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Like Yourself, Babe.

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Photo Credit: Sam Nute

We talk so often about practicing self-love, which I believe is the greatest gift we can give ourselves. But if we’re being real (which we always are here) loving any person, all the time, including ourselves, is hard. Sometimes, you can’t. Sometimes you’re not equipped to love yourself that deeply at the drop of the hat. Loving yourself that deeply in every moment is exhausting. Sometimes, it’s enough to simply like ourselves.

Let’s start there.

Let’s start with thinking about our best qualities, and projecting that energy out into the world. Because I’ll tell you something. I am OVER the mindset that we are all supposed to sort of hate ourselves, using qualifiers to sheepishly admit our few redeeming qualities. Let’s start with finding reasons from within to be confident instead of looking to others for validation and acceptance. Let’s look in the mirror and let go of that one glaring flaw in favor of appreciating all the things the universe got right in assembling us.

And in the name of not being the BIGGEST high and mighty hypocrite ever, I’m happy to admit that there are ABSOLUTELY things I don’t like about myself. Gobs of things. Insecurities that used to cripple me. I could probably write a blog post about those things, too, but the older I get the less those things matter. Sure, they sneak up from time to time. I once spent so long obsessing in the mirror over a pesky pimple that my roommate stopped me mid-rant and said, “Hey, stop being so mean to my friend.”

So today, we’re going to practice being nice to ourselves.
We’re going to sing our own praises for a hot sec.
Deep breath. I’ll start. And I hope you follow.

I like my eyes. They’re green with little yellow flecks in them. Last weekend a man at a bar looked straight into them and asked, “So how do you get people’s attention? I bet it’s those big green eyes of yours!”

I pointed to my temple.
“Your mind?” He asked.
I winked.

Not because I liked his attention, but because I liked my answer. I like my mind. I like that it’s mine. I like that I know how to use it.

So I like my always-tired eyes. I like my always-messy hair. They are signs that I am working hard to create end products that I feel proud of. Often that means sleepless nights and rushed departures. I like my adventurous spirit. That I say yes more than I say no these days. I like my willingness to return to a city that still holds so much of me captive. I like my readiness to return home when I know it’s what my soul needs. Right now, anyway.

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Photo Credit: Sam Nute

I like my endearing clumsiness. My outward silliness. My inconvenient spilli-ness. My brazen independence. I like that they pour out of me like an overflowing coffee pot left unattended. I like the juxtaposition of my dry irreverence, inherited from my father, and my ability to feel so very deeply, inherited from my mother. Those qualities have turned me into the kind of woman who finds humor in the darkest hours and compassion for the most tortured souls.

I like that I recognize my brother’s face every time I look in the mirror, because I spent the first half of my life trying to be a son and a daughter to compensate for my family’s loss.

I like that I failed at that. I actually fail at a lot of things.
I like that I am only capable of being the daughter that I am.
I like that I am only capable of being the woman that I am.

I like my freckles. I like the birthmark on my stomach. I like the intimate details of my body that only I, along with a chosen few, will ever know. I like my slender fingers that always longed to play piano, but found a pen and paper first. I like my flat feet that always begged to fit into pointe shoes but found high tops first.

I like my long legs. They took years to grow into, enduring names like “Spider-Legs” and “Gumby.” They have taken me to Australia three times, the UK, and Ireland. I like my full lips. I like my lone dimple. I like my dark eyebrows. I like my small breasts, and my small butt. Everything on me is generally small. That’s just the way I was built. It has nothing to do with being a “real” woman, or a “strong” woman. These are the parts I was given and it’s taken 28 years to understand the full magnitude of what it means to have all of them all in working order.

I’m not “just” a woman. I’m a woman. Period. Pun intended.
A woman who unflinchingly likes who she is becoming.

You see, we are in a critical time where the next leader of our country may very well be a broken man whose only self confidence comes in the form of tearing women down by calling us pigs and slobs, by attacking the way our bodies look and function, and by criticizing the way we choose to use them. But it won’t just be that one man. Nothing will ever come down to just one man. In fact, it won’t just be men at all. It will be people. People who haven’t yet found things to like about themselves. They will bare their ugly traits to you as a way to bring yours to the surface. They will come clawing at the bottom of your door first thing in the morning like a starving, stray cat. Your downfall will be their milk.

