Workout Wednesday: Build your wings, learn to fly

             I used to think working on my back is useless. How is a lat pulldown going to help me when all I need is a flat stomach and a lifted butt?          … Continue reading

Flow With It Friday: Milk.

          Milk is delicious. I have been an avid milk drinker since the early milk drinking days. I have drank soy milk, almond milk, cow milk, so you can say milk drinking is one of my specialties. In fact, as a kid, I loved milk so much, that I even cried about it. 

          When I was about eight years old, I came home with my brother and opened the fridge, and accidentally bumped over the milk carton. Everything spilled onto the floor. At that moment, I saw my life flash before my eyes. All. The. Milk. Was. On. The. Floor. 

          I was certain that I was going to get grounded when my parents would come home. So, being scared of my consequences, I began to cry. You had to see me. I bawled like a little baby. My brother, who was there right when it happened, began to calm me down and tell me everything will be okay. After all, according to his “wise” 10 year old words, I shouldn’t cry over spilled milk. 

          Of course, being the 8 year old who didn’t listen to my brother, I kept on crying until my mom came home and I told her what happened. She simply smiled at me and immediately called my dad to tell him to get new milk on the way home. 

That is when I realized… it’s just milk. 

          Most of us have learned that lesson at a certain point of time. Our parents always would say that we should not cry about spilled milk. That spilled milk metaphor was translated in our heads to situations that had to do with falling off our bikes and scraping our knee, or when we did not make it onto the school’s basketball team. “It’s just milk,” you would think. Oftentimes, we seem to forget that the milk in our lives is not just a small bruise, but it is also the things that pressure us most in life.

          As university students, we notice our anxiety levels increasing more than they ever have in our lives. Our next step is dramatically unknown. We are constantly asked where we see ourselves in five years. We let these pressures of trying to build our future push us to the edge, deter our happiness, and distract us from the important things in life. We get angry, upset, embarrassed, and many times, we end up crying. It’s like we forget that it is just milk. 

          You see, milk is just a substance. Yes, it is great. Yes, it is good for your bones. Yes, it goes great with cereal. But, milk will not change your life. If you stop drinking milk, it will not make you any less happier. You can probably eat better things with higher amounts of calcium. So, crying over milk is unnecessary. It happened. It sucks. However, instead of sitting on the floor and crying over the fact that the milk was spilled, get a paper towel, clean up the mess that you made, and go buy a new bag of milk. 

          Similarly, the grades we get are just grades. The jobs we get rejected from are just jobs. It hurts and it’s one of the worst feelings in the world to not get what we deserve. Yet, we cannot let those points of failure stop us from cleaning up the mess and buying that new bag of milk. Pick yourself up. Keep on trying. Make a change. Never let that spilled milk bring you down. 

          Today, I came home from a long hard week, filled with many failures. I opened the fridge, and noticed that my parents pushed the bags of milk so firmly into the refrigerator, that one of the bags popped and the milk was dripping all over the fridge. 

          Instead of crying, or getting angry at my parents, I decided to let it go. I took a breath, cleaned the milk that spilled, took the leftover milk that was still in the bag, and poured myself a delicious cup of milk.

Pen down. 

Workout Wednesday: The Steps To Loving Yourself

          My favourite quote of all time goes something like this: “If I asked you to name all the things you love, how long would it take for you to name yourself?”         … Continue reading

Flow With It Friday: Happiness

            I was not sure if I should write this post, but I think it is something that a lot of people I love and care about need to read. Happiness.         … Continue reading

Workout Wednesday: The Things You Should Know Before You Start Lifting

              The first time you start lifting is like a horror story. You enter the new world of the gym, full of mysterious creatures who make weird noises as they move a huge weight with their bodies. You have no idea where to go first, or if you are doing anything right. You feel like all the eyes are on you. The mysterious creatures are staring at you, waiting for you to mess up. The trainers are even more excited to prey on the beginners, who will become the laughing stock during their protein shake break. The experienced girls with the rock hard abs are judging you for being new. Before you know it, you trip over one of the dumbbells and fall face first onto the floor.

The first time you enter the gym, you may feel vulnerable. Without a doubt, I know I was. 

