Never Have I Ever (Until Now): Chapter 2 – Untitled

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Never Have I Ever (Until Now): Chapter 2 – Untitled

Disclaimer: Five years ago,  I set off on a journey that I never anticipated would change my life in such an incredible way. The goal was to try 52 hobbies in 52 weeks. At the onset, I had intended to write a book compiling the experiences and sharing them. I wasn’t sure at the time if the book would be a quirky coffee-table accessory or if something else might evolve. As it turns out, I never published the book, but I did write most of it. Over time, I’ve gone back to it, time-and-time again. With the five year anniversary of the project, I’ve decided that it’s time to start sharing it: One chapter at a time.

This is Chapter 2.
For the intro to the book, head HERE!
For Chapter 1 (Vulnerability) click HERE!
For the original Hobby post this chapter digs into, visit HERE!

The truth is that sometimes the only thing more vulnerable than looking someone else in the eye is looking yourself in the eye. Before comedy—before the hobby year, I went an entire year without looking at myself in the mirror—without seeing myself. This isn’t just a poetic way of saying I was insecure. I didn’t even own a full length mirror and only occasionally would I check my outfit before I left for work by using Photobooth on my Macbook. When brushing my teeth or getting ready in the bathroom, I’d only take quick glimpses, but I truly stopped really looking at myself. Some days I’d go as far as avoiding my reflection in store front windows and car bumpers. I was terrified of the person who might be looking back at me—and I was also terrified of whatever flaws I might see. My self-confidence was at an all time low. I’d break down in dressing rooms—surrounded by mirrors. I stopped shopping—because I didn’t want to have to go through the desperation of wanting to escape before I even tried to slide on a new pair of jeans. Quite frankly, I just didn’t want to look at a reflection that would stare back at me with disappointment.

 

In 2012, I was 5’2” and what felt…chubby. Currently–I’m near 180 pounds. Let’s face it, by definition, I am not “sexy.” I’ve never been meant for the runway, I’ve never been able to sport a bikini, and I couldn’t even imagine gracing the cover of Cosmo.

My abs aren’t defined, my legs are stumpy, and my hair is flat. I am convinced that if pictures in the dictionary matched words, my mug shot would be the perfect candidate for “average,” and in a thesaurus: “your plain old Jane.”

Until my senior year of college, I was constantly fearful of going to group gym classes. Television commercials and infomercials always showed slender women in spandex who knew the choreography and routines better than I knew my menstrual cycle. Simply put, it was intimidating. I never wanted to go into a gym class and be the bigger girl who just didn’t get it. When I moved to New York City, I tried my first zumba class—and walked out in the middle. These gym-goers were fit and slender—and I was uncoordinated, clumsy, and chubby.

But I had decided, going into my yearlong adventure that I was tired of being simple. Flat. Adorable. That I was exhausted of hearing how lovely my dimples were—how wonderful my smile was—how cute my giggly laugh was. That I was tired of hearing the words “you’re just perfect the way you are,” “you are so cute.” The truth was—I really just wanted to be sexy. So I jumped into the year–or one might say swung into the year– with a quest to channel my inner Marilyn—and my deep dark Hepburn.

 

That brought me to my next dilemma…I didn’t know what sexiness was—or how to obtain it. For so many years I had just been intimidated by the thought that I would never achieve true sexiness.

I began to question if sexy was what I saw on all the magazine covers? If it was puckering my mouth up into a kissy face, or opening it just slightly enough while winking one eye?

Did sexy mean sipping on a cosmopolitan in a short black cocktail dress, dressing my eyes in dark mascara, and painting my lips a luscious red?

Did it mean buying a full-length mirror—rather than using the Photobooth application on my Macbook?

I googled “sexy hobbies”and regretted the search instantly as several hundred links to porn sites infiltrated my computer. So I put a condom on my search and revised it to “How to be sexy,” hoping that it’d be a bit more…safe.

I was drowning in the Internet. Advertisements were popping up right and left. Mass-marketing rhetoric on “sexiness.” What perfumes to spritz. What leggings to rock. What diet to go on.

My mind tried to understand everything I was seeing, everything I was reading. It was becoming very clear, very quickly, that sexiness was a math code that I couldn’t quite crack–that I might never crack. I tried to work through the calculations, but I found myself, instead, just talking in circles: “I’ve never done any of this stuff–This isn’t me at all–Is this what it takes? Could I only be sexy if I did everything opposite of how I already do it?”

And then I saw it—the piece of the calculation I was missing. A woman was staring at me from the computer screen. She was elegant. Flexible. And she had both her legs wrapped around a pole. I stared at the advertisement for what felt like hours.

