali and Haeundae beaches and got to experience Holi Hai the same weekend. I participated in the Busan production of the Vagina Monologues. I got to have one of the most difficult experiences of my acting life by performing in Henry Murray’s “Three Views of the Same Object.” I went to my first Samsung Lions game. I went to Jeju Island for the first time. I got to see the USA U-20 team play in Daejeon. I ALSO BECAME BTS TRASH AND I DON’T CARE I BET YOU THOUGHT I WOULDN’T MENTION THEM IN THIS ENTRY HA

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God, they’re so amazing. I fucking love them so much. You can take your hate on somewhere else, ya fucks.

Now that all of the fun and good is out of the way, it’s time to discuss the shittiest parts of the year, which honestly, was mostly from September until now. My problem is when one thing goes bad, everything else has a tendency to go poorly. I actually remember thinking once as I was walking home in August “Wow… things are so good right now. They’ll probably go to shit soon,” and go to shit they did, friends.

I have honestly never been so close to losing my fucking mind as I have been these past few months. After my half-marathon, without a real goal to accomplish, I sort of fell apart. I went right from training for my half to having a 10 day long vacation where all I did was drink for days straight. My drinking increased from one day every couple of weeks to four or five days a week and I slowly but surely began to undo all of the progress, mentally, emotionally and physically, that I had worked so hard to achieve. I kept a CrossFit gym membership, but I was so lackadaisical about going that it seemed really fucking stupid to keep paying for something I wasn’t using. I stopped running. All I wanted to do was go out and party, which is what I did.

A lot of aspects of my life suffered. I was having problems in my life in Korea and life at home wasn’t much easier. Last year, my aunt E, who is one of my best friends and essentially my second mother, was diagnosed with cancer in her mouth. The cancer progressed and the day I got the news, my mom also told me that my grandmother had an aneurysm in her abdomen that required surgery. On Monday, November 20th, I bought a plane ticket home and on November 22nd, I landed at the Bluegrass Airport. I’ve never had that kind of turnaround time with a flight and going home before, but I’m glad I made the decision to go home.

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I got to spend the first Thanksgiving at home with my family in four years. I got to spend time with my aunt and my grandmother, who spent the majority of the time I was at home in the ICU. I got to see my close friends of 15+ years and be loved on by them. I love my life in Daegu, don’t get me wrong, but the chance to be away from Korea and be at home with people who have known me my whole life, people who know my family, people who have been with me as we’ve grown up, was so necessary for my mental health at the time. It helped put a lot of things into perspective, and I felt the future of my life change while I contemplated the kind of steps to take to secure my happiness.

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The past few months have been fucking stupid hard. There have been days when getting out of bed was the best I could do, but I still had to go put on a face for my students, who have begun to express real dismay at my departure from my academy of 2.5 years. It breaks my heart. I’ve watched some of these students grow up since I started working there in 2015. They’re bright, wonderful, intelligent teenagers who are, honestly, going to change the world around them. It’s been a huge honor to be their teacher.

So, here it is– December 27th, 2017. A great deal of my life is still very much in the air. I’m confused, I’m scared, and I’m terrified of making the wrong decision somewhere along the way. I am unhappy. I have real issues with a lot of people in my life, and I don’t know how to fix any of them. But, I am pushing on and trying to find ways to solve the problems– both that I have created and problems that are out of my control. I am fucking distracted. I am nervous. I spend a majority of my time brooding and irritated. I don’t feel like I’ve been completely honest in this entry, which is something else I have a real problem with, but at this point, I can only give so much. I have started writing again, but I can’t share it with anyone. For a majority of the past few months, I have felt very alone.

I have gained 14 pounds or 6.7kgs. I just ate cookies. But, I am trying my best. I am trying to navigate my way through the last few days of this fucking difficult year while trying to weave the good moments in to sustain any chance of happiness I have. Sometimes, life really does fucking kick you when you are at your lowest. These past few months have absolutely been my lowest. But, I am trying my best. I am waking up every day. I am trying to reach out to people who I know care about me regardless of the mistakes I have made, and will probably continue to make. I am trying to find the light within myself to get back to the point where taking care of myself seems worth it– where I seem worth it. I am trying to get better. I am trying to figure out a way to love myself and love the life I’m living without focusing on every single facet that seems either too good or not good enough for me.