              I was terrified. I had only been doing HIIT workouts at home with 20 pound dumbells. I didn’t know how to do a bench press, or how to use the leg press machine. I had no idea how to plan an effective workout, or how many breaks I should take. 

I had no clue. I was lost. All I ever felt at the gym was that I was being judged. 

              The sad part is that I am not the only one. So many people quit working out because of their fear of being judged. They hide it with the idea that  they don’t like to work out, or they are not motivated. Although those are valid reasons to not want to work out, they are also excuses for many. I remember when I had just started going to the gym, I would go less often since every time I was there, I felt that people were laughing behind my back.

              Yet, being a person who likes to overcome challenges and prove others wrong, I kept on going. A year later, I have learned to love the gym, accept mistakes, and understand the fact that no matter what, I will always be judged. So, for all of my fellow readers who are either thinking about starting to lift,  have just begun, or just need  a motivation boost, I would like to give you a few insights of what I have learned in the past year. 

1. Don’t be afraid to be judged.

              I am starting with this, because as you have noticed, one of the biggest things that I believe affects our ability to put all our effort and motivation into our workout is the fear of being judged. 

Let me spill some truth to you. You are probably being judged right now. 

              Now, don’t start feeling anxious. You need to understand that no matter when, and no matter where, people are going to judge you. This relates to everything you do in life. People are going to judge your hair, and your legs, and your belly, and your speech, and your opinions, and on and on and on. People judge. Just like you, my friend, judge everyone. We do it without thinking. Even when we think positively of someone, we judge them. The truth is, I still feel that I am judged when I am going to the gym. Every. Single. Time.

How do  I overcome it?

              It is simple. I just let the judgment fuel my motivation. When I go anywhere, whether it is the gym, school, the mall, or a party, I recognize that I will be judged on everything I do. I use that energy from people and convert it into something that will enhance my performance. I will lift harder, work harder, shop harder (if only I had the money), and dance harder. Not to impress others, but to make myself happy, because I know that I will not let other people’s thoughts affect what I do. 

              When you go to the gym, you need to recognize that EVERYONE started at the same place as you did. They all were weaker at a certain point. They all had to learn how to use equipment at a certain point. They were all you at a certain point. The truth is, most people at the gym don’t even judge others for working out. Instead, they silently applaud the fact that they are trying to make a healthy change to their lifestyle.

2. Fitness is not just about looking good.

              I get it. You want to have a Kim Kardashian butt, an iron chest, six pack abs, and wings on your back. As do I. I won’t lie. Yet, I have come to understand that fitness is not just about looking good. It is about feeling good, and being strong. 

              I have been working out intensely for a year, and eating healthy at least 80% of the week. People know me as the gym fanatic. Yet, I do not have six pack, and my chest press is still in progress towards my goal. Instead, what I have acquired over the year is the ability to feel good in my body and in my mind.

              I am proud of what I am capable of. I am proud of the fact that I can lift more than I have ever thought I could. I have grown to love my curves and my fat that just won’t go away. I have learned to appreciate my happy weight: the weight in which I am when I am not restricting myself. I enjoy the fact that I can choose what my body does, and how I think about myself. I even take delight in the small things, like being able to open a stubborn jar without anyone’s help.

              Fitness is about learning about being happy with the strength that is within you. Stop focusing on the weight, or on the measurements. With hard work at the gym and in the kitchen, you will see progress. Focus on how you feel about yourself when you wake up in the morning and look at the mirror. Focus on thanking yourself for all the things you have learned and pushed yourself to do. 

3. Your progress will look different from everyone else’s. 

              A huge thing that offset my mental progress was the fact that I was not seeing the results I wanted. I had this mental model in my head that by lifting heavy, doing some cardio, and eating healthy, I will look leaner in my waist and curvier in my hips. When I saw that my hips did get curvier, but my waist actually grew in width, despite the fact that I lost a lot of fat, I became concerned. To add to that, I also realized that while I had strong biceps and triceps, they were not as defined.  I started to question my body, and wondering why I am so incapable of looking fit. 

              However, after measuring myself, I realized that my waist did not grow in size. Instead, my lower back had gained muscle, which is actually something that I have always wanted!  Moreover, even though my biceps are not visibly defined, people have recognized my growth. It just made me realize that my progress is unique. All our bodies are unique. Rather than criticizing it for what it can’t do, we need to start applauding it for what it can. Let it grow, and let it motivate you to make your workout as efficient as it can be. 

