WTF, 2018?: A Retrospective

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NEW YEAR’S EVE IS HERE and I have been doing a lot of reflecting, so here I am. What began as a quick Instagram post has become an extensive blog post, which is possibly more symbolic of this year than anything I could have imagined.

2018, eh? What. A. Year. This has been one of the most challenging years of my life, and it has forced me to grow and change in ways I couldn’t have predicted.

2017 saw me challenging many beliefs I held about myself, and ultimately living some of my best life. I optimistically thought 2018 would see me continuing to live my best life, and while in some ways it did, it also humbled me (ew did I just say that? But alas, I don’t know how else to say that…) and shook me to my core.

SO, here’s a fun little personal roundup of the year that felt like a decade. In 2018, I:

  • Started experimenting with ClassPass and tried everything from spin and hip hop to Iyengar Yoga and boxing.

  • Got my second tattoo (and it was a lot bigger than the first! I was extremely anxious about the pain, and the whole thing was ultimately surprisingly chill. Thanks E.K.!)

  • Ran several races, including my first ever (and then second) trail race.

  • Felt like I ran 500 marathons in the most difficult professional year of my life. I have learned so much, but I am also tired.

  • Made yoga and boxing weekly practices for a good chunk of the year - and LOVED.

  • Started my blog, after the encouragement of Justine, the human embodiment of the shine theory. This has been a transformative experience for me.

  • Went on a mind-blowing two-week road trip with Max that brought us a lot of incredible memories and also set off a string of financial difficulties throughout the year.

  • Had a wealth of experiences: Kayla and Justin brought baby Nate into our lives, Canada Day weekend on Island Spirits, the Yayoi Kusama exhibit at the AGO, so many amazing meals with wonderful people, was asked to officiate Emma’s wedding and to be a bridesmaid in Lauren’s in 2019, the annual Fearless Heart Yoga retreat with my mom, two amazing family weddings, baseball, volleyball, Drunk Feminist Films, you name it, not to mention all of the personal and professional growth and accomplishment I have been honoured to witness in my loved ones.

  • Went on an incredible local road trip with my mom - a week I will cherish for years to come. My personal highlights were the Brockville tunnel, a surprising experience we took our sweet time dancing through, and wine and cheese at Lake on the Mountain overlooking Prince Edward County.

  • Had a challenging year in my romantic relationship that has ultimately made us stronger than ever, but has been a whirlwind neither of us expected at this point.

  • Started challenging many of my long-held beliefs about weight and food, and realized the role restriction had in my cycles of disordered eating. I have Christy Harrison’s Food Psych podcast to thank for kickstarting this.

  • Began working through these disorders rather than around them, and in the process gained a bunch of weight.

  • Oh hello! Just as soon as I thought I was the most comfortable in my body I could be, I was suddenly very uncomfortable again and having to revisit a lot of what I thought about myself.

  • Took a step back from moving my body as often over the last few months (in exhaustion from work, personal life, my new relationship with my body, and other overwhelming challenges), and proceeded to feel even more at odds with myself.

  • Started working with an incredible eating disorder counsellor, Annina Schmid. Have learned a LOT about myself and my disordered eating in the process, and am feeling ready to move my body again. Still have a lot to learn and a long way to go, but my binge eating has subsided substantially and I’m able to listen to a lot of my body cues for literally the first time in memory. That is huge

  • Decided to face one of my biggest fears, and joined Katrina and Hannah’s winter camping trip. Threw out my back the week before and did it anyway (possibly a bad decision, but here we are). A 5k hike in turned into a 6-hour journey, we were wet for three days, I required and received so much help and grace from friends, my grandma passed away during the coldest night of my life, I threw up multiple times on the hike back out, but ultimately the experience was exhilarating. Blog post to follow, because if this wasn’t worthy of one I don’t know what is. 

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And now here we are! I have spent the last few days getting a lot of the space and recuperation I have desperately needed for months. I have also dedicated hours to cleaning our apartment, which has helped my headspace more than I had anticipated (did not help my back, but you can’t win ‘em all). 

Looking forward at 2019, I know that a lot of change is coming, and even still there is only so much I can predict. What I do hope for myself, is that I can give myself the space to continue doing this work, to continue healing, to find joy in movement again, and to recharge regularly. I want to give myself the space to keep writing and reflecting. And I want to get a doggo to cherish and smother with unconditional love. 

Instead of making resolutions and desperately obsessing over the things I’d like to change, I now see this time of year as a pause for reflection, and a time to make space in ourselves for the year to come. By now I can at least predict that next year will have moments of heartbreak and beauty, with belly laughs and sometimes sadness. At the end we will still be ourselves, but also someone entirely new.

With that, happy New Year! Let us see what 2019 brings.

Running into last place

I didn’t grow up feeling athletic. I played, and loved, softball for most of my life, and occasionally dabbled in other sports now and then, but nothing else really stuck. While I was much smaller as a kid (aren’t we all) and as a teen, I still had a bigger body than most of the friends I saw around me, and I didn’t see myself in that space. Fitness was hard – why would I choose to be out of breath, sore, and far behind everyone else? Clearly it just wasn’t for me.

As I got older, I also gained weight, and these things seemed more out of reach than ever. I signed up for a couple gyms with the goal of getting smaller, tried running (because that’s what you’re supposed to do, right?), realized I could barely start, and got discouraged. I figured “when I lost the weight” it would be much easier for me to do the things I saw everyone else doing, so I just had to focus on my eating first and the rest could come later. I played softball with my friends in the summer and took some classes at a body positive yoga and fitness studio, but it didn’t take up much space in my life.

