You Can.

Honestly and truly. Whatever it is you want to do with your life, you can do it.

You Won’t Win Unless You’re Willing to Lose

In October of 2017, as he was training for the 2018 Winter Olympics, Shaun White had a horrible crash that resulted in 62 stitches in his face. In an interview a few months later, he was asked whether the crash gave him doubts about his ability or willingness to continue, especially in pursuit of a spot on the Olympic team. He nodded his head, saying that while he looked in the mirror at his nearly unrecognizable face, he realized that by agreeing to continue, agreeing to step back out there and try again, he was more or less accepting that this could happen all over again.

At first, this statement seemed obvious to me. Being a complete outsider to the sport, the corresponding danger is constantly at the forefront of my attention. I mean, they are literally throwing themselves through the air, flipping and spinning and twisting at high speeds, all the while hoping they’ll land flat on a thin piece of fiberglass. With that in mind, of course it could happen again, Shaun! Honestly it seems like it should happen more.

But as the weeks went on and the Olympics came and went, the quote sat with me, churning around in my brain the way all lessons waiting to be learned tend to. Eventually I started thinking about the risks I take in my own life. Both small and big. I thought about my writing, both on this blog and outside it in pursuit of other projects, accolades, etc. Every time I write a blog post, I accept the fact that people might not like it, or that it might not do well. Every time I submit a piece to a contest or a magazine or a publisher, I accept the fact that it might lose or get rejected. Every time I try to succeed, I accept the fact I can fail.

After a while, I realized this mindset can apply to almost every aspect of our lives.

In relationships, every time you make yourself vulnerable you accept the fact that you could get hurt.

In finances, every time you make an investment you accept the fact that it could fall through.

Plans can fail. Accidents can happen. Hearts can break.

In this world, there is a lot to be afraid of, there is a lot that can go wrong, and there are a lot of opportunities to fail. But every day we get up, every day we step outside, every time we accept those fears and try again, we give ourselves the change to succeed, to win.

On February 14th, after spending months both recovering from his injury and working his way back into the physical and mental shape needed to make the Olympic team, Shaun White won the gold medal in the Snowboard Halfpipe event, making him the most decorated snowboarder of all time.

In many ways it was expected, hoped for, anticipated, both by Shaun White and the millions of people tuning in to the competition. But the only guarantee would have come from him not trying, not taking that risk, not stepping back into the sport all those months ago. The same goes for anything you hope for, I dream of, we all aim to accomplish. So even though failure is hard, vulnerability is terrifying and losing sucks, it’s worth the risk. Not only because it brings you one step closer to success, but because it makes you stronger, braver and smarter than you were before. And although it might not feel like it, trying and failing will always show more courage than avoiding failure all together. So take the risk, make the try and see where it takes you.

Just Keep Dribbling

There is a boy in my neighborhood, probably about 12 or 13 years old, who is constantly dribbling a basketball on the sidewalk in front of his house. When I get home from work, he’s out there. When I go to the gym, he’s out there. When I sit on my couch trying to find inspiration for a blog post, he’s out there, just like he is right now. Dribbling and dribbling and dribbling.

Now, I don’t know what this boy’s dreams are. I don’t know if he wants basketball to be his life, or if maybe it already is. I don’t know if he wants to play in the NBA or if dribbling on his front porch is just how he blows off steam. But when I hear him out there, I smile, because I recognize the habit or the vice or the passion or whatever basketball is to him. For me, it’s been writing, it’s been photography, it’s been books, it’s been sports, and a number of other things.

These passions, these vices, these dreams all start small. They all start with just a dribble. And in order to make them real, to turn them into something tangible and successful and satisfying, we have to keep dribbling. Even when the days start to go by faster, even when our schedules start to get fuller, even when our bodies start to grow tired.

In my life, there are things I want to accomplish. Tons of things. Heck, I even have lists of them on the Internet. But while some of these things may seem impossible, some of them may seem far-fetched or unlikely or incredibly difficult, some of them might even be things I’ll change my mind on in a few years, what’s important is that I’m trying. Day in, day out, I’m trying. I’m working. To make myself better. To make myself stronger. To remind myself that no matter what life throws at me, I can keep working.

