2016

Hey there all you cool cats and kittens, how y’all holding up on quarantine day 672?!

Yeah, I totally watched Tiger King. Mostly because I HAD LITERALLY NOTHING ELSE TO DO. Also, it’s a train wreck and awful and right up my alley. But in all seriousness, how y’all doing? Still good? Found something good to watch on TV? Worked out? Played Jenga? Completely cracked the fuck up yet? COOL ME TOO.

It has been a damn week. I’m really worried about finances while I work from home. Like, genuinely scared. I’m a single parent and not receiving any support. The dad told me “you’re on your own,” when I asked for some financial help, then whined that he doesn’t even own an Xbox. Meanwhile, I’m worried that I’ll fall behind on bills to support our kids. My mom went through some major health issues this week (unrelated to COVID-19) and the kids and I had little support from our family. My friends stepped up to be my support system because they’re the best. The kids are doing their best and their teachers have been amazing, running conference calls to help them learn and grow. But I’m working from home and helping them and trying to keep the house clean and the kids alive and be mom, daughter, therapist, teacher, manager, and I’m really tired and really scared.

I’m trying my best. I’m working out, I’m meal planning (at one point my Snapchat was MHC’s dinner hour), we have family movie night. But the reality is I’m tired and I’m scared that I won’t be able to afford our home or bills or I’ll get laid off. I’m scared my mom is gonna have another health issue. I’m scared we’re all gonna crack up. It’s a lot to handle on your own & I’ve never felt more alone. I’m a social person and we are on week three of quarantine. When times got tough, I could always take a break and go to the gym or out with a friend, but now, it’s sit at home and obsess & it’s so easy to fall into the mental health trap of doom and gloom. Not gonna lie, I’m in full doom and gloom. All of this is hard and it’s even harder when you’re doing it alone. When you’re the parent, you have to stay strong and you can’t show them anything but super mom. It’s even harder when you don’t get that moment to feel afraid or vulnerable because they’re watching you every second, relying on you to make it okay. There’s no turning it off and you feel burned out and like an empty vessel with nothing left.

So, I try to stay positive by looking for the little things that can bring me joy even when everything feels bleak. For example, I’m super grateful that WrestleMania is still happening because for a few hours, I get stupid fun entertainment.

I’m also super looking forward to sitting on my porch and drinking spicy margaritas with my friends.

I’m optimistic that Vegas may still happen. I’m excited to go back to work, hopeful that my customers will have a new found appreciation for wireless devices, I know I have. This baby is keeping me connected with the outside world. It’s my lifeline right now and I don’t know what I’d do without it. I’m appreciative of everyone from grocery store workers to teachers and nurses who have done so much to help everyone, and we have a leader who’s doing his best to help us. It’s not much, but it’s something that will get us through this. Finally, every night I focus my energy on reminding myself that I can do this and we will be okay.

Even though everything feels hard and scary, and it’s day eleventy million of quarantine, I’m trying my best to stay positive so I can be a good role model to my girls, a strong presence for my family, and keep the crazy to a six out of ten so I can be ready when the time comes to go back to work. I hope you’re doing the same. Just keep on going. It’ll all work out and it’ll all be okay. Just stay home, focus on your family and yourself, and do your best to stay positive during the never ending isolation. Also, it’s okay to admit you’re scared or overwhelmed. I struggle so hard with that, but part of being mentally well is admitting we aren’t. So, right now, I’m not doing so fantastic, but I hope eventually it’ll be okay.

After Hours

How are y’all doing?

Remember when we thought 2019 was weird? Welcome to 2020, where so far, Australia was on fire, we lost Kobe Bryant and his beautiful daughter, some dude wants to sue the NFL because J.Lo and Shakira are hot, and now the planet has basically shut down because of the plague. Okay not the plague, but COVID-19 is something that should be taken super seriously. Wash your hands, take precautions, stay home, and don’t be a dick that hordes everything. Make sure you’re exercising social distancing. I’m grateful that my company is taking care of us during these uncertain times. I’m also a super extroverted person, so being self quarantined is the absolute fucking worst.

It’s day nine of quarantine. I was put on lockdown before my work closed due to a nagging cough from airborne allergies. It’s been great. I work from home, I homeschool the kids, I spend time with my cats, who hate us so much for being home all damn day. They’re so confused as to why humans are home all day every day and never leave. They pretend they’re mad but secretly love the attention.

