4 hard things in September

It’s October, yes. I know that. But in September I wrote down four things that scare me that I wanted to do in September. You see, I’m doing research for a book I’m writing about how to do hard things. It’s going….about how I expected. A lot of energy in the beginning of the writing process then a lot of stalling and procrastinating, and now the wheels are finally turning again and hey, who knows, maybe I’ll have something to show before Jackson graduates high school. Fingers crossed! 🙂

Alright – well anywho – I’ve been surveying people who choose to do hard things and that got me thinking about my own personal goals. Is it enough to just write a book? Apparently not for this girl. Apparently I need to conquer all of the things all of the time. But I was in a rut. I hadn’t challenged myself really physically since the half marathon in June and I wasn’t sure what my next challenge would be. So instead of signing up for another race or trying a new diet or flinging myself into a whole new area of interesting stuff, I decided to think about tackling some little hard things. Four in particular.

Not only had I been wanting to take on these four hard things for a while, but also I felt like I needed to start proving out some of the ideas I was writing about for my book – mostly that when you think you’re suffering from fear of failure, it’s a lot of time just a fear of embarrassment or feeling shameful. To me, failure doesn’t happen as much as we think it does. If you try and don’t succeed, you can try again. Does that mean you failed the first time? No, it means you just didn’t get it right yet but that you CAN still get it right if you keep trying.  I know that doesn’t work for all things in life. If you fail a sobriety test when the cop pulls you over, you’re going to get a DUI…so yeah, you failed. And rightly deserve the consequences of those actions. And there are still other things where maybe you didn’t fail…you just had a change of heart. And that’s okay too.

Got it? Okay.

So I started how I always start these things – by simply writing them down. Unlike bigger hard things, these didn’t require much planning. It was just…do them. Check them off the list. But even still, my success rate was not great. And I’m not afraid to admit that! Because it proves my point that these timelines I built up in my head are the trappings of my own mind and that they are moveable. So, I am going to continue on with the other goals over the next couple months…with some slight modifications.

Another thing to note before we get into this. I’m sharing “raw” notes with you…like the stuff I typed into my phone to just get all my thoughts out there…no editing, just BLAGH! And there it is. Which means…some of it is cringeworthy. I was super tempted to edit this before showing it, but I also think it’s important to see that things don’t have to be perfect when you’re just trying to get the thoughts out. Those are thoughts and words for you, not anyone else. Who cares if you misspell things or your grammar sucks or you have beliefs that aren’t true about you or the world around you.  You’re not judging you!

What’s important is that you get the ideas out of your head and somewhere where you can see those on a daily basis and be reminded of their importance continually.

So with that I give you – four hard things in September…

So we’re gonna start this one off on a high note – DONE AND DONE! Woo! I completed this hard thing about half way through September. The note pretty much tells the full story but basically I had been going to a Wednesday bodypump class every week from January to July. It was a great way to build up muscle and a great compliment to my half marathon training program. Then, after the half marathon, I took a couple weeks off. And then work became my sole focus in July and so I took a month off. And then in August I thought about going back but then I started feeling embarrassed that it had been so long. So by September, going back was definitely a hard thing…and one that I wanted to overcome.

When I finally joined a Wednesday class I felt initial embarrassment but I quickly remembered why I liked that class – the teacher (after all this time) – still remembered who I was and warmly said, “Welcome back! We’ve missed you!” She did give me some ribbing throughout the class but it was all out of love and it felt like I picked up exactly where I left…with the exception that my weights were MUCH smaller since I’d last done the class.

Alright, so here’s where the success story stops. This was still a no go for me in September.

When it comes to sharing information on LinkedIn, I’m pretty cautious. Some people use it like any other social media platform – sharing personal and professional stories. Hey – if that’s your thing, cool. But it’s not mine. So when it comes to grey areas like writing a book that could help people connected to both my personal and professional life figure out how to do hard things, I’m hesitant. On the one hand, it’s an awesome idea to share this on LinkedIn. That’s a huge network of people that are usually looking for some kind of growth in their life. Why wouldn’t they love to hear about a book like this? Second – if it’s tied to research I’m doing, that makes it an even better reason to share out – people love helping with research in the professional world (or at least in my experience). Third – making this known could be a way to draw in more people to my network that want to invest in my own growth.

