Thursday, September 4, 2014

Leaving Education Behind


A short while ago, I wrote a blog about slowing down my life, and I mentioned in that blog that I had made the decision to leave education. I also mentioned that there were many reasons that ultimately I decided to make that choice. I never got around to writing about why I ultimately decided to leave the education field, but with school returning in the DC metro area last week and this week, I've been seeing a lot of links to articles about teachers. More importantly about good teachers and bad teachers and who is responsible for students' learning, and why we are failing our students. A lot of fingers are pointed at the teachers, and it is very frustrating to me. I would challenge anyone to step into the life of a teacher even for just one day before they start blaming them for the evils of the world. Teachers have so many things on their plates, that many people don't even realize how difficult it is to be a teacher. Instead it's just so much easier to blame them for everything that goes wrong with our schools, regardless of the fact that so much is out of their hands. I got so incensed by some of what I read, especially some of the comments, that I felt that it was time to blog about why I left. I know I don't have many readers, but if my ramblings can help people have a better understanding of what it's like to be in a school, and what it's like to go through this on a daily basis, then the time it takes me to write this will be well spent.  Perhaps it will even help to shed a little light on things like teacher retention, and why it's so hard to keep people in this profession. There are many reasons that I left teaching, and if I listed every single one, this blog would be pages long. I'll try to give probably the most compelling reasons (at least for me).

Reason #1- Carrying the load
I know this may sound like an odd way to explain why I left teaching, but it's the honest to goodness truth. I could not carry the load that I was carrying any longer. I don't mean physically carrying my bag and papers to the car, I mean the emotional load. If you think that when teachers leave at the end of the day, they stop thinking about teaching, you are very, very, very wrong. It got the point in my life where I was constantly thinking, talking, and worrying about my kids and how I was going to reach them. I couldn't go a weekend, or a weeknight, without texting a fellow teacher and asking them about a lesson to help so and so get this hard concept, or a plan to get so and so more focused in class. As teachers, we carry the emotional burdens of our students as well. We know that our kids don't always have everything at home, and so even when we are taking the time to do things in our lives that we need to do, ie groceries or a Target run, we are thinking about our kids. We're picking up the little extras, notebooks, crayons, snack bars etc for the kids we know need it. We're staring at a sale rack of items, wondering if we buy these, if it will help so and so learn better. We often put the needs of our kids ahead of ourselves, or our families. We so badly want to help them and reach them that they take the front seat, while everything else takes the back seat. If you've ever been a caregiver, you know how it feels to constantly put others first. It is exhausting. As teachers we worry about the types of home lives our kids have, and when we know certain things about our students, we try to help, and we worry. We worry about the bruises, or the uncle who seems just a bit off, or we worry about the cleanliness of our students when we see them in the same clothes for the third day in a row. We want to help them all and we try. We know when there are divorces and we open our ears and our hearts, and when we hear stories of parents and siblings who are dying, we take their pain and make it our own. We are teachers but we are friends, and sometimes ears, and sometimes we are more parents than we ought to be, but we do it because we care. But caring and carrying others burdens has a price. And after 9 years, I simply could not pay it anymore.

Reason #2- Pass that test!
I'm sure that no one is surprised that I mentioned standardized testing. Truthfully, I never minded the implementation of state standards. The state could certainly tell me what to teach, but they never told me HOW to teach it. It was up to me and my creative brain to accomplish that. And truthfully, I think that this is something I was good at, being creative. But at the end of the day, they wanted to measure what I taught, and here is where we butt heads. I understand the reasoning for the testing, however, expecting the pass rates that they do, is simply absurd. Time and time again I was told I needed better pass rates. Time and time again I was told to "help them get over the hump" but no one ever stops to think that not all of these students came to me with the same set of skills. Last year for example, only 34% of my students had PASSED the math test the year before. So according to the state only 34% of my kids were ready for 4th grade math, but yet, by the end of the year, 100% were expected to have mastered 4th grade math. So those students who were not proficient in 3rd grade math, are now somehow supposed to be proficient in 4th grade math? How does that work? How do you fix all of the issues from the previous year, and KEEP GOING? How does that work? In addition, the school that I was a part of was a focus school in the state of Virginia. This means we were being closely monitored due to our low standardized testing scores. We were subject to county and state walk throughs on a regular basis. We were constantly giving more and more and more assessments to gauge the progress of our students. The county and state scrutinized test scores on everything from county benchmarks to end of unit math assessments. Time and time again I was asked to explain my low pass rates. Why weren't more of my students doing well? It was terrifying, it was exhausting, and it was stressful. Stressful to the point where I would wake up at 2:30-3:00 in the morning because of the anxiety about the test scores. I began to see my students, not as people anymore, but as numbers. Pass rates, and fail rates, and it saddened me. At 32 years old, I felt as if I was headed for a full scale heart attack. To put it simply, my life was worth more than those test scores.