Actual footage of my cats paying someone to reopen my work

I’m a social person who talks A LOT. So, naturally being at home all of the time with no social activities or places to go or shopping to do make MHC go something something. I’ve replayed (& completed) Breath of the Wild. I’ve binge watched eight seasons of the Simpsons. I’ve read news articles. I work out twice a day, homeschool the kids, and my mom is in isolation because of her age and health so is basically under the stairs like Harry Potter (if he had an apartment with a bathroom, a TV, and a fireplace). I’ve whined that I can’t play Animal Crossing because I’m concerned about finances & I don’t want to waste money on games. I played a game where you turn a potato into a Disney character. I can TOTALLY keep this up for weeks!

No seriously, I can. I’ll be kind of batshit insane, but we gotta put in this time. None of us are invincible and the only way to protect immunocompromised people like my mom or my middle daughter (who has severe asthma) is if we suck it up and stay at home. I know it super sucks, but we gotta. Yes, it’s an inconvenience and not fun, also I’m pretty sure my cute little charts are going to lose and we’ll just become Lord of the Flies, but we all need to do our part to stop other people from getting sick, as well as keeping ourselves safe.

There’s a lot of uncertainty too. Financially, will my family be okay until I go back to work? When am I going back to work? When do the kids go back to school? For purely selfish reasons, will the world be back to normal by August so I can go to Vegas? Will I be able to afford to go to Vegas? Is the Lululemon 10k cancelled? Am I a selfish person for wondering if I can go on vacation when people are getting really sick and my mom is in isolation? Are the kids going to end up killing each other and will their relationships be damaged by the 24/7 interactions? I’m sure a lot of parents feel the same way, and when you’re a single, sole support parent, there’s a lot of uncertainty right now about financials and work and keeping everyone healthy and sane, without going insane myself.

Unfortunately, it’s out of my hands. All I can do is do my best to keep everyone healthy and sane and keep my own sanity while clawing at the door like a cat wanting to do normal things like going shopping or to the movies. I also hope everyone else is staying safe and sane. These are weird and scary times and we need to be cautious, but also kind to each other during these tough times. It’s hard enough to navigate this uncertainty without making it harder on others by being an asshole. So, be good to each other, use all the cool technology we have to stay connected while socially distant, and be safe.

Famous Last Words

I realized this month that if people asked me what I’ve been up to, they’d realize my life seems outwardly boring.

I’ve kind of retreated into a bubble of family, work, fitness, friends. It’s been really nice. I took the kids on a mini vacation to Banff. I’ve finally gotten a chance to explore this amazing place I call home and spend real quality time with my family. Everyone had a blast and we made some amazing memories. Also, I drove four hours by myself on a road trip and lived. I feel so much more confident about driving, which is nice. I’m really trying to get my work life balance in order, so that I can be mentally healthy and successful. So far, it’s working out okay.

My view from the hot springs

My family has always been my number one priority, but I always had to work ten times harder to support us so I wasn’t getting the time we needed as a family. Now, I’ve learned to balance those things so that I’m getting that quality time in, while also doing okay at work. Because I’m happier at home, I’m doing better at work. Also, because I’m doing better at work, I’m stress eating less. Thanks to better eating and intermittent fasting and Deadboys Fitness and Capital City Athletics, I’m down 10lbs in two weeks! That’s 1/6 of my goal! Tonight at the gym during the WOD, my working weight was my 1RM from three months ago! I’m getting stronger! Things feel attainable: success at work, success at the gym, happiness in life. I feel like the luckiest person; I have an incredible family, the best friends who are willing to run 10km with me, an awesome gym family, and a beautiful home. Life is dope.

Speaking of friends, my friends has inadvertently helped me set some long term goals of my own. One of my best friends is engaged! She and her awesome fiancé are getting married! I love these two; they’re just the best couple. They’re loving and patient with each other, and really changed each other for the better. I’m so happy for them and the next step they’re about to take. I used to think the perfect couple didn’t exist until I met them, but they are just so perfect for each other and I know they are going to have the most incredible life together.

But this means a wedding, even a small one. Six years ago, I got myself in shape because I wanted to look good at my friend’s wedding. This is no different. But, this time I’m not just trying to get in shape for the sake of wearing something. I’m getting in shape to wear this damn dress.