I am going to try to enter 2018 with the belief that I am worth all of the things that I want– that I am truly worthy of love, respect, and attention, that I am worthy of the opportunities that have come into my life. One of the major things I want to focus on is removing toxicity, and I mean this in regards to both the toxicity in myself and the toxic people in my life who only serve to take from me instead of enriching my existence in any way.

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I am going to go back to CrossFit. I am going to start taking care of myself again. I am going to start keeping my bullet journal again. I am going to start journeying back down the path to self love again, even if I have to take myself kicking and fucking screaming, which at this point is exactly what I’m going to have to do. I’m going to seek out counseling again and maybe medication, too, if that’s what it takes to get me back to a place where I don’t feel like everything in my life is hopeless or that everyone in my life is out to get me or abandon me.

Please remember that you’re not alone in your struggle. Please remember that people around you do care, even if it doesn’t feel like it. I am saying this because I, too, need to remember that there are people in my corner. Remember that your life is not about other people– your life is about you and your happiness. Do not compromise. Do not sell yourself short. Do not cower in the shadow of your own fucking greatness.

Be well, y’all, and Happy New Year.

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I Don’t Know What to Call This Blog, But I Don’t Hate Myself Anymore, So That’s Good

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I feel this on a level that I cannot begin to fully articulate, so here it is. Most days, I sort of just feel like a slimy swamp monster, but that may have something to do with the disgusting Daegu weather we’re currently enduring here in South Korea. In case any of you are unfamiliar, Daegu is the HOTTEST FUCKING CITY in South Korea because it sits in a basin surrounded by mountains. Yesterday, it was hotter here than it was in Hanoi, Vietnam, which is, honestly, sort of fucked. I love heat, y’all, and I love the summer, but the past few days in this country have been borderline miserable. I have never been more thankful for an aircon and the money to pay my excruciatingly high electric bill. But, I digress.

The past few weeks have been a true exercise in examining my ridiculous amount of self-doubt and how, surprisingly, it is starting to recede. I am no longer approaching all situations believing I am going to fail or that I will somehow be sub-par at whatever activity I’m engaging in. One of the strange things about the lack of self-doubt now is comprehending just how much was there before it started to disappear. There was a metric fuckton, y’all, and it truly kept me from doing many, many things, like sportsball!

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For those of you late to the “Kara Tries New Things” party, I started playing goalkeeper for the local Gaelic Football team in Daegu and this past weekend was the NAGG (North Asian Gaelic Games) tournament in Seoul. Before the last tournament, I was pants-shitting nervous and the night before this tournament was no different. I wondered why I had chosen to do this, why I was accompanying some incredibly athletes, and why the fuck I ever thought I was good enough to do anything like this for a competitive sports team. Friday night, I remember feeling very torn about my feelings– on the one hand, I had proven myself before, but on the other hand, flukes happen and I was pretty sure that my adequate performance in the previous tournament had been just that– a mistake and a fluke.

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Yet, there I was, eating a kebab at 1:30am in Itaewon, Seoul. I had come. I had committed. I was going to play again. The whole of the next morning, I felt sick. The kebab had sat heavy on my stomach, I didn’t sleep very well as our room did not have air conditioning (refer to the clusterfuck of the summers here in the paragraph above), and I was not feeling confident in my ability. This was only my second tournament and this was, still, the first time I had ever played on a team sport.

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Robert joined me for this tournament and while I know this whole scene isn’t really his style, I am thankful that he was willing to give up most of his weekend to come to Seoul and watch me play sportsball. He carried my football boots for me, he carried my snacks, and he even got me a beer when our final game was over. I am a very lucky woman.

We started playing around 10:40am. We lost our first game to Busan. We lost our second game to Seoul A. I felt like a lot of it was my fault. I conceded goals. I made shitty kickouts. I wasn’t fast enough. I felt like a fucking loser. I felt mad. I was upset I was there and that I had put myself in a position where I knew I would ultimately fail myself and fail my whole fucking team. After the second game, I stewed on myself. I felt agitated, but I tried to get my act together. This wasn’t just about me– this was about a whole team working together and, importantly, having fun. I was ruining the fun for myself by being such an asshole to my own ability. I was THERE. I had shown up. I had made saves. I had made good kickouts. I was doing the best I can.

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At the end of the day, that’s all we can do. We have to do our best. If we are doing our best, if we are trying our hardest to succeed when the world wants us to fail, when we want ourselves to fail, that’s good enough. At least, that’s good enough for me. So, I changed my attitude. I stopped being shitty to myself. Mistakes happen. I am not perfect, and even EPL goalkeepers concede goals sometimes. I dusted myself off. I got back out on the field, and we played three more games.

