Tag Archives: fear

Roller Derby

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For two years of college, I played Division 1 field hockey. In April of 2008, my team was eliminated from the university due to severe budget cuts.  Some of my teammates decided to transfer, I went abroad, and one of my teammates decided that she wanted to play rugby. The women’s rugby team was comprised of some of my closest friends in college and their toughness and dedication to the sport was contagious. After returning from abroad, I spent many of my weekends traveling to go watch their matches. I had become somewhat of a women’s rugby team groupie. But as much as I admired their toughness and dedication, each time they asked me if I’d join the team, I’d still respond with a tremendous no.

And there was one reason why. When it comes to big–I mean BIG bruises,I’m a cryer. And if anyone knows the sport of rugby, they know that it’s not a sport you can get knocked down and cry in.

Even though field hockey was also intense and a bit of a contact sport (when the ref turned her back), it didn’t intimidate me the same way that rugby did. Maybe it was that I had played field hockey for eight years and I understood the game–or maybe it was because each time I saw my rugby friends they had new bruises–new BIG bruises. Whatever it was, I had made a very firm decision in college not to join the rugby team even though I had more respect for my friends who played than anyone could imagine.

So recently, when a member of the Two Rivers Roller Derby team from New Jersey/Pennsylvania reached out to me and offered me a chance to be an honorary member for a day, I froze. Roller Derby, like rugby, involves a lot of contact–A LOT of contact. The women and men who play roller derby are tough. They endure hip checks and shoulder checks; they take on big hits, and they risk getting thrown off their skates each second of play. Basically, like rugby, the sport doesn’t have room for cryers after a big hit. It only has room for the skaters who want to be there, who can handle getting knocked down, and who are ready to get hit again only seconds later. I hesitated before I responded to the member of the Two Rivers team and I started an internal dialogue with myself.

“Libs…you can’t say no. It’s kind of your rule.” –“No, no but rules are meant to be broken.” — “Come on you know you secretly want to…” And before letting my other half respond with something negative, I typed an email out to the Two Rivers Derby girl saying I’d absolutely love to try roller derby, that it had been on my list for a while (it had been–in order to get over that fear of being intimidated by these contact sports), and that I would make it work with my schedule in New York City to make it back to Pennsylvania and test out the waters.

Leading up to the roller derby experience, some of my friends in New York warned me to be careful, and my co-workers created a text code for if I broke any bones:  “Text me 511 for a broken leg and 411 for a broken arm…” All the build up was making me itch with nervousness. Part of me really didn’t want to do it–but I’m not one to cancel.

But less than two months after receiving my invite to come out and try the sport, I had picked out a roller derby name (The Yellow Rimmed Nightmare) and I was lacing up a pair of quads at a small-town roller rink on the border of New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Screen Shot 2013-08-18 at 11.50.40 AM

Photo Credits: Aubrey Van Wyk

As the team stepped into contact drills, I watched nervously chewing my mouth guard.

One of the coaches asked two people to come out to form a block and one person to be a jammer. As this happened–I began to ask questions.

“Block? Jammer” What do these words means????

It was then that I picked up the basics of the game–the BASICS:

In roller derby, five people from each team are on the rink at a time. One person is called a jammer–He or she can score. Three people are blockers–and one is the pivot. (A pivot directs the blockers–guides the pack). The jammer’s goal is to lap the blockers of the opposing team. You do this by breaking through their blocks, getting around, or jumping over them. You can’t elbow/push,  but you can hip check/shoulder check etc. For each lap after the first initial breaking of the block–you get a point. There are two 30 minute halves in which the team plays a series of 2 minute rounds. After 2 minutes, there’s a 30 second break to sub players on or off: then you go 2 minutes again, until the half is over.

After getting my mini lesson in the goal of Roller Derby, I continued to watch. One of the girls then turned and asked me: “Are you scared?”

I faked it: “No. I’m good. No worries.”

She smiled and said “Good!”

Then I added “No. I lied. yes. I’m scared.”

She laughed.

I continued to bite my mouthguard.

“You’ll be okay,” one of the girls called over to me.

“Could you see it in my face?” I asked

She smiled: “Ha-Yah, but don’t worry –you’ll be fine.”

And I was.

I managed to make it through the night of practice without falling and without bruises–and most importantly without shedding any tears. In fact, I ended up leaving that night wanting to play more–wanting to be back in the rink–or on a field playing any team sport. For a good amount of time since the field hockey team got cut in 2008, five years in fact, I’ve strayed pretty far from the team sport train. I’m not sure if it’s because it was too painful to lose the one sport I worked for, for most of my life at that point, or because I was ready to taste other adventures–but this felt good. It felt good to be skating circles around a rink with a constant push of positive reinforcement as I completed one lap after another during the endurance part of the evening. And it felt even better to give pounds and high fives when others did well, and it felt the best when I had the opportunity to cheer the women on the following night as they played hard in an open scrimmage.

