Last Friday, my tank was empty, so I decided to be vulnerable. I posted on Instagram about how I’ve been feeling lately. I was nervous to post it — admitting my weakness, admitting my hurt, admitting my loneliness.
Graduate school is a strange beast — most of my friends are still here (a huge blessing) but our lives are so different. Nearly all of my friends have significant others. My roommates of two years moved out. Some of my friends got big-girl jobs, others are finishing undergraduate degrees or have demanding school work for their own master’s programs, and life has changed. Friendships I had have changed and different people have different needs in friendships. And that’s okay.
In full transparency, I love to be at home. I recharge by myself, watching a TV show and accomplishing my to-do list… but when I ran out of motivation (or grew tired of my television series) all I was left with was my empty tank. I began to realize that there were gaps in my heart that I couldn’t fill. I needed to admit I was struggling and turn to the people I love to help me out of the pit I found myself in.
Since posting this — I’ve had four separate girls’ events with friends. This weekend, I spent the entire day with one of my gal pals (who, we discovered, I haven’t really hung out with since last December!) and we had an amazing time exploring a local shopping expo, talking, eating, drinking a margarita, perusing boutiques downtown, and then catching Charlie’s Angels at the movie theatre.
Hanging with my friends this week watching movies, drinking wine, eating ice cream or appetizers or Mexican food, talking, laughing… all of it filled my cup so much more than being alone. Sure, I still had speeches and papers to grade that I wanted to finish earlier — but I needed this time spent in friendship just doing little things with wonderful people.
Social wellness is a part of my wellness — a part that I’ve been disregarding for far too long. (Luckily, I’ve been making more time with my amazing parents and the ladies at my gym are often a highlight of my days.)
However, I had to admit my weakness — which, I have many, but at this time, it was my loneliness. I was tired of being alone. I’m tired of being by myself, left out, and ‘forgotten’ … but in reality, I wasn’t doing my part either. I wasn’t sure who to reach out to or what to say or how to say it. So I posted it on Instagram because I didn’t know how to go about it — and, like I said, I’m pretty bad at asking for help.
But damn, I’m glad I did.
I need my gal pals.
I needed time away from my house, doing normal human things with people who love me and who allow us to pick up our conversations whenever we come back together.
And, I think I reaallyyyy needed the Charlie’s Angel film, because it was fantastic!
Admit what you need and ask for help — wellness isn’t just hitting the gym and checking items off your to-do list. It’s feeling good.
Sometimes, you can’t feel good all by yourself.
And I’m thankful for the gals who picked me up when I was down and took that Instagram as a call to action to make plans with me — plans that weren’t made out of pity but made out of love.
I’m going to try to be that friend, too. Even when it’s hard. Even when it’s not natural for me. Even when that means admitting my loneliness.
My dance professor ended our final class period by saying… “In my twenty years of teaching many classes, I can say that this one has been my favorite and really mean it because of all of you. I have dubbed this group “The Breakfast Club.” Laughter and cheers exploded in the studio.
Our Breakfast Club: 9 college students of different ages, backgrounds, and dance experience who came together for a 2-credit dance technique class…. a class that I’m sure none of us will ever forget.
I’m honestly so sad to be writing this blog, because it means that the semester is over. I can’t even think of the right words to describe how this class has impacted me, but the sentiments that my professor left as feedback on my final reflection summarize my vibe pretty well:
Your positive attitude toward the class, my teaching, and the content played a large role in your learning. It was fun to watch your confidence and skill improve over the semester. It was also refreshing to watch you be empowered as you worked through relationship issues. You seem like a very different person today than the one who walked into the studio in August.
I cried reading those words.
As a senior, it’s easy to think back on collegiate experiences and feel pangs of regret. “I should’ve done this, I wish I had never done this, If I could do it again I’d do this…” all of these are common thoughts. My version? I wish I had become a dance minor. As I finish this semester, however, I no longer view this as a regret. I truly believe that I was meant to take this dance class in this season of my life. It has benefitted me so greatly both mentally and physically as my life has done a 180º turn in the past year. As life was changing and I was changing, this class was a beautiful reminder that dance will always be there for me. I smile as I reflect back on my time spent in the studio this semester.