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photo credit: nana kim @noddingnana

We won our game against Seoul B. Our next game was against the aggressive, talented, and fast Busan, who had already defeated us earlier in the day. If we beat Busan, we went on to face Seoul A in the finals for the championship. If we lost to Busan, we would play Seoul B for third place.

And then it happened. We beat Busan. We were going to the finals.

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photo credit: nana kim @noddingnana

Before I talk about the final match, I need to say something about the women in this picture. No matter how many mistakes I made, no matter how many times I doubted myself, one of them was always there to give me a word of encouragement. I was free to be the silly, vulgar, and crude mess I am without a hint of judgement from any of them. After every single game, one of them said something kind to me and made me feel like I was really part of something special– I felt like I belonged on a team. I didn’t feel like some sort of scrub that stumbled onto a field, even though that’s sort of what I am. Joining Gaelic was worth it for me simply for experiencing the kind of camaraderie that comes with playing together for the same victory. They are all so wonderful, talented, and ferociously fierce. I am honored I’ve shared a field with them twice now. I’m lucky I get to wear a Daegu Fianna jersey.

We lost the final game to Seoul A. We came second. I am so proud.

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Thanks, Daegu Fianna, for being a force of good in my desire to change my life.

After the tournament we went out and partied. Of course.

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I definitely drank way too much wine.

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Robert and I even took the rest of our wine to go.

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We also managed to make it back to Daegu on a train from Seoul at 5:05am. Our friend, Ross, called us “homing pigeons,” because Robert and I have a tendency to do this– we go somewhere, drink too much, decide we don’t want to be there, and try to make it back to our house. This time was successful. Other times have not been so successful.

Lately, I’ve sort of felt like a different person because I don’t hate myself anymore. I walk past mirrors and I do not hate the body I see reflected back at me. I see pictures of myself and instead of seeing all of my flaws, I see the power of my thighs. I see the muscles in my arms. I see a person who is determined to make their life different than it was before. That is who I am now. I like CrossFit. I like challenging myself. I like pushing myself. I like intermittent fasting. I like talking about all of these things because I find them helpful, exciting, and motivating. I don’t hate myself anymore. After 30 years of vile and vicious self-loathing, I am finally breaking free. This weekend, this whole excursion through Gaelic, through CrossFit, through gaining control over my relationship with food, I am shedding the weight of years of self-doubt and disdain. It is a good feeling.

I am learning a lot about myself through this whole journey, physically and emotionally. I am learning that the voice inside my head that tells me I should hate myself is a liar. I am learning that I should be confident, that I am worthy. I am learning that I do not have to be so hard on myself, that everyone makes mistakes. I am learning to not tolerate myy own brand of bullshit and it is just so fucking liberating. It’s only going to get better from here. I am only going to get better.

Be kind to yourselves, y’all.

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photo credit: nana kim @noddingnana

An Exercise in Bravery

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I need to talk about Vietnam. I need to talk about the explosive nature of solo travel coupled with the soul-crushing concept of turning 30. I need to talk about how these two ideas came together in the past week. I need to talk about my nervousness, my panic, and my bravery. I need to talk about coming out on the other side of something great and actively feeling like some part of you has changed forever. I just need to talk about how good I feel.

I turned 30 last Monday on the 19th, and as a present to myself and to use my last week of vacation, I booked a ticket to Hanoi. I thought it would be pretty rad to be on a plane to another country on my 30th, and long story short, while it was an excellent decision, I also had a lot of moments throughout the week that made me truly understand just how powerful I am, how capable I am, and how much of my life I’ve spent scared of my own shadow.

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I landed in Hanoi at 10:30am on the morning of June 19th, and was immediately accosted by a very, very pushy taxi driver, who ended up following me into the airport and I had to immediately get firm with. Most people who know me know I am not an aggressive person. I’m pretty passive, but this passive nature of mine wasn’t going to work in Vietnam, which was the first hard lesson I had to come to terms with. I had done some research about taking minibuses from the airport to the center of the city, but after I climbed into one, was quoted a much, much higher price than anything I had seen online, and felt the nervous edge of uncertainty creep into my heart, I made an executive decision to get on the newly-minted city bus that ran from the airport directly to the Old Quarter for $1.50.

