Sunday, May 17, 2015

Who are your biggest influences?

Continuing with the theme of my growth as a person and to be a better person, I decided I should acknowledge the people who have influenced me the most in my life - the list is long, but I want to acknowledge the standouts in my mind right now.

Of course my mom and dad make the top of my list, since they raised me to be a good person, hardworking, determined, and to ride the highs and lows. We have been through A LOT as a family, but they always made sure my sister and I had good family to lean on. Mom and Dad have also been really understanding with my disorder.

My sister. Wow, my sister. Every time I think I have problems, I think about what she has been through. 15 years of medical problems with no diagnosis until three years ago. She has had multiple surgeries, spinal taps, and complications. Top that off with 5 brain surgeries in 2 months - I have no room to complain. Whenever I am out training or racing and I feel like giving up, I think of her. She doesn't have the opportunity to do what I do. She can't risk injury to her head because she no longer has part of her skull so biking is a no no. Just that thought helps drive me through that 100 mile ride, the last part of the marathon in the Ironman, I just think of what she went through. I really am blessed to do what I do.

I have had so many people mold me into the person I am today. They may not know how big of an impact they have made, but they should know how thankful I am. Swimming at UNLV clearly changed my life. When I was recruited, I knew I would be a walk-on, but I had big goals. One of the reasons I chose UNLV was when Jim talked about Alyson Noble and her work ethic and desire to be the best. Yes Noble, I am pretty sure I wrote this in your senior scrap book, but I have to call you out again. It was such an amazing experience swimming with you, even if it was only a year. I just wanted to be able to work hard like you and have that drive.  You handled it all so well. You went through the grind day in and day out. It paid off. The impact that had on me shaped my mentality for the rest of my swimming career.

Jim and Kunio took me in and not only made me a good swimmer, but a better person. I was difficult to deal with and they put me in my place. They made me realize that it was ok to have big goals even if people thought it impossible. NOTHING is impossible. Let's face it - I was not even on the radar as being competitive in D1 swimming my first year. But I knew what I wanted to accomplish, and I knew the work I had to put in. 4 years and 2 minutes faster later, I accomplished that impossible goal. I managed what very few people get to experience all because I was not afraid to believe in that big goal. I even had a few team mates who admitted they didn't think I could do it after the fact, but acknowledged all the hard work I put in. My swim friends always supported my crazy goals - Tiff, Lauren, Soph, Jen...the list can go on and on.

Perhaps my biggest influence lately is actually my 22 year old self. In recent years I have been afraid to set big goals because I am afraid of what people will think. My 22 year old self did not give a crap what people said - I just did the work. I found that the only way to start believing in that you can do it, is to say it out loud everyday. That is what I did before and that is what I need to do now. I have big goals. I will get a job that I will enjoy. I will make Kona. You may doubt, but I will do it. I will quietly work on it everyday. I will dig deep and put in the work every day. I am more powerful than I can ever imagine It's not over until I win.

"This year I will make this goal a reality. I won't talk about it anymore. I can, I can, I CAN."

It all started somewhere. (I am in the grey cap and red goggles)

Monday, May 11, 2015

Dance like no one is watching

Anyone remember this song?

That's right. WEAR SUNSCREEN.
"DANCE, even if you have nowhere to do it but your own living room."

This song came out when I was in 8th grade and since I am having a slight third-life crisis I have been looking back and asking myself if I have lived my life the way I have wanted to. Quite deep thoughts for someone who should be looking forward to this new chapter. But honestly, things have not been great lately. Prior to last week I had been cycling again. I was completely down on myself and was feeling dead inside and worthless. I knew it wasn't true, but my mind was telling me otherwise. I was feeling very awkward and paranoid about how people were viewing me. I was actually bad enough that I was scared to leave my house. It was a serious mental struggle for me to leave for work in the mornings. I am pretty sure that if I didn't have such a rigid routine in the morning, I would not have made it to work at all.

I am not going to lie, work has been hard. I am bored. I find what I do right now boring. It really is soul crushing. Mostly, I feel like this postdoc was nothing but fail and I was pretty much hung out to dry and was left to navigate things on my own. I think this is what triggered the cycling. I was (and still am) worried about how I was viewed. The thing is, I work hard, but the job is not rewarding. My contract ends in 4.5 months and I am really looking forward to a clean slate. And by clean slate, I mean I want to completely 180 my career. I have been looking at a second postdoc that has absolutely nothing to do with what I have done before. That actually gives me hope that I can love what I do again. I NEED different. Anyway, enough of that tangent. Back to my feelings about my self-worth.

This past weekend I went to my friend Audrey's bachelorette party in wine country. Last week I was feeling pretty anxious about it. I was excited, but was extremely worried about meeting new people and how they would view me. Not only that, I was worried how I would take to being around strangers. I have a tendency to isolate and I constantly feel out of place. I also get panicked when people start talking loudly and I will shut down. It doesn't always happen, but my mood had been so whacked out that I was genuinely worried. The other thing is, is that I don't drink anymore, so I was even more worried that they would think I was lame and a downer.

Turns out it was all in my head. No. One. Cared. They actually understood and the funny thing is my mood shifted towards the positive. It is weird when I come out my episodes - it usually happens suddenly. It literally is bipolar. Everyone was accepting of me. No one questioned why I would come to wine country if I couldn't drink, no one cared about my appearance, and no thought I was weird (at least I hope not). There were a couple of time over the weekend that I did get over-anxious - I did go to bed early on Friday night because I was getting overwhelmed, but other than that my mood got increasingly better. ESPECIALLY when we went dancing. I always love dancing sober, drunk, or whatever is in between. There is something about it that is cathartic to me and really lets me feel "whole". Cheesy, I know, but it is the damn truth. In fact, Audrey's friend Kelly totally made my night when she mentioned that is was really awesome that I don't even have to be drinking to go out there and have good time. Seriously, sometimes it is those little comments that get me through episodes. People don't realize how much those little pieces fill the weird/crazy/broken puzzle that is me. So Kelly, if you are reading this, thank you. That comment turned my attitude around. In that moment, I stopped caring so much and I actually felt like "me," whatever that "me" is. For the first time in a long time, I like who I am. I am not saying that it is all rainbows and unicorns, but I actually like the person I have become. I can be "me" even with this disease. This was a long time coming, but I no longer like to think of myself as two different people - that there is the the real Lani and the crazy Lani. People accept the manic/depressed/normal Lani as one person, so why shouldn't I do the same? I am not saying this weekend was what changed the process, but it was the final push. Who knew that two days away could do that? Who knew meeting a bunch of new people could help me find acceptance without them even knowing?

I don't know where this disease will take me in life, but I have definitely learned how to combat it. Something about accepting my flaws and all makes it easier and I am going to continue dancing. So I will leave you with this:

"When you dance, your purpose is not to get to a certain place on the floor. It's to enjoy each step along the way."