When I see that boy outside his house, I wonder what he’s working towards. If it’s basketball, I wonder if there are days when he sits inside with the ball in his lap, telling himself to just give up. Then I think about the things I’m working towards, some of which I’ve grown frustrated with the lack of progress on, and I ask myself if it’s because they’re not meant to be, or if I’ve just spent too many days indoors with the ball in my lap.

At the end of the day, it’s all about taking those small steps. As hard is it is to believe, they do add up and they will pay off. We just have to keep dribbling. And dribbling. And dribbling.

2017 Goals Final Check-In

So I’ve decided to use this week as a kind of “wrap up” for 2017. Monday was the last episode (in 2017) of All the Good Things, and today we take a final look at my 2017 goals. Let’s see how I did:

1) See Star Wars

COMPLETED

That’s right folks, I can finally unlock a new level of society because I have officially seen all the Star Wars films. Well, at least all of them except the new one. But to be fair, that one wasn’t on the list because I didn’t know it was coming out. So as of now I’m counting myself among the I’ve-been-too-busy-with-the-holidays-to-see-the-new-one-yet breed, which is exactly where I want to be.

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2) See 5 WLRA’s

COMPLETED

WRLA (pronounced wool-rah) is my nickname for the World’s Largest Roadside Attractions, which I became addicted to sometime last year. It is among my life goals to see them all, and so I’m chipping them off slowly. This year I shot for five, and ended up seeing the fifth one just under the wire. My sister and I drove out to see the World’s Largest Donut on New Year’s Eve Eve. The other four I saw this year were the World’s Largest Paper Cup, Fishing Fly, Thermometer and Monk.

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3) Try this jean rug DIY

COMPLETED

I did most of the prep for this project back in September, but didn’t actually sew it together until this past weekend. On one hand I could say I’m glad I was ahead of the game (at one point) because when I finally sat down to sew it together, all the pieces were already cut. But on other hand, I wish I would have just taken the time to sew it together back then, it might have been a tinge less stressful. Regardless, I’m very proud of the end result. It’s nowhere near perfect, but it’s something I actually sewed with my own two hands and, like, HOW COOL IS THAT?!

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4) Run 1,000 miles

COMPLETED

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It’s almost unfathomable that I can write “complete” on this goal, but it is, in fact, COMPLETE! I, Kimberlee K, ran 1000 miles in 2017. EEEK. You can read all about this ridiculously crazy feat here.

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5) Complete The Ultimate Fit Bit Week

COMPLETED

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At the beginning of the year I decided to make my own Fitbit achievement known as “The Ultimate Fit Bit Week.” Essentially I wanted to see if I could meet every goal (i.e. steps taken, calories burned, active minutes, etc.) every single day for an entire week. Let me tell you, it was not easy, but it’s one of those things that I can now say that I did, which is cool. You can read about it here. Also, if you’re reading this, Fitbit, make sure you name this challenge after me if you ever make it, you know, a thing.

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6) Volunteer (at least) 5 times

COMPLETED

As I’ve said in previous check-ins, this was one of my favorite goals of the year, which made it a no brainer to add it to my list of goals for 2018. I’d highly encourage anyone and everyone to volunteer if they get a chance. It’s truly one of the most rewarding experiences!

These were my five for this year:

  • Food Forward (5/21/17)
  • Children’s Hunger Fund (6/24/17)
  • My Stuff Bags (8/10/17)
  • Food Forward (8/26/17)
  • Children’s Hunger Fund (10/7/17)

You can find opportunities to volunteer here.