So I beg you, in those moments especially, to take to the street, the mountain, and the sea with the things you like about yourself. Take to a notebook, or a white board, or a word doc. Grab a permanent marker or a can of spray paint. Find the nearest building with the biggest, blankest wall. Make it a statement. Make it indelible. Make it on purpose. Have the courage to stand firm in liking yourself in a crowd of people who are trying to make you doubt yourself. Shine your self-like on them like a spotlight and maybe they, too, will find their own light. Maybe not.

But if you ask me, the most audacious thing you can be is a woman who truly, truly likes herself.

So like yourself, babe. Audaciously.

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Photo Credit: Sam Nute

Body Armor.

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I had a conversation with friends a few nights ago (over real apps) about dating apps, and can I be honest? I hate them. I’m not built for them. Do I respect some people’s affinity for them? Yes. Have I tried them? Yes. Are they amusing? Yes. Mostly because when you come across someone who is hopefully a doctor (but presumably Dexter) literally performing open heart surgery in their main picture, you have to laugh at the idea of swiping left or right based on your initial reaction.

Which, by the way is, “What in the actual living hell is this?”

But I finally realized what’s missing from all that swiping and double tapping garbage that we’ve allowed present day dating standards to convince us we depend on for human interaction.

Eye contact.

At a yoga festival recently (sup Wildvibes!), in the closing ceremony, they asked us to hold hands with a stranger and look them in the eyes for a few minutes. No words. No laughing. Just two softened sets of eyes showing up for each other without interruption, in complete silence. I can say for certain that it was utterly dismantling, letting someone see me that way, without my body armor.

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Eye contact is fucking alarming.

And you know why it’s alarming? Because we’re used to seeing people behind a screen and judging them based on six curated photos, a well-punctuated bio, and the perfect entry line. Unless their entry line sucks. In which case we dismiss them entirely. Imagine if we let that bullshit fly in the flesh. Imagine saying, “Hi, how’s it going?” or some other “wrong” opener over drinks. Now, imagine your friend/date/person-you-find-attractive-but-you’re-too-afraid-to-say-it-out-loud just got up and walked away mid-convo? Imagine being written off that quickly in real time. It would be ABSURD. But that’s what we’re doing to each other, and it’s a real bummer.

We have these platforms where we’re constantly sharing our highlight reels, myself included. We’re asking people to fall in love with our sunsets, and our concerts, and our cocktails without the context of whom these experiences belong to and what we’ve gone through to get here. And that gritty “how we got here” stuff matters way more to me, especially if I’m dealing with another human that I want to stand to be around for longer than 5 minutes.

But here’s the kicker. On a screen, we THINK we’re swipe-able. In real life we are not always right swipe worthy. We are not perfect tens. None of us are.

Actually, on good days when we’ve hit snooze sixteen times and skipped breakfast we are barely 6’s. On bad days we are 4’s pretending to be 6’s, expecting everyone we come across to be 11’s. We don’t look people in the eyes because we’re afraid of seeing too much of ourselves inside of them. We don’t want to see ourselves at all. When we are in front of somebody, we’re somewhere else. When we’re somewhere else, we’re mindlessly tapping and swiping through an endless array of faces and bodies like we’re trying to upgrade our seats to “even more space” on an upcoming flight.

We are walking distractions.

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When we finally round up enough courage to tell people our truths, we mistake their silence for dissonance. It’s called listening. But hey, when it’s not artificially injected with watered down beer and equally watered down dialogue it’s harder to digest. Our systems aren’t used to doing that much work, so they’re shutting down entirely.  So much so, that it causes consternation when somebody enters our chasm of unloveable qualities and squares off with the beast we have over time become. They know very well we could devour them whole. They say, “Go Ahead.”

They stand their ground. They mean it.

They know deep down, we are not these calloused creatures. We are raw. We are soft. We are products of every amazing, and terrible, and shameful experience we have been through. We are tired, and poor, and starving, and filthy, and lonely. We are all missing parts. We are all misfit toys. We are brilliantly flawed. We are chaotically arranged. And we are enough, just so.

When was the last time you really looked somebody in the eyes and let yourself feel them looking back at you? When was the last time you came to the table alone, present, and bare? Your battle scars are your body armor; but armor is heavy, Darling. All that weight? Know where to hang it up at the end of the day.

