Category Archives: Focus

Life Happens, Learning Happens, + Life Still Happens

#30DaysofThankful with #TheGirlWithPurpleHair

Day 20: I am grateful for so much that I can’t keep up

If you know anything about me, you know I hate delivering anything other than the utmost of excellence in all that I do. So you can imagine that when I set out to tackle these 30 Days of Thankful and haven’t been able to deliver I have been left frustrated with myself for letting down my readers. I shared this frustration with my best friend Mali via text when discussing an amazing project she’s currently working on to help the homeless. Mali’s reply was:

Moving yourself to action is easy, moving others to act takes more work, but it has far more value. We all fall of our goals and life happens. You’ll get back to your blog and whatever you decide matters to inspire others.

Mali’s right. I can’t be too hard on myself and I also cannot make excuses. I think in some respects I deliberately choose to take on more because I enjoy being busy but because life is so much of a competition to me: how much can I do and not lose my mind? I think my outlook needs some tweaking though. The work I do on my blog, with my high school students, and as a fitness instructor isn’t about grand standing and showing the world how much I can do. It’s simply about being a friggen rad human.

A recent gift from a former student who traveled to Paris with her family for her 16th birthday

Recently, my work with my high school students has started to really pay off. I am feeling more utilized as a staff member on campus and I am even presenting things to the staff too. My students and I are delving into powerful material and concepts and I leave work thinking that somehow, somewhere I helped change someone’s perspective, attitude, and trajectory in life. Just this morning, my father said to me, “if you change just 5 people’s lives in the duration of your teaching career, that’s more than most people can ever say in their lifetime.” For the first time in a long time, I am slowly starting to see all of the joy that exists within my day. I find myself thinking, well, I don’t hate today; so I guess that’s a good thing.

Students choose to spend their free time in my classroom during nutrition (a type of recess in the early morning where the children are fed) and lunch. We talk about life, fashion, boys, and even books. We laugh and we giggle, and I inhale my food while monitoring those students I am holding for detention whilst preparing for the rest of the day. The bustle and hustle isn’t glamorous and most days my hair is in a ponytail, my clothes are wrinkled, and I look tired, very, very tired. But in spite of the system, the bad apples, and my bewilderment as to why kids don’t do their work; there is so much for me to be thankful and grateful.

  • 12191817_10100835396316121_7387359616663759758_nMy honors students share stories of their lives and performed poetry where they were very vulnerable i.e. drugs, suicide, death, etc. They’re unafraid to be themselves and our classroom has become a safe haven where we pretty much cry together on a daily basis. Just yesterday after student performances of their poetry a young lady said to me, “I’ve hoped and prayed for a class just like this one my entire life. I just can’t believe it’s actually coming true.”
  • My students bring me little gifts and trinkets when they take trips or see something they know I’ll like. One of my former students brought me back a beautiful Eiffel Tower statuette all the way from Paris! Another gave me a My Little Pony key chain ‘just because’. But it’s not about the gifts. It’s about someone going the distance to show you they thought of you and cared enough to express that. I’ve gotten many gifts over the years but in the last year, my students have gone to such incredible lengths to show me that they care about me that I cannot help but feel like I am so much more to them than ‘just their teacher’.
  • They’ve started calling me their “School Mom.”

And for the first time in a long time, perhaps ever in my entire career I feel like most of my students understand what I am all about: Hard work that is made of an iron will and being a good human. As far as I’m concerned, you can have the best grammar in the world and if you’re a shitty person it doesn’t matter. While character education was removed from early education years ago, it’s completely non-existent [and perhaps never even existed in the first place] at the high school level. As it is, teachers are scrambling to teach the required standards and some feel going beyond the said curriculum isn’t their responsibility. But I see that differently. Coaching and building decent people with compassion and critical thinking skills is priceless in comparison to the Periodic Table of Elements. Equipping students with the capability to stand up for themselves in the face of adversity, be kind to others, and that their words have great power to enact change—well, that’s what it means to be a teacher.

So I guess my [attempted] 30 Days of Thankful really has been fruitful. It has given me some great insight into my work as a teacher. It has forced me to step back and look at the world I’ve created for my students and the new perspective has shown me that I am swimming in blessings. Each and everyday, regardless of the situation or circumstance; I must continue to seek the hidden joys nestled within my classroom for they do exist if I choose to see them.

I am My Father’s Daughter

#30DaysofThankful with #TheGirlWithPurpleHair

Day 5: I am grateful for the Lessons My Father Bestowed Upon Me           

 My father and I have a long history of not getting along. My father, a strong, loud and abrasive man is a Scorpio. Me, well I am a strong, loud, abrasive woman and I am a Gemini. Clearly, you can deduce that as a result of our incredibly similar dispositions that my childhood or more specifically, my teenage years were filled with explosive arguments. Often times as a teen my lack of self-control and vicious tongue landed me on some serious punishment to my room for days, maybe even weeks at a time.

unnamed-2Growing up in my house was pretty special. Our parents loved my sister and me dearly and our youth was filled with trips to Mexico and innovative birthday parties. Yet despite this, I detested my father. My father represented order and structure. He was strict with my sister and I; harder on me since I was the oldest. We weren’t allowed to have short hair, dye our hair, wear make up, have boyfriends, or even go on sleep over’s. My youth felt oppressive and during a time when all I wanted to do was desperately fit in, I felt stifled living under my parent’s regime.