“Pole dancing,” I said out loud to myself. “I could try pole dancing.”  “This could be my answer to sexiness.” I looked back at the advertisement again. Yes, this was the way to find my inner sexiness–or outer sexiness–and this was the way to truly start my year of firsts and prove I was committed to the new, the novel, and for me, the unexpected.

When I first told my best friend that I would be signing up for a pole dancing class, she looked at me, and burst into laughter. “Please, please, please…video tape it,” she begged. “I need to see this.” While her initial laughter made me uncomfortable–I was after all, on a serious quest, I realized her laughter was warranted.

She had known me for years, and to her, everything I was telling her about what I was setting out for–and to do–with this first hobby was opposite of who I was—or at least everything the childhood and teen version of me was. In high school, my hair was a bit messy, I wore my athletic sweats to school and I was always talking about the big game coming up–whether it be field hockey, basketball or softball. I wasn’t sexy. 

As I talked through the pole dancing thoughts with my friend, I couldn’t help but to laugh at myself, too. The truth was at the time the closest I had ever come to a pole was on an elementary school field trip to the fire station. However, I also didn’t want my own laughter to make it seem like this was something to take lightly. The reality was that I was on a quest, and this was my initiation to the year. If I couldn’t take this activity seriously—how would I make it through fifty-one more weeks of new terrifying, exhilarating, sometimes also self-deprecating activities? The answer was simple—I couldn’t. So instead of letting myself go down the path of deflecting by laughing it off or making too much fun of myself, I got down to business.

I began researching pole dancing facilities in New York City, and very quickly came across Body and Pole on 27th Street. The company advertised a “Pole Dancing Virgins” class on the front of their website, and so I thought what a perfect way to pop this cherry. I didn’t care what the price was. I submitted my Visa card number and sat back. I closed my eyes and basked in the moment. This was it: I was on my way to becoming …. sexy.

Then it dawned on me. What the hell does one wear to a pole dancing class?

As I thought of all the pole dancing videos I had seen on YouTube, I suddenly felt ill thinking of what I would have to wear—nearly nothing.

I went back to the Body and Pole website and decided to see if they had recommendations, and they did: booty shorts and a tank. I had never sported booty shorts in my life. I ruffled through the fine print on the site to see if I could get my money back. “This isn’t what I signed up for,” I yelled into my pillow and panicked.

But it was what I signed up for, and in the moments that followed, I made peace with the decision. I also decided that it was time for a shopping trip.

The next day, I set out on a search for the perfect outfit, hoping I would find something I’d feel comfortable enough in. I started at the mirrors of the dressing room. Nothing was right. The blue booty shorts came up my thighs too much. The black ones gave me a wedgie. In the orange ones, I had a muffin top. I began to be reminded of all the years I avoided the mirror. I was ready to avoid it again.

As I hastily handed the clerk my stack of clothing, I turned toward the men’s department. Maybe booty shorts wasn’t the answer. …Maybe something else was.

I walked to the men’s underwear section and located the boxer briefs.

I laughed… “I guess….maybe this works??? I mean…I guess a lot of women feel sexy in their man’s clothing the morning after….?”

I pulled a red pair of boxer briefs off the rack, along with three back up pairs, and a black tank top from the women’s department. Then I darted for the changing room, and threw on the red boxer briefs and black tank.

Begrudgingly, I turned toward the mirror. But then something changed….I wasn’t repulsed by the figure in front of me. Instead, I felt comfortable….and cool. This wasn’t anyway I’d felt in front of a mirror in a long time. I took a moment, and was grateful to have found something. However, as I went to change, I decided I wasn’t quite ready to put my street clothes back on quite yet. I wanted to indulge in this moment, so I immediately slipped the guy’s underwear back on, threw the tank top back over my head, and began posing in front of the mirror. Smooching my lips together, winking, shrugging my shoulders, waving my hair wildly. Then I started firing off mirror selfie after selfie. I was in the dressing room for over a a half hour. I was already beginning to feel sexier—and I hadn’t even started the class yet. “Good,” I thought. “This is fun. This is how it should be.”

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Just one day later I headed to the Body and Pole studio, and prepared to get my sexy on.

As I walked out of the center’s changing room, I realized that many of the girls waiting for the class were much, much prettier than me, and I rushed into the bathroom to clear my nerves.

After calming myself down, I headed into class—red boxer briefs and all.

I grabbed a mat and placed it in the back of the room. As soon as the teacher walked in, she laughed and said “Why are you all so nervous? Move your mats to the front.” Then suddenly, with no way out of it, I was in the front row—staring at myself in a mirror. At this moment, I wanted to run as far from this spot as I possibly could. But the door was too far away, and the warm up was starting. And I was already behind, trying to catch up on the stretches. What I learned quickly about group classes like this, is that the instructors don’t pause for your self-esteem: That’s on you to work out.