I bought this dress to wear to a holiday party with a guy I was dating at the time…and then broke up with because he sucked at communicating and I was sick of dealing with it (and then took him back again because why not date your own stalker…twice, you know, in case you were wondering about where my taste in men used to be like. Everyone is better off now, and there’s no hard feelings, but I need to preface that I got this bomb stress in the wake of some very stupid decisions). This beautiful wool dress (in size six) has travelled with me across the country, survived being put in the dryer and revived with fabric softener and warm water, but has never been worn. Ever. Why? The last wedding was a summer wedding. This is a winter dress. It’s four sizes too small right now, but I have two years to fit in this damn dress. The goal is that I can wear it around Xmas time. That’s 10 months to lose four sizes and finally take this baby out for a spin.

The other goal is that I am NOT going stag to this wedding. Fuck. No. I’ve gone out on a couple of Tinder dates, but I’m slowly but surely putting down my walls and getting to the point where I’m ready for a serious relationship. It’s been a long time and I’ve run away from good guys because I was so scared to get close to someone, because what if I do and then I’m ghosted again? Every time a guy talked about anything more than a casual coffee, I’d Usain Bolt out of there. You can’t get hurt if you don’t get attached.

Me when anything gets serious

The thought of putting myself in a position to fall in love with someone only to find out they’d never talk to me about what’s wrong, never be really honest, and then just cut me out of their life like I never existed was too much. But thanks to therapy, and really getting to know and love myself, I’ve been chipping away. Go on a few dates, not take rejection to heart, allow the conversations, and make sure to end things properly so everyone gets closure. And for once, I really like my appearance regardless of my weight. I’m comfortable in my skin, with my family and my job. I finally feel like a catch…most days. But loving oneself is a work in progress. But, I am not going to this wedding solo. I’m going to make myself more open to dating. I’ll work on reading signals better, because right now dudes, unless you walk up and say “Hi, I am interested in you. Would you like to go on a date?” I will not understand. I do not get flirting, or dating. Or any of it. But I’m gonna have to learn, so if there are any quality mans whisperers who would like to help me understand all of this, help a sister out. More importantly, I’m finally confident enough to actually engage with people like a human being, without fear of rejection or abandonment. I almost know my worth.

My life may seem boring, but it’s happy. My family is healthy and happy. I’m emotionally healthy and happy. I’m finally getting my body the way I want so I can rock the Lululemon 10k for the third time. I feel good about my job. I live in a beautiful city in a house I’m proud of. Almost all of the pieces are coming together, even if I only catch up with friends once every two months. All of the trying times and stress just prepares you for what’s next, and for me, what’s next is a really happy time in my life, with all of the things that matter most working out in the best way possible

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Still Learning

For those of you that don’t know me in real life, I don’t sports.

I am not coordinated, athletic, or anything like that. I once tripped over my own barbell at the gym. I don’t sports. I watch sports (and also sports entertainment) on TV. The closest I’ve ever come to winter sports was one time I went cross country skiing in the eighth grade. I cannot ice skate. I have never tried curling, or snowshoeing, or played hockey. I’m actually afraid of most winter sports and make a weird, high pitched shrieky noise whenever I make an attempt. But, I was going to go skiing for the first time EVER.

I won some lift tickets through work and one of my friends won the other set. We put together a fun girls retreat in Jasper! I have lived in Cow Province for almost five years and I had still never been, so I fail Alberta. We booked a hotel, packed some snacks, planned a fun few days of skiing, sledding, hiking, and hopefully seeing some goats (spoiler alert: we totally saw goats and it was the best).

Did I mention I have NEVER gone downhill skiing? I was going to learn to ski with lessons beforehand but Cow Province gets cold sometimes. You know, just a little bit.

It was “nope degrees.”

I was certainly not going out in THAT, so I decided to wing it! How hard could skiing be?! As long as you pizza when you should and not French fry, you won’t have a bad time! I got to the little bunny hill and started down…and had a bad time.

I fell into a fence. I fell on my ass. At one point I was pretty sure that I broke a rib. I felt fat, awkward, and like I was ruining my friends’ time. But when you surround yourself with supportive women, cool things happen. They let me rest while they went on the hill. I tried again after they had a chance to challenge themselves. I did…not get better. But I learned that with lessons, I probably could really learn to enjoy skiing. Or I’ll die. Whatever.