But now, the downside. And I’m just going to put all the stupid thoughts in my head out here right now so you can see that even though I talk the talk about doing hard things…sometimes even I can’t walk the walk for very ridiculous reasons. So here there are…

  • What if I look stupid?
  • What if people judge me?
  • What if people are like “Oh wow. How original. Another marketing girl trying to sell us on a book she’s writing (yawn). Don’t quit your day job!”
  • What if I put my book idea out there and then it takes a while before I can actually get it done?
  • What if people ask me about it in the future and then I have to walk it back, “Oh that? Nah, I was just testing the waters. Nothing ever happened with that”
  • What if people think, “Who are YOU to be writing about this? What hard stuff have you done? What credentials do you have to give other people advice?’

I’d also like to point out that I have sort of tested the waters with this. I have told a couple close coworkers about this very idea. And what happened? I was laughed at. Probably more so in a way of like they thought I was just joking…but it still wasn’t the best reaction to this information I’d received to date.

To be clear – I don’t think they were intentionally making fun of me. But it was a moment where I clearly put myself out there and got quite a bit less reaction than I was hoping for. In a perfect world, I’d like to imagine that I surround myself with only the most supportive, understanding and loving individuals. And for the most part, that’s true! I am so lucky to be surrounded by so many amazing people. But sometimes certain groups of people get used to knowing you for one thing and when you break out of that mold and show a different side of you, it can throw them for a loop.

So I don’t think it’s weird that I’m having a hard time announcing this on LinkedIn. If that was the reaction with close coworkers, what’s the reaction going to be from people I don’t even know?

This is something I want to do, though. I want to put on my big girl pants and tell the world about this because I AM serious about this. But…I also like things put in nice, neat packages that can be easily categorized. Right now this book is a bit nebulous. If I put it out there too soon I feel like I’m not ready to field important questions about it. I’m not ready to talk about it thoughtfully. I don’t want to wait until my entire first draft is done because I’m a huge proponent of putting it out there and gathering feedback before I’m ready (no matter how uncomfortable that is), but yeah, this is a hard thing for me.

So – my goal is to tackle this in November. 


Cancer is not something that impacts just your personal life. It impacts all parts of your life. When I went back to work after being declared in remission – it impacted how people perceived me at work, it impacted how I thought about work, it impacted my ability to be ultimately successful in the workplace. This is all in addition to how it impacted others around me when I was gone from work and on disability leave for six months.  So when I came back to work, it was clear how cancer had impacted all areas of my life.

But then I was laid off from that job six months later and found myself looking for new employment. At that point, my new concern was – how will having cancer impact how potential employers view me? How will it impact my marketability with recruiters? I decided to keep this information locked down. Sure, those I had previously worked with knew I was a cancer survivor, but to everyone else I came in contact with on my search for a new job – they just thought I was a girl looking for a job…with a pixie cut (I’m sure they weren’t thinking about the pixie cut…that’s just me thinking they were thinking about that because that’s what I was thinking about).

I started a new position that only lasted a couple months. I had only told one person there that I was a cancer survivor and I learned quickly that was a huge mistake. She was the one person who made my life a living hell for four months and I’m not saying it’s because she knew that information, but I immediately regretted sharing that information.

At my next job, I was hesitant to share this information. I was a couple weeks in before I finally told my boss. And although no repercussions happened with that decision, I was super cautious about not telling other coworkers.

