2016 Year in Review

2016 was painful. At times, beautiful. Often, both. I took my first science classes and fell in love. I ran the Green Narrows. I changed careers.

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Downtown

I spent a lot of time downtown. Spoke at PechaKucha (see the video). Served on TVCC’s board, and CWLI’s marketing committee. Ran my business. Went to a bunch of events.

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Whitewater

A number of new rivers, not the least of which was the Green (see the video of my first run).

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Hiking

I went to Vegas, Red Rocks, Zion National Park, Valley of Fire and even hiked around Chattanooga a little.

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Tutoring

I got to tutor this awesome kid in school. I taught him (with the help of many others) to kayak, to drive, to get good grades, and to workout. It’s so cool to see him grow up, one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

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What else…

Dating… well, I went to therapy the last two or three months of the year to try to figure out how to get out of this pattern I’m in, to learn to communicate more effectively, etc… I’m not sure if I made any progress, but I tried.

I see a lot of change in my future. It’s scary. It hurts. It’s wonderful. It’s lonely. It’s time.

It’s good to be alive another year.

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2015

Overall, I would say 2015 is the best year I’ve ever had in whitewater. So many goals were crushed and I’m really happy with how far I’ve come. It’s also been the best year of my career. The business is doing well, I’m developing leadership skills, and financially I’m in a better place than I’ve ever been. I saw the Pacific Ocean for the first time in my life, went skiing for the first time in my life, watched a bear fishing in the lake, ate fresh blackberries, ran Oceana in a kayak, learned to bake a perfect red velvet cheesecake, and paddled the Ocoee in the pitch black as a meteor shower danced in the sky.

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KAYAKING

Lots of Southeast Personal First Descents (PFD): White’s Creek, Daddy’s Creek, Cheoah, Tallulah, Richland, North Chick, McWhorter Gulf (kinda), an Ocoee night run, Chattooga Section IV.

I also took my first SWR class, support boated for Paddle School, and joined TVCC.

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TRAVEL

I took the coolest ever road trip to California / Colorado, went on my very first business trip to Raleigh,  attended WordCamp in Philadelphia, went skiing in North Carolina and visited my family in upstate New York & Vermont.

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DATING

I briefly lost my mind and joined Match.com. I had a few good dates, but mostly it was a disaster of epic proportions, a mistake never to be repeated. My favorite text from a guy said “Do mankind a favor and don’t ever date again. Go live in the woods or on your little boat…”

Hmm… Good idea, dude.

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COOKING

Meryl and I cooked almost every Monday night of 2015, and Rachel joined us a few months ago. We make a week’s worth of food at a time. It’s healthy, fun, efficient, and one of the best practices I’ve adopted as a single person in a very long time.

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LEADERSHIP

I am now on the board of Tennessee Valley Canoe Club and am the Chair of the Marketing Committee for Chattanooga Women’s Leadership Institute. I also joined the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce. It’s not a perfect resume, but I’m really working on building my credentials and my reputation in Chattanooga.

BUSINESS

I started 2015 by taking the CoStarters business class. I went from having a sort-of business partner to going completely solo, and remained a sole proprietor

I attended Startup Week, Will This Float, WordCamp and many, many other events this year. I built 8 websites, 2 logos, and a lot of collateral pieces. I got a really good grip on HTML & CSS (a refresher from years past), and learned a heck of a lot about WordPress, hosting, security and dealing with clients.

I feel this overwhelming pressure to learn Javascript, which is really hard to do with so much else going on. It’s the number one thing holding me back. 

 

HEALTH

I finally got my CrossFit gym built. I managed to injure myself a few times trying to lift too heavy (oops), so it’s going to be a slow process to get to where I want to be, but I’ve got time and goals aplenty.

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FAMILY & the Domestic Arts

I spent some quality time with my family and pretty much mastered the domestic arts. I can cook a complete Thanksgiving or Christmas meal, sew the basic stuff, fix a washing machine or dryer and remove a broken key from the trunk of my car. I finally got my own set of tools, make sure my car gets its oil changed regularly and pretty much have the “adulting” part of my life under control.