Reason #3- 100+ hour work weeks
I hear people say all the time, that teachers are so lucky because they're done at 3:00 and walk out the door without a care in the world. I want to set the record straight, NO ONE, not even the worst teachers out there, are capable of actually doing this. Why? Because quite frankly there just simply is not any time during the day to do half of the things that you are required to do. There is no way to return calls, answer emails, make copies, write lessons, cut out lesson materials, hunt down books and resources, make new resources, collaborate, desagregate data, hold meetings, grade papers, update websites, attend professional developments, read to continue educating yourself, and teach a class of 25+ students in a 7.5 hour work day. Teachers literally put in hundreds of hours worth of overtime in a year. It's almost as if it's an expected part of the profession. It's expected that they will arrive early, stay late, meet at any given moment, work weekends on lesson plans, and take any work that doesn't get done in the classroom home to work on at night. My contract hours never officially started until 8:40, however, I was in the building by 7:00, if not earlier, almost every day. Most days, unless I had an appointment or had to go to my other job, I was in the building until well past 6:00. And yes, I logged time at home, and on the weekends as well. Even on breaks, it was hard for me to go a day without picking up my school work. In the end, the number of hours that teachers put in is insane, and I just couldn't do it anymore.

Reason #4- Finances
A lot of people talk about the median salary of teachers, and talk about how it's so awesome, and how it's pretty sweet that we get summers off too. I am someone who put myself through school, paid for my first car, apartment, move to Virginia, etc. Because of this, and also a few other poor decisions upon moving to VA, I am in debt up to my eyeballs, and quite frankly, my salary didn't cut it, especially after it was frozen for consecutive years. I've worked a second job for years, trying to get ahead. But in truth, the second job actually hurts me because I wind up owing in thousands of dollars in taxes each year. It's kind of crazy. I need the second job, but yet, the second job puts me even further in debt. One might say that I should change the second job, but, the second job provides the finances that I need in the moment....so what do I do? In the summer months, I worked even more at the second job so that I would have money to open my classroom in the fall. Teaching is a profession where it's customary, nay, almost expected, that teachers will buy their own supplies and materials. I can't tell you how many thousands of dollars worth of materials I purchased and put back into my own classroom over the years. Everything from arts and crafts supplies, books, games, puzzles, furniture, carpets, software, movies, and even bulletin board supplies. It's crazy to think that the salary I did receive was expected to then be spent on things for my job. How many other professions out there buy their own supplies? Do secretaries buy their own pens and paper? Do doctors buy their MRI machines? No, their employers do, and then they use them. Why in the world do schools expect teachers to foot the bill for so many things? Fiscally speaking, I just couldn't do it anymore.

Reason #5- Being a personal punching bag
If I had to recount every time I took a verbal lashing from a parent, I'm not sure that I could truthfully recount every incidence. I understand that parents are very protective of their children. I can only imagine how I would be if I had any of my own, but I think that truthfully parents sometimes forget that teachers are human beings as well. I can't tell you how many times students went home and told half truths about things that happened at school, which then prompted angry emails and phone calls from parents. They couldn't believe how oblivious I could be to things going on in the classroom or in the lunchroom, and they couldn't understand how I could be such a horrific person. They accused me of being unfeeling and not caring about their children, they accused me of being mean to and not liking their children, and they said that I wasn't doing what I could to meet the needs of their children. I can't tell you how terrible it feels to work almost 12 hours everyday, and feel like you are doing so much to try to help your students, and then to receive emails like these. It feels like no matter what you do, you simply can't do enough. It hurts when you feel like you are making creative lessons and doing everything you can, only to basically be told you are worthless and a terrible person for doing what you are doing. I can think of no job where people have as much free reign to harass employees as in the teaching profession. If you try to step to a server, or bartender, or a nurse or a doctor and tell them they are a horrible person, someone else will get involved. A manager, a supervisor, SOMEONE. But with education, it's perfectly acceptable for parents to belittle and berate teachers as they see fit. Emotionally, it's very hard to deal with this type of thing all the time. I carried those emails with me, when I left the building, when I was in the building, and when I tried to sleep at night. I will never forget, so long as I live, the email from a parent saying they wanted to sue me because another child had made a racial comment to his son. At the time, I was not present in the classroom because I had been pulled for a special education meeting, so I had to try to investigate the situation. When I returned, his son was pulled for early dismissal before I could investigate. He emailed me that evening threatening to sue me because no action had been taken. Nevermind the fact that I couldn't take any action because I couldn't investigate what had happened because his child wasn't in school. I cried that night, and did not sleep after that email came through. I worried about it for two days until the situation was resolved. I was a terrible wreck. Emotionally speaking, I could not be the punching bag for people anymore.