Let them see you and all your gory details.

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Photos courtesy of Sam Nute [http://samuelnute.com]

RENEGADE JAMS: INSTALLMENT II

Installment II of Renegade Jams is here! Still deciding if I want to keep up with the Roman Numerals in the title. Seems cool I guess? But I know I’m going to have to start Googling the shit out of them after 5 or 6, so we’ll see. In case you’re new to this series, each week I’ll feature 5 songs I can’t stop jamming to, complete with the entire playlist below. I’ll be adding to this playlist weekly, in the event that you’d like to subscribe & rock out alongside me. (Do it!) And as promised, the 5 songs from the last installment are of course still on there. If you have any suggestions, let me know in the comments!

Let’s play.


#6 “Things That I Regret” by Brandi Carlile

I saw Brandie Carlile live a few months ago and let me just say…This woman slays on stage. She’s the real deal. Her fast tempo songs will bring you to your feet. Her slow, acoustic songs will bring you to your knees. Years ago, when my mom remarried, she put me in charge of the reception music. She and my now step dad asked if I would pick their wedding song, and it was probably one of the most special things anyone has ever let me do. I chose, “The Story.” Which now chokes me up every time I hear it. Thanks, Mom.

These days, I’ve been jamming out to, “The Things I regret.” While the title sounds like kind of a downer, it’s totally not. It’s an incredibly uplifting and relatable song about the times in life where we feel like we’re just not getting it right. In those moments, it’s best to just let the feeling roll over you. Tomorrow’s a new day.

Also, when she sings, “Lonely miiiiii-iiiiiiiles without you.”,  my heart burts wide open.

#7 “Flexicution” by Logic

Few songs get me as amped as Flexicution. Firstly, I’m impressed with the pun, which is probably a nerdy thing to be impressed with, but here we are. I know what I am. On a more musical note (PUNS GUYS! Have you x’ed out of this window yet? Guys?) I’m genuinely impressed with how quickly Logic raps. I’m ALSO impressed with how quickly he can solve a Rubik’s cube.

In conclusion: I’m impressed. He has an amazing life story, and if you have time, I highly recommend reading this Complex article. Okay, I’m done gushing about Logic now.

Actually one more thing: I once watched Logic solve a Rubik’s cube on stage. A fan handed him one from the crowd. He stopped the show, solved it on the spot, and then I went home and watched Rubiks cube how-to’s for like 3 hours.

I still can’t solve one.

#8  “How You Like Me Now” by The Heavy

Over drinks one night, a few friends and I were talking about what our theme songs would be if we could have any one song play at any given time walking down the street. I stumbled over about 10 different songs that night with no avail. It drove me crazy. Then, days later as I was LITERALLY walking down the street in my home town, “How You Like Me Now” came on. I may have exclaimed “THIS IS IT!” out loud to nobody. I then took my phone out and texted my friends the good news. I had found my song. How you like me now?

#9 “Blister in the Sun” by Violent Femmes

The only reason this song makes the list is because it became one of my favorite songs by accident when I was seventeen, after a stage mishap with my best friend. We were on vacation in Florida, and we snuck into a bar under the radar. It was probably one of the most fun nights of my youthful, teen years. We didn’t cause any trouble, we just jammed out to the live music (and MAYBE snuck a drink or two…)

At one point, the band pulled us up on stage and handed us instruments. I had drumsticks, and my friend had a tambourine. We were in charge of those infamous double drum hits. (Ba-DUM! Ba-DUM!) The only problem was…We didn’t know the song. So we stood on stage like a couple of clueless morons randomly banging our instruments while everyone looked at us with confusion in their eyes.

There’s lots of speculation about what this song is ACTUALLY about 😉 but I’m going to just leave it right here.

# 10 “The One That Got Away ” by Wild Belle

The TL;DR version of this song is that Wild Belle has two middle fingers up to some dude who broke her heart. Now she’s diving across the country in a big van having the time of her life. This girl is my hero. What a little rebel.

Arrive.

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Photo Credit: Sam Nute

Turns out writing is hard when you’re heartbroken.

Doing a lot of things is hard when you’re heartbroken, actually. Fundamental tasks feel like a train you keep missing, when all you want is to arrive safely at your destination. Even if your destination is eating. Or sleeping. Or showering. Or seeing people. Or seeing yourself.

