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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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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That’s What Two Miles Feels Like: Learning From My Run

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hello, motherfuckers.  i should probably not call you all that, but i just did because that’s how i speak and y’all should know this by now. do you want to know what those sneaky assholes at Marlboro did today? they sent me those sunglasses and THEY ARE RAD. i don’t even smoke Marlboro! it’s like a present for just existing. needless to say, it was one of the brighter moments of my life today. it’s been a bit since i’ve published a traditional text post, but i figured it was time. i felt like writing and i felt like a blog post, which ultimately led me back to my much neglected blog. i am sorry i have neglected you, blog, but you have to understand [insert random ass lame excuse]. that’s right. i am full of fucking excuses lately, and have been for quite some time. it is time for those excuses to cease. it will not be easy. i probably will not like it most of the time, but it needs to happen before i lose all of the progress that i made with weight loss, self-confidence, and control of my eating habits.

there was a point in my life when i had my health, eating and exercise both, by the balls and owned it. i was a vegan and i was working out regularly. in February, i was down to 212 pounds, which was the lightest i had been since before i can even remember. but, after mardi gras, it kind of started to spiral out from there. i started eating whatever i wanted, drinking whatever i wanted, and i lost sight of what i wanted to achieve. this downward spiral affected not only my personal relationship with myself, but my training for my half marathon as i pretty much ran 13.1 miles cold. i will never do that to myself, to my mind, or to my body again. if i am going to commit to a big race like that in the future, i will put forth the effort necessary to run the race without destroying my knees and my confidence in one fell swoop. recently, after my graduation of doom and my unavoidable unemployment, i have been experiencing what many would call “depression.” i am familiar with that term as i was diagnosed as a depressive a couple of years ago and honestly, yes. i have been depressed the past couple of weeks. coming down from a high of visiting another part of the world coupled with realizing my life wasn’t going to pan out the way i wanted it to was unbearable for a few days. i didn’t leave my bedroom unless it was to eat, which i did a lot of, honestly. i didn’t go out with my friends. i didn’t shower. i just sort of laid in bed and moped my way through my days. finally, i started to pull myself out of it and today, i can say, i feel better than i have in a couple of weeks, which is probably because i actually got a job today (OH SHIT) and… i fucking ran two miles.

i ran here.
my mom told me about this trail close to our house (because i moved back home with my parents) and because i’m scared of stray dogs and being hit by the maniac drivers down my small country roads, i hopped in my car and took a quick 5 minute drive to this neat place. there were a few inclines, but it was mostly just flat and gorgeous. perfect running platform for my first day back after 2ish months. the first 5 minutes were difficult as my body struggled to remember what running was but after that, i felt golden and while it was difficult, it was probably the most amazing run of my life. i learned some pretty critical things in the 27 minutes it took to finish 2.1 miles today and i want to share them:

  1. i am not drinking enough water. At all. Within minutes of beginning my run, my throat was parched and my body was like “WTF, KARA?” because i have not been hydrating properly. if i am serious about running again, and training for the Iron Horse in October, then i need to get back into the habit of drinking at least 100oz of water a DAY. probably more, considering i’m 6’2 and a hefty sized girl. water water water, especially in the summertime if i am running in the evening. need that h2o, bitches.
  2. my diet is FUCKED. since i’m living at home, i have been delighting in my mom’s dinners, which are healthier than a lot of foods found at restaurants. however, instead of eating one serving, i have been gorging myself on mama food instead of eating to fuel my body. i have not been working out, so the drive to eat for fuel rather than for pleasure has all but disappeared. while i am a firm believer in indulging (i mean come the fuck on) my indulgences cannot be every single day.
  3. i need to be lifting weights again and i need to stick to a schedule. my leg muscles used to be machines of destruction and right now, they’re just pathetic, especially my thighs. i have always appreciated my thighs, but when i was running regularly, they were forces to be reckoned with and i was avidly in love with them and my calves. i will have those muscles back again. i will be in love with my legs once more. this also goes for my arms. while i was dedicated to yoga, my arms were incredible. they have lost that definition, but i know it is possible to get it back again.
  4. running is a way to control my stress and yoga is a way to execute that stress into positivity. i feel incomplete without yoga; running without yoga is not the full package for me. i need to find regular yoga classes as soon as possible and get back into taking care of my mind as well as my body.
  5. this was the most crucial lesson of all: i am KARA MOTHERFUCKING LAIRSON. pretty self-explanatory, i think.

i could not stop thinking while i was running and getting lost in my thoughts was absolutely delicious and in a good way. instead of being buried under the burden of negativity, i felt positive about myself for the first time in months. i was amazed at what my body was doing for me, even after taking so much time off of running, exercise, and feeding it the foods it needs. it is time to take responsibility for the weight gain, and i have gained weight, and it is time to fall back in love with myself (thanks, Emily) instead of fighting against myself every single day. i also need to find a way to deal with my anxiety instead of letting it consume every thought i have. maybe i should go back to counseling. nothing wrong with seeking a little help when i need it. that’s what it’s there for, right?

what it comes down to, honestly, is i feel the best about myself and less hateful toward my body when i am taking care of it. i have slipped so many times in the past, but if i keep focusing how i fucked up months ago, i’ll never make time to do it tomorrow, or today, whatever the case may be. i cannot keep regretting what i did not do; instead, i need to put that energy into getting it done today. i cannot change what happened yesterday, but i sure as shit have control over what happens tomorrow. that’s what i need to remember. i am in control of what i put in my body and what i do for my body to make it the healthiest, well-oiled machine it can be. it is tired of mediocrity, friends, and so am i. stay healthy, y’all.