4. Don’t be afraid to fall down. 

              Want to know how many times I couldn’t hold a heavy squat and ended up falling backwards? I probably can’t count it on my hand. Everyone-women,men, and others-I have spoken to have admitted to failing like I have at least once in their gym lives. It is completely normal. Your body is not supposed to be able to do everything right away. Sometimes, your body just says “Hell Naw” and crumbles down. 

Don’t let that bring you down.

              If your body is telling you it can’t do it, try again. You can allow yourself to bring the weight down a little bit, if your form is incorrect. You can try again for less reps. Listen to your body. Push yourself to work hard, but do not push yourself over the limit. 

You are here to better yourself, not hurt yourself. 

5. There is no recipe to success.

              I am going to leave with a thought provoking note. As I have mentioned earlier, all our bodies are unique. What works for others will most likely not work for you, and vice versa. I started my fitness journey through bodyspace.com. I found plans on the website and followed them. Over time, I started making my own plans. I would have split days for chest and biceps, back and triceps and shoulders, and legs. They were great, until I hit a plateau and I found them no longer beneficial to my progress. It took me a while to find a plan that I liked, and still I always change it up. Only 10 months after I started to work out have I found a workout program that gives me the results I want and the enjoyment I need. 

              Right now, all my workouts are basically total body workouts. I follow the stronglift 5×5 program, and add in my own exercises at the end. I have also found a way to enjoy cardio. Yet, am I going to always stick to this program? Probably not. My body is always changing, and likewise, so should my programs. 

              There is no right way of working out. There is your way of working out. If you find that you get what you want out of just doing cardio, just doing yoga, mixing different types of activities together, or lifting heavy, then continue doing so. Do what makes you go towards what you see as success. Experiment. Try new things. Do not be shy to ask around. 

              My challenge to you is to find something you enjoy, that gives you a pump of adrenaline and keeps your body and mind working, and do it. I want you to understand that you are in control of your body. You have every right to treat it in any way you wish to, but please, promise me, you will treat it with respect.

Make yourself happy. Lift happy. Breathe happy. 

“Make yourself a priority. At the end of the day, you are your longest commitment.”

-Author Unknown

Pen down. 

 

 

Motivational Monday: Look Up

       The loud chattery voice of the woman on her iPhone fills the atmosphere. She is telling someone about her argument with her friend about some misunderstanding. The music, being playing too loud from the young boy’s earphones, wearing a Canada Goose jacket, booms to the bass. The next stop is announced in a series of muffled words. 

      Bumps on the road push my body up and down, in a sort of entranced danced that only a user of public transporation has grown accustomed to. Buses, subways, or any other form of public transporation gives us, humans, the ability to be reminded of the natural wonder of the daily world. Different people, with varying lives, contrasting dreams, all come together on the way to the same place.

It makes you wonder, where are they all going?

       The bus fills with more people. They are all dressed differently. They all come with different packages. 

      And again, I ask myself, where are they going? Why are they on this bus? What are they going to do? Who are they going to see? Who will they never see again? 

        At the front of the bus is a bald middle aged man with glasses, riding on the bus for his first time. He is on his way to  a garage to pick up his newly repaired beloved car. Standing with a firm grasp on the pole is a grey-hooded man. He looks energized, with his Good Life fitness bag on his shoulder, ready for a productive workout at the gym. A young woman with curly blonde hair sits at the back. Her tired eyes display her burning desire to get home after a long day at work, and cuddle up with her dog on the couch and watch TV. 

       All these lives with different stories. But let me ask you, how often do you notice people? When I sit on public transportation, all I see is people on their phones, virtually blocking themselves from their physical existence, soaking themselves into a technological reality in which the only people we observe are the ones on Instagram. Rarely, do I ever make eye contact with someone. Even more rarely do I ever make a conversation with a complete stranger and get to know them, because everyone is so encompassed by their hungry desire to update themselves about everyone’s life, except the ones around them at that moment. 

     What bothers me about this generation is that we forget to embrace our society. We forget to embrace verbal communication and connection. We forget to embrace spontaneous friendships. 