Reason #6- Love and Life
Since moving to Virginia 9 years ago, teaching has been my life. I don't mean that in a figurative sense, I mean that literally. It has been the focal point of everything I do, and it has dictated my life. I would go to school early and stay late. I worked my second job because teaching didn't pay enough to pay the bills and have anything left over. I worked in the summers to try to save up money and try to get out of debt. I went to the gym at 0515 so I could stay late at school and have time at night to work. But mostly, if it didn't have anything to do with teaching, the gym, or my second job, I largely ignored it. That means family, friends, hobbies, and also love weren't really anywhere in the picture. At the heart of the heart of me, I am a hopeless romantic. I am a one and done type of girl, and I want love and a happy marriage at some point in my life. For the past 9 years, I have dated people only when it's fit into my schedule. I've had long distance relationships with the wrong people because it fit into the schedule. I could call or text when I had time, see them when I had time, and truthfully it didn't really interfere with my day to day operations. That type of relationship is never going to end the way I want. Working every minute of every day and focusing on nothing but teaching and students and money is NEVER going to make me truly happy. At the end of the day, my emotional needs are important, and it took me a very long time to realize that. Not having anything in my life except work will never fully satisfy me and will only lead to resentment and regret for opportunities missed later on down the line.

I think that in my time, I was at least a decent teacher. Some would say I was good. In my opinion, I never had the pass rates to consider myself good, and I know in my last year of teaching, my stress level was so high that I was a lot harder on my kids than I should have been. But regardless, I think I was decent, and there was a period of time where I really did enjoy my work, but that time is not now. Now I need to focus on me. I don't think that I'm alone in how I feel about teaching right now. I've seen many people leave the profession and move on to other things. Happiness and health, those things are important to have in life. Unfortunately, teaching can take those things away from you without you realizing it has happened. I'm glad I realized it before it was too late and made the choice to move on. In a few years, my mind may change. I may be more financially stable and able to have a less stressful teaching career. Maybe I'll be married and I won't feel like teaching is keeping me from finding a piece of me that's missing. Who knows.... but I know for now, this is the path I'm on, and these are the reasons that quite simply I cannot continue to do what I have always done. I hope that if you are friends with, or know, a teacher, you take the time to really understand what they do instead of making blind statements. In all of these reasons above, there is a lot of self-sacrifice. I can't make those sacrifices anymore. They still are. So be kind, and let them know they are valued and appreciated.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Living, for time



If you've been a long time reader (truth I'm not sure those exist anymore after my long hiatus) you've probably noticed a little bit more of a serious tone on my blog for awhile. I'm not sure what happened exactly, but somewhere along the line, I think I may have grown up a bit. Is this what happens when you hit 30? Don't get me wrong, I still love glitter (ooh! Shiny things!), loud music, heavy weights over my head, and inventing my own words. But my desire to blog about shiny things every day has diminished, if that makes sense.  

As I've gotten older, I've changed. Most recently, I've changed careers. And if you ask me point blank why I've changed careers, the answer is not as cut and dry as you might think. Yes, it was ultimately because I wasn't happy, but it was a lot more than that. It's a complex tirade (which for now I'll spare you from) that would include the phrase "living, for time". As CrossFitters, everything is about AMRAP and FT! We're competitive little buggers, and sometimes that competitive tendency spills out into the rest of our lives. One of the reasons that I quit my job, and my career, is because I was tired of living life, for time. 