One thing I love about building friendships is learning about stuff that they are passionate about and enjoy. My friends love snowboarding, so I really wanted to share their interest, especially since I dragged one of them into running a 10k last year. You’ll never know what you’re capable of or what you’ll like until you try stuff. Also, don’t you want your friends to be happy? Nothing makes me happier than when someone is interested in the dumb shit that I like. Having a friend run a 10k with me last year was the best! A couple have even offered to try Crossfit, which makes me so happy. I can only imagine other people also love it when you share their interests. People are the best when they are talking about stuff that they like. They get all animated and their eyes light up and all excited. Dude, it’s the best! Why wouldn’t you want to check out the stuff that they like? They think it’s cool, why not give it a shot? My friends love snowboarding so I made an attempt to try winter sports. I was God fucking awful, but I’d do it again. We had fun, made some kick ass memories, and it’s a nice little challenge. Plus, I can later subject my friends to the joys of CrossFit & running long distances! Fair trade. Right?!

In all seriousness, one of my favourite parts of my job is that I’ve met some super awesome women that I love and admire a great deal. They’re supportive, funny, love Law & Order SVU as much as I do, and seem to really care about motivating and empowering each other. I’m super lucky to be a part of it. I’m also grateful they were patient enough to try to teach me to ski, because I never would have been brave enough to try on my own. Maybe I’ll finally let my best dude friend finally teach me how to curl if I ever go back to Ontario to visit (which won’t be any time soon as I have been forced to finally cut the girls extremely toxic aunt out of their lives for good, but that’s another story for another day). But I’m making it a point to push myself out of my comfort zone as much as possible in 2020, whether it’s my work/writing, meeting new people, or trying random ass winter sports. Fortunately, I have been super blessed to forge meaningful friendships both back in Ontario and out here in the Cow Province to help me, and I’m so grateful that I’ve found such rad people to surround myself with, and also point at animals and scream that we saw animals during road trips, which is the most important part of road trips.

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Daylight

Welp, its time for the holidays, which are the busiest time of year for all of us. Since I’ll be busy working and enjoying time with family, and ending the decade with friends, I figured I’d post my annual photo essay reviewing my 2019 (excluding photos of the kids). It’s been an eventful year; moved to a new home, went on some fantastic adventures, made new friends, and did a bunch of kick ass stuff! I hope you had a great year as well, and you achieved many goals and dreams. Enjoy the photos and hopefully I’ll have more stories to tell in 2020!

We saw Ariana Grande and it was the best day until we met Becky Lynch

Changed my look for the first time in forever

City and Colour!

It’s Nice to Have a Friend

I wasn’t looking forward to my birthday this year.

Money has been tight because of some unexpected repairs and I couldn’t take the girls to the WWE event they wanted to go to. I know they just went to Summerslam but I knew they wanted to go for my birthday. I know kids don’t need to do everything, but I felt like I disappointed them.

Still an amazing night

I also just looked at my birthday as a bunch of disappointments. I thought I’d have found my partner by now, and I haven’t been on a date in two months. I thought I’d be at my goal weight and I’m not even close. I thought I’d have gotten the promotion I’ve been chasing, but I’m not there yet. I just felt like I’ve let myself down. I had set goals for myself, and I didn’t really hit them. My birthday just felt like the year of disappointment. But, I still look good, that’s a plus, right?!

Fortunately, I have some pretty awesome friends. My assistant manager and his partner planned an entire birthday party for me, and invited all of my friends. They spoiled me with gifts. We drank wine and played Super Smash Bros. Two days later, I attended a work event and everyone made it a point to wish me a happy birthday. My boss’s wife got me a piñata. It might not seem like much to y’all, but when you’re already feeling down, there’s something so amazing about all the people you love or respect taking a second to do something nice for you is such a cool thing.

