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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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Believe in the Possible

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Later this week, I’ll be posting an update about my 99th hobby–an evening of paint your own pottery. And in less than two weeks I’ll be writing up the experience of trying 100 new things–in less than 100 weeks. This “project” started out as simply that–a project–a quest to try 52 new things in 52 weeks. But had I known how the challenge  would expand my life, I may have set the hurdle of completing that many hobbies a little bit higher to begin with. Maybe I would have said 75 hobbies–or maybe I would have started out with 100 hobbies. But that’s the best part about challenges–we can’t predict what their outcome will be–what they will truly mean to us at the end–or what lessons they will present–or hardships–or triumphs.  

Would I tell EVERYONE that they should try 100 new things in 100 weeks–or less? No. But would I tell EVERYONE to challenge themselves? To set out on a goal–and to watch themselves exceed that goal? Absolutely. Maybe you don’t want to try 52 new things in 52 weeks–or 100 in less than 100 weeks–that’s COOL--It’s a kind of a crazy goal–(and crazy goals are good too), but maybe you want to try one new thing this month–or even just this year. Maybe you want to dedicate time to reading one new book every few weeks–or exercising three times a week as opposed to simply one or two. Maybe you want to train for that marathon you’ve always talked about. Or maybe you want to start that photography business or take a photo of the sunrise every morning. Maybe you want to travel the world–or meet every person who is still alive. Maybe you want to try a new dance class each day of the week or maybe you want to write the next best screenplay or enter that 48 Hour Film Project and win it. Maybe you want to produce a web series or write six new jokes for your stand up comedy gig. Maybe you want to take the baby steps toward jump starting your first business (a salon? a restaurant? a tour guide company?) Or maybe you want to just start saying yes a little bit more. GREAT. Whatever it is-Go Do It. Get out of your comfort zone and believe in yourself. This “project,” though gimmicky, maybe at first, was never about me trying  52 or 100 new things–it was about challenging myself and then inspiring you to want to challenge yourself, to refuse the word no–to break out of your shell–to believe that you could step up to the plate against Randy Johnson, and smash the ball out of the park.

When it comes to the challenges you want to take on–full force–don’t doubt yourself. Never doubt yourself. Because the truth is–no one else is. And if for some reason they are, step up and prove them wrong because no matter WHAT they say–you are capable of anything.

And I mean that. I mean that more than anything in the world. No matter what your challenge is–you are capable of exceeding your expectations of that challenge, and no matter what your dreams are–you are capable of achieving them.

SURE sometimes your dreams may seem out of reach- or “too big” or  too”impossible” to conquer. It may feel like EVERYTHING is working against you. BUT when the walls are closing in – when gravity is pulling you down – you’ve gotta fight to believe- to believe in all you’ve worked for – to believe in those dreams you’ve been reaching for so brilliantly- to believe in yourself – and to believe in the possible. Because it’s easy to say that anything is possible -to preach it to someone who is struggling or to internally tell yourself that “you can do anything”- but to BELIEVE it – and I mean to REALLY believe that anything is possible -well that – that takes a special person -that takes someone who will push those walls back – who will defy gravity and who will prove to you that indeed- ANYTHING is possible. So whether or not today is your day – or this week is your week – this month your month or this year your year – don’t get down. Do not let your dreams go. Keep your head up. Believe in the possible.

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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.

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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

Hot Air Balloon

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“Way up in the air, you’re finally free
And you can stay up there, right next to me
All this gravity will try and pull you down,
but not this time.”
-Owl City

Sometimes the things that mean the most to you, are also the hardest to put into words. I edited this video together several weeks ago, and I’ve watched it each day since, but it isn’t until now that I finally decided to share it on the site. I didn’t know what I could write to do such a memorable moment in our road trip justice. I didn’t want to screw up the memory somehow by trying to go too deep to describe it. The truth is–I don’t think I’ve quite yet processed the trip–or this specific experience–even though today marks four months since the day we had officially hit the road and started our 50 day adventure.

What I can tell you is that when you’re floating so high in the air and you can see so far in the distance, and you’re surrounded by three people who are full of nothing but love for life in the same way that you are, it doesn’t feel like anything can knock you down–it feels like you can float on top of the world, forever.

I’m pretty sure I’m still floating.

Special Thanks
New Mexico Balloon Adventures
beautifulballoonco.com

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The Art of the Travel Mate(s)

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***As the road trip has come to an end–there will be a series of posts involving hobbies accomplished; places seen; lessons learned; and an over-encompassing post of it all–but for that post–whew, I’ll need a few days to reflect. For now–here’s a little post about choosing the right Travel Companions.**

As my mom clicks through my photos of the trip, she comes across a picture of David in his red Florence hat staring off into the Badlands.