The reality of my decision set in once I alighted from the bus into the Old Quarter of the very busy, very hectic capital city of Vietnam. There were motorbikes EVERYWHERE and to cross the street, you sort of just had to walk into traffic and hope people swerved around you, which they did. As a Kentucky girl who grew up in a city with a population of 33,000 people, being placed in any city with a population of over a million is a bit jarring at first, especially since Hanoi was just SO MUCH. There were so many smells, sights, people, motorbikes, bicycles, cars, people selling items on the street— so much. My only goal the first half hour was to make it to my hostel, which I did– quite easily, I might add. But, the panic in those first few minutes was so very real. So many people wanted me to buy things, so many people wanted to give me a ride somewhere, and I know the look of fear on my face and the pack on my back made me stick out so much more at the beginning of the week than I did at the end of the week. This was lesson two: I had to forge forward and I had to get over the panic and indecision that usually accompanies me whenever I have to make a decision that involves others. I did learn through this trip, though, that I am surprisingly adept at making decisions when they don’t involve others.

And make decisions I did. After spending two hot days in Hanoi, I changed my travel plans and left a day early to go to Cat Ba Island, and it turned out to be one of the best decisions I made. I approached the people working at the hostel, told them I was leaving a day early, and that I needed transport to Cat Ba. The next morning, a combination of motorbike, buses, and boats dropped me off in the city of Cat Ba. I found my hostel, drank two beers, and then immediately went into the city to book two trips– one was for an all day cruise through Lan Ha and Ha Long Bay, and the other was a half day jungle trek through Cat Ba National Park.

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Everyone on our excursion to Ha Long Bay was traveling in a group except for me. I was alone and I spent most of the morning listening to different languages on the boat, enjoying the sun, and being totally fucking floored by the environment around me. Seriously. Ha Long Bay is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen in my life and all of the pictures I have, even the most gorgeous pictures on my camera roll, do not come close to doing the place justice– it is truly one of the most incredible things I have ever had the privilege to look at and experience in my life.

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After visiting the largest fish farm in the bay, we stopped in the middle of a bunch of the limestone karsts, dropped anchor, and the tour guides invited us to go swimming– we could even jump off the boat! I hesitated. I was alone, I was going to have to jump in front of a bunch of strangers, and I was going to have to hoist myself back up the boat ladder when I was done swimming. But, I didn’t let any of that stop me. I slipped off away from everyone and I jumped off the boat into the water. A lot of people swam to two small beaches around the boat, but I just tread water in the bay, looking around at these huge, majestic rocks and I cried.

I cried because 5 years before, when I turned 25, I was convinced my life was over because I had graduated. Because I hated my job. Because I felt like a failure. Because I was so far in student loan debt. Because I wanted to die. 25 felt like the age where I should have had it all together and I remember the feeling of looking 25 in the face and being so ashamed of myself and how terrible my life felt at the time. Yet, at 30, a mere five years later, I was swimming in one of the most beautiful places on earth and I had the bravery to come and do it all alone. I have a job that I love. I have a fiance I love. I have friends that I love. I have myself, and for fuck’s sake, I love myself. All I kept saying to myself as I swam around the boat, looking at the water, the karsts, the sky is “Look what you’ve done, Kara. Look how far you’ve come. Look at what kind of life you’ve created.”

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Let me tell you what kind of life I’ve created– I’ve created a life where I am starting to stand up for myself for the first time ever. I’ve created a life where I am going out and trying new, physical things because I do not feel limited by my weight or by my body. I have created a life where I am not terrified of the world around me, and even if things are scary and overwhelming sometimes, I WILL NOT QUIT. I have moved out of the state that I called home for 27 years and I have been living in an Asian country for almost 3 years. I have a created a life where I can book plane tickets and travel for a week by myself and make decisions and change plans and problem solve.

I’m glad 25 year old me survived.

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Part of this trip through Ha Long Bay was also kayaking throughout the bay through three caves and into two lagoons. Because I was alone, I got paired up with the guide, and I was standing alone on the dock and one of the group members questioned why I wasn’t coming and I said “I’ve got to go with the guide– I’m alone,” and for some reason, I felt the tears of shame burn white hot in my eyes, but I pushed it down. I had nothing to be ashamed of–not even a little bit. I got in the fucking kayak. The guide asked if my group was 5 people, and I said, for the second time, “No, I’m alone,” and his response was “You’re so brave.” I smiled because I was. I am. I was initially nervous about my kayak skills and my endurance, but I stayed in the front for most of the trip. I got calluses on my hands from the oars. I got a sunburn on my knees. I navigated through three caves, looked for monkeys, and had kayak races with other people on our trip. I had fun and I did it without anyone else.