The truth is: we can spend our whole life being terrified of something that we haven’t given a chance–or we can have the courage to say we are going to do something–and then have even more courage to go out and do it–and then realize just how much we were missing all along. 

IMG_8134Photo Credit: Aubrey Van Wyk

Two RiversPhoto Credit: Jessica Kolnos

Special Thanks

Two Rivers Roller Derby Team

http://www.tworiversrollerderby.com

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Choreographing a Better Life

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If someone had told me two years ago that I’d nearly be spinning in circles on my head, swinging around a pole, getting jazzy with it, or frequenting a fitness based Caribbean reggae dance class three-four times a week by the year 2013, i would have laughed in their face. Two years ago, I was the girl who walked out of Zumba classes because she couldn’t follow the steps of the instructor and felt too embarrassed to go on. Two years ago, I was the girl who judged herself against the professional dancers and professional fitness instructors in infomercials who appeared flawless. Two years ago, I was the girl who didn’t give herself a chance to last through a dance class because she had given up before she had even stepped up.

The truth is that long before those Zumba classes, I had deemed myself incapable of breaking it down to a steady beat. I had thrown in the towel. I was ready to enroll in therapy for the choreographically challenged–to stand up and say–no wait–YELL,  “Hello, my name is Libby and I can’t dance.”

What I didn’t realize two years ago was that by not giving myself a fair shot–or the classes themselves a fair shot, I was holding myself back. And the truth is that too often, that’s what we do: We give up amazing opportunities before we even give them a chance, and in the end we only hold ourselves back. 

So what exactly was I holding myself back from? I was holding myself back from learning to love dance–I was holding myself back from learning to love the way my body moves when I just let it–I was holding myself back from being free and I was holding myself back from…well…put simply–I was holding myself back from learning. And I LOVE learning. I always have. 

I recently had an epiphany, and when I say epiphany, I mean a full-on lightbulb popped over the head, type of epiphany.

As I swung left, and stutter stepped right in a class last week, I realized:

“Oh my goodness. Dance has taught me a lot this year…and by a lot…I mean: Dance could be a life coach.” 

The epiphany itself nearly knocked me off my feet.

So after class I decided to sit and compile the five biggest lessons that dance has taught me not just in terms of dance…But also in terms of the bigger picture: Life.  After reading through, I hope you’ll share some of your favorite life lessons you’ve learned through the activities you’re most passionate about.

Here goes:

1. No one is judging you. Well-Okay maybe one person is. And that’s you. But you shouldn’t be. Getting to the class in the first place is something to be proud of. Getting up and out to do ANYTHING you set your mind to is something to be proud of, especially when the weather–or our moods–or our mind is telling us otherwise.

Pole Dancing

2.  There isn’t an exactness to everything you do. In dance, if the teacher is getting her JLO on and you want to get your Beyonce on during a booty shake then by all means get your Beyonce on. Or men if you want to shake it like Michael when the teacher’s getting down like JT–then just do it. Add YOUR flavor. Just whatever you do–own it. Same goes for life: Own EVERYTHING you do–and never–EVER–stop.

3. Do it wrong. So I cheated on this one. I took this lesson from not just dance class but acting class as well. Do it all wrong. We learn from our mistakes. Our muscles learn from our mistakes. And questions are okay – no wait–they are great. Sure, teachers love flash mobs of amazingness but they don’t teach so that perfectionists come in. They teach because they want people to learn, they want people to get excited about being imperfect sometimes, they want people to embrace their passion. Part of the fun of a class –ANY class– is working your way up. Part of the fun of any challenge you take on in life is getting knocked down and feeling the sense of pride in getting back up.

Breakdancing

4. “When you assume. You make an a…” We all know the saying. We can’t judge a class–or a situation in life– before we even step foot in it. Not only does it reinforce any stereotypes or preconceived notions we have about the class/activity/event, but it also holds us back from possibly finding something we are truly passionate about. Prior to the hobby year, not only had I convinced myself that I wasn’t a dancer–but I had convinced myself I wasn’t fit for group  classes at all–that I didn’t fit the “look.” You know the “look” I am talking about–the look it seems that all the people have who participate in infomercials for the latest Zumba videos or aerobics dvds. The men are shirtless and ripped; the women are in sports bras and spandex–chiseled. That belief I concocted from stupid infomercials was wrong. In each and every dance class I’ve participated in this past year, people of all sizes and of all attire are taking part. People of all sizes and all attire are having a really amazing time. I choose to rock my college field hockey shorts and a white T. Cause that’s comfy–and cause that’s me. (And sometimes me –and sometimes comfy is a tiger suit–see last picture on the page).