      I recently returned from vacation, where internet connection was limited to 60 minutes a day, and reception was blocked by my phone’s airplane mode. 

And I loved it.

     I delightfully spent my time people watching, observing behaviour, understanding people, and best of all, fostering friendships with people from all over the world. I was not caged by the world inside my hand. I opened my mind to new perspectives, shared memories, and created unforgettable experiences. 

      Certainly, I am not shaming anyone for being on their phones. I undeniably love being on my phone. Yet, the art of this generation is that we are able to create connections in hundreds of ways. But, the best connection is the connection with your surroundings. It is the connection with the smell of the nearby falafel restaurant, or the sound of angry drivers honking at each other. It is the wind ruffling through the curly blond girl’s hair, sitting across from you on the bus. 

        We take for granted the world around us, when instead, we should be thanking the beautiful diversity of the people who surround us everywhere we go. We should try to learn about people’s stories, not strictly updating our own. My dear Blue Pen Readers, I challenge you to do something this week. The next time you are anywhere alone, whether you are at the mall, the bus, the cafe, or at the library, I challenge you to look up, and notice the world. 

 

Pen Down. 

 

I Like Math.

I know. You want to compliment me. You want to make me feel good about myself and give me an ego boost. I know you do not mean anything bad with your words, and I appreciate your effort to say something positive. But, I won’t be accepting your compliment. I can’t possibly do that. 

I am a math person.

I am a girl. 

But that has no correlation. 

Let me repeat that.

I am a math person and I am a girl but that does not make me a special girl because I like math. That does not make me a rare breed in the sea of female fish. I am simply a girl who happens to enjoy the subject of mathematics. 

End of story.

Yet, it’s not. 

In the past couple of years, I have told several males that I enjoy math. Most of the time, their first response has two words in a sentence: math and girl. 

“Really? You are the first girl who told me she likes math!”

“No way, most girls don’t like math”

“Wow, it’s nice to see a girl who enjoys math.”

And every time, I smile, nod my head, and say thank you. I thank them because supposedly, I have just become a shining star in this boy’s eyes. I am no longer a regular girl. I like math. At this moment, I am compared with thousands of other girls, being told that I somehow have acquired an absolute advantage because of one personal quality. 

However, when I tell men that I write, their response right away is asking me what type of work I do. Do I write poems, short stories, articles? They do not compliment me for my writing skill, they instead get into it, as if it was expected and they know exactly how to dig in. 

Never, when I tell men that I enjoy math, do I get asked what type of math I like. They don’t know that I absolutely love calculus and derivatives, but cannot stand trigonometry. They don’t know that I used to try to solve math problems three years ahead of my curriculum level. They don’t realize that I tutored people in math. Instead, they tell me I am cool for being a girl and liking math.

I am done smiling. I am done acting like I have been complimented. 

This has to end.

My gender has nothing to do with my ability to compute mathematical operations. I am made out of genetics, both composed of my mother’s and father’s, and both who happen to be lovers of mathematics as well. 

In all of my math classes, the girls often scored as high, if not higher, than the boys. Girls, just like boys, can enjoy math, just like they both can enjoy volleyball or soccer. 

Our society is so preoccupied with these gender roles, that people are subconsciously using them. They think that a sexist remark is a compliment because no one ever explained that it is not one. Even today, we are trying to encourage more girls to pursue engineering because gender roles have inflicted the pressure of being a “real woman” on them. Society pits women against each other, telling them that their more “male” capabilities, like enjoying math, make them more valuable than other women. 

Men, if you are reading this, please make a promise to me today. Please do continue to be sweet and compliment women that you admire. But, please, do it right. Do not make a woman face a sexist remark disguised as a compliment. You are not boosting her, you are just emphasizing the idea  that women are not as capable. If you really want to make her feel good about herself, tell her that you find it attractive that she likes math, but not because she is a girl. Tell her that you are interested in having a conversation about it, or to try different math problems together. Tell her you would love to take a math course with her, or have a friendly competition. See her as a person, not a gender. At the end of the day, one thing needs to be remembered.

A brain has no gender.

 

Rant over.

Pen Down.