My parents are your typical bluecollar folk. My father has an Associate’s Degree and my mother holds a high school diploma. We lived on Long Island in a suburb of Manhattan close to the beach in a modest house. We owned two cars, my sister and I had our own bedrooms, and we never went without food, clothes, or other essentials. My parents worked hard to give us a childhood where we could thrive. My parents let us be kids. I never babysat my younger sister and we always took vacations as a family. Family time was and continues to be paramount. We prepared and ate dinner together every single night. Regardless of being grounded, there was no ‘eating in our bedrooms,’ so I had to face my parents even when I loathed the face time. Dinnertime was family time. Even now, well into my adulthood if I am visiting and I am not going to be home for dinner, I still have to let my parents know.

My father was always self-employed in advertising or other endeavors but he mostly he dabbled computers when I was younger. My father’s was different than my mom’s since she commuted into NYC daily and my dad left for work around 9am after a leisurely breakfast and Howard Stern.

unnamed-3Eventually, my father’s business ventures tanked and his business went bankrupt. My father was out of work for about 2 years. We never knew how bad things really were for my parents with creditors calling the house seeking to collect debts. My parents did an exceptional job shielding us from their financial woes. Everyday, my father got my sister and I ready for school: he cooked us breakfast, diligently did our hair (my mom taught my dad how to make ponytails for us!), and drove us to school. When dropping us off at school, my father always made sure we hugged and kissed him goodbye. As we got older this ritual made us insecure and embarrassed so we tried to evade this by running out of the minivan as fast as possible. My father, never one to go down without a fight would roll down the car window and call to my sister and I, mortifying us in front of our peers. Sometimes, he even would walk us into school, lift us up and kiss our faces making a spectacle of his love for us. At the time, we wanted to die. It was horrific to have your parent, nonetheless your stay-at-home dad humiliate you in school.

Growing up I knew I was different than my friends because we shopped at Payless and Marshall’s and TJ Maxx before it was ‘cool to get a bargain’. My school projects while incredibly unique were comprised of making soap sculptures and other ingenuity that further alienated me from me peers. I still remember one birthday in particular, I don’t know how old I was turning and I don’t even remember who was there. All I remember was what we did to circumvent the fact my parents couldn’t afford to host a party at one of the hip hot spots around town. My father printed and copied outlines off the computer of animals and landscapes. Then we went to supermarket and bought all sorts of dried beans in assorted colors, shapes and sizes. The beans were placed in bowls on the dining room table with bountiful amounts of Elmer’s glue. We glued the beans onto the pictures my father printed but it didn’t stop there. We also each made our own English Muffin pizza bagel! It was creative and obviously tons of fun but again, I felt embarrassed that I couldn’t be like everyone else.

Why couldn’t we have more money? But really, money aside, I just wished my father would be like everyone else’s parents: liberal, lax, and let us listen to Z100 in the car instead of oldies. I acted out. I was ungrateful and angry. I cursed at my parents and I am ashamed to say it, even spit in their faces a handful of times. Filled with rage I went off to college then moved to Los Angeles immediately thereafter. I started my life on my terms, far far far away from that Long Island home as an English teacher for LA Unified. As I started my journey as a teacher, my father’s structure, high standards, passion, confidence, and individuality were wildly apparent. My thick skin to Own My Awesome and be proud of who I am permeated into all facets of my life. Still present today as I mentor youth and inspire people in my fitness classes; the lessons of my father live on.

My father taught me how to be your own person. Abba, which is Hebrew for father, never played by anybody else’s rules. I suppose he didn’t play because he couldn’t. Abba is just too much of a revolutionary and visionary to follow anyone else; he must lead. From my expressive choices in hair color, to my bohemian style of dress, to my quirks as a teacher—my father’s influence on the woman I have become is obvious: I am my father’s daughter.

Strong, loud, and abrasive.

No one defines me or can tell me to play by the rules.

Recently a colleague of mine remarked, “You’re like a walking art project!” My confidence and strong sense of self was cultivated in my youth by my Abba who simply lived his truth. I didn’t know it at the time, but my father established a strong set of morals within me by simply being himself.

unnamed-1I owe all that I am to my father and his ability to stand tall amongst a sea of followers and march to the tune of his own drum. I am thankful that the lessons of my youth shaped me into a fiery force.

I am my father’s daughter.

Happy 62nd Birthday Abba. I love you more than words [I guess pun intended].

