I might have lost it in Physical Growth and Motor Development today if things didn’t start turning around.  It’s only Tuesday and I need this week to be over.

Those of you following me on twitter may recall the week prior to reading week I had three exams in twenty-eight hours. I started studying early, because the pressure was on. Lead-up to exams was stressful, not to mention I arrived at my Program Planning in Sport exam with mere minutes to spare after missing my bus and my mom coming to pick me up and the whole relaxation-exercise-in-the-car thing. I took all of the allotted time, and thought it went okay.  Principles of Coaching was much the same, though I left pissed off that 15~ marks were riding on my knowledge of very specific terminology and hierarchically outlined structure of the ethical decisions in sport because I had spent more time reviewing glycolysis and energy systems.  The afternoon pretty immediately following Program Planning I had Physical Growth and Motor Development, which people terrified my friend and I about. That the exam was hard and the final harder. That if we didn’t word things perfectly, we wouldn’t get the marks.

Yesterday, I received the 52% on my Principles of Coaching midterm. With a 75% on my research proposal, a research paper, and a final exam left, I am not too concerned — I have made similar comebacks in Intro Kinesiology with a worse midterm grade.  This morning I found out I got 59% on my Program Planning in Sport exam.

And this pushed me over the edge. I handed my exam back in, and went to my mom’s office, which I left blinking back tears that I finally let go once I was leaning against the locked metal stall in the main floor bathroom.

You can’t spell degree without a D [there is the humour for the post, which I am not feeling, by the way].  This scares me.  I am literally kissing any chance of getting into occupational therapy school goodbye each time I fail something since my GPA is currently too low regardless. [Note: I haven’t even failed anything yet and because I am getting D’s I am already in the failing mentality]. It’s not good enough, not good enough for a LOT of Master’s programs.
Unlike a lot of schools internationally, there’s no chance for exam rewrites. I know I still have a year-plus left, but the courses are not getting easier. The applied health courses I am actually good at are behind me, and I am facing the very harsh reality of not getting my GPA high enough to do what I want to, not to mention that the school I was seriously contemplating has for the last five years only admitted students with an A- average for the last year of undergrad.

Ironically, I am doing worse in the first and second year courses I am in than in the third year ones. Last term in my third-year courses I got A-s, and a B in second-year Issues in Sport.  To hold true, in contrast to the first-year Principles of Coaching and the second-year Program Planning in Sport, in the still second-year but as ranked harder by people I’ve met class?  That would be a 78% on my Physical Growth and Motor Development test.  (Which essentially saved me from just quitting school this afternoon after an afternoon of altercation with a group member for another class, the assignment of another group project in Motor Development, and all of the above ridiculousness.)  The voluntary withdrawal date is tomorrow, which means if I am getting out of Program Planning I have to make that decision fast or it is a done deal and is on my transcript forever.

I’ve always cared about school, but I’ve never simultaneously loved it so much and so much felt like I wasn’t able to handle it. Like there is too much going on academically, like I can’t pay attention well enough to all of the details, like I am doing too much because I want to do it all . . . like I am not good enough. Like I am trying my hardest and that isn’t good enough either.  In such a short period of time, I have never been so let down by so much stuff going on at school.

My friend Bobbi-Jo and I had a nice heart-to-heart outside the athletic centre today. Where we tried to let it go following class as I shivered.  Where we talked, laughed through the shit, hugged it out, and opened our hands towards the sky.

I’m still trying. Trying to decide what I am going to do.

Still trying to let go of the letdown.

I’ve started journalling again. It’s my Lent Thing this year, I think. Not that I have any serious attachments to Lent or whatever, as I am 1) not Catholic, and 2) not uber traditional, and 3) not a huge fan of the “religion” thing and 4) feeling a little more divided than usual from all my typical pondering on what it means to be a Christian, but since it kind of happened simultaneously, I think it’s a good time to be intentional about these kinds of choices.

The journalling thing was a bit of a production. The thing is, since I was like ten when I started journalling, I’ve always just used scraggly kicking-around notebooks. Apologies to anybody who bought me a diary with a lock and a pretty front at any point in my life, because they just don’t work for me. I rock the Dollarama-Notebook or the 40-Page-4-Pack-Notebook or, in the case of the notebook I pulled out yesterday, the Black-Dollarama-Notebook-That-Has-Been-Kicking-Around-My-Room-For-Over-A-Year-And-Is-Beat-Up-Before-I-Even-Started-Writing-In-It.  These are the kinds of notebooks I use, and I have no idea why.  Even when I was searching out a notebook in my abyss of a bedroom on Wednesday, I found some really nice notebooks. Like glittery flowery butterfly-y ones, but I couldn’t justify using them to journal in.

I have no idea, honestly.

