Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Showgirl Things #1

The best part of this photo is our reflections in the ice!!
I have now been in Orlando for 41 days, and have performed in 30 shows. We are currently in the middle of a few days off before this Friday (December 14), when we start having shows every day through New Year's. We have 37 shows left!

Because of all the thoughts this new experience has spurred, I thought it would be fun to start a small blog series to record the things I learn, notice, and try throughout different contracts. Welcome to Showgirl Things #1!

So what have I learned, after a month and a half, my first rehearsal process, and doing the same half hour show several times a night? That this world is a weird little world of it's own, and I've still got so much to learn.

There are no topics off-limits in a dressing room. Before and between shows, our topics of conversation have included: boyfriends, periods, sex, sloths, ingrown hairs, our weirdest pimples, toe hair, wine, beer, places to drink wine and beer, church, marriage, plus lots of personal stories of struggle and family and what's coming next. The good, the bad, and the ugly; if you're thinking about it, it's okay to talk about it.

Speak Up. Despite how it felt (for me) at first, it is NOT embarrassing to admit you didn't hear what the choreographer said, or didn't understand a note, or something on your costume broke, or you're costume is uncomfortable, or you actually can't do what they're asking you to. It is embarrassing to NOT say something and then, later, be dealing with not knowing the steps, making the same mistake, dealing with a costume that doesn't work, or constantly missing an element. Be honest, and speak up for yourself.

Listen to everyone who tells you to buy Biofreeze and ice your feet. Rehearsal Day 1, I was told to ice my feet and ankles. I ignored them, because "I've had long practices before" and "we weren't even jumping". By Day 3, I was sitting with a bucket of ice every night and looking forward to it. Get ahead of it! Prevent injury! Help your muscles recuperate!

Modesty is overrated. The first time you see people chilling without clothes, it will be weird. But the second? Meh. No one is looking at you. So take off your bra and towel the sweat off. You'll feel much better.

Be a whole person. If skating is your job, then you have to find something else to bring you joy. Host move nights. Be the one that always brings food. Start a new hobby. But make sure you have interests other than skating.

Pre-Set Leaving For The Night. Every night, we pre-set our costumes for quick changes. It only took me a month and a half, but I finally realized how the veterans get out so quickly at night: they pre-set leaving. So now, before the last show, I put my makeup away, lay out the clothes I'm changing into, fill my water bottle, and try to get things ready to go. It makes it much easier to deal with packing up while sweaty and tired when half of it is done.

Don't gossip. Don't give notes. I love talking. It's hard to keep my mouth shut. The people I see here who have accomplished the most in their skating careers don't bad mouth other skaters or choreographers or producers, don't give notes, don't blame, and our very selective about who they vent to.

Sleep In (Not Always). Since we're all in evening shows, I've been sleeping a lot. And enjoying it. But! Don't squander the opportunity for growth. This contract is pretty sweet in that the schedule is definitely not crazy. So, I've been trying to use my free time to get better at yoga, run and do pilates more often, journal, and find work for when this is done! Explore. Workout. Cook. Read. It's so much more fun to be busy.

You were hired because you deserve this. So focus on what you need to do. I have definitely found myself acting embarrassed while on practice ice because I was working on jumps that I can't land, and was worried other skaters were judging me. But, firstly, that's almost definitely all in my head and, secondly, who cares? We were hired for the same job. We all have different strengths. Working on hard things make you better. Don't avoid that just to look good.

Find moments to really appreciate what's happening. So, yes. It's the same show, twice a night. Some nights go better than others. But the last thing I want, is for this incredible opportunity, that I've dreamed of and worked towards for so long, to start to feel stale. This is the only advice on this list that is coming directly from me, and isn't something I've stolen from another cast member: find a spot to just be grateful. In our finale, the music starts to crescendo as we skate to our final poses, they start shooting off fireworks from the lake our stage is in front of (!!), and together we stop and start spinning before hitting our final pose. During that stop, I look straight up, really watch the fireworks, and really see the magic of the moment and what we're doing, and with all the stress lifted because the show is practically over, I think about how amazing it is that this is my job. This little moment feels very meditative. I recommend finding one for whatever your day-to-day is.

I am really loving it here! I've learned so much, and I actually felt at home fairly quickly. I want more of this in my future, that's for sure.

Thanks for reading! Be the grittiest.
xoxo Gillian

Monday, November 5, 2018

Change is good! Adventure is good!

From my run Saturday morning.
Today, I'm writing this blog post from the couch of my hotel room in Orlando, Florida. Yesterday, we started rehearsals for Sea World's Winter Wonderland on Ice. So begins, then, my first contract as a professional figure skater (!!!!!!!!!!!!!).

After attending the ProSkaters Open Auditions in Sun Valley, Idaho, this past July, I ended up getting cast as a member of the ensemble for the holiday shows at Sea World. I've known I had the offer since about mid-August, and I officially signed my contract in September.

And guys, I am freaking out. This has been my dream for years. Getting skating to the point where it can be a career has always been what I wanted, but as recently as a few months ago, that dream seemed unattainable and far-fetched. So now to be here, a paid member of a holiday show cast, sharing the ice as an equal with skaters I admire? INCREDIBLE.

Things are going pretty good so far. The entire month of October, I worked really hard to fight down my anxiety over the contract. I'm actually pretty confident about the skating side of things, because I feel like I'm pretty good at picking up choreography from my years with Theater on Ice and American Ice Theater. But quick changes? Being away from home for 2 months? Having a roommate? That part was all new and definitely scary. 

I flew in on Thursday and got to the hotel at around 7:30pm. I unpacked, met my roommate, and watched some Friends. Friday morning we started early, at 9am, for orientation, a few meetings, and costume fittings. At the end of the day, we had open ice so that we could practice, and the choreographer could get a sense of what tricks we had and how we looked as an ensemble. 

Rehearsals officially started Saturday, but most of our calls aren't until mid-afternoon. So, I went for a long walk/run in the morning to get a sense of my surroundings and explore a bit. Where we are is the resort area, so other than the theme parks, there actually isn't a ton of stuff around. I was able to locate some restaurants (yay Panera!), a smoothie place, a coffee shop, and a grocery store that's within walking distance. I'm definitely missing not having a car...a few members of the cast have vehicles, and they've been great about picking the rest of us up and helping us get around, but it is a little annoying to not be completely independent. Finding some spots that I can walk to will definitely make me feel better!

Rehearsals were so much fun on Saturday!! It was so fun to learn the choreography, It's all wonderfully cheesy and Christmas-y and I already love it. Afterwards, a big group of us sat in our hotel room, finished off a bottle of wine, and talked and laughed and got to know each other.

