Why I (temporarily) fell out of love with pole

I took my first-ever pole class about two years ago. One of my closest friends had started doing it and looked amazing, so I decided I wanted to be just like her. Plus, it looked like a fun, challenging, and truly artful way to get and stay in shape. What wasn’t there to love about it? Although it took a while for my practice to finally “stick”, I decided in March of 2015 that I would start poling at least three times a week. And I did it.

It was difficult. I remember crying my eyes out because I couldn’t even manage a “chair spin” after my third class. I remember seeing girls hold themselves upside down twenty-feet in the air in 6-inch heels, wondering if I could ever be so fearless. I went alone to every single class, so I never had a friend to relieve stress with if I messed something up. I had to get comfortable looking stupid in front of girls (and boys) who were really, really good.

Eventually, though, I too got good. I started inverting a few weeks into my consistent poling regimen. I increased my flexibility. I could do complicated, often scary-looking tricks. I learned how to put routines together. Soon enough, I was helping out the other girls in class and even got to teach a class of my own for my friend’s bachelorette party. I even bought a pole for my apartment, rearranging my entire place and getting rid of furniture to do so. I was feeling fabulous and felt that pole had become my “thing”.

Other than falling out of it a few times for a couple of weeks at a time, I kept at it until the following March of 2016, when I competed in my first competition. I competed at Level 2 in the entertainment category, meaning that my routine had to be focused on tricks and spins rather than “flow” or displays of emotion. I didn’t place too highly, but I wasn’t in last place by any means and was proud of myself for doing it. Excited at the prospect of competing again, I kept at it, albeit much less consistently, for a couple of months thereafter.

About a month ago, though, things started to feel…different.

I had absolutely zero motivation to go to classes and interact with people. I barely felt like freestyling at home. While I partially chalk it up to it just being too damn hot this summer (and my apartment is like a furnace, even with generous wattage being spent on multiple fans), I realized that there was something else happening.

I had started taking pole too seriously, and it was biting me in the butt.

You see, when I start becoming interested in something, I feel like I have to eventually become the best, or one of the best. This sentiment may pass, but I always start out that way. With pole, it just happened to stick with me for a while. When I started, I knew that even though I sucked then, I would eventually get better and better until I was competing nationally, then internationally. I pictured myself being like Natasha Wang, who started pole at 29 and now teaches workshops of her own all over the world. I was determined to become a figurehead in the pole world and make my mark that way.

But here’s the thing.

Pole is not the only way I use my time. I have a full-time job, a novel I’m writing, two blogs, and a side writing project I’m working on with a friend. I have friends, family, and a relatively new relationship that I am developing and nurturing. I have other things I love doing, like reading and making visual art and getting outside. I realized that if I wanted to be where I supposedly wanted to be with pole, many of these things would have to be put on the back burner. And if I’m being 100% real with myself…I’m simply not willing to do that right now.

And I’m okay with that.

Me not being willing (right now) to put in the enormous, sacrificial amount of effort it takes to be one of the “greats” doesn’t mean that I can’t continue with pole. I doesn’t mean I can’t be good–nay, great–, that I can’t ever teach again, or that I can never compete again.

This is me being okay with not being the “best”, at least for the foreseeable future.

This is me saying that I’m okay with having pole as a part of my life right now, rather than being my whole life.

This is me telling myself that I’m still valuable, awesome, and talented even though I’m not dedicating hours a day to stretching, lifting, spinning, falling, and bruising my way to pole expertise.

I may have fallen in love with pole for the wrong reasons, but I’m willing to take a more casual approach and see if I can fall back in love with it for the right ones. I’ll still attend classes once a week or once every other week and I’ll still keep my home pole–even if it means I can’t have furniture. Heck, I might start taking online pole classes when it gets a little cooler. I hear great things!

Like any enjoyable activity, pole is one of those that can easily turn into a chore or burden if you take it too seriously without understanding what that truly means. But if you sit down and and have an honest conversation with yourself, you can figure out where you truly want to be and how you can get there. Maybe you are willing to make it your life, but need motivation to get started with that goal. Or, perhaps your time with that activity has expired and it’s time for you to move on–which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Or, maybe you’re like me and you just need a little reconfiguration in your approach. All of these outcomes are good and it’s important to do what’s best for you.

