“You can be anything you want if you put your mind to it.”
Living in New York City the past few months has made me realize just how true the above statement is. Of course, that phrase is often used in accordance with a discussion about career paths and serious life decisions.
But it is also true when it comes to the every day.
Often times it’s the little things that add up to make you who you are and your life what it is. You make choices every day that define you. For instance, making the choice to get up in the morning and run, or attend an after work yoga class in lieu of happy hour with co-workers, that makes you an athlete. You can become a chef in your own home simply by picking up fresh ingredients at the local farmers market and cooking dinner rather than ordering in. Spending your weekends living out your passions, whether it’s walking the city with your camera, playing frisbee in the park with your dog, or skydiving with your adrenaline junkie friends, that makes you a photographer, an outdoorsman, and a skydiver, respectively. Even the smallest choices like being a healthy eater or a budgeter (is that a word?), can make the biggest differences in how your life unfolds.
Here’s the thing about definitions – they’re what you make them. If you think that in order to be an “athlete” you have to compete professionally and be famous for it, then there’s a high likelihood you’ll never define yourself that way. But, if you see athletes as those who push themselves physically, who use their body the way it was designed – as your greatest instrument – and are always pushing the limits, striving for improvement, then all it takes is a few right choices to get you there.
But what’s so important about the definition anyway? (Thanks to A Life Less Bullshit for a bit of inspiration.)
Well, for some it’s not. But for others, it’s a way to stay motivated, to make the choices that will lead you to the path to becoming what it is you want to be.
It’s easy, especially in a city like New York, to fall into a routine of coffee, commute, work, happy hour, commute, dinner at 10pm, sleep, repeat 5 times, then booze it up on Friday, day drink Saturday and Sunday and repeat the whole process. There’s always someone in the city willing to grab a drink, there’s always a networking event happening, there’s always an excuse to put off your plans till tomorrow. But it comes down to personal choices, because there’s always people out running, taking spinning classes, or even just willing to go to the park on a nice day to get off the couch. It may not always be the popular decision that’s the right one for you. It’s taken me a few months to realize that just because everyone else is settling into the bar for the evening doesn’t mean I can’t just have one drink then head to spin class as planned. Sure, you might get some flak for it, but it comes down to what’s most important for you. Sometimes, that drink(s) with co-workers is just what the day requires. And sometimes, skipping a fun weekend of day drinking in the city to head to the dropzone is the only choice for sanity sake.
Taking into account all the decisions you make in a day, what can you change in order to define yourself the way you want?
Moments of clarity tend to come to me at all times of the day. Today, it was on the stair climber at the gym, where I effectively wrote most of this post. Hope you enjoy!
It’s not uncommon to hear skydivers word vomiting about the importance of following your dreams – doing and living what you love. After all, we found our passion and want nothing more than to see the rest of the world seeking out theirs. Really, we only do this with the best of intentions.
But let’s be honest, for most of us, and even those who preach about living their passion, it’s not all unicorns shitting rainbows over here. Nothing is perfect all time time. It’s about balance. We have decisions to make to get us to our optimal level of happiness. As i see it, so long as the positive outweighs the negative, regardless of how that ratio fluctuates day-to-day or even moment-to-moment, I’m all good.
I tend to see life as a series of events rather than an ongoing stream of consciousness. This outlook allows me to pull happiness into my life in multiple ways throughout the day. I’m not an all or nothing girl, so if something doesn’t work out at 9am, my day isn’t shot, there’s still plenty more opportunity to have an amazing day – this also keeps me in check from allowing one let down to spiral out of control into a bad mood that lasts longer than anyone around me would prefer.
Every day I make it a point to do something I love – often multiple things. I guess that’s easy to do when you have so many things in life that make you happy. As I’ve mentioned before, I couldn’t “quit life” to become a skydiver because I like diversity in my every day…not to mention that I’m not ready to make my hobby into a job. As one friend said to me recently “make anything ‘work’ and it takes just a little bit of the awesomeness out of it.” I prefer to stay in awe of this sport and this community every day. Jaded can wait.
