What’s Next?

jayellewisday1sep172016_pinkoutift_fave-0101Everyone is looking for more meaning in their lives- it’s what holds true meaning that they can’t always seem to find.

Since moving back to the states (it’ll be four years in May) I’ve given my all to “what’s next” — for me it originated from a place of not being enough and ultimately having to move on from my marriage, divorce, and loss of what felt like the only life I had ever known. At that point, what’s next for me was learning how to be completely independent (mainly financially) and not allowing myself to look back in the rearview mirror. I put everything I had into my marriage to ultimately walk away knowing that it was the best possible decision and that over time I would learn some of the reasons as to why things didn’t work out.

I have.

In the coming years I did what most people told me I could not. I hustled; I independently built my fitness brand, made quite a name for myself in the industry, graced several magazine pages (even a cover), and made business connections some would kill for. All of which have been monumental for me, yet still leaving me with the question of “what’s next?”

Throughout the past year I’ve been more financially stable than ever before, have partnered with, been sponsored by, or affiliated with over eight major brands and have gotten more recognition than I’m typically comfortable with.

People in the industry often view my roles as “having it made.” While I don’t necessarily disagree, I’ve paid a very high price of not valuing my emotional well being, sacrificing relationships (both with myself and others), and losing some of my deep seeded passion along the way.

From a business perspective, I truly couldn’t ask for more. Yet, at the end of the day all of the endorsements, awards, accolades, financial security and running a business that I love, I still find myself wondering what’s next, and is it enough? In a sense, it’s a blessing and a curse– yes I should always be thinking of what’s ahead but I’m slowly learning that planning everything out (especially being the perfectionist that I am) gives me no time to appreciate what’s right in front of me.

I’ve become obsessed with making the impossible possible, and as a result I fail to give myself credit for what I’ve built (and will continue to build), because I’m so overworked and overwhelmed that I fail to see things clearly. I thought that what’s next was always something I had to ask myself, and have a concrete thought-out answer as my response, and in turn that would make me happy. Wrong.

I’ve put pressure on myself, I’ve set unattainable standards for myself and what I expect from others–and it’s failing. I’m failing myself– making a living has turned into forgetting to live and I only have myself to blame for that. At times I’m so focused on the bigger picture that I fail to see that the bigger picture is in fact made up of tiny snapshots along the way.

What’s next, you ask– working on my own personal relationship with myself. I’m learning that the most important relationship has to start from within, even if that includes guilt for feeling selfish. I’ve neglected my emotional wellbeing for years and the candle can only continue to burn on both ends for so long.

So, the next time you ask yourself, or someone else asks you “what’s next?” Remember that by always living in forward motion and not your current state of being you’re putting yourself at risk for a potential downward spiral. What’s next for me is continuing to build a name for myself and my brand, but focusing in on the things that truly matter in life, taking a step back when necessary and reminding myself that no matter what- I’m enough.

 

Recycle Your Pain

Jayel_0097

I’m usually very focused, and my vision so clear, yet life got me. I lost myself and could no longer hear my voice. We get inundated and saturated with what should be, what our priorities should look like, and how we ought to feel, and then we shift. Often times we shift without even realizing we’re doing so, yet we feel it.

As of late there’s been a lot on my mind…a lot. With family members getting sick and people close to me losing their lives too soon you begin to focus on real world issues. Issues that you don’t necessarily want to put your energy towards but ones that won’t otherwise disappear.

I’ve also been working on forgiveness. It’s something that I 100% believe in, yet something I struggle with on a daily basis. It’s somewhat similar to the story of the boy who cried wolf. You never want to keep talking about the same old thing all the damn time-yet sometimes that’s life, that’s your life, and it’s part of my story, and I bet yours too.

Yes I was married, and yes I’m divorced. It’s behind me, yet also standing directly in front of me. There are obstacles and hurdles I must tackle to be the whole person I’m capable of being. Is this an overexerted topic of discussion? Perhaps, but it’s my topic of discussion and I’m owning it 110%. No, my divorce doesn’t define me, but it does allow a lot of issues to come to the surface. Issues that are ongoing that most choose not to discuss.

You hear it a lot;

“Forgiveness is for you, it’s not for them.”

“By forgiving someone you regain the power.”

“Forgive yourself first, and the rest will come.”

Although I realize it takes two to make a relationship work, as humans we have a tendency to blame ourselves for the downward spiral, and eventually the demise. Various scenarios will play out in your mind time and time again of how you could have fixed the situation, made it better, or done something differently. Yet the outcome still remains the same. For me, I think a large part of beginning to work on forgiveness is allowing myself to be both vulnerable and honest. Being vulnerable means putting yourself out there, but it also means dealing with the truths of what may come. Truths you don’t necessarily want to confront, but must deal with head on.

My husband was my mirror. I looked at him for happiness, for stability, for everything I couldn’t find within myself. I became so insecure because of his actions; infidelity, and lying. Truth is- I was insecure from the beginning of the relationship because I didn’t quite fully know how to trust myself, my truths, my emotions, my intuition, or my own personal journey. I didn’t want to know the truth because I knew it would hurt. I didn’t want to deal with the pain so I allowed myself to let him play the leading role of my doubts and my fear, when in reality, I should have taken a closer look in the mirror, because I too, was a lead actress. In a sense, he was me, and I was him. We mirrored one another; the good, the bad, and the ugly.

