Happy Hustler Lauren Ramer

 

TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOU.

I am graduate of Moore College Design and a Motion Graphics Designer at Aardvark Video Works. I live in a cute, tiny house in Glendora, NJ with the love of my life and my dog Smooch.


TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOUR HUSTLE AND YOUR HAPPINESS JOURNEY.

I remember telling myself exactly a year ago (during senior thesis, four part-time jobs, and endless college stress) that it would all get easier and work itself out eventually. And believe it or not, IT DID!

A year later and officially a college graduate, everything started to fall into place. Before graduation, I was a full-time student working four part-time jobs. I was a painting instructor, a wedding videographer, an art department assistant at a stationery company, and a graphic artist at PHL17. I was CONSTANTLY busy... but I knew that it would eventually help me towards my career. One motto that I always tell myself is "jump on EVERY opportunity" because you never know where it could take you. So anyways, after being so unbelievably busy, before I knew it I was sitting at graduation and college was over. Even though it was a bit scary not knowing what was to come, I knew that if I kept pushing and trying to find opportunity ... eventually, I would start my career.

A few months went by and I was still working my four jobs until I soon found myself at in interview for a Motion Graphics interview. Before I knew it, I had my first full-time job - and I was so incredibly excited. Not only did all that hard work pay off, but it landed me at an absolutely amazing company. I am now a Motion Graphics Designer at Aardvark Video Works where I combine my knowledge of animation, videography, editing, graphic design, and more to produce commercials and animations. I've gotten to work on some incredible projects ranging from Toyota and Fiat spots, to local bakery commercials, to corporate web videos.  And strangely enough, all those part time jobs I worked gave me the crucial knowledge I needed, that I use at my job now. I wouldn't be where I am if I didn't take the initiative in college to pursue numerous internships, jobs, and opportunities. 

 

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WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS AFTER OR DURING A LONG, STRESSFUL DAY?

After a long day, I like to simply come home, cook dinner, and snuggle on the couch with my dog and watch movies. Or if I really need an escape, I will get lost in some knitting. 

 

WHERE DO YOU GO FOR INSPIRATION?

I find inspiration absolutely everywhere.. but it usually consists of movies. If I need inspiration, I'll put on a weird independent film or throw on one of my favorites like Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings. 

 

WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING OR LISTENING TO (PODCASTS, BOOKS, BLOGS, ETC.)?

Recently, the only time I listen to music is on my 1.5 hour commute to work each way. At that time I just listen to the same few artists that get me through my day. The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Die Antwoord, Miley Cyrus, and more. As for reading, since JK Rowling's "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child" came out ... and the hype over the new "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" film, I've been re-reading the Harry Potter series getting all excited! 


WHAT IS ONE PIECE OF ADVICE YOU'D GIVE TO SOMEONE JUST STARTING THEIR HAPPY HUSTLE JOURNEY?

I said this already but it's so important! *Jump on EVERY opportunity - you never know where it's going to take you. 

I would never be where I am now if I didn't hop on every opportunity I came across. Not all opportunities are the most alluring or fun... but it can always lead to something more. Even if something presents itself to you that you are unsure of... TRY IT... the worst thing that happens is that you learn from it. 

 

WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE QUOTES OR WORDS TO LIVE BY?

"Divide and Conquer" - Words that my mom alway said to me when I got stressed. Divide up your workload and conquer what you can. Take it step by step and before you know it, you will have conquered. This phrase basically got me through college. 

 

IN ONE WORD, SUM UP YOUR LIFE AS A HAPPY HUSTLER.

Delightful

 

 

WHAT ARE THE THREE CORE VALUES OF YOUR HUSTLE AND HOW DO THOSE VALUES RELATE TO YOUR HAPPINESS?

Three core values I stand by are:

1. Determination

2. Enjoyment

3. Prioritization

These three things are very valuable to me in life. I find that a proper balance of determination and enjoyment will lead to a happy and successful life. You need to have goals, and you need to pursue them... but you also want to make sure that you are enjoying yourself and life. Even if you are the most determined person in the world, if you are not enjoying yourself, it's not worth it. That brings me to my next value: prioritize. Having a full-time job, a house, a family, hobbies, and whatever else you can throw into that mix... can make you feel like you don't have time to do anything anymore. But you need to get your priorities situated so they fit into your balance of determination and enjoyment. Balance it out so you are spending some of your day working towards your goals, and other times doing things you enjoy.. this will lead to feeling accomplished and happy in all areas of your life. 