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I find this most fascinating because there were times, in high school, when I wouldn’t speak in class because I was fat and too afraid I had the wrong answer. My first thought was always “I think I know this, but I am too fat to open my mouth. I don’t want to be wrong.” To go from feeling like you aren’t worthy of speaking in class to jumping off of a 4 meter boat in a bathing suit in front of a bunch of strangers and kayaking in just a bathing suit in front of strangers is just sort of staggering for me. I can’t imagine feeling that way now, but I know I did at one point in time.

The next day, I went on a half day jungle trek. I woke up at 7:00am for the third day in a row and I just did not want to do it. I felt wrecked from the day before, I knew it was hot outside, and I just didn’t want to be involved in so much physical activity. But, instead of canceling, instead of not going, I got up, packed up my pack, and went on the trek anyway.

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It was hot. I drank four liters of water before we even got to the top. The mosquitoes were relentless. It was so hot. The mountain, if you can call it that, was only 221m, which is a third of the mountain my friends and I normally hike in Daegu. It felt so much higher and so much harder than Apsan. We kept going. We finally got to this orange viewpoint and I celebrated! We had made it. We could relax, enjoy the wind and the view, and start to make our way back down. But, our guide hit us with a “we’re going to that peak” and he pointed to another set of stairs and another challenge. The two other people I was with decided they had enough– they were going to stay at the viewpoint and I considered it. I almost quit. I wanted to quit. I wanted to be done with it. But, I looked at the peak. I looked at the distance I had already come. I looked at the guide and said “I’m going to do it.”

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It was so fucking beautiful at the top of that mountain. The wind felt so good against my face, the sun was hot on my shoulders, and I had done it. I had pushed myself. I had pushed forward even when I wanted to quit, and that means more to me than anything. As a person who has always been overweight, the idea of doing physical activity, especially physical activity in scalding heat and humidity, is just not something I used to do, and yet, I had done it twice on this trip. I had pushed myself. I have changed.

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This was the moment. I kept shouting “I did it! I did!” and the tour guide snapped my picture while I was celebrating to myself and I’m glad he did. I’m glad I can look at this picture when shit gets hard and I convince myself I am worthless. I’m glad I can look at this picture when my self-doubt becomes too much for me to talk myself out of, and I know it will happen again. My happiness, my bravery, my determination is all so evident in this picture and I found, with great joy, that no pictures were taken of me throughout my vacation, selfie or otherwise, that I hated. I found something to love about all of them– mostly, it was how happy I knew I was when I took the picture.

Turning 30 is supposed to be a clusterfuck and maybe for a lot of people, it is. I think, as women, we have this idea ingrained in our heads that if we aren’t mothers, wives, homeowners, career women, or some combination of the above when we reach this age that we are failures, that we have somehow missed the mark and that’s just not fucking true. I see so many different examples of women in my life that are 30 or older and we are all so different from each other and it is truly a beautiful thing. Turning 30 has made me so aware of who I am and what I have to be thankful for and all of the things I have to look forward to in the next decade of my life.

This trip was an awakening for me in a lot of ways. I had to deal with my fear, my insecurity, my panic, and my indecision and I did it. I was confronted with situations that seemed pretty daunting at the time, but I handled them. On top of that, I got to experience a limitless kind of joy that only came when I knew, when I truly knew, that if shit went south, I could take care of, and handle, myself and the situation. I’ve never felt like that before. I’ve always felt sort of inept and helpless, but that is pretty much bullshit and the absolute opposite of what I am. I am a fucking warrior. I was physically active on my vacation. I went out of my way to take on physical challenges, and looking back on those decisions, I never would have done that before. I have never done that before. I am a different person and I am just so fucking happy.

I got told I was old by a couple of young kids in a club in Hanoi the night of my 30th birthday and I kind of recoiled. I’ve never been seen as “old” before, but those fucking kids don’t know what they’re talking about. They don’t know what kind of power, what kind of energy, and what kind of hunger comes with 30. There is a deep need inside of me to keep changing and keep succeeding, to keep traveling and experiencing, and to keep growing. There is an urge within me to prove every negative thought about myself wrong and that is my intention while I take the journey to my 31st birthday– prove myself wrong at every single step, at every single point when my mind threatens to undermine my power.