As we moved through the warm up, I began to feel even more uncomfortable. The early instructions involved a lot of pelvic movement, hip rolling, and awkward discomfort. Suddenly, with the full mirror in front of me, I realized I wasn’t looking at the woman I had been photo shooting in the dressing room the day before, I was looking at woman full of imperfection. I noticed where my flabs were as I stretched my body from side to side. I was nervous that this case of self-consciousness would continue for the entire class.

All of this was just a prelude, of course, to our first moments on the pole—our first moments of real sexiness. It was just a half hour into class that we began to make our first moves on the pole, leading the way with our hips, extending our arms, and pointing our toes.

“It’s a body roll—not a pole hump,” our teacher yelled. “There is nothing sexy about pole humping,” she laughed.

I watched as she smoothly and seductively grasped the pole, rolled, spun, and turned. I was inspired. “Hot. Damn. That’s freaking sexy,” I whispered.

I looked at the mirror and made a kissy face as I went to take a spin.

I then fell off the pole trying to complete my turn, bruising my knees. I looked back into the mirror. This wasn’t sexy. This was hard. This was terrifying.

But while I’ve never been sexy—I’ve also never been a quitter, so just like a horseback rider gets back on her horse—I jumped right back on that pole. ‘Sexy is painful,’ I thought, and nailed the next spin I did.

“How we feeling?” The instructor yelled to pump us up.

Giggling, I responded, “Sexxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxy.”

She laughed, and headed to the front of the classroom, and took a moment to explain that pole dancing can be anything you want it to be. It can be sexy, gymnastic, aerobic, athletic, a way of getting fit, a try at something new. Sexiness, she started to describe, is something we feel inside ourselves. It’s not the way we dressed or the faces we make. Feeling sexy is a state of mind.

And she was right. In the hour and a half that I stretched my body, popped my hips, and shook my booty, I had felt more “sexy” than I ever had in my life. Was it because I would have sexually aroused another person if he or she had stood within ten feet of me? Likely, no. (Trust me: I watched the video of myself doing some of the moves.) But had I played dress-up, again, like a little kid? Yes. Had I taken every part of the class seriously? Yes. And had I done something I loved to do (try something brand new and unusual)? Yes. Had I been anything other than me? No. And that made me feel like the sexiest person in the room.

On Coming Out and Everything that Goes with That

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On Coming Out and Everything that Goes with That

Recently, I received an email to create a casting video on my coming out story–as well as some of the struggles faced with coming out, if there was anyone I still had to come out to, and if I hoped to inspire others with my story.

In having the opportunity to sit down and talk to my camera–the way I had so many times before for the Hobby Hoarder–I felt at home. I also felt as though I was doing something I needed to do.

Within the video, I share a college story, crying in my dorm hall, my first kiss with a girl, the relief of having friends who supported me, and the sadness I have for others who may not live in a safe enough place to share their own stories, or to be exactly who they are.

With Pride month having just ended, I thought I’d share this video with you; however, I like to remember and remind people, that for many of us, Pride isn’t just a weekend, or a month, it’s a lifetime.

Consider this my first foray back into vlogging.

Love. is. Love.

Never Have I Ever (Until Now): Chapter 1 – Vulnerability

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Disclaimer: Five years ago,  I set off on a journey that I never anticipated would change my life in such an incredible way. The goal was to try 52 hobbies in 52 weeks. At the onset, I had intended to write a book compiling the experiences and sharing them. I wasn’t sure at the time if the book would be a quirky coffee-table accessory or if something else might evolve. As it turns out, I never published the book, but I did write most of it. Over time, I’ve gone back to it, time-and-time again. With the five year anniversary of the project, I’ve decided that it’s time to start sharing it: One chapter at a time.

Never Have I Ever (Until Now): Chapter 1 – Vulnerability

 “Are you nervous?”

I turn around. Standing there is a 4-foot 11-inch young woman.

“No I’m not….”

“Really—cause I’m shitting my pants,” I joke.

“Okay…maybe just a little. Should we go buy diapers?” The young woman adds.

We share a laugh, and strike a short conversation.

It’s October 11, 2011. I’m about to do my first stand up comedy show, ever. As it turns out I’m also about to do something else for the first time as an adult: I’m feeling like I’m about to shit my pants.

Even if I didn’t do my first official hobby until February of 2012—this is really when I felt my life take a change for the better.

Prior to beginning my true quest, I met a stranger who took me under his wing. Who I warily let into my mind and into my heart, who I let see me struggle and who I let see me frustrated. In short: who I really let see me. By no surprise, I met Justin, a New York City comic, through the internet. After sarcastically responding to something I had posted on someone else’s wall, Justin apologized and told me he was a comic, that I shouldn’t take anything he said so seriously.

