Symbolic Attire

I can’t think of too many things more symbolic than wearing a team jersey or uniform and knowing you belong to something bigger than yourself. I’ve recently been accepted to a women’s racing team (road, gravel, and mountain biking) and when one of my teammates and friends gave me this year’s jersey, I simply felt like I belonged. Perhaps for the first time in years, I belonged to something bigger than “me.”

There is symbolism in things we wear and put on every day. Wedding rings and bands are symbolic to a deep relationship between two people and whether those people are physically together or not, a bond exists. Men’s ties and other jewelry for men and women often symbolize high status in work or society. Wedding attire- the dress, suit, and tux- is symbolic to a huge life event in many people’s lives. Even the logos that represent the brands and companies that we give our money to say something about us.

There are many examples of symbolism in material things in daily life.

But for me, something clicked just a few days ago and I had a deep recognition of who I am and what I stand for because of that team jersey that was handed to me last month. And with that recognition came a deep sense of responsibility too.

By putting on a team jersey or work uniform you represent that organization, group, team, brand or company. When you wear your uniform or jersey, you’re proud. You’re making a statement to the world that these moments aren’t just about you as an individual, but they are about your team or organization beyond you. (I have to chuckle because maybe this is by default… you need a job and you have to wear a certain uniform for work, even if you hate it. I remember this being the case at times in my life as well.)

When I race, I get to wear my team’s name. When I ride for training, more people will see our logo and colors. I’m one part of a greater whole that matters and is making a difference for women cyclists in my area. One example of how this changes me is that I’m going to go out of my way to follow road rules and practice good bike etiquette, especially when I’m in my team jersey.

So too, the importance of the jersey I get to wear for my team doesn’t end when I take off that shirt at the end of the day. I’m still “me” and I still belong to that group, with or without the name and logo on my back for all to see. I should be practicing those road rules and etiquette always, not just when in uniform.

This idea of belonging AND representing my team well really struck home a few days ago. Whether I’m wearing my jersey or not, I’m still a part of a team and group. And I want to bring honor to the group at all times, not just when I’m riding with the colors and logo of the team.

Whether we recognize it every day or not, we all represent something bigger than us. Our families, schools, churches, teams, places of work all make up pieces of our lives and groups that we belong to. And my realization the other day was this: I belong and don’t want to misrepresent the team that is important to me. I want to build the team up at ALL times.

A side note, I think this is why social media can bring so many problems to people’s lives and why supervisors and companies care about following their staff on social media. The online world matters as much as the behind closed doors, private, offline world.

Awareness of belonging to a team and how to represent that well comes with a growth in responsibility and character. It lasts beyond taking the uniform off at the end of the day. Day-to-day, we need to be aware of how individual actions and attitudes reflect outward on those groups and organizations that we belong to, and to not let wearing a jersey or uniform change how we should be behaving and acting as representatives of our groups and teams. Even our families’ names matter… and to bring honor to our family means acting with wisdom and making daily, healthy choices that help and not hurt our families.

In the end, reflecting on belonging and who I represent matters. I don’t want any organization to be brought down because of me; I only want those I work for and with to be lifted up. As individuals a part of teams, our actions really do matter for the greater good, or downfall if we aren’t careful.

What groups are you a part of? Have you ever thought of how you represent where you work, or the teams you are a part of even when you’re not in uniform? Does this change your perspective on how you move through the world on a day-to-day basis?

The Real Language Barrier

Cross cultural communication has proven to be more difficult than I thought in marriage. Before getting married to someone from another country and race, I had expected that communication between us would be a time to shine with free-flowing understanding and empathy. I also imagined the two of us laughing about why we choose certain words over others and how we say things differently than the other, despite both speaking English. But it wasn’t like this. There was a root language barrier preventing us from true understanding and I realized it wasn’t limited to just us. This barrier is everywhere.

A little background… My husband is from Jamaica and though in Jamaica locals speak English, most islanders speak Patwa (also spelled Patois or Patwah). Patwa is a heavy English dialect that I misunderstood and couldn’t keep up with when I lived on the island for a good nine months last year. When it came to talking to locals, it would often take two or three tries of me saying, “what?” before I could catch the full meaning. Bar tenders, baristas, wait staff, those selling trinkets and food on the beach, even my husband’s family that we lived with proved difficult for me to understand at times with simple things. Though I learned to pick up some Patwa, I relied on Kevin for translating most of the time.  

Then there was the communication between he and I… and I learned very quickly after getting married, that language was going to be a bigger issue than I expected. Though my husband doesn’t communicate in Patwa to me, except to tease every once in a while, I realized that the words we both use to describe things, and certain phrases that neither of us thought about that come from our individual cultures, needed to be slowed down and explained at times. Still now, fears, frustrations, even humor often needs to be explained in a way that we’re both really able to get quiet and listen.

And then one day it hit me—the real language barrier between us isn’t in how we talk or what needs to be explained, but is actually how willing we are to listen to the other.

Listening, or lack of it, is the ultimate language barrier no matter where we are from. Listening can keep any person from understanding (even people within our own families).

