Just Keep Swimming!

My word is my bond.

If you don’t know what this means, it means that I always follow through with my promises. I don’t flake out on anyone—especially not myself.

The only thing getting in the way of your progress is you. People who make excuses do not accept responsibility for their actions. It is that simple. You have to be the change you want in life. This may all sound cliché but it’s true.

Everyone makes mistakes in life. People who understand and see the error of their ways are the ones who are more likely to learn and move on. Others, sadly, are destined to repeat their mistakes.

I am a person who rarely makes the same mistake twice. I have always learned both from my own mistakes and from the mistakes of those around me. I know what I want for myself, I know how I want my life to be, and I do everything I can to get there.

I have had obstacles in my path but I have overcome them. I have also made choices that diverted me from my path. Sometimes I took what I thought was the easy way out, but I always come back to the road that has led me here. Even though this is sometimes the harder, longer, road, it has the bigger picture at the end.

I am happy with the things I have accomplished in my life. Of course, I wish I had done some other things sooner, especially as I get older and realize how little time I really have left. When I was younger, I thought I had forever to do the things I wanted to do, but I am beginning to see how short life really is. My youth is behind me and I can see the second half of my life coming at me like a freight train. I don’t know how long I have left in this world—no one does. It could all end tomorrow, so when I look at my life I find myself grateful for my family and friends and for the life I have led so far. I have a wonderfully blessed life and I am grateful for it every day!

I love who I am. I am not a follower; I have always been a leader. I frequently put myself in uncomfortable situations to force myself to experience life. Doing new things and leaving my comfort zone has been scary at times, but it has really helped me to get the most out of my life. For example, when I was 24, I decided it was time to fly the coop, so to speak. I was tired of living life under a rock; it was time for me to really start living. I bought my first airline ticket and took my first vacation all by myself—all the way to Ireland. I had to figure out all of these things I never gave much thought to, like how to rent a car in a foreign country or how to make friends so far away from everything I’d ever known. But I figured it out, and my life is so much better for it. So much better, in fact, that I sold all of my belongings a year later and moved to Ireland!

When friends or family heard I was moving to a different country, they told me I was crazy. They actually asked me who I thought I was. They said, “Only people with money do these things, not people like us.” Guess what? I am not defined by how much money I make. I don’t let society decide for me what I can and cannot do. I decide what I do. I decide who I am and what I want from life. And I wanted to move to Ireland. So I did it. I saved money for a year, I did my research, I rented an apartment, and I got the hell out of dodge! I would do it all over again, too. It was one of the best experiences of my life. It also taught me a lot about life, and when I came back, I looked at my world a lot differently. I was humbled. I thought what I had before was pretty awful, but I realized how foolish I had been. The grass may have been greener in Ireland, but nothing magical happened just because I moved to another country. No leprechauns, no pots of gold. Life was the same, just as complicated and hard as before. It was harder, actually, being a foreigner no one wanted to hire. You know what though? I would still do it all over again in a heartbeat. It was an experience of a lifetime, and I did it on my own, even though it scared the hell out of me. It uprooted my life and made me step into the unknown, but it also made me see my life the way I should have seen it all along.

A few years later when I decided I wanted to buy a motorcycle, people laughed again, doubting that I would or could. I just said that when I could afford it I would have one, and then I worked towards that goal. I got my license endorsement to ride and I got a bike. It was exciting and scary, but exhilarating. I had my bike for two years before I had to sell it to buy my car. That’s life, though, nothing lasts forever. I hope to get a new one some day but until then I will bide my time and do the other things in life that make me happy.

When I was 34, I sat across from a surgeon who told me I had breast cancer. I was terrified. I knew the days ahead wouldn’t be easy, but I didn’t want my family or friends to know how scared I really was. I didn’t want them to worry. So I kept a brave face, only letting the fear out behind closed doors. I told them—and myself—that everything would be fine. And it was, thankfully. I am so very grateful to be alive and healthy.

That little scare caused two surgeries. After my second breast surgery, I decided that this all was a wakeup call. I needed to do more with my life; I didn’t want to live just going through the motions. I quit my job of five years to go back to school and make something of myself. I didn’t want the second half of my life to be a repeat of the first. I wanted to live the life I deserved, with no excuses. I got my first college degree in 2013 and will complete my second degree in 2018. None of this has been easy, but anything worth doing rarely is. There are a lot of sacrifices that go into accomplishing all of this, but I’m well aware that life requires a certain amount of sacrifice to attain any goal worth having. Nothing is free and nothing comes easy. When you accept that fact, it makes it easier to jump over the hurdles life throws in your way.

I am on a new journey now. It started two years ago when I started gaining weight at an alarming rate and was not able to lose it. I tried eating better, I joined the YMCA, and nothing happened. My doctor thought it was me—that I needed to work out more. I was so frustrated and depressed and I didn’t understand how this could have happened. I finally went to a doctor who actually knew what she was doing and I was diagnosed with endometriosis and PCOS, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. I was told I have had it for more than a few years and that this was the reason I had gained so much weight in five years. Because of this diagnosis, I will also never have children.

