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Musings

The Road to PyeongChang Starts at 1 Victory Lane

Megan Harrod

***Disclaimer: I hope you all can read, because I’m not providing audio for this one since it’s abbreviated and there’s a video component. If you can’t, your problem is bigger than me. You got this.***

For the last four years I've worked for the U.S. Ski Team as their Alpine Press Officer, traveling the world, working to make stars shine. To put it in terms most can understand, I often drive thousands of kilometers in the winter, carry bags that are far too heavy and borderline give me a heart attack (the men's speed team's is always the heaviest...can you say "divas"?! Haha, joking. Kind of.), make sure athletes are hydrated in the finish area and have snacks, ensure they don't have anything stuck in their teeth or boogers in their nose and they don't say anything that could negatively affect their or the U.S. Ski Team's brand image to the media. That's my job.

I'm in the background, usually smiling, wearing leggings of some sort and with a unicorn mask in my finish bag. I love amplifying athlete stories. I love storytelling in general. The passion I have for my work is something I'm very grateful for, and the places it takes me are stunning...from the sunrises in New Zealand to the chaotic mess of humans drooling over ski racing gods in Kitzbuehel - my eyes have seen far more than most can ever dream of. The relationships created and the memories made along the way, are something I will never forget. 

My work has become such a focus in my life (at times the lines are incredibly blurred between work and my personal life...almost too much so) over the last few years. Living on the road for nine months of the year, it's been challenging to find a home in Park City, where my headquarters lives. So, last year when I had the chance to live in a recreational vehicle purchased on a whim by my parents, I thought...why not just live at my headquarters?! And so it began. The Road to PyeongChang literally started at 1 Victory Lane, where I parked "Westward Ho" - as I named her. Home is where you park it, after all, right?! Or something...

Anyway, for much of the summer I lived in Westward Ho, and my friend Chelsea and I thought it'd be fun to put together a little spin-off of "MTV Cribs" deemed "COE Cribs". At the time, a nordic coach whom I lovingly referred to as my "H.O.A. president" was also parked at the office in a Sprinter. It goes without saying that his vehicle was cooler than mine, but I think mine had much more character. Late night chats about the mobile life, sharing of bear spray and beyond - we bonded as a little #OneTeam community. 

Throughout the whole experiment, the biggest eye opener for me was how others reacted to my decision to live in 20-year-old RV. Every guy I talked to thought it was the coolest thing they'd ever heard. Most of the gals I talked to, though, cringed. Intriguing and fascinating learnings on human behavior, gender differences, and priorities that we have when we arrive to our 30s. I don't have kids. I don't have a husband. I don't have a home. I DO have a car (Aspen the Subie -  you've met her if you've watched the video. Actually, we're unsure of the gender there, so I should say "it."), a loving family and friends who support me, a sturdy set of backpacks (Thanks, Topo Designs), a roof over my head (now), a passport, and food (the buffet tour feeds me well in the winter - too well)...so I don't really need anything else. I see and experience things I've always wanted to see and experience, and though I'll likely get tired of moving thousands of miles every winter from point A to B and picking athletes' boogers, I am happy where I am at the moment. 

There were some drawbacks to the RV life...including the breakdown on the initial journey from Minneapolis to Park City with my friend Keely that featured an exciting towing experience by our new friend Doug (who let us borrow his car so we could go to a movie and a Mexican restaurant), and a stay in the middle of nowhere, Minnesota for a couple of days and some initial DMs to my now-boyfriend-then-Instagram-connection, who was also traveling across the country at the time (I slid in and asked if he had room for two gals in his car...he was already 130 miles beyond us). Additionally, there was the leaky roof which led to an attic flood that destroyed many of my clothes. However, for the most part, it was a good life, a good run, and I slept hard. I even kind of miss my morning wake up calls by athletes on the slack line outside my bedroom window, or my tea dates with my former supervisor at my dining room table. For a short time, it was a good time leading into a season that would have me travel across the globe, with the Olympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea as the pinnacle event. I hope you enjoy this limited edition episode of "COE Cribs" as much as I enjoyed making it. 

Shout-out to Chelsea for filming on the GoPro, and my sis Mikaela for editing it. And, of course, shout-out to my mother and father for still supporting me at #ageofjesus+2...and a big thank you to Westward Ho herself. 

