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24

As my 24th year on this earth comes to a close, I look back on the past year and honestly think only one thing: I thought I had grown during grad school, but boy was I wrong. Hey grads, get ready. Put your big kid pants on. Life outside of school is literally the weirdest, happiest and saddest experience you could ever imagine.

In the past year I’ve graduated from grad school, left my safe haven city, moved to a brand new city, lived alone, started a new job, had a significant injury, adopted a cat, joined a new gym, quit that first job, lived unemployed, traveled, cried, fought, laughed, struggled, read, wrote, watched a lot of HGTV, cooked, refinished wood floors, bought a mattress… basically 24 was absolutely terrifying.

I knew that graduating after 6 years bottled up in a little utopia town was going to be a hard thing to stomach, but I didn’t realize how incredibly hard the transition was going to be. This social butterfly, moving to a new city to be with her boyfriend, taking on the world as a young, capable, 23-year-old. The world at her fingertips. Doesn’t seem like it would be all that bad.

I started a job that I knew instantly wasn’t for me, but besides my very closest friends and family, tried so desperately to hide it. As a millennial, you hear all of these terrible things about how millennials are at work (and generally at life) and try SO HARD not to be “like that”. Not to be the spoiled, selfish, quit-when-it’s-too-hard kid living off your parents’ money, wasting away with two degrees and no effort to use them. A failure.

Quitting a job is one of the most shameful things I have ever experienced. Brené Brown tells us that “shame is lethal”, and I agree with her. It is honestly counterproductive. But how do you convince yourself to stop feeling that way when you are knee deep in it? I didn’t get fired, I was dreadfully unhappy, and I made the big girl decision to try and make a positive change. But I felt more like a big, fat, awful failure than I ever had in my entire life.

I still struggle with feelings of shame, even though every single decision I’ve made in the last year has been my own. What will people think of me? There are people who have been nothing but supportive so why should anyone else be anything different? If they aren’t supportive, why should I consider their opinions important to me in any way? After all, as everyone’s favorite poet told us,

“Those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind”.

I’m worried about the shame I’ll feel from the assumption that others are looking down on me. You wonder why I’ve waited this long to publicize the fact that I’m struggling? The fact that I quit a job and still don’t have a new full-time job? That I’ve been rejected from more positions than I can count and have even turned down the only opportunities that have presented themselves? That I’ve been a moody, drawn back, glass-half-empty friend, girlfriend, sister, daughter? That I’m almost 25 with two degrees and I still don’t have my shit together?

Want to know how long it took me to get over that shame? Oh, I’m still not. Gallons of tears and hundreds of hours of soul searching and processing (and thank God for my parents and their patient, patient hearts) have brought me to where I think I’m about to break even. Some days I really do feel optimistic. Like I’m doing the right thing. Like these few months of feeling lost and overwhelmed is coming to its peak and soon I’ll be riding a sweet, snowy sled down towards the end. Other days, I’m consumed with this feeling that I’m just floating, unattached and useless. Wasting away with this deep-seeded desire to feel needed and purposeful.

Lucky for me, the gym is where I get that feeling. (You knew it was coming, didn’t you?)

I am now spoiled rotten with the ability to throw myself into the gym, something I so desperately wanted when I was working full-time. When you’re unhappy, you want to do things that make you happy; thus, the gym. My sanity. How lucky I am that I found something that has been so incredibly important and helpful through this process. It’s hard to imagine any scenario in which I feel MORE purposeful than when I am using my own body to put a barbell over my head. It is one of the most powerful, empowering feelings I can imagine. Not to mention the lessons I learn every day when I’m in there about perseverance, hard work & trusting myself.

To quote myself (how Millennial of me):

“Sometimes CrossFit doesn’t have hidden life lessons, and then sometimes it does and they’re really more blatantly obvious than hidden. Work Hard. Trust yourself. Have faith. Find beauty in your strength. Struggle is guaranteed, failure is immanent. But, above all, just be patient, because it’s the only way you’re going to get the bar over your head and I promise you it’s the only way you’re going to get better.”

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(I have thought from the very beginning that crossfitters should put it on their resume. If you can show up every day to better yourself at your own will, work as a teammate and individual, do things that scare the crap out of you, take and follow direction, bring energy to the room, aren’t afraid to make mistakes, are capable of finishing work in a set amount of time or even before that time cap… you deserve the job. Period.)

