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

IMG_6544

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!

IMG_6524

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.

IMG_6517 (1)

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.

IMG_6528

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.

IMG_6525

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.

IMG_6560
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.

IMG_6559

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.

IMG_6546

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.

IMG_6534

I definitely drank way too much wine.

IMG_6538

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

IMG_6542

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.

IMG_6562
photo credit: nana kim @noddingnana
Advertisements

An Exercise in Bravery

IMG_6027

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.

IMG_6084

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.

img_6148.jpg

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.

IMG_6395

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.”

IMG_6259

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.

IMG_6138

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.

IMG_6195

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.

IMG_6353

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.”

IMG_6367

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.

IMG_6376

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.

IMG_6431

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.

IMG_6276

 

Progress Does Not Happen Overnight

IMG_5722

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.

newbodywhodis.png

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.

ugh

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:

IMG_5870

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.

IMG_5748

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.

IMG_5811

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.

IMG_5855

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.

IMG_5853

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.

IMG_5884

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.

IMG_5876

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

IMG_3859.JPG

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

IMG_3890.JPG

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

img_3885

 

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.

IMG_3895.JPG

 

P.S. I just ate another tangerine.

The Winter Rut is Real, Y’all

img_3781

As most of you know, especially if you live in South Korea, the winter has officially set in, and to be quite blunt, I fucking hate it. My nose is already preparing for the annual run of the blood out of my nasal cavities because it’s so fucking dry, my skin is already sloughing off of my shins, and I really loathe putting on a coat and scarf just to step outside for a few minutes. I know some of you will argue your position– you’ll make some fucking bullshit claim about how winter is so wonderful because of the holidays and snow and fires in fireplaces and eggnog and Christmas trees and sweaters AND I AM NOT LISTENING TO YOU. I mean, there are good things about the holidays, such as making Thanksgiving dinners and drinking 15 bottles of wine with your friends…

img_3711

But, there is absolutely nothing better than an afternoon on the beach in a bathing suit drinking a cold beer in the middle of the summer. There is nothing better than wearing tank tops, sandals, and maxi dresses. There is nothing better than the sun setting after 8:30pm, and if you say differently, you’re a monster. I’m sorry you had to find out this way. But yes, you’re a monster.

Anyway, there is another major reason I hate winter, and the sun setting at good ol’ 5:11pm (which is 19 minutes before I even teach my first class, by the way), and that is the winter slump. It is real, it is damaging, and even at 29, I am still trying to figure out how to navigate my way through the winter months without going absolutely batshit insane. I am one of those lucky people who suffers from S.A.D., and man, those people who named it really thought they were fuckin’ hilarious, eh? So, the winter months really wreak havoc on my sleeping, my general mood, and my overall motivation. I started noticing it a couple of  weeks ago– the downturn in my moods, the need to sleep for more than 8 hours at night, and the compulsion to eat everything in my line of view. I made some attempts to move forward in my life, like going to Suseong Lake and walking around, which actually helped quite a bit.

img_3728

Suseong Lake is an absolutely gorgeous part of Daegu and being in the sunshine, the slightly warmer than frigid temperatures, and getting my heart rate up was something I desperately needed to keep myself sane. The problem, though, is that this motivation has been dwindling as December has started. I went to the gym last week and ran a 5k on Monday, and outside of that, I did little to no physical activity during the week. I mean, I walked around downtown, but that was it. I didn’t play soccer because it was canceled, I didn’t go back to the gym for weight lifting or more running, and I certainly didn’t stick to my goal to wake up before 11am every day.

This weekend, I planned on having a sober weekend, but one beer turned into two turned into 6am downtown, and while I don’t necessarily regret it, it is an indication that I am slipping in my dedication to myself and to the higher goals that I have for my body. I woek up on Sunday with my hangover, and while I got out and about and saw some friends, I managed to drink three more beers that evening. I am trying not to punish myself– I didn’t get shitshow drunk, but I definitely had more than I intended when I woke up on Sunday.

Monday was probably the final straw for me, I think. I stirred when Rob’s alarm clock went off at 11am, but I felt like I couldn’t force myself to wake up. Then next time I looked at my clock, it was 2:30. I managed to get myself out of bed, shower, and get to the area where my job is located. I bought a crappy Paris Baguette sandwich and a coffee, went to work, felt miserable, came home, ate some more bullshit, felt even more miserable, and tried to force myself to make a plan for today. Well, I woke up late again today. I almost chalked it up as a failure, but instead of allowing myself to be down, I went to check out a gym that my friend Caitlin recommended that was, apparently, right outside of my job. Y’all, this was the best decision I have made in recent memory.