Love, 

Vagablonde

Goal: Live life like Pippi Långstrump. Or a wolf. Or both. Whatever. Be whoever you are.

Megan Harrod

I am the sea and nobody owns me. ⚡️
— Pippi Longstocking

Remember Pippi Långstrump? For Americans, the name "Pippi Longstocking" may be more recognizable. According to Wikipedia...

Pippi is red-haired, freckled, unconventional and superhumanly strong – able to lift her horse one-handed. She is playful and unpredictable. She often makes fun of unreasonable adults, especially if they are pompous and condescending. Her anger comes out in extreme cases, such as when a man ill-treats his horse. Pippi, like Peter Pan, does not want to grow up. She is the daughter of a buccaneer captain and has adventure stories to tell about that too. Her four best friends are her horse and monkey, and the neighbours’ children, Tommy and Annika.

A couple of years ago a good friend (thanks, Tiitu) of mine told me I remind her of Pippi Longstocking, as she gifted me white long stockings with red and blue strips that she knit for a Christmas gift. To this day, I believe this to be the best compliment I’ve ever received.

You see, Pippi is not the norm. I'm not the norm either. I push. Sometimes I make people feel uncomfortable. I'm not a "yes gal." I'm more like a "why gal." Though it can sometimes be challenging to be this way in conventional environments, I'll never stop being this way. 

And so, when - as a blonde-haired, mid-thirties woman in this world - I run into situations where I'm expected to be less like Pippi and more like...say...little red riding hood, I'm in a little bit of a pickle. Have you watched Team USA gold medalist's Abby Wambach's Barnard commencement speech? If not, I'd recommend it. Got me all fired up last week. 

Abby Wambach's Barnard College Commencement Speech: "Barnard women, class of 2018, we are the wolves."

Like all little girls, I was taught to be grateful. I was taught to keep my head down, stay on the path, and get my job done. I was freaking ‘Little Red Riding Hood.’

The message is clear: Don’t be curious, don’t make trouble, don’t say too much, or bad things will happen. I stayed on the path out of fear—not of being eaten by a wolf—but of being cut, being benched, losing my paycheck. If I could go back and tell my younger self one thing, it would be this: ‘Abby, you were never Little Red Riding Hood, you were always the wolf.’
— Abby Wambach

Did you watch it? I know, I know...it's long...and your attention span is short. But give her a shot. I'm not going to let you continue until you do. 


Okay, back at it. So I've been feeling a little low lately. I've written about what it feels like to be a strong woman working in a sea of men before. This isn't the first time. If I approach someone without my positive, bubbly, personality...I'm a bitch. Rather than assertive, I'm aggressive. I'm combative. That's a shame. 

And then I go back to things like what Tiitu told me. Pippi is a hero. She doesn't let people get to her head. So, today, when I was at home with a migraine not feeling well, and being the sad version of Megan not many people see, I reminded myself that being a little odd is OK. Sticking up for myself is OK. Staying firm in my beliefs and moral standards is OK...and, in fact, an admirable trait. Saying "no" when everyone else says "yes" is OK. And being a strong woman is...not just OK, but fucking awesome.

I will never stop being like Pippi. 

And just when I'm feeling low, a little sunshine comes my way. Today, it came in the form of an email from my former ski coach, Mark Navin. It was a letter he wrote to the Director of Admissions in February of 2001, after I had found out I didn't get into St. Olaf: my first choice. You see, I applied early action rather than early decision, with University of Wisconsin-Madison as my other option. But, during the winter of 2001 - and more notably when they told me "NO" - I wanted in to St. Olaf. Rather than opening that admissions letter and walking away with my tail between my legs, I said "they can't tell me no...I belong there." So, I decided to appeal the decision.

Here's the note Mark, a St. Olaf and Stratton Mountain School alumnus, wrote on my behalf: 


Sara Kyle                                                                                            February 20, 2001
Director of Admissions
St. Olaf College
1520 St. Olaf Ave.
Northfield, MN  55057

Dear Sara,

Thank you very much for taking the time to speak with me last week regarding Megan Harrod.  Megan has applied for and been denied admission to St. Olaf and I am happy to say that she is appealing the decision. 

My wife Erika (Heins) and I graduated from St. Olaf in 1995. We’ve known Megan since I started coaching the Alpine Valley Ski Team later in 1995.  It doesn’t surprise me that Megan has decided to make an appeal to the admissions department. She is a person of incredibly strong character and possesses a drive to succeed both in life and on the ski hill. I can honestly say that she has the spirit, enthusiasm, and passion of a St. Olaf Student.