I laughed it off, but not before responding to him by saying, “comedy, eh?” That’s something I’d like to try one day.”

He responded by telling me that if I really wanted to try stand up comedy, he’d put me on his show. Though hesitant, I said, “Yes, let’s do it.”

I learned that Justin produced and hosted a show on Tuesdays at Gotham Comedy Club, so I bought a ticket to his next show—which happened to be August 26. This day also happened to be the day that a rare earthquake struck New York City. Little did I know that as the ground shook, my whole life was about get shaken up itself.

Following his set, I approached Justin and introduced myself. His blue eyes were welcoming, and he had a giant grin on his face–“Hey Libs! What’d you think? You still want to do your set.”

I hesitated, “Yeah…I think I do.”

“Great, we will write together—it’ll be awesome!”

From there, we were inseparable. We met in coffee shops for two months and spent hours crafting material for my first gig, a nine minute set in the Gotham Comedy Club basement lounge. Through our meetings, Justin helped me mold my jokes.

He taught me how to write jokes in order to surprises audiences: “Here try this. Set the joke up so that you look like you’re going one direction—then go the opposite.”

Well that’s not much different than my every day life….I thought out loud.

He laughed.

“Let’s take a look at one of your jokes….”

This was my chance….

“Some people say the best things in life are free—friends, family—that’s great. But I don’t believe that. I do not believe the BEST things in life are free—and here’s one reason: herpes.”

He taught me how to cut out the junk: “take out anything that’s extraneous. Keep everything short. You’ll lose your audience with too many words.”

He taught me the importance of including gestures and hand motions to make a joke come alive.

And he taught me to slow down: “Every time you think you’re doing your joke slowly—slow down even more.

Above all, he taught me how to appear as though I’d been a seasoned comic, not a beginner. And that lesson started with confidence.

Justin explained that if I really wanted to appear confident on stage, the first thing I had to do was take the microphone stand and put it behind me. This way nothing would stand between the audience and myself. He then asked me to perform stand up jokes in front of him—a one-man audience. And then when he had friends around, he challenged me to do my set for them with a fake microphone.

Justin not only taught me confidence and comedy, he taught me how to be comfortable with the uncomfortable, how to stand up in front of someone and let them see me—really see me—something I struggled with for a long time. Mostly, because for many years I was unable to see me either.

Through one-on-one get-togethers with Justin, and through letting him see me in some of my most vulnerable states, I began learning how to let people in. And then I began to let myself in—to accept and to love myself. And even though sitting down to learn comedy was the prologue to The Hobby Hoarder year, the process of learning the craft, of sitting down with a stranger, of letting someone else see me, and of letting myself see me, opened my eyes to the world of opportunities out there. Justin also reminded me of how good it felt to laugh and how good it felt to make others laugh as well. In a way, stand up comedy was the spark plug to the hobby years—helping me to find clarity—helping me to focus my attention on the physical world rather than the internal world I had felt trapped in.

On October 11, 2011, just as Justin had instructed me, I took the microphone by one hand, and then placed the stand behind me, stepping into the spotlight.

Little did I know, this moment was just the beginning of an unpredictable journey ahead. This comedy show was my boarding pass for the flight I didn’t even know I wanted – or needed – to take; my permission to fly; to face all my fears; starting with my biggest fear of all: Facing myself.

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Never Have I Ever (Until Now): The Prologue

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Five years ago, this last week, I set off on a journey that I never anticipated would change my life in such an incredible way. The goal was to try 52 hobbies in 52 weeks. At the onset, I had intended to write a book compiling the experiences and sharing them. I wasn’t sure at the time if the book would be a quirky coffee-table accessory or if something else might evolve. As it turns out, I never published the book, but I did write most of it. Over time, I’ve gone back to it, time-and-time again. With the five year anniversary of the project, I’ve decided that it’s time to start sharing it: One chapter at a time.

Never Have I Ever (Until Now) – The Prologue

Find your passion and run with it. Don’t look back. Thank the people who call you crazy–anyone who’s crazy enough to pursue their dreams is strong enough to achieve them too.

An Intro

“You really need to quit something,” My supervisor tells me as she walks by my office door. “You’re taking on too much.”

My supervisor is right–I’m taking on a lot.

It’s January of 2012. I’m an associate television producer for the City of New York who has recently, in her free time, started writing and performing stand up comedy, perfecting her drawing skills, training for her second half-marathon, and doing photography with a digital SLR. And now I am signing myself up for an acting workshop.

My day planner is filling up faster than a doctor’s office during flu season.