What I’m working on now, is forgiving myself for everything I feel I’m entitled to let go of. Forgiving someone doesn’t mean you forget what they’ve done, it means you allow yourself the ability to move on in a positive direction without them having so much power over you.

Recycling pain occurs in various forms, it’s a cyclic cycle for someone that is suffering from it. They pain others because they too are in pain. Yet by learning that in certain situations there was nothing you could have done better to change the situation you learn (slowly) to recycle your pain in a more constructive and positive way. Recycling your pain doesn’t mean that the struggle isn’t real, and reoccurring, it means that you’re aware of it and able to focus your energy on letting go of the life you thought you should live, and embracing the one you are living.

Jayel_Sig

 

 

 

 

Photography: Michele Suits

Recommend Listening: Let it Go- James Bay

Objects in Mirror are Closer than They Appear

DBP_9427

 

If you’re like me, or any other human for that matter- you probably have a hard time finding balance. I fee like I’m constantly playing defense and I never get to play offense. I am so incredibly fortunate, and often feel like I can always save the day by fixing things. Yet, at the end of the day I come to realize that’s not always a role I’m capable of filling. I know I can’t fix everything in someones life, but if I can fix a part of it, I feel like I’m doing something right- on the flip side I fail time, and time again, at fixing myself and giving myself the same things that I tell others they need. 

If I can’t make my dream work then no one else can. Owning your own business means you get to be creative, but it also means you talk through things with yourself, structure your own budget, make the final cuts, and decide where to allocate the funds. You also decide (in theory) where your energy goes, and who you allow to draw from it. It’s not always easy, yet you see the refined product, so you keep going. I don’t struggle with sleeping on Sunday nights because I don’t love what I do, I struggle because I’m afraid I won’t be able to continue to fix something, or someone. Including myself.

We’re wired to be emotional beings, but when we’re advised to shut part of that system down, we no longer function as a whole. In our culture we’ve been conditioned that feeling pain, or an unpleasant emotion isn’t something we necessarily have to endure. Sadness is something we’d rather sweep under the carpet and deal with…never. It’s become part of our belief system, that we can simply “fix it”. The problem at hand, is that negative feelings are normal (to a degree), and they allow us to internalize what’s really going on. Without much thought we typically go the the pharmacy and pop a pill to ease the pain, control the uneasy feeling, or mask our negative emotions. The Greek word for pharmacy is pharmakeia; when broken down means both healing, and poison.

Whether we turn to medicine or not, we do this sort of healing, and poison on a regular basis. We pretend we’re not effected by whatever the origin of the problem is, we fail to look so deeply within ourselves because we don’t want to address the root cause. The real issue at hand is that the majority of the time we deflect our emotions onto something else, and choose to not deal with the negative emotions that are often associated with the truth. This cyclical habit applies to pretty much everything in life. Negative relationships, overeating, toxic people that we allow to stay in our lives…and all because we don’t feel like addressing it. We’re supposed to feel, yet we’ve been brainwashed to believe that feeling hurt, anger, or sadness, can all be washed away by something else.

For me, it’s the white noise that I can’t handle. Constantly staying busy is a numbing tactic I use to ease the pain. We must realize that however we choose to numb the pain, we also numb the joy, the true feelings that are warranted and necessary for us to function as a whole.

I’ve fought this battle long and hard, and continue to do so on a regular basis. I’m no superstar, I’m a human that’s managing my own problems. Not with ease, but day by day because I know I’m not comfortable succumbing to what our culture has made us to believe. We have to realize that we’re more than what society tells us we are. We’re human, with feelings of happiness, sadness, and everything else in between.  It’s much easier to have a glass of wine, take an anti-anxiety pill, or keep ourselves so incredibly busy that we don’t have time to process the truth, when the truth is- it’s going to hurt. Whatever it is that you’re dealing with- you have to face it. It’s going to hurt, but that’s natural. What isn’t natural is being numb for an extended period of time and not facing your reality.

No matter what we think, the grass is in fact not always greener on the other side. Addiction happens in various forms in our quick fix, consumer culture.

Truth: all of our problems cannot be solved by an image that claims something different, it’s time to look in the mirror and face it. 

Jayel_Sig

Shit My Therapist Says

IMG_6066“You can’t compare your journey to someone else’s.”

“Look how far you’ve come.”

“Just because (x,y, and/or z) didn’t work out, doesn’t mean that things won’t work themselves out.”

“The person you were last year, isn’t the same person you are today.”

“Be patient.” 

I’ve been in therapy for just about two years now, and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. At first I was insecure about the fact that I even needed a therapist, to be honest, I wasn’t exactly sure why I needed one, but just knew I did. It was the moment that life hit me hard, and I knew that I needed a voice of reason. Not one of my friends’ that would most likely tell me what I wanted to hear, but rather one that would be able to see patterns, and tell me what I needed to hear.