But back to happiness here….
Finding ways to fold those activities that make me happy into each day is my key to sanity and keeping that positive to negative ratio in my favor. Here are just a few things that, at the end of the day, make me smile.
It’s not just coincidental that I’m here, sharing a few times each week with y’all. As much as I love keeping this community satisfied, let’s be honest, I’m here for me too. Writing is cathartic. It’s how I sort through my thoughts, how I make sense of the craziness going on in my head sometimes. By writing it down, I’m able to sort through the crap to find the meat of my thoughts. I attribute my ability to reflect, learn and grow every day from my writing. It’s by far my best creative outlet. (If I haven’t said it lately, thanks for sharing it with me.)
There’s a running joke that I have a hug quota, but sometimes I really believe it to be true. Sometimes, a hug can just make everything better.
Sharing laughs with over a beer
Whether it’s on a patio after work or around the bonfire at the dropzone after a day of skydiving, spending this type of time with my friends is crucial to my happiness. Now, for those who have been paying attention, I have to call myself out on this before you do – yes, I realize I’m a bit of a hypocrite here. Earlier this year I wrote about a friend of mine who criticized me for not having a social life because I wasn’t out at the bars every night after work. I still stand behind the fact that I don’t need to go out and drink every night to consider myself social, and that I’d rather put the money spent on $7 beers toward skydiving, but I will admit that after first moving to Atlanta I was a bit of a hermit. I was going through some personal crap and the last thing I wanted was to be out with other people while I had a lot to work through on my own. That said, I do understand the value, and often the need, to have this quality time with friends over a beer or three. I’m so lucky to have the friends I do here and am incredibly thankful for the packed social schedule it provides. I’ve never felt so much like myself as I do now.
That said, I value my Ashley time immensely. A gym membership is always one of those things I’ve struggled with because, honestly, I don’t want to spend the money every month. That’s two extra skydives people! Truth is, I need that time at the gym. Instead of taking “me time” on the couch cuddling with the dog as my brain turns to mush in front of the TV, I’m able to do some cardio and lift some weights while I work through the thoughts in my head.
I like to feel good about myself, and when I’m doing things to push my mind and improve my body, I leave the experience exhausted yet feeling amazing knowing I’ve accomplished something. Challenge makes me happy – hence picking up a sport like skydiving. And we can’t forget about those endorphins. There’s a reason I start every morning by heading to the gym – it sets the tone for the day and gives me a nice little kick start. Lately I’ve even found myself heading back there after work if I don’t have other plans. Why sit around surfing the channels when I could be doing something positive for myself instead, right?
Of course, that doesn’t mean that I don’t like my downtime. Aside from Thursday nights (because let’s be honest, that’s the best TV night), I often find myself curling up with a good book. Sometimes there’s just nothing better than losing yourself in another reality with a good novel. Although lately I’ve found myself craving non-fiction as well. I like to soak up knowledge on things like psychology, human behavior and of course skydiving. Sometimes even a good magazine will do – subscriptions to Blue Skies Mag, Psychology Today, Women’s Health and Parachutist keep me happy there.
It’s amazing what even 10 minutes of deep breathing and focusing on your body can do for your emotional well being.
Quality time with my dog
Whether it’s going to the dog park, out on a walk around the neighborhood or chilling on the couch, my dog always puts me in a happy place. Every day she makes me laugh, and for that I am grateful.
At the gym, reading, cleaning, at work….these are just a few of the times you’ll find me with ear buds in and jamming along to the appropriate tunes for the circumstances. Blasting music and singing at the top of my lungs is the only way I get through chores and long drives. Music has played a big role in my life for as long as I can remember. I was a “band geek” even through college. I have a music inspired tattoo. I am often found tapping my fingers, my feet, my hands along to a rhythm that only I can hear inside my head. Something about music touches my soul and there’s always a song to put me into whatever state I desire most. It’s amazing how influential music really is in my life.
The smell of pumpkin and lavendar
Let’s be honest, we’ve touched on most of the other senses here…you can’t ignore that scent can be quite mood altering. Something as simple as lighting a lavender candle in my house can be enough to calm the day and put me in a happy place.