This morning (Sunday), I got up and went on another exploratory run with another skater, Erin. After a run and long rehearsal yesterday, and then a run this morning, my muscles are already sore! I definitely need to up the ice baths and yoga and rolling out my muscles haha. After our run, we sat and ate breakfast and chatted more. I LOVE being alone, and love having my own space, but I'm so glad I got to really connect with her this morning. Yesterday I spent the entire day alone until rehearsals, because my roommate wasn't around, and I have to admit I got a little lonely. 

As someone who isn't used to having very much free time, all of a sudden having the entire morning off is kind of unsettling. I was really looking forward to having that space before getting here, but now, having so much time and being in a new place feels a little lonely. But I also realize it's a great opportunity, so I'm really excited to have some time to work on some projects for myself, like getting back to writing, reading more, and doing more running and yoga. Plus, since we're contractors for Sea World, we get into all of the parks for free. I'm definitely looking forward to spending some mornings, especially weekday mornings before the holidays when the parks are pretty quiet, getting on some rides!

My roommate's dog, Maggie.
Other than that, it's really just been getting my feet under me in terms of food and establishing a little routine. Getting a handle on how to eat healthy (there are costumes to fit in!) and cheaply, with just a stovetop, is gonna be a little bit hard to learn. Since all of our work is later in the day, the timing of my day is also changing, because I've been going to sleep later and getting up later. I've been trying to get in the habit of doing some journaling and working out in the morning, and then either exploring or writing afterwards. I also still need to figure out extra time to skate for myself, which is proving a little harder to schedule than I'd hoped. 

One fun thing though! My roommate brought her dog with her, so I've been getting to know Maggie, her cute little German shepherd/corgi mix! I am decidedly not a dog person, and actually am usually scared of dogs I don't know. But Maggie is super sweet, and literally shaped like a potato. I really like her already! I love having a pet in the room, I'm actually alone with her right now and it already feels so much less lonely!

So there we have it! That's pretty much what's been going on. Overall, it's a lot to get used to, and a lot of feelings, but I'm so grateful to be here. I'm happy that after all these years auditioning and training and sending out videos and getting rejected, I stuck it out to make it here. This is a great opportunity I've found myself in, and I'm determined to take full advantage of it. It felt like a big leap to leave home and quit my job at the school, and I want to do my best to keep going and never go back to something that's just a dead-end job. 

I'm determined to do my best here, and while everything still feels so scary and unsettling, I'm excited to see where this all could lead. Adventure is good! Change is good! And this contract is definitely full of both of those. 

Happy Monday! Be the grittiest.
xoxo Gillian

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Thoughts From July 2018

There's a lot of rejuvenating power in a well-placed lazy weekend. Since as far back as September of last year, every weekend has held lots of skating, long work days, traveling, competitions, and everything in between. This month, though, held a few empty weekends, so there was finally time for Saturday adventures, lazy Sunday mornings, and laughs over drinks. An absolutely wonderful reminder that little moments are often as fulfilling as big moments, and empty space doesn't always  mean wasted time.

Something isn't inherently bad just because it's scary. This past month, I felt pushed out of my comfort zone in a lot of positive ways. My immediate, gut reaction in those situations was to push back, and step away from whatever that scary thing was. But, that's a pretty boring way to go through life. A lot of good stuff lives outside of our comfort zones, and I want to work on stopping my immediate associations of 'uncomfortable' with 'bad'.

Let yourself be excited about positive possibilities, instead of worried about negative possibilities. This is sort of related to my previous point, but this month I found myself worrying about the possible negatives of a future situation, rather than getting excited about all the great future possibilities of that same situation. The future is coming whether or not I spend time worrying about it now, so while it's good to be thoughtful, this month was a great reminder to not let that turn into over-thinking. Plus if positivity leads to a healthier, more productive present, then chances are that will encourage a healthy, productive future, too.

Some people splurge on their nails or massages. I splurge on breakfast. I think I've officially found my favorite, over-indulgent way to treat myself: go out to breakfast (preferably somewhere with an outdoor patio) by myself, and journal and read over numerous cups of coffee. It's my happy place.

There are limitless possibilities. Keep moving. Sometimes, I get stuck thinking that because I've done something a certain way for a while, that's the way it will always be. But the truth is that there are so many possibilities and paths before us, and we don't have to always do the same things. I'm excited for the change of routine this summer has brought me, and even more excited to keep that energy going throughout the year.

A month can hold a lot of stuff. Don't waste the time you're given. Looking back at my 1 Second Everyday video from July, it blew my mind that on July 1, I was still in Chicago for TOI Nationals. Since coming back, I've had friends stay with me for a few days, I've stayed at friend's places for a few days at a time, we filmed our AIT Boston company piece, I re-worked my audition program, I traveled to Sun Valley, Idaho, for skating auditions, plus there's been work and kayaking and the beginnings of new relationships. It's crazy how much a month can hold if you try to take advantage of it.

In case you missed it: On Ice Perspectives filmed our AIT Boston piece, "Turn to Stone"! Here's the teaser. Also, my 1 Second Every Day video for July 2018. 

Reading Update: July was a great month for everything except reading. I'm still in a rut and stuck in the middle of Final Harvest, a poetry collection by Emily Dickinson, as well as in the middle of A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness and Best Food Writing 2012 compiled by Holly Hughes. To try to break the rut, I started 300 Days of Sun by Deborah Lawrenson on my trip, but I think it just buried me deeper. *sigh*

Happy Wednesday! Be the grittiest. 
xoxo Gillian

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Thoughts from June 2018

Remember when I wrote the month-end post for May and was astounded that it was already mid-June?? Well, here I am again to write the month-end post for June! And can you believe it's already July 14?! 2018 is half way over and I'm in a state of shock.

June always feels like a big month to me. My team travels to TOI Nationals, the work I do at the school wraps up, and everyone starts shifting to a summer schedule. Plus, the year is officially half over, so it's the perfect time to sit down and re-evaluate goals. During the month, June is usually too busy for a lot of reflection. But to sum up the this second quarter of 2018, I wanted to share some thoughts that June brought up.

Whatever your thing is, seek community first and foremost. Between creating, working, and learning alongside other artists at the American Contemporary Skating Festival, to awesome group texts and before-work breakfasts with my colleagues at the school, to the camaraderie between all teams at TOI Nationals, June impressed me with the importance of not just doing big things, but embracing the people that value them, too. Life truly is so much better with friends.

Life is 1000 times better when you get outside. I love being outdoors, but June really showed me how much my happiness improves when I bring the little, everyday moments outside, too. In June I ran the Charles River in Boston after work, ate as many lunches outside as possible, took some great walks, and grabbed drinks on restaurant patios. Fresh air is my favorite happiness booster.