Seriously. Have you seen yourself, lately?

You’d think nothing would clear up your own heartbreak faster than seeing the threadbare and unraveling excuse for a human you’ve become. It feels obvious each time you pass your own reflection in storefront windows. You catch yourself hunched over like your backbone is folding on itself, and with that image, you’re sure you’d have enough strength to stand up straight and sever the sadness. You’d think you’d be able to kick out the uninvited houseguest you’ve turned into inside your own mind. After all, it’s YOUR brain. YOU live there. You’re certain that when all of the darkness in Pandora’s box already lives dormant underneath your eyeballs, and is re-released into the world each time you open your eyes, you’ll soon be forced to start living again.

Because you can’t just not open your eyes. You’ve tried that. People kept checking on you. And you have no more room in your fridge for lasagna and pea soup. You don’t even like lasagna and pea soup, but that just happens to be the form kindness keeps arriving in. You will be too exhausted to turn it away.

But writing, and sleeping, and showering, and seeing people, and seeing yourself won’t be the hardest part.

The hardest part of heartbreak won’t be choosing to walk away. It won’t be falling down a rabbit hole of new information. The hardest part won’t be reliving. It will be reviving. You will never be the same person you were before whatever moment or series of moments took the person you thought you were and wrung you out. You have to accept that the version of you that you’d grown attached to is gone. It stopped being yours the moment you gave it to somebody else for safekeeping. That’s the scariest part of love, really. Trusting somebody to not destroy the very essence of what you know to be true about yourself.

At times, going through heartbreak is going to feel like the scene in Billy Madison where they put dog shit in the bag, light it on fire, and leave it on that poor old man’s doorstep.

And he steps on it and shouts, “it’s poop again!”

It’s going to be just that. Poop again. On loop. For months and months…And months.

But from breakdowns come breakthroughs. If you approach heartbreak as a chance to reinvent, it feels less like condemning doom (or a fiery bag of burning shit) and more like an opportunity to revive.

Sometimes you have to give in to your own gravitational collapse before you can start rebuilding. Sometimes you have to sit inside your own suffering until you’re ready to come out of it. Sometimes, you have to become so fucking sick of your own mental and emotional state that the only way to get well is to drag your ass to the beach, or the gym, or the studio, or whatever your temple is. You’ll swim. You’ll kick. You’ll write. You’ll pray. You’ll curse. You’ll cry your whole way there.

But eventually, you’ll arrive.

When Did You Stop Believing In Make Believe?

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Photo Credit: Rachel Adams

I like to play a game when I first meet people. It’s a game of questions. For all intents and purposes, let’s call it, “The Question Game.” It’s a wildly creative title, and it’s actually pretty simple. You go back and forth asking one question, and there’s only one rule:

You aren’t allowed to ask the same question you’ve already been asked.

This prevents the forced “what about you?” monotony that comes along with meeting new people, without killing the opportunity of an interesting exchange. Added bonus: Nobody gets caught up talking about themselves for three hours, because it’s a game.

Questions start out with the basics:

  • Where are you from? (New Hampshire.)
  • What’s your favorite song? (“Holocene” by Bon Iver,  “Can’t Help Falling In Love” by Elvis, and every song by Bruce Springsteen.)
  • What do you do for a work? (This is a terrible question. Don’t ask this.)

After a few rounds, and perhaps a few glasses of whiskey, people generally loosen up.

But I’ll let you in on a little secret.
It’s never their answers I’m after.
It’s their questions.

I’ve been obsessed with asking questions since I was young. I distinctly remember the teachers in Sunday School pulling me aside and telling me that my questions were distracting to the other children. As soon as I realized I wasn’t allowed to ask questions, I stopped listening. As soon as I was old enough to answer the questions for myself, I stopped going.

In high school I was a terrible student. I mean, really awful. I was a good kid all around, I just couldn’t keep my mouth shut. If you know me today you’ll know not much has changed — I just work a lot harder. I didn’t get into any real trouble, but I also didn’t get into any of the colleges I applied for. I had a 1.7 GPA. Let that sink in. One. Point. Seven. My poor parents. I think deep down they knew I’d figure it out, or maybe that’s just what I tell myself now that I actually sort of have.