Everyday I had to have conversations with myself. "At what time do I need to be up if I'm going to get to the gym? I need 15 minutes drive time, and is my bag already packed? Ok, no, then I need 15 minutes to get mobile and pack. Ok, oh shit wait. Today I go to Dogfish after school. Ok, I need to pack that bag too. Let's back up the alarm another 15 minutes. " Later in the day, "Ok, at what time do I need to be out of school to make it to Dogfish on time? I need to be there by 5, so I need to leave no later than 4:15." "Oh, I have to work this weekend, where can I cram in running to the store and getting over to the dry cleaners to get my choir dress done." "Oh and crap, I said I would meet ____ (insert name here) for coffee this week. Where can I do that?"  

That was my life. It was for time. How much time do I need? What's my work load? I have to complete these tasks under my time cap because I've got to move onto the next task, and if there's not enough time in the time cap, we just need to move faster. I was constantly moving through my life at a break neck pace. Constantly doing everything quickly. Now, I know I live in DC and it seems that everyone is always moving fast, but life isn't meant to be lived "for time". I shouldn't be rushing through things on a daily basis. I should be able to take some time to slow down and smell the roses so to speak. And with my old job, I couldn't. I simply couldn't. I was tired, and I didn't want to live my life "for time" anymore.  

Yesterday's wod hit me pretty hard today (HELLO walking lunges with 130 on the bar.... ooops) and I thought, today would be a great day to not fall asleep on the couch after work and get in a recovery wod of sorts on the bike. So I put TT on the back off my car and away we went. Oh, how rude, I'm sorry. I don't think you've met TT. Here she is!


While I was on the bike tonight doing my "recovery" wod, I caught myself trying to pedal faster, and hurry up. Why? I have no flipping idea. The purpose was to ride slow, let my legs loosen up, get the lactic out. But no, next thing I knew, here we were. Going for a "for time" kind of bike ride. So you know what I did? I stopped. I stopped because I need to remind myself that this isn't how life is supposed to be. Life isn't a "for time" type of wod. I pulled off the trail, and looked around. And you know what I saw? Beauty. The sun was setting and filtering through the trees, which by the way did I mention that they were next to the Potomac? Rowers were out on the water, and a huge flock of Canadian Geese were busy eating and pooping on everything! (Ok, the pooping part isn't beautiful, but they totally were.) And of course, in the background were the monuments. With a small turn to my left or right, I was within plain sight of the Kennedy Center, the Lincoln Monument, the Jefferson Memorial, and also the Washington Monument. How can you not just stop and take pause when you realize the enormity of that? People travel thousands of miles to come see these historic landmarks, and here I am so worried about getting my bike ride in for time, that I miss it. I ignore it. Life is not a sprint. It's not a wod where you get a chance to hit it again another day. If you're like me, maybe you should join me in NOT living life "for time" and actively taking a moment to try to slow things down. In my opinion, which is of course ever so humble, there are many things in life that shouldn't be for time. I've made a small list, just in case you were curious ( :) ) about what I think is worth slowing down for. You may disagree, you may agree, or you may want to add on, so feel free to comment. The purpose of my blog, well there are many, but the main purpose is to share my experiences with others, in hopes that someone may learn from the path I've already taken. Take this list, and maybe revisit it from time to time, and try to find some time for you to slow down. Life is never "for time".  

Katie's List of Things that are Totally and Eternally NOT for Time
1. Good cups of coffee
2. Good hugs
3. Breakamafast/Lunch/Dinner with good friends/company
4. Hikes
5. Bike rides (unless it's a race, then totally different)
6. Ice cream (in addition to getting a head rush, it's gone too fast!)
7. Slow dances whether in public, or your kitchen
8. Saturdays/Sundays/any day of the week where you don't have to work. Put the to-do list down. Target and Wal-Mart will still be there tomorrow!
9. Cuddling
10. S'mores (see #6)
11. Good books
12. A 1RM deadlift (DEFINITELY not for time)
13. Decorating for the holidays
14. A good date
15. A good kiss
16. Phone calls/Face Time with friends/loved ones
17. Puzzles
18. Good glasses of wine/whiskey/bourbon or your other beverage of choice
19. The day (once it's gone, it won't come back)
20. Baths (the door is locked, there is a book on the floor, and I lit the candles for a reason. Come back later.)

Friday, July 18, 2014

Making Amends

For a long time after I first found CrossFit, it was a focus of my world. I thought about it all the time, talked about it all the time, wrote about it all the time, and when I wasn't talking about it or blogging about it, I was reading other CrossFit blogs, reading things on the main site, and essentially saturating myself in CrossFit. In essence, CrossFit wasn't a part of my life, it was my life. I didn't skip days. I was in the box five days a week. I didn't cherry pick wods. I did them whether I liked them or not. Work wasn't an excuse, and I scoffed at people who talked about how tired they were and how they just needed a break.  

