I’m a sponsored athlete!

Life is just full of surprises. After running my first half marathon last Fall, I was searching for ways to get more involved in the running community when I stumbled across an application form for a sponsorship program. It claimed to be “for all levels and abilities”, with a tagline: “You don’t have to be elite, just motivated and passionate about running, triathlon or cycling.” Intriguing! I decided to call their bluff and sent in an application.

A couple of months passed by. I amused myself wondering if I would ever hear back, and almost fell out of my chair when the email popped up in my inbox one quiet afternoon at work. The squeal was heard by many! I ran out of my office jumping up and down, “I made it! I was accepted for Team Running Free!”

I decided not to write a post that day because it just would’ve had a lot of “eeeeeeee!” and “yaaaaaaay!” in it, but now that I’ve settled down I really have to say I am so honoured to be representing Running Free in 2015. They are a small chain of stores that is aligned not only with my athletic passion but with my personal values. From their Re-Use Shoe Program that collects and distributes used shoes to local homeless people and overseas, to Mission Haiti that turns used shoes into a viable microloan program for Haitians, to their support of Run and Read, an after school program focused on children living in some of the most impoverished communities in Canada — they are doing really cool things in the world!

I am so grateful for this sponsorship program that gives amateur athletes like me a chance to step up and get involved in the running community in new and exciting ways. I will wear my uniform with pride, and to my fellow team members, I can’t wait to meet you out on the road!

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Suicide Warriors: Twenty One Pilots

I believe in this world many of us are suffering in silence, feeling alone among the masses with nobody to truly expose our pain to. I’ve written about this before, and every once in a while – especially on Bell Let’s Talk Day – the conversation about mental health and depression swells up into the mainstream for a while before it swiftly subsides back into the darkness.

Last year I discovered the band Twenty One Pilots thanks to their catchy song House of Gold hitting a local radio station. It intrigued me enough that I checked out the rest of the album and slowly, song by song, I became hooked. I even spent an entire 1.5 hour training run last spring listening to the same six songs on repeat. There was clearly something about Twenty One Pilots that was striking a chord within me.

After watching hours of interviews today, I’ve finally put it together: singer/songwriter Tyler Joseph is one of us. He wears his vulnerability on his sleeve rapping and singing about contemplating suicide, about feeling alone in the world, and about fighting just to get through the night. What sets him apart from every other ‘life sucks’ singer out there, though, is that he comes down into the pit with us and hands over a branch of hope to cling to. For example:

Am I the only one I know,
Waging my wars behind my face and above my throat?
Shadows will scream that I’m alone,
But I know we’ve made it this far, kid.

And I will say that we should take a day to break away,
From all the pain our brain has made,
The game is not played alone.
And I will say that we should take a moment and hold it,
And keep it frozen and know that,
Life has a hopeful undertone.

 (Migraine)

He is in the battle with us, holding our hands so we can try to get through those dark times, together. He shares in this terrific interview his struggle to find self-worth, the importance of journaling, and what might be the real meaning of success for him, while in his music he tries to teach us ways to gather up strength to push forward:

You think twice about your life, it probably happens at night,
Right? Fight it, take the pain, ignite it,
Tie a noose around your mind loose enough to breathe fine and tie it,
To a tree, tell it, “You belong to me,
This ain’t a noose, this is a leash,
And I have news for you, you must obey me.

(Holding On To You)

I know that I can fight or I can let the lion win,
I begin to assemble what weapons I can find,
‘Cause sometimes to stay alive you got to kill your mind.

(Migraine)

And guess what, he’s saving lives. If you look up Twenty One Pilots videos on YouTube and check out the Comments section, you will find comments like “TOP (Twenty One Pilots) saved my life” over and over again. Watch their PinkPop Festival performance and you won’t see fans waving signs that say “I ❤ U Tyler”, TOP lovelythey are waving signs that say “Thank you.” A recent tweet on fan account @thankfulforTOP reads: “they stopped me from killing myself. honestly. i could not be more grateful, i love them more than words can say.”