One of the unfortunate aspects of alpine ski racing is that it requires high school students to miss a substantial amount of school. During the winter months, Megan typically practices two to three nights per week, travels every Thursday or Friday to the upper peninsula of Michigan or to Minnesota, races during the weekend, and returns to class on Monday morning. As a coach, I have always stressed that school must come before skiing and I believe that Megan has developed a good balance between the two, just as she would be expected to do at St. Olaf.

Prior to each season I ask all of our team members to set short and long term goals. In each of the previous four years, Megan has attained or surpassed the goals she set for herself. This fall, her long term goal was to gain acceptance to St. Olaf, earn a degree in English, and become a Journalist. I know that Megan can succeed at St. Olaf, but more importantly, she knows it. I ask that you please reconsider your decision. You will not be disappointed.

Sincerely,

Mark Navin
Corporate Account Manager


Guess what?! I was a student-athlete who graduated Cum Laude. I was team captain for three seasons and an all-American skier my last season with the team. I wrote for the newspaper. I studied abroad.

He's right. They weren't disappointed. 

After all, how many of their alumni have gone to the Olympics?! How many of them have rollerbladed on a stage in front of 6,000 screaming Austrian fans?! Or wormed on stage at the Austria House in South Korea?

Not many. None? 

Never, ever, ever let anyone tell you you're not valuable. Never let them tell you "no." Push for what you believe...and then keep pushing. And, if you need to, tell them "GIVE ME THE EFFING BALL!!" Make them listen. It's not solely a matter of gender. It's a matter of respect for another human.

So when they tell you to be less loud, and less curious, and all they want is for you to be compliant, to be less YOU...to be a bit more like little red riding hood - you know what you tell yourself? NO. Be yourself. If you're the wolf, be the wolf. If you're Pippi, be Pippi. Or both. And be proud of who you are, because you and your talents are a gift to this world.

And when no one else believes in you, believe in yourself. Because you can do it. And you will do it.

Am I a 35-year-old divorcée cougar?

Megan Harrod

I'm writing this from under a glowing palm tree at my go-to cafe in Maui, an indoor/outdoor gem with great coffee and a new happy hour complete with affordable craft cocktails: Paia Bay Coffee. The raindrops are falling lightly upon the tin roof. Rusted. At the same time, the sun is shimmering through the swoosh swoosh swooshing leaves, casting a bouncing light on my lychee martini. I've come to Maui on my annual post-season Hawaiian thaw. It was a long season, and I've been spending more time in the office this spring than I have in previous years...a little much for a post-Olympic year. So, in a way, this vacation is a reprieve from the chaos surrounding the sport of alpine ski racing these days. It's hard to unplug, but I'll get there, hopefully sooner rather than later. It just may take some time. In any case, it feels good to spend time reflecting on the last year, under the sun and in the healing ocean waters. Ready? Here we go...


stig·ma (ˈstiɡmə) 
noun.
A mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.

I've been thinking a lot about stigma lately. Like how we wear it as a badge of shame and let it define us - let society define us. How we allow the perception of others to affect us,  shape who we are and define us. And often, how it starts within ourselves. We believe something about ourselves based on social stigma...and therefore we frame the way others perceive us. How does this apply to me?

Well, I'm turning 35 today. I've thought a lot about this and what it means to me. Swirling through my head are thoughts like,

"35 is basically 40. Jesus."
"I don't feel or look 35. I feel and look 23."
"Will my metabolism slow at some point and I won't be able to eat copious amounts of double cheeseburgers?" (because that would be tragic)
"Will I ever slow down and stay in one place long enough to create a home?"
"Do I even want a home?"
"Am I too old to wear these really short shorts, or this swimsuit that gets lost up my bum?"
"How much longer should I have this crazy job that keeps me on the road and pays me less than I'm worth?"
"Does 35 mean I have to 'grow up'?!"
"Will I ever have children?" and - perhaps more importantly - "Will I even be able to have children when I do want them?"
"Am I too crazy for a 35-year-old? Like, do 35-year-olds where onesies, unicorn masks, do the worm, and flirt like crazy with everyone they adore in their lives?"

And finally...the zinger...

"AM I A COUGAR?!" 

