Hugh Howey: Don’t Wait

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This post originally appeared on Hugh Howey‘s blog, The Wayfinder, on January 11th, 2016. For more posts by Hugh, please visit his website (and buy his amazing books).  

I’m sitting on my boat in Georgetown, Exumas, watching the sun rise. The last time this was true was seventeen years ago. My boat then was Xerxes, a 27′ Watkins that served as my home for five years. I dropped out of college after my junior year and sailed south. It was one of the defining moments of my life, that decision. I’ll never forget the terror I felt selling everything I owned and tossing my dock lines. It was petrifying, but I trusted that the rewards on the other side would be worth it.

They were. In spades. Sailing the islands put me in touch with nature, gave me time to contemplate myself and life, filled me with the adventures that would later fuel my writing, introduced me to a lifestyle that would help me shun possessions and debt for the rest of my life, and imbued me with the larger dream of sailing around the world, which kept me focused and gave me direction.

Here in Georgetown, you meet lots of people with similar trajectories, but their stories are so different and so inspiring. On a hike yesterday, I met three nineteen year old boys who sailed from Maine on their father’s old wooden boat. They took a year off after high school to sail to the Caribbean and back. We talked about where they’ve been and where they are headed next. With just a little dinghy-sailing experience when they set out, these are now three wizened and salty experts. I pegged them as being in their mid-20s before they revealed their age or mentioned school. Their eyes were already older. They stood more upright. They didn’t bounce around like teenagers. They weren’t relentlessly checking their phones. There is a calmness and patience that traveling at 5mph for thousands of miles instills.

On the beach, I met another couple via their awesome dog, Safron. After flopping into my lap, and lots of apologies, and my having to explain that their dog just made my week, I got their story. In their mid-30s, this young couple set off from Canada just this year to sail around the world. But it’s the genesis of their trip that blew my mind. They had flown to Georgetown last February to stay at a resort here. They saw all the sailboats, got to talking to some of the people who lived and traveled on them, and they went home with a plan.

In this, they aren’t unusual. Lots of people hear about living aboard and sailing the world, and they dream of doing the same. They read articles, subscribe to magazines, follow the blogs of those who are doing it. But this Canadian couple didn’t waste time. They sold everything they owned, bought a 34′ Hunter (an imminently affordable boat), and they set off. Like the boys from Maine, they are now experts, even if they didn’t feel like it and are humble about their abilities. By this time next year, they will be wrapping up a Pacific crossing. All because they didn’t wait.

It doesn’t have to be this particular dream. You have your own dream. Of writing a novel. Of learning a musical instrument. Of driving coast to coast. Of moving to be closer to family. Of getting a different job. Of going back to school. Whatever excuses you are using to protect yourself, stop. The beach here buzzes with children who are sailing with their parents. Kids of all ages. Each one is a perfect reason why it would be impossible for their parents to go sail around the world. Instead, they became the best reason to. You don’t think you have time to write for thirty minutes every day? Or practice strumming that guitar? Or brushing up on your French? Or getting some exercise? Or honing that job skill? Or putting that sweat equity into your home? I say you do. You have all the time in the world. As long as you don’t wait.

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Desperate Times Call for Critical Transformations…

After a series of (mostly) positive transitions in the past few months, my body was left feeling spent and terrible. Sugars were at an all-time high, my energy bottomed out, my carpal tunnel syndrome raging in both hands, joint aching, and my moods more variable than the Oregon spring weather. Even good change is hard.

But then I got some terrible news about my Dad.

Dad has been in heart failure for the past couple of years – he’s 58. Heart failure is a fatal condition in which the heart simply doesn’t have the capacity to keep up with the rigors of running a body. Also a type-1 diabetic, Dad spent years neglecting his self-care and that neglect had serious consequences: heart disease, eye disease, kidney disease, you name it. He is now biologically much older than his actual age and his quality of life sucks.