But somehow, as time wore on, things changed for me. I loved competing, and I loved CrossFit, but it somehow got to be too much. I couldn't spend hours blogging anymore. I couldn't spend endless hours reading about CrossFit or watching videos. Something shifted. I was feeling run down more often. I was sore all the time, and while I was making strength gains across the board, I wasn't happy with my progress. Somewhere along the line, CrossFit began feeling like a job. And since I already had two, adding one more on top of that felt like a heavy burden to bear. I was having my doubts last summer about whether or not to continue with CrossFit. I had discovered the beauty that was Shenandoah, the joy that was riding a bicycle, and the peace that comes with making decisions that just feel right. Despite my nagging feeling that maybe CrossFit and I needed to take a break, I made the decision to compete at the Superfit in Richmond. A week of unloading my classroom had left my back tight, and a lot of loading in the wods from snatches, cleans, burpees, toes to bar, and rowing left me nearly immobile. After that I had to face the reality. CrossFit for me just wasn't fun anymore. It wasn't what it used to be. And like it was a lover, I had a hard time letting it go. I wanted it to work. I wanted to have this sit down where somehow miraculously things work out. But it just couldn't happen. I already felt like I didn't belong at my box any longer, and the nagging injuries and exhaustion made the answer even more clear. It was time to go.  

It wasn't an easy decision to make. I was the girl who swore that she would always CrossFit, and yes, even for a time considered a CrossFit vanity plate. (What up VAXFTGL?) But the writing was on the wall so to speak. So, I left. I had a very open and honest dialogue with my coach, and let him know that I just felt it wasn't right for me any longer. And so after some time, I decided to go back to swimming. I got back into a rhythm of things and felt like some of my achy soreness was going away, when all of a sudden the hammer fell. The dreaded 'S' word. Surgery. One of those nagging injuries and sore spots, wasn't just nagging. A protruding bone spur in my foot was aggravating the tendons, causing pain when I jumped, ran, and even walked too much. To make me comfortable the only possible answer was to have it taken out. This of course meant no walking, no driving, and of course no swimming. I was completely off my foot for nearly two months. When I was finally cleared, I learned that doing things, like flip turns, was complicated. My tendons couldn't support all the pressure and the surrounding area was still so swollen that even kicking, especially in my specialty of breaststroke was impossible. If ever the term "sagging heart" were to be used, I think that would aptly describe the months of February and March. I was finally given the go ahead in April, but despite the clearance, I couldn't. I just couldn't get off the couch. I was afraid to run. I was afraid to get on the bike. I just could not move forward.  

To further complicate things, was the fact that during this time my stress levels and overall unhappiness were becoming more and more evident. I was waking up in cold sweats at night, stressing to the point where I would cry, and was genuinely not a happy person. It felt like the whole entire world was crashing at once. You know that feeling. That feeling of why can't just ONE thing go right? As luck would have it, I was offered a job with a new company. One completely unrelated to education. And you know what? I took it. I was tired of being tired, and I was tired of being stressed, and I was TIRED of being unable to move forward. And so, I did it. I took the leap of faith that we all talk about taking when our chips are down, and we feel like we're in the hole. I told my principal that I would be resigning at the end of the year, and from there, things, while still challenging, seemed to get a whole lot better. 

But even though things were getting better, I still hadn't quite made peace with it all. I felt like a failure. I was leaving teaching, I had left CrossFit, I had left swimming again. My Paleo diet, ha, that was non-existent and my weight was going up again. Even though I was making changes, I still had to come to grips with it. I still needed to find peace with it. I needed to forgive myself. I'm sure that sounds strange. Forgive yourself? For taking a better paying job with less stress and walking away from something that wasn't making you happy? You had to forgive yourself for THAT? I know. It sounds (to steal my sister's words) cray cray, but you see, I'm not a quitter. I see things through, and I don't give up. I am a stubborn freakin' mule. I finish the things I start. Even really bad books and movies.  

But, this, this was hard. I felt like I was giving up on CrossFit, and my job. I felt like I was quitting. And in a way, I was, but there is a greater lesson to be learned here. Sometimes, we have to do what is really best for us, and sometimes that may mean giving up on something we said we'd do, or we swore we'd never leave. I had to forgive myself for quitting, but remind myself that it's ok. I am on the only one who can make me happy. And if I don't do it, no one else can do it for me.  