 

CONNECT WITH LAUREN

Website //  Facebook //  Instagram // Twitter

 

Happy Hustler Akeem S. Roberts

 
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Akeem S. Roberts (aka AkeemTeam)

 

Tell us a little bit about you.

My name is Akeem S. Roberts! I tend to go by the nickname AkeemTeam. When I'm not illustrating, animating, or designing I'm usually watching my favorite tv shows or exploring what this city has to offer with my girlfriend and two cats.

 

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Tell us a little bit about your hustle and your happiness journey.

I guess my journey really began my sophomore year of college. I was always known for being an artist in my family but for some reason when I started college I decided that I wanted to be and engineer.

It wasn’t until two sober years later did I really wake up and start chasing my dreams. Regardless of how much money society says you can make from illustration. It was from that moment when, I believe, my hustle and happiness really started. 

 

What do you do to de-stress after or during a long, stressful day?

After a long stressful day I like to wine down by sketching, watching anime, and cuddling with my girlfriend and two cats. 

 

Where do you go for inspiration?

If I ever need to get inspired I tend to just unplug from technology on the way to and from work. New York is filled with inspiration. Not from the constant Ads that are on the subways and billboards but mainly just from people watching on the subway. Another way to get inspired is to learn something new. It allows your brain to constantly think about something you never would have thought of if left to your on devices. 

 

What are you currently reading or listening to (podcast, books, blogs, etc.)?

Mainly I usually listen to art podcast such as “Make it then tell everybody” or “Artist Decoded” but I also like listen to shows such as “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me” or “Invisbilia”. The same thing applies with my reading I like to make sure I read different kinds of subject matter. I’m currently reading “The Writer’s Diet” and “The Watchmaker of Filigree Street”.

 

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone just starting their happy hustle journey?

Never stop drawing and to never stop learning.

 

What are some of your favorite quotes or words to live by?

“Finished Not Perfect”

 

 

In one word, sum up your life as a Happy Hustler.

Rewarding

 

What are the three core values of your hustle and how do those values relate to your happiness?

Humor, I tend to look at the world and think.. “wouldn’t be funny if…” I feel like that relates to most of my work. 

Risk. No risk, no reward. Simple as that. 

Timing, I use to always try and finish every project in one day when I was younger. It wasn’t until i realized that art takes time did my hustle really excel.

                             Akeem S. Roberts

                            Akeem S. Roberts

 

 

 

Connect with Akeem

Instagram // Twitter // Email

 

Happy Hustler PMu

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Name: PMu

About:

I am a Brighton based doodler and I believe that art is for everyone.  It doesn't have to be 'worthy' in order to be worth sharing.  Creative practices are a core part of the human experience, a vital part of connecting us to each other and the world around us.

 

scan-6Tell us a little bit about your hustle and your happiness journey.

I have always been a doodler.  My parents divorced when I was very young and I think drawing was a really practical way of keeping me and my sister sat in one place for more than five minutes when either of my parents were feeling overwhelmed.  I grew up reading manga, graphic novels and watching various forms of animation and have always loved how, even when stylized, drawn faces can carry a lot of emotion.
At school I struggled with art classes.  I didn't have a great teacher and I lost a lot of enjoyment for expressing myself through drawing.  I didn't understand the purpose of copying other people's art when there were all these pictures were in my head trying to get out.  I ended up carrying on my studies in drama, but all the while was secretly doodling away in notebooks.
This year I experienced a period of depression and anxiety, during this time I found myself drawing more and more and developed a distinct style of line work.  Once I had found my voice and style I found it incredibly easy to access that creative part of me.  Encouraged by this newly discovered flow I shared my drawings with friends and family.  It was their encouragement that lead me to set up Daily Doodle, and since then I have found a really talented and authentic community through the blog.

scan-88What do you do to de-stress after or during a long, stressful day?

Through work I have developed a very steadying mindfulness practice with guidance from Joel and Michelle Levey.  It has been pivotal in helping me accept my depression and recognize the changing nature of stress.  When I have a really bad day I find a mindful walk with the dog or some sitting practice incredibly centering.  It might not change how I feel, but it definitely helps me recognize that my identity isn't defined by stress or anxiety.
More recently I have been incorporating my drawing as a kind of embodiment practice which has been really satisfying.  I highly recommend to anyone who meditates to take something they do every day and incorporate it into your practice.  It makes even the most normal things seem extraordinary.

