Why I Stayed

I log in, after scribbling a few bullet points on professional hopes and dreams in a notebook.

The button reads, “Write.”

Click.

That brings us to now. (I told you I wasn’t leaving.)

Several months… okay, almost two years ago, I wrote about my departure from higher education and student affairs. Almost two years later, I am still with my “new” employer, and I continue to build upon the foundation set by my learning and experience in student affairs.

I have also learned a fair amount about myself, about how to be more honest with what I want and what I need. Recently, I have been having conversations about what comes next for me; this requires multiple conversations and layers of unpacking, as I cannot seem to travel down a linear pathway. In my world, linear pathways just don’t exist.

I’ve learned that, while I certainly have a propensity to gravitate towards service roles, working with customers, students, and clients directly, there are strengths and interests I need to tend to and cultivate. I miss research and writing–activities nearly exclusive to my undergraduate and graduate career; I miss those hours spent synthesizing disparate sources to compose and share knowledge, and to create further questions and learning for myself and others. I have not had the space to be as intensely passionate (oh dear, I used that word) as I was about spiritual development or identity development or even the idea of how a concept as abstract as “trust” plays into the development or lack of relationships. I crave it.

Today, I shared with another person a sliver of my dreams, and as soon as I had a moment to start to elaborate on an idea I had, about a topic I thought I had a remote interest in, I found myself speaking without taking a breath, engrossed in elaborating on the questions I wanted to know more about. That spark I knew I still had is very much alive, and it’s up to me to continue to stoke the fire. Somehow, somewhere along my recent professional journey, I didn’t allow myself to truly pursue that which gave me energy because those things were “scary” or because I believe myself to be woefully unqualified.

Now, this isn’t to say that I’m bad at the jobs I held or what I currently do. It isn’t to say that I don’t enjoy what I do or the organization I’m at. In fact, everything I process in my head and put down on paper confirms that I am exactly where I want to be. Because of that, I also have the ability to finally allow myself to pursue ways in which my dominant strengths will flourish.

So what if I don’t have an MFA, nor have I ever held a position in which learning and development or training or writing were a significant component. Do I possess the skills to excel in roles that might demand these things? Sure. Do I possess an amount of confidence in myself to continue to learn, explore, and make positive impact on the community around me? Of course.

Am I committed to cultivating a mindset for success?

Well, I sure hope so. The only way to know is to stay long enough to find out.

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Checked Baggage

My biggest piece of advice when it comes to CrossFit has always been, “Listen to your body.” My next piece of advice in all that I do has always been, “Leave your ego at the door.”

Well, it turns out, I really have to do both things this month, and I swear to all that is holy that it is the most frustrating, infuriating, and humbling process.

After two years of making steady progress in my fitness abilities despite coming to the table with a boatload of chronic injuries, I managed to piss off my left shoulder. I pulled too hard in some drill (a drill! a skill-building, strength-building drill!), and for three days, my arm felt just a bit more sore than usual. Then I noticed the pronounced asymmetry in strength in a behind-the-neck press. I forced myself to go light and not push like normal in that particular lift, and then I rested my shoulder for a few days. I tried to to do a workout like normal near the end of the week, and the next day, my arm was so sore and so tired, I had to use my other arm to move my left!

I scheduled a doctor’s visit for several weeks out, finally resigning that it was time to get a PT referral and have an expert tell me exactly what I damaged fifteen years ago in junior high PE.

Since scheduling the appointment, my shoulder has improved quite a bit through stretching and rest and backing off on weight. Most movements don’t even bother me, just like normal, but now I’m wary of tweaking it again. I’ve always been wary of tweaking it, which is why I suppose I’m so frustrated with this set-back; I’ve done almost everything possible to build my foundations (or so I thought) to avoid something like this.

Beyond that, I’ve found that double-unders cause my shin splints to flare up. Usually, I can mitigate the situation with proper taping and footwear, but for some reason, last night, I could barely do fifty double-unders before having to call it quits. I was pissed and found myself close to tears on a run, only the second time I’ve felt like crying during a workout (which is surprising, considering my slow attainment of skills and chronic injuries for which I compensate).

