I am strong

Posted September 2018

I am strong.

This last month the word strong has been employed to describe me by friends introducing me or even people I have met for the first time.

Well yes, I am strong I suppose both physically and mentally. I have met a few challenges in my life (luckily none life-threatening) and came out stronger, I believe.

My parents enrolled me in a Karate class, at a very young age, as I was a girl and their first child they wanted me to be able to defend myself against the world. For a very long time I was the only girl of my age in that class, in a sea of little boys, learning how to punch and kick. As the years went by I discovered I was good at it and actually enjoyed kumite (sparring). At some point, my siblings decided they didn’t want to go to class anymore. I was already so far in and close to getting my black belt that I decided to continue my journey towards it. I trained with men twice my size and age as they were the only people at my level in my dojo (school). This was at a time when practicing karate, as a girl, wasn’t cool. I fought in many competitions, including the Canadian Championships. I won some and also lost many fights, making me mentally stronger every time. I broke and dislocated some toes, got so many bruises I lost count, dislocated my jaw and even once saw stars and passed out. My parents came to watch the competitions, and just recently my mother told me how hard it was to see her daughter fight & get hurt. Despite that, they encouraged me to keep going. All of this happened throughout my childhood and most people around me, except for my family and closest friends, had no idea I was becoming a ninja. I refused to stop until I had my black belt because I had worked so hard, for so long, and refused to quit! I can see now how even just this process helped me become a perseverant woman. I finally got my black belt, just before I left for University, and how happy I was! At that time, it was not cool to be a woman in a martial art’s world. I wish I’d had a Rhonda Rousey to look up to…maybe then I wouldn’t have been so shy and embarrassed by my samurai training. But guess what?

I am strong.

At the age of 12, I took a flight alone from Montreal to Dublin, Ireland. My parents dropped me off at the airport so my summer vacation could begin a few weeks before they arrived. I was escorted through the airport and the flight attendants made sure I was well taken care of on that 6h flight from Montreal to Dublin. My aunt was waiting for me on the other side, once we’d deplaned and gotten through customs. I was not scared, stressed out or sad. I only remember being excited!

From there on, without knowing it, my parents created an independent traveling-addicted adolescent. I worked many summers in Ireland, at the Strand Inn in Dunmore East and at my Uncle’s business in Galway. I studied abroad for 6 months in Finland and used my spare time to visit neighboring countries. So when I told my parents I’d accepted a job in Los Angeles, California without having set foot in the state before, they congratulated me and that was it. No sobbing, no ‘are you sure you won’t be too far from home’, no ‘are you sure you want to do this’. Friends and colleagues thought I was so courageous and strong in accepting the position. They just didn’t understand how I could leave a comfortable situation in Montreal for an unknown world on the other side of the continent. Ironically, I didn’t understand their position. Why not move to sunny California (in the middle of the Canadian winter), a job in hand and exciting adventures awaiting? The decision was easy. I moved to Hollywood and didn’t know anyone but I wasn’t worried about that. Slowly I started making friends and started a life in this beautiful state and have been enjoying every second of it because…

I am strong.

A year after I moved to Hollywood, I signed up to a CrossFit gym. Little did I know that this would transform me mentally and physically. I spent a lot of time at this place, made great friends and enjoyed the challenge of every workout. I coached a boot camp class and participated in both those classes and the CrossFit classes. I learned that my body could do much more than I thought it could. I could do handstands push-ups, I could deadlift a barbell loaded heavier than my own body weight, I learned new skills like climbing a rope and doing double unders (rope rotates twice under your feet before you land). I became very strong, physically, to a point where my body started to morph to better respond to my Crossfit workouts. My legs became stronger and larger, my arms too. I became very competitive, mostly with myself, as I tried to constantly beat my previous PR (personal record). I knew I was strong mentally, but I didn’t realize how empowering it was to lift 100lb over your head and be able to control it. A few months in, I realized the psychological benefits of Crossfit. It was a fantastic feeling and it was one of the first things I would tell new female athletes: Crossfit is so empowering especially for women. I remember thinking: the only thing stopping you is yourself. Sadly after I started flying, I had to scale back on my workouts, and I was still trying to keep up with my previous scores, which led to injuries and my partial ‘retirement’ as a Crossfitter. But throughout this fantastic journey, I once again confirmed something I already knew about myself…

I am strong.

I still work out most days a week and enjoy it greatly. It’s never been a chore for me to go to the gym. I  first set foot in a gym (aside from Karate), when I was around 15 years old but before that, I played badminton, soccer and flag football. So yes, I do and I always have had an athletic figure. I’ve never had tiny arms or a tiny waist. Yes, sometimes it’s been difficult to find clothes that fit well because of it. Yes, I am proud of having arms that can pull me up and legs that can sprint up a hill. No, I will not let society tell me I should be skinnier, because…

I am strong.

So looking back on the life I’ve had so far, why is it that when someone describes me as strong, I am embarrassed, ashamed and almost insulted? Is it because the word has a certain masculine connotation here in America? Or maybe it’s because I know I’m strong but I don’t want to be perceived that way for fear of scaring people? Or possibly it’s because I don’t want my secret to be out? Or maybe because deep down I haven’t yet realized how strong I am?

My parents raised my siblings and I to be strong, independent individuals. Everyone was equal in our family, boy or girl. My brother, my sister and I could grow up to be whatever we set our minds to. I can’t help to think that maybe it has something to do with my astrological sign- I’m an Aries. I never believed in signs and their significance until I moved to LA and my friends started telling me about mine. It was quite accurate. In case you’re unfamiliar with astrological signs, here are a few characteristics of Aries. We are courageous, determined, confident, enthusiastic, optimistic, honest and passionate. Our color is red: if you know me, you know I love this color and it has always been part of my life. Amongst a lot of things, we like comfortable clothes, taking on leadership roles and physical challenges. We are also impatient, moody, short-tempered, impulsive and aggressive. I’ve been working on all these weaknesses in the last few years, but one thing’s for sure, I am an ARIES. In the last 10 years, I caught my mother saying how she could have seen me as being part of a SWAT team or special forces because of my strength and personality. That says a lot. My mother knows me better than anyone else.

I am strong.

I went from moving to California as a sales rep for a company that was just penetrating the US market to becoming a bootcamp and Crossfit certified trainer, to a helper in an aviation world, to a floater (on-call flight attendant 24/7, 24 days out of the month), to a full-time corporate flight attendant working on one specific account. Never in my wildest dream would I have believed at the outset that I would end up in this position. I never thought this was a possibility and getting here wasn’t easy. I had to keep my head down, work very hard and say yes to opportunities that terrified me. Leaving my safe business and marketing industry to coach people in a gym, jumping into the aviation world without knowing anything about it and giving up part of my freedom to start flying, whenever, wherever, whoever are all good examples.  At times, it was scary. I felt like I’d lost control on my own life. I had to reprogram myself and learn how to live in the moment and enjoy it. I kept powering through because that’s who I am and look where I am now.

I am strong.

It all comes down to this. Yes I am strong. Yes, I am a bad-ass. Yes I can throw a good punch and a good kick. Yes I can accomplish anything I set my mind to.

So help me out, why am I scared to say it out loud?


Related post: Not a Pause, I am Happy.