 

Where do you go for inspiration?

I think a common mistake when you're seeking inspiration is that you need to find the perfect place.  Somewhere that's peaceful, or full of beauty.  If you cultivate the right mindset then inspiration will come to you.  For example, another interpretation of the word respect is to look again (re-return, spect-see).  How often do you look again at the things you see everyday?  That kind of inspiration is right there for you to see it, you just have to know how to change the way you interpret what is there.

 

scan-68What are you currently reading or listening to (podcasts, books, blogs, etc.)?

I am a massive sci-fi nerd, so it's fair to say that at any given moment I have a copy of one of Asimov or Ray Bradbury's stories next to my bed.  At the moment I am rereading Dune by Frank Herbert.  My father gave me a copy of his when I was about 15, and I have had a love affair with the series ever since.  Last year the front cover finally gave up the ghost, so for my birthday I got a new copy with amazing deco-style cover art, so I could fall in love all over again.
I also tend to watch a lot of Star Trek on TV and have just finished watching this seasons Ru Paul's Drag Race All Stars.  I love the amazing level of artistry and creativity in the Drag community, and unlike a lot of reality TV, Drag Race has managed to honor its competitors without taking itself too seriously.  It's a thin line to walk and they do it with such irreverence that I defy anyone who likes to dress up, to watch it and not become an obsessed super fan.

 

scan-8What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone just starting their happy hustle journey?

Invest time in finding your voice.  Without it hustling online can feel a lot like shouting into a void.  If you manage to find your voice and your style, then it becomes more like singing.  You might be performing a solo, but at least you will be enjoying the sound.

 

What are some of your favorite quotes or words to live by?

"Seek freedom and become captive of your desires, seek discipline and find your liberty." Frank Herbert

 

In one word, sum up your life as a Happy Hustler.

Interesting.

 

What are the three core values of your hustle and how do those values relate to your happiness?

1.  Find something enjoyable and learn to do it well.  See it as a discipline.  Set yourself small goals which carry you towards yours ultimate aim  in steps rather than leaps.  That way creative block is fleeting and often distant and hard work is fulfilling rather than draining.
2.  Seek out feedback and listen to it non-judgmentally, it's the only way to grow.
3.  Find your people and soak up what they have to teach you.  Remember the African proverb - 'If you want to go quickly go alone.  If you want to go far go together.'  Africa is the largest continent on Earth, I trust whoever came up with that proverb knew how to travel far.

 

Connect with PMu:

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Happy Hustler Caitlin Tschanz

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I am a Philly native whose studio and writing practices are inspired by exploring the city and meeting diverse people through chance encounters. When not uploading my adventures to social media, I can be found painting, writing poetry and traveling the globe.

My practice now seeks to blur the line between life and art— with my most recent work exploring this binary through the study and documentation of the world and city that I live in. I pose questions to the viewer, and use the work as a vehicle to meditate on the possible answers: How do I capture the intangible and experiential sensation of living in such a vibrant city? What of my experience and interaction with other people is perception, and what of it is real?

    Through words and pictures, I trace the histories of the environments that I find myself in and tell stories using the language of paint to convey the density of these experiences to the viewer.

Tell us a little bit about your hustle and your happiness journey.

Hmm, where to begin? I've had a very interesting life, so for me, my happiness really does stem from accepting the fact that as a young artist my life is constantly evolving and changing, which has carried over into my art practice and vice versa. Once I realized this, my work changed immensely because I was no longer afraid to take risks.

You know, I had a chip on my shoulder for a long time about not being that experienced in the art world (in terms of discourse/practice, etc.) so getting into art school  and graduating with a  degree in Fine Arts last year was a huge deal. I think in a big way it proved to my younger self that having a career and professional art practice is a totally valid and tangible life path to have. It just took a lot of tears and work in the studio to get here!

What do you do to de-stress after or during a long, stressful day?graymatter

I'm not big into watching tv, but if I'm super stressed I like to have a cup of tea and troll Netflix-- there are some interesting documentaries and shows to watch, but some personal favorites are Arrested Development and The Inbetweeners. Anything to get my mind off what's bothering me and to have a few laughs.

I also like to look through my sketchbook and write ideas down for a book I'm writing about my life thus far. Sometimes it's just a few lines that sound interesting, and other times a whole chapter of poetry spills out. I love getting into that meditative headspace where the work comes through me; it's very exciting to look back on days or weeks later to see where my mind was.