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7) Go to a sporting event of “every” kind (i.e. baseball, football, hockey, basketball, & soccer)

60% COMPLETED

When the year started, the NFL, NBA and NHL were all in the tail end of their regular seasons and moving into the playoffs, thus making tickets to the games way out of my price range. So, since I knew baseball would be an easy one to check off (because I’m a huge Dodger fan), and soccer season was just about to start, I decided to channel my energy into those and put the other three checkpoints on hold until the end of the year (a.k.a the beginning of a new season). In the end, while I was lucky enough to be invited to a hockey game (in a suite!! Thanks, Sam!) I never found my way to a basketball or football game this year. But don’t fret! At the end of the day, not going to a basketball or football game doesn’t make my year a “failure” or this goal a wash. And it would be a waste to get caught up in the parameters of the goal and obsess over the failures rather than celebrate the successes. For among the casual weeknight Dodger games I got to attend this year, I also got to see Game 6 of the World Series, and got my family out to see an LA Galaxy soccer game, which we probably never would have done otherwise. When I think about it like that, I’d say it’s a pretty successful goal.

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8) Try every class at the gym

VETOED

The lack of progress on this one began with a lack of facilities, due to water damage at my local gym. It was back up and running in April, but then April turned into May and then June and then July, leading me to believe that procrastination had taken over. While that was definitely part of it, the truth was, I was scared. By July I had hit the 500-mile mark of my running goal, making the finish line something I could actually picture, and I was scared to do anything that might prevent me from reaching it. So around October, I more or less forfeited—or rather vetoed—this goal for 2017 and decided to add it as a bonus goal for this coming year. I still want to get a taste of what my gym membership is getting me and I figure it will be a good way to stay in shape.

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9) Do The Princess Diaries painting

COMPLETED

You remember this iconic scene from classic RomCom The Princess Diaries, right?

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I mean I think it’s safe to say we were all jealous of that mother/daughter arts and crafts session. Lucky for me, I have an amazing group of friends and family that dove headfirst into this project for my 27th birthday.

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You can read about that day here.

Also, I recently got a chance to hang the end results up on my wall and it makes me smile every time I pass by.

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10) Find and try the “Best of” restaurants in LA

COMPLETED

This was another goal that I was super excited about and it did not disappoint. I’ve always wanted to take more advantage of my access to downtown Los Angeles, and I feel like this search for the “best of” restaurants in my five favorite food groups (i.e. pizza, burgers, ice cream, donuts and sandwiches) helped me scratch the surface.

Here are my five finds:

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11) Watch every film that has ever won Best Picture

98.88% COMPLETED

As of my last check-in, I had 60 movies to watch before the end of the year. When the clock struck midnight on New Year’s Eve, I only had one. Before you “awww”, know that this was intentional, as I realized (too late) that the last movie on the list was the final film in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and I haven’t seen the first two…

…DON’T GIVE ME THAT LOOK. I realize this is another cardinal sin of cinema and I’m going to make right, okay? I’m adding this trilogy as another bonus goal for 2018.

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12) Learn to Longboard

VETOED

Similar to goal #8, I more or less quit on this goal after I became knee deep in my running. It just seemed too likely that I’d fall off my longboard and tweak an ankle (or worse) and I wasn’t willing to give up the progress I’d made. So, again, this was postponed. Hopefully I’ll find the courage to *shred* in 2k18.

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13) Learn to do a headband braid

COMPLETED (I GUESS)

Have you ever adopted a new hobby and put in a bunch of time to get better at it, only to realize that your skill level is and always will be pretty basic. Yeah, well that’s how I feel about the headband braid. After spending the year watching a bunch of different tutorial videos and knotting my hair a bunch of different ways, I more or less accepted that I’m just not good at headband braids. I get the basic concept, but my end result always looks like I let a little kid play hair salon. SO, I’m forfeiting my pursuit of the perfect braid. The way I see it, at least I can say I tried, and at least I have a handful of friends that are willing to do my hair.

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14) Reach the 100,000-mile mark on my car

COMPLETED

This was another highlight of my year. After hitting the 100,000 mile mark, my family and I loaded up into Jeffrey—wearing sparkly hats and homemade glasses no less—and took a ridiculous amount of pictures and Boomerangs to commemorate the occasion.

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You can read all about Jeffrey’s (my car) big milestone here.