Top 14 from 2014

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1. The Grand Canyon

I spent eleven of the most amazing days of my life guiding a raft through these canyon walls.

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2. The Colorado Kanu Fest

The most surreal moment of 2014 — seeing a man drown on the river. Giving CPR to no avail. Despite all this, making new friends and falling in love all over again with the Rockies.

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3. Leaving SupplyHog

I had vowed to myself that I would stay at SupplyHog for two years. I was so weary of changing jobs. I wanted to feel settled. All of the came undone when the company restructured their operations, and I left.

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4. Starting Boho Studio

You see, I had made another vow to myself — that when and if I left SupplyHog, I would work for myself. Fail if I must, but at least try. I had to try.

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5. Cutting my Hair

I loved my long hair. LOVED it. I cut my hair because…. well, just because. And now I love short hair, but I think I’m going to let it grow back out. Oh, and I got a tattoo: “Die Biting the Throat.”

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6. Kayaking

I fully made the transition from raft guiding to kayaking this year. Finally bought my own boat. I don’t feel like I made a ton of progress. My roll has improved, I’ve run some rivers, but I’m still so far from where I want to be.

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7. Visiting New York

My mom and I went to Queensbury, NY to visit my brother and his family. We picked so many apples!

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8. Family Changes

My dad changed jobs after 30 years at Tennessee Temple & Highland Park. He is now working at Child Evangelism Fellowship, the perfect job for him. His new job required him to spend three months in Missouri at the Children’s Ministry Institute. Mom and I missed him a lot, but we were so proud of his 4.0 GPA when he graduated.

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9. Cheoah in the Snow

It was like a winter wonderland. 11 miles of whitewater in the snow. Cold, but perfect.

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10. The Zoo that is My House

There are always animals running around my house, and my backyard has become a mini dog park as neighborhood dogs come over to play. It’s never dull!

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11. New Friends EVERYWHERE!

I met so many cool people this year and went to so many cool events — Society of Work’s 20’s party, TopCon, YPAC’s Southern Soiree, Startup Week, Tedx, Will This Float, Code & Creativity, Brown Bags + Brilliance, AIGA’s meetups. The list keeps going, but suffice it to say that Chattanooga is an awesome city.

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12. Holidays, holidays, holidays

I love dressing up. What can I say?

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13. Launched First Responsive Website

I had too much fun working on this puppy. http://southernformsutility.com/

14. Stayed out of Debt, Paid all my Bills, Continued to Live Indoors & Feed Myself

This might seem like a small accomplishment, but I haven’t had a “real” job in eight months. I sold my work, I did the work and I formed a business that provided for my needs. This is truly all I could ask for. Now, bring on 2015!

The Grand Canyon

Could you drop everything in your life for fifteen days with only a week’s notice? With a budget of only $550 per person, these eight people planned the trip of a lifetime down the Grand Canyon in seven short days.

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The current system for receiving private permits to run the Grand Canyon is through a lottery. The first year an individual applies, he or she is given 5 points. The lottery occurs in February and people are allowed to select which dates they want. For every year that passes, an additional point is accrued. The more points, the more likely the odds of receiving a launch date. Throughout the course of the year, redraws occur due to cancellations. Morgan Wright, recent graduate of Georgia State University, had applied for a permit in 2013, knowing the waiting period averaged 10-15 years. She decided to apply for a redraw on May 22, 2014 and was notified that same evening that she had been awarded a launch date of May 29 — only seven days away. The deposit had to be paid by noon the following day to accept the launch date. If declined, her points would have been reset back to 1 and the waiting process would begin again.