My mom would tell you that I was just as active as a kid as I am when my supervisor tells me that I need to quit something. When I was younger, I played field hockey, baseball, soccer, basketball, and softball. I’d attempted the clarinet, I’d tip-toed through a ballet class, I’d sailed in a lake, I’d canoed across a pond, and I kayaked down a river. My parents would rush me from one athletic practice to another; from one gym and on to the next. I was relentless. I never stopped.

But then I grew up, and my willingness to try new things suddenly came to a halt. For several years, I was in a funk. I had fallen into depression and I had forgotten how to live life fully and completely. I would say that I wanted to try something and then I’d never try it. I’d fear failure or judgment from my peers. And instead, I’d mope on my couch about how I’d never be good at anything. I’d lost my sense of wonder. I had lost my yearning for learning new things. I had lost my smile, my laughter, my sense of joy. I had concerned myself so much with destinations that I had forgotten that what really mattered was the journey.

With the new activities, the stand up comedy, the drawing, the photography, and the acting, I felt that I was finally opening myself up to a life that I had been letting slip to the way side. And now, suddenly, I felt as though the progress I was making with the activities was being threatened as my supervisor told me that I needed to quit something.

I didn’t want to quit anything. I didn’t want to limit my life to going to work, coming home, cooking (or getting take out) and going to sleep. I didn’t want to experience living solely from the couch in my artist loft.

So instead of heeding my supervisor’s advice, in February of 2012, I set out on a yearlong quest in the hope of navigating my way to a life that extended beyond my 9-5 job and beyond the sadness I had sulked in for years. I decided that in opposition to quitting anything, I instead wanted to try one new activity or hobby each week for an entire year.

I started to brainstorm names for the quest and came up with “The Hobby Hoarder.” I used my lunch to draw logos on blank pieces of paper and to write lists of hobbies or activities that I could try that I had never tried before. I hadn’t even started the project and I was beaming with excitement.

Over the next couple of weeks, I continued to brainstorm on the year, and began telling people what I was going to do. As I sat down to coffee with a friend, she said, “So you are going to live like you are dying.”

My eyes brightened. “No. I’m going to live like I am living!”

The truth is that I don’t believe we should live as if we are dying. Instead, I think we should live each day as though it’s one of our firsts: full of excitement and ambition, full of curiosity, full of fear, full of imagination, and full of wonder, full of an openness toward whatever comes our way—that’s right—we should live each day like it’s our first.

For so long, I had forgotten what firsts felt like. When we are young, our firsts are celebrated with smiles and applause and sometimes balloons. First step. First word. First hit in tee-ball. First A+. But somewhere between the time we share our first kiss and the time we hit our twenties, we lose our thirst for the sensation we feel when we experience something for the first time. Firsts can make us realize what we are passionate about: Maybe you’ve never taken a dance class before but when you do you figure out that you’re meant to be the next Beyonce. Maybe you’ve never swung from a trapeze before, but that first time you do, you realize you’re meant to be in the circus. Or maybe you’ve never piloted a plane before, but then you do and you discover that you were always meant to fly.

Firsts can make life worth living. But when we hit a certain age, it’s almost as if we forget to let ourselves experience those firsts. We get caught in “Busy traps” (NyTimes) and “life takes over.” But that’s not true. Life doesn’t take over: Work takes over—financial restraints take over. Think about the last time someone asked you to do something and you said you couldn’t. What was your excuse? If you’re without children was it work? Was it money? Life clearly does not take over. If anything, life takes a backseat ride.

Too many times, we get so caught up in our daily routines and our jobs that the only thing we concern ourselves with when we get home is kicking back.

But that’s not how life’s supposed to be—not at all. Life is supposed to be enjoyable. Life is supposed to be full of challenges—and then exceeding our expectations of those challenges. Life is supposed to be full of fear and overcoming that fear. It is supposed to be about saying I’d love to do that and then actually doing it. Surprisingly life is supposed to be about living.

I hope that before you continue reading this book, you’ll step away. You’ll grab a pen and a paper—and you’ll start writing down everything you want to try this year—that you’ll make your own quest—to live.

And if you haven’t stepped away yet, and have disobeyed my only wish, then welcome! Strap on your seat belts, make sure your seats are in their upright position, understand that the only emergency exit is to live your own life—and that it’s now time to take flight. Literally.

All Aboard.

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Sunchasing

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It’s Friday, January 2nd. The sun is sinking slowly through the sky. I’ve set out to catch the sunset yet every view I’m finding is obstructed.

“Will I make it in time?” “Will I miss the sunset?” “How many minutes do I have”

The questions are rushing through my mind.

I come across a gate.

The gate is open so I invite myself in.

I can feel myself getting closer to the sun… There’s a fence– blocking the way down to the water … But it doesn’t meet the ground. I take in my surroundings – no one is around. I slip under the chain links .