PC: KR Photogs
Be grateful for these moments. These moments are your life. A little cheesy, perhaps, but a huge lesson that came out for me at TOI Nationals this year. I competed on a Junior level team this year, and spent a good chunk of time focusing on getting on Senior for this upcoming season. But at Nationals, I really tried to to take a step back and just appreciate where I was. Not over-analyze where I was last year, not put so much into next year that I didn't appreciate the great team I was sharing the ice with. Each moment is so important. I want to be better at not rushing through them for the next thing.

Most good things start at you being who you are. Whether it's choreographing a new piece, dating, or applying to a new job, most good things don't have room to start if you're not being yourself. Don't kill something super early on because you're shadowing it with the person you think you should be. Once we do the work to get comfortable with who we are, we have room to do the work we're meant to do.

Going somewhere new is always worth the money. Enough said. End of story. I don't care how broke you are, if you want to go somewhere, go.

In case you missed it: Re-capping our Memorial Day weekend in Boston, our 2018 CE from TOI Nationals, and our 2018 FS from TOI Nationals.

Reading Update: In the month of June, I finished Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert which I found really engaging to read but not necessarily my favorite book ever. It did make me really want to go to Italy, though. I also finished Morality for Beautiful Girls (No. 1 Lady's Detective Agency #3) by Alexander McCall Smith, which was as enveloping and tranquil as ever, but also a little slow-moving this time around. I listen to these on audio, so I might just literally have to bump up the reading speed.

I'm currently in the middle of Final Harvest by Emily Dickinson (a poetry collection), A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness (which I'm really, really, wanting to like but am having trouble getting into), and a collection of the Best Food Writing of 2012, compiled by Holly Hughes

Happy Thursday! Be the grittiest.
xoxo Gillian

Thursday, June 14, 2018

May 2018

WENT: To the cutest little breakfast place in Gloucester, and a great weekend in Boston for Memorial Day.

READ: I finished four books in May! I listened I Shall Be Near To You by Erin McCabe on audio, which while not being one of my all-time favorite books, was probably a top fiction pick for me so far this year. I also listened to A Spool of Blue Thread and Dinner At The Homesick Restaurant, both by Anne Tyler. Neither, I'm sad to say, were as incredible as my first experience with Anne Tyler (An Amateur Marriage). I also finally finished Founding Mothers by Cokie Roberts, which took me a long time to get through but was so, so worth it. As always, more reviews in my Instagram Story Highlights!

WATCHED: I really didn't watch a lot of stuff this month, which I guess is a good thing? Friends, Deadliest Catch with my mom, and Masterpiece Mystery's Endeavor are probably my top favorites right now. 

WROTE: A lot of journal pages, and Upwork proposals. On the blog: Summer Afternoon in Boston & The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and Hiking Mt. Moosilauke & A (Much Needed) Re-Set.

MADE: A showcase program! And iced tea. 

STARTED: Coming up with plans for next year. 

CROSSED-OFF: I finally got busy submitting proposals to freelance writing jobs through Upwork. 

TRIED: My Novice FS test, sticking to a budget, and a couple new bars.

FAILED: My Novice FS test, to stick to a budget, to pack my bags and lunch the night before.

PERFORMED: A heck of a lot. With American Ice Theater of Boston in Canton, Haverhill, Wesley and Westborough. Competed at Spotlight on the Cape with Act 1 of Boston. Tried my Novice FS test.  

THOUGHT: About the fact that every single weekend, from this past March until the end of June, is packed with plans.

What filled your May?

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Boston For Memorial Day Weekend

Way back in March, my friend Kat and I started getting really anxious to see another one of our friends, Caitlin, again. The three of us had all been on Act 1 together for two years, but this season, I'm the only one still on the team. Kat lives outside of Boston, and we see each other quite a bit, but Caitlin lives a few hours away from me in Maine. We haven't all been together since 2017 TOI Nationals (almost a full year ago!). It was definitely time to plan something.

A few group texts later, and we finally decided to get together for Memorial Day weekend! Caitlin and I drove down to Kat's family's house on Friday night, stayed over, spent all of Saturday in Boston, and came home Sunday afternoon.

Friday night, we stayed in and spent some time catching up. We also made a drink run and ended up buying all of the pink drinks (PSA: the Cape Cod Cranberry Spiked Seltzer is amazing!) and ended up playing cards against humanity.

Saturday morning, we had a slow easy breakfast at home, then ventured into Boston. We made up a group of five: me, Kat, both of her sisters, Caroline and Elizabeth, and Caitlin. Our first stop was the Charles River Canoe and Kayak in Kendall Square. We rented their large canoe, and spent about an hour paddling around on the Charles. It was a really fun (and cheap!) way to start the day. We got to hear some of the Boston Calling Music Festival from the water, we joked that next year we should just rent the boats for a few hours and get to hear it that way!

Once we had completely sweated through our shirts, we returned the canoes and drove towards the Boylston Street and Copley area. We were all getting hungry at this point, so we ended up at Met Back Bay for a late lunch. Their patio seating was full, so we ate inside, and it was lovely! The food was amazing, and everything was cozy and conversational. I ordered their breakfast burrito, and I'm not sure I've ever had anything so perfect.

Once we were done eating, we went shopping! We went to Francesca's, where we spent most of our time. I ended up getting a really cute floral wrap dress. It's a little short, but I think it'll still be great for work and church, and I have a wedding in June I might wear it to. After Francesca's, we wandered into some more boutique type places before ending up at the Prudential Center. We pretty much just window shopped there, but it was still fun!

At that point, our group split up, and Kat, Caitlin, and I went out as the over 21's. We started at Back Bay Social Club, which was pretty good, and then eventually made our way down the street to a new-to-us place, Lir. We stayed there for the rest of the night, and it was a great chance to get a little goofy, catch up, and discover Iced Coffee cocktails (which are fantastic, by the way).

It was so fun to be out in the city the Saturday of Memorial Day. It was almost 90 out, and everyone was outside, hanging around watching soccer games and grabbing brunch. Between memorial day, the music festival, a ton of graduations, and the multiple weddings we passed, it felt like everyone was outside celebrating. Definitely a great day to kick off summer!

Sunday morning, we slept in and took our time pulling ourselves back together, before parting ways and driving home! It was so fun to be back with the ladies that share some of my favorite memories. We definitely can't wait a whole year before doing this again...we're already debating a Burlington VT/Montreal roadtrip this summer!

Hope everyone's Memorial Day was spent with good food, good people, and sunshine!

