Sunday, November 29, 2015

Sunday Sweats 48: YTT Week 2 + Ashenfelter Classic 8k

November 23–28
We registered within a day of each other. No way 2,200 people registered between us! #weird

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

My Life on the Mat

I thought a lot about what I would write for today. It's been just over three weeks since I joined that elusive one percent and ran my first marathon. As of the time I'm writing this, it's been just over one day since I officially began my training for yoga teaching certification. We're approaching the winter and my second running anniversary. All things I could talk about from a training perspective.

But what I want to talk about today is more of a journey than a goal. That makes sense for me, though, because even though goals are pretty much the only way I get anything done, I prefer to think of such things as benchmarks along the journey, rather than endpoints or finish lines—even when they, in fact, are finish lines.

I want to talk about my life on the yoga mat. There's a Cliff Notes version here. There's been plenty of ink spilled on the topic of yoga here on this blog. But yoga is so much more to me than a future source of income, a couple of blog posts about studio tips and home practice tricks, or being a brand ambassador.

When I started yoga (10 years ago, about when I was 16), where (my living room in the little yellow house), why (boredom after the end of my dancing and cheerleading days and the desire to do something physically engaging besides making out with my then-boyfriend), and how (with a Rodney Yee DVD) are just details. But they're the ones I find myself repeating most often. Just the other day in YTT, my classmates and I shared how we each began our yoga journeys and those details were the first things I mentioned. But those trivial tid bits do so little to talk about why I continue to choose to be a yogi every day, and why I want to make it part of my life's work.

For a long time, I was an inconsistent yogi, popping on a DVD or pretending I knew anything about sequencing on whims here and there. I'd practice every day for two weeks, then not again for three weeks, then every other day, then take three months off. In college, I elected the one-credit yoga class for my physical education requirement to graduate. My teacher Ro reminds me so much of my current main teacher Donna, and I think that's one of the reasons I like Donna so much.
Ro was very obviously Italian down to her teased hair, Sopranos-inspired voice, chubby fingers wrapped in gold bands—she always reminded me of one of my aunts—and about four feet tall, so by all outward appearances, not exactly what 21-year-old-me pictured as a yogi. (Looking back, I hate that I thought this. It's like how irritating it is when I hear people pontificate on who does or doesn't look like a runner. Just show up at any finish line and you'll see. We're all different, and we're all runners. Same goes for yogis—just come to a studio and see for yourself.) But she opened a whole new world to me. Until then my practice took place entirely at home, and while I had an idea of what I was doing, had decent flexibility and strength, and was even beginning to learn some Sanskrit, I was blind and dumb to everything the yoga world had to offer. It was in Ro's class that I first learned about Kundalini and other types of yoga besides Hatha, ujjayi and other breathing, chakras and balancing them, and meditation. It was Ro who saw my white chakra, and it was Ro who helped me learn to see through my third eye.

Listen, I know some of that sounds like complete and utter crap to some of you. I know it's hard to take me seriously when I say a breathing exercise can soothe fear and anxiety and even real, traumatic pain. I know the second someone says "third eye" without a trace of irony, a lot of people will tune out. I'm not trying to convince you of it, and I know some of it even sounds at war with my Bad Yogi style. I'm not asking you to believe it or lie on the ground and start breathing into your root chakra (although if you want to I can point you toward a great chakra balancing meditation). But I thought all of this was new agey BS until I started experiencing it for myself, so take that as you will.

Anyway, back to the point. As Ro's student, I felt a connection with a person that I had never experienced before. It was like her commitment to her practice, and her commitment to teaching, equipped her to see something in me that others couldn't, and that I didn't know was there myself. It was being her student that made me realize I wanted to be like her, inasmuch as I wanted to lead others in the way she led me. I wanted to guide yogis in the way she guided me, and I wanted to open eyes and ears the way she opened mine. I believed and continue to believe so much in the power of the connection between yogis, between students and teachers, that I want to make more of that power exist in the world.
It seems silly now to say that after my time with Ro, my yoga practice went back into the dark for a long time. I reverted back to my intermittent now-and-again ways until late 2013, when I found myself in a really difficult place in my life. Essentially, there was a great big emptiness, and I tried to fill it in a lot of wrong ways. And when I wasn't trying and failing to fill that space, I was wallowing. Ultimately, I ended up finding the exact right things to fill that emptiness with: yoga and running.

