As the old saying goes, “For everything there is a season”, and usually around this time of year, I find myself doing a lot of self-reflection that I hope, eventually, turns into growth. Within the past week, I have received more love and kind words than I ever have in my entire life. I was overflowing with joy and living on a good vibes high. But it really made me stop and think. I was told by a wise friend to stop and take a mental picture of this because it is easy to let it pass by, but I wanted to take it a step further. I wanted to digest it, to understand it, to put it into words. And once I did that, I knew I had to share it with all of you. I, like many of you, often find myself talking about how blessed I feel to be apart of such an amazing tribe. It truly is one of the rarest and most beautiful dynamics I have ever encountered. There are only a few things that come close to this place. Right now, I’m going to take you on a little bit of a journey. So sit back, listen, and let the words paint pictures in your mind.
About a year ago, I was preparing to set out on an endeavor that not many people can say they have done. I was making sure my passport was ready, my visas were approved, and that my vaccinations were up to date. I was getting ready to go to Africa, Ghana specifically. I can honestly say that there is absolutely no way to prepare yourself, mentally, physically, or emotionally, to travel to a third- world country because, it is exactly that, a completely different world. You really cannot believe what your eyes are seeing for your brain to process. You are just in awe. If I learned anything on this trip, it was what the word blessed really meant.
Realization #1: No cell phone service. I had been traveling for a couple days. On and off planes. Not sure what to expect. And then we landed. It was stifling. It was dusty. It was loud and busy. And it was a complete dead zone. I remember walking out of the terminal, the one terminal in the airport, into a huge wedding tent. There was no building with comfortable seats, charging stations, or multiple bathrooms. There was just a huge tent with bleachers and no cell phone service. Not only was there no service, it was so hot that my phone was constantly overheating, leading me to not be able to use it. And what a blessing it was. I remember sitting there thinking this is going to suck, but oh boy was I wrong. I was engaged. I was attentive. I was present. I noticed things going on around me. I was interacting with people. I was not only alive but I was living. Something that I don’t think many of us can say we do enough. Think about it. How many times are you out to dinner with friends and only end up giving them half of your attention? How many of us sit on our bikes before class and scroll through social media instead of talking to the person next to us? I will be the first to admit I am guilty. But remembering times like the wedding tent airport in Africa make me want to disconnect to the virtual world and really connect with the real one.
Realization #2: Confidence. Something I struggle with so much. I can remember packing for the trip and being completely worried about what to wear. Sounds silly right? But I’m sure I am not the only one to have felt this way. That’s because we are so used to being subjected to judgment by the world in which we live. So for me, I was struggling. And then I got there and I learned what real confidence and beauty looked like. These women work hard. Walking miles upon miles to the river or the town water pump to get the water they needed for that day. And they do this with babies on their backs and jugs on their heads. Some of them clothed, some of them not, but all accepting and loving towards their body, to their skin. Because for them, that is truly all they have, but more importantly, it is all that they need. I was taken back by how much they loved their bodies. None of them were perfect, but all of them were beautiful. Because every single body tells a story. Whether it is one that has held babies, one that has been hurt, one that has been cut, or one that has been sick, they all tell stories and they are all beautiful.
Realization #3: Happiness. I remember riding through the towns and walking through the villages being so puzzled. Not only was I confused about how there were so many people, living off the grid, with not even two pennies to rub together but, that they were so happy. Everywhere we went, you heard laughing and singing. You saw people smiling and waving. You felt love and acceptance from complete strangers. And at times, it made me stop in my tracks and just think of how twisted our way of thinking is. So many of us have everything we could ever dream of and cannot find happiness, and these people have nothing and radiate nothing but happiness. One of my favorite memories from this trip was something so simple, that every time I tell it, it brings tears to my eyes. We were leaving one of the villages, with the windows down in our Toyota Land Cruiser. All the children were running alongside the vehicle, smiling, waving, yelling goodbye, and as we turned the corner, I saw her. A girl, probably 14, with a huge jug of water on her head. I saw her eyes light up as she saw the car and she started to run but was struggling to not drop the jug. I had a bottle of water in my hand and I was so upset that I couldn't give it to her. I just kept thinking of how thirsty she must have been after that long, vigorous walk, with a jug the size of her on top of her head. So I threw it out the window, hoping she would get to it before one of the other kids did. She saw me throw it, she put the jug down, and sprinted to the bottle. When she got there, she was jumping up and down in complete joy. I was immediately brought to tears, just like I am now writing this, because to her, that was everything, and to me, it’s just another bottle of water waiting to be thrown into the backseat of my car. I remember wanting this type of happiness, this type of appreciation, this type of understanding. But I wasn't sure I could ever recreate it.
I’m sure you’re all wondering where I am going with this, and the answer is, I’m taking you home. To our home. To TORQUE. The lessons that I learned and the realizations that I came to, were strengthened and brightened when I started going to the studio. I started to see that it didn't matter how much money we had. Or what our houses looked like. Or what cars we drove. Because when we walk into the studio, we are just people, trying to survive, rather than thrive. It is a place where we can disconnect from the virtual world and connect to the present one in which we live. We can talk to people, we can interact with each other, we can laugh, we can sing, we can dance, we can cry. We can turn off reality and experience what it means to be off the grid, even if it’s for an hour at a time. We can begin to feel comfortable in our own skin. Our studio is filled with hundreds of people every week. Every single body that enters those doors is beautiful because they all have a story. So many different stories make up our tribe and the one thing that has stayed with us, through all those chapters we carry, is our skin. It is time to love it, appreciate it, and accept it. Because believe me, it is beautiful. But most importantly, we can find happiness here. This place, this home that we are all blessed to have, is often called “our happy place”. It is filled with laughter, smiles, cheers, beautiful people, and even more beautiful hearts. It is a place that makes a lot of us stop and think of how blessed we are. It is a place where we can be present. It is a place where we can grow. And it is a place where we can love. The final realization that I have for you is that blessed, is an understatement. We are not only blessed with comfortable lives, educated brains, and healthy bodies, but we are blessed with people that are rooting for us always, ready to listen to any problem, comforting us with a shoulder to cry on at any time, loving us through all the good and bad times. Finding something like TORQUE is an endeavor everyone sets out on, but doesn’t always find. Let’s stop for a moment, close our eyes, and remind ourselves of just how very blessed we are. We might not have it all together, but together we have it all. And together is my favorite place to be with you all.
I am missing you all dearly, but know you are in my heart! Sending infinite X's and O's to all of you wherever you may be!