I went in, and I was immediately sure I wanted to join the gym. Everyone was super friendly, even though there was an obvious language barrier. So, I paid for one month, which included the use of the gym and the classes, which includes yoga, spinning, and other classes that will be beneficial for cross-training while I’m running. They have a sauna, a shower, free weights, treadmills ALL OF IT. I went back tonight after work to try out the spinning class AND IT WAS SO AWESOME.

img_3777

It was definitely difficult. The whole class was conducted standing– there were no songs where we were sitting, climbing hills, or any of the other aspects of spin class I was familiar with coming into this class. It was like a combination of k-pop dancing, infused with strobe lights, shouting “aye!” at different points throughout the class, and a very enthusiastic instructor who introduced me to the whole class. They clapped for me. The whole environment was so welcoming and I am so proud of myself for doing something that seemed kind of intimidating at first, because doing anything in this country can be intimidating, and the payoff was huge. The gym is across the street from work, so I can take my gym bag and go before work, after work, anytime. I AM SO PLEASED WITH MY DECISION.

img_3779

My ability to pick myself back up after a week or so unmotivated has also forced me to reflect on this person that I am now. There were so many times that I started trying to get in shape before and quit when things got hard, or when I feel off of the fitness or food wagon. For some reason, this seems more permanent. It’s like I finally understand that I need physical exercise to keep my brain happy. My food intake is still questionable, but I know all things come together in time. I am not perfect, I can’t expect myself to be perfect. I have to be gentle and understanding, even when I am ready to rage against myself. As stated in my previous blog, my self-hate has no place in becoming a healthy person.

I have changed. My body has changed. My mind has changed. I will continue to change. I just need to keep reminding myself how far I’ve come, instead of looking forward and being overwhelmed by how far I still have to go. I just have to look at the below picture to see the difference.

wow

Keep moving forward, y’all. It’s all we can do.

 

Health Cannot Be Rooted in Self-Hate

It is not a secret that I am not kind to myself. This is an aspect of my personality that I have been working on throughout the past year. Some days, I am better at it. Other days, I find myself in the center of a hate spiral that has been building for days. One of the things I’ve learned about self-improvement is that it does not occur overnight. You don’t have an epiphany and then everything changes and you never doubt yourself again. I wish that was how it works, but it’s not. It takes time, it takes kindness, and it definitely does not benefit from self-hate.

I have let self-hate drive a large part of my life for a very long time. I have allowed it to convince me that I am not worthy of many things. I have allowed it to convince me that the love of my life, who loves me very much, will eventually run away when he figures out I’m actually not that smart. I have allowed self-hate to permeate every single part of my life and sometimes, it’s shocking when I find it hidden somewhere in my life I thought was safe from my own negative, and often vile, self-talk. Exercising and health are apparently not safe from this self-hate and I witnessed it in myself last week.

There is a woman in Daegu that I have grown to dislike simply because she’s beautiful, thin, and well-liked. This goes against everything in my feminist repertoire. But, it is important that I understand and address what it is so I can move beyond it. But, this woman has been present when I’ve been disgusted with myself– disgusted with how fat I am or how gross I feel. It’s comparable to being back in 9th grade and thinking all of my problems would be solved if I was just thin and pretty like other girls. I compare myself to this person constantly and it’s not healthy. She’s done nothing to me. She’s a perfectly lovely person. But, I have allowed myself to make her the villain and that’s just not fair to her or to me.

I truly grasped the gravity of this situation when, last week, I was running intervals on the treadmill in a gym. I was struggling through one of the last intervals of my workout (which was 40 minutes long, by the way) and instead of giving myself a good inner pep talk about how I can do this, I automatically chastised myself and thought “Well, she could do this. If you did this more, you would look like her.” I finished the interval, but I hated myself. That is not the point of exercise and it is definitely not the kind of health I’m looking for– I don’t want my health to be rooted in hating someone else, or hating myself. That’s not health. That’s punishing myself for not looking like someone else. It’s just another way to tear myself down.

I want to run because it makes me feel good when I’ve done something difficult. I want to run because with every step I take, my heart and legs and body are getting stronger. I don’t want to run to look like someone else or to accomplish what it is to be normally beautiful. I don’t want to push myself through a hard run so I’ll be thin like her or her or her. I want to push myself through a hard run because I want to accomplish things that are hard. I can do hard things.

If my health is rooted in self-hate, then it is not healthy. It is not for me. I want my health to be rooted in a desire to maintain the best lifestyle possible, to keep my brain happy, to keep my lungs open. Using someone else to fill the void of self-hate will not work for me, and I am adding it to the list of things that will no longer stand in my life. I want to be all versions of healthy, not just the outward version. I don’t want to dislike people simply because they’re thin and beautiful as much as I don’t want people to assume I’m a sloth because I’m overweight. My health cannot take shape at the expense of hating myself, or someone else. It won’t sustain itself.

I had a great week this week after the treadmill incident, after I saw what could happen to me if I allowed that kind of mindset to build and grown into a monster. I was gentler with myself. I danced in my kitchen to The Fitness Marshall’s sweat set. I won trivia with my team. I played the best game of soccer I’ve ever played– proof I am improving mentally and physically. I’ve enjoyed the autumn sunshine walking to work. I ran 5k on Saturday. On Sunday, I got up early, hangover free, and hiked a mountain.