It was around then that I found Erin, the original Bad Yogi. I took her workshop in 2014 and it encouraged me to finally get back into a studio. I picked my studio in January of this year, finally finding a good balance between home and studio practice, and soon after enrolled in YTT—a promise I'd made myself some four years ago. I've waited something like seven months for the day to arrive, but it has, and now my training is under way.

Sometimes I look back on my life on the mat and wish I had a cleaner, more consistent journey. Sometimes I'll have people ask me how long I've been practicing, and I answer 10 years—but it's not true. It also wouldn't be true to say I started two years ago, because there were eight years of foundational understanding of asana (poses, basically the entirely physical part of yoga) practice beneath that. I wish I could say that I started yoga one day and never turned back, never had a desire to do anything else, never strayed from my mat, never questioned whether or not it was doing what it was supposed to do for me. I can't say any of that.

But I can say that yoga has undoubtedly changed my life for the better. I struggle to really conceptualize why though.
Of course, it's increased my bodily flexibility and made recovering from injuries (running-related and non) easier. But it's also increased the flexibility of my understanding, mental engagement, imagination, and creativity.
Of course, it's made my body stronger and more defined and toned. But it's also helped me stay lucid and clear and brave in the face of events that would have previously left me traumatized.
Of course, it's given me a new social sphere and experiences I wouldn't have otherwise had. But it's also made me so much more grateful for the time I get to spend alone, reflecting, finding gratitude, and understanding why some things are the way they are.
As I re-read everything I just wrote (which is starting to feel like a jumbled mess), I realized it could also function as an apology: I'm sorry to all of the people whose paths I've crossed who ever said something along the lines of "I tried yoga and just couldn't get into it," or "Yoga just isn't for me." I apologize for the probably intense response I had. But here's why: I do, truly, believe everyone CAN do yoga, and that everyone SHOULD. Because to everyone who has ever said that to me, I absolutely guarantee 100% that what you think is yoga is such a small part of what it truly is, and truly can be. It is for everybody and every body. It's for your mind and heart and soul as much as your physical body. I believe this in every fiber of my being, and that's why I'm becoming a yoga teacher. That's why I'm a brand ambassador. That's why I never shut up about yoga. That's why I'll get on your living room floor and demo some postures that will help your back pain. That's why I'll sit with you and point you toward chakra balancing resources. That's why I'll encourage you to try meditation one more time. Because I've never believed in anything like I believe in this: yoga can change your life for the better.

Now. How can I help you begin your practice?

__________________________

alyssagoesbang
Now on a less self-centered note, it's your turn to link up! Come tell Tracy, me, and our whole (amazing) Training for Tuesday community about your current goals, recent wins and woes, upcoming training plans, or whatever else fits. Don't forget to visit a few others and share some motivation and virtual high-fives!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Sunday Sweats 47: YTT Week 1

November 16–22

It's here! It's finally here! I started yoga teacher training (YTT) today, a venture I've been wanting to take on since college and have been anxiously awaiting since I (finally!) reserved my place in this training back in the spring. I can't believe I put it off for so long, but I know why I did: it's a huge time commitment. My session is all day Sundays from now through March. Even still, I'm so glad it's finally here and I can't wait to give half my weekend over to this training for the next several months.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Worth It

(image via)
Three and a half years ago, I accepted an offer for my first full-time job in my industry post-grad. I came to a small, niche publishing company as an editor, and I was so happy. I would write about my interests and passions (health, wellness, and public education), and I could wear leggings to the office. I could stroll in around 9:15 and I soon realized my coworkers were some of the best people I'd ever met. And for about two years, I liked my job. And then, it was kind of like how John Green described falling in love. I started hating my job slowly, and then all at once.

The first time I applied for a job to leave my last company was April 2014. I was actually approached by a friend who asked me to apply at her company. I honestly hadn't thought about leaving until she suggested it. I was very unhappy but not yet miserable, and the pros still outweighed the cons. I never heard back from the place I applied, but that sparked the fire and from then on, I kept an updated resume at all times and would apply to jobs every now and then when something that looked REALLY GOOD popped up.