There was some (though not much) hope that his quality of life and longevity could be spared through either a heart transplant or a less-invasive procedure, a heart pump. However, a few weeks ago, Dad got rejected for both procedures. His weakened state and history of high blood sugars made it unlikely that he could withstand the anti-rejection drug regimen that follows a heart transplant. His high risk of infection made him a bad candidate for the pump because there are components of the pump that exist outside of the body (think open wound). Without either of these procedures, Dad is destined for few remaining years, which will be of poor quality.

What does this have to do with my diet? 

It is now more important than ever that I get my diabetes and general health in order for two reasons: First, Dad wants to see me healthy and happy before he goes. He has been an amazing (ah-mazing!) source of emotional and logistical support in both my move to Oregon and my transition into private practice (yeah, still working on that – anyone need a lawyer?). He needs to know I’ll be alright, and it’s my responsibility to get there. And although I absolutely want this for my own reasons, be it performance, aesthetics, and quality of life, Dad’s circumstances have slapped me back into the reality of doing the hard work. Ladies and gentlemen, we have exigency. 

Second, Dad’s poor prognosis has shined a spotlight on my own health and the potential consequences of continued diabetes mismanagement. For those of you who don’t know, diabetes effects everything. From your eyesight to your hydration to your circulation. Everything. Dad serves as an unfortunate bad example of how I may end up if I don’t get my act together and figure out this diabetes thing. So yeah – the bad family news and my own poor health resulting from crippling stress served as a pretty legit wake-up call. And getting my act together starts with the food I eat.

It Starts With Food

Let thy food be thy medicine, and let thy medicine be thy food.  

~ Hippocrates, 460-377 BC

It is no mystery that our quality of life is deeply associated with the quality of our food. When I am stressed, I go straight for low-nutrition convenience foods. Needless to say, I’ve been feeling terrible – my 14-day BG averages have been hovering between 185-200. Yikes.

I conducted a little experiment: I switched over to an almost exclusively plant-based lifestyle with an emphasis on whole foods for two weeks. I have been flirting with the idea of going vegan for a little while now and it wasn’t a hard thing to do, given that I have been an on-and-off-again vegetarian for the past decade.

Why Plant-based?

There is a litany of reasons why I am choosing a plant-based diet. In short: proven health benefits, nutrient efficiency, respect for my animal neighbors, and to protect the environment. It also limits my food choices – when you’re vegan, you’re not burdened with a sort of decision overload with food.

The Results

I have gone from a 14-day average of 200 down to 160 in two weeks. I have more energy. I feel lighter. My moods are evening out. My sleep has improved. Can I attribute all of this to a plant-based lifestyle? Not quite sure yet because a lot has been going on lately and I’m only just starting to carve out my new routine.

Of course, I’m wondering as much as you are,“can I even pull this off?” There are scores of diabetic athletes, including members of Team Novo Nordisk, diabetic vegans such as Adrian Kiger and Melissa from Type1Vegan, and vegan athletes such as Rich Roll and Matt Frazier, the No Meat Athlete, but where are the diabetic vegan athletes? Those sound like unicorns.

Can I be that unicorn? Let’s find out.

Activism: Clint Smith and The Danger of Silence

In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.   ~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 1968

Clint Smith has provided one of the best TED talks I’ve seen on the hidden power of everyday advocacy – advocacy is not just found in prolific uprisings and protests of society’s activists, but also in our own simple refusal to keep quiet when we are confronted with the wrongs of the world in our daily lives.  You can be an activist in your smallest of circles and with your smallest of actions.

Smith reflects, “Everyday all around us, we see the consequences of silence manifest themselves in the form of discrimination, violence, genocide, and war.” Systemic atrocities or institutional violence/discrimination are not born overnight – they begin with a trickle of negativity or intolerance that is permitted by our silence to grow into a cascade of dangerous, galvanized action.

In his classroom, he encourages his students to find ways to open up and fill the void left by silence with these four core principles:

Read critically. Write consciously.  Speak clearly.  And tell your truth.

