What Do You Do?

2010 –> 2018 –> 2021

Some days are easier than others.

Some days feel like they’ll never end.

Your body becomes tired.

Your mind aches for sleep.

But you have to keep going.

You have to get it done.

Some people will tell you it’s too much.

Those are the ones who won’t make it very far.

You have to want it.

If you want it, you have to fight for it.

If you’re willing to fight for it, you need to travel the distance.

There will be tears.

That’s how you know the fight is still alive in you.

But……

What do you do when you’re sick of yourself?

What do you do when you’re tired of constantly being plagued by your weight?

What do you do when you’re always the “fat one”? Of your siblings. Of your friends. Of your family.

What do you do when you’re dying to love yourself, but you simply cannot accept yourself?

What do you do when the opinions, support, and love from others aren’t enough to help you see that you are more than your physical form?

What do you do to escape the guilt of rest days?

What do you do to have a healthy relationship with food?

What do you do when you can’t seek the guidance of medical professionals because their advice is absolutely generic?

What do you do when the science of fitness and nutrition do not seem to apply to your body?

What do you do when you’re tired of going to bed hungry to be in an acceptable deficit?

What do you do to find your way to happiness?

What do you do?

Harder Than I Knew

I said goodbye yesterday.

It was harder than I knew.

I didn’t think it would hurt as deep.

Now I know that wasn’t true.

Our road came to an end sooner than I’d liked.

It was all that I could do.

But I knew the only choice was to say “goodbye.”

It was more painful than I knew.

I shed more tears than I thought would escape.

I cried to exhaustion.

I cried until I ached.

I don’t know if you know how much I’ll think of you.

I don’t know if you’ll think of me, too.

I hope you find everything you need.

I hope you find a love better than that of me.

I wasn’t ready to travel on without you.

I had no other option.

There just wasn’t another way.

I said goodbye yesterday.

It was harder than I knew.

The Johnny Depp Show

Just kidding. That’s not how I feel about this terrible trial. That’s just how Amber Heard chose to describe it. Attention grabbing, eh?

I have been diligently following the court proceedings of Depp v Heard. I’ve been invested to the point of annoying my family to a great degree. My daughters have told me multiple times that I need an intervention. I can’t argue that point. I’ve also built quite a little band of friends who are also invested. We spend court days keeping each other updated in turn in case one of us misses something.

I have no experience whatsoever with legal jargon. This is the first time I’ve ever spent time watching a trial live streamed. Nor am I what I would consider a super fan of Johnny Depp. However, I will be the first to describe him as a national treasure and an extremely talented actor.

But what attracted me to this very high-profile trial was the subject matter at hand: domestic abuse and sexual assault. Both are very close to my heart. Both hit home in varying degrees.

On May 18, 2022, I posted the following on Facebook:

“When women are victims of domestic violence, and they wait long periods of time to seek help, they are asked WHY they waited and where is their PROOF of that violence. More often than not, these women do not have proof because they didn’t plan to leave. Or they were afraid to seek help because they didn’t think help would be available, so they didn’t bother to document any incidents of violence.

Is it fair that women are expected to produce proof that they were victims of domestic violence and/or sexual assault? NO. Absolutely not.

HOWEVER. However, there are women like Amber Heard who come forward with massive claims of abuse over the course of years. Who, in all elements of their story, are not the victim, but the assailant. And because this is a highly publicized case due to the plaintiff and defendant being celebrities, we all sit here expecting her to PROVE her story. Because we all know she’s a liar.

I’ve never personally been a victim of any sort of assault. But my mother was. One of my sisters was. I have friends who were. I’ve seen and been through more than you can imagine in my life.

It is HARD to not immediately side with a woman on these things. BUT women CAN be the aggressor, the abuser, the manipulator.

Women like Amber Heard are the reason real victims are put through a ringer when they’ve finally had enough and finally seek the help and escape they need…and deserve. IT’S NOT FAIR. But as long as there are manipulators like this, we will never win. We will never be taken seriously. On any matter. Ever.

This trial has not been an easy one to watch. In case you haven’t already made the deduction, I’m on Depp’s side. It hasn’t been easy to watch many details of his private life, embarrassing and degrading details at that, be dragged into plain view of the world. It hasn’t been easy watching him struggling to find the words to describe everything that he’d been put through. It hasn’t been easy listening to voice recordings of Depp and Heard. It hasn’t been easy watching Heard make an absolute mockery of not only Depp and her relationship with him, but of the real survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.