5. The most important lesson of ALL. Just freaking dance like no one is watching. Please, I beg you. Refer back to number 1: no one is watching. The world is a wide open dance floor just waiting for you to dance on through, to make your art–to make your life.  So go on. Yes YOU…YOU and even YOU.. Dance. Dance. Dance.

subway

Rugged Maniac

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“If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves.”
-Thomas A. Edison

“I didn’t train enough.” “I won’t be able to complete the obstacles.” “What the hell was I thinking?”

It’s a week before my first obstacle course 5k, and I am silently talking myself down.

Just a few months earlier, I excitedly signed up for a race called the “Rugged Maniac” which is “a 3.1-mile course filled with 20+ obstacles designed to push you to your limits!” The obstacles range from crawling underneath wire to jumping barricades, and from dodging swinging tires to swimming through mud pools. When I signed up, I figured it would be much more doable for me than say a 10 mile tough mudder. But suddenly, as I sneak a peek through the full obstacle list, I can feel my optimism sink to pessimism. I turn to a co-worker and tell her, “CRAP. Look at this obstacle. How will I EVER be able to do that?!”

I think about texting my friend Neil and canceling on him. I think about telling him I’d love to still come watch our crew compete, but that I’ll have to sit this one out. At the time, I’m not sure what I’m more concerned about–thinking I haven’t trained enough to tackle a 5k with 20 obstacles–or the thought of possibly holding back my teammates by being unable to complete the course.

Somehow I talk myself out of texting Neil.

“You’ll be okay, Libs. You got this.”

What I’ve learned this past year is that we can often be really good at talking ourselves out of things, but that it takes discipline and strength to remind ourselves that the things we fear doing are often times the most rewarding to tackle.

When the Rugged Maniac rolled around last Saturday, I threw on my race day clothes: black shorts, black tank, yellow glasses and a black bandana. Safe to say, I looked like a bumble bee warrior.

I then laced up my sneakers–an old pair of nikes that I didn’t mind ruining in the mud obstacles–and headed out the door to meet my teammates who had driven up from Pennsylvania. Our team consisted of my good friends and brothers: Neil, Nick, & Ross; and Ross’s girlfriend Martina.

As I climbed in the car, my nerves continued to rumble. I’ve competed in a lot of races–but never have I done one that would test me in such a way as this. Normally, for me, races are a good test of stamina, endurance, and leg power. This race would require more–it would require upper body strength, something I’ve lacked for most of my life. But again, I didn’t want to disappoint my teammates. Each of the brothers and Martina had done a series of tough mudders and longer obstacle courses in the past, so I knew that they were much more prepared for this than me. “I hope I don’t die,” I exaggerated in the car.

Less than an hour later I was standing in line to check our bag for the race. While I patiently awaited my turn to check the bag, I turned to the couple behind me and struck up a conversation. I asked if they had ever done one of these races before. The man looked at me and smiled, “Yep. They are a good challenge. I broke my ankle on the last one I did.”

And that was the end of our conversation.

After I checked our bag, our team of five headed to the start line where we were greeted with our first obstacle–a five foot barricade that needed to be hopped before you could even cross the start line. With the help of Ross, I made it over. “Oh boy. For each of those, I hope you know I’ll need your help.” Ross smiled. “No problem.”

And then it was go-time.

Within moments, we were faced with rolling hills of dirt. Without thinking, I raced up and down the hills. As I reached the last one, I heard a scream and watched as a woman face planted into the concrete below. “Shit. Okay, forget about it and move on,” I sighed to myself.

The five of us continued on through the next series of obstacles which included a military style sprint through tires that were set on the ground. “I can do this,” my confidence grew as I successfully completed the tire challenge without clumsily stumbling. Next up was the flying tires, crawling underneath wire, and more barricades. Ross got down on a knee and helped me climb each of the barricades.

I could feel myself starting to breathe heavier, and I told the team that if they needed to get ahead–they could, and not to feel bad, that I would catch up.

Neil looked at me and laughed. “Libs. Our team name is Libsters > Hipsters. If we leave you behind, the hipsters win. That’s not going to happen.”

I laughed. I was grateful to be with a team for a race like this. I knew that their support would get me through the series of obstacles that we still had yet to complete including a rope climb over a slanted barricade, 100 yards of hurdles, endless ladder like barricades, a balance beam and several mud pools.

