It was 1989. I was a 19-year-old college student at Florida State University. Little did I know the dramatic changes life could present, even when you know what you want. My mother, who was my role model, died very suddenly that December, leaving my father and my two sisters without her bright light and radiant energy. I knew then that in order for me to follow my hopes and dreams, I would need to follow my heart with focus, dedication and perseverance. I was studying nutrition and fitness, something that fit my style so well. I learned after my mother’s death to be in a space of peace within myself during my workouts. It was a safe haven and a place where I could imagine, create and visualize my future.
Two years later my father died. He had been unable to cope with the burden of the loss of my mother. He died of carbon monoxide poisoning. In many ways this was not a surprise to me, although I was not ready to be thrust into the world of adulthood as a 21-year-old junior in college. However I did know what I wanted. Fitness was an up and coming sport in terms of competitions and more women were appearing on magazine covers. I wanted to be a fitness star, a role model, teacher, inspiration and a leader in the movement of health & lifestyle. I wanted to win a gold medal, and to be a champion. Spending more time in the gym and taking classes related to fitness kept my energy moving in the right direction. I attained my aerobic certification and very quickly began teaching classes: hi/low aerobics, step, body conditioning were the most popular.
There was another side of me: one that I pushed aside, and one that I didn’t know how to cope with. She was the part of me that was alone on her mission, and who needed to figure out how to live true to myself. The trauma of losing my parents during college was too much to wrap my head around. Realizing no one in my family or who I was close to understood me – or my dreams – was unbearable. True to myself, I stayed the course focused on what I wanted.
By 2001 I competed in my first aerobic competition. The training, lifestyle and commitment were exactly where I thrived. In 2005, with all the joy in my heart and passion from my soul, I won the National Aerobic Championship, I won a gold medal and earned the title of National Champion. I continued on, competing in Fitness with top five national finishes and opened my own Pilates & Wellness Studio.
Still, the aspect of me that I had continued to push aside in order to follow my dreams could no longer be pushed aside. I needed family and support around who understood me. In 2011 I reached out to my sisters. I had built so much success and I had no structure or support to hold it together. I needed them, as my world was ready to fall apart. They were not happy, and reluctantly came to my side. They never understood my fitness lifestyle or what it meant for me. I thrived through the structure. Training, eating and planning created for me a way of living with fitness as my self-expression. They couldn’t see the benefits it brought to me. What I knew is I needed to change my underlying issue which I’d kept pushing aside and meet it head on, letting go of what I wanted my sisters or my family to be for me. If I was truly going to follow my joy and passion, it was time to do it on my own terms. So, I let everything around me fall apart, everything.
What I opened in this clear space is a new relationship with myself, with people who recognize me for my strengths. I’ve re-created my work and my self-expression in fitness & lifestyle with more freedom about who I truly am. It came down to a decision. I decided to put myself first, let go of old attachments and old relationships, and trust in myself. In this new space the right people, opportunities and experiences have shown up to support me and build a foundation that I am proud of, happy and sustained through. It’s my nature to follow my passion. It’s who I am at my essence.
Now, as I live my mission, I don’t need to be alone anymore.