On top of these things, I’ve gotten very stubborn about fixing my shoddy technique in my Olympic lifts. I’ve achieved some great numbers in my clean, but with a shaky technical foundation. If I want to get where I want to be, it’s going to take stepping back a few notches to unlearn some bad habits.

And on top of that, I’m keen to fix my technical and foundation in a lot of other skills. There are a decent set of skills where I felt like I adequately mastered the progressions, but in actuality, I was tired of the modified or scaled version–especially because other people have been advancing more quickly, relative to their starting the sport.

This flies in the face of what I actually believe and know to be beneficial.

So now what?

I recognize my challenges, but I’m re-committing to tackling the underlying weaknesses in the foundation. Yes, I have progressed. Yes, I have gotten stronger. But at the same time, I’ve been compensating for injuries I never properly rehabilitated. I’ve been compensating for holes in my skill sets. And I’ve gotten by, utilizing my strengths in very particular areas.

But you know me–it’s not enough. I want more. And to get more, it means re-examining my goals, readjusting my necessary work, and basically being the over-analytic “trends-towards-perfectionism,” “how does this fit into the big picture?” scholar I am.

If I want to get stronger, master more skills, get faster, and all that good stuff, I need to check myself and do the work I need to do, put in the time, practice smart, and listen to my body. No over-training, but no skipping the foundational work that will help my shoulder and my ankles. No getting grumpy and giving up because I don’t like the standards I’ve set for myself. Instead, it’s lots of organization, tracking, goal-setting, time frame-setting, dedication, and work–oh, and remembering to learn from the experience, reflect on the experience, and find joy even in the suck.

Here’s to a happy, healthy, and productive 2015.

…And maybe some one-armed clean and jerks.

Why I Do CrossFit

That is such a cop-out title. People love the “Why CrossFit is Dangerous,” “Why CrossFit Isn’t For Me,” “Why CrossFit is the Best Thing You’re Missing,” etc. Even so, I want to consider and share why I continue to participate in this form of fitness and recreation, and why this is the only other athletic thing I’ve stuck with besides cheer and dance–and why it’s the only athletic thing that I feel like I’ve grown in and continue to progress in as I approach my two-year anniversary.

The Workouts
I remember my first workout clearly. I got left behind on the warm-up lap after a very nice girl chatted with me for a bit and then picked up her pace to match the rest of the group. I learned how to clean and jerk from a very hands-on coach. I was the last person done with the lightest weight possible. And I was thrashed for several days following. But I logged on to Facebook and left a very telling status update that night which basically told my circle of friends, “Okay, I finally understand this CrossFit thing.”

After one session, I realized that it was a form of fitness which provided the opportunity for people to push their boundaries, not in terms of physical limits, but in overcoming mental hurdles. Weightlifting, for example, is something I was mildly interested in, but societal norms in rec centers and other gyms is that girls, ladies, and women don’t use the weight room. It was always intimidating, uncomfortable, and a sure-fire way to look like the novice I was. But CrossFit basically says, “To Hell with that.” Women learn the same lifts, the same moves, and the only difference is that sometimes our prescribed weights are lighter. There is nothing that says we can’t aim for the males’ prescribed weights, and depending on the workout and people’s fitness levels, sometimes I lift heavier than the guys. And there is no shame in any of that for anyone.

Essentially, the workouts continue to be challenging as a person progresses. The seemingly endless ability to scale and modify–whether that means “down” or “up”–means that it truly “never gets easier, you just get better.”

The Third Space
Typically, people have their home space and their workspace. In my line of work and in the spirit of balance, we often talk of establishing the “third space,” that place that exists outside of home and work. My third space in recent years always tended to be a coffeeshop or a bar, somewhere where I spent time reading and writing, for the most part. After graduate school, I didn’t need that function as much (for better or for worse), and I floundered a bit in trying to establish a different sort of third space.

What my gym has provided me is a third space for recreation, the ability to shed the weight of the day (ironically, usually by throwing literal weight on me) and a place to rejuvenate. For some folks, that place isn’t and never will be a gym or a fitness center, and that is perfectly fine. Trust me when I say that I’m surprised the gym became my third space. For a long time, I was the girl who made every excuse to avoid going to the gym; I still do that–except I establish good, solid reasons to keep myself out so I can get a rest day in (over-training is bad for you, people!). My third space is a place to reconnect with myself, where for a small amount of time, I can disconnect from technology and the tasks at work and focus on self-improvement. It’s also, luckily, a place where I can interact with other people and feed my social life.