Call to Action 

Listen to this talk.  Enjoy the cadence of this man’s spoken word.  And then, I encourage you all to find your voice and speak up when injustice sneaks its way into the world around you.

“Validation doesn’t need words to endorse its existence.” 

Shameless Plug: Help me fund my public interest law firm in ONE WEEK!

For those of you for whom I do not have email addresses: 

Dear Inner Tribe of Friends, Family, and Colleagues,

Thanks for taking the time to read this message! As most of you know, I moved to Portland shortly after earning my law and environmental masters degrees. I moved here for several reasons – the amazing landscape, temperate seasons, tasty food, amazing craft beer, active outdoor/mountaineering community, and to finally fulfill my childhood dream of journeying out West for adventures. But the most important reason I moved here is to fulfill my ultimate professional goal of protecting the environment and those people most impacted by its degradation.

The road hasn’t been easy – traditional governmental and non-profit jobs are scarce in a market saturated with new lawyers and environmental professionals. But if there is one thing I have learned in the past two years, it is this: There may be a shortage of jobs, but there is not a shortage of work to be done. And so, I realized that I must carve my own path toward helping the greater good.

But I need your help.

I wish to open my own private public interest law and consulting firm. A private public interest law firm is a rarely-utilized, hybrid-structured firm that is dedicated to promoting social, political, environmental, and economic welfare, while maintaining a profit-generating arm that keeps firm financially sustainable without the assistance of grants. In my firm, my areas of practice will be strictly harmonious to public interest ideals, so as not to undermine the integrity of my public interest work. I intend to work with low-income, minority, and tribal communities to ensure their voices are heard in regard to environmental decisions that directly impact their well-being.

My profit-generating practice areas will include FOIA requests and FOIA litigation, benefit company formation and annual reporting, non-profit formation and assistance with organizational best practices, employee rights, disability rights, and real property due diligence for property redevelopment. As my expertise grows and my team expands, I hope to increase my impact.

I am currently a woman-owned sole proprietorship functioning as a contract attorney. This means that my clients are my fellow attorneys and I am under their direct supervision. I have spent the past two and a half years cultivating my legal skills under the guidance of several amazing lawyers in Portland. But now is the time for me to step up – there is a lot of work to be done, and I have the skills necessary to contribute meaningfully to the greater good. 

How can you help?

Oregon lawyers are required to purchase malpractice insurance before they are able to independently take clients. Due to these restrictions, my earning potential is limited, and this has negatively impacted my ability to acquire enough capital to form my firm.

In one week’s time, I will be launching a crowd funding campaign on indiegogo.com to raise $7,500.00 in funds. In addition to being able to finally purchase malpractice insurance, these funds will go to the following expenses: marketing and branding consulting, website assistance, assorted legal software, business entity formation, and a few pieces of office equipment. Please note that I intend to be an Oregon benefit company and engage in sustainable business practices.

While I cannot as a lawyer offer direct perks to individual donors because it may affect my professional independence, for every $250 raised, I will donate one hour of my time to help preserve Native Alaskan water rights and keep harmful chemical dispersants out of Arctic waters.  If we get past $7,500.00, I’ll double those hours.

Irrespective of your individual ability to give, I want to thank each and every one of you for helping me in some capacity along this journey – it truly takes a village of all kinds of support to begin your own venture, and you all have given me just that. If you can’t donate yourself, please pass the word on to someone who loves the environment as much as I do!

I look forward to your participation in the Sharing Economy.

Yours Truly,

Kellie

My Hiatus: Blowing my World Wide Open

All-great-changes-are-preceded-by-chaos Hi everyone!

After what seems to have been quite a hiatus, I have decided to come out from underneath the radar. Since my last post in late March, a lot has been happening… some good, some bad.