In an hour’s time we closed in on one of our final obstacles: crawling tunnels–which required us to slide through a downhill tunnel, crawl through a pool of mud, and then pull ourselves up via rope through an uphill tunnel.

Screen Shot 2013-07-06 at 11.19.57 AM-Photo Credit: Rugged Maniac

As I went to climb through the uphill part, I could feel my feet losing their grip in the tunnel. A woman had already started her ascent through the tunnel, and put her hand up out in front of her. “Here, push off of my hand, you got this,” she shouted.

With a little push, I got myself through the tunnel and out into the open. My teammates were patiently awaiting. “You good Libs?” I looked at the woman who had just helped me complete the last obstacle, “Better than good. Let’s do this.”

Within fifteen more minutes, we made it to our final obstacle: “A sui-slide” which was a giant inflated slide into a pool of mud. But before getting to take the plunge, we’d have to climb to the top which included an inclined barricade that would need be to climbed with the help of a rope; an inclined net, and another laddered barricade. My teammates asked me if I would be good. Confidentially, I said yes. As I looked up, I remembered something that my good friend David told me during our road trip. “Do one thing every day that scares you. And then do one thing every day that terrifies you.” I was definitely living out this mantra.

I grabbed a hold of the rope and started my climb. However, unlike the last roped incline I tackled, my feet were now covered in slick  mud. Several steps from the top of the incline, I could feel my feet begin to slip out from underneath me. Holding the rope tight, my body banged against the wall. I managed to pull myself back up to my feet and give it another attempt–again slipping. Nick was waiting at the top. He reached out his hands grabbed me. Ross met him, and grabbed my other hand. “Don’t worry Libs, we aren’t gonna let you fall.” As they started to pull I kicked my legs. And with one more tug, I was over the first part of the uphill obstacle.

I breathed a sigh of relief as I regained my composure.

I really did have the best teammates a girl could ask for.

But before the guys could let me get too sentimental for them helping me, we all climbed the final two parts of the uphill battle before having the chance to  hit the sui-slide.

As we crossed the finish line, I felt a giant burst of pride.  “That was awesome,” I cheered. Neil laughed at me.

It was just another reminder that sometimes the biggest obstacle we will face is “just doing it” in the first place.

Special Thanks, Neil, Nick, Ross & Martina

PRE RACE
RuggedManiacPre
prerace

POST RACE
rugged

My Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Biggest, Baddest Fear

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It’s 2005. I’m staring at myself in the dressing room mirror of a major retail store in disgust. I’ve been inside this room for twenty minutes trying and untrying summer wear. I am turning sideways, crouching down, bending backwards. “Nothing fits right!”  I yell. “You’re fat.” The words spill out of my mouth as I taunt my reflection. I smack the hangers on the door, and I imagine smashing the mirror so I don’t have to look at myself any longer. But there’s my reflection staring back at me with disappointment.

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Eight years later I’m hosting a blog about refusing the word no, getting out of our shell, and overcoming our biggest fears.

In the past year, I have tried everything from pole dancing to sky diving, from beatboxing to plane piloting, and from archery to shark diving. I’ve looked fear in the face on several occasions and I’ve laughed, loudly. I’ve told fear that I am bigger than it. I’ve started saying, “Yes!” instead of, “No way.” This past year I’ve given myself a chance to live—freely and happily. But just because I’ve laughed fear in the face on occasion, doesn’t mean I’m completely immune to feelings of anxiety and uneasiness.

Throughout this blog, I’ve discussed my fear of the ocean, and I’ve mentioned how downhill ski mountains kind of sort of give me the heebie jeebies.

But the truth is my biggest fear doesn’t involve heights or falling. It doesn’t involve dying in a fire nor does it involve being eaten by a shark (though, my second biggest fear IS ocean water). “Why?” you ask. Well because none of these things asks me to stand in front of another human being and be vulnerable to their thoughts, their judgments, and their feelings. My biggest fear is much deeper—much darker. And while the panic I feel towards this specific fear seems silly to write about, it is this fear that tears at my self-esteem and that makes me feel more human than any of the others — the one that I even feel vulnerable writing about now.

My biggest fear involves an itsy bitsy teenie weenie yellow polka-dot—oh wait no, I mean it involves ANY itsy bitsy teenie weenie bikini.

That’s right, the girl who has gone swimming with sharks, who has jumped out of an airplane, and who has let the Great Throwdini throw knives all around her is scared of nothing more than donning a bikini.

This isn’t a new fear. It’s always been my fear. When I was younger, I’d go into the dressing room—two or three one pieces in hand, and a dreadful aching feeling in my heart.

“Does it really have to be swim suit season again?” I’d painfully ask my mother.