My biggest problem with high school was that it didn’t matter what questions they asked, there was always a predetermined correct answer. This is why I didn’t care about precalculus. It’s also why I decided to become a teacher. There were far too many adults with teaching degrees asking kids questions that didn’t matter.

When the questions already have answers, does it really matter what you’re being asked?

At this point I could wrap this all up nicely and tell you that I fulfilled my lifelong dream of changing children’s lives. After all, I did eventually get into college. I did major in English teaching. I did wax poetic on Shakespeare for a few years there, and nary a student left my classroom confused by Hamlet. (“We know what we are but know not what we may be.” AMIRITE?) Staying in New Hampshire and teaching felt like a security blanket — it was warm and cozy and something I knew I was good at. Something I knew I would succeed at. Something I knew would always be there. I wasn’t ready to commit to doing one finite thing for the rest of my life.

“…But what else will you DO?” 

was the question my dear mother asked me on her living room couch over a cup of tea and shared stack of People magazine. Half horrified and half intrigued, I watched her face scrunch up as I explained that I really didn’t know, and relax again when I explained that the thought of working my ass off for a piece of parchment paper, only to go on and do that ONE thing for the rest of my life, didn’t really sound like me. She laughed and agreed. What can I say — the woman knows me. And she knew I didn’t have a game plan.

But I had questions that needed answering.

The only question that has ever stumped me was asked nearly three years ago by a man who, no matter how hard I tried, I was never going to be right for. We were out to dinner at Le Village, a lovely BYO French bistro in the East Village with the best roast cauliflower I’ve ever had. We shared a bottle of red wine and a deep conversation about why relationships don’t work, and we landed somewhere between timing, trial and error, and that sometimes there’s no future. For us, it ended up being a combination of all three. Perhaps I didn’t realize it because those weren’t the questions I was willing to ask myself. I left the moment I realized this to be true, which ended up being several months later. I stayed, presumably for one more question.

He asked,

“When did you stop believing in make believe?”

I didn’t have an answer. I struggled to pinpoint the exact moment the things I dreamt in my head and the things happening in the real world around me emulsified. When did my wild childish imagination and my adult need to move forward untether? I wrote the question down in my notebook the next morning. It’s still sitting there on an otherwise empty page with no answer below it.

When I moved to New York to pursue a more creative life, I slowly realized all of the questions I’d been asking myself in the last three years, ten years, twenty-eight years have paid off. Simply put, if you never ask, the answer will always be no. Hell, sometimes you ask and the answer is still no. Whether it’s your education, your relationship, or your career, I’ve learned you have to be fearless in asking big questions, even if the answers are scary. Even if the answers mean failing, or moving on, or starting from scratch. Even if the answer isn’t what you want to hear, or what you initially planned on, you must ask the right questions.

My answer to his question?
I never stopped believing in make believe.
Everything I made believe, I became.

No questions asked.

This post originally appeared on Medium

Renegade Jams: Installment I

A few weeks ago I introduced a new series called Renegade Jams….And then I went on vacation, so it took a backseat to lying on the beach and riding a bike around SoCal. But I digress…We’re finally kicking it off!  In case you’re new to this series, each week I’ll feature 5 songs I can’t stop jamming to, complete with the entire playlist below. I’ll be adding to this playlist weekly, in the event that you’d like to subscribe & rock out alongside me. (Do it!)

Let’s get started.


#1  “Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen

I hinted in the intro post that I had a special attachment to Springsteen. I grew up on The Boss. Just for fun, here’s a family favorite for your entertainment of Baby Carley dancing on her father’s feet to “Ramrod.” #Mindthemullet.

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Bruce is my all time favorite. No competition. I saw him in concert when I was in middle school, and had the opportunity to see him again this year for my 28th birthday. If you haven’t had the chance to see him live, it’s a three and a half hour long, borderline spiritual experience.

“Born to Run” gives me serious dive bar nostalgia. While living in New York, summertime usually consisted of sweltering evenings spent pumping juke box classics and playing darts at The Horsebox, a seedy dive on Ave A. This song reminds me of the push and pull of the city. Always falling in love with something and someone new. Some days it felt like New York was ripping me apart vertebrae by vertebrae (baby this town rips the bones from your back), but the adventure was always worth it.