Fast forward to now, there are still only a couple people I’ve shared this information with. But I’m at the point where I want to be able to share this side of my personal life with coworkers I work closely with but I’m having a hard time figuring out how to do this because of the following…

  1. I don’t want my coworkers to think I’m trying to garner sympathy. I’ve been involved in situations where aspects of someone’s personal life bleed into the decisions they make at work and it can get really uncomfortable. I don’t think this is something that would happen to me because I’m almost two years in remission and I feel great, but I’m very sensitive to making sure others don’t think I’m trying to get them to sympathize with my personal situation so that I can get a free pass in professional situations. Ya know? Additionally, I got a lot of pity looks when I went back to work for the first time after being in remission and it was not my favorite thing. I wanted people to just look at me and treat me like they used to before this dark cloud came over my life. But that was never something I could fault them for because I know that what they’re really dealing with is coming face to face with their own mortality. I was a reminder that we are not impermeable. And yeah also they probably just felt bad for me. So again – all things I want to avoid.
  2. Now that I’ve worked there almost a year, it feels a little bit like I’ve been hiding this secret from my coworkers. Like “Hey guys you didn’t know this about me, but here’s the thing I never told you that I think you should know!” To this point I can just see people reading this, rolling their eyes and saying “YOU DON’T OWE ANYONE AN EXPLANATION!!!” And you’re right. I don’t. How and when I choose to share this information is up to me and it doesn’t require me to drag out medical records or go into details. But….I’m a detail oriented person and I always try to look for unforeseen issues so I just naturally think about how this information may be perceived if and when I share.
  3. Revealing this information when it seems “convenient” that I also need donations feels unethical. Okay so this is actually a non-issue because I never told them about this and actually, Light the Night was two nights ago so this won’t actually be the case if/when I tell them (more to come on that event). And now that that deadline is gone, there’s really no pressure for me to tell them before I’m really ready. So I have been giving this some thought and I’m still thinking it over, but this might be a hard thing that gets moved to December because that’s officially when I’ll be in remission for 2 years. And according to doctors and experts on Hodgkin Lymphoma survivors – 2 years in remission is a pretty big milestone  (It means no more scans!) – so I would like to celebrate that and it would be great to celebrate that not only in my personal life but in my professional life as well. I mean, if I bring in purple cupcakes with a 2 on them and I’m like “Surprise, I’m a cancer survivor and YOU. GET. CUPCAKES!!!!” Who’s gonna be taken aback by that, right? It feels like a win win situation.

So long story long, this bad boy is getting moved to December.

Okay – so bringing this back around to a high-ish note. The bad news first – I did not try out this Ninja gym in September. The good news? I did take a tour of this ninja gym this past week with the family and my feelings of “Is this stupid?” have now turned into, “Holy crap, I should DO THIS!”

Alright, I’m jumping ahead. Let me back up and explain the importance of this. Back in the spring of this year ,we were looking for something to watch on TV – something family friendly – and we stumbled upon American Ninja Warrior. We’re no stranger to this show. We’ve caught it a couple of times. And it’s never not interesting. So we kept watching. What was different this time, though, is that Jackson is old enough to really get into it. Like, we got very invested in each person attempting the obstacles. And usually by the end of each episode I was crying because someone had a really heart-felt reason for doing this and it was amazing to see how far they would go…how far they would push themselves…even if they didn’t make it to the end.

Also – NO ONE gets angry on this show. Isn’t that weird? No one is like “SON OF A BISCUIT! I ROYALLY MESSED THAT UP AND I’M SUPER PISSED!” Not one person.* Usually the reaction is of gratitude and hope for the future “You know, I gave it my all. Yeah, I can see where I made mistakes but I’m not gonna stop. I’m gonna keep trying and next year I’m gonna be back here and go even further.” After watching a couple of these shows I just had this feeling like, “These are my people.”

*Okay maybe they edit those parts out, but that’s still fine with me!

Not only did I continue to watch the show – and follow the newest season religiously with the family over the summer  – I started following a number of American ninja warrior ladies on instagram. Some were the seasoned vets like Jessie Graff – who is also a stunt woman for the upcoming Wonder Woman movie (the newest one). But also I started following the girls who were just figuring it out – taking it one day at a time – posting their failures and their successes. Showing me that you don’t have to be a stunt woman or a gymnast or a five time winning rock climber in order to try this out. You just need to show up, work hard, and for god sakes…let people help you!