The People
And that brings me to the people of CrossFit. My athletic background was, in my mind, fairly minimal. I spent 12 or so years dancing and 4 years cheering between high school and college. I dabbled in other team sports, but mostly harbored a distaste for the years I attempted soccer, basketball, and softball. I enjoyed being around other people, even though I didn’t have a ton of incredibly close friendships from dance and cheer, which is no one’s fault; to me, it seems like I just didn’t quite fit in the same way most of the other ladies and men did. (On a related note, I fit in quite well with my band people, but that was outside the fitness spectrum by a long-shot, at least in my experience.) However, I still loved the team dynamic, understanding how each individual’s strengths played into a bigger picture while we were each able to hone our skill sets and work on weaknesses.

After college, the opportunity to participate in team-based fitness seemingly disappeared. I think I’ve mentioned numerous times that I tried running, I tried yoga, I tried group fitness classes, but each time, I lost interest and quit going (even after buying memberships for some of these things!). Nothing grabbed my interest enough to make me commit. Looking back on it, part of that reason was there weren’t other people to hold me accountable. Sure, there were regulars in my classes, but the environments weren’t conducive to socializing and getting to know other people.

But then there came CrossFit. Technically, CrossFit classes are group fitness classes; there are scheduled times and a coach, and you’d think it would have been the same situation as with Zumba or spin or cardio kick-boxing. For some reason, though, a team develops and emerges, and in my case, I was able to integrate into a team, which then led to my accountability to others kicking in, which then led to returning over and over to the gym, which then led to a greater want to develop individually and contribute back to the overall skill set my gym showcased.

That sounds fairly convoluted, I think, and there are a lot of psychological and social processes at work there, but what it comes down to is, there are a lot of good people that I met, and that mindset that we are all in this journey together is prevalent in the community. (“Community?” Yeah, there’s definitely a community around this form of fitness.) There are more and more fitness communities springing up, too (based on my social media), and there is a ton of potential in those teams and communities to shift the habits of other adults towards health and fitness.

Oh, and also–they’re fun!

Some of the SEAtown CrossFit crew during float day on the Yakima River near Ellensburg

Some of the SEAtown CrossFit crew during float day on the Yakima River near Ellensburg

In a nutshell–it’s a healthy combination of fitness, self-improvement, relationship-building, and fun. We push and challenge each other to try new things. We teach each other. We laugh. We encourage. A personal fitness journey moves to “we,” and the secret to what I need to be happy and healthy is no longer a secret.

 

I Refuse

I refuse to live in fear.

The culture I live in has created–out of its own faults and its own greatness–something that can so easily lead to a fearful life, a cynical life, a life in which the only hope is seemingly from escape.

But I will refuse that.

Some of you will bicker endlessly, refusing to listen to one another, refusing to even consider for one second that someone else’s point-of-view may be valid (maybe not 100% correct, but valid and with good points), refusing to think that maybe your truth and her truth and his truth are all true and real–albeit different.

Each of us lives a different life. Each of us has a different reality. And each of us can use a bit of “walking a mile in their shoes.”

Why don’t we band together this summer (and from here on out) to make this a life of love? To recognize the humanity in one another, no matter how difficult and heart-wrenching that may be in some situations. You will never understand fully “what it is like,” but that doesn’t need to stop you from practicing compassion, empathy, and genuine care.

Many of us have joined in on nutrition challenges, fitness challenges, challenges of all sorts. I think–taking a cue from a friend–it’s time to challenge ourselves towards a summer of love.

What say you?

She Says it Better

The Other Side of Privilege at Princeton

If you haven’t heard about the Princeton Kid, you should look into it. Essentially, he wrote a no apologies piece about not being sorry for his privilege (primarily “White,” and “male,” in this case). The article I’ve linked provides another lenses with which to consider privilege–and it is such a good read. And it is much more eloquent than the stream of thought I’m about to put out here. (So please, read the above article first.)

I’ll own up to my privilege in this world. I speak English with an American accent. I grew up not rich but without want. I largely wasn’t questioned for my achievements in school and in music growing up; my success was attributed to inherent talent along with hard work. I can hold hands with my significant other in public, and our orientation is never challenged nor called out.