Without the ability to listen, to really hear someone out with an opposing opinion or viewpoint, different choice of words, unfamiliar language…well… communication is pretty much blocked and no one moves forward.

For true communication to flow, the root language barrier of inability to hear and listen needs to be dug up and tossed aside. At the end of the day, we all must overcome the inability to hear and listen first if we truly want to understand the heart of any matter, no matter how deep or light the topic is. Ability to listen and hear can be the key to understanding, or the ultimate language barrier.

A Close Encounter and 3 Little Reminders

“Watch your step, watch your step,” the voice said to me as I walked through the woods on an evening hike. And then I heard it. The rattling caught my attention first before seeing the rattlesnake’s head, inches from my ankle, posed to strike.

Though many would think this just happens in nature and would write off the experience, I can’t help but dig a little deeper with why almost stepping on a rattlesnake applies to my life in a bigger way.

This is a short post with three lessons learned in the one day of processing. Here goes!

1. The Voice

Some might call the voice I heard… something only a crazy person would hear; Some might call it an inner guide; some might call it a conscience (though typically that term is used for moral choices rather than something that occurs outside of your control); I call it the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit guides me daily—beyond my knowing how or why. Sometimes I hear Him clearly, other times not at all.

We are all guided by different voices.

Maybe we hear the lingering voices of our parents when they taught us right from wrong when we were children. The voices of our peers and friends with influence in our lives when we seek advice, stand out strong sometimes. Then there are the voices on ads with a constant drip of “buy this now.”

Voices are all around us, communicating, telling, sharing, influencing. And we need to be careful which voices we pay attention to and why.

I’m grateful for the quiet voice saying to me, “Watch your step,” as I hiked quickly through the woods. I would surely have stepped on the rattler’s tail. That and had I not heard the rattling tail itself. What are you listening for? Who are you listening to? Warnings of protection are there for us to learn and glean from if we’re willing to stop and listen.

2. Independence doesn’t mean I shouldn’t communicate plans

The second lesson of my encounter with the rattle snake is that I was 100% alone in the woods and had not communicated with anyone that I was hiking, nor where I was going. I’m used to the paths and trails around my community in the hills and mountains. The area is small and most people I bump into are healthy, kind hikers and bikers. I typically have SOME cell phone service; I never venture too far on my own, and genuinely feel comfortable and safe when I’m alone in the woods.

But no one knew I was there. And what if something HAD happened?

I take for granted my independent nature and safe surroundings. Until it’s not safe anymore.

I wonder if I had communicated other things through the years, would I have strayed so far down paths I didn’t belong? Would I have been more aware of danger with people and situations?

Maybe I’m the only one who just trusts that things will “turn out alright” as I act independently and go through my days… even if I am, I’m reminded once more to communicate with those around me better than I do. I can be independent with my time and plans, and still be safe with communicating said plans with those around me.

3. Don’t give into fear but, be wise and knowledgeable

This is HUGE. It applies to the rattlesnake and to me. The rattle was the snake’s warning. Thank GOD I heard and listened. But even after freaking out, (I’ll never forget seeing his head poised to strike just as I realized he was under my feet), I went back to the snake for a video and then continued on with my hike. I was jittery the rest of the hike, but didn’t just turn around and give up.

Yes, there are dangers in the world, unexpected ones that catch us by surprise even if we have the BEST communication and plans in place, but we are not to give up.

I’ve seen SO many people give into fear this last year and a half with covid. I’ve seen SO many people dismiss the dangers of covid like it’s nothing. Neither living in fear, nor acting unwise will get anyone very far in life.

We must continue on the path and journey set before us, as best as possible, despite the obstacles. And we must do so with wisdom and knowledge.

The rattlesnake reminded me I don’t know the best protocol with snakebites in the woods at all, let alone poisonous, perhaps deadly ones. So, I need to read up and be more prepared next time. I need to gain knowledge and insight into the woods that I think I know so well. BUT, I didn’t give up on my hike then, and I’m not going to just stop living my life because of potential dangers. I love hiking too much!

Wisdom, while moving forward with courage is where I choose live. And is the best reminder and takeaway with… that darned rattlesnake.

And honestly? I’m glad I bumped into it. I was able to warn others on the path to use caution. I was nervous for one woman with her dog because I wasn’t sure how the dog would react IF it encountered a snake beyond the point where I did.

Through my somewhat scary experience, I could alert and help others. Just like others have done for me in the past with other things in life.

I’m sure there are MANY other takeaways with the rattlesnake… but for now: Listening to the loving, guiding voices in our lives; Communicating with those around you/ not being so independent; and Not giving into fear while using wisdom and knowledge. These are my biggest takeaways to that VERY close encounter.

Have you ever had a close encounter with danger that taught you a lesson? What was it? What did you learn?

{Q&A} Easy Advice With Big Impact

{Q&A} Easy Advice With Big Impact

Asia Major-Waithe is a friend from a long time. She is also a fitness powerhouse and has a wealth of information on how fruits and veggies work for your body. Asia earned her BA in Kinesiology from Penn State University. She currently is a Assistant Director at Power Train Sports and Fitness in State College, PA.