I am Grateful for My Husband

#30DaysofThankful with #TheGirlWithPurpleHair

Day 4: I am grateful for my husband

My husband Greg is my biggest fan. Every time I write a new blog post, he’s sure to be the first person to let me know how much he enjoyed what I wrote. Greg also is the only person who constantly asks when I am going to write about him. Well, Greg, this one’s for you.11822820_10152957373526176_6482384569058165266_n

As I mentioned in Thirty Days of Thankful, Day 1, this whole 30 Days of Thankful emerged from my need to self-medicate my boredom and frustrations with my professional life. I knew that I needed to gain perspective and in order to do so, taking a look at the many blessings in my life would help me gain some clarity. Now, I’m only 4 days in so there obviously hasn’t been a major shift as of yet, but I am enjoying protecting my time to write each and everyday.

Moreover, I think that this process is bringing me closer to my husband because I am sharing so much with the world but also with him. I am opening up and being completely vulnerable about my deepest and most intimate thoughts about myself, even the ugly, dark parts. In particular, the last few days have been hard because Greg was in San Diego for work. Greg’s absence wasn’t so much the issue as was being hungry. I barely ate while he was gone since Greg does all the cooking! No matter how long his day, how far he drove; like a machine Greg arrives home from work and immediately starts cooking so that when I walk through the door, dinner is ready.

11013280_10100758970099871_65938193947997885_nI am continually inspired by the selflessness of my husband when it comes to investing in our marriage and our love. But Greg doesn’t just nourish me to sustain my physical-self. It’s so much more than that because he feeds my soul by supporting me when I need it most. He doesn’t cower or recoil when I have a meltdown about my job. He listens to me and holds my hand when I share stories, aka nightmares about working in an urban school. He offers insight, help, and always poses solutions. Greg emails me inspirational quotes, always shares what he learns at trainings and seminars, and even offers to help me exit education ‘if that’ll make me happy’.

So when I think I’ve got it so bad and things are not working out, I remember that my husband believes in me and I can’t let him down. Greg draws his strength from me and I in turn, draw mine from him. Our love and relationship is one of balance; Greg grounds me when I get caught up in myself. And conversely, I help Greg live out loud a little and get outside of his comfort zone. But more importantly, everyday my husband reminds me that true love means working in tandem to ensure each one of us is better for one another and the world than we were the day before. Truly, we really are Team Awesome. Marriage like any relationship is about push—pull and Greg is my push and my pull because Lord knows each and everyday with me is surely an adventure!


I am Grateful for New Adventures in Fitness

#30DaysofThankful with #TheGirlWithPurpleHair

Day 3: I am grateful for new adventures in fitness

People always ask me how I “do it all” from running, to indoor cycling, to yoga, to HIIT workouts, to surfing, to soccer, to Spartan Races, to Ragnar, and now a half marathon [that my husband I have not really started training for]. And to the world as a result of social media it sure does seem like I am successfully doing it all but really, what I am doing is a whole lotta everything and not truly delving too deep into anything because I’ve got my hand in too many pots.

For the entire time I have known my husband Greg, he has always tried to steer my energies towards my yoga practice and teaching. Greg subscribes to being a specialist as an instructor, yet the irony is he teaches EVERYTHING and excels. Well, do as I say not as I do, right? Though I definitely agree with Greg’s ideals, just practicing and teaching yoga would be leaving my soul devoid of so much more that I thrive on from when running, lifting, racing, and feeling the pulse pounding music in my veins: Competition.

So recently, when visiting my best friend Mali in San Diego when her boyfriend Kam astutely observed that I need something to light my heart on fire; to train for that was solely for me without the need to be the best per say; I took it as a sign. I decided it was time to pick myself up out of this “I dunno what I want and like to do” funk and seek out my long time friend Courtney who’s a 3rd degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do. I decided I was going to try something so radically new and different and see if TKD could start to replace the missing pieces of my soul.

Last night was my first time ever in any sort of martial arts gym, studio, dojo, facility, whatever, you get the point. Immediately, I liked the pants because they’re baggy and shapeless, just how I like my clothes to mask my body from the world. I reveled in the hierarchy of the whole thing—bowing when entering the floor, when leaving, before a match, and after. TKD had definitely piqued my interest as I watched fighters gracefully engage in what looked like a well-choreographed dance. I was utterly clueless, that’s for sure; but I could not stop watching in awe. It was enigmatic and captivating.

Class started.

While Courtney insisted it was a beginner’s class all of a sudden, these nationally ranked fighters showed up. My heart started to race. I was petrified of failing, looking like a fool, and doing it wrong. As it turned out, these competitive fighters were getting in some last minute training for a fight that’s coming up this weekend.

The warm up started off easy enough with jogging and some stretches. I got this, I thought to myself. And then Master Villa lined us up to do some stuff. I say stuff because most of the time there’s tons of inaudible shouting and modeling and then you’re off! Do it or we all do squats. Kicks, pivoting, and some more bizarre hopping around then kicking aaaaaaand I am dead last in everything. Hot with embarrassment I wanted to hide. Never in my life have I ever been on such display and felt like I was so out of place. I felt exposed and inadequate and wanted to so desperately plead with the others “But I can be athletic! This just isn’t my sport!” But then Master Villa made the group cheer for me and I built myself back up, “Don’t quit. Be kind to yourself. Everyone starts somewhere. Yes, YOU CAN.”

