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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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AOL Live Audition

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“I have three favorite words: “Passion,” “Dreams, and “Serendipity.” I believe that if you’re passionate, then your dreams are reachable. And even when you think you are falling from the path—a serendipitous accidental blessing will be there to catch you. Moral? Believe in your passions and your dreams no matter how far fetched or crazy they may seem. Anything is possible. Life will surprise you. You will surprise you.”

I wrote this on a Manhattan bound L train from Bushwick this morning at 3:00am–a time when many people are leaving the city after a night out. Instead, I was heading into the city to pursue a lifelong dream: to be an on-camera talent.

When I was six, I told my mom that I wanted to be a play-by-play commentator for Major League Baseball. Subsequently, I went downstairs to the family computer opened up Coral Word (yep, old school), and typed out an entire nine-inning play-by-play commentary of an imaginary game. I gave each player the name of a friend of mine, and when I finished writing the commentary, I’d practice reading it out loud.

“Emily throws in the pitch. Julie takes a swing, and it’s a long fly ball to left field. It could be, it might be, it’s gone!”

And when I felt really good about how I was saying the commentary, I’d pull out a radio, throw in a blank tape, and hit record. Then I’d listen back and see how I could make it better. Yes, I swear, I was only 6! It was my favorite childhood hobby.

One day, I decided I wanted to write a basketball game out as well. When I finished writing the game, I was so excited that I accidentally saved the document over the nine-inning baseball game.

I was devastated. I wanted to have both commentaries to practice. I wanted to master the craft.

Over time, my dream changed from wanting to be a sports broadcaster to a weather girl and then eventually from wanting to be a weather girl to wanting to be a news anchor—and above all wanting to be a storyteller—a storyteller who informs, a storyteller who engages, and a storyteller who inspires.

However, very rarely is there a once-in-a-lifetime  opportunity to  just walk into a studio and possibly be offered the chance to stand in front of a teleprompter and audition for a room full of producers for an on-camera role. So when I learned yesterday afternoon that AOL was inviting all on-camera hopefuls into their studio to take a shot at being their next anchor at 5am this morning, I knew that I had to be there—I knew that I had to wake up early—and I knew that I wanted to be one of the first ones in line with my yellow sunglasses in tow and a big ole smile on my face. And so I made sure I was.

When I arrived at AOL’s office on Broadway and 9th Street around 3:45am, just one other person was there–a young friendly woman who had taken the train in from New Jersey. We chatted briefly and then others began to show up. I could feel the energy boiling among us as we described why we wanted to be the one of the first AOL Live anchors.

“What an amazing opportunity to take advantage of,” I thought to myself. “Everyone is so passionate. I love it!”

Soon enough we were guided up to the AOL offices where we checked in and then awaited information on what would happen next.

We were then told there would be two rounds, but that we were only guaranteed the first round:

The first round would be an interview round—where five people at a time would be escorted into a conference room to charm the judges with answers to whatever questions they asked.

The second round, if selected by the judges, would be the one where we’d have the chance to step in front of the camera and give our best newscast based on the teleprompter script.

Not before long, the first group of five (which I was in) was escorted into the room where three AOL judges were. I sat in the middle with a big giant smile on my face. I could feel my face glowing.

“Nice shades,” said one of the judges.

I blushed. “God, I love my glasses,” I thought to myself.

After the judges completed questioning the first two women, I stood up and introduced myself:

“Hi, I’m Libby Segal, but most people call me Libs.”

And then the judges threw me their first and only question:

“So Libby. Tell us. What do you like to do?”

I smiled. Tipped my yellow sunglasses a little bit forward on my head, and excitedly responded: “Everything,” before launching into an elevator pitch about the The Hobby Hoarder year and my quest to try one new thing every week. I could feel my face beaming as I spoke passionately about the year.

The judges smiled as I spoke and wrote down my answer.  They then thanked me for my answer and moved onto the final two in our group. Soon enough we were asked to leave the room while the judges could decide who would move onto the next round—the round that mattered most: The live camera round.

