You Are Guaranteed To Learn

I injured my shoulder a little over a month ago. If I was subconsciously looking for a reason to slow down and reflect, my body gave me a good one.
In the middle of last year I was feeling frustrated. I had a big list of scary goals that I realised I had achieved. I had no idea what came next and I saw vagueness everywhere I looked. There were two things that I was clear about- I wanted to re-claim my fitness and I wanted something to commit to. I craved feeling stronger and healthier. I have spent most of my life being quite fit, healthy, disciplined and focussed in many respects. I had let this go and I was becoming more consciously aware that part of me felt that I was misaligned with myself and this was showing up across my life.
I had the opportunity to join an acrobatic dance team with the intention of performing interstate and overseas early this year. While I doubted whether I had it in me, my trainers assured me that if I was prepared to work hard, they would train my dance partner and I. I had dreamed of being a dancer and dance teacher, however I had not dedicated enough focus to it in my earlier years and combined with a fear of standing out, I never followed through.
When we joined the team, I feel that we may have had a few “crazy stares”. Luckily, I generally do not choose whether or not to do things based on the number of “crazy stares” I receive. I have learned that I tend to operate in the world in a way that people tend to want to ask me “why would you want to do that for?”, and I don’t see this as a reason to not do something on its own accord.
The training challenged me in so many ways as I learned how to prioritise and be flexible with my time. I practiced salsa turn patterns in the meeting room at work while my lunch cooked. I did planks in the park in between work and dance classes. I practiced handstands against the front door of my apartment after I pulled it shut in the evening. I learned that my body likes yoga better than gym routines and I came to understand which foods my body responds best to. I became savvy with my budgeting and wise about who I chose to spend my time with.
I looked to my female trainer as a role model. She is strong, gutsy, compassionate, graceful and light hearted. One of my favourite lessons may be “ALWAYS know your chorey for yourself. You and your partner are a team, but you should always know your chorey for yourself”. My favourite lesson from my male trainer directed to my dance partner was “when she falls, ALWAYS be ready to pick her up, straight away”. The metaphors of dance have the potential to travel so much further than any dance floor.
From my dance partner, I learned a whole lot about trust and communication. He was a champion at calling me on my stuff…. as well as making sure that I was well fed before and after training! We were hard on each other, and we also hugged it out as well. It takes a lot to trust someone to throw you around their head and in the air over and over again. Even still, I knew that I trusted him when I bawled and bawled over the phone when I told him that I could not perform.
Since I fractured my shoulder, I have learned that people find it much easier to empathise with external injuries. The external injury made it awkward to do day to day things. I hated wearing a sling and I learned to be ok with people genuinely wanting to help me. This allowed me to see the very best in the people in my life, and slowing down allowed me to be more embracing of them.
In the first week, I felt devastated that my practice had ended so abruptly. This, for me, was the hardest part to deal with. It has been said before that physical disabilities often receive so much more empathy than psychological and emotional issues. While I do not see myself as having any kind of disability, I do feel that the level of empathy I encountered from my arm injury far outweighs that of any internal struggles I have ever felt.
What I have remembered is that we don’t have control over outcomes and can only work with the information that we have at any given time. In the end, if we are prepared to commit to doing something bigger than where we see ourselves currently, the only real guarantee that we have is that we will learn. No matter what happens, we will learn. What we do may take us from here to there, yet the actual steps we take are irrelevant when the challenge is set to make us become someone better than who we were when we began.
Do I want to return to acrobatics? I think that I will in some form, yet for now, the focus remains on getting stronger and allowing my body to repair itself.
Much love
Shell  x

Speaking To Strangers

Today I went for a walk to the other side of my inner Melbourne suburb, just south of the CBD. My arm is in a sling as I injured it at the end of last week. I was standing at the traffic lights around the corner from my apartment and heard someone calling out to me. It was an old man with a thick accent who was using a walking frame. I slowed my pace down and we crossed the busy intersection together. He asked what happened to my arm. I told him that I was doing a one armed cartwheel and my arm gave way under me. He said “that’s unfortunate. I have been injured for a year and a half. I don’t know what happened. It’s the first injury of my life”. He felt like chatting and I was happy to listen. He told me that he owned a fish and chip shop on Fitzroy St for 45 years and only sold it when he became injured. He also owned a house right by my apartment block, until it was knocked down and replaced by boutique apartments. He spoke about moving to Melbourne from Greece in 1953 and what that experience was like for him. He moved slowly, yet had a light-hearted energy and I found him quite likeable. I am not sure who was more grateful for this conversation. Despite the seemingly simple encounter, this man made my day and I suspect I made his as well.
I love this city; however after two years living here, I still see myself as an outer suburban girl who lives in the city. At this point in my life I have no intentions in moving away from the city. It has taken me a while to feel like I am really settled after a four year period with some massive life changes. One of the biggest adjustments in moving to the city for me has been learning to meet and get to know new people. I am a Social Worker, so on the surface, it is my job to speak to new people. I am fascinated by people- who they are, the lives they lead, how they came to be who they are, how they see the world and who they aspire to be. Yet, I grew up as an incredibly shy child and felt a lack in being able to express myself in social settings. It has been through my work and moving to the city that I have challenged my perception of myself and how I fit within the world. What I have since learned is that I am introverted rather than “shy” and I am now better able to use my strengths in communicating with others.
I was brought up to explore and to have an adventurous spirit. I spent my childhood riding my bike around the neighbourhood, meeting other kids and bringing them along with me. We would find our way into new housing estates in our area and make up stories about the people who may end up living there. When I met this old man today, I questioned what we are often taught growing up- that we should not speak to strangers. As a Social Worker, I am the first to acknowledge the need to keep children safe and actively advocate tooth and nail for it. Yet, I am also aware that children often will only have the opportunity to expand their mind as far as their environment allows. I wonder how we encourage children to think more broadly than we, as adults do without interacting with people and situations that are different to our own. It is often these encounters which contribute so much to who we become as people.
Almost every day now I find that I have random encounters and conversations with people I do not know. I love the thrill of it. Melbourne is an incredibly diverse city and it is filled with endless stories. I love that the conversations and stories I hear encourage me to open my mind and see the world differently. I love how it opens me up as a person. I love that I am influenced to develop my own opinions and perspectives.
Over Christmas and New Years I had a Canadian yoga instructor, Megan, who I had never met, look after my apartment. I recently caught up with her for coffee. She is vibrant, full of life and an incredibly generous person. While we were sitting at the cafe, a homeless man came up and began talking to my new friend like they were old friends. It turned out that my friend had struck up a conversation with the man the day before at a busy intersection in the CBD. He was looking for money to put towards a night of accommodation. My friend readily helped the man out, which resulted in other passers by paying attention and then also contributing to the night of accommodation. I was so impressed and humbled by my friend’s actions. That day I learnt about humility, leadership and not being afraid to stand out from the crowd. The stories I could share are endless, as are the personal learning’s and reflections.
And so, I read recently that every day we miss millions of story writing opportunities. A good writer will pick up five or six. For me, writing is my therapy. My writing until now has existed in notebooks stored under my bed. The beginning of a new year brings reflections and with it, I have realised that it is often the smallest moments that could so easily go by unnoticed that can teach us the best lessons. Over the years I have heard so many stories, and contributed to many more. A friend recently told me that he “doesn’t have much of a story”. My response was “you are 29 years old…. that means you have 29 years worth of stories to share”. I am 30 years old and this blog is dedicated to me sharing stories about the things I see, the people I cross paths with and their influence on me.

I hope you enjoy….
Love Shell  x