For me, out of all the evidence provided from both sides, what has me strongly believing in Depp’s innocence is the fact that no other woman has come forward to say “me too.” Maybe that sounds silly and weak, but that’s all the proof I need. How many times have we’ve seen cases where a woman accuses a man of stature and reputation of misconduct and suddenly multiple other women are at her side with similar stories? You’ve heard of the ‘Me Too’ movement, yes? I find it hard to believe that after being accused of “wife beating” after 5 decades in Hollywood, that there are no others. Even his former relationships have released statements of shock and support, claiming he’s never been anything but generous and gentle.

Do you know what has just broken me the most from this trial?

The recording of Johnny saying:

“I’ve loved you for so many fucking years but you know what? You didn’t exist. You don’t exist. You’re not there. You were a fucking made-up thing inside my head. I can’t believe you’re doing this to me.”

I’ve read and seen things saying that the world is on Johnny’s side because of super fandom. I wholeheartedly disagree. We’re on his side because he was wronged. We’re on his side because we can see ourselves in his situation. We’re on his side because he deserves justice.

Today is for closing arguments and hopefully, the last day of the trial. We’re all holding our breaths for a verdict.

Amber took the stand once more yesterday and, once again, she came across as insincere and combative. She even went so far as to call this trial “The Johnny Depp Show” and accused his supporters of siding with him simply for the fact that he’s Johnny Depp and a strong, powerful man. “People tend to follow powerful mean.” Well, you would know, wouldn’t you?

Miss Heard. We are on his side because we have been watching. We have seen the evidence from both sides. We have heard the testimonies of all witnesses. We have watched your performances in this court room, both on the stand and seated with your council. You’ve been insincere in your deliveries. Your testimonies of accounts have been inconsistent. You have been caught lying on the stand. We’ve heard you mocking him and beating him down and telling him that no one would take his word because he’s a man.

Well, you were wrong. And we stand by him. Even if he loses by some chance, the world has seen what you’ve done to this man. Is he a highly valued treasure? Absolutely. But we stand by him because he is a victim of domestic violence at the hands of a vicious manipulator.

Camille could not have been better! She is a savage queen fighting for justice!! She is truly a woman fighting for justice. She stood there powerfully standing for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. She solidly proved that Heard cannot be trusted or believed. That her testimonies were not her own stories and she had made a mockery of true survivors. Camille fought for a man who had been single-handedly destroyed by a vicious manipulator.

Round of applause for Ben Chew and his closing arguments!!! He pushed forward in Johnny’s defense amidst multiple objections from Amber’s team. Yes, they’re STILL trying to object. But Ben drove it home, regardless of their weak attempts to stifle him. He made his points through crisp, precise verbiage and clear presentation of the facts. Ben stated that even though the jury had to determine a monetary amount to cover damages suffered by Depp, that this trial isn’t about money. This is about regaining everything Depp has lost over the last six years.

The jury will now deliberate. And my fingers are crossed that they can see through the thick veils of lies and reach a verdict that releases the truth.

Fingers crossed that Johnny gets his justice.

Life After ‘Mom’

I’m a mom. A mom of two daughters. My oldest daughter is seventeen and graduates high school tomorrow. My youngest daughter is fifteen and will be a sophomore next year. I find myself on the precipice of no longer being a full-time mom. Meaning, my girls are on the edge of the nest. Their wings already partially spread for flight.

So I find myself wondering, what comes after my girls go off in the world without me?

I became a mom at eighteen. I’ve quite literally been a mom my entire adult life. Every choice I’ve made, everything I’ve ever done, has been with my daughters’ well-being at the center. My life has revolved around them. My only focus was working and making money to be self-sufficient enough to take care of my babies on my own.

As they’ve gotten older, they’ve asked me what my plan would’ve been if I hadn’t gotten pregnant so young. Growing up, my only “dream” was to join the military and get as far away as I could. I wanted to escape the life of poverty and neglect I’d been brought in.

But now, I have a chance to actually think of what my dreams are. My partner even encourages me to follow whatever adventure I want to go on. We’ve talked about me becoming a flight attendant (even though I’m terrified of flying). But I have a longing to travel. I want to see the world.