We sparred and worked on technique. I got to kick paddles and while working with Courtney I asked a million questions and I loved it. I felt the stability of my yoga practice in roundhouse kicks and I was grateful my hips cooperated. I felt strong and though at times I was awkward, not once during the almost 2 hour class [yes, almost 2 hours] did I give up. I worked through my own issues with feeling like I didn’t belong and today: the tops of my feet are raw and tender from the sparring and paddles. I felt empowered that I tried something new. After I got over myself and out of my own way, I loved each and every moment. Now I can’t wait until the next time I can go back and live grossly out of my comfort zone; for if you never try, you’ll never know.

Greatness never comes from comfort zones. Forge a new adventure, for the most meaningful journey you’ll ever lead in this life is the one with yourself.

Join the 30 Days of Thankful Challenge!

  • Follow and subscribe to my blog and social media outlets
  • Comment on my blog with your gratitude for all of us to read and share in
  • Post your gratitude on your social media outlets, using #TheGirlWithPurpleHair and #30daysofThankful.

Thirty Days of Thankful, Day 1

Now seems like as good as anytime to start chronicling my gratitude. No, I didn’t pick the month of November because it houses Thanksgiving and our obligatory time to give thanks. I picked November because right now in this moment and really for sometime, I have been feeling depleted, defeated, and frankly depressed [I think]. I am completely restless in all aspects of my life except with my relationship with my husband. We are blissfully in love and happy. As a matter of fact, I often think if we lived alone on an isolated island together all would be right in my world; but alas we don’t.

Recently, my husband transitioned full time into the fitness arena. He is now an Area Group Fitness Manager for 24 Hour Fitness and we are also moving. There’s a lot of change and upheaval in our lives and while I thrive on major changes and love them, something for me is just off. Often I feel myself not looking forward to doing the things I thought for so long I loved and while I am trying to find my place in this world it seems just when I take a step forward, I then take two steps backwards, sideways or hell, in a circle. And though I recognize this dance is life, the woman I want to so desperately be has no friggen clue who she is; nonetheless wants to be. I feel lost, impatient, and above all, I feel bored. Bored. Bored. Bored.

So, to help combat what I can sense could potentially be a hugely dramatic downward spiral I have decided to try to fight my feelings with gratitude. I am committing to daily blogging for the month of November sharing the good in my life, the joy, the light, and all the small smiles.

In the words of my dear friend and fellow yoga instructor Brianna, “gratitude is always a good thing to hang out with.”

Day 1: I am grateful for my students

Recently, I asked my students to complete a reflection for their 1st marking period grades. There was an optional question that was designed to serve as a personal dialogue directly to me discussing, explaining, or conveying something should the students so desire.

Here are just a few of the highlights (click on the picture to enlarge it). I intentionally took pictures of them and said to myself, “Arielle save these. Remember how you feel in this moment for when you feel alone and beaten down, these shall pick you back up.”

Student response 4 Student response 8 Student response 7 Student response 6 unnamed Student response 5 Minji reflection Clea reflection

If you would like to join me over the next 30 days, here’s the challenge:

  • Follow and subscribe to my blog and social media outlets
  • Comment on my blog with your gratitude for all of us to read and share in
  • Post your gratitude on your social media outlets, using #TheGirlWithPurpleHair and #30daysofThankful.

Now, start giving thanks!

Freedom from Our Stories

Learning in any capacity is such a gift. So when I have the opportunity and the funds permit it, I soak up as much as I can so that I can continue to grow and evolve. This past weekend at my yoga studio One Down Dog we hosted Gaiam yoga instructor Clara Roberts-Oss. Currently based in Vancouver, British Columbia Clara is a gift to the yoga world; leading retreats, workshops, and teacher trainings all over the world. Her no-nonsense approaches to educating teachers and realism with respects to yoga make Clara special.

Exactly one year ago, I met Clara when she visited LA to lead a weekend-long workshop. It was a transformative 3-days for me. Surrounded by friends and fellow instructors from the studio we soaked up Clara’s knowledge and enthusiastically brought it back to share with the students in our classes. But it’s not just Clara’s knowledge that makes her so special. Often, workshops and trainings for yoga instructors turn into a ‘look at me’ display of complicated asana and inaccessible poses. Not with Clara. While we explored and learned all about how to teach fancy arm balances and challenging poses like scorpion and variations of forearm stand, never did Clara post up for us to gaze upon her practice. As needed, Clara showed us things. But this workshop, as with the one I took one year ago was about our learning, MY learning—how to master these poses for myself and how to incorporate them into my classes.