This thing is a process, and it is not easy. It is something I can’t even really put into words. There are plenty of articles out there that try to explain it to us, articulate the emotions that we can’t quite understand. But honestly, those articles and even this blog post won’t do you any justice until you experience it for yourself.

Now as 25 approaches, I have moved once again, still full-time jobless, spending my savings on rent and food, but trying to feel more hopeful than I did when I first left Bloomington a year ago. I’m not working a job I dislike, I won’t go hungry (thanks, again, to my perfect mom and dad), I have a roof over my head, and even some part-time stuff going on.

Some days I feel okay. Other days I drive to Meijer and spend $4 on a pint of Arctic Zero ice cream that I should be saving to spend on real food, and forget about my shit out tomorrow. Some people call it balance, I just call it being 24.

Here’s to 25.

Maggie

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Let’s Call It An Identity Crisis

Close your eyes. Let’s imagine for a little while.

Imagine that you are in transition. Imagine that you have spent the entirety of your young adult life between the same two towns, one of which you grew up in. Now imagine you are leaving both of those places for a brand new one. Imagine that you have no family or close friends nearby (okay, your boyfriend is on the other side of the city). Imagine that you graduate, move out of your favorite city and away from your favorite ice cream place and move into brand new territory and a brand new, one bedroom apartment, all within 24 hours. Imagine that you are starting your first full-time job two weeks after your move to this new place.

Now imagine the details. Imagine that this place you are leaving holds six years of incredible memories and every kind of growing up an 18-23 year old could do. Imagine that you found multiple families while you were in this place. Imagine that one of those places is a gym, and this gym is where you grew into yourself and found beauty in your own strength and the strength of those around you. Imagine that this gym took a chance on you and hired you. Imagine that this job is the first job that you never waited until the last possible second to arrive and always and eagerly spent more time there than was ever necessary. You remembered almost every person’s name after the very first introduction.

Now imagine leaving that place, and imagine that place closing its doors for good. Imagine the feelings of relief that you won’t physically be there when it happens, but also of overwhelming sadness knowing that neither you nor anyone else will be able to experience that kind of happiness inside those four walls again.

Now imagine you’ve come to terms with the changes (or so you’ve convinced yourself), and that you find a new gym in your new town. Imagine that you are incredibly nervous but incredibly excited because this new gym means that something is the same. It means that everything you built in your old gym just moved an hour and a half north and can be transplanted right onto their barbells and pull up bars. It means that you all speak the same language, and that kilos and pounds and power cleans and kettle bell swings are all the same as they were before. It means that you get to create a new community and family.

It means familiarity and identity.

Now imagine that you turn 24. On your 24th birthday you visit a doctor who tells you that you have an injury (a pinched nerve in your neck to be exact). On that same day you find out that you can no longer pick up a barbell or hang from a pull up bar until you are pain free. He says it will take 2-3 months to be that person again. He says it could have been worse. He says if you take care of it and do your exercises you will be back and maybe even better than before.

Cue the identity crisis.

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A picture from the workout that literally broke the camel’s back (er… pinched the nerve)

A few months ago I declared my identity as an athlete and challenged you all to claim your own identities, and do so proudly. I am an athlete. I am a CrossFitter, I am a weightlifter.

In the midst of all of the change and the transition and newness, CrossFit was my constant. I joined a gym almost immediately upon moving because I knew the faster I started, the faster it would become my safe place and my community; where everyone speaks the same, loud, metal-and-rubber language. But with this injury, now even my safe place isn’t all that familiar.

I know it’s only 2-3 months. I know that being injured is a humbling experience, that I will grow and probably be even better than I was when I’m healed. I know that it could have been so much worse. I know, I know I know. But right now, I KNOW that it just plain sucks.

Once I take my spoon out of the ice cream pint I’ll see that there is a lot of beauty in the strength to find the positive in this. And I know I’ll find the positive in this. Happy Mags will turn her frown upside down and smile and laugh through the modifications over the next two months. Everything will be okay. But I think being sad is okay too, just for a little while.

Sending self love,

Maggie

When being passionate is actually enough

This morning I realized that these past few months of grad school have made me fall back in love with myself.