What’s that? Did I really just say work? That thing that everyone is trying to escape so they can live their lives? Well, to be honest, I enjoy a solid day of work. Productivity makes me happy. I feel satisfied after tackling those items on my to-do list. I often find myself volunteering to help out with events – hence my up-and-coming philanthropy consulting that we’ll be talking more about in the coming months. I rep for Deepseed not just because I love their products but because it gives me something to pursue while on the ground at the dropzone. When friends have projects they need help with, I’m the first to lend a hand. At the end of the day, if I’ve accomplished something I can be proud of, I’m happy.
Having something to look forward to is critical in my life. I love traveling to new places, jumping at new dropzones, testing out different wind tunnels, or even just going to visit friends in a new city. Variety definitely is the spice of life.
Making others happy
It makes me happy to put a smile on someone’s face. I’m always happy to help out a friend in need or do something out of my comfort zone to make someone else happy. I’ve been known to be that random stranger on the street who compliments someone when they look like they’re having a rough morning – after all, that may be the nicest thing they hear all day.
You didn’t think i was going to leave that off the list, did you? Freefall is my happy place. Skydiving is by far my biggest passion and if I could, I’d do it every day for the rest of my life.
So tell me, what makes YOU happy?
Love and Blue Skies!
I’ve always said that dogs have this way of showing us how not to take life too seriously. Just when things start to get real, my Sabre dog will do something silly that makes me laugh so hard I forget why I was frustrated in the first place.
Today as I was walking her through the neighborhood I realized something – aside from the essentials like food, water and shelter, all dogs need to live a happy life is love and exercise. Which made me realize that when you get right down to it, that’s all we humans need too. At the most basic level, these are the things we are seeking out every day – exercise through the sports we play, the time we spend outdoors, the hobbies we call our passions and love through the relationships we cherish, the communities we seek and the pets we call our own.
Skydiving is one of those things that allows me to find both. I love the feeling of sore muscles after a long day of jump, pack, repeat or spending an hour in the tunnel on the weekend. I find myself seeking out challenging yoga classes knowing that it’ll help tone and strengthen in preparation for the tunnel (and that whole mind/body connect thing doesn’t hurt either), and the community that surrounds the sport provides me with that much needed human connection on a regular basis.
That’s really it – this is more of a random Monday thought.
Curious though – how do you fill your need for love and exercise?
Today I searched The Google for “yoga blogs” and came up pretty much empty handed. There are lots that were started back in 2009, 2010, but that have become abandoned real estate at this point.
Back in 2009, it’s this type of search that led me to start a Skydiving Blog – there just weren’t any out there. Of course, now if you search for skydiving blogs you’ll come up with more than a handful of pretty great sites to visit – rock on fellow skydiving bloggers!
That said, from what I know about yogis vs. skydivers, I get the sense that, generally, we extreme sports enthusiasts like to talk about and share our experiences in the sport moreso than those in the world of yoga. Granted, skydiving is a much more public sport, it’s much more visual, but in my experience, there are so many layers to yoga that can easily be explored in writing.
As I’ve mentioned in the past, skydiving and yoga have so much in common. Yoga is an amazing method of training for your time in the sky because it keeps you flexible, elongates your muscles and strengthens your mind/body awareness that is essential to skydiving. When I’m not in the sky, I practice a lot of yoga to keep myself limber and strong. Of course, I also practice meditation that encourages visualization – which is one more way to train your mind to replay the perfect skydive technique when you can’t be in the sky.
All that said, I want to start filling a bit of a void in the online universe and start posting more about yoga. No, I’m not going to abandon my skydiving discussions, but I do think it will be valuable to readers out there to hear a bit from the mind of a yogi every now and again.
If you have opinions or feedback as I post about yoga (and subsequently how these learnings relate to life and skydiving) please don’t hesitate to let me know in the comments, on Facebook or on Twitter. And if there’s anything you want me to cover, give me a shout.
Love and blue skies!