Some of my favorite moments of the semester have been the beginning of the class period where Mel asked us how we’re doing. This question isn’t the surface level “How are you?” where everyone responds, “Oh, I’m good!” We all wore our hearts on our sleeves… even if it happened by stating what item of furniture we felt like that day. On more than one occasion, I felt like a doormat when I entered the classroom and left feeling like the comfy recliner. Tears were shed in our class… but none were because of what was happening inside the studio. The studio was a safe haven from the craziness of college and life. The studio was where our Tuesday and Thursday mornings began, quite often with a smile. This is what I will remember most.
As I look back on the goals that I set at the beginning of the semester, I am proud to say that I feel proud of what I have accomplished. My first goal was to increase love /appreciation for my own body. I have given myself so much love this semester. (yaaasss!) Beyond the studio, I’ve spent hours at the gym, I’ve practiced more positive self-talk, I have spent time in reflection. I have become active on social media in encouraging others, especially women, to love themselves, be encouraging to others, and live their truth. In the studio, I gave my all… my FitBit happily tracking my morning dance sessions as a workout. While I didn’t always succeed at keeping my emotions out of the studio (thanks for the hugs, Mel), dance helped me to channel many emotions.
My second goal was to improve my technical skills / embrace a new learning style. This was so much easier than I anticipated. I have learned new terminology, frameworks, and steps and put them into action. My mind has opened to new pedagogy both for dance and collegiate instruction. The word I would use to describe Mel (Dr. Hauschild-Mork) would be transformative. I hope to implement what I learned from her in my own classroom next year. I felt challenged by the content, but in the way that every person who enjoys learning wants to be stretched… just beyond the comfort zone. I feel like a much stronger dancer due to not only the refreshing of old techniques but the addition of new techniques, terminology, and dance history. It was equally as wonderful to see this growth in my classmates, especially those who had not danced in this kind of setting before. I felt so giddy watching them nail a move or step… perhaps even more so when they didn’t quite nail the step but gave it their all and had a smile on their face. That’s what it’s all about.
In this class, while we all formed a great friendship (so much so that we asked to be randomly assigned to groups for the final project), we also formed awesome relations with our randomly assigned ‘dance buddies’ from the first week. I was lucky enough to be paired with two lovely ladies because our class had an uneven number. During our final exam time, we shared a thank you note and small, homemade gift with each of our dance buddies. I will cherish the words of thanks that my dance buddies wrote me:
“Alex, you’re probably one of my favorite people to get feedback from. Your positivity tempers my tendency to hear feedback as huge negatives I take personally. I want to thank you for your supportive disposition and constant encouragement that is felt in all you say and do.”
– a dance buddy
Oh miss Alex, thank you for your words of encouragement throughout this dance course. It had been a long time since I had danced in this way and I came in feeling very nervous. You made me feel like I was doing a good job and that my body looked beautiful while doing the moves. You are a strong woman, Alex. You will dance on to do great things.”
– a dance buddy
…like, wow. I was blown away by their kind words and even more touched by the hint of sparkle in each of their eyes as I read these words out loud. What truly beautiful souls filled the dance studio this semester. I don’t always feel positive; I don’t always feel strong. I aim to be an encourager in what I say and do and I know that I sometimes fail… but these two amazing ladies made me feel like a million bucks by sharing their experiences with my encouragement. I feel like God is showing me my divine purpose more and more every day and he did so even within the dance studio this semester. I left a mark on these two ladies, and they left their mark on me. I am so grateful for the friendships made in this class… I could add many more examples.
One last thing that I am thankful for as I end this semester was the opportunity to see Haley each and every Tuesday and Thursday. We planned this accordingly so that we could take this class together during her first semester as a jackrabbit. After four years of friendship from afar, driving Haley to dance class, listening to worship music with her, and reflecting on our days has been such a highlight of my semester. Haley often reminds me of myself. I refer to her as my “little sister.” I have expressed to her that I am so happy that she can continue to learn from Mel and advance her dance career here at State. Through Haley, I will live my “what if.”
The fact that I have accomplished my goals, made friendships, danced my heart out, and learned so much more than the Cincinnati step just furthers the idea that I was meant to take this class during this season of my life. I will always look back on this class as one of the most impactful classes for me here at SDSU and as a constant reminder to never stop dancing (and to never forget the breakfast club.)