And when Bruce shouts “1, 2, 3, 4” at the top of his lungs in a way that only Bruce can? Chills.


#2 “Marathon” by Heartless Bastards

You know when you hear a song in a random location and if you don’t find out who sings it, you’ll go insane? Suddenly you’re standing on the bench in your dressing room holding your phone trying to get a good read for Shazam. That was me at work when this song come on. I was wandering around the office, hoping the right combination of Googling lyrics and waving my phone in the air like I just didn’t care would lead me to the answer. (Sidenote: I can’t be the only one who does this…)

Heartless bastards have been around for a while, and Erika Wennerstrom’s voice reminds me of a delightfully moodier Brandi Carlile. “Marathon” feels deeply personal. I also just found out that it was featured in Suits, which I just started watching. Season 1, represent!

#3 “Dancing on my own” by Robyn

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t relate to this scene in GirlsFollowing a poignant heartbreak, we find Hannah in her room literally dancing on her own as Robyn’s anthem kicks in. I’d also be lying if I said I didn’t choke up when Hannah hugged Marnie at the end of the episode. I’ve been listening to this on repeat for the last few weeks, dancing on my own in the shower, getting ready for dinner with girlfriends, in the car, and even at my desk. No shame. Life can really throw a curveball (or 5) at you, but you have to keep moving. Having the right people to help you along always helps.

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Worst case, get up and dance it off. You’ll feel better, I PROMISE.

#4 “Free” by Broods

Broods is a badass Kiwi duo and their music has a level of honesty I really respect. The words in “Free” are gritty and empowering. A nice reminder that nobody can hold you down if you don’t let them. I really dig the line, “When I didn’t care is when I did best.” Isn’t that the truth? Think back to the last time you really felt free. I know I’m my best me when I’m not worrying about what others think.

As an added bonus, “Free” has a killer beat.  I am NOT a great runner. I’d even say I don’t really LIKE running. I like the benefits of running. I love how I feel after a good, hard run. But WHILE I’m running I’m somewhere between praying my shoelace comes untied so I can STOP running and “If I took a nap in that ditch would it alarm anyone?”

When I run to this song I swear I become Prefontaine.

#5 “This is Gospel” by  Panic At the disco.

Every time Brandon Urie belts out, “If you love me let me go”,  I’m instantly 17 again. Suddenly, I’m cruising around the beach in my red 96 Silverado blasting a lethal combination of Panic, Armor for Sleep, and Mayday Parade. You guys. I had side bangs. DEEP ones. I wore the same black converse low top sneakers for four straight years. I was this weird jock-punk hybrid and all my dreams consisted of playing college volleyball and finding my perfect punk-pop prince. My dream man was Tom Delonge circa 2003 when “I Miss You” came out, and way before he turned kind of jerky in a very public way.

My taste in men has matured but my taste in music still backslides from time to time. This single from Panic! At the Disco’s 2013 “Too Weird To Live, Too Rare To Die!” album does it for me every time. Mostly because Urie’s voice always sounding like butter is one of those things you know you can just count on. Like the sun rising. And Amazon Prime.

Muscle Memory

 

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From grade school through college, I grew up playing an array of team sports, from soccer, to track, to volleyball. The first team sport that really grabbed me was basketball. There was something uniquely exhilarating about sprinting up and down the court, facing off against someone of similar-ish stature, and often times having to root my feet and use my body as a human shield. This, of course, was done all in the name of stopping the other humans wearing the different colored jerseys from getting a little orange bouncy ball into my team’s basket. The camaraderie, the support, the blood, sweat, tears, the gnawing of mouth guards in between whistles and referee sign language, the green gatorade bottles, the sound of the buzzer, the last second shot. I loved it all.

One of my most vivid memories from the basketball days of my youth is standing at the free throw line for hours at a time. A moment of uninterrupted silence in a hushed gymnasium, just me and the basket. My free throw routine is still etched into my brain. I could do it at the drop of a hat if I needed to.

Foot shuffle. Triple bounce. Balance. Elbow. Eyes. Follow through.

That last part was the most important. So important, in fact, that coach would repeat it in practice time and time again. If ever I missed the shot, he’d be first in line to remind me why.