Happy Wednesday! Be the grittiest.
xoxo Gillian

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Summer Afternoon in Boston & The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

A few weekends ago, I found myself with an afternoon to kill in Boston. I had rehearsal with AIT Boston until noon in the city, and then had practice with TOI Boston that night at 7. Commuting all the way home just to turn around and come back was out of the question, plus it was going to be a beautiful Boston Saturday afternoon, so I started brainstorming ways to use the time.

While on our hike, Kelsie came up with the great idea to check out a museum, and recommended I check out the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Now, for someone who's lived not even 2 hours from the city her entire life, I haven't actually done a lot of typical Boston things. Growing up, we'd always take trips to historic sites...but we usually ended up somewhere like Virginia, or Pennsylvania. We skipped a lot of the things that were closer to home.

Which means that now that I'm spending so much more time in the city, and am so much more comfortable navigating it, I want to take advantage and soak up all the amazing things Boston has to offer. I texted Caroline, one of my teammates, and we met up to check out the museum.

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum opened on January 1, 1903, on land that had been bought by Isabella herself for the purpose of creating the museum in 1898. Isabella, whose appreciation for art was spurred on by extensive travel and the intellectual scene in Boston, wanted to create a place for art to not only be hung but be appreciated, and made. Her personal collection, which the museum is drawn from, started with collecting rare manuscripts, particularly works from Dante, and kept growing, to include masterpieces like Vermeer's "The Concert" and Rembrandt's "Self-Portrait, Age 23".

In 1901, when the building was finished, Isabella moved into private living quarters on the fourth floor of the museum and began work personally arranging the museum. She remained intensely involved in her work, not only arranging the rooms but organizing performances, concerts, lectures, and inviting artists to take up residency there. When she died in 1924, she dedicated the museum to the "education and enjoyment of the public forever", only asking that nothing be moved, or re-arranged.

But in 1990, two thieves disguised as police officers broke into the museum early in the morning, and stole 13 works of art. The pieces that were taken, among them Vemeer's "The Concert, are worth over $500 million. It is the largest unsolved theft in history, and even today, 28 years later, authorities remain just as stumped as to their whereabouts. To remember the stolen works, and keep hope alive for their eventual return to the museum, empty frames remain hung in the places the paintings occupied.

I absolutely loved the museum. The original building (called "The Palace") has four floors, but is open in the middle, with a glass ceiling letting in natural light. A garden takes up the entire middle, which you can look down into from any of the four floors, and has elaborate tile walkways, arches, and fountains. The actual rooms are arranged to look less like a gallery, and more like an actual house, with scenes set up to showcase incredible rugs, or furniture, or tea services. One of my favorite rooms had a bunch of door-like wood panels hung to the wall, each covered in framed sketches and etchings, that you could move and work your way through.

Once we'd seen everything, the large stone archways offered a great place to sit and enjoy the garden. Caroline and I sat for a while and talked, since it had been a while since we'd really caught up. It's such a peaceful place; even though it was crowded, a calm hush blanketed everyone. I can see it being a beautiful place to sit and journal, or sketch (which the museum encourages!). We only spent a few hours there, and I definitely feel like it's the kind of place where you have to go a couple of times to really see everything.

We were going to check out the museum cafe, which looked really good, but they were closed by the time we were ready to eat. The museum is in Fenway, so we walked a little ways and came across a really cute restaurant named Tapestry. Not gonna lie, the main reason we chose it was because of the outdoor patio. This particular Saturday was one of the first super sunny, super warm afternoons of the year, so they had opened the patio early for drinks and pizza even though the rest of the kitchen wasn't open until later. We ordered the Mediterranean pizza (awesome cheese! But kind of soggy...), and waited until they opened for bar snacks and got the Greek nachos (which were awesome!). So we ate a whole pizza as our pre-bar-snack snack, haha. Tapestry is in a pretty quiet, residential area of Fenway, and it was so nice to sit outside, under the sun, and enjoy the breeze and each other's company. It was a wonderful way to kick of a season full of many more afternoon adventures with friends.

I'm in the city a couple of times a week, but it's always for work, or practice, or both. But, I enjoy spending my weekends in the rink (and even the commute) so much more when I take advantage of all the amazing things the city has to offer. Here's to searching for fun, instead of just driving right home.

Happy Thursday!! Be the grittiest.
xoxo Gillian

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Hiking Mt. Moosilauke & A (Much Needed) Re-Set

Last Friday, the school that I work at was out for April Break. The call to get outside and get moving again has been ringing in my ears for a while now, and my friend Kelsie, who's also a para, felt the same way. So, we planned to meet up Friday morning and drive to Mt. Moosilauke in Benton, NH, for the first hike of 2018.

While I'd always gone hiking as a little kid, as I got older, work and school and skating always seemed to get in a way, and I found myself going a few ears without anything that qualified as a 'real' hike. Then last summer, I climbed Mt. Major with my mom, and was immediately hooked.

I couldn't believe how much fun hiking was. I had always known I enjoyed it, but the rush of peace, possibility, and achievement I felt with every single step blew my mind. After Mt. Major, I went on to do Mt. Tecumseh and Mt. Canon last summer, as well as multiple quick trips to smaller, local mountains. I decided that I would work my way through the 4000 Footers; NH's 48 mountains that reach an elevation of 4000+ feet.

My incredible friend Kelsie looking like she stepped out of a hiking magazine.
It felt so good to get back out to the mountains. Benton is pretty far north in NH, so Moosilauke still had snow cover the entire way up. We had no problem with ice (we both came prepared with spikes for our boots), but we did sink in a lot. We'd be walking along, laughing and not paying too much attention, and all of a sudden one foot would sink all the way through the snow, tripping us and leaving bruises up and down our legs. Some of the falls were hilarious--I sunk all the way up to my waist once!

Once you're a little more than half way up, you can really see the change in the tree line. Everything gets smaller, shrubbier, and mossier. Along the trail, there are a few really great spots to stop and appreciate the view. The cloudy weather made all the far off mountains look blue, and paired with the snow and the evergreen trees, it looked like a painting. The peak was really cool, because it's a bald top mountain. For the last portion of the trail, you're just hiking across rocks, with a 360 degree view. By the time we got the top, the cloudy skies we'd started out with had gotten even worse, so it was pretty foggy. The winds were crazy, some of them felt like they could knock me over, but they did keep the fog moving, so every couple of minutes the clouds would part and we could see the view.

The wind driving some of the fog away at the peak.
We stayed at the top for a little while to take some pictures, but it was easily 20 degrees cooler than just a little ways down the mountain, so we started our way back down pretty quickly. About a quarter of the way back down, we stopped for lunch, and then kept moving. The way down was so much quicker than the way up! Overall, I think the snow actually helped us gain time. The estimated time for the hike was a little over 6 hours, and we got back to our car after 5 hours and 50 minutes. But, the gate to the parking lot was closed, so we had a half-hour walk on the road in both directions to actually get to the trail-head. Subtract that from our time, and the fact that we stopped for lots of pictures and to eat lunch, and we made really good time!