Maybe I didn’t meet the goals I set for myself, but I’m still doing really well. I have a job I love. I’ve been working on some new articles. I have great kids and the best friends in the whole world. I must be doing something right to have so many amazing people take time out of their lives to want to celebrate with me. I’m not behind because I didn’t meet some imaginary criteria. All of this stuff will happen when it’s supposed to. Until then, I should focus more on gratitude. I’m so fortunate to have so many amazing people in my life and that I get to be their friends. I’m fortunate enough to live in a wonderful home with my amazing family. I’m fortunate that I can afford to repair things when they go wrong. Lots of others don’t have that luxury. Maybe instead of focusing on timelines and schedules, just keep working on what I want to work on and then be grateful for when they happen, instead of pressuring myself to get there and failing. Things fall into place better when you let them instead of forcing them to fall when you think they should. Trust the process, don’t obsess about the result.

One Thing Right

It’s funny how sometimes one thing can just snowball and really deflate you and destroy you…if you let it.

Shortly after I finished my 10k, I was feeling better than I ever have. I was feeling empowered and excited for the first time in a long time. I was starting to feel good about my body. I was really believing I could lose these pounds and look the way I wanted to. I was finally overcoming the dark cloud and pushing forward.

Then I was out with some friends and one of them was telling a story. During the story she said “there was no way I’d fit in it. She’s so big even YOU couldn’t fit in her clothes!” I remember balking at the comment and the friend was like ” you know what I mean, you wouldn’t fit in them because she’s really big, so I definitely wouldn’t!” But the damage was done. I had just talked to people about how I work out because I enjoy the work, only to be told that I looked fine and at my age, the window to find love was closing anyway, and finding someone would only complicate my life, couldn’t I just be happy as the solo friend? I realized that my closest friends don’t look at me as someone who loves fitness or is desirable or has great traits; I’m the fat, single friend. I make people feel better about their lives because they’re not the fat, single friend. I didn’t mind being the single friend, but when I’m just confident enough to really take dating seriously, being told that the window is closing so stop working out and accept your fate, solo loser, was a little off putting.

Suddenly, I felt like the “f” word was EVERYWHERE. That’s how everyone saw me; fat and old. I’d be at the gym, but I felt like there was a sign on me that screamed “you don’t belong. You are fat and old.” Even though my gym mates are super supportive, it was like a mantra now “fat and old. Window closing. Best days behind you. Fat and old.” I was my biggest fear; the fat old single mom that dies alone meddling in their kids lives because they are unlovable. I’d work late. I stopped running, because every step screamed; “FAT. OLD. FAT. OLD. NO HOPE. WINDOW CLOSED.” I stopped wearing makeup. I stopped trying. Even my work slipped. But it didn’t matter. I gained the weight back. I’m old and fat. Sephora doesn’t make enough makeup to fix that. Old. Fat. Old. Fat. Window closed.

I saved up all year to take the kids to Summerslam. I pinched pennies and stuck to a budget and used all my PC Optimum points for snacks. They had the best time, and met their heroes, Becky Lynch and Carmella. We watched Crossfit Jesus become the Master of the Universe from our nosebleeds. I felt like after a year of second guessing, I finally did one thing right.

Even then, I avoided photos on vacation, until the girls insisted I was in one. Then, a random Twitter user called me fat.

Even on vacation, old and fat followed. This was who I was. All those years I spent trying so hard to be a good role model suddenly felt pointless. Dating, which was never a big priority, suddenly felt useless. Sure, hundreds of people said otherwise, but I didn’t feel pretty, or even good about the fact that I saved up all year to take my kids to Summerslam and give them that memory. I just felt defeated. I came home and my washer broke. The repair is way beyond my budget. I was so depressed that I slept through my gym alarm…twice. When it rains, it pours, and I felt like a failure trying to balance work and life and something as simple as liking myself when I looked in the mirror seemed impossible. So I just stopped trying.

Carmella is the sweetest and I’ll fight anyone who says otherwise

But, life doesn’t stop when you’re sad. Life doesn’t end because you’re moping about. And kids still need good role models even when you feel fat and old and like you’re unloveable and unworthy. So, when today’s crisis (internet went down) barred me from open gym, and I had to do laundry at a friend’s house, I still went running. Was it a good run?! Hell no! I ran a kilometre. But I ran, and it felt good to run. On Wednesday, I’ll run two. Three on Saturday. I’ll keep it up until I get back to 5km.

I talked to my ASM about making sure i could leave on time to hit the gym. That’s the one place I feel empowered. The only person who tells me I don’t belong is me. That voice can kindly STFU ten times. Washing machines break. It happens. We’ll pull through. Daphne Zuniga got married for the first time at 56. The window doesn’t close. The only way it closes if you keep telling yourself you’re too old and fat.