Clara is a breath of real fresh air in a community that is saturated with yogi’s that were dancers, gymnasts, and contortionists modeling poses that most could only dream about. Her social media outlets are humble and rarely updated. Clara doesn’t play the game so many of us [myself included] get sucked into of posting yoga pictures with the hopes of being Instagram famous. But she’s no shrinking violet either. Real, gritty, and fearless, Clara speaks to each and every participant on their level. Simply, Clara is Clara

For me, someone like Clara is what I need in my life and my practice. I wish more than anything she were based here in LA because right now, I don’t have a teacher and I haven’t had one in YEARS. I feel so lost right now, fumbling through my professional life as teacher and not having a stable yoga home to practice or a teacher to guide me. This instability within my heart at work and on my mat only compounds my listlessness. I am desperately seeking some sort of peace juxtaposed with growth and I don’t know where to find it—at least for a weekend I was able to soak in as much of Clara as I could to recharge for some time. Click here to check out something awesome I learned this weekend, or watch the video below.

Clara isn’t like a stereotypical yoga instructor inviting you to dump your life’s shit on her so she can help you rediscover yourself. She makes you do all the work. Basically, Clara’s approach:

Here’s the work you need to do, do it.

Clara assisting me in a forearm stand variation: look closely–my palms are turned up as opposed to down

Specifically, while Clara was teaching us how to fall out of forearm stand I raised my hand and told her I can’t kick up on my bad leg since I’m missing my meniscus. Clara looked at me and in front of the group says “I don’t see why you can’t kick up with that leg. You’re just choosing not to.” Touché. So, while my right leg is not my strong side or pretty side, I practiced both sides where normally in my own practice, I don’t. I don’t practice much of my asana on my right side not because I am physically unable, but because it’s not seamless, pretty, or easy. Clara’s directness shoots straight to my heart. She knows that I don’t need soft coddling. I am an athlete. I don’t respond to hugs and gentle nudging. I need to be barked at, pushed, and sometimes shit talked. Don’t coach or stroke my ego—tell me I can do it, and I will; which is exactly what happened shortly thereafter.

Falling is scary. It’s horrible enough when you don’t expect it, but actually trying to fall?! Now, that’s a whole new experience. We learned how to fall out of forearm stand—split the legs, bend the leg that’s over your head, and TA-DA! You’re over! WHOA. NO WAY. I don’t have the shoulder mobility, I have an ugly wheel practice, my body just won’t bend that way.

As a yogi, I am incredibly fear based and petrified of falling. I started rambling audibly about my fears—rattling off every injury I have had from my zillion knee surgeries to the narrowing in my L4 & L5…

Clara overheard me and from across the room matter-of-factly states:

“We get so caught up in our story. Stop thinking. You’re thinking way too much. Combat your fears and just do it. Go. Now. We are all watching.”

I didn’t think. Clara told me to do it, she knew I could do it, and I did. Forearm stand, legs split, and down I went and pretty darn gracefully too. I could have cried right in that very movement for I cannot recall in a long while feeling as victorious as I did in that moment.

While I am certain Clara is unaware of her effect on me; her direct, shut up and do it, approach is precisely the kind of yoga love I need and desperately crave. While we don’t know each other well and I know virtually nothing about Clara personally, I feel very connected to her, safe, and empowered.

unnamedI learned so much about myself in the weekend I spent with Clara. But for me the most influential lessons I am taking away with me is to not get too caught up in “Our Story.” As people, we use our stories to define us, victimize ourselves, rationalize behavior, or as excuses. We give ourselves the permission to opt out by using our stories as a hindrance. Unfortunately, we use our stories to imprison ourselves and that needs to stop. As my mother put it when I shared this anecdote with her, “It’s human nature”. And I agree with my mother it’s human nature, but it doesn’t have to be. We have the ability to change our mindset and ultimately change our lives should we want.

It’s time we all start writing a different story, one where you’re the hero of the story and nothing stands in your way. Are you ready to join me? Because I know I want this story to have a very different ending and I have already started rewriting my tale. You hold the pen, together we can tell a different story—now, don’t just start writing, start DOING.

Struggle Makes You Stronger

It doesn’t matter how you slice it, dice it, package it, or present it; rejection in any capacity hurts. Unfortunately, a by-product of going after things in life is being told no or that you’re not good enough and in the end one just has to be resilient in coping when things don’t work out as anticipated.

Specifically, I discussed a little while back that I was auditioning for a slot to be invited to coach at the new Orangetheory Fitness opening in West Hollywood. As you all know, OTF is my favorite way to sweat. So when I was invited to audition for the new studio I was giddy and ready to show my stuff. Leading up to the audition, I studied the script for days. I recorded myself reading it and walked around town running errands listening to myself. I played it while in my car driving. I forced my sister Kassi to Facetime with me and listen to me practice. I spent the 2 days before the audition presenting the script aloud to myself while alone in my apartment.

I psyched myself up telling myself I can do this over and over and over again.

I watched and listened to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 6 Rules to Success.

I did everything within my power to ensure I set myself up for success so when I walked into that room, they’d have no choice but to offer me a space in the training program.

Turns out when Greg and I arrived for the audition there were over 40 people there. No one told us we’d actually be taking a portion of a class led by one of the trainers and we were freshly showered but oh well—ain’t no thang.