On the hike, we talked about everything from work to dating to TV shows we watched as kids to our futures. A big idea we both commented on, though, was the wash of peace that came over both of us. When you're hiking, you have no where else to be. Nothing to run to next. It's just you, and a close friend, and the mountain. As you hike, life becomes more real. You're simultaneously impressed with the beauty around you, and the importance of appreciating every second we have in this world, while also realizing that so much of the crap we fill our daily lives with really doesn't matter. I had this epiphany on the way up that I wasn't put here to conform to what society's expectations of me are, or to spend my time worrying about making enough money, or doing the 'right' work, or getting to a certain place by a certain age. I'm allowed to explore. I'm allowed to do what works for me, and what makes me happy. I don't have to judge myself by anyone else's measure.

For me personally, hiking is about so much more than exercise, or even crossing peaks off of a list. It's a reality check, a brain re-set. The evening after, I feel so accomplished and invincible, and so much more ready to tackle life in a way that makes me happy.

Mount Moosilauke, Benton, NH.
Elevation: 4, 802 foot.
Trail: Gorge Brook Trail.
Gained Elevation: 2, 506 feet.
Date Completed: April 27, 2018.

If you find yourself with time to hike in NH, I'd totally recommend Moosilauke! It's a great winter hike, and I'm sure the bald top views are even prettier in the summer!

Happy Thursday! Be the grittiest.
xoxo Gillian 

Thursday, April 26, 2018

On Moving Forward In The Face of Unknowns

Lately, I've been hit with an overwhelming feeling of uncertainty, restlessness, and anxiety over what the future's going to hold.

This past January, I finally got an opportunity that I've been chasing literally since I graduated high school. I feel like I can't talk about it too much (don't want to jinx it), but I auditioned for a professional ice show. I would literally get to do what I love, every single day, for my job. Leading up to it, I pulled out all of the stops. I trained harder, an even focused on working on some of my mental blocks, so I wouldn't crack under pressure.

As far as I am concerned, all of that hard work paid off. I left extremely proud of what I put out there, and confident that I had showed them not only my best self, but also an accurate portrayal of what they'd be getting should the hire me. Since I auditioned when the show was closest to me, back in January, it's been a very long wait since contracts aren't really out until late spring. For a while, I was fine. I felt good, I didn't panic. But lately? It's all I can think about. I have to actively resist the urge to email them every day, begging them to just hire me.

I am still waiting to hear back with a definitive yes or no. I've followed up, but was only told that they don't have an answer yet. Which is definitely better than being told no...but still. I'm getting very nervous.

I don't even know if I can describe how much I want this. It's literally the only thing I've know, for sure, that I wanted to do with my life. While touring itself would be an amazing opportunity, it would also open up so many doors for my life after I stop wanting to live on the road. This could set the stage for my whole career, and therefore my whole life (I understand I'm being very dramatic).

All of this unknown is making it extremely hard for me to focus and push myself this spring. I have so many ideas for different projects, but I just keep starting them and then getting overwhelmed, sad, and feeling some major impostor syndrome. This summer, I could either be starting an incredible journey of living on the road and skating for a living, or I could just be...here.What am I going to do if I'm still here? What if I end up repeating this exact same year over again?

I understand that this kind of emotional crisis is what every other 21 year-old experiences, and that I'm being dramatic. I understand that one audition doesn't make or break a career. I understand that if I just stay positive, and work hard, I will end up exactly where I'm supposed to be. But like, tell that to the butterflies in my stomach because they will not stop the anxiety attacks.

My big question is, since there's not much I can do about this state of unknown, how can I continue to move forward and make progress, so that I'm in a good place whether it's the best or worst case scenario? Instead of exclusively focusing on how to make myself more hire-able (because I've already put a lot of work there, and obsessing actually holds back my progress), what do I really want to see happen in my skating, work, life?

I know that I want to focus on longevity. I don't plan on quitting skating, even once I become 'too old' (no such thing). So with that in mind, I can afford to take a breath. I want to focus on learning everything I can about the sport, and improving some technique that I'm not happy with. This is going to take a lot of time. Working on my jump technique has already been at the forefront of my mind for over a year, and it's still got a ways to go. But really, there isn't a rush.

I want to challenge myself artistically. While competing with my TOI team is always a great creative boost, I also want to challenge myself to create more of my own stuff. I'm planning on choreographing my own Showcase program this year, and am performing with AIT-Boston this spring, which involves a lot of improv.

I want to be trained enough to pass two freestyle tests. There are 8 freestyle tests you can work towards passing through USFSA, and I've only got three left: Novice, Junior, and Senior. I really, really want to pass through Junior by July (if you follow me on Instagram, this is my 100 day project). No going around it, for that to happen I have to be putting everything towards training. I need more stamina. More fight to get all my jumps in. And frankly, I need to actually consistently land the required jumps, which I'm not always doing, even out of a program.

And finally, I want to write more. Writing has always been something I'm passionate about, and I've often toyed with the idea of figuring out how to pursue it professionally. But what would that look like? Could I dedicate enough time to it on top of skating and work? Could I ever make it full time? How do I write what I enjoy, not just pound out 1000 words for content mills?

I feel like more questions than answers. I'm terrified that I'll look back in 10 years at this time of my life, and realize I missed so many opportunities (maybe even the opportunity to enjoy this?). I'm so scared that I won't amount to anything, or, gasp, I'll just be an average person. I know myself well enough to know that this time next week I'll probably be happy and go-lucky, and believing the world is all possibility, but right now I just feel a little stuck. It's also raining today. Maybe I'll blame my mood on that.

But regardless of whether or not I feel like I'm moving forward correctly, I have to recognize that my life is and always will be progressing. I don't actually get to choose when, or to some extent how, I'm going to 'move forward'. Life just hands me a situation, and I have to figure out how to deal with.

So maybe, that is the action plan I so desperately want. Accept the situation that I've been given. Be grateful for how much progress I had to make to be in this situation. And then press on. Keep working. Keep experimenting. Take myself a little less seriously, but also take my ideas, my potential, a good deal more seriously.