To my breakfast club pals: I love you all and you’re wonderful. Thank you so much for creating the environment we shared this semester. The class was amazing, Melissa’s pedagogy is transformative… but the class could never be the same without each and every one of you.
I’ve been struggling for awhile. I’ve felt like a fraud. I’ve felt like I was faking a smile through the day and crying in my car on the way home. (Well, that is what I did. Several times.) I’ve been sick. I’ve been wallowing in self-pity. I’ve been yelling at God. Let’s just say… it’s been rough.
But today… today was different. Today started with a beautiful morning.
Let me start by saying — nothing extraordinary happened today. There was no winning Powerball ticket, I didn’t get asked on a date, I didn’t ace an exam, I didn’t see any giraffes or pageant queens. Instead, my day was pretty normal.
I woke up to a really sweet direct message on Instagram. The sun was shining in my window. I got a great night of sleep. I heard a good podcast. I held a sweet baby. I listened to my favorite jesus jams on my way to school. I drank a smoothie with some fruits and veggies in it. I went to tap class and had a productive, sweaty session of tapping and learning (my dance class is always the highlight of my week), and then I had a couple more classes where honestly nothing could stand in my way. I was smiling ear to ear. The day rounded out with a nap, a workout, a group meeting, dreaming of visiting Boston next week, and a much needed girl chat session with girls who are like family (over Indian food, of course.)
I think that’s why I am writing this now. My day was totally, completely, normal.
I think that today I realized that I’ve been letting situations that are out of my control and people whom I can’t control cloud the fact that I get to be the authority figure in my life. The decisions I make every day, even the small ones, impact how I feel for that entire day. Today, I took control. I took to positivity, and love, and sunshine, and tap dance, and girl talk. I accepted the blessings in my life. As one of my favorite podcasts (SHE Podcast by Jordan Lee Dooley) would say… today I was not a blessing blocker.
Today, I felt alive. I felt like myself. I felt like the sun was shining in my direction. I felt like God was answering many prayers. I laughed. I gave some hugs. And damn, did I smile. I’ve started doing the #mytruthiestlife challenge with a friend and a large group of accountability pals online. It’s a challenge started by Lisa of ‘The Well Necessities’ that encourages us to rediscover who we are and what we want out of our own life. So far, I’m loving it. Our challenge this week was to think about our values and select our top five from a list… and then make meaningful decisions this week that are fueled by our values.
I can already feel the challenge working, inspiring me to think about myself in a different way, and to make conscious decisions that benefit my mental health, my relationships, and my overall sense of self. Maybe this is why my eyes were opened to the beauty within my average Tuesday.
I’m a pretty positive person. At least, I hope so. When I confided in my friend about feeling like a ‘fraud’ for still trying to encourage others while I was struggling in my own life and she simply responded… “Just because you cry doesn’t mean you’re fake. It means you’re real.”
So here I am… posting my feels on the interweb again.
Today, I’m going to bed with a smile. A real one. A true one. I am thankful that a friend encouraged me to do the #mytruthiestlife challenge, and I am thankful that I have the opportunity to accept my blessings and move past the outside obstacles that have blocked my path.
Maybe tomorrow will be your day… your beautiful morning that leads to a beautiful day, a part of your big beautiful life. Maybe you’ll cry in your car. Whatever you do, don’t forget just how blessed you are and that you and only you are completely in control of your own life.
The other day, I said I was heading to work out and someone I recently met commented, “that’s probably how you look so fit.” I was honestly shocked. Regardless of the sweet compliment, I felt more excited about those few words than any other “you’re beautiful” or “you’re so pretty” I’ve heard in a long time.
Because I feel fit.
I feel well.
I feel good.
Trust me, it’s been a journey. Since April, I’ve been struggling. My life felt like it was collapsing and continually fighting against me. I didn’t feel fit, I didn’t feel well, I didn’t feel good. I was answering every “How are you?” with “I’m fine.” We all know… things were not fine.
I knew that there was only so many things I could control. If there was one thing I learned in my time as an orientation leader, it was the ‘wellness wheel’ model of total wellness. My focus for the summer was Physical Wellness, Emotional Wellness, Social Wellness, and Spiritual Wellness. I decided that if I couldn’t be ‘great’ or even ‘good’… I was going to be feeling well.