After some time, I learned that one of my former trainers had made the decision to open her own box. After careful consideration, I decided to join. I'm not focusing on competitions right now, and honestly, I'm not sure I will again. I'm focused on losing the weight I've gained, getting back in shape, and learning to have fun again. Joining her gym was just as hard as leaving the old one. Not because I dislike her, God NO! She's a fantastic coach! But because I somehow felt bad about not rejoining my old box. But I remember those feelings. I remember how disconnected I felt, and how I didn't enjoy things anymore. And I keep telling myself that I am the only person who can make me happy. I think if I can somehow make that my new mantra, I will find the peace and happiness that I'm looking for.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Break-Up

Over the course of my years at CrossFit, I've always done things my own way.  I never jumped on the bandwagons of things right away, and I've always sort of marched to my own beat.  I didn't compete right away.... I held on to my sparkly chucks for a long time.... held out on Lulu.... and I resisted going Paleo when everyone swore it was the rage.  But as with most things in life, there comes a time.  A time when you sit and evaluate, then reevaluate how you feel, what you want, and what it's going to take to get there.  As a result, I have come to the conclusion that it's time.  It's time to start receiving some of the information that has been in my face for a very long time.  

For a very long time, the science and the success stories of being Paleo have been in front of me. Time after time, people shared how much better they felt. They shared recipes, they shared before and after pictures, and they urged me to come on board.  But if there is one thing that I have learned about myself through CrossFit, it's that I'll get there when I get there, and if I'm not ready to receive you or the information you have, it's never going to sink in.  I'm an analogy girl, so I'll put it like this.  We've all, at some point, probably dated someone who was not right for us.  And no matter how many times people sat you down to have "The Talk" where they tell you that he/she is "just so not right for you", you never listened.  Why? Because you weren't ready to.  You weren't ready to let go yet.  You were not ready to open yourself up to the information.  In your mind, he/she made you happy.  Yeah, they had their faults, but there was so much good about them, and yeah he/she cheated on you, but it was just that one time and they've really changed..... bullshit.  We've all been there.  We were living in a fantasy world where everything was roses, and we weren't ready to let go.  Letting go meant change, and let's face it, for a lot of us, CHANGE IS SCARY.  We weren't ready to receive the information.

After many years of living in this really awful and horrible relationship, I'm finally ready to receive the information.  I'm letting go of a very bad boyfriend that I've held on to for far too long.  

Diet I'm sorry.  It's not me, it really is you.

I have felt lethargic and sick and been just a few pounds overweight for far too long.  It is high time I did something to improve how I look and feel about myself.  It is high time that I stop hurting myself with copious amounts of sugar, and stop dealing with my issues through indulging in food.  Cortisol and sugar do not mix.  It is high time that I stop being a slave to either of them.  
Diet, it's OVER.

I have a nutritionist, who I respect highly.  While sometimes I want to hit her for the things she tells me I need to do, I understand that she has my best interests and health at heart.  And believe me when I tell you, that for me, having someone that I have to be accountable to during these early stages is key.  I know that eventually I will move into that maintenance stage where it is up to me to maintain my healthy choices, but for now, knowing that I have to admit to her every gram of sugar or gluten or alcohol that I eat, helps me to make better choices.  I'm not 100% Paleo right now.  I'm trying, but I know there are still habits to break, and let's face it.  I'm human.  I forgot to say no cheese on the omelette the other day, I ate half a piece of toast.  But slowly, and surely, I'm working on eliminating these things from my diet.  

My point in writing this whole piece though, is to hopefully encourage other people who may be like me.  Do things in your own time.  Be ready to receive the information.  Don't feel like you have to do things because people tell you to.  Do them for the RIGHT reasons.  But when you're ready, be prepared.  It's hard work, but guess what?  You're a CrossFitter.  Do work, son.  

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Fighting the war on multiple fronts...

If you know anything about war, or even if you don't you can probably figure out, that fighting a war is hard.  It's not pretty, there's a lot of pain, loss, suffering, and a lot of things that make you open your eyes and look at yourself and the world around you in a different light.  Miltary strategy will tell you that it is best to fight a war while on the high ground, with good protection, lots of ammo, and only in one general area.  It's also really helpful if that area has good exfil route just in case things start to go sideways.