Want to know what thought I almost always arrive at after these crazy thoughts circulate through my mind?! FUCK IT. FUCK THEM. Because, you know what?! It doesn't matter. None of it matters. We live our lives and create our values, beliefs, perceptions, etc, based on personal experiences and the environments from which we emerge. So, I can't get angry at or judge someone who looks at me and hears my story, and thinks I'm a 35-year-old divorcée cougar. Because, in the end, they've likely lived their life in a very different way, and - more importantly - it doesn't really matter. Because they don't know me like I know me, they haven't walked in my shoes, and vice-versa. 

To be honest, I guess I never thought I'd be 35. I don't think I look 35. I certainly don't act 35. And, moreover, I don't feel 35. Or, maybe I just don't look, act, and feel what society thinks 35 to be, and, my peers are living healthy and full lives that redefine what age is or means?! So, there's the age thing. And then, there's the boy thing. Last summer after my heartbreak, I did A LOT of introspection. I opened myself up to dating again at some point last winter, and I spent time with some younger guys. That was fun. And different. And, it changed my own perception that I had created based on social stigma. Mostly, I thought to myself, "HOLY SHIT! 26-year-olds can be more mature than guys my age?! Well this opens up an entire group of guys I had never considered before." More boys?! Y-E-S please! *During this moment, the sparkle in my eyes reached a record high.*

I explored a little. And that, along with a lot of other self-love-type things, was the medicine I needed to get me through a tough time of transition in what would be an extremely busy winter. I started laughing again. And glowing (thank God it wasn't because I was pregnant). And, somehow, I started attracting more attention from 20-year-olds. What is it about 20-something boys digging 30-something gals? Is it appealing because we're experienced, successful, a tad wiser and drama-free (most of us, at least)? Anyway, what I'm trying to get at is that I stopped thinking about the age thing. It's not like I was with a bunch of dudes...but I was open to flirting with a bunch of dudes.

And that, my friends, is when I had an epiphany! 

THAT'S WHEN I CREATED MY NO-GO ZONE. 

It shall be deemed, “Peter Pan-Land.” 

PE·TER PAN·LAND 
noun. A forbidden age range, between the years of 28 and 35 years, for dating or engaging in serious monogamous relationships. Almost always applies to professional sports, and - more specifically - the snow sports industry. Always applies to coaches within these industries. There can be exceptions to this rule, but the general premise is if you meet them before 28 they can be grandfathered in and therefore are safe...but if you meet them between 28 and 35 they likely are at a point in their lives where they just want to play. And run away from responsibility or anything that may "tie them down." Note: can also apply to females (true in my case!).
see also: "Saturn Return"


So, yeah. I just did some critical thinking about age and remembered a phenomena known as the "Saturn Return." I know what you're thinking, "WTF, Megan, with your hippie-dippy notions again?!" Bear with me here. It's a thing, I promise. 

SAT•URN
The planet sixth in order from the sun, having an equatorial diameter of 74,600 miles (120,000 km), a mean distance from the sun of 886.7 million miles (1427 million km), a period of revolution of 29.46 years, and 21 known moons. It is the second largest planet in the solar system, encompassed by a series of thin, flat rings composed of small particles of ice.


SAT•URN RE•TURN 
When the planet Saturn returns to the position it was in, in the beautiful sky, when you were born.

What does this mean? It begins around the age of 27. Ever heard of the "27 Club?" Yep. That shit's real. 

During this pivotal period of time, we often get married, realize that we've "grown up" and are now too old to be young and naive, yet too young to know better, the appeal of the 9-5 wears off as we realize monotony is real, long-term relationships undergo significant change, we get the travel bug and want to get the hell out of our comfortable, cozy environments and travel the world, and experience life in a bigger way. 

The 28th year officially marks the start of a new phase, a zone where transitional growing pains could last until 32 or 33-years-old (affectionally known as "The Age of Jesus" by yours truly). It's a shifting point in life where we realize we're no longer children and we reevaluate our purpose in this life, taking stock of what we hold dear to our hearts, what is really worth devoting ourselves to, and where we want to spend our time and energy. It's not a time period to be feared, but rather explored wholly, and embraced. For me, it meant divorce. It meant starting a new career that took me far away. It meant starting over from scratch. We gain brevity and we make big, difficult life choices. We get rid of toxic relationships. We learn what it really means to be brave and courageous. We seek truth, speak truth, be the truth...and expect the same in others. 