The thing is, I think that this simple action has set me up for what was coming today.

First, I will start by saying that I am twenty years old and I have a financial planner.  So because of this financial planner business, I get e-mails all the time from his Events Manager [I forget her actual title] inviting me to things like free IMAX with free popcorn in exchange for attending a seminar about retirement.  These, despite the free popcorn, are the kinds of things I opt out of seeing as I have only actually had a job for two years and therefore have another at least twenty five, and a whole lot of school, to go before I retire. [I am toying with the idea of amping up my 3-year kinesiology degree to a 4-year, because this seems like a good idea, except more difficult and will take me another year to get through, at least].  So maybe considering I will be in school for the foreseeable future, it is a good thing I have this financial planner guy on my side.  He is a triathlete, so once I found that out I thought he was pretty awesome. Like “Hey, this is a guy I can trust with my money.” [I didn’t actually think that, but I mean, triathletes have to save money to maintain their bikes and buy running shoes and swim gear and consume GU and enter Ironmans and travel to Ironmans right? Anyway, triathletes are awesome.]

It turns out he has a Life Coaching-esque business on the side, and he hosted a Wellness Symposium today. Granted, if I didn’t have the background that I do, I would have had no idea that wellness is the holistic meshing of a variety of domains of health: physical, social, emotional, spiritual, environmental, occupational, because this was not explained at the symposium. So when I got the e-vite to this thing, I got my friend Tara on board and we decided to go on the notion that there might be free fruit, and there was (also my mom came too).

What does my obsession with not-pretty-notebooks have to do with this?

To summate my 2012 goals, I think this is what it is: it comes down to being intentional.  For setting myself up for success.  Over the next 40 days, my life is going to fill that notebook. The good, the bad, the questions, the decisions, the goals, the process. It’s the coming together of the choice to be intentional about what I am doing.  It’s something I feel that I need to be more focused in, and if I’ve been doing the journaling bit since I was ten [sporadically, I might admit], then it’s gotta be of some sort of therapeutic value in my life, even if subconsciously. It’s gotten me through a lot.

It’s an intentional call to be still in the midst of the chaos that is life and actually experience it for what it IS, and hopefully not what it could be. [That is another focus for another night, the being in the moment stuff. Because I am apparently becoming all wrapped up in psychology for a kinesiology major.]

It’s not about the ending, it’s about the story.

It’s about trusting the process.

–against the night, ari shine


I am a congenital heart defect [CHD] survivor — I had it easy. My defect, an opening between the aorta and pulmonary artery, closed by itself shortly after I was born, with the only lasting effect a slight and “innocent” heart murmur. Friends have shared stories of their CHD experiences — one who was not aware of her defect until adulthood, another who has memories and scars from childhood, but still needs to pay close attention to cardiac symptoms on a daily basis and check in with her doctors regularly. We are CHD survivors.

One of my best friends from grade two forward did not have this experience. She had multiple surgeries on her heart from the time she was young . . . and died suddenly and unexpectedly when she was twelve–in the seventh grade.  There is still work to be done.

My friend Mike is a young person living with congestive heart failure, living with day-to-day uncertainty of what will come next, and when.  Waiting for answers, and continuing on with his life while he and his team try to determine the next steps.  Longing for answers and options.

This weekend, my best friend’s dad had a moderate-to-massive heart attack.  Things are rough for them, so please pray or send vibes their way.  Life will never be the same for her dad or their family. There is a lot of desperation, a lot of prayer, a lot of tears . . . and a lot of hope. The story is still being written.

Our stories are all different.  Yet we live with “hearts of gold that don’t always work right“.

. . . Without anything to say about it. It has little to nothing to do with our choice, it’s all chance.  Our hearts choose our realities.

We do our best to live.  Hope. Love. Run. Laugh.

We do our best to fight.

February is Heart Month.

Join the fight.

Last week I had a really awesome track workout.  Because of the awesomeness both Sam and I experienced, we decided to go back this morning before class.  Now, to be perfectly honest, because I’m in the gym at least one class a week, my exercise train has not derailed as much as it could have potentially during midterm madness [three exams in less than 36 hours is not fun], so Movement Ed, I am grateful for you, as am I for having a job where i can play around in the gym . . . and get paid for it [noodle hockey anybody?].

So this morning, I told my Twitter friends to have an intentional day, and went to school two and a half hours before my class started, and got the exercise train back on the literal track. And despite my breathing not being fantastic (mornings sometimes a little rough), I was determined to make the most of it and try to go kick my own ass out there.  Because “K-I-C-K-A-S-S, that’s the way we spell success.” (–Giant, Matthew Good).