“You set up and took the shot, but you didn’t follow through. You dropped your arms as soon as you let go of the ball. Hold your position. Build muscle memory. The reason the ball keeps dropping is because you’re letting it. “

Follow through.
Follow through.
Follow through.
Follow through.

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But that’s just life, Right? An ongoing series of having to step up to the line and conquer. It’s just you and whatever you’re facing. You can want to put the ball in the basket, but wanting something only takes you so far before your willpower is on the line. If you don’t have the willpower to follow through, you’re going to keep missing the same shot. You might get lucky and sink a bucket occasionally, but do you really want to be notorious for shooting 42% from the free throw line? The role that willpower plays in accomplishing anything worth doing is paramount. You have to want it enough to do all of the work it takes, or the whole thing breaks down. If you don’t follow through, it doesn’t matter how much upfront work you did.

If I say I want to be a basketball player, and I buy a basketball, and a pair of high tops, and put a hoop in my driveway, and I wear my favorite player’s jersey, and carry my basketball around under my arm, that’s all well and good. But If I don’t practice, if I don’t take a few shots, if I don’t show up for the games, if I don’t follow through, then guess what? I don’t get to call myself a basketball player. I’m just a person in the stands who like to watch basketball.

That analogy works with just about everything. You’re either doing it, or you’re watching other people do it. There’s no sort of.

You can want to do something and say you’re going to do something until you’re blue in the goddamn face. You can sit there, and say you want to change your mindset, your habits, your shitty job, your relationships, the way you treat people, your goals, your health, your future, your life. You can SAY anything out loud, but that’s step one of like….fifty. You don’t get to do steps 1 through 49 and call it a day.

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And everyone has their own reasons for not following through, and sometimes they’re perfectly fine reasons. Sometimes money, location, circumstance, and timing are all factors. But sometimes, people aren’t following through simply because they’re afraid to face themselves. The easy way out is to lock your skeletons away in your room. Only so many skeletons can fit in the storage closet before you have to find a new home for them. Continuously rearranging your skeletons so nobody will see them is just the adult version of pushing food around your plate when you’re a little kid so your parents will think you ate more than you actually did.

You might get up from the table sooner, but you’ll go to bed hungry.

So if you want to walk around, holding a big, dumb basketball for no reason, be my guest. It might feel light and manageable at first, but eventually it’s going to drag you down. Bring that burden to your business meetings. Carry that weight through your love life. Tether that bad boy to your ankle like a ball and chain. With every step, you’ll be reminded that you had the chance to get it right and chose instead to be a prisoner to your own excuses.

OR…

You can start visualizing your life working out the way you want it to. Stay it out loud. Mean it. Start believing that you deserve to do better for yourself. Create new patterns. Pinpoint your weaknesses and form new routines. Hold yourself accountable. Recognize red flags. Admit when you’re not getting it right. Correct it. Get comfortable with uncomfortable. Practice. Don’t take any shit from yourself. It takes discipline. It takes dedication. It takes willpower. It takes muscle memory.

Foot shuffle. Triple bounce. Balance. Elbow. Eyes. Follow through.

Screen Shot 2016-06-20 at 2.38.21 PMThe only person standing there, lined up perfectly to take that shot, but refusing to let go of the damn ball is you. The only person taking the shot but half-assing it with poor form is you. You know what else? That asshole in the stands trying to distract you by yelling “YOU SUCK!” is also you. So is the opponent boxing you out underneath the basket if you miss.

Do you get it yet? IT’S. ALL. YOU.

Quit acting like there’s a 7 nation army trying to stop you from being a better person, a better partner, a better lover, a better friend, a better son, a better daughter. You’re the only one who is going to stop you. If other people are trying, let them try. They don’t get to succeed. Your inner demons don’t get to stop you if you don’t let them. Your old ways don’t get to stop you if you don’t let them. Stop giving power to the things that are trying to control and destroy you. You’re not just handing over the ball, you’re handing over the entire game.

You’re stronger than that, and if you’re not, it’s time to get strong.

Step up to the line. Take the shot. Follow the fuck through. And then do it again, and again, and again, and again, for the rest of your life until your muscles remember what correct form feels like. Wait for the sweet moment where your arms are tired, and your body is sore and screaming. You’ll want to be lazy. You’ll want to quit. You’ll want to break your form, but your own muscle memory won’t let you.

You will have forgotten how to drop the ball.