So, tonight, in an attempt to get back to it, I went back to CrossFit for the first time in over 3 weeks. It was hot, sweaty, but I Rx’D a workout, which means I did it at the highest level of intensity, for the first time ever. I kicked ass tonight, even after 3 weeks of no CrossFit. Every time I think I cannot do something, I am going out of my way to prove that I can.

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I am crying now. I am sitting in my house, listening to music, and crying because I am so proud of myself and what I have done and what I am going to do. Being terrified has always been such a part of my personality and of my though process and watching it slowly fall away and be replaced with bravery and a desire to try all kinds of new things is truly magnificent. I feel magnificent.

I am a powerful creature. I am a tree growing deep roots into the grounds of my own convictions and determination. I am brave and while I won’t say I am fearless, I am so much more aware of my limits. The funny shit is I am finding I have fewer and fewer limits the older I get.

Hi, 30. It’s nice to meet you. I’m Kara. I am unstoppable.

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Progress Does Not Happen Overnight

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Look upon my 4-day unwashed hair. It makes me look like I’m standing in front of a fan, but really, I’m just a swamp creature and the dried sweat of previous days is holding it up.

Anyway. I am a sucker for instant gratification. A lot of people will blame that on being an American or a Millennial, but I love it when I immediately get results from something I do. I like to be the best at everything the first time I try, and this line of thinking, while also unsustainable, is extremely silly. Many things take practice, consistency, and dedication, but I want it and I want it immediately. Unfortunately, I think this often bleeds over into my quest to become healthy.

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One of the things I have been working on, though, is my ability to stay dedicated while understanding that changes for a healthy life do not often happen overnight, and when they do, it is hard to keep to those goals or standards, especially goals and standards made in moments of high motivation because they don’t allow for days when you just can’t fucking be bothered. I have done this one too many times– gotten too excited, planned big, and then let myself down when “real life me” can’t live up to “motivated me.” It’s a real thing and this year, I’m setting out to change these things.

Consistency. Consistency has been a word I have been using a lot lately because it is so important in the health and weight loss game. I can eat well and exercise for a month, but if I cannot be consistent in the second month, in the third month, then that first month is essentially meaningless. Creating consistent habits and following through with small steps to ensure progress has become one of my main points of focus this time around and so far, it’s really working for me.

Well, that and trying new things that previously scared the fuck out of me.

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This picture, taken in March of this year, changed everything for me in so many different ways. See, in March of 2016, I joined a biggest loser challenge and lost 7kgs in a month through exercise, low carb dieting, and drinking less than I usually do. I was elated and that progress, that quick progress, motivated me throughout the summer. In August, I was probably the thinnest I had been in years, was running regularly, and had a stronghold on my eating habits. I then, in September, took a trip home and my habits just went to shit, y’all. I came back and partied, I stopped caring about what I ate, I ran a couple of times, I tried to get my eating back on track, and I just didn’t give enough of a fuck to work hard for what I wanted. I allowed myself to slide back into old habits that did not fulfill me long term. After a weekend of extensive partying, this picture was snapped of me and uploaded on Facebook and when I fucking saw it, I cried at work.

Now, I am not saying that people who have this body type should be ashamed of themselves. On the contrary, I am not in any position, or do I have any desire, to tell people what they should feel or how they should look. I am not here for that. But, I was not proud of myself and I was not happy with MYSELF. I was not proud that I had allowed myself to stray so far from what I wanted, from what MY goals were and are. After seeing this picture, I knew shit had to change for me.

So, I joined CrossFit. In CrossFit, I have found a community that really and truly wants everyone to do their best and succeed, and fuck, that is so important to me. On Monday night, we were charged with the following workout:

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50 each of squats, sit ups, push ups, back extensions, pull ups, and fuckin’ burpees. There are not words to describe how much I fucking hate burpees. They scare me, they overwhelm me, and often they mentally defeat me before a workout even starts because I am so convinced I cannot do more than two or three of them in a row. On Monday, I was terrified of this workout. It seemed like so much and so impossible for me. My CrossFit coach asked if I wanted to scale it back to 30 or 40 instead of 50 and I said no. I wanted to try to do the real workout. We started. I made it through every set and then I got to the burpees. I got to 30 and felt my body give up. I was on the verge of tears. I was exhausted. My heart was racing. Then, my coach, my beloved coach, got on his knees next to me and said “Don’t give up, Kara. You can do this. DO NOT GIVE UP.” And he started counting my burpees 31, 32, 33. I got to 40 and he counted down, 9, 8, 7. By this point, the whole gym was cheering me, and two other men, on to finish our workout. When I got to 50, when I finished, I cried. I had pushed myself. I had done 50 burpees. I finished my sets in 16:20. I fucking did it. CrossFit has changed me in so many ways, mentally and physically.