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She sees me smile as I remember that day silently in my head. She continues to scroll and comes across a photo of Kim standing with her back to a giant tree in the redwood forest, her arms out at her sides. I giggle, again, remembering that moment of the trip.

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My mom turns to me and says, “And you are all still talking?”

A cheerful grin spreads across my face, “Yep. Still talking.”

Prior to leaving on the trip, a lot of people asked me who I thought would be the one to throw off the balance of the squad. I couldn’t come up with an answer so most of the time I joked-“Well..I have a feeling by Seattle Kim and David will be best friends–and I’ll be standing on the side of the street under some big gray sky with two duffle bags holding my thumb out.”

Clearly, that didn’t happen. And although, we had our moments of tiny bits of conflict, we all handled it in a mature – simple – way, by retreating to our cell phones or our books for a few moments of silence before blasting out another song to sing and dance along to.

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Travel companions are the most crucial part of any journey.  Sometimes, when you need alone time–you’ll still need to be in some vicinity of them–including the backseat of the car. It’s important to concern yourself with the travel mates you choose before you worry about what path you’ll take, where you’ll stop, and what mountains you hike–or else the entire trip itself will feel like an uphill battle. If you choose the right people to travel with–then the right path will unfold on it’s own–there won’t be a wrong way.

And the truth is, you’ll know very early on in a trip if it’s going to work out or if you are going to have to turn around after you sit down for your first cup of coffee. I can’t tell you what the signs are of this–because I just know that if you gel, then you gel, and if you don’t gel–well then the trip will start off in hell. Some ways to approach travel mates in general? Avoid selfish words: “My plans,” “My trip,” “It’s my decision.” Remember–if you are going to tackle an adventure with other people–then it’s always “our.”

With that being said: I couldn’t be more grateful for my two travel-mates, David and Kim–who didn’t know one another until a month before we took off. Of course, because they didn’t know one another, I knew that there was a risk involved, but I went along with it anyway–because in my heart of all hearts I had good feelings that it would all work out.

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David is one of my best friends in the city–whom I had met on the side of the street while he working on White Collar a year and a half prior. It wasn’t til 8 months later that we really began hanging out and getting to know one another. What developed was a beautiful friendship that involved many weekends filled with laughter, karaoke, serious chats, and dinner parties. I remember one night even telling David, “Please don’t move away–ever.” A few weekends later, we decided to go sky diving together. That weekend, I invited David to join me on the road trip adventure- and a few weeks later, he texted me to say that he definitely was in–that if he didn’t do it now, he wasn’t sure when he would. I knew David would appreciate this trip just as much as me by that simple statement.

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I met Kim during my acting class last spring. At our first class together, Kim told me she worked in publishing, and I told her that I was working on a book–but that I was hesitant about where the book would go because of the lower number of hits on the site (at that point) and because well I really hadn’t started writing the drafts yet. She asked me if I had read the book, The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. I told her I hadn’t–and then she summed it up quickly for me–telling me that what many projects will see is a steady stream of low numbers–and then suddenly–something will tip the scales and numbers will rise exponentially.

She said, “Don’t worry. You’ll see a tipping point.”

We had only known one another a few moments, but I was grateful for this instant sort of belief in my project–even if she didn’t know very much about it.

In contrast to my friendship with David which involved many weekend movie outings, dinners, and game nights, Kim and I had just a few coffee dates–and taken a flying lesson together– before I invited her to join me on the final hobby of the year–the road trip. Our coffee dates had involved some of the best conversations I had in years–about the world, the way people connect, and life.

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The night before Thanksgiving, Kim called me and said she was 100 percent in for the trip.

Again, at this point the two had never met. Like David, I knew Kim would have a great appreciation for whatever we explored on the trip. I crossed my fingers that their ability to appreciate the world around them would created a trio of triumph by the beginning–and end–of the trip.

Then–as earlier mentioned–one month before take off, we all sat down in David’s apartment, and began plotting out a route. When we tell people about that meeting, we describe it in two ways.

1. Serious: Planning meeting.

2. Slightly Joking: Final Judgement

With my fingers crossed, neither of them came to me to say “I can’t travel with the other.” Phew–I wiped the sweat off my forehead.

And thank goodness they both came along.

We hadn’t even stopped for our first coffee break when I knew it would work out. As we drove over the Virginia state line, we all pointed out that the sun would be rising soon and that we should look up a good spot to catch it. As David drove the second leg of the first route, I began Googling based on the city we were approaching: Fredericksburg. Fortunately, a list of locations and images popped up on my search right away. “On to Fredericksburg Battlefield,” I declared. Collectively, we had made our first agreement on the road.

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And from there everything continued to flow effortlessly.

Buy a pack for the top of the car? Yes, Yes, Yes.

Then agree to never use it after Colorado? Yes, Yes, Yes.

Stop and enjoy all the food we could? Yes, Yes, Yes.