 

The Year of the Dancing Queen

The year of the dancing queen has come to a young and sweet end. It was a year where innocence met the face of maturity. Where life’s tests were a series of dilemmas between my heart and my head. It was the fresh breath of graduation and taking on a new step in life. While the turbulence of this year was indescribable, it was one of the most memorable years of my life. I can’t say that I can give you my wise words about this age, because my skin hasn’t wrinkled yet and I do not need a walking cane. Yet, looking back at the experiences that came my way, I would like to share my grain of salt.

  1. Don’t do anything until you are ready to do it. The truth is, you can follow people’s orders, but you should listen to your heart. You can get on a diet or leave someone because someone told you to do so. Yet, you’ll find yourself relapsing back to your old habits, because your heart is not at the same place as your head. You will never achieve true happiness this way. No decision should be made by anyone but yourself. You should consider people’s comments, take them as a recommendation. Yet, the answer to all your questions, and the action to all of your solutions, lie with your emotions. As cliche as it may sound, your heart knows more about what you need.
  2. Allow yourself to be alone. As a person who is extremely social, it was often hard for me to reveal to people that I am an introvert. This year, I finally allowed myself to admit to it. I am an introvert. I need my personal time to myself. I need to recharge. I love people. I love talking. I love social activities, but I also love time to think. I love public transportation because the quiet time alone allows me to find a place of relaxation. I love going to the gym and clearing my head with every lift. Take time to be alone, even if you are not an introvert. Disconnect yourself from the world. Breathe the fresh air. Observe your surroundings. Just zone out. You need it. The pressures of the world can often feel like a burden on our self identities. Being alone has an everlasting impact on what path we take through our mind’s maze. 
  3. Fresh starts are important, but you need beautiful ends, too. Don’t run away from your problems. The world often embraces the idea of “fresh starts.” You screwed up? Great, get a fresh start. You can’t deal with your family? Don’t worry, just move out and start new. Life does NOT have a button that you can press at any point you would like. Real fresh starts are the ones you create by solving the problems you have, and staying in the same place. If you leave your problems behind you, that is not a true fresh start. It is simply a disguised story.
  4. Travel. See other cultures. Expose yourself. Diversity is beautiful. Don’t be stuck in your bubble. Go to other countries, talk to different people, and see other worlds. Living in Canada, we are exposed to so many incredible and beautiful cultures. Each culture has something intriguing to bring to our society. Don’t shut those cultures down. Embrace our diversity. Embrace the fact that we are all humans with splendid backgrounds. 
  5. It’s okay to not always do homework, even when you have to. I have always been the kind of girl who put education first. My social life always came second. Two weeks ago, I was in my room studying all day for an exam, and I realized that I could not study any more. I called up my friend and we ended up having a movie night. I should have done my homework that night. Every second missed on exam preparation was important, but being with my friend was more. Sometimes, you need to learn that priorities shouldn’t stay in place. They have to jump around often. What you need to do may sometimes not nurture you correctly. You need balance. Take care of yourself.
  6. Learn to love yourself. Accepting myself was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. I kept on comparing myself to others: girls in my school, models, and actresses.  Then, one day, I realized that I am going to be inside my own skin for the rest of my life. It is time for me to wear it proudly. I started eating, exercising, and indulging because I wanted to be happy. I stopped having diets, and overexercising. I realized that it was better to do things for my future self because I appreciated who I am in the present. 
  7. Be good. Take your time to speak to strangers. Ask their story. Tell them your story. Give them inspiration. You never know what went through in their heads that morning. Even a simple “you are beautiful” can change their life. 
  8. Enjoy your age. I’ll never be 17 again. I’ll never be able to live this wonderful age. All of my firsts for this age have expired. All of my memories have been embezelled in my mind. This age, like ABBA sang it, was beautiful. It was tragic, dramatic,  adventurous, and exciting. I learned who I am, and who I wanted to be. I learned what it means to be honest, and good. It taught me what it meant to believe in myself. It taught me to be me.

Goodbye age 17. You’ve been good to me.

Hello 18.

Pen Down.

Flow with it Friday: Just Leave.

“If you ever find yourself in the wrong story, leave.” 