Within 24 hours, a team of eight had decided to go, regardless of school, work or family obligations. Five people were meeting in Atlanta that Monday to drive 26 hours across country with all the gear. Two people would fly out from Atlanta, and one was flying from Hawaii. That left two days to borrow or rent boats and gear, purchase food, and pack. By utilizing everyone’s connections and equipment, the team was able to gather or borrow a 16’ Star Water Bug, a 12’ NRS Otter, 2 Dagger Green Boats, a Wavesport Recon, and a 4-door Tacoma for hauling people and gear cross-country. Additionally, Georgia State University allowed the team to rent dry bags, an oar frame, water jugs and a camp stove.

It was decided that additional gear such as extra paddles, a groover (solid waste container), a hand-washing station, signal panels and extra dry bags would be rented from Moenkopi Riverworks upon arrival in Arizona, and that each individual would be responsible to bring their own food. A menu was suggested to allow for group dinners, which most people utilized. The menu for breakfast was to be oatmeal and dry fruit; for lunch, peanut butter and jelly tortillas with trail mix; for dinner, a rotation between mac & cheese with tuna, rice with summer sausage and red beans, ramen and tuna, and spaghetti.

Five team members arrived in Flagstaff, AZ on Tuesday, May 27, where they purchased Tom Martin’s guide book (an excellent resource) and last minute supplies. On Wednesday, they picked up rental gear and the team member from Hawaii. The plan was to drop the gear off at the put-in and begin organizing before returning to Flagstaff that evening for the rest of the crew, whose flights were landing around 5pm.

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On the way to the put-in, a loud “BANG” jolted everyone in the truck, which held six passengers and was heavily weighted in gear. Call it weight, heat, altitude, over inflated tires, or just bad luck — half an hour into the shuttle ride, we blew the rear right tire. With no time to waste, Moenkopi Riverworks was hired to pick up four of the crew and all the gear, and take them to the put-in, while the rest of the team waited for a tow truck to haul the Tacoma back to Flagstaff for a full set of new tires. When the first wave of the crew arrived at the put-in, two other trips were finishing their inspections with the ranger and had their boats fully loaded and ready to go. The ranger looked at the new-comers with skepticism when they arrived at 6pm with nothing organized. It was late that evening before the rest of the team arrived at the put-in.

Early the next morning, gear was organized (at which time we noticed that we had received no toilet seat for our ammo can), boats were loaded, and final preparations were made by 9am, just in time for the ranger’s safety speech. Three kayaks and two rafts launched at noon that day, intending to paddle 23 miles. Within an hour, it became apparent that their intended goal would be impossible to reach. Brutal headwinds prevented the rafts from gaining hardly any ground, and the oarsman fought just to keep the oar rig from going backwards. This went on for hours, until finally the group made it to mile 18 where they camped for the night. A feast of spaghetti noodles and sauce lifted everyone’s spirits (along with a bit of white wine), and by dark, most everyone was sound asleep.

The next two days were filled with Class 5 and 6 rapids (on a 1-10 scale, not in accordance with the International Scale), beautiful scenery, and the clear turquoise water of the Little Colorado River tributary. The Roaring 20’s saw the loss of a GoPro, which fell off its mount, untethered, and became a sacrifice to the river gods. The mornings were relatively calm and peaceful, but afternoon headwinds raged for hours, making the trip painfully slow.

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One afternoon, Graham (from Hawaii) got on the oar frame and began to paddle. The trip was his first ever whitewater experience, but he seemed to be a natural at oaring, until reaching Zoaroaster, a Class 5 rapid. Intending to go left, he set his line, but at the last minute, the kayakers scouting below shouted to go right. Though he tried to correct, Graham plunged into the center of the rapid, hitting the hole straight but with no momentum, and flipped the oar rig. A bit of teamwork saved the day, but revealed that the food drybag had a leak. Two nights worth of pasta dinners were soaking wet. Micah laid the noodles out on top of a kayak to let them dry out. The spaghetti turned out ok, but the macaroni and cheese turned into lumpy balls of melted, doughy mess, which was eaten that night anyways.