Fall back in love with yourself? I thought you preach self-love and self-worth and all of the “love yourself right now in this moment in this very instant of life”. Well, I do! And I do love myself on most days, as righteously and intensely as I deserve to be loved! But some days- and we all have these days- it’s harder to love ourselves as fiercely as we did the day before, or will the day after. They’re caused by things like eating too many bags of popcorn the night before (I see you, Rem, and I am with you); sleeping in past your alarm and nearly missing a meeting; struggles with friends and family; a self-doubt that you actually might not be all that great at what you do; an even bigger self-doubt that you’ll find a job by May (I see you, every grad school on the planet, and I am with you); an even bigger self-doubt that you’ll like the job you find in May.

Let me rewind a bit- grad school has been hard. Intellectually, professionally, personally, emotionally, physically. It has forced me to not only prioritize, but learn to prioritize myself first. Luckily, you can find a very simple formula to prioritize yourself first: listen to yourself. 

For me, prioritizing myself includes being in bed by 9:00 with my fuzzy pillows and online puzzle, spending time cooking and eating generally yummy food paired with at least one handful of chocolate chips once a day, calling my mom, boyfriend, or best friend in tears every once in a while just because it feels good. Prioritizing myself also means spending an hour with a barbell in my hands and sweat all over my face, and then helping other people do the same.

When I’m challenged, it can feel like an easy fix to put other priorities before myself. These challenges have made me question who I am and if what I’m doing is not only good enough for myself, but good enough for the people around me.

In this moment, I’m telling you (me) something: Do it because you want to.

Last night I read a blog post that’s been making its way around Facebook titled, “Screw Finding Your Passion” by Mark Manson. This is the first time I’ve read any of Manson’s work, but good Lord will I be returning to his blog in the very near future. Read the post, I will not do it’s in-your-face-honesty justice by summarizing it for you, but he’s essentially (actually, he’s literally) calling bullshit on anyone who says they don’t have something they’re passionate about.

“I call bullshit. You already found your passion, you’re just ignoring it. Seriously, you’re awake 16 hours a day, what the fuck do you do with your time? You’re doing something, obviously. You’re talking about something. There’s some topic or activity or idea that dominates a significant amount of your free time, your conversations, your web browsing, and it dominates them without you consciously pursuing it or looking for it.”

See? Actual calling of bullshit.

Here are two of my favorite paragraphs:

“Because here’s another point that might make a few people salty: If you have to look for what you’re passionate about, then you’re probably not passionate about it at all.

If you’re passionate about something, it will already feel like such an ingrained part of your life that you will have to be reminded by people that it’s not normal, that other people aren’t like that.”

Sound familiar? Resonate with you at all? Goodness I sure hope so. I am urging you, right now, if you don’t think you have this passion in your life, open your eyes!!

How does this connect to falling back in love with me? I don’t have to look for what I’m passionate about. I know it. I think it’s pretty bad ass that I’m passionate enough about CrossFit and generally being a healthyand happy person to spend 3+ hours a night after work and class to not only let myself do it, but also help others do it. And I love every second of it.

Don’t limit your success because someone told you that you shouldn’t pursue it. Hell, don’t limit your success because YOU told yourself that you shouldn’t pursue it. Remember when every adult in your life ever growing up told you that being unique and and individual is good? Be yourself, prioritize yourself, and in that self you’ll (re)discover that passion.

Be the truest form of you, in whatever way that true form manifests itself today. You are doing exactly what you need to be doing.

You are good. You are smart. You are kind.

You are deserving of a cozy, princess bed that makes you want to fall asleep at 9pm (I see you, grandmas, and I am with you).

You are deserving of self-love.

You HAVE the passion, you just have to open your eyes to all the incredible things you do and see it.

You are deserving enough to pursue the passion.

Also, WATCH THIS—All of the self-love and self-worth!

Let it flow this morning!

Sending self love,

Maggie

Enter Here for Happy

Let me just say this: Grad school is hard. It’s really freaking hard. Combine working 20 hours a week at one job, with 10 hours a week at another job, with 20 hours of class and homework a week, with having basically no idea what I’ll be doing in a year and a half, with being 22 and emotional and your best friends living far, far away… you get me– ready to bust open like a tomato and complaining a lot.

Today, a wise soul told me “if grad school was easy everyone would do it!!” (Coupled with being financially responsible… that it is not.)

It’s because of this insanity that I require one hour a day for myself at the gym.

On Saturday that included attempting “11.2”– 15 min. AMRAP of 9 deadlifts, 12 hand-release push ups, and 15 box jumps.