Let’s begin with the big one. Physical wellness. Not my strong suit, let me tell ya. I began the summer wondering what I should or could do to get my life in control. My control. I wanted to grow my strength and stamina. I decided to join b.well and I honestly think it was one of the best things I ever could have done for myself. Here’s what I’ve learned in just one month:
No one cares what you’re doing. I don’t mean this in a rude way, but instead in a ‘focus on yourself and forget the rest’ kind of mentality. I had dreaded the gym for so long due to the fact that others could see me, judge me, or laugh at me. I learned early on that the mirrors in the studio aren’t for you to watch others. They’re there to allow you to watch yourself, to truly see yourself, and to watch yourself be a boss.
Form > Fast. I have learned so much about my body, how it should move, and how it should look as I do different exercises. I am not a super fit person. Some of those moms with 4 kids could definitely beat me up (though they never would, everyone is so nice) but I don’t worry about doing the exercises quickly. I worry about doing the exercises correctly. I’m okay doing modified workouts as long as I know I’m working towards the ‘hard’ workouts and doing them correctly. (Megan, thanks for making sure my butt’s not sticking out at the barre!)
Actually, you can. So many times I wanted to give up. Sometimes, I do. Sometimes, I need a little break, a little water, time to towel down my sweat pouring from my body (which I have learned to love?). Instead of getting up and leaving the gym or being upset that I ‘can’t’ do something, I work on getting there. I work on doing just one more rep or trying to push through. I can hear Amber’s “Let’s go!” echoing in my ears.
No one else will see your progress, but you will. This one I have learned over the past month. I would take a sweaty sports bra photo and see absolutely no results between the photos. But then I remembered that I went up in weights at my last strength class… that’s progress. I saw a photo of my calves in heels looking bomb… that’s progress. I feel my shoulders, triceps, quads, everything ache… that’s progress. Just because I’m not losing inches (not my goal) doesn’t mean I’m not making progress. I went on a run/jog for the first time in YEARS last week and I actually enjoyed myself. I even went AFTER I’d already done a tough workout. GO ME! Seeing women like Bri post about her fitness inside and out of the gym inspires me to incorporate fitness into more than just my time at the gym.
Accountability and support are necessary. Internal motivation is necessary. It is absolutely crucial for you to see this change as beneficial and for wanting to make a conscious effort. However, that motivation lasts for about the first few days. This is one of the reasons why I had a friend join b.well with me, and one of the reasons I love going there. The women around me are supportive and welcoming. They smile as I walk in, my instructor comments on how it’s good to see me after I’d been on vacation for a week. This is what makes me feel a little bummed to be taking a 4-week hiatus from the gym…. but hellooooo Europe!
You’ll probably hate it… until you love it. My yoga instructor, Nikki, said in my first class, “If you hate it, come again next week. If you hate it a second time, come back a third week. By the third week, you’ll love it.” This was so true. I felt like a fool and completely out of shape/not flexible during my first class. By week three, I felt like I was getting a good workout, my shoulders burned, my balance improved, I knew what a chaturanga was, and I felt so empowered. I never in a million years thought I would be a person that looks forward to working out. Now, I can’t imagine what my week would look like without a variety of classes taught by instructors who really care.
You’re killin’ it. No matter how much progress you feel, no matter how many inches lost or muscles gained, you’re killin’ it by simply getting your butt to the gym and doing little things each day to improve your life…. by you, for you. In the words of Erica Schuster (thank you for encouraging me to join b.well, you rock sista) “Do this for who you came here for!”
Thank you, b.well brookings, for allowing me to believe in myself and to become a better, stronger, truer version of myself. I’ll see you after a month in Europe. My body is stronger and more ready than ever for long walking days across the world!
Emotional Wellness, Social Wellness, and Spiritual Wellness all go hand-in-hand. In addition to my amazing experience at b.well, my friends are supportive and loving, my devotional and time spent in conversation with the big man upstairs fuel me with his grace, and I spend my time continually filling my own cup with dedication to living my best life and loving myself in thoughts, words, and deeds. I’m in a really, really good place and I am so damn proud of myself.
Fit, well, and good.
May was good to me, and June’s getting even better. How blessed am I? I feel like a phoenix rising from the ashes of a previous, less true version of myself. That’s pretty freakin’ awesome.
Bring on Europe.
In the words of my sweet friend Andrea, “The world can’t wait to meet you.“