On Day Four, the team prepared to face their greatest challenges on the trip – a series of Class 7 and 8 rapids that were known for huge waves, crushing holes, and technical lines. Hance, Sockdalager, Grapevine, Horn, Granite and Hermit were all happening in a single day. Approaching Hance, each boat picked their line and set off. The kayakers, staying left, set up safety. Then came the oar frame, which dropped in a little too far right at the entrance and missed their intended line. The oars slipped out of the oarsman’s hands for a moment, yet made it down the right side with no incident. The 12’ paddle raft, teased by commercial outfitters as a “baby boat”, made it safely down the left side. Everyone’s confidence was boosted by the success of the first Class 8 of the trip. Sockdalager and Grapevine went smoothly, and then came Horn.

At Horn, the first kayaker, Nell, portaged the rapid, identifying no line by which she could safely pass. The second kayaker, Morgan, went too far right and ended up front-surfing the meat of the biggest hole, before making it out safely a few moments later. The third kayaker, Mark, charged through a bit further to the left, but still flipped, then rolled and set safety for the rafts. The oar rig went first, its beefy tubes plunging into the top pourover with ease; it charged through the rest of the rapid like a champ. The paddle raft was next. From the kayaker’s vantage point, it was obvious that the raft was way too far right. Indeed, the boat plunged into the meat and was typewritered into a massive rock, where it spun into an eddy on the right in the middle of the rapid. Assessing the situation, the paddle team decided to portage the rest of the rapid over the rocky ledge, grateful to be upright and to have quickly recovered the one person who fell out.

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The day was getting late, everyone was tired, but there were still miles to be covered. Scouting Granite, the kayakers decided to run far left, away from the meat of the rapid. Micah and Stephanie scouted the rapid and debated lines through the rocks and holes and eddy lines. As Micah prepared the oar frame for launch, Stephanie reported to the paddle team that the rapid was likely to cause a flip and that the team should be prepared for a swim. One paddler decided to portage the rapid. Indeed, at the very beginning, the raft climbed a huge wave and was plunged into a massive hole, flipping the raft instantly. Swimming Granite was a gnarly experience, and everyone came out at the bottom unscathed but for a bruise on the foot. At that point, everyone decided to quit for the day and find a camping spot.

The next several days were filled with all kinds of fun, especially since the water levels had risen and the winds had started to subside. Havasu Falls was one of the best side adventures, the clear blue water refreshing everyone’s spirits. Afternoon hikes became a regular activity, and the team made steady progress.

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Meeting another group of private paddlers was one of the highlights of the trip. Noticing the minimal gear and food selection of the team, the group of 50-60 year-old rafters freely offered their beer, food, fresh margaritas and piping hot juevos rancheros for breakfast. Indeed, it was a good start to the day, which was to include the biggest rapid yet — Lava Falls. One by one, boat by boat, each kayaker and raft made it through Lava Falls without incident, charging down both the left and the right side.

A second oar frame flip occurred at Mile 209, yet another Class 5 rapid; this same rapid nearly flipped the paddle raft and caused one kayaker to swim. Carnage abounded, and so the team stopped to cook a hot lunch and regroup.

During the entire trip, it did not rain even once. Temperatures in the morning were cool, but warmed up as soon as the sun rose above the canyon walls. During the day, it got very hot, while evening temperatures remained warm. As the night wore on, temperatures cooled off again, and the cycle repeated.

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On the last evening of the trip, we set out on the night float, a 12 hour float across Lake Mead to the take-out. We tied all of the boats together, fashioned a bed on top of our gear, and assigned rotating shifts to man the oars to keep us on course. By daybreak, the team had made it to the take-out at Pearce Ferry, where a shuttle took them back to Flagstaff, AZ. There they feasted on pizza and beer, celebrating the adventures, misfortunes and fun of the last 11 days.

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Currently, many more permits are issued to commercial outfitters than to private boaters, at a ratio of 70-30. Commercial trips are also allowed to have many more people on the trip than private boaters. American Whitewater has played an instrumental role in advocating for the rights of private boaters to have fair access to the Grand Canyon. Please consider supporting American Whitewater to protect and restore rivers.