Then, we turn the Age of Jesus and we experience another shift. It is a period of understanding, personal growth, and enlightenment. I struggled with it. But I have LOVED my 30s. It's a brilliant decade of life full of wisdom and goal setting and truth. I'm telling you all of this because I'm attempting to convey the fact that I've finally realized that I'm not going to waste my time on people that don't want to give themselves to me. Like, their WHOLE selves...not just a surface-level, empty, bullshit version of themselves because they're living in Peter Pan-Land. And, I can't be mad at or frustrated with them for it, because it's an important place to explore. I did, after all. I'm just steering clear of it as I turn the corner to another year milestone: 35. 

Here's another thing: I was married once. I've gotten to the point where even I forget that sometimes. I went through a divorce when I was 31. I don't regret getting married one bit, and getting divorced was the best decision I've ever made. But that doesn't mean my ex is a horrible person. It just means we didn't work. And that's OK. And, I have to say, other than an expensive wedding and a contract, a marriage doesn't differ from a long-term relationship. Breakups happen. It's the cycle of life. 

Seasons: one ends, another begins. 

The notion of impermanence (anicca or anitya) forms the bedrock for the Buddha’s teaching, having been the initial insight that impelled the Bodhisattva to leave the palace in search of a path to enlightenment. The doctrine asserts that all of conditioned existence, without exception, is "transient, evanescent, inconstant."

Yep, I'm divorced. Yep, I'm 35 and dating a 27-year-old (almost 28!). Yep, it goes against convention and some people may not be comfortable with it, because something that turns left when it's supposed to turn right, often will make people feel uncomfortable. That's stigma, people. So, I'm sorry if it feels that way to you. But, remember, we're playing from different decks, with different experiences and different beliefs and cultural expectations, and different standards of morality. 

It was important for me to have solo time this winter to find complete comfort in being alone again, to find my way back to myself, and to fall in love with myself. I went on a romantic New Year's getaway to Venice...with myself. I spent a lot of time in my car with the best road trip buddy I could imagine...me. I spent time with my family and shared in the magic that was my nephew's first Christmas in Prague and loved all of it. I poured myself into my work and the people with whom I work and love, but also found balance. And, somewhere along the way, I opened myself to something new. I didn't look for it. And then - VOILA! - there it was: a him. Tall, bearded, sensitive, strong, sweet, used his big boy words, and not afraid to love. Which, when you think about it, is kind of ironic considering in my last blog post on February 1, 2018, I wrote, 

It’s kind of simple. All I want is a man with a beard who loves to ski and take hot baths and gives really good back rubs and is smart and kind and honest...but also lets me be me, doesn’t take himself too seriously and likes to have fun. Is this too hard?!

Ask, and you shall receive. I'm a lucky gal. And he always reminds me that he is the lucky one.

*SWOON*

SO...I guess I'm saying - you do you. And I'll do me. (And I'll also do my amazing 27-year-old boyfriend. Tee hee. *Insert Speak-No-Evil Monkey emoji*) 

I'm happy. I feel great. I'm healthy. I'm well-fed (maybe too well fed, but that's another story). I don't regret any experience I've had, especially my divorce, rather I am thankful for each and every one of them for making me who I am. But, I am not defined by them. I have grown into the woman I am because of them. 

CHEERS to 35 and all of the wisdom and experiences it will bring.

You know how I feel about stigma? Fuck stigma. 

Always learning
Always growing
Always laughing
Forever young...

#Vagablonde

P.S. How is a "Cougar" defined anyway? Let's look at the facts. They're the second largest cat in America, they're adaptable and inhabit various ecosystems from mountains to desert, they cannot roar but rather purr like a house cat, they're meat-eaters and prey on deer and other domestic animals, they move gracefully and with purpose, they have no natural enemies and sit atop the food chain, and they're both fierce and fiercely independent. If that's the case, yep...I'm definitely a cougar. RAWR! And, MEOW. 🐯

Say what you mean and mean what you say…

Megan Harrod

…because that’s all that matters at the end of the day.