“Oh my goodness.”

I take a deep breath. I’m greeted with a view of the city I’ve not quite taken in before. Immediately to my right is the Williamsburg Bridge- a giant in the sky next to me.

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In the distance is a clear shot of the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges- parallel to a stunning view of the World Trade Center.

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I can feel the temperature slowly dropping.

I grip my camera.

My hands are beginning to lose feeling. I left my gloves behind for the day. An amateur photographer’s mistake.

But I feel somewhat prepared for this:

I remember back to the first drive on our road trip. It’s sometime between 4 and 430am. David and Kim are just waking up. We are crossing into Virginia – and the sun will be rising soon enough. Without fear- without doubt- and in total agreement we decide that our goal is to catch the sunrise- it’s our first real day all together and we want it to literally start at the crack of dawn. This census also sets the tone for the trip.

At this point, David has switched to the driver seat. I’ve switched to the passenger seat. I’m googling frantically for a spot. “Will we miss it?”

The question echoes in my mind.

We are in Fredericksburg, approaching a battle ground up on a hill…

“That’s the spot,” we all agree. It’s cold then; like it is now. I’ve got a leather jacket on; a silly yellow hat and some sweatpants. But I don’t feel the cold. I feel a sense of pride; a sense of excitement – a sense that warms me up: a sense that keeps me going.

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Now, I’m warming up as I snap photos of the current sunset in New York. The memories make me smile. What’s ahead makes me smile.

The road trip ignited a different perspective in me:

“Breathe.”
“Slow down.”
“Thank the sun.”

Throughout the trip, we came to a common agreement that when we could- we would fight to see the sun set- or rise. We’d go miles out of the way; cross bridges to different states; and wake up just a little extra early to get the brightest start to the day.

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We’d search for wide open space to catch sunset.

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We’d comment on the type of sunrise/set we were watching:

“That’s a scrambled sunrise” I’d say as we watched the light appear just over a mountain in Nooksack Washington. “Scrambled cause you’ve got some clouds here and there but not enough to obstruct your view.” We’d add: “If there were no clouds, it’d be a sunny side up kinda day.”

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No matter what: There were always more sun rises to catch- sunsets to seek – or sometimes miss; and beyond all: there were suns to chase.

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Sunchasing – that’s the adventure – that’s what’s gotten me here- on a bed of loose rocks above the east river, on January 2nd, 2015.

In-between photos, I break to breathe in what I’m watching; to take a moment to appreciate what I’ve searched to be able to see. To be grateful for this opportunity; to cherish that big ball of fire in the sky.

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When the road trip started – I’m not sure I could tell you why the sun rises or sunsets meant so much to me.

It’s been just about two years and I think I’m finally starting to understand it. Because every time I see one now… Every time I go out of my way to comment on if it will be a scrambled, fried or sunny side up kinda day- I think of my friends:

I think of David and Kim waking up in the car and wanting to catch that first sunrise as much as I do. I think of how I don’t get to see them often; how David is in New Mexico- how I am here. How Kim is in Long Island- and how we still don’t get to see one another  often – both due to demanding schedules.

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Renegade

I think of friends, teachers and family who have moved away. I breathe into the golden rays
and suddenly the sun seems a lot closer- and if that sun can seem a lot closer – then my friends ultimately are always right here with me in a way.

You see, the thing about the sunrise – or the sun set is that it’s a constant reminder that no matter the distance between two people: we are still right here on the same earth; and in the end; that’s truly not all that far after all.

If you’re missing a friend today- if they are just a little “too far away:”

Take a walk; find an open space; take a seat; and breathe in that giant ball of fire.

Go on now, go, chase the sun.

panorama sunset

Finding Middle Ground: Bridging the Gap Between Capable and Breakable

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“I don’t think I’ve ever heard you laugh like that before, Libby. I love it,” David smiles, and looks at me.

It’s early in our road trip. We are somewhere between North Carolina and Louisiana–Kim is driving. David is riding shotgun, and I’m perched up in the backseat, staring out the window—and laughing—no, more precisely, I am giggling. A hearty giggle—the kind where you’ve put aside all of your defenses, your guard is completely down, and you’re completely vulnerable.

I’m happy.

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It’s the first time I remember being this happy in a long time. It’s also the last week of the initial hobby year; the last week of the “giant quest” I had set out to quote, unquote, find myself. The road trip was initially meant to mark the end of The Hobby Hoarder, a kind of non-chalant pat on my own back for the success of making it through the year. What I found was that it actually marked a new beginning; a newfound confidence, a newfound “place” in this world; a newfound feeling of gratification; a newfound belief in the good in this world; a newfound love for life—and for myself.