We’ve discussed my desire to be a published writer. I currently have two strong projects in motion. Both fantasy fiction: one a romance, the other a YA novel. The YA novel is so close to an ending I can smell it. It would be an amazing accomplishment if I could get one or both published. I’ve always loved writing short stories but never thought I could turn it into anything until a wild idea came to my mind one night and I ran with it. After posting a sample of the romance novel to my friends for their opinions, I feel like I really have some talent.

More recently, I confided in my partner that I want to try my hand at acting. She didn’t judge or laugh like I thought she might. Instead, she agrees that I’m just weird and outrageous enough to do it. I happen to agree. I don’t know if my wild imagination is a curse or a blessing, but I’d like to see how far I can take it.

The point to my ramblings is that even though I had my babies young, I’m still young enough to chase and achieve dreams. I’m entering this strange part of my life that I don’t completely feel prepared for.

I know that being a mother doesn’t truly have an end, but the full-time responsibility of motherhood does. I feel sad that we’re approaching a time when they might not need me the way they do now. I feel lost because I have no idea what kind of person I am. I’ve been defined by being a mom. The most common compliment I receive is, “You’re an amazing mom!” I take that to heart every time. I wasn’t raised by a strong woman. I had to learn how to be a good parent on the fly; making it up as I went. Somehow, I’ve been successful and have built strong relationships with both of my daughters. Overall, I feel blessed.

On the other hand, I’m also venturing into a new type of relationship with my girls: friend. I’ve never been one of those mothers who refer to my daughters as “my best friend.” I’m not their friend. I’m their mom. I’ve always felt that there has to be a line of distinction. As my oldest approaches her eighteenth birthday, and we go on little outings together, I’ve really started to appreciate the maturity in her. I enjoy our conversations and learning about her likes and sharing in her thoughts.

These are all things that have been occupying my mind the last few weeks. Even more so as graduation day has so quickly fell upon us.

I wouldn’t say I’m looking forward to life after mom, but I’m excited to see what these new chapters will bring.

Only the Lonely

I was born and raised in South Jersey. And although we moved a lot (because we were always too poor to pay rent and were constantly evicted), I never left the small county of Cumberland. Anyone I cared to spend time with lived with fifteen minutes. Any job I ever held was within thirty minutes. Any bit of small fun was also within a reasonable driving distance.

Coffee date on a Tuesday? Done. Try a new fitness class on a Thursday night? I’m there. Dinner at my best friend’s house last minute? Absolutely.

Then we decided to move four hours away to a small town in Virginia. And I have been lonely ever since. It’s a strange revolution for me because I never considered myself to be a social person. Thinking back on everything I mentioned above, it seems I was wrong.

I don’t really fit in with the people down here. I’m too loud. Not religious. Not fancy. I don’t have small children. Any person that I have been successful about connecting with lives about an hour away, which makes it pretty difficult to get together. I mean, who really wants to drive that far just to spend a few minutes in a book store? Not me. Not very often, anyway.

I attempted to work at a local YMCA, trying to recapture the love of my fitness job in Jersey, but it just wasn’t a good fit. Manning the front desk was incredibly slow and boring. When I taught fitness classes I was repeatedly told that my music was too loud.

I had landed myself two auditions for a Golds Gym to teach two different formats. I was so pumped. I knew I was going to win them over. I was so excited to get back in an environment I felt comfortable in. Then Covid happened. I’m sure you can figure out the rest of that story.

For the first year we were down here after I left the Y, I bounced to a couple other places of employment before landing myself back with a company that I didn’t love. It lasted two years before I quit and spent months just being unemployed and feeling like a huge loser.

I spend most of my days alone. Misha works. Kids are in school. I get my workouts done and do little cleaning projects around the house. I read. I write…sometimes. I talk to my best friend on the phone when she’s available. I’ve taken a remote job, but that still leaves me home and lonely. Overall, I’m not happy with my current situation in life.

I’m sure most of you are thinking that I shouldn’t be so lonely because of Misha. But it turns out, we don’t have a whole lot in common. Misha doesn’t exercise. She doesn’t drink coffee. She doesn’t read so there’s no point in going to the bookstore. We do fun things together, absolutely. But there are major aspects of my life I feel I’m missing.

I have been fortunate enough to have people who love us come to visit over the years. My best friend. One of my sisters. Misha’s niece and nephew and their mom. They’ve all come down multiple times in the four years we’ve been down here. My best friend has even driven down just for the day when my depression is winning the war on life.