I'm sitting here at a quaint cafe in Engelberg, Switzerland called Kafikaufbar. It's next to the train station and it's adorable. It's grey outside, but I don't mind. I'm filled with sunshine and I have a smile on my face. I hit the pause button and left the White Circus madness for a few days to rest and restore for the Olympics. That's right, you read that right - I'm a first time Olympian! Kind of funny to type that, but nevertheless - I'm beyond excited to be heading to South Korea to support our 22 alpine athletes and represent Team USA. 

When I walked into this cafe, I was greeted by a group of intoxicated Swedish bros. As I surveyed the space, one of them said, "Right here!" Nope. Thanks though, guys. Not interested. Put on my new wireless Bluetooth headphones to block out the noise. Thank the good Lord.

------

Oops, I got distracted. Mostly by the ultra-rare super blue blood moon last night. Normal scenario. This rare celestial convergence occurs when a supermoon, a blue moon and a total lunar eclipse occur simultaneously. After downing a glass of red wine at Kafikaufbar, I ventured over to Ski Lodge Engelberg. I’ve been told by many that it’s the ‘hip place to hang…lots of Swedes.’  Yeah, I’m in. Don’t have to think twice about that. Two beers and a fish taco – and a lot of people watching – later, I walked outside. “Skiing is believing,” said the awning outside. I smiled.

Then I looked up.

A full moon in the mountains is a sight for sore eyes. With clouds swirling around the super blue blood moon, the lighting over the Mt. Titlis (yep, you better believe I giggle every time I hear/read it) was something magical. My iPhone photos couldn’t do it justice. Some – most – things are better left as visuals burned into our minds. Stunning.

My wolf pack lady friends, being the pseudo-hippies we are (minus the dank smell of patchouli), looked up the meaning of this moon. Ready for this?

LUNAR ECLIPSE in LEO | Leo is creative fire, self-expression, the willingness to shine bright. Eclipses bring change, calling us forward. Venus is involved here, indicating growth and opportunity in financial and relationship self-worth. As women, how we view ourselves, how we relate to ourselves matters. We reveal ourselves energetically before we even speak. Think back to last August. What occurred then? What awarenesses? This is the next chapter of that unfolding. We often fear change, but it’s change that propels us forward. Courage opens our heart, strengthens it. This eclipse asks: how much are we willing to love? How much are we willing to share of ourselves? I’ve been thinking about love, how humbling it is, but also how it enriches us, inspires us to grow, to take risks and how, without the tending to it, we risk folding into ourselves. To feel, really feel our hearts is to be vitally, deeply, brilliantly alive. It reminds me of that quote from Meet Joe Black, which can relate, not only to romantic love, but to co-creation in all realms ‘To take the journey and not fall deeply in love, well you haven’t lived a life at all. But you have to try, because if you haven’t tried, you haven’t lived... Stay open. Lightning could strike.’ Stay open. Lightning could strike.
— Danielle Beinstein

Yes, I remember what happened in August. And it was brutal. The sadness lasted for months. I’m not used to that. For those of you who know me well, you know my story well. And yes, I shared it freely and openly. I probably made one individual pretty bummed about that, but it helped me to heal. At that point, it didn’t really matter what that person felt or thought about it…for me, that period of time was all about healing.

Lightning could strike. 

It did. 

(Btw, my most recent tattoo is a lightning bolt on my right ring finger - "love like lightning")

 Love like lightning. 💛⚡

Love like lightning. 💛⚡

 

I move quickly through life, which is – in fact – the very reason I had “move slowly” tattooed on my left wrist. I don’t often move slowly, but I’ve found that when I do, the best and most beautiful things fall into place. I’m still learning patience…it doesn’t seem to get easier with each passing year. It’s hard for me to put myself back in the place I was a few months ago, but I’m so thankful I have transformed my thoughts into words so I can remember how far I’ve come. That was the advice from one of my very patient best friend’s (Lindsay Love), and it worked wonders.

Now that I that I have some space from those feelings, I feel like I can share a bit of what I was going through. Days and days passed where sad became the norm; I woke up sad, went to bed sad and couldn’t sleep soundly in between. I was a mess of emotions – angry, empty, lost, sad, frustrated, betrayed, in love – and ultimately these emotions had a negative effect on not only my mind but my body too. I took baths, meditated, hiked, talked to my therapist, talked to all of my friends and family members. Nothing was working. Another dear friend of mine, whom I spoke to frequently, asked me one day if I had thought about taking medication. “Absolutely not. I don’t need medication.” Those were the first thoughts that ran through my mind, which is funny, considering I don’t judge friends who take medication and I realize its benefits for our chemical imbalances.

