Sitting on the porch, drinking wine and dirtying the bottom of my socks on the concrete, I realize I should be studying for my finals that I have in a few days. But it’s too nice a night out to do so, and I only have a few more nights of hearing the train so close…a sound I never would have guessed would feel homey.

The school year is ending fast, and as the warm weather creeps back, it reminds me of how I felt about a year ago when I first left home. They smell of summer always jolts my memory into action.

I feel I have grown tremendously different in the past year. I don’t really even recognize myself compared to who I was years and years ago. It’s funny to realize that most of what I have grown from did not come from the classroom, but from the gym.

After countless times of working tremendously hard one week, being highly motivated, energized, productive and active, and then suddenly dropping to a low and just wanting to sleep the next week, I realized that that wasn’t functional. I began to seriously wonder if I was bi-polar. It was like taking steps forward and backward constantly, never gaining any ground.

As if I didn’t already have enough goals in my head, my new years resolution was to teach myself yoga. So I bought a mat, got a yoga book for Christmas, and started with child’s pose and down-dog.

I don’t even remember how I came up with my own personal practice and focus of yoga, but somehow it became centered on patience and self-love…probably because those are two aspects that are weak in my soul. Perfectionism had drained me of these qualities.

Yoga allowed me to focus on the moment at hand, instead of worrying about the future and making a to-do list in my head like I used to do with any spare moment.

That’s the thing about yoga…you can take it and use it in anyway you need. It’s like a medicine that could cure anything you desired. Your own personal healer. Your own personal guide. Anyone could self-actualize if only they practiced yoga, because something happened as you practiced…the parts of you that needed healing or improvement would slowly build and change, like scabs renewing themselves with time. As I started to do more difficult poses, I became frustrated…but by remembering the focus of my practice, I took a breath and told myself it was okay…that I was doing okay…that this was my own personal journey and would get to where I was headed eventually. When I was finally able to do poses that were initially too hard for me, I believed in the focus of my own practice more than ever. I had never taken a yoga class before, and yet, I was still taking steps forward. When I finally did take my first yoga class, I found that I completed it with ease…I had passed another checkpoint and this solidified the dedication and faith I had in my practice.

As my yoga practice took hold, my life at the gym became more serious, and when before I had spent so much energy on comparing myself to the others at the gym, I found that I was forcing myself to focus on the fact that my journey is different, and that I am doing great. Sure, there were others better than me, and I still have some trouble comparing myself to others, but I have different strengths, different weaknesses, and a different life. I transferred the practice of self love and patience into my exercise life. It became easier to work out because I was focused on myself, and I saw results that made me proud of my own journey, even if it wasn’t as good as others I was seeing at the gym.

Taking it further, I then included that mindset into my everyday life…understanding that everyone is different, and my grades, classes, sleep schedule, diet, everything…was different. A perfectionist wants perfection in every aspect of life. But I started taking the imperfections as signs that I was overcoming a quality within me that would have been (and was for a time) torturous if I let it take over my life. During my first semester away at college, I struggled to choose classes and to decide if I was going to get a double major, a major and a minor, a dual degree, a masters,  or a PhD. Of course, all I heard from anyone was that with my major I was going to have to get AT LEAST a masters in order to go anywhere. Everyone here is so caught up in a massive amount of education, and a particular career path and perfect life plan, that I started to second guess myself and tried to see if I could fit that mold.

My advisor was exhausted by me. Hell…I was exhausted by me. But why was I even trying to fit that mold….I wasn’t even sure that I wanted to. I’m not convinced that every student here does either.

After desperately trying to decide what my life was going to look like and how my education would fit into a perfect career, I discovered that I didn’t want that. Kudos to the people who have their life planned out and are happy and excited…but I was done feeling like a lesser human because I didn’t have a million internships under my belt and my degree was simply psychology and nothing else fancy. I told myself to be patient with my path, to be content with what I wanted and who I was, and that whenever I was told to fit back into the mold, I would take a breath, shrug my shoulders, smile, and let it pass. My journey is different, and that’s okay. Maybe I won’t be a high up business woman with a giant salary and a life long career, but why is that supposed to be the goal of every human? Why is that drilled into the heads of students since they are young? Why are college students killing themselves mentally to reach goals in the classroom while neglecting their life and goals of the present? It’s all a race to them…who can pull the most all-nighters and get a 4.0.

Work hard, be ambitious and understand that your journey is different than anyone else’s and that’s okay…this is what I will teach my kids someday.

Exercise is a way to put your differences into perspective, and into a physical form that is easier to see, understand, and change. Exercise takes patience, diligence, perseverance, and resilience…all mental factors that take time to develop. While you’re developing those parts of your body that need improvement, you’re developing parts of your mind that need it as well. At some point, everyone has to come to terms with their weaknesses and their differences. This is the only way we can know and accept who we really are, and finally self-actualize. Exercise is a path to self-actualization. The awareness it creates is a way to accept yourself, and then realize that it can be improved upon. There is something so special about your own journey through life, because it is your own. Kind of like how your journey in the gym is different from others and is also your own. You begin to compare yourself to the person you used to be, instead of comparing yourself to the person standing next to you. And this is an essential realization of life.

It’s the Sunday before Finals week. I should be at the library studying. I just finished a crappy workout. My socks are dirty, and my dinner consists of brown rice and wine…

…but the qualities within me that at one time would have degraded and scolded me are silent.


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