       With my wobbly feet and silly mind, I used to explore the world around me, as if I was in the center . As a child, I used to think that I had my own reality show; my own Truman Show.  I was the main character in my life.  Wherever I went, and whatever I did, the story was about me. Most of us were lucky to make ourselves the main characters in our childhood lives. 

        And then, one day, without even noticing, we grew up, and life caught up.  We could not simply live and lead a life. The world demanded of our growing minds that we must be someone. We must do something. We can no longer think about ourselves, and what we truly want. All of a sudden, the world ripped us out of our stories, and placed us in a new one. 

        This new story does not have playgrounds and jungle gyms, or scraped knees and brain freezes. This new story revolves around rivalry, broken friendships, unsettling rumours, and damaged hearts. It is a story in which young souls are put to the test on how much stress they can bear, and how many tears they can drop. It is a story world of fire and rain, a sun and a moon, stars and clouds. 

         And in the falling action of this story, we find ourselves in two positions. We are either the archetypal hero; the protagonist of the story, the creator of great solutions. Or, we find ourselves as the side kick; the minor character, in our own story. With all of these obstacles, we fall out of place with our environment. We fall out of touch with our identities. We fall out of sync with our lives. Before we know it, we realize that we found ourselves in the wrong story. 

At this point, there is nothing more you can do, than just leave.

      Leave. I said it. Just leave. Do not tell me that this can be changed. Do not tell me that your story should not be about you. Simply, it should. This is your life. You have dreams, passions,and talents. Everything in your life should follow the plot line that you are leading. You are a hero. You are the creator of solutions. You do not have to be Hercules, or Katniss Everdeen. You are you, and you are capable of doing great things. 

      If you are in a relationship that makes you feel trapped and suffocated, no matter how much you love your partner, LEAVE. If you are heading towards a career that you do not love, LEAVE. If you are not your true self  with your group of friends, LEAVE.

      Do not let your partner tell you that it will be okay, because it will not be okay. Do not let your parents tell you that you need to pursue a certain career that you are not passionate about. This is your life, you deserve to pursue the things you love. Do not let your friends convince you that being fake is the only way you will achieve. In reality, being your good true self will be the path to success.

      If you are not happy with the story you are in, do not let anyone drag you back into it. You are the author of your story. You are the editor of your story. You are the main character of your story.

      Lead a life that your childhood self would be proud of you for. 

Pen Down. 

 

Motivational Monday: A Sweet Return

I have been such a horrible blogger and fellow blue pen writer for the past 9 months. I am truly sorry. I have no idea where i have dissappeared.

Can we just settle that i fell off the face of the Earth?

That makes everything better, now, doesn’t it?

I’ve missed my beautiful blue pen community for so long. I have been thinking of coming back to you all for so long, but things kept on coming up. Due dates, family events, birthdays, life… i got so caught up with everything that I completely forgot the reason for all of the things that made me who I am. That reason being this blog.  

For the past 9 months, whenever I needed a reminder of who I was a year ago, I would look back at old blog posts that I wrote. I would read the stories that inspired me to be different; to think differently. I read how I took on the role as gossip girl, in order to promote an exercise routine. I remember how I talked about the magnificently magical red dress that brought me so much happiness after a period of sadness. I kept on laughing at how dramatic (SPOILER ALERT) I was when I wrote about my favourite character dying in a book. I missed that part of me. I missed expressing my feelings to the world, knowing that someone, out there, was on the other side of a lit up screen, reading my words and feeling their beating heart connect to mine. 

I miss being that girl, and I am going back to her. I am looking at the mirror and seeing the girl I was 9 months ago. I’ve grown and I’ve matured, and I am not planning to go backwards. Yet, I miss that passion that I used to have. I still have it. I just buried beneath the pile of my busy life. 

So starting today, I am coming back, my sweet blue pen readers, and you are, too! It is your turn to do something, as well. Today, I want you to look at yourself, and try to find the person you were 9 months ago. Look for old things that might give you an idea of who you were, Analyze yourself. Figure out what you liked and disliked about yourself. Throw out all of the things that brought you down, and embrace all the things that helped you shine bright. We often get so caught up in ourselves and all of the little things in life, that we forget who we are. Never let yourself do that. 

Ferris Bueller once said “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once and while, you might miss it.”

Good night Blue Pen Writers. See you Wednesday.

Pen Down.