Some time after that, the pros weren't outweighing the cons anymore. I came to find my boss a morally bankrupt person, an offensive and misogynistic person, and downright rude and disrespectful to me on a personal level. It's not necessary to walk through all the reasons why, but I spent every day feeling disrespected, degraded, demoralized. But still, I kind of thought that's how everyone felt at their jobs at some point or another.

Around March of this year, I started furiously applying to jobs. For a good few months, I spent half my time on job boards, writing cover letters, sending out resumes, etc. It wasn't easy, and my market is pretty saturated. I broke down in tears more than once out of sheer frustration. What was I doing wrong? I was doing everything by the book: I received feedback on my resume and cover letter. I networked with colleagues. I emailed HR personally and enthusiastically. There was not a job I was qualified for that I didn't apply for—and there were many I was completely unqualified for that I sent my information to anyway. I had one fantastic interview this April, followed the rules and sent a thank you email, we bonded over a shared alma mater. I never heard anything back from the woman who promised me a timely response.

In early June I went on an interview that I was almost positive I was going to get. In the weeks that followed I got so fed up at work that I thought pretty much every single day about just winging it, quitting on the spot, and crossing my fingers that the job offer would come through. I got that offer in the first week of July, accepted, gave two weeks notice, and then rejected the job offer before I started. So I was totally and completely jobless with less than two weeks left to work. I thought for maybe half a second about rescinding my resignation, but I couldn't stand the thought of being shackled to my boss for literally one more day. It just wasn't worth it.

Before I rescinded my acceptance of the job offer at the newspaper, I was contacted by two corporate recruiters in my field and had landed two really promising job interviews on my own. I was still applying to jobs every single day. I was hunting down freelance work, working on my portfolio, and trying to network my way into little gigs that would at least help me keep the lights on. A recruiter landed me a temp assignment—a lot of people only want copywriters/editors on an assignment basis rather than employing one full-time in-house—at a marketing agency and I took it. I told myself it was a stop-gap, as I fully expected a job offer from a company I wanted to work for any day now. The temp assignment pay was great, and I figured it was only temporary.

As you know, I was pretty devastated by a rejection not long after all that.

After a few weeks, the marketing firm loved me and wanted to transition me to a full-time employee. I thought about how much I was annoyed by little things there, and how if I committed to work at this company on a full-time basis, I would hate it there just as much as I grew to hate my last company. That was senseless to me. I didn't leave a miserable job just to end up at an equally miserable job, with a longer commute and not-as-awesome coworkers to boot. So after a few weeks of still nothing coming down the pike except the knowledge that my recruiter's job is to find me work, even if it's temp, I gave two weeks notice with absolutely nothing lined up. Again.

A sidebar here is necessary: I am not of the mindset of a lot of people: I don't believe in living to work. I don't believe in working more than 40 hours a week (in most cases). I don't believe in our jobs being central to our identities, and I completely detest the idea that a person who doesn't want to work their life away is lazy or unambitious or lacks drive. I think that money is bullshit and I hate it, but it's a necessary evil so I control mine intensely so it doesn't control me. I believe work should keep us out of trouble and teach us humility and a job should be something that funds our pursuits of happiness and purpose in life. A lot of people think their purpose and their job are the same. I think maybe 5% of the Western world is so lucky for that to be true.

To that end, I despise the idea of working at a job that makes me (or you) feel sad, miserable, degraded, devalued, disrespected, or any of the other things I felt for the last two years of the job I was at for three years, the things I was sure I would come to feel sooner than later here.

That all brings us to the end of this September. While news of my upcoming departure trickled through the marketing firm, I was absolutely shocked by the number of people who seemed to care. The CEO of the entire firm as well as the CEO of one of the brands operated within came to me personally (I had never spoken to either one before) and remarked about my good work there and basically asked me to stay—or come back, if the grass didn't turn out to be any greener wherever it was that I was going. To paint a bit more of a picture, I was brought in to build a brand voice and editorial cadence, tone, and style from the ground up. I quite literally wrote the voice for a global brand, and I had proven myself to be a good and hard worker.