May's finish line with my bud and partner in all things fitness, Charlotte

May's finish line with my bud and partner in all things fitness, Charlotte

Fast forward to a year ago, and something switched in me. My mental health was feeling steady and I had vastly improved my relationship with food but was still living in a bigger body. Somehow it seemed that everyone I knew was doing something exciting and active that they loved, and I had missed the memo. All because I was waiting, for most of my life, for the moment I would get smaller and that part of my life could begin.

I belonged to countless weight loss communities; on Tumblr, Facebook, weight loss-focussed websites, through medical programs in Toronto, you name it. But the posts I was growingly increasingly interested in weren’t focussed on getting smaller, but getting stronger. I had joined a gym with my partner, but I continued to feel alienated from the weight room and world of fitness in general. So when a friend of mine started seeing a personal trainer to start lifting heavy, I decided to take the chance and hire a professional to show me how to get things done.

My journey with the weight room is a story for another time, but suddenly I felt empowered to take up space at the gym. I knew what I was doing, I knew where to go, and I was getting better at it. I wasn’t comparing my progress to anyone else’s – I was just working hard and getting noticeably stronger. The world of fitness, which once felt like it did not have space for me, seemed to open up as a world where I could compete against myself. I could push myself to do things that seemed impossible, and when I tackled each challenge I could feel like I was on top of the world.

2018 MEC Road Race Three

2018 MEC Road Race Three

With endless possibilities ahead of me, I decided to first tackle my biggest hurdle, because why not? I was going to run.

When I was 13, I (very) briefly decided to try my middle school’s jogging club. We laced up, and launched headfirst into our run around the neighbourhood. My sporty friends took seemingly easy strides far ahead, and I soon hunched over into heaving breaths and side cramps. Clearly, running was not meant for me. What I didn’t realize was that I was running far too fast for myself. It was unsustainable, and I didn’t have to keep up with the other girls to try running. No one taught me how to pace myself, how to stretch, or that running and walking is just fine.

The face of glory!

The face of glory!

But now I was on my own and armed with a different attitude. I was the only person in this space. I started on the treadmill with the Couch to 5k program, only able to run a minute at a time. And it was hard – I huffed, and I puffed. I pushed myself week over week, and gradually got that number to 5 minutes, then 10, then 15. The moment I hit 10 minutes on that treadmill was one of the most glorious of my life. I felt like I could take on the world.

After hitting 15, and then 20 minutes, I started to get bored and decided a 5k was in my future. It was time to take this show on the road. A runner friend of mine was running a MEC race in a couple months, and I signed up. That weekend I went to the race route to try running outside for the first time and… it fucking sucked. WOW, running outside is so much harder than running on a treadmill. But the weather was warm, and I was surrounded by flowers, water, and birds. I felt deeply alive, even if it was quite the reality check.

I continued running outside, stopping often to walk, but loving the feeling of me and the outdoors, pushing myself in a new and challenging way - sweat dripping into my eyes, and heart pounding in my chest. The 5k came up quickly, and before I knew it I was hovering near the start line waiting to run, for the first time, with hundreds of other people.

Feeling strong after a brutal April run

Feeling strong after a brutal April run

There I discovered the joy of being surrounded by people who love doing something incredibly specific -  here were hordes of just beautiful, running nerds. Some were there to run a marathon, others to walk a 5k with three of their friends. People stretched and some warmed up on the course. The excitement in the air was palpable, and I felt like I was part of something.

I started running, at a pace barely faster than my walk, podcast blaring in my ears. Chest thrumming, I wove around women walking with strollers and chatting with their friends, then stopped to walk until I could push myself to run again. Just until that tree. Just until that fence. Just until that flower. My leg cramped in excruciating pain, and I starting channeling Monty Python’s Ministry of Funny Walks until I was relieved and pushed myself to run again. I was so slow, but I was doing it.

I finished with friends at the finish line and a wave of euphoria. Finally, I could make room for myself in these spaces.

The medal pic of my dreams with Lynsey of  Encore Fitness and Health  and Megan

The medal pic of my dreams with Lynsey of Encore Fitness and Health and Megan

I’ve now done six 5k races in the last eight months, with four more on the docket for this year. I still can’t run for the entire five kilometres, and my leg regularly seizes up in cramps (I’m looking into it, don’t worry). I explain this to people when I talk about my runs, not to be self-deprecating, but because I don’t want to see a look of disappointment on their faces later - I feel strong and powerful, please don’t impose your shiz on me. I have proven to myself that I can show up when things are hard, and I have proven to myself that I can work my ass off to continuously come in last.

There still isn’t a lot of representation in runners with bigger bodies. National Geographic recently named ultramarathoner Mirna Valerio of Fat Girl Running one of their adventurers of the year. She Can and She Did, a blog run by Kelly Roberts, is working to redefine what strong looks like, and showcases the running journeys of women with all sorts of body shapes (many of whom used to hate running). But I’m dying to see more! More stories of women working hard at things that don’t come easily, and more stories of women with bigger bodies kicking ass in spaces they don’t often see themselves represented.

In the meantime, I’ll be here huffing, puffing, running, and walking my way to last place. Isn’t it glorious?

The first finish line 🏆

The first finish line 🏆