It’s not going to be easy; when you feel depressed, it’s hard sometimes to shake off the negative self talk and push forward. But I know that to love myself, I’ve gotta invest in myself. Push past that voice that says I’m too old and too fat and do the work and invest in myself. The reason I was so happy wasn’t just because I lost 100lbs. It was because I was investing in my own happiness. My kids need to see that happiness doesn’t come from a relationship; a relationship comes when you are happy. I had a great talk with my boss about the quadrants of time management. I spend so much time trying to be in Q2 (important but not urgent) that sometimes I forget that Q1’s (urgent and important) happen, or Q3’s (urgent and unimportant). You gotta roll with the Q1’s so you can get back to Q2. Don’t panic, just push though. The washer will break. Money will be tight. A Twitter troll will call you fat. But I’m not old and fat. Or maybe I am. But I’ll work at it until I feel happy with my body. But most importantly, I’ll remind myself that I’m beautiful and work at my life until I believe it, because no one is gonna do it for me.

When I took this picture to show my friend the new colour, all I could see was wrinkles and thin lips. Now, I choose to think I’m beautiful.

Guiding Light

Have you ever just felt “blah?”

Not good nor bad, just sort of meh.

That’s how I’ve felt this past month. I haven’t been pitching stories anywhere because I haven’t had the urge. I haven’t really exercised much, because I’m always exhausted. At first I thought it was jet lag, but it’s been a week and I’m still just blah. But my race is coming up and I ate nothing but crap for a week and I missed the gym, but I’m just like…meh.

I have no reason to feel this way. Work is going well. Life is good. Friends kick ass. Family is good. But I’m just kind of in a weird funk. The rain preventing me from going for a good run isn’t helping either. I always just want to go to sleep.

Even my attempts to run weren’t going well. I’d hear the pace say I was behind & I would just give up and quit. It was just so demoralizing that I felt like I shouldn’t be in the 10k or even doing anything except crying into an ice cream sandwich and going to sleep.

I knew I had to snap out of it because no one is successful living their life in a haze of meh. You’ve gotta find something to feel passionate about, even if all you wanna do is take a nap. There’s also the fact that how you treat your body impacts how it reacts. If you don’t take care of yourself, your body doesn’t want to go. I spent a week eating garbage food and doing nothing and then came back home to do nothing and eat garbage food. There’s been less meal prep and more Manchu Wok. I fought so hard not to become this person and yet, I’ve become this person. But the thing about this type of behaviour is that it sneaks up on you. One day you’re just a little tired. The next you think you’ll just catch up on sleep. Then two weeks pass and you haven’t seen your friends and you’ve worked late and missed the gym and you’re laying in your bathtub even though the water is cold and you realize maybe you aren’t doing okay.

Nothing really needs to be “wrong” in your life and you don’t necessarily need to be “sad.” Sometimes you just feel like your energy has been sucked out of you and that’s where all month except for the week I was away. I’ve realized that while I’ve talked about giving away too much and leaving an empty vessel, now I really am one. So, much like one of my best friend’s deleted FB to shut out some noise and focus on himself, I need to start doing the same.

First thing I did was make a hair appointment. You can’t feel blah after a day making your hair fabulous. My stylist is the best and I know my self esteem will jump 10 points because my hair will be fantastic. You might laugh, but small things will really help pull you out of the doldrums. Next, I forced myself to workout with Deadboys Fitness and get back into running. They haven’t been great, but I’ve got two weeks before the race, so even running every day should get me on the right track, no pun intended.

I asked a friend who is a trainer to help me push myself harder to get a better run in. It wasn’t the best time, but I did manage to get a solid time in while running on the trails. My next time will be much better.

I don’t know why I’ve been feeling so blah, but when going through a depressive episode, it’s up to me to pull myself out, just like it’s up to all of us when going through those times when we are down on ourselves and feeling like crap. Whether it’s through therapy, medication, exercise, or just focusing on a little victory each day, everyone can find a way to feel better. For me, it’s finding something every day to feel good about myself, whether it’s a good run, getting back to the gym, or a strong day at work. I’ve been wallowing in my low sense of self for a month now, and it’s time I snap out of it and focus on being the most bad ass version of me. That means getting up every morning, putting my confidence on, and working towards my goals.