Wake up at the break of dawn in Memphis to catch a stunning sunrise? Duh

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Stop at a field in Carlsbad, NM and breathe in a brilliant sunset? Why wouldn’t we?

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Fed Ex all the books on Tape back to NYC that David and I were so excited about? Probably for the best.

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Pay a little extra for safety in a small town of Arizona? Yes, Yes, Yes.

Spend 6 hours at a place called the Wave and lessen our time at the Grand Canyon? –Of course. To us, it was living in the moment.

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Buy two Bieber CDs and make them two of the most played albums in the car? Yes, Yes, Yes.

And that was just into Los Angeles. We still had half a country (and parts of Canada) to agree on–and for the most part, we did.

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And then– a month and a half into the trip, as we reached Ohio, I came across a 5k that would take place after returning to NYC, that I wanted to sign up for –one in which the racers get to compete on the JFK runway. I tickled with excitement and that excitement carried over as David and Kim decided that they wanted to join as well. With groggy eyes, I smiled. I’m not sure I had the opportunity to really express to them in that moment how happy I was that they wanted to do the run too. I knew up until that point we were all getting along great, but to know that we had already made it through one month and a half of a trip in severely close quarters with one another–and that we were already making plans to spend time together after–well that thrilled me in a little kid kind of way.

IMG_4055  Photo Credit: Kimberly Manley

Throughout the journey, Kim and David pushed me to challenge myself–David on the ice at Arches National Park and Kim in her eye opening statements about how the world looks–how home looks; they both challenged their own selves and one another, and they each embraced the trip with as wide of open arms as I did. Our quarrels, though few and far between came only in the moments that I would expect them to: during times of exhaustion; hunger; and too close of quarters for a bit too long. It was very clear along the way that our journey–though, only limited to just under 2 months, could have gone on much longer–and I wouldn’t trade that feeling for anything.

Thanks Kim–Thanks David.

IMG_3227Photo Credit: Kimberly Manley

Picture 16

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A Laughing Matter: Laughing Yoga

.In my opinion, every mix tape of life should have a laughter track.

Laughter is universal.. It’s not age specific. It’s not ethnically specific. It’s not race specific–and it’s not gender specific. And when we use it to promote good (laughing together — rather than at someone) it is the most beautifully common spoken language in the world. Yes. I said language.

And as a good friend once told me, “95 percent of life should be filled with laughter.”

As a stand up comic, you’d think this would be the first type of yoga people told me about. But it wasn’t. In fact, I only recently discovered laughing yoga while reading Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project. People kept suggesting hot yoga, hot yoga, hot yoga (and i’ll get there), but as soon as I read about this–I was baffled as to why no one had told me about it sooner! And it was one of my FAVORITE activities yet.

This should be the point in which I jump into why laughter is amazing, beautiful, and wonderful. This should be the point where I tell you that laughter changed my life. This should be the point that I make note of how I became a stand up comic to give people one of the greatest gifts of the world. And this should be the point where I use a metaphor to tell you how life and laughter make the world go round. But for now, I hope you just keep enjoying the laugh track.

Signed,

The Hobby Hoarder

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Special Thanks

Better Laugh Yoga

www.betterlaugh.us

&

Dr. Alex Eingorn

Visit Better Laugh Yoga on Monday evenings @ 730pm
Better Health Chiropractic, PC
825 Seventh Avenue (53rd Street)

dr@betterhealthnyc.com

The Hobby Hoarder Performs Her Pants Off: Subway Performing

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So many times we don’t take advantage of all the things here in NYC or, really, anywhere for that matter. So I say, just go out there and do something. Surprise yourself. Surprise others. Attack a new craft. Conquer a fear. Live your life.

I didn’t go down to the subway platforms just to be a little bit ridiculous—okay well maybe I did. Every day I walk down the street, my headphones blasting in my ears, and my legs shaking with instinct to dance it out. So often, we are way too concerned with what people will think of us that we hold back. I am tired of holding back. I am tired of being afraid of people seeing what I am really wanting to do. When a tiger or a lion wants to roar—they roar. And when The Hobby Hoarder wants to sing and dance—she sings and dances.—even if it’s in her boxer briefs. When you want to do something—you should do it. Stop worrying—stop waiting—think like Nike and just do it.

Performing in a subway or on a subway platform or out on the street is sometimes referred to as busking. I see people doing this all the time. Sometimes they annoy me, sometimes they thrill me, sometimes they make me laugh, and sometimes they make me ponder. I feel as though I did all of these things for a variety of different people the other night—and it was the greatest feeling in the world. My friend and co-comedy-show-producer, who shot this escapade for me on my iPhone, said it best when he said: It’s great to see what really makes people crack a smile.

 

I hope you cracked a smile watching this. I cracked a lot of smiles—and a lot of laughs doing it.

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