It has been a rough dealing with that knowledge, but I adamantly refused to let it defeat me. I decided to get my life back and had surgery to get rid of that weight and have been busting my ass since to keep it off. I know that there are a lot of people out there who think that weight loss surgery is a shortcut. That it’s the easy way out. I was that person before the surgery. I did a ton of research and planning before I agreed to it. Now I can tell you firsthand that nothing about this procedure is easy. I work so hard not to fall back into bad habits now so that I don’t undo all of the sacrifice and hard work that has gotten me this far. I refuse to let myself give up; I refuse to become complacent. I even have a tendency to be too hard on myself, like we all are, and I have to remind myself that I need a break sometimes, too.

I have cried, I have stressed, and I have felt like a failure when I cheated by eating pizza or cake. But I also stopped crying, calmed down, and got back on the horse every time. I force myself to be more active every day that I can. I had become sedentary; I was living my life on my ass. Sitting all day at work at a desk, and then to my couch at home afterwards. I don’t do that anymore. I force myself to get out of the house and do things. I even joined a martial arts school and am learning mixed martial arts as part of my effort to be more active and change my life. I’m doing this; I’m all in.

At this point in my life, I am living the American dream.  I have a loving, caring, and supportive family. I have a reliable car (knock on wood) and I am relatively happy with my job until I am done with school. I am healthy, I have good friends —I’m happy. Isn’t that what everyone wants? It is, but I want more.

So I decided to chase my dream. You know what I’m talking about, that dream that everyone has in the back of their minds. The one they think could never happen. I decided that there is not anything I cannot do. I mean, it seems like I keep doing things everyone thinks I can’t do already, so why not do the one thing in my life that I have always wanted? This is the one and only thing I would regret if I didn’t at least try. I am a writer. I always have been. I love creating stories and one of my dreams is to become a bestselling author. Why dream small, right?

*edit* I have since learned a lot more about the book publishing industry and would consider it an accomplishment to just have my book picked up by an agent, I would feel like a success in that alone, it need not be a best seller after all lol.

I recently decided to pursue another passion of mine, Music. I have been a passionate lover of music my whole life and have dabbled here and there in several different instruments but never became a master of any. I decided to change that, I finally got myself a decent guitar and have been devoting all of my extra time to it, every single day since I got it I play.

I am picking it up faster than I thought I would …I learned 12 chords in 2 weeks and am playing songs all over the genre board..I was definitley meant to do this!

I am ever-evolving, I refuse to let life pass me by. It’s going by too quickly as it is, and I don’t want to miss a minute of it. I can’t even sleep in on the weekends anymore, and now I understand why people don’t: there is too much life to live and there are too many things to experience and accomplish. I can sleep when I’m dead!

Why am I putting all of this out there for the world to see? I haven’t laid it all out there, trust me. There are a lot of more personal things going on in my life that I’ll keep to myself. But the things I chose to share I did for a reason. I want to inspire someone, anyone, to live his or her life to the fullest. If I can reach even one person, to help him step outside of his comfort zone and do something he was too afraid to do, then it’s worth it. If I can inspire one person to see how beautiful life is and that nothing is impossible, it’s worth it. If I can make one person see that there isn’t anything in this life you can’t get if you want it badly enough to sacrifice for, then it’s worth it.

I am also writing this for myself. I still get discouraged; I am human. It’s easy to forget the wonderful things about our lives sometimes and to fall into negativity and complacency. It’s harder to stay positive and sometimes forcing yourself to write it down and share it with others helps you see the light again. This is how I self-medicate.

There is nothing extraordinarily special about me, other than the fact that I love and believe in myself. I don’t come from money—in fact, the opposite, I come from poverty. I come from the poor inner city like a lot of the people I know. I come from hardworking, underpaid parents who I love and appreciate. Their paycheck means nothing in the scheme of things, but it fueled my desire to make more out of life, which is something I know they also want for me.

Your past is your past and out of your control. Your future is in your hands; you can and will make that future what it is, whether by making good choices or bad. Everyone hits hurdles and obstacles along the way; everyone sees hard times because that is a part of life. Just know that it is never too late to turn those mistakes into new opportunities for the future. I will be DAMNED if I let my past dictate my future, and you should know and want the same for yourself.

Successful people got where they are today because of sacrifice, hard work and the knowledge that it was up to them and only them to keep going.

I am not done with my journey. I know I have a way to go, but I am on my way and I know what I need to do to get to the finish line. I will not let anything or anyone—even myself—stop me from living this precious life to the fullest. Ever.

I have dreams, and I make them come true. So can you.

Just keep swimming…Never give up!

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