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15) Do a bar/pub crawl

COMPLETED

As if it were destined for my attendance, when I Googled “bar crawls” in October, I found 12 Bars of Charity, which divides its attendees into “teams” and gives them t-shirts to showcase the charity they choose to support. My friends and I were on the “black team” which supported the Boys & Girls club. And while we only made it to three of the twelve bars—because we spent too much time talking at each one shrug_1f937.png—we still had a great time, and talked about going again next year to go to the bars we missed. (Though at this rate it will take us 4 years to see them all)

If you’re interested, 12 Bars of Charity has events all over the country. Check here to see if there’s one near you.

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16) Sing Karaoke

COMPLETED

Much to the surprise of my pre-2017 self, karaoke became somewhat of a staple for my year. My friends and I found a favorite place and made many an appearance on a Saturday night. I found that it is one of the best ways to blow off steam and I highly recommend it to anyone and everyone.

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17) Complete Project Lightbulb

COMPLETED

Project Lightbulb is the nickname I gave my family’s dream vacation to Iceland. And while it became clear that this goal would be impossible to complete this year, I decided that as long as we made steps towards planning and booking it—a.k.a inching it to a reality—I’d call it a win. That being said, this year we did take steps in the right direction by officially opening a savings account so we can slowly save up enough money to make this thing happen! Iceland here we come!

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And that, as they say, is that! I completed 14 of my 17 goals, which is an accomplishment in itself, and what I didn’t finish, I plan on carrying over into this new year.

But the ultimate win here is the I CAN that comes alongside the setting and completing of goals, no matter what those goals may be. This list of 17 goals inspired me to get completely out of my comfort zone, which led me on new adventures I never would have experienced otherwise. I can only hope that the goals I set for 2018 can do the same.

If you are someone who is looking for some inspiration in your life, I highly encourage you to set goals. Whether big or small, artistic, athletic or otherwise, write them down, put them out into the universe, and then go for them! You might surprise yourself how much you can accomplish.

Happy New Year!

How I Ran 1000 Miles in One Year (List-cember #8)

Of all the goals I set for 2017, the one that most worried me—both in questioning my sanity for setting it, and questioning my ability to complete it—was to run 1000 miles.

As someone who has hated running for the majority of her life, it was definitely what you would call a wild card. Most people I told thought I was crazy and the rest thought I was actually insane. I would have been right there with them if I hadn’t climbed Mt. Whitney a few years ago and gotten a big ole’ taste of “I CAN.” That experience inspired me to run my first 5k, two 10k’s and three half marathons, and ultimately led me to setting this goal for this year.

So, with the BIFC door wide open, I laced up my shoes and went on my first run. It was only three miles, but it was hard and I had to stop multiple times to catch my breath. Fast forward 369 days and 226 runs later, I finished my 1000th mile, winded only from all the celebratory screams I made throughout the final five miles.

Now that I’m finished, I’ve had multiple people ask me how I did it. And while a truthful summary would be: “I have no idea,” I broke it down to a few key aids. So, in case you’re among the curious or perhaps inspired to try this goal yourself, here are seven things that helped me run 1000 miles:

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1) Be Crazy

I’ve kind of already said this, but it’s worth mentioning twice that to achieve a goal like this, you need to become slightly insane. You have to be willing to put yourself out of your comfort zone over and over and make sacrifices over and over. Over the course of this year, I ran on almost every surface: asphalt, grass, dirt and concrete; I ran indoors, outdoors, and sometimes a combination of both in one day; I ran early in the morning and late at night, wearing jackets in 40 degrees, wearing shorts in 90 degrees and wearing hoods and hats in the wind and rain. My schedule was dictated by running, whether it was an average workday, a weekend or even a vacation day, and I had absolutely no time to get sick. When I look back at it now, I want to laugh because I really was, by all accounts, crazy. But then again, I know if I hadn’t been, I wouldn’t have finished.

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2) Listen to Those Around You

After the first few months of running, my friends and family started to realize that I was actually serious about this goal. As a result, it became a very popular topic of conversation. When we would get together, they would always check in on my progress. Near the end of the year, when I reached the 900 mile mark, I started posting Instagram videos to track my last 100 miles and a number of people messaged me with both encouragement and graciousness, saying that my quest for crazy was inspiring them. It was an important reminder of how my actions, even though they felt small and meaningless in the grand scheme of things, could not only affect but also inspire others. This was a huge motivating factor for me. I wanted to inspire them as much as I wanted to inspire myself.