I thought about it.

I cried.

I talked to my mother, a nurse midwife for many years, about it.

I cried some more.

Then I decided I’d try it for a period of time and see if the sadness lifted at all. As a result of the way our society views mental illness, this decision was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made. I was angry with myself. So now, I wasn’t only angry at myself for allowing myself to get lost in someone else, but I was also angry at myself for needing to turn to medication for help. I struggled a lot with that. I started taking a low dose anxiety medication that turned into a normal dose two weeks later after I found myself sitting in my annual appointment with my midwife sobbing to her about my feelings.

H-E-L-P.

I needed it.

In the span of two months, I lost about 15 lbs...that I didn’t need to lose. I had little to no appetite. Sure, I was busy with the start of the Olympic season preparation, but there were other factors at play. Everyone and I mean every single person I talked to, commented on my weight. I didn’t realize how much I had lost. Too much, for me. I never keep track of my weight, I don’t count calories, and I love being strong and substantial. But, my clothes were baggy. My breasts were disappearing. I hadn’t been that skinny since I was maybe a 14-year-old freshman in high school.

I went to a fabulous talk about the stigma around mental illness that my great friend Sara Gibbs of Alta Community Enrichment (A.C.E.) hosted, and though it was scary to open up in front of 70 strangers, I shared my feelings. My voice was shaky and I almost started crying, but it felt good. And it was good to talk about not being OK, and sharing that with others. We're all mentally ill in some way, shape or form...that is, if you feel at all. If you have emotions of any kind, then you experience mental illness. It's not a bad thing. It's normal. And if we continue to look at it this way, maybe the stigma will dissipate.  

And then, around mid-November, the cloud of sadness seemed to magically start lifting, and I felt better. My skin was clearer. More importantly, my mind was clearer. I stopped saying his name in my head over and over. I stopped wondering and just started being. My strength was back. I was laughing again. A lot. Everything was just lighter. I felt like me again. Fast forward three months, and I still feel good. In fact, I feel fucking awesome. I’m even friends with the man who broke my heart. I can laugh with him. I can hang out with him. I’m thankful for that.

And, I’m having so, so much fun exploring my newfound sexual freedom (I'm safe, of course.). I dance. Boy, do I dance. I flirt. I kiss. It’s light and it’s fun. And, most important of all, I’m honest…brutally honest, even. That feels good. No games. No wondering. Just pure truth and kindness and good vibes these days. If I feel myself going down the path of the past, I have the awareness to stop and redirect myself on the path of truth. And I unapologetically demand that from everyone who surrounds me. I figure if I’m going to take this precious time from my life – which is indeed the greatest gift you can give someone – then I better spend it living in the truth. And I realize that, when I don’t, that’s when I feel heavy and sad.

Writing is an art. Like visual art – a painting, for instance – it can take many twists and turns before it lands at its destination. And these digressions are purposeful. Sounds like life, right? Well, guess what – life is art too – and each of us can create something beautiful from nothing. A blank canvas to fill up. I started somewhere, and now I’ve gone on a tangent, but today I’m going to let it happen. Sometimes I wish more of us shared the entire process, unedited. This is me, today, unedited.

So, where was I? Back to where I started…

Age of Jesus + 1 Woman Wisdom:
After dating (if that’s even what you call it), a few dance floor make outs and a lot of flirting, I wanted to share advice for men...or boys, more like it:

1.     If you don’t want to hang out with a woman, tell her. It might be harder in the beginning, but it doesn’t sting as much in the end. And you’ll both feel lighter and better about yourselves.

2.     Don’t be a dick, douche, or coward. Ain’t nobody got time for that shit. ‘Nuff said. Moving on.

3.     Don’t pretend that texting is an actual conversation. It should never replace actual spoken words, rather it should supplement them. In this digital age, it seems we've lost our ability to authentically communicate with each other and we almost live a different life on our mobile phones. If you base an entire relationship on text messages, it’s a fantasy not reality. Textual frustration. I have it. 

4.     Always ask her how she is doing and if she made it safely to her next destination. It shows you care. And don’t just talk to her about yourself. That’s selfish. Similarly, no small talk. That’s basic. And it’s an effective way of turning her off…unless that’s what you’re going for. And if you are, then tell her. Easy.

