So here I am, nearly a year later and back to the blog I started years ago, the Lake Michigan adventure that I’m proud of, thankful for and always learning from.
And here I am again- sharing and vulnerable- because that’s how I roll.
The new bike adventure website will launch in the next two weeks. It’s exciting- and I thought about writing this blog when we went live with it- but I also think it’s important that I give this blog a proper farewell.
February of 2013 I sold Liv after my Lake Michigan adventure and with letting her “go”, I think I also began to come in to a new phase of recovery, of hurt, of life, of growth.
When you plan a single event, or in my case, 59 days of events to consume your life- it’s not just about the 59 days. I spent nearly two years planning, training and fundraising to make my way around the perimeter of Lake Michigan. I put stress on every relationship I had, my body, my finances- just about anything that could take a toll, did. While I came home and was hungry for adventure- I was also (perhaps, unconsciously) hungry to heal. It wasn’t just the 59 days I had to “come down” from, it was the years of dedication, of sacrifice, of love and energy spent.
Over the last year I’ve been stopped by strangers on the street, at the pharmacy, at the gym- sharing their support of me, my cause, and my work. I spoke and traveled the country to talk about my adventure and to inspire others to overcome adversity. I had always been public about my life and it always helped people understand and connect to what I was doing-I always thought of it as a strength.
While I tried hide it, 2013 was also full of a lot of pain and healing wounds I never knew I had. Privately, I struggled with my assault. I leaned on people to stall the process of accepting problems I spent months denying I had. I hurt people I love. I spent a lot of time questioning my identity – who was I if I wasn’t the girl that rowed around Lake Michigan? What was I worth without it and who was I supposed to become now that it was over?
I struggled with it all- I felt powerless, weak, and depressed- all those not so fun things and not so fun things to talk about. I overcame them with therapy, fell back in to them again- overcame them again, numerous times. The healing process was painful, long, and I can honestly say- the most challenging thing I have ever faced.
As far as I know it will always be a process- but it hasn’t been easy. I’m sharing this here and now because I don’t want there to be any misconceptions about me or the last year before we launch this new website and adventure.
I could have kept the last year to myself, but I don’t want anyone to think that I went from rowing and experiencing sexual assault to hopping on a bike with ease two years later. That’s not what happened. I don’t want someone to find this blog or learn about me, unaware that I went through all those things or didn’t struggle with them. It was hard. It was damn hard. And I didn’t do it alone.
I am beyond thankful to my family and friends for getting me through this last year. My boyfriend Andy and my dog Sam deserve trophies for their endless amounts of unconditional love and support. The real heros are these two.
I’m human, it’s a beautiful thing, You’re human, it’s a beautiful thing.
So hello, goodbye…. to this adventure. See you soon for the next one and all the good, the bad, the ugly it brings. Thank you for sharing this journey with me, for all of your love and your support.
I am selling Liv this weekend. She’s on to her next adventure.
As strange as it sounds-this is the most difficult goodbye I’ve ever had. I know-it’s a boat, an object. She doesn’t have feelings-but if she did…I’d tell Liv thank you and I’d express my gratitude by hugging all 19 foot of her beautiful fiberglass body. Thank you for helping me raise over $150,000 (plus 4 boat donations) for a cause I could not be more passionate about. Thank you for protecting me in all kinds of weather and wind, for letting me throw up on you multiple times, occasionally make you stink with bug spray, body odor and sunscreen. Thank you for being my partner through press conferences, interviews and dozens of photos shoots. Remember that storm in Green Bay when the anchor snapped and I wanted to give up, screaming and crying through the sickness and fear? Thank you for never giving up on me and my dream.
Thank you for bringing me home to the greatest city in the world…
So that I can plan my next adventure for the summer of 2014.
Over the last month I’ve spent a lot of time traveling to speak and share about ROW and trip around Lake Michigan. I’ve met so many amazing people from all over the country-children, rowers, doctors and those touched by cancer as survivors or in support of a survivor in their life. It’s been an amazing, whirlwind, overwhelming, beautiful experience to share my story and hear from those who found my trip to be inspirational.
I’ve also been working hard with the ROW Board of Directors to come up with a plan for the best way to use funds to expand and improve the ROW program in Chicago and beyond. Along with writing a book, figuring out how my hands work again-and attending yoga as much as possible, I’ve been able to take a few moments to reflect and breathe. Life is really good.
I was also photographed by Kevin J. Miyazaki, a Milwaukee artist that has an exhibit coming out this winter called “Perimeter” that explores that relationship people have with Lake Michigan. I was photographed and asked to share what drew me to Lake Michigan. My photo and answer below (details of the exhibit to come). I was honored to be a part of the project. I really enjoyed being photographed by and sharing with Kevin-and the reaction I had to the photo he chose was even more surprising to me. I feel like I finally saw myself the way everyone else does. When I saw this photo-it reminded me of the journey I’m on, of owning my accomplishments and everything that’s ahead. I’m really proud of it and it makes me feel different (but always good) every time I see it.
“Lake Michigan drew me in and continues to draw me in because it is a body of water rich in history-for people who settled along the Lake hundreds of years ago and for me-rowing around it in a big yellow boat to fight breast cancer for 59 days. As a child I learned about becoming a woman through beach time and sandcastles in South Haven with my grandmother. I learned about how to be a fisher(wo)man: to respect and admire nature with my dad and uncles on a boat miles away from shore. Over one summer, this body of water taught me about my own strength and how to be resilient. Along with losing that same grandmother to cancer, I overcame the biggest obstacles I have ever faced- entirely alone on this Lake. I was left with Lake Michigan and only Lake Michigan for so many days and so many nights. I praised her one day and cursed her the next-but I always wanted her close, I always respected her, I was always thankful for her -and always will be.”
The ROW team celebrated this weekend at their annual gala, Let the Good Times ROW. The event was held at Rowfit Chicago-and the space was transformed beautifully by co chairs Elin and Nell.We had a fabulous time-enjoying each other on land and out of the cold! It amazes me every year at this event- how much we’ve grown and progressed in such a short time. Thank you to everyone who came out to support ROW and dance, spend money and enjoy great company. Special thanks to Rowfit for hosting us!
This week I’m speaking in Escanaba at Bay College. 7 pm at the Besse Center Theater on campus. I’m looking forward to heading north and sharing my story. If you have interest in hearing me speak at your local university, church, hospital or event, please send your request to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
As always- GO ROW!