Is it easy to figure out what the answer is? HELL no. It’s probably easier to land a fonji or a Russian split than it is to answer that question. But try to have that conversation with yourself whenever you’re ready. You’ll feel just as good as when you land that split.

-H

p.s. If only for my own ego, it is still an imperative goal of mine to be able to fonji one day. And get into a hypersplit. And dance in heels. Maybe pole isn’t getting rid of me as easily as it thinks it will.

How to Continue Your Job Search When You Feel Like Giving Up

I don’t envy those who are currently job hunting, unlike myself. A year ago, I was seeing a therapist twice a week to manage the crippling depression of (a) having no idea what I wanted to do with my life and (b) (and even worse) having nobody take me seriously when I tried to explain that I wanted to switch to something “more creative”. When you send in 80+ job applications, get 8 or so responses (all negative), and three interviews, you do start to wonder if you’re even worth being taken seriously, unfortunately.

A few months later, I had it figured out that I wanted to be a writer, author, artist, and all-around creative powerhouse (can we say: occasional singer? ;)). Yay! But when I approached a recruiter to try and help me find a stepping stone job as an HR person, they told me that selling me, an accounting person, to an HR department as a to-be HR person would be “more trouble than it was worth”. Hell, I was staying within the “corporate” arena and I was being told that I didn’t have a chance there. Needless to say, I felt ~*totally awesome and motivated*~. What a thing to hear, after all.

Indeed, I was winning some and losing quite a few more. That was until I landed my current gig as a catalog editor and silently told my LinkedIn naysayers to kindly eat their words.

Still, until I got that one chance, I thought I was never, ever, ever going to find a job that fit me ever again. I’m not exaggerating. I clearly remember calling my mom one day and declaring that I was “NEVER going to be a self-actualized and gainfully employed human being!!!!!!!” (God, I wish I were joking). But something tiny dwelled within me and kept pushing me, even during my lowest points. I still haven’t figured out what it was yet, but here were some things I told myself to prevent me from abandoning the civilized world altogether and retiring to a sub-freeway colony:

“If someone doesn’t want you, you wouldn’t want to work there anyways.”

I’m starting with a cliche, yes, but only because this is so freaking true it’s crazy. I faked the crap out of my personality to get one of my prior jobs and even though I got the job, it was truly the most abysmal environment possible for me. Conversely, I earned my current job by being myself and owning the fact that I’m a human being with needs and not some stolid robot who lives solely for a career. I’m not saying you should bare every possible facet of your personality in an interview (ahem…competitive farters), but do be upfront and honest about what kind of environment you’re looking for. If you get rejected, it’s likely because they weren’t a good fit for you.

“You need to try a little harder.”

Harsh, but true. I was sending in a whole lot of non-tailored resumes and stock language cover letters to nameless recipients, which almost always yielded no response in return. On the other hand, I got a lot more response (negative and positive, but let’s focus on the positive!) when I actively sought out the name of the hiring manager and sent a customized resume and cover letter to them. Now, about cover letters: I, like most of you, hate them with the burning passion of a ghost pepper in love. But they don’t have to be terrible. Human Workplace founder Liz Ryan recommends the “Pain Letter” as an alternative and I think it’s brilliant. You can read about those here.

On an even more detailed level, I realized that I was also prone to submitting e-mails, resumes, and cover letters with stupid little formatting errors, misspellings, and even omissions that would have painted me in a more positive, creative light. If I had just spent a few extra minutes on these items, this wouldn’t have happened. It pays to try just a little bit harder.

“My next job is going to be lucky to have me.”

I began my search applying desperately for any job that sounded remotely creative, particularly low-level entry jobs that paid a fraction of what I was earning at my previous job. I even applied for a few “intern” jobs–even though I’m 25 years old and have a Master’s degree! Now, obviously, switching jobs may necessitate starting from square one, especially when making such a drastic career change as I did. But even if you appear not to have too many relevant skills to your newly desired job, you still have plenty from school, work, and–let’s face it–life. Your job search should take a while, because you don’t want to rush into anything. It’s like a relationship: wait for the right one.