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3) Don’t Listen to Those Around You

Amongst all the encouragement, there was also a lot of implied doubt and protective paranoia. My friends and family didn’t want to see me fail. They didn’t want to find me at the end of the year burdened with discouragement. Not to mention, this year happened to be a very busy one for me, so there were many points when I found myself far behind the pace I needed to finish on time. At one point in August, I was almost 60 miles behind, which equates to almost 22 days off pace. “Are you—do you think you’ll be able to finish?” people would say. And while I knew it was rooted in genuine worry, there were parts of me that absorbed the negative connotations—They don’t think you can do it. You’re way too far behind. You should just quit—so I had to learn to block that out. Because in the end I was the one who knew if I could do it. I was the one who had to decide if I could make up the ground I had lost. I was the one who knew I wouldn’t and couldn’t quit.

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4) Be Consistently Patient

Before I started this goal, I had this vision that once I made it through the first month I’d be in incredible shape and I’d never get winded or have leg cramps or feel like I was going to pass out—which is how I’ve felt for most of my running career. To my unfortunate surprise however, even in these last few months I still had days when I’d leave my house to run a route I’d run countless times before, only to find myself so short of breath I thought I might pass out. “HOW CAN THIS BE HAPPENING?!” I would think as I slowed myself to a walk. On these days I’d get so down on myself, and I’d wonder why I ever thought I could do something like this. But then I’d wake up the next day and feel so good on my run that I’d go two or three miles more than I intended. Thus, I had to learn that running will always be a learning curve, and I can’t let a few bad days get me down.

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5) Expect Injuries and Work Through Them

I have never been someone you would consider “injury prone.” I’d like to say it’s because I’m lucky/indestructible, but the truth is, I’ve never really pushed my body to its limits before. And while I have a high tolerance for pain, I just wasn’t a “work through the pain” type of person. For this goal however, “if it hurts, stop” wasn’t really an option. I strained the Iliotibial Band in my left leg, I got shin splints in my left leg, I had two toes on my right foot split open, and I worked through sore muscles in seemingly every part of my body. And while every single one of these SUCKED, none of them took me out of the game. I iced when I needed to, I took days off when I needed to, and most importantly, I got right back out there.

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6) Feed Your Senses

Before the start of the year, I spent a lot of time formulating the perfect running playlist. I scrolled through my entire iTunes library and I did a good amount of Googling to find songs that would (ideally) make me forget how hard running is. A few months into the goal however, I was already sick of this playlist. And not only that, I was sick of the routes I was running. I was getting bored of the songs and the scenery, which made it exponentially harder to motivate myself to run. So, I spiced up my routes. I took turns I never made before, and ran familiar routes backwards. As for ear food, I started alternating in podcasts. It was a nice break from hearing the same songs over and over, and I was surprised how easy it was to get sucked into other people’s conversations. If you’re looking for suggestions, some of my favorite podcasts were: Serial, Happy Sad Confused and Modern Love. Also, during the summer, I spent an entire month on the treadmill, binge watching Prison Break, so if you’re an indoor runner looking for some eye candy, Wentworth Miller is there for you. As far as songs go, I made this playlist, aptly titled, “These Songs Helped Me Run 1000 Miles” which you are welcome to listen to whether you’re running 1000 miles, 1 mile, or are just needing some pumped up tunes to drive to.

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7) Keep Track

As some of you may know already, I’m an avid spreadsheet maker. Thus, when the opportunity arose to track my running progress, I went all out. Here is a screen shot of my year of running, the yellow being days I went on a run, the blue being days I went on two runs—one outside in the early morning and one on the treadmill in the afternoon to try and work around the triple digit degree days in the summer.

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This spreadsheet proved to be both motivated and discouraging as it showed me both my progress and how far behind I was. In the end however, it gave me one less stress, as I never had to worry about losing track of where I was on this quest.