Today’s workout? It was hard. I left it feeling more exhausted than energized, and basically forced myself around the track for 45 minutes. I was TRYING. I was trying to be like “Yeah! This is awesome!”. Except it wasn’t.  My cousin Dean was there too, along with Sam and I, and the kid just effortlessly basically runs straight out for half an hour (It blows my mind that people can still breathe when they do that, and then I remember that only 10% of us have screwed up lungs. And 50%~ of that 10% of us with asthma do not exercise. In Canada, that amounts to 1.5 million people.  And now I have gone and scared myself with statistics about exercise engagement and asthma and want to go change the world.

And you know why half of asthmatics probably don’t exercise?  The conclusion I came to on the track today while slogging through 5K:

A thing I hate about asthma? I feel like I can never have a consistent workout because there are about 8000 variables at play.

First it’s dependent on how I feel when I wake up. If I’m a little tight, or feeling a little “off”, I’ll still work out.  if it’s anything more than that, I’ll push it off till the middle of the day or evening, or defer it until the next day. How I feel when I wake up in the morning though is also dependent on about a million things: my environment, the weather, the season and my own body.  Identifiable variables today perhaps contributing to the not breathing my best: it snowed late this morning, hormones and a basically empty inhaler of Atrovent.  So ALL of these things contributed to both how I felt when I woke up, AND how I felt during my workout. During the workout? That’s dependent on how my warm-up goes, how I FEEL about how my warm-up went [if it sucked, I’m less apt to push myself harder], the air quality in the locker room or gym [ex. intense fragrance, how dry the gym air is, etc].  And of course, the stuff I put into my body. So, food, water, and medicine.  See the above point about the dead Atrovent, maybe didn’t give the Ventolin enough time to kick in, note that I didn’t eat before my workout, and realize that I forgot my water bottle in my locker? Less than perfect lungs, little fuel stores and probably some dehydration at play.  So consistency? Not going to happen. That changes day to day.  Once again, I’m sure most of you with any chronic disease can identify with this.

As I am winding myself around the track at the beginning of a sprint [running is a big deal, people. I used to only be able to do a quarter of the track, now I can do a whole lap with a long walking break between], and I’m fighting my lungs, fighting my legs, fighting my brain. Focusing on the breathing, focusing on ignoring the legs, focusing on telling my brain that it is the thing that wants me to BE INTENTIONAL about my choices.  And fighting to let the zen that should be running take over.

The realization comes at this point.

If you don’t push through the shit, you don’t grow.

I run.  I don’t run fast, I only complete that one lap, but . . .

I pushed through the shit.  Like a flower.

A couple weeks ago, my friend Sara celebrated her birthday. Sara is an absolutely amazing woman, so why should her birthday be any different than amazing?

It shouldn’t, of course!  For her birthday, all Sara wanted was to fill her day with random acts of kindness, and receive stories of the same from her friends near and far.  So, here is my present to her:

However, why stop at sticking things around in Shoppers Drug Mart and Sobeys on Sara Brown Day?

The next Monday I took some post it’s to school with me.  And obviously it is kind of hard to be stealth in the university so as to be mysterious and whatnot while leaving positive post-its around.  So [shh, I am giving away rockin’ the RAOK secrets here!] I started leaving post-its in the bathroom.  This was the first one:


This one, the next day I went into the same stall and realized that it was missing.  So, I replaced it with a new one. But . . .  turns out somebody took off the inside of the door and stuck on the mirror, which is so freaking awesome!  Here is the second one, which somebody then ADDED TO!!


Yesterday, I checked on it again, and someone had written a note onto my original green post-it:

i needed this reminder so much today. thank you!

That? That was so amazing. [I didn’t get a picture, I’d left my backpack with my iPod in it with a friend, and my Blackberry makes an awkward camera noise, and the bathroom wasn’t loud enough to be able to deal with the loud clicky noise stealthily].

I gave this one to my friend Bobbi-Jo, who pulled it out again today as we were crushing some last minute studying for our Physical Growth and Motor Development midterm in [three midterms in 36 hours is absolutely no fun. To top it off, I had a huge stress-out moment this morning when I left work, my bus came early, I saw it drive past as I was walking down the street, and knew that the next bus did not come until 9:43 and my Program Planning in Sport midterm was at 10 and 45+ minutes away. Fortunately, my mom came all the way from the university and picked me up and drove me back (yay mom!), I made it to my midterm in time, and studied in a bus shack. YES!  By the time I got in the car I was still freaking out on whether I would get there in time, and then rocked some progressive muscle relaxation stuff while driving through the French quarter . . . thank you grade-one-PE and Issues in Health.  So yes, crazy day from the get go following noodle hockey.  Oh and guess what? Neither exam sucked. Or yesterday’s. YES!]

Here is the post it:


Small thing . . . with an impact. So rad.