Fighting a war in more than one area, however, will lessen your supplies and split your defenses.  I'm a girl who loves analogies, so let me just say that this is what my life has been like for several months.  I'm not fighting a war on a hill, with a bunch of hescos and anti-tank guns.  Nope.  I've been fighting on so many fronts, that my reserves are all but depleted, my ammo is all but gone, and I'm about to make the call to fix bayonets.  If you get that military analogy, then you totally get it.  If you're sitting here saying, what the ef is she talking about.... allow me to explain.  When you run out of ammo, and you're about to be overrun, the last thing you can do is fight your enemy hand to hand.  Fix bayonets was always the last call when the enemy was within fighting space.  Granted, that is an antiquated analogy, but still, you get the point.  The enemy has been in my face for the last few months, and he is coming from all sides.


When I first started this blog, I was so excited.  I loved CrossFit, I wanted to spread the word, and I wanted to get out there and be all the CrossFit I could be.  I was determined to be, as someone once said, "the poster child" for CrossFit.  I zoned (yeah for those of you who have been around long enough, remember when CrossFit preached the Zone? Yeah, I do too.) hardcore and lost 20 pounds.  I ran marathons, I began to compete in CrossFit, and then life smacked me in the face.  My job got demanding, I worked more at my second job, I've gone further into debt instead of further out, and the happy CrossFit feelings just weren't there anymore.  Those fun blogs that I loved writing just weren't coming.  And truth is, they're still not.  But.... the good news is, I'm getting there.


I'm a perfectionist.  I am, and it's been one of my biggest downfalls of my adult life.  I'm so driven and so determined to do everything and to do it really well that it causes problems.  As life has put me through the paces, I've never allowed myself any slack.  I've expected the same out of myself at CrossFit and everywhere else.  And this year, more than any other year, as I approach my six year anniversary with CrossFit, I feel it.  I feel as if my nutrition has been so terrible, I don't even want to admit what I've been eating.  My sleep cycle has been atrocious.  I've been working upwards of 10-15 hours everyday, and I have completely lost sight of the important things.


At 31, I have had to have some long hard looks at what is going on with me.  In the past nine months, I have had a shoulder injury that prevented me from going overhead for two months, I had a relatively invasive mouth surgery that left me out of the box for nearly 2 weeks, I had another health situation which sidelined me for another almost 2 full weeks, one of my best friends stopped speaking to me for reasons still unknown to me, and I gained nearly 15 pounds.  All of that has taken a toll.  It has felt like I'm out of ammo, and I've been fighting an enemy that is EVERYWHERE.


That's a lot.  I didn't want to write about that.  I didn't want to share that.  That's not happy.  It's not upbeat.  And it certainly isn't something that I'm proud of.  But I've really had to sit and talk with myself and say that this has to change.  I've got to do something about what I'm doing to myself or I'm not going to be able to keep CrossFitting or being a normal, sane human being.  (normal for ME anyway.... :P) So, at 31, I finally have admitted that it's ok to ask for help.  I've been regularly seeing a chriopractor to help keep my stuff in line.  I've begun seeing a nutritionist who is helping me to (once and for all) beat the addiction I have to sugar.  I've had to cut back (sometimes) at the restaurant in order to keep my sanity, and I have really had to give a hard look at my interactions with other people.  Somewhere along the line, I stopped being a good friend.  I forgot that in order to have a friend, you must be a friend.  And truthfully, while I may feel as if I am ready to find someone, and not necessarily get married, but start spending some QT with them, I have to acknowledge that my schedule and where I have been mentally, makes that a challenge.  I met someone who I do really enjoy.... the only problem is.... he doesn't feel the same.... and even if he did, Hawaii is a long way from DC. But, I'm still hopeful that someday that ship is going to come in for me.  I know that somewhere in me, there is a fun, outgoing, and very caring person.  She's gotten lost.  And I feel as if for the past 2 years, I've really been trying to find her.  It feels like right now, after bottoming out so to speak, this is the closest I have been to finding her in a long time.  I have had to cut myself some slack. I've had to admit that I need help juggling everything.  I've had to admit that I may not be able to compete at CrossFit.  I have had to admit that sometimes, three days a week is all I can give.  And the most important part of all of that is realizing that it really is OK.


CrossFit teaches us to be hard on ourselves.  To always push for more, and always work harder to get to that next level, but  recently Jon Gilson wrote this fabulous article about setting realistic goals and not piling things onto ourselves too quickly.  In my life, I have never agreed with something more.  I'm getting the help that I need from my fantabulous team of people who are working to help put me back together again.... and once I'm there.... the sky really is the limit.  I just need to keep fighting.  