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There are probably a bunch of other things that helped me, both big and small, some I might not even realize. For example, to everyone that ever asked me, “How’s your running going,” you are one of those things! As of now, I’m very proud of myself, and even more, I’m excited to see what the future holds. Inspiration and adrenaline are as addicting as they come, and now that I’ve unlocked another level of “I can” in myself, I’m already craving what’s next.

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A mantra I gave myself this year was, “if it’s still only a daydream, the answer is no, but if you’re out there trying and failing, the answer is not yet.” I’ve wanted to be a runner for a long time, but until this year, was never able to break the barriers that surrounded that goal. Now I’m ready to see what else I’m capable of, and turn another “no” into a “not yet.”

You’re Free to be Great, So Go for It

This past week I officially hit the 900 mile mark of my 1000 mile running goal for the year. It’s been a trying 11 months to get here, and I have a feeling this final month will take everything I have to finish. My body is tired. It’s been sore and achy and fatigued more days than it hasn’t. And yet, I still feel strong. I feel like I can do anything.

Over the course of this year, I’ve looked for and found a variety of different things to listen to/watch while I’m running, the most prominent being my ever changing playlist on my phone, aptly titled “Running.” Consistently among my favorites on the playlist is “The Greatest” by Sia.

The song starts as follows:

Uh-oh I’m running out of breath, but I’ve got stamina.

Uh-oh I’m running now I close my eyes, well I got stamina.

And uh-oh, I see another mountain to climb

But I got stamina

For obvious reasons, this first verse makes sense on a running playlist. I mean what else besides stamina—and the slightest bit of insanity—do you need to get yourself running? To add to that, in the next part she sings:

Don’t give up

I won’t give up

Don’t give up, no, no, no

Which again, is exactly the kind of mindset you need to have while running.

The part that really hooks me though, is the chorus:

I’m free to be the greatest, I’m alive

I’m free to be the greatest here tonight, the greatest

The greatest, the greatest alive

The greatest, the greatest alive

I tell ya, whenever that chorus kicks in while I’m running, I break out into a sprint. Because aside from being the kind of inspirational “go team” type of sentiment that I need when I’m exercising, it fills me with motivation that I can take further.

I’m free to be the greatest, she says, I’m alive.

In other words: I’m free to be the greatest I can be, in anything I choose to try, because I have the great privilege of being alive. I firmly believe that the idea behind these words is what gets me out there running every day. It’s what put the idea in my head that I could run 1000 miles in the first place. For there’s truly nothing greater than making your dreams a reality and your doubts fiction.

So, I encourage you to chase them with everything you’ve got. Because as of today, as of this moment, you are completely free to be the greatest you can be, so you might as well go for it.

 

How to Kill a Word

This past week as I was making a delivery for work, I was listening to Eric Church’s song, “Kill a Word.” In it he brings up a number of individual words, primarily those with negative connotations, and discusses his desire to destroy them.

In the first verse he mentions: never, goodbye, regret, fear, lonely, and hate.

In the second: brokenness, heartbreak, upset, disgrace, and over.

And in the third: temptation, evil, wicked, vice, vile, and hostile.

As I listened to this song, I thought about all the times I’d let words like these control me. They’ve controlled my thoughts, my actions, and my choices; at times it felt as if they all but suffocated me.

Single words can be powerful, often far more than we realize. In my last post, I mentioned me and my mom’s tradition of focusing on a single word for an entire year. In 2016, my word was”give”, this year, it is “patience.” And similar to those mentioned by Eric Church, I have no doubts that other words will try and take over. Words like doubt, greed, fear, and failure. They’re all going to be sitting there on the sidelines, offering a hand when things get hard.

I’ve seen myself fall victim before. I’ve seen “achievement” swerve towards “disappointment” and land in “heartbreak.” For along with every positive word we can focus on, there will always be a countering negative.

In the chorus of the song, Eric Church sings, “if it were up to me to change, I’d turn lies and hate to love and truth. If I could only kill a word.”

Yes, if only.

Because no, we can’t kill words. But we can kill their power over us. We can’t prevent finding them, but we can navigate around them.