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It’s been nearly two years since the road trip—and nearly three since I began “The Hobby Hoarder.” In a way, it feels like it’s been a lifetime.

Rachael, an acting teacher and friend of mine, once told me she loves growing up, adding years; because it adds experiences. She also told me she’s had many lives. Three years ago, when she first told me this, I didn’t understand.

But I’m now starting to.

After the initial hobby year, I decided I wasn’t ready to “land” quite yet—or quit the challenges. Besides, now for me, it was all a lifestyle–so when I returned from the road trip, I continued hobbying and trying new things.

Then one day, I stopped. The videos stopped. The blog posts stopped, and the writing stopped. I called it a “hobby hiatus,” a short break. What I refused to call it was, putting the hobby hoarder to rest.

It was April of this past year. I had just gotten doored on my bike. I was in shock and convinced myself I was ok. I went to dance class, and the next day I couldn’t move my neck. Two weeks later I broke my hand; three months later, sprained my ankle; and in October I broke my foot.

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“How could this happen,” I’d ask myself. “I went two years, trying EVERYTHING under the sun—without a single major injury….I haven’t done a hobby in months…how is this possible?”

I lost myself to the injuries. First I was sad—then I was angry. And that giggle my best friend commented on during the road trip two years ago? It was nearly non-existent.

Focusing on the roughness in my own life made me somewhat ignorant to the issues my friends were having. How could I be there for them, when let’s face it, I was doing a piss-poor job of being there for myself?

It’s been just over two months since I broke my foot, and four weeks since the doctor cleared me to lose the boot. Three weeks ago, I went for a walk—a really long one. I cleared my head.

I thought to myself, ‘It would be really easy to write 2014 off like a bike accident—as if the whole year was just one big “doored” accident, a year in which I would walk away from with a sour taste in my mouth but ultimately forget about.’

But the truth is—looking back on it: 2014 really wasn’t bad. It was actually pretty good. What I came to understand, was that even though the injuries significantly knocked me down: they didn’t complete me—the way The Hobby Hoarder didn’t complete me either.

Getting back up—toughening up—flexing my rebound muscle—that’s what became important. Finding the balance between feeling unstoppable and being breakable became it’s own life lesson—one I could have never learned if I hadn’t taken the hobby hiatus.

This year I also came into my own—became more honest with myself, my friends, and my family about who I am and who I want to be. I made new friends, grew closer to old friends and opened up.

Ultimately, I began to accept myself, something I’m not sure I really did in the Hobby Hoarder years—likely because I was so focused on trying to “find myself.”

The truth is if we focus in on trying to find ourselves, we should be aware that we may not love what we find at first.

Acceptance and love then become their own journeys. That’s what I discovered; that’s the life I lived this year.

In the past few weeks, I’ve gone on more long walks. I’ve sat and taken in some serious fresh air. And I’ve debated if I’ve wanted to make any new years resolutions. I normally don’t.

 But this year I’ve decided it may be a good time to put some out into the world, to plant them, and watch them grow.

There are two.

1. I’d like to find middle ground; between “feeling unstoppable and capable of anything—and feeling completely breakable.” I’d like to find the joy in the difficult moments—as they are happening, rather than in the months after they’ve passed. I’d like to lose retrospect and hindsight. I’d like to smash the rearview mirrors.

2. I’d like to start the hobby hoarder again. But this time around, just as me—regular old Libs. No videos this time around—alright lies—maybe a few. 😉 I’d like to give myself a chance—or perhaps you might call it a second chance, and I’d like to give the hobbies I’ve tried in the past a second chance—and some new ones a first. I’d like to see if there’s things that I’ll see a little bit differently now—that I’ll like a little bit differently, that may not have scared me before—but maybe scare me a little bit now—or things that may have scared me before, but scare me a little bit less now.

When I started the hobby hoarder, I swore life was all about “firsts.” But the truth is life is about more than just firsts–it’s about seconds and thirds too–besides who doesn’t like a second helping? It’s about filling ourselves up with as much as we can until we explode. That’s what I did in the first hobby hoarder year, I filled myself up.

So life isn’t just about firsts. It’s about second chances and new beginnings; and starting over. It’s about finding balance-and middle ground. Ultimately, life is about jumping-flying-embracing potential impact- and taking off again. It’s about looking deep inside yourself and asking what you need – right here- right now, so you can be the better person- the best version of yourself tomorrow. And then doing that again each day- cause we can only attack one day at a time. Baby steps. Stepping stones. Lilly pads. Until we feel rock solid.

This year, whether you’re starting over; attacking a new challenge; or giving a part–or parts of your life a second chance–I wish you luck and I wish you love for 2015. Cause at the end of the day that’s all we’re really searching for… The capacity to love ourselves – and in return to love and be loved by others. Here’s to the new, to the fresh starts, to the new beginnings, and to the second chances.

