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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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.