I’m proud of myself for writing such a concise entry (and I really, really need to get back to editing my book), so I’ll leave you with these thoughts. But just to tie everything together, remember this truism above all: you will get a job. Your first job, second, third, or fourth jobs may not be tailor-made for you, but if you persevere, you will eventually make your way into the job (or jobs) of your dreams.

-H

Do I have to be the next Elon Musk to make my life count?

A few weeks ago, I read an awe-inspiring and magnificently well-researched piece on one of my favorite blogs, Wait but Why, called “Elon Musk: The World’s Raddest Man”. As the title implies, the piece was a deep-dive into the life of the dude who founded PayPal, SpaceX, and Tesla, focusing on these ventures but also providing some insight into Elon the Human Being (whom I previously assumed to be “E.L.O.N., the Next Generation of Artificial Intelligence Since No Actual Human Being Can Do What He’s Done”). It was engaging, informative, educational, and just a bit soul-crushing.

“And just what the hell do I do with my life?” I thought, letting my deep-seated self-deprecation bore into my consciousness after I finished reading the article while shrugging into my seat, arms crossed. In my mind, I started naming off things that I do, creating a running checklist to ensure that I was still a worthwhile member of the human race despite not being instrumental in changing the course of the automobile industry. Do I do enough work for the university? Is the book I’m writing going to change lives someday? Do I inspire my friends and family to greatness? Do I practice pole and aerial enough to become as good as Natasha Wang or Bendy Kate?

In times like these, I bring myself back out of Selfhateistan (the place where my confidence goes to die and – incidentally – lies nowhere near any of the “-stan” nations) only by reminding myself of something really important:

A big part of being successful at something is the condition of actually wanting to be successful at something. 

For instance, while attending Cambridge and becoming a world-renowned neuroscientist sounds fantastic and is certainly a way to make vast contributions to society, that’s not what I want with my life at all. Neither is becoming a concert violinist or pro basketball player. If I truly wanted to do these things, I would put in the woman-hours until I collapsed – and, theoretically, I could succeed (except in the case of the pro baller; at “only” five-foot-nine and clumsy, I don’t think I could make the cut), but I choose not to. I’d rather focus on becoming who I want to be. I focus on what’s important to me.

When I think about what’s important to me, I think about making my brother’s first soccer game of the season this Saturday. I think about planning a girl’s weekend with my Mom, if only she would give me her availability already, dang it. I think about my health (too much). I think about building up my web design skills at work, so I can help my local reptile store rebuild their website. I think about making my coworkers happy and reducing their stress. I think about reading and writing as much as possible. I think about impacting the world of education. I think about swing dancing and laser tag and video game/spa nights with my partner. I think about traveling, especially in a backpack-like manner so as to facilitate my meeting of interesting people and *willfully* running into unpleasant, but later hilarious scenarios like having crazy hostel-mates or accidentally eating gourmet bugs. I think about what my first pole competition is going to be like. I think about what it’s going to be like when I resume my private pilot lessons. I think about opportunities where I can donate my time to making peoples’ days easier that day.

And yes, I do think about changing the world, preferably through my written word. Even if I change just a faction of the planet, or even if I have just one, remote fan who’s touched by my eclectic, far-off musings, that’s enough for me. I’m not the “popular” one and, in a way, that’s a relief.

(I’ve eliminated the other preposterous things I think about, like “MY ROOTS ARE COMING IN AND I NEED TO CHANGE IT NOW BECAUSE COOL AND WARM COLORS IN HAIR CLASH THIS IS DISGUSTING I’M DISGUSTING” or “My boyfriend is out at a baseball game and hasn’t called me even though it’s 12 am. No, his phone didn’t die – he’s dead on the road, obviously! I’m going to Google all the hospitals in the area…wait, should I set a radius, like 50 miles? I’m going to set a radius.” Being in my mind for even a half hour would absolutely run anyone into the ground, trust me on this.)