The visits are always so much fun! Sometimes, we spend a day at an amusement park or shopping. Sometimes, we just hang out at the house playing video games, ordering food, taking shots, and wine. We go on coffee runs. We get pedicures.

Then, before we know it, it’s time for our visitors to leave. And I go back to my life of solitude. I don’t even know if they know how much their visits mean to me, no matter how short they are.

I used to think I liked being a loner. Now I am a loner. And I’m not a fan.

High School Drop Out

It’s true. This writer/blogger did not take that accomplishing walk across a stage wearing a graduation cap. I don’t usually admit this. I’ve been embarrassed by this fact for fear of becoming my mother, who was also a drop out. As I’m approaching my oldest daughter’s high school graduation, it’s been on my mind often.

But why did I choose to end my high school career? Allow me to share another of my truths.

I lost a grandfather in high school. His death took me by surprise and shook me to my core. I remember knowing something was wrong when my uncle called my house line and asked to speak to my mother. I fell to the floor and lay crying; my chest threatening to cave in. I couldn’t believe he was gone.

In a crazy twist of chance, my paternal grandfather and maternal grandmother both suffered heart attacks simultaneously. They were both rushed to the same hospital. Both under went open-heart surgery. Both suffered a stroke during the procedure. My grandmother survived the entire ordeal, only slightly changed. My grandfather did not wake. He never left the hospital.

I was angry at the world. My grandmother, my mom’s mom, was not the best of people. I couldn’t understand how she was given a second chance in life while my grandfather was denied. I allowed my grief and fury to completely take hold. I felt myself giving up.

Back to school. I began my junior year but my heart wasn’t in it. I began missing days at a time. Classmates whispered about me when I entered rooms. They were frustrated in my lack of drive and indifference. One morning, I just stopped going all together. I laid in my bed day after day. I couldn’t see how to move forward. I couldn’t see how to care.

After the new year, I snapped out of it. Something in me finally awakened again. I had to finish school! I couldn’t be the loser so many people would assume I would be. My mother scheduled a meeting with my advisor. I was quite nervous.

His terms were clear: I could not miss any more unexcused days. I was required to complete all credit completion sessions for each semester of my junior and senior year. I was expected to complete summer school sessions for my junior and senior year. These were all acceptable and attainable.

Then he dropped his final condition: I would not be allowed to walk with my graduating class. Due to all my absences, I would not have the required credits to officially graduate until I finished summer school after my senior year. I felt defeated. I wanted my diploma, but I also very much wanted to walk across the stage with my class. I was prepared to earn that right, but he was not willing to grant it to me.

So, I left school. I was willing to put in all the work, but not if I wouldn’t reap that ultimate benefit. I opted to get a GED instead. Not as satisfying as graduation would’ve been. I did earn an Associate’s Degree and walking that stage was an amazing feeling. I couldn’t stop smiling, especially when I looked out to see my daughters’ faces.

The lesson is this: even if your path in life does not follow the road you imagined, there are plenty of turns that will get you there.

Writer’s Block

Bugh. Is it ever so real! It took me many years to figure out what I wanted to be. It wasn’t until an idea for a story completely unfolded in my mind that I decided I wanted to be a writer. Not a copywriter or journalist, an author. I want to write stories. My brain is full of new ideas all the time.

More than a decade ago, I began working on a project. I quickly pumped out 17 short chapters. I thought they were pretty good at the time. As it so often does, life happened and the project was forgotten. Just another file on my computer. Then, five years ago, I was scheduled to have a surgery with a 12 week recovery time. It was now or never. So, I opened the file…and hated most of it. My project needed a makeover.

I spent the 12 weeks revamping the story. Changed parts of the plotline. Created new characters and elements. Wrote out a whole new outline. I started making notes on my phone any time a new idea popped into my head. When I was back at my computer, I transformed those ideas into paragraphs. The paragraphs into chapters.

Then, we moved to another state. I had too much weighing on me, so my craft had to wait. Until I landed a desk job, anyways. I worked for a fitness facility for a few months and most of my days were very dull. I wasn’t allowed to leave my desk and after a certain hour of the day, the visitors were few and far between. I began taking advantage of the lulls. I uploaded all of my files to an online storage site and went back to work. I was on fire once more.