In the past two years I’ve learned a lot about myself, the way relationships work (or don’t work), and how to deal with situations that I’ve had to cross paths with.

A little over a year ago I was finalizing my divorce, and life was hitting me hard, really hard. It was my reality that what I thought once was, was no longer. I had been programmed for so long (much of my young adulthood) to look at what I’ve lost, how bad it hurt/s, and how to recover. The problem lies in looking at what we’ve lost, not what we’ve gained.

Recently I’ve been struggling to write, to blog, to journal, to feel like myself, or how I think I should feel, without being so harsh, and negative towards my own emotions. It truly is a constant struggle of how to not let my thoughts, my old ways, and the patterns that used to control my mindset get the best of me.

Being a personal trainer, I’m often the one that inspires people, that helps individuals reach their highest potential, and come back stronger than they ever could have imagined. Yet when I don’t feel inspirational, motivational, or that I’m doing all of the right things it truly gets the best of me. What I do for a living is make people feel good; both emotionally and physically. It is my hope to teach them to embrace their journey, their own story, and above all, teach them that they are important. Yet when it comes to me, I often forget that I matter too. Too often we get so caught up in the lives of others that we begin to neglect our own.

Our pasts, no matter how painful, amazing, loving, or treacherous they may have been, are a part of our stories. We can’t pretend they didn’t happen, just because it hurts, and we certainly can’t attempt to move on in life and understand the true capacity of which we’re headed, if we don’t acknowledge where we’ve come from.

When we take time to reflect, we begin to realize that it always has to start from within. That the real work, the shift, the change, both mental and physical, have to originate from within. Truth is, despite how we may feel on any given day, is that it’s all within reach. What we want, what we deserve…it’s all within reach, but only if we realize we have the power to change…through our thought processes, what we allow to consume us, and how we allow situations to effect us.

Often we’re searching for someone or something to validate our emotions and tell us that we’re headed in the right direction, but unfortunately too often that person that we select to validate our feelings isn’t headed in the right direction themselves. It’s not that we’re necessarily on the wrong path, it’s that we must learn to embrace the more scenic route.

Remember: You weren’t the person you were yesterday, your journey is yours and yours alone. Many will never know what it cost you to get where you are today. Celebrate life’s little victories, surround yourself with positivity, and don’t devalue how far you’ve come because someone else chooses not to see it.

Jayel_Sig

 

Stronger Than Before

Shoot 2My first steps toward becoming a strong woman were literal steps that I ran nearly ten years ago around my block. I ran that tiny block as quickly as I could, pumping my tightly clenched fists and slamming my feet into the pavement with a force that scared me. When I finished, I collapsed into the grass. I was so angry that I burst into tears while I gasped for air. I was furious that I had to stop because it confirmed my belief that I had no control of my body or my life; that pitiful, three minute run was the first collection of steps I took toward becoming a strong woman.
I was raped when I was seventeen years old, a year prior to my life-altering jog around the block. He was arrested, tried, and in prison within a year; yet it took me the better part of a decade to recover. I had no faith in my intelligence, my intuition, or my strength. I believed I was raped because I was weak. I was disgusted with my inability to protect my own body and it deteriorated my spirit. I hated myself for not being strong.
From that run on, I never stopped training. As my physical strength grew, I began to see my true self instead of the pitiful one I believed myself to be. My workout was the only time of the day I could calm my fury, the sole outlet for my anger. When winter came I took my running indoors to a local YMCA and accidentally wandered into a spin class. I joined a handful of women sweating together to loud music and I forgot I was angry for 45 blissful minutes. Within weeks I was participating in group classes of every kind. In these classes, I met women who helped me shed all of my remaing hatred for myself. They were beautiful, kind, intelligent and strong. I admired each one for a different reason. I would never have met those women outside of the gym and they changed my life. We struggled, celebrated, and grew stronger together. They loved me and, to my surprise, believed I was capable of anything. Slowly, I started to believe them.
Life continued and I just kept growing stronger. I was teaching high school when I looked up a strong woman from my past, my former gymnastics instructor, Marissa Pellegrino. I’d once found her strength intimidating but I returned because I admired it, and wanted it. We became close friends and less than a year later she co-founded Relentless Fitness and asked me to come work with her as a trainer. She saw an ability in me that I didn’t, just as my YMCA girlfriends had. She trusted me to lead and motivate others and I trusted that she was right – even though I couldn’t see it. I accepted her offer and moved to Philadelphia to inspire strength, professionally.
IMG_8399
When I celebrate my clients, I am repaying those women who celebrated me when I couldn’t. I dedicate myself to making others strong and helping my clients see their value because it’s the most important thing I can imagine doing. Each day that I go to work, I return the life-saving favors that a group of outstanding fitness professionals did for me. I remember exactly what it was like to feel weak and I want nothing more than to take the hand of someone who feels the way I felt and elevate them to a place of strength. I am a coach, a cheerleader, and a confidant. I live to inspire strength in others; the same strength I love within me.
Submitted By: Jessica Sullivan