Here it is in broad brushstrokes:

  • Working conditions (and tips) at the shitty, shitty restaurant started to go downhill.
  • Working conditions at said shitty, shitty restaurant (and to an extent, those high sugars) triggered an acute bout of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, resulting in pain and weakness in both hands, primarily my dominant hand.
  • I excused myself from a stagnant and unhealthy relationship.
  • I got let go from my shitty, shitty restaurant job and had to jump through a bunch of hoops to get on unemployment. Won that battle, but went completely broke in the process.
  • I started jogging again, albeit slowly.
  • I used my newly-found free time (and newly-found mental energy) to connect with scores of friends who I had not been able to see on a Thursday, Friday, or Saturday night in months.
  • I went WHALE WATCHING! I even saw some whale parts.
  • I slept in a yurt.
  • I committed to climbing a MOUNTAIN! Finally!
  • I cycled 45 miles over all of the bridges of Portland. It was rad.
  • In the wake of losing a shitty, shitty restaurant job and the realization that what I want to do for a living doesn’t fit within one professional position, I decided to open up my own integrated services firm. I will be commencing a crowdfunding campaign for start-up costs in the near future and I hope to have your support in this endeavor.

As you can see, a lot of the distractions in my life stemmed from my highly negative work experience at the shitty, shitty restaurant.When I was working there, I could barely get out of bed and had to pep-talk myself to walk in the door. My mantra was “PIT STOP.” The negativity that sprung from that place was utterly astounding, and it deeply and fundamentally depressed me. While going through that whole ordeal, I retreated inside of myself and put some of my fitness goals on hold. While I am sad that my body recomp is not progressing as quickly as I would prefer, I have not completely shirked training. I have instead focused on activities that boost my innate happiness, particularly activities involving the outdoors.

I’m not sorry I did this, and here’s why… 

I. AM. FREE.

Losing my shitty, shitty restaurant job opened up my world in ways I have never imagined. I used it as a crutch for not doing something better. I let fear overrun my potential to give back to the world and make a living at the same time. Losing that job yanked the security blanket right off of me. It put exigency back into my mind – I have to do something effective now.

And I am confident that getting my personal and professional life in order will allow me the mental space to maximize my physical potential.

Chaos has reigned supreme as of late, but big changes are on the horizon…

Photo Credit: Muchzen.com 

Video: Get Sugar Smart

This is a wonderful video by Prevention Magazine that shows you the different amounts of added sugar in whole versus processed foods.

There is sugar hidden in pretty much all processed foods – even savory foods, which are then balanced out with copious amounts of salt. It is things like this, coupled with dubious advertising, that can make controlling your diet very complicated: As a young child, raisins were advertised as “Nature’s Candy,” a healthy alternative to sweets. However, based on the amount of sugar they contain, they are no different. Pulling ourselves out of this paradigm of life-long programming via advertisements is a challenge for us all.

The only way to effectively control your sugar intake is to eat as much of a whole foods diet as possible. Skip the processed juice, and go for the apple.

Update on the Stupid Stupid Leg

I suffered a crappy fracture of my distal fibula last July. I was stuck on crutches for a little over a month and in a walking boot for an additional month and a half on top of that. It grounded me, took me away from my bike right as the beautiful Oregon summer started, and made me completely miserable and unable to provide for myself financially. The road to recovery has been a little longer and rougher than I anticipated. It has been quite frustrating, as it has limited my options for transitioning back into peak performance. I can’t jog or do any dynamic exercises, so a lot of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is out (for now, damnit!).

When I got healthcare through Kaiser Permanente, I was referred to a great PT named Rachel. I had my follow-up physical therapy appointment with her today. Mixed feelings.

Bad News: Still no jogging, jump squats, or anything else fairly dynamic.

“DAMN YOU LEGGGGG!!!!” ((throws fists to sky))

Good News: I have gained a significant amount of flexibility and strength back in my ankle and have been graduated up to more functional and aggressive forms of PT. I have a check up in a month to see (1) more progress and (2) to assess if I can start more dynamic activities. She suggested more pool and bike time, so I’ll be doing that.