Unfortunately, life got in the way, again. I had to take on another job for financial reasons. This new job was food service and life draining. I was constantly exhausted, physically and mentally. There was no brain power for creativity.

A few months ago, I left that life-sucking job with no plan. I’ve been a stay-at-home. I went back to my writing. For a while, I was on a roll. Turning out more chapters. Further developing my characters. Breakthroughs of how the timeline would roll were flowing easily.

It’s been a few weeks since I last sat with that book. I’m at a loss. And frustrated. There’s not enough detail in some places. I can see the ending, but I don’t know the best way to get there. I fear my characters won’t create a connection with readers. I feel some of the chapters aren’t long enough. No new ideas have come to me.

One of my biggest issues is that ideas tend to not come when I’m in front of the screen. They hit me in the most random moments. When I’m driving. When I’m in the shower. When I’m watching TV. When I’m listening to music. I make a mad dash to my phone every time to jot down any new inspiration. But lately…nothing.

I have a second project also in the works. Also being ignored for the same reason. I have three other story ideas stored in my phone all with ideas I intend to use. But I haven’t officially birthed them to the page yet. I have this notion that I can’t work on multiple ventures at the same time. I don’t think that’s a rule. It’s just something I’ve created.

I know I should just push through, even if what I write is rubbish. I can always change and adjust. But the thought of sitting down without a flow of creativity is discouraging.

Bugh.

Java Jacks

Fall Flight

As I’ve said in an earlier blog, I love a good coffee shop. I’m quite addicted to the caffeinated beverage. Aside from Julie’s in Colonial Beach, Java Jacks in Tappahannock has become an absolute favorite.

What first drew me to this place is the offering of a coffee/espresso/tea beverage flight. I’d never heard of that before. Normally flights are a collection of alcoholic beverages.

My partner and I decided to go there for breakfast one day, and Jack’s did NOT disappoint! The small restaurant has a vintage feel, my favorite kind of vibe! We sat at a table for two in a sunroom. Each table is adorned with a tablecloth of different patterns and materials. The servers were young but incredibly helpful and friendly. The service is also delivered in a timely manner.

I had pancakes with a side of fried apples and, of course, their current flight offering (see photo above). I’m not generally a Chai person, but the iced pumpkin chai was my favorite of the set. It was was like sipping a cold slice of pumpkin pie. The maple cinnamon latte came in second for me. Normally I avoid cinnamon due to acid reflux issues, but it wasn’t overpowering. The drink was warm, smooth and just sweet enough. The caramel brulee was also incredibly tasty. I tend to favor caramel. Who doesn’t? The fancy caramel crunch was essential black iced coffee with all the flavoring being in the toppings. It wasn’t terrible, but I’m not a big fan of black coffee.

We also tried their signature Basket of Jacks, fried dough covered in your choice of powedered sugar or cinnamon sugar. We did the cinnamon sugar option because it’s my partner’s favorite. They were soooooo tasty!! They were served warm. The pastry was soft and flaky. Perfection.

Our second visit was during lunch. Again, Jack’s was a success. I chose their California chicken salad on a croissant with sweet potato fries. I’m a big fan of chicken salad. Generally, I avoid versions with fruit, but Jack’s was just that. The sweetness wasn’t overpowering and the flavors paired well with the buttered pastry roll. I was pleasantly surprised.

Valentine Flight

Of course, I ordered their current flight, which was themed for Valentine’s (see photo above). This one, for me, wasn’t as great as the fall flight. I’m not a fan of mocha or fruit flavored coffee drinks. The hot toffee mocha and the iced chocolate cupid cookie were tops for me. The flavors didn’t overpower the taste of the espresso, which is a win for me. I enjoy the taste of espresso and coffee, so it’s a let down when the sweetness is the main focus of taste. The iced raspberry and hot neopolitan were interesting, but not favorites. However, I pride myself on being willing to try new and different food and beverage options. I grabbed an iced caramel macchiato for the road. It was wonderful!

Overall, Java Jack’s is an amazing place. Whether you’re looking for a creative cup of coffee or a tasty meal, there is something for everyone. My partner is the pickiest eater I’ve ever met, and she finds something different to try each time we visit.

Highly recommend!

Ruled by Madness

Do you ever stop during your day and wonder, “Why am I like this?”

This happens to me fairly often. My brain is constantly running on all cylinders. Always thinking of what I have to do next or how much I still have time to do or berating myself for nothing getting all of the things on my insane mental checklist completed. My partner is constantly telling me to slow down or take it easy or take a break. The rare occasions that I actually give in leave me feeling guilty.