Happy Thursday! Be the grittiest!
xoxo Gillian

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Choose To Live The Bigger Life

Monday night after work, my mom and I drove 10 minutes from our house and took a brisk, 1 hour hike that led us up and around 3 small peaks. It was the kind of evening that reminds me that no matter how badly I want to travel and move and experience different places, NH will always be my home. The fact that, with no more tools than my own two feet, I can trek through dense forests and out on craggy hilltops, my imagination calling the elevated fields the moors of England, is incredible to me. It was post-work at 5 o'clock on a Monday night, after what had been a 'not horrible but definitely meh' day. And there I was, having the kind of beautiful experience I keep stored in the back of my mind under 'bucket lists'.

The thing is, there is nothing magical about 5pm on a Monday. As a current day-job holder, it's tempting to call it the least magical time of the week. But the truth is, we can't spend our days waiting for the magical moments and perfect situations. They don't really exist. Instead, we need to be able to look at our lives with clear eyes and actively pursue the work, people, situations, and interests that will add the most joy. 

I occasionally listen to Gretchen Rubin's podcast 'Happier', and I've been ruminating on a point she made a couple of months back (I've searched for the episode, but I can't remember exactly which one it was). Rubin was talking about her family's long, drawn-out decision to get their dog Barnaby. As newbie-dog owners, they were reading everything they could get their hands on about dogs and training, the pros and the cons. Living in NYC, there was no question that choosing to get a dog would mean a substantial life change; but would it be worth it? Sure, having a pet ads a lot of joy to life, but would the extra hassle outweigh the newly-added joy?

Upon reflecting, Rubin thought, "choose to live the bigger life." Spoiler alert: they got the dog, and they are so happy they did. Yes, training is hard. Yes, having a dog in an apartment is hard. Yes, he's added an extra responsibility to their already-full plates. But alongside all of that, he's also made their lives bigger. He's made playtime more boundless, their bonds a little deeper. Turns out, adding complexity can quite often also mean we're adding depth. 

"Choose to live the bigger life" has not been absent from my mind since the day I first heard it. It spurs me on to stop playing small, and instead explore the outer reaches of my capability. What would happen if I tried for the better job? Started that side project? Started talking to my friend-crush? Asked someone out? Took that new class? Everything that is great, and exciting, and ultimately soul-filling, is on the the other side of an active choice to do something. Even the simple things. 

I've also discovered that living the bigger life does not always mean living the more Insta-worthy, crazy-solo-trekking-across-Europe-life, either (unless, of course, it does). Living the bigger life is choosing not to be satisfied with the same-old, same-old, that leaves you peevish and annoyed instead of happy. You can live your bigger life by starting your freelance gig on the side. Or playing pickup hockey. Or running a 5K. Or having a kid. Or going to see your friend's play. Or turning off the TV and reading really great books. It can also mean taking a job in a different state, going back to school, saving for an adventurous vacation, or working for yourself. My guess is, that for you, living your biggest life involves a mixture of crazy, toe-crinkling adventures, and some ridiculously pleasant hum-drum experiences. The sweet spot is in the balance. 

Last Monday, work was boring. I was tired. It was 5 o'clock, and I'd eaten a decent amount of chocolate already. I wanted to lay on the couch and watch Friends, but probably would have ended up attempting to be 'productive', and ultimately scrolling my phone. But instead, I got pushed out of the house and on a hike that has no joke, changed my entire week. It gave me time to catch up with my mom. It helped me re-calibrate after a busy weekend. It gave me time, and respite, to now look out at the rest of my week and know that I've been able to spend time doing exactly what 'dream Gillian' would be doing. 

I will always stand by the opinion that we have significantly more power over our lives than we think we do. No matter your situation, you're in charge of what you make of it. I don't want to look back in 20 years and think that I settled or cowered in a corner when life came and offered things that were exciting (and terrifying). Even on Mondays, I can check that I'm doing my best. Trying my best. Pursuing that bigger, more satisfied, more authentic life.

Happy Thursday!
xoxo Gillian

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Learning from a Christmas Project

Last November, I got a random Instagram DM from a guy I grew up with. Caleb Chamberlain, who was part of the same local homeschool community as me, is a photographer/filmmaker now, and working on the creative team at a local branch of Next Level Church. We met for coffee, and he explained that he wanted to create a video countdown, centered around a figure skating program, to use during before the worship team came out at NLC's Christmas services. He had reached out to find out if I would be interested in choreographing/performing it.

I was interested right away (because all you have to do to get my attention is say 'skating'), but I also knew that this was a big undertaking for just one person. So, I told Caleb I would, if I could bring one of my friends on board. And with that, I'd roped one of my closest friends and TOI teammates, Katherine Vitaro into it (don't worry, she was elated).

This is what we came up with:

The filming and editing are great, Caleb and his team did a great job and were fun to work with. We filmed it pretty late at night in a local rink, and watching them set up (and fly a drone!) was so much fun, and a great experience.

It's been almost 3 months since this project was completed, but I took my time writing this because I didn't know what I wanted to say. It's taken a long time for me to sort out my feelings on this one. I have moments where I'm really proud of what we did, and then others where I'm disappointed.  Now that I have this footage, I wish I could take some white-out and a sharpie to a couple of places.

I do not consider myself a choreographer. At all. I love artistic skating, and I think I'm good at performing, but I don't think of myself as someone's who's great at choreography. My experience comes from one choreo competition, a handful of Christmas show numbers, and putting together programs for a couple of Learn to Skate students. Part of why I was so interested in this was the fact that it would be challenging: and it was!

This isn't about ripping apart the work that Kat and I did. We completed something! Something we'd never done before! That is an achievement. But, I do have some thoughts on what I'll do differently next time:

01: I will think through logistics much earlier, and much more thoroughly. Kat and I live 2 hours away from each other. We both have two jobs. Giving up ice that I use for my personal practice is hard, and something I don't really like doing. Next time there's a project like this, I'm going to be a lot more realistic with how long it will take, and identify definite times to work on it BEFORE accepting. Of course doing fun projects requires some long days and late nights! But a lot of stress could have been avoided if I'd pre-planned better.

02: I will have better communication with the rest of the team, and a have a process for evaluating first drafts. I think what we choreographed would have looked much better from the stands than it necessarily does in the video. Having never done anything like this, it was really hard to picture exactly how they were going to film it. I wish that I'd been more responsible about asking questions, and had thought to maybe do some pre-shoots or something, so we could both get a feel for how the other was going to handle their end of the project.

03: I would use smaller movements, instead of trying to cover so much ice. Again: our stadium-skater brains took over on this one. I think it would have looked much better on film if we had used more sustained movements that took up less space, than powering around the rink in traditional skater fashion.

04: I would have more movements featuring us together. Watching it now, this is what I want more of.

05: I'd do something about my hands. Sometimes I get these weird scarecrow hands. Personal pet peeve. I need to work on fixing them.

