A few weeks back I blogged on how I believe so strongly that following your dreams is not only a possibility, but a necessity. And that too many people simply settle for a job or vocation based on what their self-imposed limitations allow them, or what will sound good at a cocktail party or a title that a parent can be proud of. I know this so strongly because, like many new college grads (and even current college students), I struggled with this when I first started out too. I promised I would share my story of how I got to my current place, and also my hopes for where I will head in the future—the dreams yet to be realized—and here it is :)
I was very fortunate to be able to attend Wake Forest University, a great school in North Carolina, and get an education that I could not be more grateful to my parents for being able to provide for me. I immediately signed up for my major in Health & Exercise Science—I think I was lucky in that I had little confusion about what field I loved. As a high school athlete and gym rat starting at the age of 15, to say I loved exercise was an understatement. I did struggle, however, with what job I could possibly get with that degree when all my friends were pre-law or accounting or business. After a string of concerns from my parents (“What, are you going to be a gym teacher??”), I still felt resolved and I would make it work. Besides, I was having a blast teaching group fitness classes (aerobics was my first love and I have taught every single format there is) from the time I was 18 years old, and it was partly because of group fitness that I fell in love with exercise. I began personal training in college as well. It was the best job on earth (and still is :)).
Upon graduation, most of my Exercise Science peers went off to medical school, physician’s assistant school or athletic training, etc. I had the perfect plan to “take 1 year off and then go back to grad school for physical therapy.” Good plan, yes? Respectable profession, yes? I was all set. Except that right out of school I got a full-time job as a Fitness Specialist with Corporate Fitness Works and fell in love with it. How cool!! I get PAID to teach fitness classes, personal train and manage a small corporate fitness facility, getting to sit around talking about fitness all day?? Plus, a salaried position and benefits?? YES! I would do this for free lol! Wait, is this work? And once the full-time Fitness Coordinator position at my alma mater opened up, I jumped at the chance and got the job. I was 22 and a year out of college.
Ok, back to THE PLAN—applications for Physical Therapy school needed to be filled out, I needed to take the GRE and I needed to start my PT volunteer hours at the local hospital. All I have to say is, kill me. Physical therapy was NOT for me, and yet I was absolutely forcing it because being a trainer is not a valued career, right? Fitness? Isn’t that just working out? How could you ever make money at that??
With all these doubts playing in my mind, I had to find a way to have a career in an easily-identifiable-and-respected field, like physical therapy, right?? Ugh. I volunteered for 3 hours each week at the local hospital, and could BARELY make it through 3 hours, and yet here I was applying to Doctor of Physical Therapy programs so that I would have the joy of doing it every day, all day, for the rest of my life. [SIDE NOTE: Not knocking physical therapy at all, as I think it is an extremely valuable and important job that helps so many people. PTs are incredible at what they do, and their education/training/knowledge base is amazing—just wasn’t for me though]. And yet, I couldn’t see at the time what was wrong with this picture, all I knew was that I somehow needed to resolve the fact that what I loved could not be what I did forever as a job. How to make money? What do I tell someone who asks me what I do? What is a “fitness professional” anyway? Did I just make up that name?? lol :)
And at a time when I was floundering more than ever, loving fitness and being darn good at it, yet forcing myself into a box that I felt society needed me to be in, enter Jade Teta and Metabolic Effect.
Metabolic Effect was groundbreaking for me in terms of how I trained myself, my clients and how I taught my classes. I was a crazy aerobics instructor teaching 10-12 classes a week. I was doing hours of cardio a day and eating anything I wanted. And I loved it. However, Metabolic Effect was a turning point for me in terms of understanding the “why” behind exercise. Learning that exercise is not just a means for a good ass-kicking, but instead the way in which you exercise, eat, sleep, de-stress, etc all have a profound impact on the way your body looks, feels and functions. What???! I have to say to this day, meeting Jade and beginning to work with Metabolic Effect during its very first year has been THE #1 most life-changing thing for me. Not my first competition, not my first magazine cover, not eventually getting my graduate degree in Nutrition, but getting involved with Metabolic Effect and with Jade.
When I think about that time in my life, it literally brings tears to my eyes because I am so grateful for it. Grateful to have had someone come into my life and give me permission to do exactly what I want, and tell me that I am good at what I love and there’s no reason I couldn’t succeed in anything I dreamed of doing. I think we would all like to think that we can give ourselves permission to do that, but I think we need someone else to have tremendous faith in us before we allow ourselves to believe it. Long before Jade and I had even gotten romantically involved, he was a mentor and teacher to me (I think on a fundamental level he is a teacher at his core—what he was meant to do, for everyone, not just me. I promised I wouldn’t embarrass him too much in this post—oh well! I am embarrassing myself too lol! :))
And so, I finally had the courage to follow the path that was pulling me anyway—my love for fitness, health, and eventually nutrition. I had no idea what form it would take, but Jade helped me to realize that there was no way I could turn my back on something I was so clearly meant to do. And I realized that I would do whatever it took, I would immerse myself in it, become an expert, learn, achieve and then use it to help others, make a living at it. I didn’t care what it sounded like at a dinner party to say I was a personal trainer [Jade still says that when a stranger asks him what he does!], nor did I care if my parents were proud of it or not (hate to admit it). I hoped they would support me, and they did, 100% once I included them in the process. It’s funny how these things work—as soon as you begin to have conviction about your own stuff, everyone else comes along side you. I shared, I appreciated, I learned, I listened, I grew, I became even more grateful and I haven’t looked back since.
And it was to Jade that I revealed a dream that I had had since I was 18 when I had just begun teaching aerobics. I told him that if I could do anything, that I wanted to have my own home workout DVD series (a la Jane Fonda) so that I could reach so many more people, getting them to exercise and to enjoy it, far beyond my local reach. My dream has always been to find a way to reach so many more people than just in my immediate circle (that is why writing a book is also a dream of mine). And I think Metabolic Effect and JillFit have done that to a certain extent, but my very first dream was for people all over the country to be doing my workouts, that I created, in their homes, with me. And this dream came true JUST yesterday.
I mentioned on Facebook last week that a dream I have had since I was 18 was finally coming true this week, and that is that I am taping 4 hours of workout video footage for Comcast On Demand Workout videos, so that people all over the country can workout with me right in their homes. It is honestly a dream come true, and I hope it is only the beginning. Yesterday, I was in Philly all day filming for Comcast, a 10-hour day which whittles down to 4 hours of solid cardio kickboxing footage for On Demand workouts. Such a long day, but an amazing experience—the crew was incredible, so sweet and welcoming and the shoot went super-smooth. I can’t wait to do it again!
I could not be more excited nor more grateful for the opportunity. I am so appreciative for this journey, for this path and for all the decisions I made (and the ones I did not make!)—life is a friggin’ trip. It surprises you, it delights you, it disappoints you, it slaps you across the face, it brings you up, it tears you down and most of all, it becomes whatever you decide it is. All you need to do is have your eyes open to the possibilities.
“Whether you believe you can or believe you can’t, you’re right.” –Henry Ford
Thank you all for reading my story—it was an honor to be able to share it. I literally cannot believe anyone even reads this blog J lol! But ya’ll are the best! I would love to hear your story! Hit me up! firstname.lastname@example.org oxoxoxoxo