So this year, whether you set an intention to focus on one word, or find a number of words to focus on along the way, know that you can hold on to them. And just as there is always a negative to counter a positive, there are bigger and better positives to combat that negative.

When I think about like that, I like to imagine we actually can kill words, not with our hands but with other words. Hello can kill goodbye. Time can heal brokenness. Hope can kill despair. Inspiration can kill disappointment. Love can kill hate.

Conventional Wisdom

#ShoutYourStrong

Throughout our lives, possibly even multiple times a day, we will tell ourselves, “I can’t.” It’s too far, it’s too high, I’m too weak, I just can’t do it.

Well, to put it lightly, we’re wrong, so wrong.

The truth is, we can do anything, you can do anything.

In today’s world, we are not strangers to sharing what we do. With a wide variety of social media outlets, we can document nearly every moment of our day. In doing so we have the ability to connect with and inspire others, as well as express ourselves in a unique way. When we post, we start a conversation, and today I’d like to start one that, while not necessarily new, is still extremely important and very personal to me.

As some of you may know, I climbed Mt. Whitney a few years ago and it changed my life. It woke me up from a long period of negativity and an “I can’t” mentality, and jump-started my path to self-acceptance. Throughout the training process and ultimately the final climb, I discovered something within myself that I can only describe as “my strong.”

We all have it. No matter who we are, where we come from, or what battles we are fighting, our strong is the intangible measure of what we can do, and against all odds, it moves us forward.

Today I hope to encourage all of you to not only discover your strong, but embrace it, utilize it, and share it with the world. So, I’m starting the hashtag #shoutyourstrong, which aims to celebrate all that we are accomplishing, both in the physical and mental battles we are fighting.

It is my hope that this hashtag can act as a community, a celebration of the positive changes we are all making in our lives amongst the ever-present negativity found both on- and offline.

#ShoutYourStrong will strive to inspire, not spark comparisons. We are all facing different struggles and we should not let the success of others diminish our own, nor should we be discouraged to share our steps forward, even if they seem small. For when we have the courage to admit what we’re going through, we give ourselves a voice. When we find the strength to fight back, we allow that voice to echo. And should another who struggles hear that echo, it might finally give them the courage to speak.

So today I encourage you to join the conversation. For no matter who you are or what you’re going through, and as hard as it may be to believe, you do have a unique strength inside of you that will help carry you through whatever comes your way. And not if, but when you find it, don’t just share it, shout it!

#shoutyourstrong

shoutyourstrong.com

 
Obstacles
Jubilant
 

I’m Not Strong “For A Girl”

“Sign here please,” said the man behind the counter.

I took the pen he offered with a nod and scribbled my sorry excuse of a signature on the paper in front of me. Then, sticking my keys in my back pocket, I thanked him and reached for the package I came to pick up.

“Here, let me help you,” he said.

“I’ve got it, thank you though.”

The man persisted, “No please, allow me, this is much too heavy for a girl.”

I flinched. Blinked. Frowned. Then composed myself. This was, after all, a professional interaction, so I didn’t feel I could say much in the way of protest. Plus, as I looked at the man—who was well into his sixties—I knew he honestly didn’t mean to offend me. But as I drove back to work I still had that phrase playing over and over again in my head.

For a girl

It was a simple three words, the last of which has been interchanged countless times to make assumptions about an individual. Be it a girl, a boy, a kid, a person of color, or a follower of religion, this phrase is used to impose an identity on a person based solely on their likeness to another. How often do we find ourselves being the subject or speaker of this phrase? And how wildly dangerous it is to be either. For phrases like these do nothing but convince us that we are only as good as we are already believed to be; that our abilities have some sort of cap set by people who don’t even know us.

When I got back to work that afternoon, I walked around the back of the car and looked at the box. The one that was too heavy. Then, bending from my knees, I lifted it from the trunk and carried it inside. Because it was not too heavy for a girl, and it was not too heavy for me. And my ability to lift the box doesn’t make me strong for a girl, it just makes me strong. I’m not looking for anyone to commend this strength, I’m just asking to eliminate its assumed absence based on my anatomy.