As I got older, those dreadful aching feelings remained, though one summer—the summer of 2005, I decided to be daring, and bring a bikini into the fitting room. I removed my t-shirt, and went to clasp the top piece of the bikini. That’s when World War 3 broke out within the confines of a small fitting room: the disgust, the self-emotional abuse, the smacking of the hangers, and the yelling at the mirror.

I screamed, “Nothing fits right! You’re fat.” I continued the conversation with myself and added: “Really, Libby? Really? You thought you would suddenly have all the confidence in the world?”

I relentlessly continued the abuse. I felt sick to my stomach.  “I can’t do this,” I told myself, and before even attempting to pull on the bottom piece, I had already unclasped the top and started throwing my baggy hoody back on.

Saddened, tears swelled and fell from my eyes. I was falling apart in the dressing room of a major retail store. There was no one there to confide in—just my disappointed reflection.

I was sixteen going on seventeen at the time—and I was terrified of my own reflection. Each time I took a look, I’d pick out all my problems—my flaws. So instead of looking—I just stopped. I stopped seeing myself.

My failure to accept my size and myself resulted in me turning down many shopping trips with friends. And during the times when I did tag along, I’d avoid trying on any of the clothes. I didn’t want have to pick up the size 12 from the jean shelf while my friends were pulling off the 4s, 6s, and 8s. I didn’t want to have to try and squeeze into an Abercrombie & Fitch t-shirt that was never made to fit me anyway.  Put simply, I didn’t want to be publicly embarrassed in front of my best friends—who probably would have never judged me either way. At this point, the only person truly judging me–was me.

Years later, when I was a junior in college, I lost a significant amount of weight. I was thin as a board. But still, I could never find comfort in sporting a two-piece that bared my stomach. A Tankini—yes, but a bikini? No way. Even though I wasn’t as big as I once was—or felt I was—I knew I was still bigger than someone. And that was enough to trigger all those irrational self-conscious feelings from the past.

To this day, I have never publically worn a bikini. Part of my goal on this blog—and in this life—is to inspire others to experiment without fear; to push past the judgmental thoughts of others and ourselves; and to live life freely—without chains holding us back. I want to show people that we are capable of overcoming even our deepest darkest fears—ones that don’t always appear on the surface. So often, we are fearful of telling people our age, our weight, our height, or our innermost beliefs, but we never admit it as our “fear.” The scariest part of it all? Is that these things—our age, our weight, our height, our beliefs, our ability to stand in front of people—all these things that make us vulnerable—are a huge piece of what make us as beautiful as who we are.

I can’t say that I came to the decision to admit my fear on my own. Recently, author Torre DeRoche launched her memoir, Love with a Chance of Drowning, which chronicles her willingness to overcome her biggest fear (sailing the ocean) to salvage love. She refers to it as a “fearful adventure.” With the launch of her book, DeRoche invited her followers and fellow bloggers to take a challenge and share their own fearful adventure. She said the entries could be as ridiculous or as simple and sweet as the writer wanted. And she made the requirements clear that each story should focus on that one “special” fear “that keeps getting in the way of what you want to be doing.”

So I decided to accept DeRoche’s challenge and invitation and describe my own fearful adventure. At first, I was ready to get comical—and outline something “absolutely ridiculous.” I jotted down a few ideas like riding a dolphin around the world—or throwing on a cape and being a real life superhero! But then I realized, I was getting ready to use comedy to cover up what I really wanted to talk about: My Real Fear—the one of wearing a bikini—the one of being vulnerable.

So this summer, I am setting out on a fearful adventure to leave my insecurities behind, squash my low self-esteem and to glide seamlessly along the sands of even the most crowded shores.  When the sun finally heats up this summer, I am setting out on a fearful adventure to don an itsy bitsy teenie weenie  bikini – or at least get back into that dressing room and try.


Love with a Chance of Drowning – A Memoir by Torre DeRocheThis post is part of the My Fearful Adventure series, which is celebrating the launch of Torre DeRoche’s debut book Love with a Chance of Drowning, a true adventure story about one girl’s leap into the deep end of her fears.

“Wow, what a book. Exciting. Dramatic. Honest. Torre DeRoche is an author to follow.” Australian Associated Press

“… a story about conquering the fears that keep you from living your dreams.” Nomadicmatt.com

“In her debut, DeRoche has penned such a beautiful, thrilling story you’ll have to remind yourself it’s not fiction.” Courier Mail

Find out more…


CrossFit

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You’d think after a year of hobbying, I would be immune to pre-hobby anxiety and intimidation. The truth is I’m not. But that’s a good thing. It means I am still exercising my mind and my muscles. It means I am still continuing to be challenged. It means I am still taking everything that I am trying–just as seriously as all those things I tried when it was simply just a project. I am still attacking life and taking chances. I am still living.