06: I would have asked to be part of the selection of what clips were used. I think it's very hard for a non-skater to pick out the same moments a skater would. There are definitely some mistakes and hesitations that I personally would have replaced with other clips of the same section, but I think it's hard to see all of that when you're a non-skater working without a skating vocabulary. This could be totally out of line, but I think it would have helped.

BUT. There are some things here I'd definitely do again:

01: Try something new. I am happy we tackled this project because I never would have learned the six things above without it. This is the creative life: you're inspired, you try, you don't like it, but next time you try, it will probably go better. Fingers crossed, anyways.

02: Don't give up on it. Kat and I hit many walls with this project. Both of us fell victim to being uninspired, stuck, and having lots of doubts. Luckily, we felt this way at different times, and could help pull each other out of it. I'm happy we stuck it out, even while not always liking what we were coming up with.

03: Try to give an unstructured prompt a very specific story. We were told to skate to Carol of the Bells. That was it. With so much room, the first thing we did was agree on some sort of storyline. While it may not be obvious to a viewer, it anchored what we were trying to do. I think this was really helpful to us both.

I just finished reading Jenna Fischer's new book The Actor's Life. I LOVED it, and think every person wanting to live a creative life should read it. In it, she talked about the importance of showing up and doing the work. Of course we all want to be perfect, or at the very least good. But that isn't realistic every single day. Instead of always aiming for perfection, we need to aim to challenge ourselves, try new things, and approach everything with a growth mindset.

There are many things I would change about this project, but I am looking forward to taking all of that to the next thing, instead of ruminating on this one any longer. There is work to be done.

Be the grittiest! 
xoxo Gillian

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Remember To Talk To The Ice

Last night, I got to go to what the Boston skating community knows as an Underground. Adam Blake, who choreographs everything from Ross Miner, to the Haydenettes, to Disney on Ice, to our entire TOI program, puts them on occasionally. Usually held pretty late at night, he comes up with a dance combo for us to learn, and then we take it to the ice. He does a lot of hip hop in his choreography, so these combos usually have a lot of that, too. After we officially learn and practice it on the ice, we alternate doing it all together, splitting into big groups, and splitting into small groups. He films all the different groupings, and eventually pulls them together into a video. 
As we were warming up on the ice, he turned out the lights and set tea candles on the boards all the way around the rink. He told us to listen as we skated in our own space, without acknowledging other people, and take some time to talk to the ice. 

When you're in a relationship, he says, you can't ignore your person for days and weeks at a time, and then come home and expect everything to be fine. You need to talk to them. You need to show them you're grateful for them and excited by them. You can tell them when they make you nervous, or even when you're mad at them. You need to tell them when they're the reason you're happy.

It's the exact same thing with the ice. Adam said, that as we get busy coaching or choreographing or fulfilling contracts or even just doggedly training every day, we can forget to keep talking to the ice. And then, we're surprised when it doesn't talk back! To keep skating accessible to us, to bring our truest, strongest, most creative selves to the rink, we need to keep talking to it. 

It's not like I'm competing at the Olympics. But even while preparing for tests, local competitions, and auditions, it can be easy to loose sight of what I love about skating. With the pressure to check off accomplishments and rush to get things done, it's very easy to not take the time to think about what you're doing out there. When you're hustling to run your program, practice all your jump passes, and train your spins, it's easy to go a stretch of days or weeks when you skate a lot but don't make anything new. 

The best part, is that talking to the ice doesn't require a lot of time. You could make up new spin combinations, or funky arm variations. You could try doing different tricks into your jump entrances. You could put yourself through your own warm-up edge class with footwork patterns you create, or on empty sessions, put on music and allow yourself to do some improv. Talking to the ice is just like playing: it could be doing Showcase duets with a friend, doing knee slides across the ice, or even making a point to perform more in every program runthrough. 

Skating is an intense sport that requires a lot of physical ability and hard training. But it's also a performing art. Our programs aren't stagnant, they're living and breathing, and they're different every time we skate them. While it's important to be a great skater from a technical viewpoint, we can't ignore the fact that what we're doing out there is art. So it's worth it to look up. Perform. Understand the story you're trying to tell. And give yourself the room to create something that's honest, and that you're proud of.

Saturday night was an absolute BLAST. Thank you, Adam, for the incredible opportunity to do stuff like this. Feeling extra inspired and excited to catch up with the ice tomorrow.

Be the grittiest!!
xoxo Gillian

Monday, January 15, 2018

Reading in 2017

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2017 was the year I really got my reading life back. Ever since probably my freshman or sophomore year of high school, I’ve really struggled to read as much as I want to. After realizing I only read 11 books in 2015 (gasp!), I set the goal to read at least 12 in 2016. At the end of the year, I’d surpassed that goal and read 17! Taking advantage of that momentum, I set what I thought was an ambitious goal of 20 books in 2017. I hit my goal on September 7th, with The Actor and the Housewife by Shannon Hale. Since then, I’ve bumped my total up to 29 books finished in 2017!.

I’ve been thinking about how I managed to read so much this year. This is what I’ve come up with:

I finally jumped on the audiobooks train. As someone who commutes a lot for both work and skating, I know this seems like an obvious answer, but it’s taken me years to actually get into them. This year, though, I finally figured out that while I’m not good at paying attention to fiction audiobooks, I love fast-paced non-fiction on audiobook (at that point, it’s practically a podcast!). I also started throwing money at the problem, and paid for Audible. Yes, I could download free audiobooks from the library, but they don’t have the best selection (for me), and typically not the narrators I want. Paying for what I want has definitely helped me read more.

I read at work. I understand that this is very unique given my situation as a para, but when your kid is taking a quiz, what else is there for you to do? I also checked out for about 15-20 minutes almost daily while he was in advisory and not needing my support. Plus, his english class had 5 required reads last year, and I read along with him to make sure we could talk about them before class.

I consumed other media that made me want to read. Following book bloggers on Instagram and listening to podcasts like Literary Disco and What Should I Read Next? every week definitely served as a reminder to keep the TV off when I got home and spend the time reading instead. That’s a huge tip for any area of your life, really: in this social media age, make sure you’re following the stuff that motivates you and brings positive things into your life.

I traveled quite a bit. I started by Shannon Hale while on the plane down to Knoxville, Tennessee, for the ProSkater Performance Camp and Live Audition, and I finished it while driving back from Ann Arbor, Michigan, from Nation’s Cup. I finished Emma by Jane Austen on the flight home from Evansville, Indiana, from the National Theater on Ice Competition.

And quite simply, but most importantly, I just chose to read. I read in coffee shops between rinks, on summer afternoons between my am job and pm job, while waiting for dates to pick me up, and for hours on Saturday afternoons, when I didn’t have other plans. Some lunch breaks, I intentionally went and sat by myself because I needed the time alone to read.