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I am thinner, yes. My muscles are stronger, yes. But, my whole approach to what I can do and what I cannot do is changing as well. I  have convinced myself for so long that I am incapable of certain things, certain activities, and that shit just isn’t true. There is so much more I can do, so, I tried another new activity and joined a competitive sports team with Gaelic football.

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I have never been an athlete. Regardless of how tall I am, I have never played basketball. I play soccer sometimes with some women in Daegu, but I’m no Ronaldo, but competitive sports, against a team that wants to win, is not something I’ve ever thought I could do. Last year, I followed this team around and referred to myself as a “Gaelic groupie” because I was friends with a lot of the team, but never had the confidence to play. I changed that this year. I went to practices, failed miserably sometimes, but I kept going. Last weekend, I went to my first tournament with the team and I was so nervous, I thought I was going to shit my pants on the field. I play in goals, and the idea of balls coming toward my head and face was mildly terrifying, especially being kicked by a woman who was not on my team. We played. We won all four games. I blocked some shots. I succeeded. Never, in a million fucking years, did I ever think I could be a success as an athlete and yet, here I am.

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The women on my team have been such wonderful, supportive influences in so many different facets of my life. They have pushed me, they have cheered me on, and they have believed in me, which is something I have a hard time doing most of the time.

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My body will do what I ask it to do, but it needs me to believe in it and its abilities. I am going to try harder to do that and support myself the way these ladies, and a solid majority of my friends, have done the past few months. I never fully understood how much I need my own support, but I do. I think this idea is definitely one thing I have been missing in my fitness and wellness journey— the actual, real belief that I can accomplish my goals.

Consistency. Small changes. These things make all of the difference in the world. Progress does not happen overnight, or even in a month. Progress happens as we forge forward in small ways. Yesterday, we had a holiday, and instead of spending the day inside, lounging, which is what I wanted to do, Robert and I got up and went to a temple, walked around, and explored.

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I have been to this temple once before, and it was last year when I did the hardest hike of my life, which, again, prompted me to think about accomplishing and achieving things I, in the past, believed to be too hard for me to do. That hike was one of the longest, most difficult physical activities I had ever done, and yet, I did it. It opens so many doors when you stop telling yourself you can’t and start believing you can. I know that sounds cliched as fuck, but it’s the truth, y’all.

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I am not a confident person by default. I have a hard time taking compliments. I have a hard time seeing the progress and success within myself, but in order to succeed, in order to be the best version of myself possible, it is absolutely necessary that I see and believe these things. I have come such a long way from where I was a year ago. I have pushed myself, I have challenged boundaries, I have changed my eating habits, I have started new activities that I deemed too advanced, and I have grown. I see so much more potential in myself, so much more opportunity, that it honestly brings tears to my eyes.

Progress does not happen overnight. One summer, I lost 40 pounds after I restricted my calories to 1200 a day and exercised 90 minutes a day. I cried any time I drank alcohol. I cried any time I made a mistake. I used to make myself throw up. I am recovering from being that person. I am finding a balance and I am finding joy in the journey instead of finding pain in the setbacks. I am focusing on what I am gaining instead of what I am losing. So much of my identity used to be tied up in partying, but my identity is morphing. I still like to party and I will always love beer, but these things are not innately Kara anymore.

I will leave you with two progress pictures. I cannot tell you how nervous I am about posting these but this shit, this life, demands transparency and honesty.

I am not the same person anymore. I don’t want to be. I want growth. I want change. I want to be better than I was the day before, and that’s exactly what I’m going to fucking do.

Take care, y’all, and stay healthy.

A Year in Review: Not A Dumpster Fire

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Before I write this, I have to admit that I just ate four Jeju tangerines rapid fire and I don’t even care because them mo’fuckers are delicious. I bought a whole bag of them and if there are still any left by this time tomorrow, I will consider it a personal victory. Even the Korean lady who owns the mart saw me staring at them and was like “THOSE ARE SO DELICIOUS!” And, because my Korean is still bullshit, all I could do was fake drool, say “yes,” and put my hand over my stomach like some weirdo who was about to go into a tangerine-induced coma.