This week my pre-hobby anxiety was high. I’d signed up for a private one-on-one CrossFit session. For those that aren’t quite sure what that means–here’s one of CrossFit’s own videos:

Intense right?

I grew up playing sports and I even played Division 1 field hockey. I’ve dabbled in the Insanity workouts on my own time and I’ve trained for and completed two half marathons. But at all cost, I have avoided going to a personal trainer–or really letting others see me train. So the thought of letting someone train me–in addition to having a good friend standing by to help video–induced a lot of anxious feelings.

I began to think to myself:

“What if I fail? What if I am just too weak? There will be a lot of FIT people there–what will people think of me? I’m flabby and big boned–do I really belong?”

I went as far as texting my friend who does CrossFit on the regular to confide in her about my feelings.

She responded quickly:

“Google articles on being nervous for CrossFit. No one’s there to judge–everyone has to start somewhere.” -CF

She was right. So I took a breath, and I asked myself one more question:

“Why are YOU doing this?”

I gave that question a moment to sink in. I surely wasn’t doing it for all those people who would be at the CrossFit center working on their own fitness-just as they weren’t going to be doing their pull ups for me.

And then it came to me:

“I’m doing this because I can. I’m doing this because I said I would. I’m doing this because deep down inside, I know that the things that intimidate me most–are the things that are most worth facing. I’m doing this because I WANT to do this, not for anyone else–but for me–My health. My body. My life.”

I kept repeating all these answers in my head as I headed over to the Black Box on 28th Street. As I exited the elevator I walked into what appeared to be a factory of fitness. There were rings hanging from the ceiling, free weights, bar bells, kettle bells, and pull up bars everywhere. I watched as people all around the gym fiercely worked out. I watched as their muscles flexed and their sweat dripped. I could see determination in their eyes–in their focus. Instead of intimidating me the way that I had imagined it would, it motivated me.

“I can do this,” I whispered to myself.

I walked over to my coach and introduced myself.

“Hi Kyle, I’m Libby.”

He shook my hand.

“You ready?” he asked.

“Let’s do it,” I said with a new found confidence.

“Great, let’s start with a warmup. 30 seconds of jumping jacks, lunges, and 30 seconds of mountain climbers.”

I felt my muscles waking up, and the first drop of sweat fall from my brow.

Ninety seconds later, I was so focused on myself and my breathing and my own workout ahead that I had already forgotten that the gym was filled to capacity with all the other CrossFit participants. This was solely about me and my body–and about bettering myself–not anyone else.

Following the warmup, Kyle, my instructor, told me that next up would be a 10 minute repetition round–I would be doing sets of 15 squats, 10 kettle bells, and 5 pushups. The goal was to see how many rounds of this cycle, I could do and also to maintain a consistent time for how long each round took.

As I took on the first round, I felt strong. But as I transitioned into my second and third, I could feel the fatigue setting in. My arms shook, my legs wobbled, my movements slowed. But I pushed through. I didn’t let the word “can’t” enter my brain. Like the Little Engine That Could, I just kept saying, “I think I can, I think I can.”

And I did.

In ten minutes, I completed five rounds–most at around 2  minutes and 15 seconds. Kyle gave me a high five. “You moved well. Your first round was fast–because your muscles were strong. But the consistency of the last four rounds was really what we are looking for–great job!”

I took a sip of my water and I smiled.

“But we aren’t done,” he added. “We’ve got one 90 second round to go–90 seconds of burpees.”

Burpees involve a combination of a squat, a pushup, and a jumping jack.

They are kind of hell.

“90 seconds, that’s it Libs, you got this,” I cheered myself on.

That was quite possibly the longest 90 seconds of my life. As I dropped to the ground, and pushed myself back up, I could feel my body working, the sweat dripping, my heart racing. With each burpee, I felt my muscles ache. “30 seconds Libs, you’re almost there…Drop, push, Jump. 15 seconds…10…Come on…Don’t stop.”

“AND TIME!” Kyle yelled.

I picked myself up off the ground, and I raised my arms over my head. I glanced around the gym. The anxiety that I had felt just the night before was now totally gone. I smiled.

I breathed in an enormous feeling of positive self-esteem, while my legs shook with fatigue.

And I thought to myself:

“This is why I do these things. Because of THIS feeling afterwards. This feeling of accomplishment–of success. This feeling is the most rewarding feeling of all.

