It was the summer of 1995. I had been invited by a friend to the Princeton Quarry to swim.
I didn't want to go. The quarry was a lake surrounded by huge rocks. Some people jumped off the high rocks into the lake. You had to pass a swim test upon arrival. I told my mom I wasn't going to go because I was too scared. My dad arrived in my room 20 minutes later and sat on the little green couch in my bedroom. I remember these words from our conversation: "never let the fear of something stop you from doing it."
I went to the quarry that day. I passed the swimming test. I didn't jump off the rocks. I was nervous, but I went (my mom and dad have always been conspiring to make me the best I can be).
I'd like to believe that since the Princeton Quarry incident I've been bullish about doing things that scare me. I do them scared, even if my voice is shaking. And believe me, my voice has shaken plenty.
Quite honestly - since I was a kid, I never fully believed in myself. I have an inner critique that could put even the nastiest Twitter Trolls to shame.
The worst thing about a nasty inner voice is how much it can derail you. There are two specific events I remember when it comes to this. One was when I played softball in high school. I had been around the sport my whole life. I had proven that I was a good player. But when it came to the games, I could not perform. I can distinctly remember the trolls in my brain when a fly ball would come to me ("you're going to miss it"). I also remember my mom talking to me, reminding me of all the talent I had, all the experience, all the family baseball genes. And I just. could. not. get out of my own head. The second event was when I first became a classroom teacher. I struggled real hard my first year. I told a friend of mine: "I just don't know what I'm doing". She said to me - "Christina, you have a Master's Degree in Education. You studied this in depth. Why do you not believe in yourself?"
Great question. Great question. It would take me another decade until I could face down that demon.
That demon came at me hard. Because it began to permeate everything I did. It had me questioning even the smallest decisions. That demon eventually led me to a very dark place.
Fast forward through the tough stuff. It was when I chose to practice yoga that I gained footing in my fight against the demons. I use "I chose" because while it is YOGA that was the solution, it was ME that made the choice to go. You can't have one without the other.
DO IT SCARED. I was scared when I went to my first class. I was scared when I chose to start teacher training. I was scared when I taught my first class. I was scared, I was scared, I was scared.
Fast forward to last Wednesday. I had chosen to join the staff at my middle school in a production of A Midsummer's Nights Dream. Last time I had performed in a play, it was 1995 (very close to the time of the Princeton Quarry incident)! I was leaving our last dress rehearsal, and I was terrified. I had totally messed up my lines. I froze. I panicked. I felt prey to my anxiety. I felt like I was falling back into my old narrative. What if I lose it? What if I don't know what I'm doing?
Additionally, I hadn't had time to be the best I could be wellness-wise. It was just one of those times where everything collides at once, and you live a two week period of craziness. Additionally, there were factors that were causing me to feel pulled into places I didn't want to go. I was SCARED. I didn't want to face it. I wanted to hide under the covers.
Wednesday evening I went home and gave myself a pep talk. One of the things I worked on a lot during "my year off" was working with my inner child. The way I have come to work this is that there are two parts of you. The YOU right now, and your inner child. The YOU now is the adult, who is taking care of little you. So on Wednesday night I told myself, "you're going to do this for little you." And that was a nod to all those fly balls I missed during the softball games, and all those times I messed up my lesson plans my first year teaching. The adult me would take control of the situation and make little me be able to SHINE the way she should.
On Thursday, the day of the play, I decided to share on the JFY instagram about how nervous I was. I also shared it with my current students. This was huge for me. I know it seems odd but I'm actually pretty private in the moment. Most of my sharing happens AFTER the fact. Like, oh I was so scared, but I made it work. This time, it was an unknown. I didn't know if I would make it work! There had been plenty of times in my life where it hadn't worked, so that Twitter Troll kept trying to say "remember when you messed that up..."
In the hours leading up to the play, I practiced with some cast members. I hydrated. I did alot of moving my body - shaking, rocking, a little dancing. As we got closer to "show time" I silenced my phone. I started to get into my character. I gave a lot of love to my cast members (it always feels so good to GIVE).
SHOWTIME. Caitlin and Brian (our co-directors) went out to greet the students before the curtain opened. The excitement, you could feel it in your bones. I kept thinking about my students cheering me on. I reminded myself of the whole purpose of the play, which was to show up for the kids. I reminded myself that I knew my lines. I was capable of handling my nerves at this time in my life.
My plan was to stay present the entire play. To embody my character.
The show began, my heart was beating out of my chest.
I went on stage. Right before I needed to deliver my line, I remember saying in my head "I don't want to do this. What happens if I don't do this." Then the time came, and I did it, just as practiced. I had PREPARED for this moment. Staying present helped me access the part of my brain that remembered the practice. My line came across beautifully.
Then, I told myself, just take it scene by scene. Take each scene as a win.
I followed along the entire play with whoever was on stage, instead of reading forward for my lines. I kept picturing in my mind, ok this is what's happening in the play, this is what's happening for my character.
The whole thing went SWIMMINGLY. I had to WORK for it, but it went swimmingly.
After the show, the students rushed the stage. I first saw my friend Lara's daughter Evy (she takes yoga with us)! Her smile was worth all of the struggle combined. Then I saw some of my current students. Their reactions. You guys. I cannot. So many of them said "YOU DIDN'T FORGET YOUR LINES! YOU DID IT!"In that moment, I was beyond glad I shared my struggles with them. I was so glad I shared it with all of you. How cool to see someone slugging through the work???
From this, I hope you can see that wellness is WORK. It's a constant up-keep. It's risk-taking. It's messy. DO IT (SCARED).
All my love to my JFY fam,