I don’t consider myself OCD. My brain just never shuts off and I allow myself to be run by time constraints and ridiculous thinking. I give myself a hard time for no sane reason. Even if I completed everything in one day, I know I’d still come up with a way to tear myself down over something. Is this a definition of insanity??

ONE: I have it in my head that any chores/errands/self-care has to be done by a certain time of day. Ideally, I’d like to be wrapping everything by 4pm at the latest. That’s when my kids get home from school. If I haven’t cleaned the kitchen, did the laundry, exercised and got errands out of the way when they arrive home, it causes a small amount of stress in my brain. I almost feel harassed. “I can’t believe I still have things to do!” There is absolutely no logical reason to live my days controlled by this time constraint. I don’t know why I do it.

TWO: I have exercise guilt. As I’ve said before, I’m a group exercise instructor. Fitness is a pretty big part of my life. Lately, I’ve been completing different fitness challenges, and I’ve gotten into them. Programs that span a few weeks or workout calendars provided by my favorite fitness influencers. Lately, I’ve realized that when I take a rest day, I feel incredibly guilty about it. Bodies deserve rest days. Need them. I will push myself to my limits and find new challenges to master, but the moment I decided to skip a day, exercise guilt. It’s not an insane notion to workout every day, as long as the intensity isn’t always insane. But there’s also no harm in taking a break for recovery. I don’t know why I do it.

THREE: I want immediate results. Whether it’s waiting for internet search findings, making a call, or my physical appearance, I want to see a difference right away. I blame technology for this. The universe has found a way to put lighting speeds and infinite knowledge at our fingertips. We no longer know how to simply slow down. When I want something, I want it right now. I have to wait? Never mind. I don’t know why I’m like this.

FOUR: I have an unhealthy addiction to my phone. It’s been this way since I bought my first smart phone back in 2009. It was a Samsung Behold. And it was amazing. Because of this infatuation I have with constantly being connected, I have a talent of looking but not seeing and listening but not hearing. It’s annoying, unfair, and rude. And I know this. Lately, I’ve been attempting to fix this. When someone is speaking to me, I put in a very conscious effort to lock the screen and set my device down. Again, I don’t know why I’m like this.

FIVE: I have an issue with follow through. I start things and never finish them. Loads of laundry. Cleaning the house. Promises to make calls. I’ll get it all going and then somehow, nothing gets done. I’ve been working on a novel for more then a decade because it’s hard for me to just sit still. I’m constantly thinking of other unfinished tasks I’ve left unattended. Or I think of other things I’d rather be doing: reading, exercising, playing video games, being on my iPad. It’s a problem. Something else for me to work on on my constant search for self-improvement and acceptance.

I guess that’s all for now. My brain is always filled with madness. I’ve always related to Alice with her trips through fantasy and constant distractions.

A Rant, If You’ll Allow

Me, through the years

I. Am. Done.

I’ve been sitting on something for a few days that has just completely broken me. A harsh realization hit me in the chest, and I feel so defeated.

I was categorized as a “Zumba girl” over a decade ago, and I never broke free of it, even though I’ve tried. It doesn’t matter what certifications I have, which workshops I’ve attended, what fitness events I’ve participated in and helped facilitate. Doesn’t matter how many formats I’ve instructed over the years. Doesn’t matter who I know, what resources I have, or how many years I spent working full-time in a fitness environment. I will never be accepted by some of my peers in the fitness industry. I will always just be that girl who teaches dance.

I had recently posted a Tik Tok that I found inspiring and motivational. The video opened with a female personal trainer flexing with a caption over her that read, “She’s no good, she doesn’t have abs.” The video then cut to a Strong Man who said, “Abs aren’t a sign of power. They’re a sign you’re not eating enough.” What a thought, from a woman’s perspective. How often do you see a women with visible abs? Normally, it’s during figure competitions. In those cases, the Strong Man’s statement rings true.

This little Tik Tok was quite the trigger for people following my social media accounts. One woman decided to educate me by saying, “Technically, everyone has abs but only 1% have visible ones.” I interpreted this as a shot at my intelligence. Perhaps she thinks that I don’t know “abs” is short for “abdominals.” Or that I’m unaware they’re the largest collection of muscle on the front of our bodies. They protect our organs, allow movement, and support our trunk. Of course, everyone has them.