And at the same time, I can point out many different ways in which I understand not having privilege. My identity is constantly questioned and assumed to be something it is not. “What are you?” is one of the first questions I am usually asked, usually following “What do you do?” and “Where are you from?” People have gotten upset with me when my identity does not fit what they expect or want. “No, you’re Latina; I know it.” “You’re not really Asian, though. Filipinos aren’t really Asian.” “You’re basically White!” Sometimes, I don’t get to tell my own story, and it rightly pisses me off. You don’t know me; how dare you invalidate me.

People sometimes assume I don’t and can’t speak English. Or they’re surprised it’s my first (and only) language. And others guilt me for not speaking my “native tongue.” I don’t speak Tagalog because my father didn’t speak it, and it was easier in the household to just speak English.

I couldn’t afford a private education. I grew up in the public system, and was constantly top of my class. I went to public universities because the burden of debt at a private institution would have been too much for my family. Certainly I was capable. And if I had gone to an elite institution, my presence as a mixed-race, middle-class female would have likely been questioned or downplayed. Some would have thought my scholarships were due only to my race or my socioeconomic class; that’s not right, and it’s frustrating to have your own hard work come with an imposed disclaimer.

And regarding my partners? Well, I definitely have heterosexual privilege, but at the same time, there are people who still question my relationships because of the color of my skin. What the actual Hell, people?

I recognize my privilege, and I honor the stories my family has provided me through their own struggles. And some days, I feel the weight of having more than others. I am still working on what to do about that. How can I provide equity in this world? How do I make things just a little bit better? These are terribly difficult things, and I will do an imperfect job.

But I will at least try.

Look, privilege and identity and the truth and reality we live are all different. Sometimes we benefit from the established order because of those who came before us, even if they were completely misguided. Sometimes we oppress others because of that same constructed order. We all struggle, and we all struggle differently. I’m not asking for apologies. I’m asking that you LISTEN to my story and to others’ stories. I’m asking that you drop your judgement and your guilt, and listen.

Learn what empathy really is. Learn that your experiences are real and valid, but not everyone lives the same reality as you. I’ll admit I am still learning this, and it wasn’t until I was well into college that I began to understand the complexities that make up our experiences.

Princeton Kid, I don’t want your apology. You do you; live your own story. Your reality is just as real (although you might want to do a bit more analysis. Yes, analysis of a story, like we did in high school English). But to invalidate others’ stories? That’s not acceptable.

I only hope you grow and learn and open your mind and heart–and it is difficult, that’s for sure. I cannot tell you how shaken I was when my beliefs were challenged for the first time.

But here I am, weary yet stronger for being challenged.

It is a long journey.

Last thing I will say for tonight… Princeton Kid, I will use my privilege as a (very lax) Catholic to say I’ll keep you in my prayers. I will do my best to challenge others to stretch themselves and understand the stories we all live. I will come at you not with fire on my tongue, but with stories and ideas that you may hate. But I’ll put them out there, leave them there for you, and constantly hope that you take the time to listen.

It’s not enough. It will never be enough. Yet… At least it’s something.

Hawk Yeah.

Just a short post tonight in light of the recent Seahawks Super Bowl victory…

The “Seattle sports fan neurosis,” as a friend of mine said online, is real. Just look at this article, “Mediocrity, Followed by Bitter, Soul-Crushing Disappointment.” Growing up in the Northwest, you develop a type of defensive pessimism about the teams you love, which I think has bled into my personal attitudes about my own potential, whether that’s academic or in romance or whatever.

But then… a season like this happens. A season that really exemplifies a “Tell me I won’t” defiance. A season that showcases a city (and a region’s) pride in something that maybe is a metaphor for all of us in this grey little corner of the US.

Granted, I cautious of becoming too boastful, too prideful, too optimistic–but even so, the reward in challenging the naysayers has been so much more than a shiny trophy. Let that be the guiding principle from now on.

Go on. Tell me one more time that I won’t do it. That I can’t do it.

It seemed to work for these guys.

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(Sadly, none of these photos belong to me. They were all shared via the Hawk Nation Facebook page. I was working all day and couldn’t catch the parade in-person, unlike many of my other friends. Jealousy!)