Every now and again you realise how far you have come, how many moments of progress you have over the weeks, months and years that seem insignificant but when you look back they all add up to be something quite remarkable.
Tonight I went for dinner with a friend, someone I haven’t known for very long but have many similarities in the way we think and act and our interests. I guess this is part of being an adult, that it’s no longer about the length of the friendship that validates it, but the quality. You can instantly meet people that you know you’ll be friends with for a long time, but you also reach a point where you have to evaluate friendships that don’t add anything to your life. Much like any relationship.
Tonight we got onto a conversation about training, being friends from the gym it’s obviously a common interest. How long have you done Crossfit, what did you do before, why do you do it, etc.
As the conversation started in one way and then gradually grew into a much greater, interlinked influence in my life, I thought I’d share it.
My story falls outside of the norm in some cases. I started about four or five years ago now. I trained for nine months in the UK, moved to the US, was really into it so kept it up. All normal so far.
Then I was unfortunately in a car accident where my (then) boyfriend and I were crossing the road and a turning car didn’t see us, he rolled over the bonnet of the car, then it ploughed into my knees and threw me up the road. We very stupidly opted not to go to the hospital, given that we were used to the NHS, we had no idea what kind of horrible debt we’d end up in (later totally some $30,000), which blinded us from the reality of what had just happened. In the morning when I couldn’t put any weight on my legs and was facing the prospect of a bus from Chicago back to New York, it was time to go and work out what the damage was.
At the time there was too much swelling to determine anything, just whack a full length leg brace on and give me some crutches and go see the doctor in a week or so. Likewise, his back was too swollen to determine anything other than no internal bleeding. A few weeks later I learnt I’d fractured my knee, just above the cartilage joining my shin and knee cap, so sensibly advised not to do anything with high impact. Leaving my year long fully paid Crossfit membership unused. A couple of months later he learnt he had a multitude of issues with fractures and bulging disks – boys will be boys, not getting things seen to, right?
Whilst I was disappointed and not really sure what to do with myself – as I had been generally very active and now barely able to make it to the kitchen, never mind the shops, work or the gym – I had the motivation of wanting to get back into the gym to push me to do as much physical therapy as possible. About 8-10 months on I still hadn’t been signed off to train and had become terrified of the prospect of getting back into a gym. Then I returned to the UK at the end of my visa, the doctor took one look at me and said, “it’s been 10 months, obviously you can do what you want now”. The difference between the US and UK is massive!
Yet now knowing that i could do what I wanted, I was so scared to do anything and end up in the same crippling pain. So I eased in, mostly with olympic lifting and realised I loved it but was fairly useless at it. Gradually added in sessions on my own in a simple, cheap gym, but got no satisfaction out of training, let alone any results. Finally it was time to get back at it – at which point I found a gym I loved (after trying about eight, determined I wouldn’t pay London nonsense prices).
All the while, I’d gone through some negative body image issues with having muscle, gaining weight and trying to get back to ‘normal’. Also hearing comments of relief and mild concern to take it easy in training because when I’d had muscly shoulders before “it could be a little confusing” combined with my short hair. This pretty much sums up the biggest red flag I somehow missed at the time.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing.
My tales through the night continued to the reality of toxic relationships and how life had been. How I genuinely thought I had been happy and at times, I still honestly believe I was. Yet in that scenario, in a new country, broken, it would be easy for anyone to miss a few red flags, or cling onto the perceived security.
I went through two years of any time there was an issue, my boyfriend would literally just leave me on a street corner, in a subway station, at a festival. An action he seemed not to see a problem with and because I knew the city better than him, I just got on with it, I was tough enough to deal with it. Either that or we’d scream abuse and I’d smash beer bottles drunk in the streets of New Orleans before having a far too public break up and getting on a flight to Vegas the next night.
Sometimes, I think of my life four years ago and wonder if I was really an actor in a terrible soap opera. Someone dreamt this up and I lived it, instead of just watching and shouting at the couple on the screen that they were idiots.
But what do either of these nonsense things have to do with each other?
As soon as I realised that I wasn’t going to get any happier without taking action, I moved out, I committed to training again, I committed to my job and I worked on myself – mostly, I read a lot and actively tried to be selfish, a concept that I had never been familiar with, as I was a perpetual people pleaser.
As I sat and told my friend these nonsense stories, I laugh at myself so much for putting up with it. I hadn’t even thought of how I’d changed, not really, until she pointed out how far I had come only in just two years – even if you only look at my training, the bit that she knows. To go from not being able to put weight on my leg to a 111kg back squat.
On a personal level, to put myself in the situation of having no friends in London by removing myself from a situation that brought me no joy, cutting myself out of everything I had known, in a city I was brand new to. Whilst everyone at home tried to convince me to come back and get out of the city. To now, having a group of some of the best friends I’ve ever had, some of the most encouraging, genuine, inspiring human beings I’ve ever met.
Simply, to wake up in the morning and know that I can do what I want to do and even if I don’t do it well, at least I’ve given it my best shot. I’ve tried. Instead of staying in because he was being moody and I felt guilty going out, or one of us would escalate a problem and ruin what could have been a fun memory.
Now I just get to be happy, to be active, to be positive, to learn and to grow. I also get to be grumpy or sleepy or sad if I want to be and it doesn’t end up being the problem of the day, it’s just life. You win some, you lose some.
I hope someone reads this and realises that just because you’re in a bad situation right now, it doesn’t mean you’re stuck there. There’s a lot of days left, a lot of life to live and a lot of good friends to find and change your life. It is scary to make change, but sometimes it really is worth it.