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Friday, August 16, 2013

I Am What I Am Not

Quick, finish this sentence:

I am ________________.

     What'd you put? It's important. What was the first thing that came to your mind? This is an exercise I do with my students. The first day of school, I give them a questionnaire, and I have them fill in that sentence. It tells me a lot about them. Middle schoolers are all about identity. They crave belonging, so they like to label themselves and everyone around them. The first thing that came to your mind is how you identify yourself. It's either the most important thing to you (for example, how many of you said, "I am a mother?"), or it's something that you are super proud of ("I am a really good cook."), or maybe its something that you despise about yourself, (I am a couch potato.) Whatever words we follow the phrase, I am with indicates how we see ourselves from the inside out. 
    While this is all very interesting from the perspective of self knowledge, it can also be extremely limiting. You are whatever you say you are. If you look in the mirror and say, I am strong, then you are strong. If you say, I am beautiful, then indeed you are beautiful. However, if you look in the mirror and say, "I am so fat," or "I am so weak," then you are, or will become those things. It's a self-fulfilling prophesy. I wrote about this in my posting, Goodbye Fat Girl. Think about the words you choose when you speak about yourself. Negative words and thoughts manifest a negative reality.
     Now I have a pretty good self esteem. I stare into my own eyes during yoga and say, "I am strong, I am powerful, I am blessed, I am healthy....etc." I might finish the I am with, I am a mother, or I am a teacher, or I am a writer, or I am a medium, as all of these are adequate descriptions of who I am. And that's all well and good, but even the most confident of us use the I am to limit ourselves without even realizing it. My girlfriend, Carey might complete that sentence, "I am a runner." And she is. She runs every single day. She does 5Ks in her sleep. I on the other hand would always say, "I am NOT a runner. I just can't run," and guess what? I never ran anything. Until last week.
     On the 4th of July, my best neighbor, Michiko, said when I walked into the room, "Melissa will do it with me." Huh? "Yes, of course I will," I said (I am always up for a good dare), "what am I doing?" "The Long Island Adventure Race," she said, and she showed me a website with pictures of people covered in mud climbing walls and walking on logs in the woods. "Hell yeah!" I said, "that looks awesome, but its a 5K and I am not a runner.""You can walk it," she said, "and if the obstacles are too hard, you can go around." Okay, but what's the point of doing a race if I can't actually do the race? Mr. Jones looked at me and said, "I don't think you can do it." As convincing as he was, I knew he didn't mean it. He figured out long ago that the easiest way to get me to commit to doing something is to tell me you don't think I can. And I get all, "Who the hell are you to tell me what I can't do?!" and then I go and show you that I can. Okay, so Mr. Jones thought I could do it, and Michiko, who is easily the most motivating encouraging friend I have, thought I could do it, so why didn't I think I could do it? Why was I not a runner? My I am was limiting me. 
 

 So the race was 5 weeks away. I had 5 weeks to learn to run a 5K. So I did some research. Talked to runners for advice, read some runner blogs, and I hit the track. I am not going to lie. Running is boring. It's not my choice workout. At first, I would break up the laps with yoga (because I AM a yogi.) Then, as the race got closer, I worked towards running straight through (still working on that, btw, but I get better every time). When the day came, I was ready... for anything. I had no idea what the obstacles would be, but I was ready to go out with my friend and have fun. She wasn't worried about time and she understood that I might have to walk a bit to catch my breath, and so we went.



We ran. We jogged. We walked a bit. We climbed. We crawled through the mud. We slid into the mud on on bellies like penguins.We even waded through chest deep ice water!


And there were bubbles! Did I mention the bubbles?
We had a ball. I loved every second of it. So much so, that I have another "all level" mud run in 22 days. I can't say I am not a runner anymore.  As soon as I stopped saying I am NOT, I became what I never thought I could be. I am an adventure racer (in training). 
     So my question to you is not what do you finish the I am with. It's what do you finish I am NOT with that you secretly wish you could say you are? Why are you limiting yourself?! What excuses are you making? If you want to do something, get started. It may be a long road. You will have to step out of your comfort zone. You will have to educate yourself. You will have to be patient as you learn a new skill. But there is no reason why can't do it. The only thing holding you back is what my girlfriend Ally calls, "The itty bitty sh*tty committee" in your head (your ego). Put them in a box and let your true self out of it. 

You are strong.

You are powerful.

You are unlimited. 

                                    Now get to work!

>3!