The workout ended and we broke ourselves into groups of 5. The group audition consisted of 3-minutes on the mic walking participants through the beginning of an OTF class. Out of the 5 people in our group, I can say with confidence that Greg and I put on the best show for the team evaluating us. We got through the entire script, infused our own unique energy, and were able to hit all the necessary numbers i.e. 22-26 strokes per minute on the rower to warm up. Personally, I think Greg and I crushed it. By no means did I assume the job was necessarily ours but I walked away from the experience knowing we did a killer job and was proud. Needless to say when the rejection emails came, we were shocked and disappointed.

A glimpse into last week’s Sunday Sweat class at One Down Dog

Greg was informed that he placed in the top 10 of the 40+ people and I was told I placed 8th. We were given some great kudos regarding our audition but no real feedback as to why we didn’t make the final cut. The initial sting of rejection hurt. But as time ebbed on, I started to really think about who I am and what I offer as an instructor. I concluded that I am a badass. Going into this, I vowed I wouldn’t let my self-worth be associated with getting or not getting this job and I am thrilled to report I haven’t let myself get caught up in the negativity of not getting something I wanted. No one can define my self-worth but me, period. So I didn’t get the job and that is a major bummer, as I would have loved more than anything to represent Orangetheory Fitness. However I remembered that I teach yoga and cycling in LA to throngs of people who come to a workout that I design for them with a carefully orchestrated playlist. I stand in the humility of the work I do and the honor to teach for such incredible people. I am truly blessed and thankful for all of the beautiful souls who continue to show up and trust me with their workouts.

Furthermore, I know that I am capable of boundless things because I believe in myself. Even though I may not always come out on top, I won’t stop continually putting myself out there. I do not regret for a second gambling on myself, for if you never try and take a chance, you’ll never know.

Take a risk and take a chance on you.

You are worth it.

Every attempt to be great prepares you for greatness. Dream big and never quit on yourself even when it seems others may not see your power.FullSizeRender

Give Back to Others

Day 6/6—Give Back to Others

“Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”                                                 ― Martin Luther King Jr.

Of all the things I have discussed this week over the course of our Six Days to Success, giving back to others and being of service has to be what I call the great equalizer and a personal favorite.

Martin Luther King Jr. said it perfectly, it doesn’t matter where you are from, what you know, or what you cannot do. So long as your heart if filled with the desire to help another soul without needing or wanting anything in return—then you too can be of service.

People tend to neglect giving back. People interpret giving back as needing to throw money at this cause and that cause. And while there is a need for that [and I am not knocking monetary donations] such as in the case of natural disasters like the earthquakes in Nepal; the power of sitting with another soul and really seeing them is infinite and more meaningful then writing a non-profit organization a check.

Service is about being part of something that is bigger than yourself. I think for some people it’s just part of the fibers of their being and others need to make a conscious effort. But no matter if it’s innate or inane, there is a real need for us to fill the cups of others. Like the late Maya Angelou stated, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” So, where does one begin? How does one get involved and give back by being of service?

Personally, I have always found that the best way to get involved was to align myself with something that resonated with me. Aside from the obvious service work I do as a public school teacher in Los Angeles, I feel really passionately about genocidal atrocities. A large portion of the work I do in my classroom hinges around The Holocaust, Darfur, Sierra Leone, Bosnia, and the Armenia Genocide.

IMG_0171At the height of the conflict in Darfur, Sudan I partnered with Jewish World Watch to help educate my students on the conflict and how we could get involved without actually flying to a refugee camp. We fundraised at our school and within our community. It was amazing to see how my student’s families and friends whom are living in poverty selflessly gave what they had to a cause across the globe. The beauty about giving to others is it never matters how much. For whatever one can and chooses to give, is always more than enough. We didn’t want to stop there though. We wanted to have a bigger impact. We wanted the world to know we knew what was going on in the world and we weren’t going to just sit back and watch the horror unfold. I always empower my students to advocate for themselves and others for silence is an affirmation and if stop speaking up, it will ensure that history repeats itself.

IMG_0170So, I paid out of my pocket to commission vans to drive the students from Eastern Los Angeles to Woodland Hills to participate in The Walk to End Genocide. My colleague Alice helped me by volunteering to drive a van and also supervise our students. We made tee shirts, signs, walked and chanted for our cause. My students and I were so empowered by standing up and speaking up that to this day this walk reigns as one of the most defining features of my adult life.

It doesn’t take much to ignite the spark of change to be of service. It’s merely the desire to replace time with yourself and include time for others in your schedule. More recently, my husband and I signed up to volunteer with Imagine LA; an organization that pairs mentors with homeless families to help them get back on their feet. Some people in our lives chuckled when we told them we are going to start to volunteer because we couldn’t possibly be able to do it ‘with our schedules.’ Yes, our time together is minimal but we are still spending time together while we are helping others. Also, the way we see it is if we can’t be there for other people, what’s the point to living? In the end we only have each other and the relationships we form with others. If by being present, really being present means I can forever positively someone else’s life than that’s really living.

Start small. Let the service bug bite you. You can still make a mark on this world without needing to go out in the community too.