One thing to note if you’ve ever seen American Ninja Warrior. Girls have a really tough time with these obstacles. There definitely is a “type” that make it farther than the others. One thing you need is height – and for most woman under 5’5 – that makes these obstacles difficult. If you literally can’t jump high enough or if you can’t spread your legs wide enough…you’re out. It’s not to say shorties can’t do it…it’s just a lot harder. Additionally, how most woman build muscle is not in our favor. These obstacles require a SIGNIFICANT amount of upper body strength. Some woman are built for this but most have to work their butts off to get more upper body strength. Myself personally – I’m all about running or squats or leg days because they’re my power house. These tree trunk thighs have served me well in long distance running. But you give me a five-pound weight and make me do tricep curls and it’s like the world is ending. So my point is – there’s definitely an added challenge for girls, which is why it’s all the more inspiring for me to see the woman who choose to take on these challenges.

Also note that I’m 5’6 so that’s one thing in my favor. 

So long story long – I’d been researching how one gets started with this. And as it turns out – there’s a ninja gym in the greater Milwaukee area. Not super close – it’s a 25 minute drive from my house – but considering it’s the ONLY regulation ninja gym that simulates the ANW set in Wisconsin? I’d say I’m pretty lucky to only have a 25 minute drive. But still – taking that first step is hard. Going into the tour, I was nervous. What if I had built up the idea of this ninja community by standards I saw on TV that didn’t really apply in real life? What if it was all hollywood magic but in real life it’s just a bunch of bros who eat protein powder raw and want to show off their muscles? That’s not something I’m interested in getting involved with.

But, the tour started and I was pleasantly surprised. The guy giving the tour was so genuinely excited to talk to us. He was excited to see us take an interest and he talked at great lengths about the kid’s classes they have here – which definitely got Jackson’s attention as he continually begged to “go play” while the tour was happening.

Per usual, I had a million and one questions for the guy giving our tour. And by tour I mean, we stood in one spot and looked around and he pointed things out because…this is not a huge gym. It’s basically a small office space in a business park with high ceilings that a couple decided to convert into a freaking amazing ninja gym with all the stuff you see on American Ninja Warrior. Like – the warped wall? They got that! The jumping spider? It’s there! The salmon ladder? Accounted for!

It was both impressive and intimidating…but in a good way. He talked at great lengths about how everyone is here to help each other. They even have a rule that if you talk negatively about yourself or say “I can’t do it” you have to do 10 burpees (like a push up but harder). They are all about thinking positively, doing your best, setting goals, and helping each other succeed.

One of the things I asked him that continued to be fuzzy to me was the difference between ninja obstacle training and crossfit. Because I think a lot of people think these are basically the same thing. He, however, did not see it that way and his answer was exactly what I needed to hear, “If you’re training for a tough mudder or a spartan race – we can certainly help you with that…and that might have more aspects similar to crossfit. But overall, if you’re looking for ninja training then the experience is going to be very different. Here, we’re success-oriented, but as a team. We all want to see each other succeed. With crossfit – it can be really competitive. It’s all about you doing better than the person next to you.”

If you know me, then you know I’m NOT competitive. But I am all about a supportive group of like-minded individuals all working towards the same goals. That’s part of why I like running – I’m not competing against anyone else but myself, but I also love being able to support everyone else – whatever their level of running.

Anyway, we left the tour and I got really excited. Yes, it would be hard. SOOOO hard. I mean, there was a rope hanging next to me, and just for fun I tried to jump up to see how far I could get. Every muscle in my body was like “WHAT THE FORK IS THIS? STOP THIS NOW!!!” and that might be the easiest thing I do at this gym. So yeah, it will be hard, but since when has that ever stopped me? Also, the minute Jackson could run and play he was all over that gym. He was running up the warped wall getting REALLY far, actually, he was jumping on to the rope climb from a couple of feet away – NO FEAR whatsoever that he would fall. Seeing him reminded me that we could all get back to a place like this. We could all train our bodies to do things that are fun. I mean, we don’t all HAVE to do this, I’m just saying, it’s an interesting way to look at fitness…just trying to have fun like you did when you were a kid!