After who-knows-what round with 10+ minutes left on the clock, I thought to myself, holy crap I am exhausted. HOW has it only been five minutes?! Heather is two full rounds ahead of me and she has a strained quad… I have to catch up to Heather.

Look at us, voluntarily subjecting ourselves to this misery– me, with  literally hundreds of pages of reading to complete for next week but instead I was dripping sweat all over the floor, and Heather with her injury. At this point in the morning I was already well aware of the 10 hours of work I should be doing instead of being at the gym, and I bet Heather was already feeling how her quad is going to hurt like hell after she finished this workout.

Now look at us again.  Here we both are, doing this crazy thing because it makes us feel powerful, it makes us feel confident, and because we both know that this 15 minutes is going to end, and we are going to finish “11.2”, whether we’ve finished 3 rounds or 13 rounds. Proving to ourselves that we can and should, regardless of those things telling us that we can’t or shouldn’t.

Grad school relatability: I will survive, even when I look at the clock and realize how much farther I have to go. (See what I did there?)

And all of a sudden I’m like, hell yeah!

When I think about it, a lot of these blog posts act as an avenue for me to validate how and why I am so passionate about this sport. And a lot of people probably can’t relate directly to CrossFit, and that’s okay. But think about anything that required you to persevere to some degree of success. For me, that success happens every time I finish a workout or read a 150 pg. book on discrimination in two days (it just happened). For others, it may be presenting in front of a class, having a challenging conversation with a friend, or getting to bed before 11pm one night a week.

Whatever it is, celebrate it! Because it’s worth celebrating. Because you rock.

(And strong really is happy.)

Sending self love,

Maggie

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Paleo Girl on A Grad Student Budget

This week marks the very first time I have lived in my very own apartment. Granted, I share it with two roommates, but I have my own room, a full-sized bed, and a kitchen to fulfill every Paleo girl’s needs. This week also marks the very first time I have had to buy groceries for myself. I’ve gone grocery shopping in the past; in fact, I love grocery shopping. So stems my problem. My CrossFit gym happens to be exactly one mile north of my apartment, across from a Kroger. One mile south of my apartment lies another Kroger. Three miles east, yet another. And last but certainly not least, the mecca of specialty foods stores- Bloomingfoods- not but a mile northeast. What’s a girl to do… say no?!

Well, this grad student is gonna have to learn to say no. If they didn’t cause gut wrenching stomach aches, I would be perfectly happy living on frozen pizzas, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and frozen tv dinners. Unfortunately for my wallet, those just aren’t options for this gal. Eating Paleo is by no means inexpensive, but there has to be a cheaper way to do it for someone who’s putting themselves through grad school. 

I don’t have the answer yet, but I’ve made a few discoveries this week that will help prevent the mini strokes I’ve been having every time I check my credit card statement. 


Buy produce that’s in season. How do you know what’s in season? Uh, look it up. Or, if you’re lucky enough to live a mile and a half from the Bloomington Farmer’s Market, you walk there on Saturday morning and find out! Yesterday I got two, gigantic, organic cucumbers, two pints of absolutely gorgeous organic grape and sun sugar tomatoes, and two organic bell peppers for $7. TOTAL. Not to mention I hit my 13,000 steps on my FitBit halfway through the day thanks to the gorgeous morning stroll. Other yummies like green beans, zucchini, egg plant, onions and some very fancy looking mushrooms covered the tables as well. Take advantage! They’re growing in abundance and the farmer’s market is a competitive place that will keep the prices low. 

Buy frozen vegetables. I’ve just recently fallen in love with the bags of microwaveable vegetables. You can keep in the freezer, throw them in the microwave for 6 minutes, and have two dinners worth of veggies ready to mix with ground turkey and tomato sauce- my favorite weeknight meal. 

Pay attention to the dirty dozen and clean fifteen. If you can afford to eat totally organic, you rock. If you can’t (like me), there’s no need to fret! This lovely list, http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/, shows us the twelve conventionally raised foods that tested highest for pesticides and the fifteen that tested lowest. And look at that- avocados and sweet potatoes, two foods I eat constantly, are on the clean fifteen list and I never have to buy them organically again!


And so begins my list of budget helping tips for myself and for you.

Agree or disagree, make to try the Paleo Blondies from A Calculated Whisk because they’re incredible.

Time to eat!