Monday, November 13, 2017

Know What Fills You Up


You are reading Monday Monologue #1. To read all posts in this series, click here.

We can very easily identify what drains us. We can voice that we don't like someone, complain about how tired we are after traveling, and admit to never getting certain tasks done because we dread them too much. But do we know what fills us up?

Since it's full fledged skating season and work is back to usual, my weeks have gotten rather intense. I'm a full-time para, skate most weeknights, and skate and coach every Saturday. Now, I spend my Sundays working at my friend's skate shop and then go to our team practices after work.

I chose this life and I LOVE it. It does, though, make me extra-conscious of my energy, how I'm using it, and most importantly, how I'm filling it back up. I'm trying to not spend my time worrying about the next day, but instead spend time preparing for it.

I am not a naturally positive person. I get frustrated with myself very quickly, and more often than I'd like to admit, throw myself into a woe-is-me crisis. But lately, I've been trying to turn the conversation around and instead of complaining about what is making me stressed/worried/uncomfortable/upset, identify what I need.

Sometimes, I need a snack. Sometimes, a coffee. There are days when my answer is yoga, a walk, time to fill out my planner or clean out my purse. There are days when I need to turn off Netflix and go to bed, and there are days when I just need to binge Friends.

Life is a lot more nuanced than we often give it credit. I think sometimes in our habit-forming, high-productivity lives we forget that life isn't black and white, and we have thousands of shades of gray area to figure out, too. I eat clean because sugar and chemicals make me feel crappy, but I also eat my fair share of donuts. I love reading classics but I also love watching sitcoms. Sometimes I drink coffee, but sometimes I crave tea. I love being home, and can easily waste away a few hours on the couch with my laptop, but I also love game nights and dinners and bonfires with my friends.

We can't eat a salad every single day just like we can't have cinnamon rolls every single day. Life is all about balance: our needs change day by day, and the secret is not simply forming good habits, but identifying what we actually need in that moment.

Since I'm in the middle of a busy season, this question has come up a lot lately. I want to take advantage of the amazing opportunities that have come my way, hit my goals for this season, spend lots of time with friends and family over the holidays, and finish reading Persuasion. I think if we took more time to set our priorities and listen to our minds and bodies when life gets busy, we'd have a lot more mental space to enjoy this phase of our lives instead of dreading it and playing the victim.

What fills you up? What keeps you rested, vibrant, positive, and grounded so you can be your best at work, your side gig, on the phone with your mom, while out with your friends, and maybe most importantly, in your own mind? These moments are our lives. We're writing our legacies right this second. Let's show up for them.

Happy Monday! xoxo
Gillian

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Training For Novice Freeskate


The other night at skating, it really hit me how hard getting through this Novice Freestyle test is going to be.

For readers that don't skate: to move up levels in skating, we need to pass tests that are created by the United States Figure Skating Association. There are multiple tracts to choose from, like Moves in the Field (footwork patterns), Freestyle (typical programs with jumps in spins), Pattern Dance, Free Dance, and so many more. Generally, there are eight levels in each tract. Once you pass all of them, you become a USFA Gold Medalist in that discipline (like becoming a black belt!). Right now, I'm a Moves in the Field Gold Medalist and am working on becoming a Freestyle Gold Medalist. I'm currently training for my Novice test, which is third to the last, followed by Junior and Senior.

I passed Intermediate Freestyle this past August, a test that took me two and a half years to get through. Although I've been skating since I was three, I started in an extremely recreation-based program, which led to spending most of my time in group lessons or private lessons with recreation-minded coaches. A late bloomer to higher-level skating, I didn't start landing axels and doubles until I was 18.

The move between being an Intermediate skater and a Novice skater is really hard. For Intermediate, the only jumps you need to pass are your singles, an axel, a double-salchow, and a double-single combination. For Novice, on the other hand, I need an axel, double-salchow, double-toe-loop, double-loop, and a double-double. Given that I need six jump passes, I'm doing two axels. And, since axels are relatively thoughtless now, I'm doing more complicated patterns into them, like 180's and spread-eagles.

That is all awesome! But. It means I have to worry about every. single. jump pass. This is the first time I've had to think that way!

At the moment, this test program is kicking my butt. For Intermediate, I focused-in and intensely trained for it, with no thought to anything else, for about 4 months. That was after having already had the program and been sort of working on it for about two years (I know. I'm the worst). Even then, it took skating about ten hours a week, three lessons a week, doing the jump patterns over and over and running through the program at least twice if not three times a session to make it trend towards mostly clean run-throughs. If I did all of that for Intermediate, and still messed up one jump in the actual program when I took it, what on earth am I going to have to do for Novice?!

Fresh out of high school, I knew that all I wanted to do was improve at skating and figure out someway to turn it into a career. At 18, I was simultaneously completely oblivious and unaware of my (lack of) quality of skating, lack of experiences, and who I even was as a skater, while also throwing myself into anxious, panicked fits of self-loathing and inadequacy. I knew that in that exact moment I wasn't hire-able  in any capacity, and while I kept the softest flame of hope that with a lot of work I could be, I also had zero idea of how to make it happen.

But. That was two (almost three!) years ago. Today, I've left my limiting coach situations behind, and now have a dedicated team that's working for me. I've made the cut on higher-level TOI teams, competed internationally with them, and worked with top choreographers. I've attended auditions, competed Showcase, and gone to every single workshop and seminar I can get myself to.

I am nervous about Novice, because I want to pass it this winter (I'm talking this December or January, at the latest). My program is not a typical test-program with a lot of filler stroking; every single second is choreographed, and that is making it even harder. But, I'm also super excited, because I feel that while getting this trained enough will be hard, I also feel like it's totally doable.  Passing Intermediate was a big deal for me because it was about more than just passing the test: it was about staying committed to skating as an adult, making changes to my life so my my dreams became achievable goals, and finally conquering some of the mental demons that had been holding me back for years. I did a lot of good work--on the ice, off the ice, in my head--to get Intermediate ready. I'm totally capable of doing that for Novice, too.

In order to pass Novice in 1-2 months, I'm putting my energy towards these things:

-Completing 2-3 run-throughs every single session.
-Practicing my jumps almost entirely in pattern, and in sequence with the other jumps, too.
-Committing to never quitting run-throughs (a bad habit of mine!), and fighting through the bad ones instead.
-Using this program for several holiday shows that are coming up, so I can practice executing the jumps under pressure.
-Doing cardio off the ice again, to improve my stamina.
-Staying mentally positive and focused, and putting emphasis on how I'm working through issues, not the fact that there are issues.

I finally feel like anything I want to accomplish is within my wheelhouse, it's just a question of whether or not I decide to commit to the process of getting there. That's kind of a cool place to be.

Best! xoxo
Gillian