LESSONS LEARNED
I think back to when I fractured my leg and all I can say is that I am so so so thankful not to be on crutches anymore. However, the fracture taught me a few good life lessons/self-observations:

  1. I learned the generosity and kindness of strangers and my awesome friends, who continuously opened doors, walked out my groceries for me, and entertained my bored ass.
  2. But…. that other kinds of strangers SUCK, like the ones who have the brass balls to hit on me on while crippled. Please, oh please, DON’T tell me to smile or how pretty I look while I’m tooling around on my “fun sticks.” I’m not going to give you the change in my pocket…. or sex.
  3.  I am learning here and there to ask for help. I am a stubborn cow.
  4. My former relationship was not as strong as I thought. This was a tough lesson to learn, but without the outdoors as a buffer/bonding mechanism, my relationship fizzled. Though I’m sure there were more complicated factors than just that. But it surely didn’t help a new relationship in need of nurturing. C’est La Vie.

Anyone else have any valuable life lessons/self-observations from a substantial injury?

Switching Gyms and Leaving my Comfort Zone

“The reason for our suffering is our resistance to the changes in life.”
~ Leo Babauta, Zen Habits

For those of you who know me in real life, you probably know that I don’t necessarily respond well to change – particularly when it comes to routines upon which I have come to rely. However, I am quite aware of how certain types of conflict can be extremely healthy, as conflict has the potential to spur progress. I consider conflict to be a wide range of things, including a disconnect with what you may find comfortable. Change is conflict.

This week, my small mom-and-pop gym closed down. Now, there were a lot of things I did not like about this gym. The staff basically gave up on the place – floors remained unswept and essential items not stocked. Also, this gym had an iterative identity problem, demonstrated by the owner’s constant moving of things around, which was a major source of aggravation for me. On the rare occasion when I did need something, staff members were hard to find because the owner removed the front desk/station. Oh, and the owner kept the kettle bells locked up for the paid group exercise sessions. God, that pissed me off something fierce.

All this being said, I had one area where I worked out, it was low-priced, and I was for the most part content. But I was not seeing results.

When I was told the gym was closing, I felt that same internal panic mode activate – now what?!? Not having a gym was certainly not an option, as I had recently (and publicly) committed to returning to peak fitness and health. But I definitely did not want to get stuck going to a big-box, warehouse-style gym, surely packed with judgmental, hard-bodied gym-rats. With those obsessive-compulsive personality traits. Those Type A’s. The last time I did a trial membership at a large gym, I hated it – I felt like a jelly-legged slob being silently assessed by these people with superior physiques. And it shut me down. Needless to say, I wasn’t looking forward to gym-shopping.

Irony: I am now a member of a big-box, warehouse gym, 24-Hour Fitness, a national fitness chain. It’s a “Super Sport” facility, which translates into bigger.than.shit. It’s massive, and is apparently one of the busiest gyms company-wide.

Picture of Gym

My visit to this monolith of a gym taught me something crucial: There wasn’t a problem with that large gym long ago, the problem was me. The problem was my projection of self-doubt and insecurity onto others – strangers that I didn’t know and whose minds I certainly couldn’t read (I’m not Sookie Stackhouse). I also learned something awesome about myself: I’m not that insecure person anymore. Throughout this complicated journey of having a chronic illness, I have developed my own sense of self and a unique sense of self-protection that comes with having to prioritize your health over pretty much everything else. No matter what someone has to say or think about me, at the end of the day, I have to take care of myself in a very tangible way. And somehow that crossed over to my perception of self.

Change = Progression

This change, this conflict, is just what I needed. I look forward to discovering what my new gym has to offer me on my journey back to peak fitness. I now see my new community of hard-bodies and I am inspired. I admire the hard work they’ve put into optimizing their health and wellness. And I am prepared to follow suit.

Photo credit: Urban Spoon