But this other woman really came for me. She accused me of attacking people for their hard work and dedication. Accused me of “fit shaming,” which incidentally, is the most contradictory term I’ve ever heard. She boasted about her visible abs; she neglected to mention her tummy tuck, though. She also proceeded to accuse me of shaming “skinny people” who have visible abs. Just more proof that visible abdomen muscles are not a sign of power. A discrepancy to her argument. To add more insult to injury, she then went on a very long rant on her own social media page:

“Attacking a physically fit person for an attribute they have worked their ass off for, when you have never had that attribute, because you haven’t put in the same amount of effort, is a sure show of your jealousy and insecurity. Saying that someone doesn’t eat and that’s why they look the way they do, when it clearly isn’t the truth, takes away from the countless hours of effort that they put in to be that healthy individual. If you aren’t a fan of the way a person looks, that’s fine. But never attack a person’s hard work. Or belittle it by implying it’s without effort. If coming after someone else is how you make yourself feel better, I truly feel bad for you.”

Now, allow me to reintroduce myself. I’ve been a fitness professional for eleven years. My first fitness license was with Zumba Fitness in 2011. I loved the dance fitness program. I wanted to share my passion for it with whoever I could. A few years later, I passed a test to become a certified group exercise instructor through the American Council on Exercise(ACE), which is a nationally accredited certification. I spent 7 months studying the material. I was so proud of myself. A few months after that, I took another license: Strong Nation, a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) program set to music. The training was brutal. At one point, I fell after slipping in my own sweat. A year later, I attended a three day workshop through the American College of Sports Medicine(ACSM), which is the big gun. It was an information overload, but I wanted to learn everything I could. I had found a great passion in fitness. Not many people know about these accomplishments. I’m simply seen as the Zumba girl.

I’ve only ever publicly attacked one person. Another self-proclaimed “fitness professional” who publicly shamed a woman for wearing a two-piece bathing suit and posting pictures of herself. That “professional” didn’t feel that woman was in her right to do so. I was compelled to respond, to fight back, to take a stand. Especially since this professional had both weight loss and plastic surgery multiple times but never admitted to it being the reason for her overall success. My job is to motivate, inspire and encourage and I strive to do just that. All fitness professionals should be driven to do the same. The moment we spread negative energy, we stop living by our code of ethics and outside our range of scope.

I’ve been on both ends of the fitness spectrum. I have health issues I’ve been fighting against for years. Sometimes, I’m small. Sometimes, I’m heavy. Either way, any and all accomplishments are done without surgery, cosmetic or bariatric. I do it all without the latest diet fads. I do it all without supplements. I’m not attacking anyone who has, but this is my truth.

I’ve spent the last decade working on myself, accepting myself, learning to love myself all while trying to present a positive front. To be a motivational force to those who feel they don’t belong or as if they’re not enough.

I support a person’s right to choose plastic surgery and weight loss procedures. I spent many years working for a fitness facility that specialized in bariatric preparation and recovery. I personally know many people who have made these elections. However, if you’re a fitness professional, you shouldn’t pretend it wasn’t a part of your process. Don’t omit these facts for reasons of self-promotion. It’s misleading, uninformative, and unfair. I’m not saying it isn’t a hard rout; of course it is. BUT it was, in fact, part of your success.

You can’t call a person your “greatest inspiration” for years then proceed to tear them apart when you disagree over fitness advice. The fitness industry is full of contradictory advice. Each person has had their own experiences and follow their own individualized plans. The more educated and passionate the trainer/instructor, the more helpful and supportive they tend to be. Don’t be fooled: there are certifications that do not require much effort to obtain. Certifications that simply allow a person to legally train you.

The physicality of an instructor or trainer does not designate their skill set. Knowledge is not measured in the amount of muscles you can see. Fitness and health comes in all shapes and sizes; something I’ve learned through years of working in the fitness industry. Weight, whether under or over, isn’t a sign of a person’s health and wellness. When a fitness professional attempts to prove that you must look a certain way to work in the industry, they stand for everything that’s wrong with it.

In the end, I’m still not accepted by my peers. These people I’ve idolized and respected will never see me as an equal. No matter what I learn. No matter how strong I become. No matter how real I try to be. I’m misunderstood and mistreated.

And this, is what bothers me more than my physicality.