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Essays About Following Your Dreams

I am the least athletic person you will ever meet.

From the time I was a child, I always dreaded fitness. In fact, some of my least favorite memories of elementary school are of "the run," the standard fitness test in which all of the children in any given grade would have to try to run a certain distance (determined by age) within a fixed amount of time.

I remember wanting so badly to beat whatever time was set as the "benchmark." Although not often, I would occasionally see this goal through - however, at a price. I remember, even at seven years old, my lungs would burn and my side would hurt when I ran. Although I was never technically diagnosed with asthma, for whatever reason, I visibly struggled more than most of my peers who were asthmatic.

Still, I was always a skinny child. And other than adopting a largely vegetarian diet at a very young age (the reasons why being a whole different story in and of itself), I never paid very much attention to what I ate. While compared to most children, my food intake was relatively good... I still ate a lot of junk. For example, despite having two medical professionals as parents, I was raised having sugary snacks every night before bedtime (such as two big chocolate chip cookies or a big slice of cheesecake).

One of my favorite transformation pictures, posing outside of the Hulk Roller Coaster at Universal Orlando, 4 months apart.

Yet, I was still thin when I hit puberty. I was thin when, for the first time in my life, my health became rocky.

One day in the ninth grade, I awoke to agonizing abdominal pain. Even though the pain was torturous, I didn't want to go to the Emergency Room, as my parents had both worked in ERs, and had told me stories of people who took advantage of using the ER when they really didn't have the need for it, and I was, consequently, scared of being "that person." A day later, the pain subsided. However, it came back the next month, before subsiding again... just to come back the month after that. Finally, during my third round of pain, my dad dragged me to the ER.

I had an ovarian torsion (three times around). Which, is basically as pleasant as it sounds. At the age of fifteen, I literally went into a form of organ failure. (Also - side note: if you EVER feel acute pain or if something doesn't seem right, please DO NOT hesitate to see a medical professional ASAP). I lost an ovary and a fallopian tube. Consequently, my OB-GYN immediately started me on hormonal birth control, as it can help prevent the ovarian cysts that often cause torsions (a preventative measure in order to keep the remaining side of my reproductive system healthy).

Being a late bloomer, I had only started puberty about a year and half prior to this occurrence, and now, in addition to puberty, my hormones were thrown out of whack. In the midst of this experience, I developed an unhealthy mindset - that my body, including my weight - was out of my control.

So, I continued to eat the way that I always had, ingesting cookies every night and eating at least two large portions at every. single. dinner. From my sophomore year through my senior year of high school, I steadily gained weight. And, just like with most people, the start of college certainly didn't make my eating habits any better.

I guess it's no shock that I eventually became overweight. I tried to ignore my weight gain until last spring break. Taking pictures with my friend, who had gotten into health and fitness a couple of years prior, I felt like the "fat friend," and even though now I am able to look back and see beauty in myself no matter my weight, and know that "fat" is FAR from synonymous with ugly, at the time - I felt ugly and gross.

That same spring break, I got my teeth whitened for the first time. Now, I know that you're probably thinking: what the heck does this have to do with health and fitness? Well - here's my answer; after getting my teeth whitened, I had to limit my diet to white, processed carbs for a couple of days so that I wouldn't stain my newly white teeth. While the food that I ate for these days was a far cry from health food, it was the first time that I came to the realization that I had the power to control what I ate.

After that spring break, for the first time in my life, I decided to make a change in my lifestyle. It started small, by simply not going up for seconds at dinner. I also downloaded an at-home workout app, working out only once every week or two.

Slowly, I started to workout more and more. After school let out, despite my continued hatred for cardio, I would spend 30 - 60 minutes a day on my mom's treadmill, trying to burn off calories. I didn't know how else to work out: as all my mom ever did was light cardio, my exchange sister also was a "cardio-bunny," and my dad had never been into fitness.

My transformation, from near the very start, to twenty pounds down!

I continued doing cardio and app-based workouts while on Walt's Pilgrimage this past spring, a Study in the States program through WMU's Lee Honors College that brings one to Chicago, Missouri, San Fransisco, and LA over the course of a single week in order to study the life of Walt Disney.

While the course was incredible, I felt so alone being the only one who headed to the hotel gym after long and intense days. Still, at this point I had shed upwards of ten pounds, and was determined to keep going.

After returning from the trip, I made a renewed effort to clean up my diet, focusing especially on protein intake, being a vegetarian. I began drinking protein shakes daily and eating protein bars consistently.

It was at this point in my journey that my friend told me about Grand Haven Fit Body Boot Camp (as GH is my hometown and was my summer residency last year). Still having very little clue what I was doing in the gym, I decided to give it a go. I still remember the first workout. It was HARD. But I came back, and kept coming back day after day. I had a "tribe" of workout friends to help get me through. We would joke around with the trainers about how much we "hated" the workouts, even though we all loved the way they made us feel afterwards. (Another quick side note to my current coaches: if I seem cynical, this is definitely why, I PROMISE that I am just being sarcastic!) And even though I was still an un-athletic, red, sweaty mess - by the time July rolled around, I was consistently doing two sessions a day at Boot Camp. I shed off the weight - twenty-five pounds by the time I left for summer school in the United Kingdom at the University of Cambridge at the beginning of August.

While I still occasionally worked out at Cambridge, I suspended my diet (with no regrets) in order to best experience my time abroad. (For me, personally, I want to experience the world through the food it has to offer, and sometimes this means giving up monitoring my diet for short periods of time. What I have found however, is that as long as I am consistent in my day to day life, it ultimately does not affect my progress, and helps me to maintain a healthy relationship with food.)