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Special Thanks

CrossFit NYC
Joshua Newman
Kyle Smith
http://www.crossfit.com

Special Thanks
Ashley Castle
http://www.travelwithcastle.com

 

 

 

 

 

Landings

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Tears form behind my eyes as we climb into the tiny aircraft on the last day of our fifty-day adventure. I make sure that my sunglasses are covering my eyes so that my friends can’t see. “It’s not over yet,” I remind myself. “Don’t cry just yet.”
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  On this blog, I’ve written a lot about excitement, about fear, about risk, about joy, about happiness.

But I haven’t written about sadness.

I guess it seems strange that I’d put down a post about “sadness” when writing about something as rewarding as a fifty-day cross country trip, but I promise, it will all make sense.

However, let me first point out that it’s extremely difficult to put into words everything that I felt as we returned to New York City, two weeks ago today. So let me try and do this in a simple, concise manner:

Returning to New York City, from fifty days of continuous stimulating adventure was hard. Going from a fifty-day trip with rarely any sleep, back to the city that never sleeps suddenly felt like going on an exotic trip to a foreign country. As Kim drove me to my apartment, after dropping David off in mid-town Manhattan, I suddenly felt lost in my own home.

And as I arrived back at my place, I felt even more lost. For a few days, I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t function. It wasn’t dissimilar to the feelings I had or the culture shock I went through when I returned to America from studying abroad in Italy back in 2008. That semester abroad had been my first real shot at exploring the world, and when I returned to the states–I was devastatingly depressed. I spoke in Italian to strangers, I imagined sprinting through Piazza Navona while I ran in the gym on a treadmill, and I day dreamed of going back and galavanting down the cobbled alley ways. It took me months to readjust. I didn’t want it to take that long back in New York.

But as I continued to mope in my apartment, my mind began to race with questions:

“How will I acclimate back to the city life?”

“When did New York City get so many people?”

“Why is it so loud?”

“Will I make back the money I spent?”

“What will sleeping in my own bed feel like?”

“What will cooking my own food feel like?”

“When did I get so concerned about alone time–I spent a year focusing on me?”

“What happens if my friends in the city have forgotten about me?”

Suddenly I was more fearful of being in a place I recognized, or now seemingly didn’t, than I had been in the new novel nooks of the country that I had gotten to experience, and that was an overwhelmingly strange feeling. Now, the the routine of the train which I’ve written about enjoying in the past, suddenly felt like a nuisance. And don’t get me started on the feelings I had about interviewing for jobs and returning to work.

I actually considered packing up a suitcase–renting a car–and driving off again.

For a few days, I couldn’t snap out of it. Everything I saw reminded me of the trip–of the beautiful world that Kim, David and I had the opportunity to explore full-on. Everything made me think about that freeing feeling of hanging out of the car in the Badlands:

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Of laying out on The Wave in northern Arizona:

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Of waking up early to catch sunrises:

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Of seeing old friends:

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Of quiet.

I asked someone if they often felt sadness when they returned “home” from traveling. Their response was that they had wondered how long it would take the sadness to kick in for me.

Then I let myself cry-a lot. And then I kept crying. –and then I cried some more, texting a friend here or there asking, “How do you cope with sadness?”

I’d felt a large amount of sadness in my life before–but this sadness was different. It wasn’t a depressive sadness. It was it’s own breed of sadness–one that stems from all those other feelings I felt throughout the year: excitement, fear, joy, happinss.

As I wiped away my tears, I wrote another text to another friend: I am okay with this sadness.

I continued, “I respect this sadness.”

It reminded me of one of my favorite Winnie the Pooh quotes:

“How lucky I am to have something, that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

Pooh’s right. It’s easy to forget how lucky we are sometimes, when sadness is all we feel.

I looked at the quote one more time and then decided to paraphrase it to match my exact feelings:

“How lucky I am to have had the chance to experience something so wonderful. How lucky I am that the sadness I feel now is because of an overwhelming feeling of joy that I was privileged to feel, that we can all be privileged to feel, if we just let it happen. How lucky I am that the sadness I feel now is because of the world I let myself see, the chances I let myself take. the obstacles I let myself face, the fears I let myself overcome, the challenges I let myself defeat. the life I let myself live. How lucky I am to look back on the moments I lived–with tear drops in my eyes and joy in my heart.” –-Again–I learned to respect the sadness.

Over the days that the sadness had escalated, I told myself that I had to think of returning from the trip–not as an ending–but rather–a transition–but more so as a landing.

So often, we get caught up on the words “ending” and “finale.” But there was nothing final about this trip–this hobby year. Both adventures opened up incredible opportunities for me to learn about myself, to challenge myself. Both adventures allowed me a chance to grow. Both opportunities allowed me to experience meet new people from all walks of life and to build long lasting friendships. Most of all both adventures allowed me to live a life I’ve always wanted to live: one that’s filled with genuine happiness.