Happy New Year!!!

A Good Story

Sometimes all it takes to motivate us is a good story.

a good story

Good storytelling moves us–it inspires us and it enlightens us. Good storytelling motivates us. It asks us to stand up for our current beliefs or question them. Good storytelling brings people together. It make us laugh. It makes us cry. And it challenges our every day decisions. A good story can warm our hearts. It can make us angry or it can sober us up. A good story doesn’t need a happy ending. A good story invites us to take an adventure or to go on a journey. Good stories teleport us to different times and different spaces. They are one true way to escape our own realities and step into someone else’s –or a different world.

Good stories are what move us-shake us-make our hairs stand up on our skin-and drive us.

Good stories are what we come back to when we’re searching for that one quote or one paragraph or one chapter that somehow managed to encapsulate everything we couldn’t put into words ourselves.

More than anything good stories stay with us. 

These are the books filled with stories or moments  that have stuck with me–that have and continue to move me–some since childhood–some since only more recently. What’s on your bookshelf? What motivates you? What books and stories do you always go back to?

1. Born Standing Up, Steve Martin

“I was seeking comic originality, and fame fell on me as a by-product. The course was more plodding than heroic: I did not strive valiantly against doubters but took incremental steps studded with a few intuitive leaps. I was not naturally talented—I didn’t sing, dance, or act—though working around that minor detail made me inventive.

I was not self-destructive, though I almost destroyed myself. In the end, I turned away from stand-up with a tired swivel of my head and never looked back, until now. A few years ago, I began researching and recalling the details of this crucial part of my professional life—which inevitably touches upon my personal life—and was reminded why I did stand-up and why I walked away.”

2. Yes, Man, Danny Wallace

“Take the stupidest thing you’ve ever done. At least it’s done. It’s over. It’s gone. We can all learn from our mistakes and heal and move on. But it’s harder to learn or heal or move on from something that hasn’t happened; something we don’t know and is therefore indefinable; something which could very easily have been the best thing in our lives, if only we’d taken the plunge, if only we’d held our breath and stood up and done it, if only we’d said yes. // The fact is saying yes hadn’t been a pointless exercise at all. It had been pointful. It had the power to change lives and set people free… It had the power of adventure. Sometimes the little opportunities that fly at us each day can have the biggest impact.”

3. Wild, Cheryl Strayed

“I knew that if I allowed fear to overtake me, my journey was doomed. Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. Nothing could vanquish me.”

4. Bossypants, Tina Fey

“Do your thing, and don’t care if they like it. // There are no mistakes, only opportunities.”
“Am I just chasing it because it’s the hardest thing for me to get and I want to prove I can do it?”

5. On Writing, Stephen King

“Writing is not life, but I think that sometimes it can be a way back to life. // Writing is a lonely job. Having someone who believes in you makes a lot of difference. They don’t just make speeches–Just believing is usually enough.”


6. The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin 

“It’s about living in the moment and appreciating the smallest things. Surrounding yourself with the things that inspire you and letting go of the obsessions that want to take over your mind. It is a daily struggle sometimes and hard work but happiness begins with your own attitude and how you look at the world.”

7. Siddartha, Herman Hesse

“It may be important to great thinkers to examine the world, to explain and despise it. But I think it is only important to love the world, not to despise it, not for us to hate each other, but to be able to regard the world and ourselves and all beings with love, admiration and respect.”

8. Love With a Chance of Drowning. Torre DeRoche

“Dedicated to those who dream–and those who dare fall for dreamers.”


9. The Art of Travel, Alain De Botton
 

Journeys are the midwives of thought. Few places are more conducive to internal conversations than a moving plane, ship or train. There is an almost quaint correlation between what is in front of our eyes and the thoughts we are able to have in our heads: large thoughts at times requiring large views, new thoughts new places. Introspective reflections which are liable to stall are helped along by the flow of the landscape. The mind may be reluctant to think properly when thinking is all it is supposed to do.At the end of hours of train-dreaming, we may feel we have been returned to ourselves – that is, brought back into contact with emotions and ideas of importance to us. It is not necessarily at home that we best encounter our true selves. The furniture insists that we cannot change because it does not; the domestice setting keeps us tethered to the person we are in ordinary life, but who may not be who we essentially are.

If we find poetry in the service station and motel, if we are drawn to the airport or train carriage, it is perhaps because, in spite of their architectural compromises and discomforts, in spite of their garish colours and harsh lighting, we implicitly feel that these isolated places offer us a material setting for an alternative to the selfish ease, the habits and confinement of the ordinary, rooted world.”

10. Oh the Places You’ll Go, Dr. Seuss

“Congratulations!
Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!”

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