Sunday, April 7, 2013

And the Open is done....

After a crazy week full of 10-17 hour days, 13.5 came and went.  The Open is done.  I repeated 13.5 Saturday morning in an attempt to get more than the 61 reps I managed to eek out on Thursday.  I felt like if I could move through the second set of pull-ups faster, I should be able to manage more reps.  But, even though I moved faster, I just couldn't do it.  I couldn't get the big improvement I was hoping for.  I eeked out +1 more rep and wound up with 62.  And it ended.  Just like that.  With one final collapse on the floor, I finished the 2013 Open.  There were no streamers, no banners, no balloons falling from the sky.... In the blink of an eye, it was over.  I took a shower, I changed my clothes, and then I went to work a double.  It was completely and totally..... anticlimatic....

I can't say I'm pleased with the Open.  I never am.  I don't do well over a long period of time like this.  For someone like me who routinely works long days, trying to stay up and competitive over a period of five weeks is hard.  I don't want to make excuses, but it is.  I am someone who is convinced that I CAN do it all.  I can teach, serve, compete at CrossFit, volunteer with my group, and sing in my choir.  I'm hard.  I'm not easy.  I'm complex and complicated but I still want to be able to do everything at 100%.  Is that feasible? Some would say no.  I say yes.  But it makes me a challenging athlete to coach.  It makes it hard to help me help myself.  But regardless of my circumstances over the past several months leading up to the Open, it is what it is and the scores are final.  A final look at the standings shows that out of 2365 women who completed all of the wods, I am 479.  Last year there were only 1300 women who competed in the Mid Atlantic region.  This year, that number nearly doubled, and I'm still well within the top half of that number.  I guess I should be happy with that.... but a perfectionist like me is not ever satisfied..... Now it's on to the next one.... we'll see what that will be. 

Monday, April 1, 2013

Is it time for a change?

It doesn't take much beyond a quick look down the side of my blog to know and understand that CrossFit is something that I have been doing for awhile. I have always loved CrossFit and I have been ever so thankful of the friends, nay, family I have made by suffering through brutal workout after brutal workout. For the past several months, my life has been in a bit of a flux. Since going back into the classroom in January '11, life has thrown me a lot of curve balls. I love teaching, but I'm beginning to wonder if it takes 13 hours a day to be good at what I do, if I have that in me to give. Working like that leaves NO time for anything else, including CrossFit. Especially not when you have to maintain a second job on the weekends to work off debt you've largely acquired because you work in a profession where it is not only commonplace, but expected, that you will put your own meager salary back into your classroom.

I have yearned, no ached, for what most would consider "normal". Weekends where I am not being required to complete work that cannot be completed in a normal day. Weekends that do not involve working a second job. Weekends that involve spending time with someone I care about, and spending time enjoying the company of good friends. Weekends that involve LIVING. I've made a large effort in the past few months to start putting myself back out there again. Not just meaning dating wise, but also making the time for friends and other people who have been important to me. I've also started singing again, something that I thought went onto a shelf 12 years ago never to resurface. All these things I've done in an attempt to put myself more firmly in a place where I want to be.

But yet, the one thing, aside from my dating life (oi vey!) that I just can't seem to get right is CrossFit. I am a competitive person. I love competing in CrossFit. But being competitive in CrossFit takes a lot of solid training, and a lot of hard work. It takes discipline and solid nutrition, not to mention, plenty of good rest, and a consistent schedule. All of which seem to be things that I am lacking in at the moment. I want to compete, but at the same time, I also don't want to let my team down. And if there is one thing I can say about this year's open (I'm limiting myself to ONE thing) it's that I feel like in every regard I have disappointed my coaches, and let my team down. In the two wods where I should have been able to just blow those numbers out of the water, I couldn't. I tried. It wasn't like I laid down and played dead, but I know I didn't perform to the level of where I otherwise should have. I know I did not perform where they wanted me to. I am, on many levels, embarassed.

So, here I sit. Holding the pieces of what seems like a very broken situation. If I can't live up to the expectations of my team, is it time for me to go? Is it time for a change of pace and a change of scenery? If I can't live up to my own expectations, is it time to change the expectations? Or accept the fact that I will never be at the level I want to be? I have goals, things I want to be able to do. But I'm finding it harder and harder to meet them. The Open has given me a lot to think about. Is it time for a change? I need to sort it out.