Start a community group. Meet with people in your neighborhood, read and discuss real issues in the real world and I assure that before long, you will be compelled to hit the streets and enact great change.

Right now I am the faculty advisor of a club at my high school called Stand Up, Speak Up. My former students were so moved by some of the work we did in our English class last school year that they wanted to start a club to bring awareness to our school, problem solve, and get involved. You never know who will be touched by the work you’re doing—service and passion go hand in hand and are contagious.

What are your interests and passions? How can you make time and space to be a better community member and help elevate others around you? Giving back should be called Gaining Back because the things you learn about yourself through helping others will echo in your life for eternity.

Don’t Listen to the Naysayers

Day 4/6—Don’t Listen to the Naysayers

People and their opinions of us can have a profound affect on our actions. Their negativity has the ability to pollute our universe of positivity and ultimately drag us down. Fortunately, for the duration of my life I never really entertained when people said I couldn’t [or wouldn’t be able] do something. I suppose I have always felt that I was just naturally a pretty resilient person, and that people who tried to tear me down were idiots—but what do I know?

While in college, I changed my major a few times before finally declaring my dual major of English Literature and Education. About mid-way through school because of the nature of my major change, I would need to add on an extra year but that’s neither here nor there. In my very first education class in my new major, I was constantly met by tremendous opposition from my professor. It was clear from the start we didn’t mesh well.

Every single shred of work I completed was slammed. It seemed that no matter what I did, I could never meet the expectations of the assignments and frankly, I found most them to be a colossal waste of my time. True to my nature, I shared how I felt about the work we were told to complete. It seemed everything we read, watched, observed, learned—you name it, we had to write a reflection. Shit, we wrote so many reflections, our reflections had reflections. I felt the work was menial and unnecessary. Naturally, this didn’t help my case. I squeaked by the class with a ‘C’ but the professor left me with some parting thoughts of her own [and know it has been YEARS, so I am paraphrasing]:

“You will never be a good teacher, Arielle. You are just too you. You are too different; students and administrators like teachers who follow the rules and don’t feel the need to be so out-of-the-box. Good luck, you will need it as you will struggle every step of the way because of who you are…”

At the time I was too young to really react the way I would today, but I remember scratching my head wondering what the hell kind of shit storm did I just step into with this new major?! There wasn’t a second I actually believed this woman because in my heart of hearts, I knew that kids needed someone like me to push them to be great.

I spent the rest of my undergrad career reflecting on virtually everything. Those of you who have majored in education understand my plight. I had a few, maybe 3 professors I felt were dynamic and inspired me but for the most part I was bored. I was already finishing college a year late so I wanted to hurry up and start my life. In the spring before I graduated, I entered my Teaching Methods courses that consisted of portfolio creation, student teaching, mock interviews, and exit interviews for graduation.

I completed my student teaching in Rockville Centre, New York and felt like I was really ready to enter a classroom of my own. Eager to get my life started and head off to Los Angeles, I still had to pass the review boards grueling mock interview and recommendation process. Every bit of our time in college would be scrutinized. My portfolio, student teaching evaluations, lesson plans—all of it would be torn apart because it ‘would make me a better teacher’.

My old classroom at Virgil Middle School

The results of my exit interview process came back. The chair of the English department was petitioning to prevent me from graduating with my class. Apparently, the chairperson was up in arms that I somehow made it through the English department and she never met me and I that never took one of her classes [yeah, that was on purpose. Everyone knew she was an epic bitch]. Additionally, she felt my confidence was arrogant and my lesson plans were ‘too original’. In the end, it turned out she couldn’t actually prevent me from graduating. There was momentary panic and I had to rush some things to school to prove my validity but I took something away from all of this: People are afraid of different.

Making tee-shirts to participate in The Walk to End Genocide by Jewish World Watch

Fast forward to my teaching career in urban Los Angeles for the Los Angeles Unified School District. I worked [and continue to work] in a low income, transient neighborhood where my students receive free lunch from the government. The demographic is challenging to work with and grossly under performing. These are the kids that people say ‘can’t learn’, those kids are my students. Well, let me tell you about my work with ‘those kids’. In just the first 6 years of my teaching career, I accomplished the following:

  • Was nominated and elected department chair of the English department
  • Co-authored the School for Advanced Studies (SAS) programming to bring an in-house magnet program to our school
  • Spoke at a nationwide educational conference
  • Won Teacher of the Year
  • Created a website and non-profit called Only Cool People Read for my students
  • Graduated with a 3.98 GPA from my graduate program earning my Master’s Degree in Leadership with a Tier I Administrative Credential

And oh, one last thing. Those kids, the ones no one wants to teach—the ones that ‘can’t learn’…?

On the statewide standardized exams not only did my students out perform the LAUSD school district in every single subset, but they also outperformed their counterparts STATEWIDE.

But hey, my college professors were right: I wouldn’t be a good teacher; I would be a great teacher.

Don’t ever, ever, ever listen to the naysayers.