So – this is going to be my October goal.

And it likely will be easier than the other two items on my list above because Jackson is already sold on this so if I need to push myself into it just to go along for the ride…that works too. Hoping I can get him in a kid’s class soon…and while he’s playing, I can start trying it out on my own (with the help of a supportive community).

You can do hard things

So here we are. Another ridiculously long post. Congrats for making it to the end! You completed your hard thing for the day. 🙂

But also, I hope this serves as a reminder that it doesn’t matter how long it takes you to accomplish your hard thing. The important thing is that you can keep trying and you can keep taking baby steps in the direction of your dreams. There is no one holding a stop watch as you progress. The only stop watch is in your head. You can take as long as you want. But also remember, you can do it as quickly as you want. If you say you need to write a book in 6 months, it will take 6 months. If you say you need to write a book in 2 months, it will take 2 months. If you’re serious, you can figure it out. Now – obviously I’m not a walking success story here…but I AM successful in that I’m taking steps to stay accountable by shouting my goals out loud AND I’m not giving out. I’m figuring out how to get this done. Could I take on all these remaining goals in October? Yes. No doubt. But these aren’t the only things on my plate these days. And I think striving to get one done per month is also acceptable.

WIth all this said – what are some of your goals? Have you told anyone about them? Have you taken any baby steps? Feel free to drop me a line in the comments or email me directly at leroyja15@gmail.com. I’d love to hear your stories!

Also yes – I am going to make another plug for you to fill out my survey. If you’ve ever done anything hard – this survey is for you. As you can see from the above, hard is subjective. It doesn’t have to be competing on ANW…it could simply be going outside your comfort zone and trying a different brand of cereal…cutting back to one cup of coffee a day…trying to learn a new thing…whatever was hard for you in the moment that you decided would better your life. No story too small or too big! I want to hear them all.


Finally – thank you for listening. I know I don’t get on here much, but I know you’re there, being patient, being open, and being supportive. I appreciate you!!!

(Featured image: Photo by Dakota Macek on Unsplash)

7 thoughts on “4 hard things in September

  1. Marie says:

    The ANW gym sounds so cool!! Great post, lots to think about. And congrats on the 2 year anniversary! I think you should totally go the cupcake route!

  2. Laurie says:

    Wow! You DO like to challenge yourself. Must be a trait common to all runners. I know exactly what you mean about the whole Body Pump thing. I went religiously for over a year and was so proud of the strength I built up. Then I got injured. I still tried to go to Body Pump, but I eventually realized the squats and lunges were making the injury worse. Now I have sworn off BP until after Marine Corps Marathon at the end of the month. Congrats on returning to your Wed. class! You will get those other hard goals. Just keep chipping away!

  3. Kate Puleo Unger says:

    We just went to that gym yesterday for a play date! I’d never heard of it before, and I just sat and watched Christopher and his friend play, but they had a really great time. There was a guy there getting timed for the ANW tryout I think, and everyone was super encouraging, and he seemed like a nice guy.

    Also, I know what you mean about telling people about the book as a first step to feel it out. I am kind of doing the same with my thoughts on running for school board this spring. Most people react with “you should do it!”, but I did have one couple that I told give basically no response, and that did not feel good.

    Great post! Love the raw honesty. And I will get to my “assignments” soon. I promise!

  4. Deanna T Nguyen says:

    Jamie, you have some amazing goals! Thanks for sharing them and your progress on each. I’m impressed with how disciplined you are about writing down your goals and reflecting back on them. Those are all great goals, so I say “go for it!” for all of them at whatever timeframe works for you. You’re a great writer and will be an awesome author when you decide to write your book!

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