From there, I work backwards. I cultivate my life so that I can pursue what matters to me – everything else extra that may come along is great, but not a priority. I work hard – really hard – to be wonderful at the things I care about. But I’m not going to sacrifice the most important things in my life for things that are decidedly less important, like having three houses or a private jet or an entire team of people to manage my money for me. Or, like Sir Musk, being the pioneer of three major multi-million dollar companies and having a net worth of 11 billion dollars. Again, that’s wonderful, and I’m not diminishing the value of it. I just think we need to start expanding our definition of “success” beyond one of pure currency accumulation.

This TED talk, this article, and this blog post all cite the “true cost of happiness” as lying somewhere between $75,000 and $100,000 for most people in the United States. Okay, it’s a little higher in Hawaii, but that’s because it’s freaking Hawaii. A fourth article, from Yahoo! Finance UK, also displays an interesting graph showing professions’ happiness relative to their average salaries. One comment from this article struck a chord with me and sums everything up better than I could:

“I grew up poor and now I am rich. Trust me on this, it hasn’t made me happy. I am still a grumpy git. I was once told that when you have no money, you have one problem. How to get some. When you’ve got money you have two problems. How to keep it, and how to get some more. I have come to the conclusion that a happy poor person will be a happy rich person, but becoming rich won’t make an unhappy person happy.”

Grumpy git-ness notwithstanding, this man seems to be right.

For two years, I made a lot of money for someone my age. I was miserable; the most miserable I’ve ever been in my life. This was despite having several weeks of vacation per year, buying clothes for myself almost every week, traveling at least once a month, and eating at restaurants as often as I wanted to. All this being said, I wasn’t pursuing the life that I wanted to pursue. I came into the job unfulfilled and knowing that the job would not fulfill me. (This is NOT a knock against my former job, as it taught me invaluable life skills, helped me forge life-long friendships, and is an AMAZING career for many people. I adore my company for everything it gave to me. But anyone who worked closely with me could tell you: I had taken the wrong train into the wrong territory.)

Nowadays, I make less money. But guess what? I’m absolutely stoked on life. I still have my ups and downs and am still in pursuit of many dreams. But at least I’m on the right train now.

My partner’s current dream is to open up a facility housing both a physical therapy center and a gym. In pursuit of this, he has honed in on an impressive philosophy regarding exercise; he feels that it desperately needs more mental engagement and more program personalization. I admire him so much that I routinely embarrass both him and myself with how much I brag about him. Because I know how successful he’s going to be.

Never once has my partner talked about acquiring vast wealth. He just wants to make an impact. But with the number of people who already respect his skills at age 25, it seems that fulfillment and wealth are at his horizon. What makes me so proud is not the idea of him being wealthy. It’s the idea that I’m partnered with a man who is pursuing his life’s intended work.

Back to redefining success: it’s not about money (though we knew that, hopefully? Kinda?) – it’s about pursuing our life’s intended work, or trying to find out what our life’s intended work is, with fervor, grit, and resolve. It’s about not settling for less. Most challengingly, it’s about tuning out what’s not important.

Now that I’m on the right train, I can finally focus on the beautiful scenery I keep passing. Here’s hoping you’re on the same train that I am.

My Top 3 “Substitute” Foods and The Power of Habit

I like carbs. I like carbs a lot. When I play the “desert island” game, I’m pretty sure bread’s on my list of things I would require. And cheese, don’t even get me started on cheese. I eat it, and my tongue smiles, my insides beam with light, and my entire well-being is temporarily bursting with euphoria.

So let’s be honest, a part of me is screaming: “PALEOOOOOO!!!!!! I WILL AVENGE THEE!!”

Nonetheless, if I were to honestly evaluate the past 8 days of being strictly on this way of eating (we are no longer using the “d” word here at Chez Haley), I’ve come up with the following conclusions:

1) It’s not THAT hard to go without dairy; I was pretty much using it as a reason to avoid cooking meat and preparing vegetables. It takes two seconds for me to grab a few string cheeses or slop a bunch of cocoa powder in my quart of Fage and call it “dinner”, but that doesn’t make it okay.