IMG_3640.JPG

I’ve been, for the most part, feeding my body with good foods. I’ve been seeking creative outlets. I’ve been keeping up with my bullet journal and it has helped so much. I’ve been planning with Rob for the future. Rob and I cleaned the hell out of our apartment. I didn’t drink all week. I’ve been trying to look forward at things I can change and control instead of obsessing over the past– over things I ate, runs I didn’t do, or anything else I can find to dismantle my progress. I have control over the future. I can change and grow and bloom and break free of the bullshit chains I’ve placed on myself. I am not weak. I am not a person who hates others because of their appearance. I refuse to be that person. I refuse to be molded and hardened by a society that wants to tear people down because of how they don’t feel or look or think. I won’t.

IMG_3643.JPG

If yesterday showed me one thing, one great thing, it is that I am fucking capable of anything, even if it feels like the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I’m on fire. The only person who can stop me is me and I will not be stopped.

Have a great week, y’all.

The Blur of October: Starting Over

img_3419Hey, y’all. It’s been a hot second and a half, but I figured it’s about time to write an update about how my life is going, well or otherwise. It hasn’t been going well, but being honest has always been one of my main tenants for keeping a weight loss blog, or an emotional blog. Since September, my life has been kind of a clusteruck whirlwind, and while I am tempted to be angry with myself for how far I’ve allowed myself to backslide, self-love is probably the most important in times of disappointment.

In the middle of September, I took a two week trip to Kentucky to see my family and to experience Kentucky as it turned to fall. Unfortunately for me, it stayed fuckall hot while I was there, but being in Kentucky was simply amazing. I ate all of the food, drank all of the craft beer, and thoroughly enjoyed my time with my friends. I managed to keep away from cigarettes, I ran a couple of times, but at the end of the trip, I rolled my ankle at a restaurant and put myself out of running commission for well over a week. It was then I sort of knew that I was probably out of the running for the Ulsan Half Marathon, which was my ultimate goal.

By the way, that race was yesterday and I didn’t run it.

After I got back, I had a much harder time of adjusting to Korea again than I had before. I didn’t sleep well; when I slept, it was either from 2:00am-3:30am or from 11am-3:30pm. I was living on sleeping pills, I was extremely depressed, and I started feeling like I was going crazy. October was a hard month for me, but in addition, October is also a party month here. Every single weekend, there was some sort of shenanigan happening– birthdays, award ceremonies, weddings. You name it, October had it. Before I get into the logistics of October, and my feelings throughout the month, I want to preface this with a statement: October was fun. I spent time with the greatest friends in the world and a lot of good, lovely things were part of my life in October.

img_3598

But, instead of counteracting my depression with exercise and eating well, I allowed myself to totally abandon my goals and slip into a place that has proven very hard to escape. Instead of exercising, eating well, and confronting my issues, I turned back to one of my old habits, which was drinking my issues away. I ran less than 5 times in the month of October. I ate bullshit. I drank Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, Wednesdays.I had gone 90 days without a cigarette and in a moment of self-destruction, I caved and had one. I spent a lot of October hating myself, and, as a consequence, my depression, and the side effects, got worse.

img_3454

I couldn’t focus. I shied away from my closest people. I tried to keep my problems in my head instead of allowing my friends around me in, to comfort me. I couldn’t find justification for how I felt. Wasn’t I happy? Didn’t I have everything? But, depression doesn’t work that way. It doesn’t show up when things are going poorly and disappear when things are going my way.

I spent October feeling like a fat failure but without any sort of gumption to change or fix the way I was acting or living. I had reached a point of not giving a flying fuck about myself again. A lot of my unhappiness was in the notion that I wasn’t running my half, I had a cigarette, I drank too much, and I punished myself. I punished myself by mentally letting go and fully engaging in the hate cycle and when I had enough, I was so determined to get through it on my own that I didn’t trust my closest people to help me through it. I live in a vicious world of high standards and a low threshold of self forgiveness.

After many conversations with my best friends, and after many evenings spent listless, I am starting to drag myself, albeit kicking and screaming, out of this dark place. I started keeping track of my bullet journal again. I’ve started making food in my house again. I’ve started sleeping at regular intervals again, communicating again, and tonight, I ran again. It was hard.

It was so tempting afterward,  after 2.2 miles felt terrible and like death, and I had run almost 7 miles before America, to tear into myself, to tear myself down with venom and rage because I was not what I was 2 months ago. But, I didn’t. One of my main focus points in the next few weeks, is to gently and calmly start reconstructing my schedule. Slowly, but surely, putting the pieces back into place where I know I will be the most successful. I am not a punching bag for myself; I would not tolerate the kind of toxic behavior I force myself to endure, from myself, from someone else.

It’s time to rebuild, even if it is grueling and hard. It’s time to take care of myself, even when the desire to collapse is at its strongest. It’s also time to love myself with a kind of ferocity I’ve never had before and realize now, more than ever, that my weight does not define who I am. A bad run does not make me a failure. Eating a carbohydrate does not mean that I am weak. I am not a perfect person, I am insanely flawed, and for fuck’s sake, that’s okay.

October, you were rough on me. You were fun, drunk, and an absolute blur. But, it’s time to take up the reigns of self-care and get back to it.

img_3420

November, show me what you got.