Anyway, as it is almost the end of 2016, I figured I would start the process of reviewing what I have accomplished and looking forward to what I wish to accomplish in 2017. For many people I know, 2016 has been a year of absolute bullshit. I mean, if you look at the state of the world, the tension, the loss of some very talented human beings, and the black hole of abyss we seem to be hurtling into faster and faster every day, I can see how 2016 would be a year that people wish to erase from their memories.

But, honestly, this year has been one of the biggest years of my life growth-wise. I have learned so much about myself and other people, as well as started to really figure out the trajectory of the rest of my life. Yes, there were days where I wanted to dig a hole and leave myself there until spring, but the fact that I didn’t, and the fact that I continue to learn from my various mistakes, just shows me how far I’ve come in my life.

The growth has not been without its hurdles. In fact, the last few months of this year have felt like one challenging clusterfuck that would never end, and honestly, looking back on it, I’m not sure what triggered it. I’ve felt a lot like this lately

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Like, my ability to care about things is temporarily stunned. I’ve had a solid few weeks where my concern for other people has been at an all-time low, and for the first time, I didn’t feel guilty about it. I didn’t want to give people any part of myself. I didn’t want to affirm, justify, or make people feel better and I know how shitty that sounds, but I understood after a few days of harrowing emptiness that I was, in fact, just that– I was empty. I hadn’t cared for myself in a few days and I was drowning. Self-care is so important, but sometimes, I think it is easily forgotten in the hustle and bustle of the world we live in, especially around the holiday season. But, there it is. I just didn’t give a fuck. I was irritated with people I cared the most about, and honestly, felt a lot like this

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Mostly because I wanted corn chips, but also because I just felt this anger that I hadn’t felt in a long time. I wasn’t caring for myself. I was trying to be everything to everyone else while not being anything for myself, and if you’ve never experienced that kind of drained, emotional fatigue, I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. Well, maybe I would for a corn chip. I kid. Kind of. The important thing that I learned here is I cannot, under any circumstances, forego self-care and I need to come up with a good regimen that I can stick to, that makes me feel good, and aids me in achieving my goals.

This year, I’ve lost around 20 pounds, give or take, depending on the day. I started running again. I started cooking more, and experimenting with different kinds of foods. I started hiking mountains, really fucking hard mountains, including one at 4:30am to watch the sun come up. I started playing soccer with a bunch of girls and fell in love with it. I wore a two piece bathing suit on a crowded beach, full of other expats. I ran my first 5k race in three years and finished under the time I wanted to finish under. I moved in with the love of my life. I joined a gym again. I hosted my first, real adult Thanksgiving dinner and cooked my own turkey. I helped stage a production of the Vagina Monologues in Daegu, a city where it has not been performed in many years.  I took countless trips throughout Korea, watched the sea part in Jindo, and looked at the Green Tea fields of Boseong. I saw a mural village in Seoul. I went to beer festivals. I helped a garden grow on the roof of a building. I watched paper lanterns release into the sky over Duryu park and went to a chicken & beer festival. I went camping multiple times. I smoked hookah, I drank good beer, I pretty much quit smoking (eh, not completely) and I haven’t bought a pack since July.  I dressed up, stayed sober, got drunk, had hangovers. I went home. I said goodbye to some important people. I said goodbye to Kentucky.

2016 wasn’t perfect, but it fucking showed me just how good my life is, and how good it can be. I am on the way to becoming the person that I want to be, even if, as I’ve said before, it feels like my progress is small and negligent. I want to lose more weight. I want to leave Korea. I want to backpack through Southeast Asia with Rob. I want to get my CELTA. I want to run a half marathon again. I know all of these things are possible and they’re not only possible, they are things that I CRAVE. They are successes and victories that I desire more than anything.

I’ve been standing in the way of myself, I’ve been prone to self-sabotage, and I’ve succeeded at times. These are not battles that will go away overnight, or maybe ever. But, as a few people I’ve been consulting with have said, I just need to “Show up.” I need to show up, do the work, and fucking get it done. I ran tonight for the first time in over a week because I’ve been sick, and my god, that run sucked. It was hard, my lungs were angry, and my legs felt tight. But, I won’t suck tomorrow. How I do today does not determine every other workout. My emotions today do not determine what I can achieve tomorrow.

If you’re reading this, know I probably love you. I probably love you more than you can ever begin to understand. I will keep loving you. Thank you for loving me and for being there for me this year.

2017 is our year.

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P.S. I just ate another tangerine.