Outside of weight training for herself and others, she loves walking her dog Anchor, hanging out with friends, and eating healthy, delicious food. She also helps to combat human trafficking with work at a non-profit on the side.

Juliandra Jackson, Owner and Founder of Written Jewels

Q: You’re a group fitness instructor and personal trainer– what excites you the most about that career path? What excites me most about my career path is that I get to help people reach their health and fitness goals. I work with athletes of all ages to the older adult client that just wants to be able to play with their grandchildren.

Q: You have a long background in sports and athletics. How has sports added value to your life through the years? My background in sports/athletics has very much informed my career path. In my pre-college years I played soccer, ran track, basketball, volleyball, and played rugby in college. Being part of various teams has taught me discipline , hard work, and the value of team work. I have had to choose to learn from my mistakes when we lost a big game. Being able to pull something good/constructive out of a devastating loss is a hard, but good thing.

Q: Juice Plus+ is an amazing company featuring pure, wholefood nutrition and educates people about nutrition through high end research. You and I have been a part of Juice Plus+ for a long time together. How does nutrition play a role in getting to an improved fitness or general health level? I love Juice Plus, it has been a game changer for me since 2012. It helped me with recovery from my athletic endeavors, helped me get sick less often, sleep better, decrease in allergies, and improved my astigmatism. Nutrition is the “bread and butter” of your body. With a proper diet you can decrease your chances of disease, chronic inflammation, improved mental acuity, sleep, etc. Juice Plus+ can help do this as well because its just dehydrated produce! Anyone can use it, from a child to an 80 year old and everything in between.

With a proper diet you can decrease your chances of disease, chronic inflammation, improved mental acuity, sleep, etc. Juice Plus can help do this as well because its just dehydrated produce!

Asia Major-Waithe

Q: Is there any one thing that you could suggest as a positive step forward if someone doesn’t know much about fitness or nutrition and needs advice with where to start? A positive step forward would be to take some steps! If you aren’t [physically] active [every day] start walking. If you don’t eat real, whole food, start with eating at least one fruit or vegetable daily.

Juice Plus+ has a great saying: do “ One Simple Change”. Small changes over time become big changes and eventually lifestyle changes.

Small changes over time become big changes and eventually lifestyle changes.

Asia Major-Waithe

Q: One EASY question coffee or tea? I like both!

Q: Anything you’d like to add as a word of encouragement to those who want to take basic steps to improve their health for the first time? Remember, your body is your most valuable asset. Once you don’t have full function, are chronically ill, or just aren’t feeling well, you limit your ability to do and be things that you actually enjoy. Take care of your body (that includes the mind and spirit) and it will take care of you. Self-care matters!

Consistency over Perfection

I’ve been caught. In some ways I’ve been unable to move forward with simple business phone calls and conversations through fear of messing up the information. I’ve been worried, questioning what if I confuse people, or the event I’ve been planning, even virtual ones, go wrong…

Perfection has been my trap in the past. Perfection has taken from me time and time again. Fearing over living. Stressing over moving forward.

But who can do anything perfectly? There is no amount of editing, preparation, and makeup that will cover writing mistakes, conversation hiccups, and the blemishes on my skin as I’ve tried to get to the weighty place of perfection.

And it does feel like a weight when you live in that room and place of perfection. There isn’t anything fun or enjoyable about trying to be perfect.

After years of letting go of layers of perfection and performance, I realize only a few things matter at the end of the day. In order to reach my goals, I’ve learned that consistency, dedication, and prayer are all I need. I can apply this to my whole list of goals- sports, nutrition, business, and relationships- it matters to be consistent in my behaviors and practice, improving 1% each day, rather than trying to do anything perfectly. I do what I can and let God handle the rest.

The dedication and discipline come into play while remaining consistent.

This is how once more, I’m reaching my goals slowly but surly with Bellia, my new Written Jewels, high end jewelry brand partnership… and with other business and fitness ventures. As I move forward, others around me will learn to see and know that I’m serious in my goals and plans and correlate them with me. I don’t need to do them perfectly, I just need to do them.

Consistency with determination to whatever you put your mind to, and doing it with excellence is key. And in the process learn to give up the idea of perfection.

My encouragement this Saturday morning is this: Let’s stay dedicated to enjoy the process of moving forward with what’s in our hearts to do. This is a way better alternative to holding onto our goals and dreams with a tight fist of perfection.

Life is good– full of joy, fun, and beauty. Let’s live with these things in mind. Let’s embrace the imperfections of each day and learn to walk in peace with a smile on our face, whatever the outcome.

What about you? Does perfection trip you up? If not, are there other mindsets you need to release?

Whatever those mindsets are, let’s move away from fear and choose to stay dedicated and consistent with every day actions. Let’s reach our goals one day at a time, knowing we’ve done our best and tomorrow is a new day, bringing us one step closer to the results we’re aiming for!