The flying lesson that I posted a video of on this piece may have been the final day of the travels, but to use that word “final,” just seems wrong.  That last day  gave me a chance to look back on not only the trip with two of my best friends, but also on the year that I said “yes” to–the year that allowed me to overcome my fears, to tackle things I never thought I could–the year that allowed me to live life in an abundantly, exciting way. The year that went from a project–to a lifestyle. The year that was my navigation to true happiness.

That my friends is not an ending. That my friends is much bigger than an ending–and much more rewarding. That my friends, is what I call a landing.

And what’s the best part about landing?

Getting to reflect–Getting to refuel. And getting to take off again soon.

Rappelling

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While I still have a few videos to compile from the trip including hot air ballooning, snow shoeing and an end of trip flying lesson, I thought I would publish this short video clip and post.

Since returning to New York City, I’ve been on the go. I’ve been interviewing for jobs, I’ve been doing stand up, and I’ve been meeting more and more people. Let’s just say I’ve been getting back into the “swing” of things–especially with hobbies–and especially with THIS hobby.

This past Saturday, I headed out to the Hollywood Stunt School in Brooklyn where I had previously taken a high falls class and a trampoline class. However, rather than jump from a 20 foot platform or bounce around a bit, this time I took on the challenge of learning to rappel–which is defined as “the descent of a vertical surface, as a cliff or wall, by sliding down a belayed rope that is passed under one thigh and over the opposite shoulder or through a device that provides friction” (Dictionary.com). In simple terms–it means to scale the side of a wall or mountain–perhaps, like Spiderman.

I learned about the rappelling class when Bob, the owner, posted a photo of him hanging upside down on his Facebook wall.

“I want to do that!” I commented. A week later, Bob announced there was an upcoming class for rappelling. I couldn’t say no! “I want to be Spider-Libs,” I thought to myself, and so I contacted Bob via Facebook and signed myself up.

Before climbing up the ladder, our instructor told us that we would have to appear comfortable enough with the rope, on our first try, to be able to go upside down on a future try.

“I am going to go upside down,” I told my good friend Naomi, who joined me for the afternoon. “That’s why I wanted to do this…I totally am going upside down.” “I’ve rappelled down a rock climbing mountain before. I can totally do this.” My confidence bubbled as I tried to reassure myself that I was ready.

Minutes later, I was climbing to the platform we were to rappel from. And as I gripped each rung of the ladder, I suddenly realized that the last time I had rappelled down a mountain–someone was belaying for me—this time I was on my own. Suddenly the 15-20 feet from the ground felt like 60.

“Are you feeling scared, nervous, terrified at all?” My instructor asked me.

“I’ve got some nerves.”

“What do you think is bringing on those nerves?”

“Just forgot what heights feel like…But I am good. I got this,” I said trying not to appear shaky. “We go down forward first. But I definitely will get to upside down…” I peeked over the edge… “I think.”

 “I’m a tiny bit scared because it is a little higher up than I felt it would be. And I am scared because that’s what happens sometimes when we’re doing something we’ve never done before.”

“So you have respect for fear.”

Respect for fear.

I had never thought of it that way. But over the last year, I think that’s what I’ve learned to have respect for most. Fear is a driving force that allows us to reach our potential–that allows us to find out what we are truly capable of–that motivates us to do more–to be more.

“Why yes. I have a great respect for fear.” I declared.

And then I swung myself out to the wall and slowly made my way down—feet first.

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As I reached the ground, I heard the rest of the class cheering (we did this for each person who completed the task). It felt good. ‘I’m ready for round two,’ I thought to myself while I traded off my harness to the next person in line.

As we began our second rounds, Bob yelled up to the instructor to let some of the people go upside down. I watched as the first woman to try managed to put her body into the perfect inverted pirouette and effortless rappel in a straight line until she flipped back on to the ground.

I could feel my smile widening.

My turn. This time, I climbed up the ladder much more quickly. I listened to my instructor’s directions, shook off the small fears of falling out of my harness or flying into the ground head first, tightened my harness again, and then gave it a shot. Unlike the first girl to gracefully spin her web down the wall, I began literally spinning in circles.

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“Well this is interesting,” I said to myself, before safely making it back to my feet.

“How’d that feel?” asked one of the other works.

“Dizzzzzzying,” I said as I shook myself out of it. “But really, really awesome. I definitely gotta try it again.”

And so I did–this time much more gracefully.

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You can look for me in the next Spiderman movie….

Just kidding.

But you can look for me at the stunt school–I’ll definitely be going back.

Hollywood Stunts NYC
73 West St.
Brooklyn, NY

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