Watching Tyler talk about each song on the hit album “Vessel”, his struggle is written all over his face. He doesn’t hide it but he also doesn’t wear it like some great marketable badge of rock ‘n’ roll. He puts it out into the world with a quiet, humble honesty. He’s a suicide warrior, fighting for his life and fighting for ours.

In that same interview, he talks about how he pushed to have an extra song added to the end of the album to deliver one last message to listeners:

“I will fear the night again. I hope I’m not my only friend.
Stay alive, stay alive for me.”

(Truce)

I hope this band keeps making music for years to come. They are a much needed voice in the world.

And now, to put a smile on your face after a bit of a heavy post, here’s a short clip of the two of them on the lighter side. (Who couldn’t love these guys?!)

 

Suppression of Oppression

Today I went to a conference organized by the Women Empowerment Club of a local university. The conference theme was “Suppression of Oppression.” Given that the conference was at a university and my special price was only $5, I had really low expectations.

When I arrived this morning and discovered their “full breakfast” was a bag of bagels and no coffee – I repeat no coffee on a Saturday morning – I feared that I had made a bad decision, but I was 45 minutes from home and figured I may as well stick it out. I’m so glad I did.

Today I was inspired by women sharing their voices in the hopes of helping us to uncover little pieces of the activists within us; I was inspired by university students expanding their views in ways I could not even have imagined at their age; and I was encouraged to see a handful of men there, listening and learning about women’s experiences of oppression in the world.

We talked about being silenced and feeling shame, and how those things are so pervasive and deeply embedded in our lives that we don’t even know how they got there until we start ‘unpacking’ them.

We talked about online violence and about ways that we can and must become involved. We talked about how bystander involvement isn’t always about confronting the bully, sometimes it’s about getting someone else to help and sometimes it’s about offering support to the target. (Read more about the 4 D’s of bystander involvement.) We have options, there are lots of ways to make a difference.

We talked about how going to the police rarely results in justice for female victims because the judicial system, and really society at large, is not set up to support or even believe the victim. How many women had to come forward about Jian Ghomeshi before the first woman was believed? Why do we give so much benefit of the doubt to somebody just because he’s famous? Well-spoken? A man?

We talked about the use of rape as a war tactic, and how young girls who were taken from their homes to be raped for years by Japanese soldiers are now old women still waiting for the Japanese government to acknowledge and apologize for forcing them to be sexual slaves to the military in the second world war. (You can read more about “comfort women” and sign a petition here.)

And we talked about our own battle against rape here at home, finally taking a step forward with consent finally being added to the sex education curriculum in Ontario.

At lunch, I shared with a group of young women the story of a Manitoba judge who only a few years ago didn’t send a rapist to jail because the judge felt the woman’s attire, drinking and flirtatious behaviour that night made it reasonable for the man to believe she was up for sex. The judge called the man who raped her “a clumsy Don Juan”. I remember that story was the first time in my life that I really began to think about victim-blaming and slut-shaming, and began to question my beliefs and my understanding of the world around me.

One of the women at my lunch table had recently begun to work for an agency that supports immigrants and newcomers, organizing programs for women. She asked if I would come speak at a future event she is organizing. I smiled and politely declined her offer – I hate public speaking – but it seems inevitable that I am heading in that direction.

Though I’m not ready yet to speak quite as loudly and publicly as the inspiring women who presented today – I am still finding and shaping my voice – I can feel my voice is becoming clearer and stronger every day, as is my awareness that in this world every one of us stands for something. We can show it through our action or we can show it through our inaction, but either way we have an impact in shaping the world we live in; the world we will leave to the generations of women who will come after us. Today, inspired and emboldened, I choose for my impact to be in the suppression of oppression, and it’s clear to me that I am in great company.