5.     If a woman asks you out on a date and you say “maybe” when you really mean “no”, then please refer to no. 2 on this list. Again, stop being a dick, douche, or coward. Don't ever string her along for the sex. That makes you suck. And a shitty human being. And, come on - you're not a shitty human being. 

6.     Acknowledgement of the woman you’re with as a human being is absolutely a non-negotiable. That means, say “hello” and “goodbye” even if you’re trying to hide your relationship in a work environment or small bubble. It’ll look more suspicious and feel worse for both of you if you don’t treat each other like humans. And, stop being a dick, douche, or coward.  

7.     Never, I repeat NEVER tell a woman you love or have any feelings for or respect for in any way, shape or form, “That was fun” after you have sex – or make love, whatever you call it. Tell her she’s beautiful. Tell her it felt amazing. Touch her. Spoon her. Kiss the nape of her neck. But do NOT make her feel like it was a transaction. Unless, of course, you both are on the same page, and it was a transaction. Then, you do you. And you do each other. Hee. 

8.     This may be a bit repetitive, but NO MORE GAMES. "Yes" means yes and "No" means no. I’m fucking sick and tired of anything in between. Don’t have time for that. Peace, brotha. Or, “dude”? Which brings me to no. 9…

9.     Similarly, please do not ever ghost a woman you’re having sex with, then greet her with a fist bump and a “hey dude…” If you’d like to have any sort of relationship with her in the future, just don’t do this. Please. I beg you. Be a gentleman. 

10.  Treat her with respect and she’ll treat you with respect. Period.  

11.  Don’t pleasure her solely because it makes you feel like more of a man. Do it selflessly and you'll both enjoy it more. (stop being a dick)

12.  Expanding on no. 1 a little bit…say what you mean, and mean what you say. If you love her, tell her. Why is it so easy to tell someone you love them when you’re not together? It’s almost laughable to me. I think it’s so odd. Think about this: if you’re consistently putting your penis inside of her, especially for a significant period (say, months or years), then you probably love her in some way. If you don’t, then something is wrong. Again, maybe not for some women, but for me. So, goodbye, nice to know you, “that was fun”… but time to move on.

Yes, we’re not simple creatures and men are. I get that. Just trying to give you a little insight into how our brains work. Also, read The Female Brain (Bryce Bennett did before he got sixth at Val Gardena, Italy two years ago). I have it if you'd like to borrow it. Yep, I can be crazy. And guess what?! You can be an idiot. The world would be a better place if we were all just a bit more vulnerable, honest and aware.

I hate small talk. I wanna talk about atoms, death, aliens, sex, magic, intellect, the meaning of life, faraway galaxies, music that makes you feel different, memories, the lies you’ve told, your flaws, your favorite scents, your childhood, what keeps you up at night, your insecurities and fears. I like people with depth, who speak with emotion from a twisted mind. I don’t want to know ‘what’s up’

…and I don’t want you to call me “dude” if you’ve slept with me.

Right now, it’s super fun to be me. I’m free of expectations from others and I feel good for the first time in a while. Yes, I’ve learned through meditation to control my rollercoaster emotions and find simplicity, but I’ve also simply returned to myself…and that feels really good. I don’t really give a fuck what people think, either. I mean, I love humans and I want to treat humans with respect, love, and kindness…but I keep reminding myself that we each perceive the world differently, and I can only control my actions and how I react to yours.

I found this Khalil statement, and I both love it and hate it. I love it because I believe it to be true. People ruin beautiful things because we allow them to have influence in our lives when they have no business having influence over us. I hate it because I wish we were all more open and vulnerable. 

Travel and tell no one. Live a true love story and tell no one. Live happily and tell no one. People ruin beautiful things.
— Khalil Gibran

I often go through my days witnessing other couples and cringe, thinking I may never have a partner again. That's kind of weird, but it's the space I'm in right now. It's kind of simple. All I want is a man with a beard who loves to ski and take hot baths and gives really good back rubs and is smart and kind and honest...but also lets me be me, doesn't take himself too seriously and likes to have fun. Is this too hard?!

Hey you…yeah, you – I love you. And always will. Even if that means I’ll never be with you. The thing is, I’ll always have been with you. Moments make life magic.

Thank you.

P.S. I'll write something a lot lighter next time, don't worry - I already have it planned. The topic will be strange massage stories from around the world. I'm taking submissions, so feel free to share them.