I, like everyone else in this world, am my own brand of individual. I am more than my surrounding stereotypes make me out to be. I have my own strengths, my own weaknesses, my own likes and dislikes. There is no one like me, just as there is no one like you. And while there will always be those trying to box us into ignorant ideals, looking at us like identical stacked houses, it is our choice to rent the room. For there are thousands of minorities and majorities that make up the world, but they all have one thing in common: there are made up of unique individuals and we should all be treated as such.

Refresh

Size Strong: Size is a Number, Strength is a Feeling

When I was in high school I—like most teenagers—was extremely self-conscious about my body. I didn’t have the same stick thin build as my friends, and when I saw the way that type of frame was admired, I felt like my own body type was, for lack of a better term: wrong. So, I convinced myself that the only way I would be happy with my body is if I wore a specific size, a small size, the “right” size.

But you see, size is just a number. A meaningless integer stamped on itchy tags that you cut off the second you get home, and a value that pops up on the bathroom scale to ruin your day. Numbers do nothing but stare back at you. They treat you like an object, rather than a person. They convince you that their value determine your worth. But let me tell you something here and now: numbers lie.

For even among these “perfect sizes” and “ideal bodies” are hearts that hurt and words that cut; no number is ever going to protect you from judgment or comparison. Thus, beauty can never solely be something we see on ourselves, but something we must also feel in ourselves. Because if that admiration for our outward appearance acts as a flashlight does in darkness: temporarily piercing a narrow path of hope, complete acceptance of ourselves, inside and out, will act like the sun: swallowing darkness all together. And this light, this all-encompassing freedom, comes solely from within.

Size is a number but strength is a feeling. And no number, not one you find on your jeans, in your bank account, or among your social media followers, will ever determine how much you are worth. Strength is the only thing that can save us from ourselves, and it is something that we all have within, no matter how deep it is buried or how doubtful we are in our ability to find it.

With strength, our size doesn’t matter.

With strength, we are able to give what we previously only sought to receive: peace.

And in peace we can finally be happy, for we are finally the perfect size: Size Strong.

Envy

What a Pair of Overalls Taught Me About Equal Representation

A few weeks ago I was scrolling through my Instagram feed when I came across a photo of a girl holding a basket of fresh vegetables.

“Sunday morning at the Farmer’s Market!” she said in the caption.

“Cute overalls,” I mumbled to myself as I admired her outfit.

When I was little I had a pair of overalls that I wore over and over until they were covered in rips and paint stains. And when they went back in style my senior year of high school I shopped around for a pair, filled with nostalgia. As I looked however, I was reminded that in the years since my first pair, puberty had given me thick thighs and round hips while many of the girls around me remained tall and thin. And as the trend grew, I saw the outfit in magazines and television shows, all worn by the same body. Tall, thin, long legs, flat stomach. I would never look like that. Maybe, I thought, maybe overalls just aren’t for people like me.

That day however, when I came across the image of the girl at the farmer’s market, I noticed that she was curvy, just like me, but she wasn’t allowing herself to be restricted by her body or wishing to be showcasing a different one. She was just standing there, confident and proud in the skin she was in, sharing with the world her own unique beauty.

“I wonder if I could pull those off,” I mumbled aloud.

And there it was: the seed.

The notion that inspires someone to believe they can do or be something they thought they never could.

How silly was it for me to think that I couldn’t wear an outfit because I didn’t look like the other girls that wore it? How silly is it for anyone to think they can’t do something because of the way they look?

We are all made differently and we are all made brilliantly and each and every design should be celebrated.

Take Target’s Halloween ad featuring a girl with leg braces and arm crutches: target_disability

(Image source: Target)

Or Barbie’s introduction to a line of diverse dolls:

635900292796826984-EPA-USA-BARBIE-DOLL-BODY-TYPES

(Image source: Matel)

We must continue to plant these seeds because even the smallest one has the power to sprout within us a belief that we are more than we think and greater than the surrounding stereotypes make us out to be. For at the end of the day we are all beautiful, we can all be princesses, and we can all wear overalls.