Coming back to Western in the fall, I was ready to get back into it. However, this time I didn't have my friends to workout with. Yet, I still had faith in the FBBC franchise, so I decided to sign up at the Kalamazoo location - alone. Even though I was intimidated, I walked into the building, signed up, and have attended regularly ever since.

By October, I had lost thirty pounds. I was back to being relatively thin. My confidence was up. Soon after, I began to try other fitness classes. And this past spring break, I began to finally workout using machines and weights. I am planning to start weight training more often. I also have an appointment with a nutritionist to revamp my diet, as now, after weight-loss, I am ready to see my body's full potential. What it is capable of. What I am capable of. (However, FBBC still holds a large place in my heart for the instrumental role that they played in my weight-loss, and I plan on continuing to attend sessions there.)

Despite my success, I would still get discouraged. Even though I had an overall trend of weight loss, I would occasionally gain a little weight instead of losing weight between individual weigh-ins. In addition to this, even as I did lose weight, like many girls, I began to see attributes that I liked about myself (to be blunt - such as my breasts and booty) shrink before my very eyes. To this day, I still get discouraged. Over spring break, I literally broke down crying because I haven't improved - only maintained, since October. Some days, my body confidence is through the roof and all I want to do is take bikini pictures on the beach. Other days, I still feel "blah" about my body, like it's not good enough and there's so much more that I can achieve. I still compare myself to others, even though I know that I shouldn't.

My one year transformation! March 2017 - March 2018! Thirty pounds down and determined to continue to tone up in the next several months!

My journey, just like anyone else who has had a journey in health and fitness - is ongoing. It's a constant process, full of failures successes, and, quite literally - sweat and tears.

Recently, after a Fit Body Boot Camp session, the coaches asked our group why we were there. I remember thinking "Man, I could write a book on why I'm here!" but I simply answered: "It improves my mental well-being and positive thoughts," which wasn't a lie. It does. After a workout, I am often feeling relatively confident and am less prone to the anxious and paranoid thoughts that often cloud my brain.

But it's so much more than that. I started to workout to lose weight that I put on due to both medical reasons that were out of my control and poor personal choices that were completely within my control. However, I now feel empowered by working out and eating healthy. I feel like, ultimately, I have taken back the power that I thought I lost when I started gaining weight.

After that session, being the emotional person I am, I went back to my car and cried. I cried for myself and the roller coaster of a journey that I have been on. I cried for everyone else in that building and how they found themselves there. I cried because I saw so many others who were taking back power that they once felt had been taken away from them.

I am still the least athletic person you will ever meet, but you know what? Now, I am proud of it. Because even though I am not a natural athlete, I make an effort, nearly every day, to be stronger, both physically and mentally, than the day before. To me, this is what matters the most.

My transformation from day 1 of my lifestyle change... to (roughly) day number 365!

If you have subscribed to my newsletter you have definitely read about some points of the importance of following your dreams that I sent out on my last newsletter of 2012 two weeks ago.

The Importance Of Following Your Dreams

I have been invited to TEDxAUBG (American University in Bulgaria) to prepare a presentation about a very exciting topic because it reflects the last years in my life: “The Importance Of Following Your Dreams.” I will speak at their event in April. Today I’d like to publish the five points I’ve sent out with my newsletter two weeks ago and add a few more.

–  By following your dreams you will come to know that failure is part of the success. It isn’t always that bad and it is part of the process. You need to fall before you can stand up again!

I once got kicked out of school as a teenager. I took it as an opportunity, moved to boarding school and finished high school with honors. Before I was just an average student. 

– Living is giving. When following your dreams you definitely have a story to tell. This story will give hope and inspiration to others and this is a great contribution.

I always wanted to travel the world. I moved a lot as a kid already but I’m location independent since a couple of years. My stories and my blog inspire others to travel (hopefully you are one of them). That is why I love what I’m doing! All the feedback I get is better than any paycheck I got during the last years as a marketing consultant.

-We all know that there is a certain path society wants us to follow. It is fun proving them wrong. Why should you follow the status quo?

When I started my nomadic lifestyle, working from Australia, Thailand or wherever I was, people always told me that this can’t be right. You can’t work and travel the world. I proved them wrong. Today I have traveled to more than 50 countries and lived in 7!

– Like the universe, your dreams have no limits. You are the creator of your dreams, big or small ones. When you understand this you are able to design a way to favor your plan and accomplish your end goal.

I wanted to work as a consultant for a big marketing agency. Once I reached this I noticed that I wasn’t happy and that this wasn’t what I wanted to do in life. I finished my contract and since then I’m free dreaming big and trying to accomplish new goals. Life is about development, reaching out for the stars and growing beyond your thoughts is possible!

 – Life is too short to waste it with regrets. At the end of the line what we end up regretting are the things we didn’t get to do. So while being young, go after what you want. Pursue your dreams. It is in living your dreams that you get to know the true meaning of life.

I died in 2008 and was reborn again. After a tragic car accident in Sydney where my drink was spiked, I got robbed and hit by a car I realized that life can end any time. It must not even be your fault. Some idiot who doesn’t look out, is drunk or too tired could hit you with his car and everything your worked for is over… Ask yourself;  What have you achieved so far? What have you done until today? Have you already lived? 

It took another two years after the car hit me until I really asked myself these questions. That is why today I’m doing what I’m doing. I’m a travel blogger and freelance marketing consultant. I have clients all around the world and work online. My office is a Macbook Pro and with me I always carry my Nikon D7000! I don’t need more… My bank account tells me to get a normal job with a constant salary but my heart tells me to follow my dreams and dream even bigger and achieve even bigger goals!

When will you start to live?

These are only a few of the points I will talk in my presentation. I will publish everything here on the blog after the talk. I’m very excited about this opportunity!

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