I also read a lot of really good books in 2017, which definitely helped me stay motivated (and keep the TV off). You can view my full list on Goodreads, but I wanted to highlight my favorite reading experiences from the year here.

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin While I know Rubin barely needs an introduction, I enjoyed this book even more than I thought I would. While I’m a sucker for everything in the self-help genre, I really appreciated her memoir-style writing here. While I haven’t started my own Happiness Project (yet….I’ve definitely considered it), this book did change how I thought about my day-to-day. Perhaps most importantly, it made me stop apologizing for making time to just have fun, doing what I think is fun (instead of what other people around me consider fun). Definitely recommend, especially to start off the year.

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin, and And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie I read these both back-to-back, and they will now be forever linked in my mind. The Westing Game is a piece of children’s literature my student had to read for school, and it tells the story of a mysterious millionaire who challenges his neighbors to solve the mystery of his own death, promising to reward to winner with his inheritance. Similarly, Christie’s And Then There Were None is definitely one of her creepier books, as a murder mystery unfolds on a secluded island as the houseguests disappear one by one. While reading them, it really did feel like I was reading the ‘kid’ version and the ‘grown up’ version of the same book. I loved them both, and they left me equally reeling.

The Two Towers by J.R.R. TolkienThis was probably my 4th reading of The Two Towers, but my first since probably age 14. Reading Tolkien will always feel like going home to me: his voice has such strong connections to my childhood. Whenever I’d open this up, I felt everything I was worried about just fall away and I just sunk into the story. Coming back to his writing as an adult is also exciting: it’s fun to see what parts I remember, and what went right over my head as a kid. The Return of the King is definitely due for a re-read this year.

Voracious: A Hungry Reader Cooks Her Way Through Great Books by Cara Nicoletti It was a Saturday towards the end of June: I’d had a crazy work week finishing finals at the school I work at, my team had practice all day that Sunday, I worked Monday and had team practice that night, then flew out Tuesday night after work for Nationals. That Friday night before, my boyfriend broke up with me. I woke up Saturday morning to a gorgeous, sunny day, with no good morning texts, and surprisingly, no rink to rush to. I lay down on the couch, and finished this book in one day. It was exactly what I needed. It was funny, and nostalgic, and told the best stories of what being a human is all about: friendship, hard work, family legacy, wine, and chocolate. Lots and lots of wine and chocolate. Her essays were fantastic, I wanted to try every single one of her recipes, and the illustrations were worthy of framing. I would read Nicoletti’s grocery list if I could get my hands on it (and the way she cooks, it’s probably worth stealing). She’s also hilarious on Instagram (if not Grandma-friendly).

Emma by Jane Austen As a lifelong P&P fangirl, I have a major confession to make: Emma has stolen my heart, and won the title of my favorite Austen work. I underlined and dog-eared and read aloud to my mom almost every single page. I snorted out loud on the plane while I was reading. While Darcy is still probably my first pick of Austen heroes, in real life, I think Mr. Knightley would be the best match for me. Emma is also the perfect heroine, in that she’s incredibly imperfect, and we love her anyway.

The Amateur Marriage by Anne Tyler If Voracious was the chocolate-covered binge that gave my heart a post-break-up-pep-talk, then The Amateur Marriage was the empowering friend helping me voice what I don’t want in the future. It was almost eerie: If my ex and I had stayed together, I guarantee you that this book would have been about us (and that’s not a good thing). It was refreshing, and gave me a vehicle to get a lot of important, big picture thinking done. It was also beautifully written, and while I know Anne Tyler isn’t exactly an undiscovered author, it made me realize that she may be underrated, at least in my circles.

Grit by Angela Duckworth. I LOVED this, and it’s probably the book I recommended the most this year. Duckworth pulls together everything she’s learned from years of studying the psychology of grit: how grit affects our success, and how to become gritter people (you know at the bottom of my posts when I say ‘be the grittiest!’? That’s from this book!). In it, she talks about why being tenacious is so vital to our success as a person, and even more important than intelligence, or talent. I loved it, and ended up applying a lot of her lessons to skating, in particular. I listened to this on audio (she reads it herself...and does a great job!), but I’m considering buying the physical book and re-reading it so I can take notes.

168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam. Another great research-based read, I found Vanderkam’s position that we aren’t busy, but have more than enough time for everything we want to accomplish, extremely encouraging. She helped me re-frame my own thought processes, and instead of complaining about being busy, stop and ask myself what it is I want to be doing. I also love her simple way to re-frame: what are we wanting all this free-time for, really? Don’t we want free-time so we can put things that are important to us in it? So why not just fill our time with those important things to begin with?

Spinster: Making A Life of One's Own by Kate Bolick. Forget the cheesy title: this is another research-based heavy hitter, talking about the history of the single woman in America from the Victorian era through today, and what that means to us as individuals. I also listened to this on audio, and often sat in my driveway after getting home so I could hear a bit more. I have not stopped thinking about this book since I finished it in September, and it’s another one that really changed how I thought about myself, my future, and how I want to (and whether or not I want to) add a guy to this mix someday. It also made me want to move to NYC and be a writer, but that might just be me. Since reading, solitude seems so much sweeter.

Letters From Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien While his kids were growing up, J.R.R. Tolkien would write responses to their letters to Father Christmas every winter. This is a collection of his letters. Like I said earlier, Tolkien has changed my life and every time I read him I feel nothing but peace, so Christmas is the perfect time to get some of his work read. I loved his whimsical characters like Polar Bear, and the goblins that live in the mountains. I also found his letters from the WW2 years very poignant. This one is so quick, that I can see myself turning back to it every Christmas from now on.

Guys, I am so excited. I notice such a big difference in my mental clarity and happiness when I make the time to read. I am ridiculously looking forward to starting my list of reads in 2018, and setting a new goal on Goodreads (I’m going with 36!). I don’t really make ‘reading lists’ for myself (because the minute it’s required, I start dragging my feet), but I have been putting some thought into what I want more of in my reading life for 2018.

In 2017, I read a 50/50 split between fiction and non-fiction, and that is definitely a ratio that felt really good and I’d like to keep. I would like to read more classics in 2018, after Austen and Tolkien reminded me this year how good it feels to really have to think about a book. Some definites on that front would be The Return of the King, Persuasion, and The Canterbury Tales. I also want to read more Kate Morton, Anne Tyler, re-read L.M. Montgomery’s Emily series, finally finish L.A. Meyer’s Bloody Jack series, and get through a couple of poetry collections that have been waiting for me.

What did your reading life look like in 2017? What do you want in 2018?

Be the grittiest! xo Gillian