Don’t Be Afraid to Fail

Day 3/6—Don’t be Afraid to Fail

Fear is a funny thing. It tricks us into living boring lives because we are afraid of failing. We are so paralyzed by the possibility of things not working out the way that we envision that we quit on ourselves before we even start. All too often, we’d rather accept to resolve that ‘this is just the way it is’ and leave it at that. But what kind of lives are we living if we are living to simply wish and hope, and not chase after what we want? No one is going to live your life for you, No one is going to be able to help you figure out what it is you’re supposed to be doing—so maybe it’s time to put some work in and figure out what it is you want out.

Life is way too short to condemn yourself to misery. Today, we are going to F**K our Fears and instead of being terrified of failing, we are going to re-evaluate how we look at failure. Failure doesn’t mean that you weren’t successful.

Failure means you took a risk and you tried. Failure is an opportunity to grow from your mistakes, learn from those around you, and emerge victorious. Failing makes you courageous because you took a chance. To try and fail means you were brave and didn’t sit idly by as a bystander to your own life or circumstance.

No matter how crazy or lofty my ambitions have been and continue to remain, I couldn’t possibly fathom a life where I lust for things and never try to achieve them. The more impossible the ambition, the more terrified that I am, the more I know I need to listen to my intuition and commit to whatever is speaking to my heart.

OTF birthday
Sweaty post OTF class on my birthday 2 days before our wedding
As promised, I will share what I am working through right now. Last February 2015 I wandered into Orange Theory Fitness Los Angeles in Brentwood. Within what seemed like just minutes, I completely and utterly fell in love. For the first time in years, I rediscovered an aspect of working out I hadn’t been able to find on my own. For what seemed like an eternity, I was generally uninspired by the things I did while sweating which in turn caused me to gain weight and become unhappy. But things were different at Orange Theory Fitness aka affectionately referred to as OTF. The challenging workouts enveloped me. I discovered that after all these years of thinking I hated running that not only did I like it [gasp] but I was good at it. I never ever thought I would say that—I was always dead last on every team run while in college…Now, I was a runner and I wasn’t just keeping up with the group, I was setting the pace and leading the pack. OTF showed me through the challenging workouts how to find my strength and power again. I learned more about myself in a matter of months while consistently working out at OTF than I had in recent years while fumbling from workout to workout. Soon I found that when I couldn’t make my workouts I missed them; I longed for them. I wanted to be there and what’s more, I started to crave running. Crazy, I know. I felt this massive shift inside my body. At first it started slowly then came on suddenly. I started to subscribe to this notion that I could do anything. For me, the strength and power I cultivated at OTF fueled my confidence from within and I started to feel more capable of putting myself out there in a variety of situations, even if that meant I might fail.

Naturally, as my interest in OTF evolved I started thinking about what it would feel like to work there as a coach/trainer. While I didn’t openly discuss my wonderings with anyone, my curiosity was peaked and I wanted to learn more. So when OTF posted on Facebook that they were hiring, I immediately sent in my resume with an email expressing my interest to be considered for coaching opportunities. I remember the excitement I felt just sending my resume over and crafting the email. I know it was just an email but this was the first step and I was eager, proud, and excited all at the same time. While I had no clue what this could or may mean with respects to my teaching job, I sent my info along because if you never try or take a risk, you never know. And you can’t get too caught up in thinking too much about these things either. Sometimes we over-think things and talk ourselves out of doing them. Other times, we spend so much time thinking about what would need to change in our lives should something present itself that we never even bother because the idea a big change seems to be ‘too much’. Well screw it, I say go big or go bigger.

OTF meThis upcoming Saturday, along with my husband Greg, I will be auditioning for a spot to be admitted to the OTF training program. The process for selection and admittance is competitive and frankly, it intimidates me. I am terrified of not being able to showcase the best me on the mic in my 3-minute audition. As a matter of fact, I have spent the last week going over scenarios in my head. I know my anxiety is driving my husband nuts because he keeps telling me to relax. Yet amidst my anxiety, as always, Greg has been instrumental in holding firm space for me by reminding me of the following:

  • If I do not get invited to the training program, I am still a talented instructor. While I may not be right for OTF, I am still great at what I do and I cannot let the possibility of not getting this job define my self-worth.

Additionally, my mother reminded me last night that should it not work out, it wasn’t meant to be. Of course both Greg and my mother are right but rejection no matter how you slice it or dice it hurts. Nevertheless I am going into my audition on Saturday with the best version of myself, ready to rock the hell out that room, and spread my awesome. It’s that simple. I believe in myself, I have to. I stand firmly behind the woman I am and the work that I do. I will not let the idea of failure hold me back from putting myself out there and taking a chance on myself. What’s more is I refuse to let my recent doubts and insecurities hold me back. Because I am terrified about what this audition will entail is precisely why I am doing it.

I am not going to let fear define me or dictate the trajectory of my life. I am in control of my successes and I choose to try instead of accept things as they are.

What scares you? What are you scared of doing because you are fearful of failing? Put it out there and embrace the possibility of failure as a learning experience. I know you can do it, now you just need to believe in yourself.