Nervously, I chatted with one of the other anchor hopefuls outside the door. The woman who escorted us into the room then walked out of the room and asked for three people to join her. I was one of them. I held my breath. She didn’t disclose to us if we were moving on to the next round. Her poker face was brilliant. And as we began to walk, I could feel my heart beating rapidly. She was taking us in the direction of the exit.

“Breathe, Libs. Either way, you got out of bed and gave it your best shot.”

Before reaching the exit though, the woman took a right hand turn and led us down a dim hallway to a row of chairs.

I half expected the next words to come out of the woman’s mouth to be, “May the odds ever be in your favor.” (Hunger Games). And while these weren’t quite her words, the news to follow was definitely grand:

“Congratulations, you three have made it onto the next round!” Instantly, I could feel all the tension release from my body.

“Phew,” I thought. “Now it’s time to rock and roll.”

Ten minutes later, I was brought into the studio and given the chance to strut my stuff. I danced onto the screen from stage left and gave it my best shot as the script ran through the teleprompter. I could hear myself stumble over a word and then recover. Before I knew it, it was time to de-mic and give the next person their shot. As I exited the studio, I breathed a deep sigh of relief.

“How’d you do?” asked a new friend.

“Hard to tell, but I got to dance on camera—so I feel pretty good,” I laughed.

But the truth was, I felt great. I was proud of myself. I felt good not just because AOL had given me the chance, but because by getting out of my bed at 2:00am—I believed in myself and gave myself the chance–And the first step to pursuing  any passion and achieving any dream is believing in yourself. I knew very confidently that no matter the outcome, I had taken a giant step in the right direction.

You can catch up on the auditions that aired live here: AOL LIVE

And you can vote for your favorite on Twitter by tweeting @AOL 
#AOLLive #AOLAnchorQuest

And as always you can tweet me @LibbySegal #thehobbyhoarder

Curling

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“Did someone call maid service? Cause we’re sweeping up a storm!”

I laugh along with my friend Naomi as we close out our curling lesson at the Ardsley Curling rink with the Long Island Curling team.

I’ve watched curling in the Olympics several times, but I never understood how a sport–could be so intense with just a broom. But after one lesson, it became very clear that the sport of curling is full of strategy, skills, and teamwork. It is much more than just brushing the surface of the ice with the bristles of a broom. No–it’s about understanding how to throw a stone–flick the wrist–and lunge correctly. It’s about listening to your teammates as they yell sweep–or don’t sweep. It’s about paying attention to your skip and knowing where to place the stone. It’s about working together through communication. Like all sports: it’s about hard work, dedication, determination, and a will to want to get better.

At first, I get a little nervous. Just after setting up my video camera, I forget that I am stepping on ice and feel my feet slip out from underneath me. A shame the video came that I had just set up was facing the other way because that would have been an amazing blooper. After gaining my balance, watching Matthew our teacher show us some basics, and seeing my friend Naomi give it a try–effortless, I jumped in. Boom. Right onto my butt again. I come from a family that manages to slip on the one patch of ice on the driveway each winter. Clearly, this wasn’t going to be easy for me–even if Naomi looked like a natural (She did practically live on us her entire life as a professional figure skater though, to be fair)

After regaining my balance once more, I get some tidbits from our instructor, and give it another shot–this time without falling. And then I do it again–and again–and again. Confidentially, I release the curling stone from my hands in a perfect straight line. “I could get used to this I exclaim.”

We move onto sweeping, which is fun and intense. It requires listening carefully to your teammates to know when to sweep and when not to. Sweeping, which I didn’t know is used to keep a stonet moving further—not to make it move faster. You sweep so that the friction makes a better area for the stone to move through.

The Long Island Curling Club was nice enough to let us join a game, and Naomi and I were able to show off our newly found skills as we both placed a stone in the rings. At one point Matt and I have a small conversation about how this became his hobby. He said to me that he didn’t need to try everything–because he found his passion—curling.  And I think that’s an important lesson in this year as well–it’s not always about trying something new–but just about finding something you love and sticking with it. Think about it–when was the last time you continued doing your FAVORITE thing in the world? Probably not as often as you’d like. I admire Matt for having that dedication in his life—especially to a sport that’s so difficult to find, right here in New York City.

As the game came to an end, Naomi looked at me and said “Can we keep doing this as a hobby.”