But I was still unhappy and it was getting worse each day, so I leapt off the edge. I was still sending out resumes, still being represented by a recruiter, and now I had a global brand and a whole lot more samples to add to my portfolio. All this while I had a few freelance side gigs and I was plotting how to turn them into steadier work. I was ready to hustle, but it occurred to me one day that I wasn't really hustling toward anything in particular.

After being rejected by Pearson (as in, the publishing company that produced every textbook you ever used in school) after being one of the top two candidates for the position, I was immensely deflated and completely lost direction. After hating my last job so much, Pearson was the only company I could see myself moving to. And they had decided they didn't want me. So what did I want now?

I knew what I didn't want. I didn't want to be instructed on how or when to be creative. I didn't want to be given "creative freedom" in constraints. I wanted to do my best work the best way I knew how, and I wanted enough respect from my employer to be given the trust that I knew better than he or she did what that was. I wanted work to be about work; I didn't want my life to be about my work. I wanted a new job, not a new lifestyle. I didn't want to lose hours per week to commuting. I didn't want to feel like everything I was doing was a step on the treadmill. I won't even run on a treadmill in marathon training; you think I was going to do it in real life?

But I also never wanted self-employment: the taxes, the health insurance, the hustle, the headache. I didn't want it at all. Until I realized that it was the only way I could keep out the shit I didn't want. And again, slowly, and then all at once, I decided to work for myself.

I worked out a deal with the marketing firm to work on a freelance basis, remotely, only attending in-office meetings as necessary. I fired my resume out again, but to different places and people and looked for different things. I write for a few websites now and picked up more work with others I already had relationships with. And then suddenly, one day I turned around and was a self-employed content writer and copywriter.

It was a really weird realization at first: the realization that I had actually become, in a good way, something I never thought I wanted to be. I've read for years about people in my industry who were DYING to be their own bosses, who side-hustled and worked 80 hours per week for a year to build up a client base and earn the freedom to transition to self-employment. I, on the other hand, leaped without looking and fell into what I discovered in an instant was the best thing for me, and what I didn't know before I really wanted to do. I felt at first like I didn't earn it, like I was going to have to pay the Pied Piper, and like I probably couldn't hack it.

But I can, and I am, and I did earn it. I just went a different route than some, I suppose. You know that quote about getting lost on the way to a dream and finding a different one? It's true. It's so, so true, you guys. And another thing I have to say: I went back and read the comments on this post today, and you all were so, so right. Thank you for having my back when I really needed to hear something I totally didn't want to hear: that being rejected was a blessing, and that something better for me was closer than I could have realized.
It isn't always easy, but every single day it has been absolutely worth it. And that's something I've never been able to say about any job I ever had. (Even when I managed a homemade gelato shop.)

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

I'm On a Roll

I don't even know how many different places there are now to link up these Wednesday confessions, but I do know this: I have confessions to make. I also know that Kathy (with the help of the sweet Nadine) has resurrected her linkup that started them all, and my friend Sarah is playing hostess for us too. Links all around. But more importantly, here are some recent embarrassing things about me.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Recent Reads Vol. 6

I slowed down a lot on my book readin' last month, most likely due to my lack of commute (where I used to listen to audiobooks) and the Internet being full of shiny things. But what I did read I really enjoyed, so of course I'm showing up to Steph and Jana's book party once again.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Sunday Sweats 45: Life After the Marathon

When I first started writing these posts, I wasn't yet training for the marathon, but it was in my sights and I was looking ahead to a few half marathons. Even though I'm not officially in training right now, I love these weekly chances to put my thoughts on paper and reflect on my week of workouts. So the plan is to keep them going! As always, no pressure to read or comment; I know fitness posts aren't everyone's thing.
November 2–8

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The One Percent

How do you start a conversation about the biggest physical event of your life, a day you've been preparing for for months, an event you've been talking about for just as long? I don't really know. In order to write fully and completely about the marathon, I think I would need more words than the English language contains and more letters than the average blog reader cares to be subjected to.

They say less than one percent people have run a marathon. As of Sunday, November 1, 2015, I am part of the one percent.
I do want this post to be as full an account as reasonably possible, so there's no pressure to read every word (or any of them at all, of course). But this is everything.