2) Just as in everyday life, there is a way around the rules. Enter: substitutes.

You don’t have to be “paleo” to appreciate healthier alternatives to things like pizza, pancakes, and chocolate cake. You just don’t. As much as I espouse this movement in my writing, I do want to make it clear that I am not strictly a “Paleo blog”. My utmost intention is to provide you with good information that will allow you to live life more thoroughly. And as I’ve always stated, my proverbial door is open if you wish to tell me that I am failing at that. I mean that honestly.

Anyway, below are some of my favorite food subsititues of all time, let alone on the paleo protocol, along with links. to recipes I’ve cooked – or will cook very shortly here. Because God knows I don’t yet have the talent to create something this fantastic myself.

 

3. Zucchini pasta noodles

I just love pasta. Who doesn’t? Well, my Mom. But unless you’re my Mom, you are crazy-cray for not loving buttery, saucy carbosity all up in yo’ grill.

…yes. My eccentricity aside, I was so thrilled to have discovered “zoodles” through one of the best-known paleo food blogs, Nom Nom Paleo. While she had me at her blog’s name, Michelle Tam has captured the hearts of thousands of bloggers, journalists, and general food-lovers with her amazing, award-winning recipes that even sugar-fueled carboholics love. I recreated her Zoodles Recipe without meatballs and with goat cheese and it was incredible. I did it a second time with just plain ghee and it was even more incredible! Less is more, sometimes. Once you can nail down cooking time for your preferred firmness, this is the best thing ever.

Wish List (aka, “You WILL see me make this in the future” List)

Zucchini Noodles with Avocado Cream Sauce

 

2. Pizza made with cauliflower crust

Oh man, if there’s one thing I love even more than pasta, it’s pizza. I’ve made this recipe before and it was simple, yet fantastic. It’s been over a year since I made this, but images of the tender crust and party of flavors still infiltrates my memory. Pizza, being the paragon of carby-cheesy fantasia, is adored the world over. Now you can enjoy a slice or 7 without capitulating! Yes, this recipe in its entirety only contains about 515 calories. That’s the amount in ONE large piece of Papa John’s cheese pizza. LOLWUT?!

The best recipes made with alternative crusts (lol) are also paired with cheese, though I’ve seen many-a dairy-free pizza online that looked incredible.

Wish List

Paleo Chicken Pesto Pizza

Frittata-za

 

1. Chocolate mug cake

Because chocolate.

Seriously, though. This has to be my number one for multiple reasons. It’s ridiculously easy, it’s fast, and it’s freaking chocolate. I cannot exude enough positivity over having discovered this. Whether I’m in a bind in the morning, need a mid-day boost, or am itching for a pre-workout snack, this recipe has been there for me through thick and thin. I made this recipe from PaleOMG and have been using it regularly for over a year.

Little did I know that there’s even an entire food group dedicated to “mug cake”.

Wish List

Chocolate Chip Mug Cake

Cinnamon-Apple Mug Cake

I suppose the lesson here is that no matter what way you eat, you can make it fun. And fun is a wonderful thing.

 

On another note, let’s talk about habit.

Ah, yes. Habit. We all have habits – positive and negative alike. Most of us are trying to create positive ones that we will stick with for the duration of our lives. All of us have bad ones that we would like to rid ourselves of. It’s no secret that bad habits die hard and good habits are hard to form, so how do we deal?

15 minutes a day.

15 minutes a day will get you fluent in another language. It will get you in shape. It will help you ace an exam. Commit yourself to 15 minutes of doing something every day and see where it goes. You could even try for 10 if it makes it easier. We all have 10 minutes to spare, right?

Another way to get yourself in the habit of something is to have a sense of accountability. That person or other motivator that keeps you in check. It could be a friend, a family member, a paycheck, an app, or just the CEO of U (aka, yourself, and the most important person in your life). It’s all about motivation and feeling “responsible” in a way. If you don’t feel a sense responsibility to do it, you won’t do it.

Brief as it was, I suppose you can consider that my extended “Thought of the Day”.

Off to my 15 minutes of exercise.