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*Photos courtesy of Soon Mac Kweon, Nell Steed and Graham Risch.

2013

2013 was transformative.

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:

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This year I ran in the Color Me Rad race. I don’t think I’ve run three miles again since then. YIKES…. Anyone feel like training for another race?

A time to make friendships, and a time to let them drift away.
A time to drink, and a time to abstain.

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Some friends rented a boat and we partied all day. It was one of the most fun times I had this year.

A time to be brash, and a time to be delicate.
A time for steel, and a time for fur.

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I got a cat. She’s seen most every bar and restaurant in this city, and attended MainX24 with me. She can even fetch. And, her fur is unimaginably soft.

A time for independence, and a time for limitations.
A time for selfishness, and a time for sacrifice.

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My nephew. I spent a week with him and my new niece in New York. That week made me realize that I may someday want a child of my own. I had SO much fun with those kids. Beautiful 🙂

A time to stay the course, and a time to change paths.
A time to persevere, and a time to quit.

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I got a new job working at a startup. I left a job that I loved at another company. This has been the craziest year of my career, and I hope my current path will be successful.

A time to prove something, and a time to let it go.
A time to explore, and a time to stay put.

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I went to the Gauley three times and R2’d with half a dozen new R2 partners. I ran the Russell Fork with people I barely knew. The Cheoah was the same. Tallulah Gorge was as amazing as ever. I learned that I am capable of more than I realized.

A time to have confidence, and a time to be afraid,
A time to watch the show, and a time to be the show.

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I got in a canoe. It was amazing. I also got in a kayak, equally amazing. One of these crafts will be mine soon, and I intend to spend the summer developing this craft. My raft guiding days…. well, I just don’t know.

A time for resolution, and a time for absolution,
A time to hold on, and a time to move on.

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A time to travel, and a time to stay home.
A time to party, and a time for solitude.

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To everything there is a season.
Happy New Years!

2012 Wrap-Up!

2012 proved to be a pretty successful year. I achieved several goals:

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In CrossFit, I got my 300# Deadlift, got my first handstand pushup, and got my first full depth squats on my heels and my first overhead squats. The only thing I missed was learning to do handstands.

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In rafting, the year was a phenomenal success. I added the Russell Fork, the Savage, the New, the Yough, the Chattooga and Tallulah Gorge to my repertoire thanks to some awesome friends and a wonderful boyfriend.

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Speaking of which, this year was the first time I’ve ever had an official boyfriend, and what an incredible journey it is to be with Caveman. He’s an awesome guy who never ceases to amaze me.

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As for holidays, this year’s Halloween was my favorite all around – from my favorite Cavewoman costume to the best Halloween party I’ve been to – it was a night to remember.

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This year I got my first apartment / house, signed my first lease, and paid my first utility bills. Yes, I sometimes still miss my mom and dad, even though they are not far away.

2012 was a year of firsts and milestones, but none of these things were terribly life-altering. Truth be told, I spent the first 7 or 8 months coming back from the Marines just trying to make a game plan and reorient myself. Once again, I don’t know where I would have been without the river. Without CrossFit. My twin pillars, these are the structural elements of my life that keep me sane. Though I took some time off at the end of the year from CrossFit, I am back in the swing of things and am reminded how greatly a workout improves my disposition. The same is true of the water, and I confess that my spirit is languishing with the torrents of rain all around me when all I really long for is to be surrounded by a murky brown river at flood stage.

To conclude this post, I will make mention of a man who died this year – a stranger whose death inspired me more than any other event, possibly, ever… Jeff West, an expert paddler, died on the Grand Canyon of the Stikine last year in the way I think we all hope to eventually go – “In the Exercise of Passion.”

Namaste.

Which reminds me of one final thing – I believe this is the year I will take up yoga. I long for a deeper connection to my body, a greater flexibility, and focused times of meditation. I had thought I would take up climbing, but realized once again that my interests must be limited in order to achieve the greatest results. CrossFit and rafting commands enough of my free time. Still, I am lacking something in my fitness regimen – something spiritual I think – and while yoga may not be the answer, it might be a good place to begin the quest.