I smiled and responded: “Naomi, That’s how I feel after everything I try. But—yes–yes we can.”

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Picture 27
Special Thanks
Long Island Curling Club
www.licurling.org

“You can’t go anywhere in neutral”

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Our introduction to motorcycle teacher looks at us: “You can’t go anywhere in neutral.” I laugh. Metaphors are everywhere.

When you get knocked down, the oldest lesson in the world is to get back up again. Since the season is just about over at Mountain Creek, where I crashed the downhill mountain bike over Labor Day, I had to find a way to get back up on a bike–even if it wasn’t the same bike. Since that little crash, I’ve been even hesitant in getting on my own bicycle. The trails at Mountain Creek are taken care of–and the roads in New York City are terrifying on a bicycle. Has anyone seen Premium Rush? or Paper Boy? I think I’ll stick to the safer bike paths–which I just haven’t had time to get to between hobbying–and more hobbying.

Even still, when it comes to bike riding, I’ve felt a bit stuck in neutral. I often look at Miss Penny Lane, the Paperback Rider (my red beauty of a bicycle that yes I have given a name), and sadly apologize for not taking her out more. Unlike a dog, she has no way of showing her sadness, but I know that those drooping handlebars are saying much more than just  “You left me in the wrong position.” They are really just saying, “You left me.”

So it was time to get back on a bike–even if it wasn’t Miss Penny Lane–the Paperback Rider. Last Saturday, I headed to the Motorcycle Safety School in Brooklyn with my Living Social Deal in hand. Our instructor introduced himself, allowed us to introduce ourselves, we watched a short video and then we shook hands with the clutch on a motorcycle.

Bad.Ass, I thought out loud. My co-riders smiled at me. This was going to rock.

We barely picked our feet off the ground, but we did go from neutral to first gear, and from one end of a parking lot to another. “This is awesome,” I laughed out loud, thinking how I had sadly written motorcycle riding and driving off during my freshman year of college when I wrote about the dangers of it for a writing class. “I could do this forever,” I added to my thoughts.

It felt good to switch gears.

The truth is–you can’t go anywhere in neutral. You have to switch gears–pick your feet off the ground–and feel the wind in your face. There’s no looking back–only ahead–at the wide open road.

I believe I see a twinkle in my eye

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Special Thanks
Motorcycle Safety School
ridemss.com

The Hobby Hoarder Gets Jazzy with It: Jazz/Modern/Contemporary Dance

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All Choreography in video: © Joi Anissa Favor. All Rights Reserved.

Every time I try a new physical activity, I wonder how I was ever a Division 1 Varsity athlete. Between my lack of strength, my inability to follow choreographed dance steps, and my flexibility deficiency, one would think I never played sports in my life–let alone went to college for them.

As a young girl, I took ballet, but never danced my way into any other classes. I left the studio to play baseball with the boys. Over time, I continued to add more and more sports to my list including soccer, basketball, tennis, softball, and field hockey. How I even survived playing sports astounds me. Sophomore year of high school I broke both hands (not at the same time) during my spring softball season, and during field hockey camp right before college I went flying through a goal cage head first. So it doesn’t surprise me that last night I had trouble figuring out how to put my right foot over my left foot and vis versa.

As I looked at the other women in the class, I noted that I was clearly the outcast in my athletic shorts and t–while they sported leotards. Note: Add leotard to the budget. I sweated profusely through the stretching and core work, struggled through the early warm-up dance moves (in which I moved so slowly, I could be called a geriatric patient) and thought to myself–don’t leave–don’t leave: This isn’t like zumba where there’s fifty other people to hide behind. You gotta commit to this Libs…COMMIT!

And so I did.

And not before long, I was gathering the steps, following Joi, our instructor, and moving–semi-smoothly across the floor. Shaking my booty, and getting all groovy–all while singing the Will Smith tune in my head with my own words:

“Na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na Getting Jazzzzzzzy with it.”

By the end, I told the girls that I was just hustling them–and that I was truly a professional 😉

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Williamsburg Movement & Arts Center
347 Grand Street
Brooklyn New York

Check out my Coach and Dance Partners
Joi Anissa Favor; Lindsey Springer; Nicky Giuland 

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