Heaven help me if it turns out to be a studio of lulu-lemonheads…

Top Ten from 2011

10. Learned web design, and a bit of coding. Thanks to a great opportunity to work with Paniris, I got to really hone my skills and work on some killer projects.

9. Went to the beach with the girls. My favorite memory was definitely walking down the beach alone at 3:00 AM (not realizing my friends were out searching for me), finding myself two miles down the beach at a pier, barefoot, where I briefly fell asleep next to a fisherman. Coming back was not quite as fun, but it was certainly an adventure.

8. Got a nephew, Noah Whiting. He is going to be the coolest kid ever, and possibly the most photographed. Can’t wait to get back up to New York to see the little guy again.

Also got a new cousin – Cooper Montgomery. I had a very long conversation with him once, and he looked at me and listened like he understood every word. Pretty cool stuff.

7. Had a lot of adventures – my first hunting trip, 4-wheeling in the snow (and flipping twice), climbing (and falling), sleeping on the side of the road, crate-climbing, rope swings, urban exploring on rooftops, abandoned buildings, bridges and old bank vaults… The fun never ends.

6. Read some cool books and saw some interesting documentaries — The Fountainhead, Kiss or Kill, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Food Inc., Man on Wire. These all were my inspirations throughout the year.

5. Became an agnostic, basically. I finally came to the point where I realized that I had more questions than answers, and that I was tired of pretending like I knew everything. Some things don’t make sense, and neither science nor religion can explain them to my satisfaction. I lean more one way than the other, but I’m not absolutely sure of anything. So there. I don’t know what the answers are, and I’d rather live not knowing than have answers that don’t make sense. It’s time to let the evidence speak for itself, yeah?

4. Discovered Paleo eating and the Primal lifestyle. And I f’ing love it. There’s a million blogs out there dedicated to explaining what it’s all about, but basically it’s eating real food and getting back to the roots of what makes us human – playing, running, fighting and getting our hands dirty. As part of this, I learned to cook pretty well and I finally had an explanation for why having fun and being physical is so important to me – aside from the fact that I refuse to “grow up.” The way of thinking, the culture, the mindset – I just love it.

3. Graduated college. I suppose you could say that’s a pretty big deal, after five years of school. But I’m probably not quite done – I’ve got this crazy notion that science is interesting and now I gotta learn something about it. We’ll see where that leads (maybe physics, maybe medicine…), but in the meantime, I’ve got a BFA in Graphic Design. I have to say, art still blows my mind, and soon I’ll be writing a post on the Top 50 pieces of art that inspired me in college.

2. Went to the Marines, graduated OCS.  Ten weeks of hell, to be sure, and I’m real glad it’s over. No lie, I didn’t think I’d make it through. It was a learning experience, from the first PFT to the flight physical in Pensacola to the graduation ceremony on the parade deck. I’ll never forget it, and I met some pretty stellar people in the process. It inspired more in me than I had thought was possible, and it brought me to lows that I had never experienced before.

1. Finding CrossFit. Definitely #1 on the list, CrossFit may be one of the most incredible things I’ve ever found, let alone this year. I love being allowed to wear a sports bra to the gym. I love competing to be the best, even when I fail. I love the soreness after a WOD and the bruises on my legs and whip marks from missed double unders. I love seeing myself progress and get stronger, and I love being part of the community. I love watching other people work hard. I hate myself at times when I don’t perform as well as I should. I hate seeing how much more I should be able to lift. I hate being brought to terms with my weaknesses, and yet I love it because I know I can do better. At least I hope I can – that’s what this year will be – a “finding out” of what’s really possible. I don’t even know if I possess the motivation and ability to push myself during a WOD the way real athletes do, but I want to find out. CrossFit, cheers to you for keeping me sane, happy and motivated.