Where do you go for inspiration?

Literally everywhere. I walk around the city a lot in my free time, and I love to document the visual non-sequiturs that catch my eye. In fact, I'd say that about 95% of my Instagram posts are me documenting the things that I'm attracted to: a sound, a color, a pattern, different textures, the way light reflects off a wall.

I just got back from two weeks in Europe, and honestly, my favorite moments were when I could exist in each unique environment and realize that they are glaringly different and completely the same. It was quite a beautiful process to see happen-- decay exists everywhere and so does life.

What are you currently reading or listening to (podcasts, books, blogs, etc.)?

I listen to so much that it's impossible to categorize, but recent favorites are CRO and pretty much anything on the radio. In the studio my tastes change depending on my mood, so sometimes it's RHCP and other days it's Ottmar Liebert. Whatever boosts creativity will do!

graymatteriiiWhat is one piece of advice you'd give to someone just starting their happy hustle journey?

Trust yourself, trust yourself, trust yourself. It's important to have a strong circle of supporters around you who can give you valuable feedback about your work, but at the end of the day you have to be able to know yourself and your process enough to know when a work is complete or captures your ideas in the best way possible.

No one but you holds that answer.

What are some of your favorite quotes or words to live by?

The two that I think about a lot in the studio are from some of my old professors from my time at Moore College of Art & Design. I had one of my favorites of all time, Moe Brooker, tell me flat out to my face sophomore year that I had a lot of work to do in order to really become an abstract painter. It stung, but I was ready to learn.

His works, much like Kandinsky, deal a lot with the transmutation of music into painting, and one day he mentioned the difference between impulse and improvisation. I didn't quite understand it at first, but once I got it, it stayed with me. Impulse is pulling any color off the palette and applying it arbitrarily on the canvas, but improvisation is knowing the direction the work is going and allowing the freedom of play to come into the work; it's making an informed decisions for the betterment of the piece. It blew my mind.

Another of my profs, Robert Goodman told me in a critique once that there is a big difference between Inspiration and content. As with Moe, it took me awhile to understand what he meant, but once I got it my studio practice totally evolved. It forced me to really consider the work from all angles and to take a more analytical approach to the way that I speak about and view my art.

In one word, sum up your life as a Happy Hustler.

BIG.

What are the three core values of your hustle and how do those values relate to your happiness?tschanz_primaries

Reflection, patience, and risk-taking.

I think most of my best ideas and successful paintings have come from quiet reflection on a bus or train or listening to music. It took me a really long time to trust my inner voice and to work with my inner critic instead of against it, so anytime that I have a moment to quietly think about how I can better my work I write it down.

Taking risks is a bit more difficult because I work crazy hours that don't give me the best time frame for making work, so every time that I do make a new piece, I try really hard to push myself out of my comfort zone and to keep growing. Some of my favorite pieces have been a one-off painting that were completely spontaneous!

If I really think about it, I think all three values are what have allowed me to merge my art and life practice, and I don't see them as being inherently different anymore. Taking my time to understand both who I am as a person, and as an painter has made my life so much richer. I think I've always seen my life and encounters with people as strange or different, but through all of my creative outlets I've learned to live my life so much more freely. Art, honestly, is why I exist.

Connect with Caitlin

Website // Facebook // Instagram // Tumblr

 

Happy Hustler Maria Sweeney

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About:

Maria Sweeney is a Moldova-born, New Jersey based freelance illustrator. Recent graduate of Moore College of Art and Design, Maria Sweeney has worked extensively in digital, oils, and other traditional mediums which are showcased in her commission works and sketches. Aside from illustrating her current project, In A Rut Comics, recreational time is generally used in some sort of artistic outlet ranging from working on self-published zines to sketching a possible unhealthy amount of portraits.

 

 

Q&A:

cover_openedbookTell us a little bit about your hustle and your happiness journey.

I wasn’t always outwardly artistic growing up. I wasn’t a child that drew the moment she could hold a pencil or was entertained in arts and crafts class. But with the start of high school, so came drawing to occupy some of my class time. By junior year, I was teaching myself daily how to draw, using online resources, the library, and anything I could get my hands on to improve. Getting accepted into art school continued much of the discipline I was already applying, but with tenfold the amount of responsibility and workload. Art school is notoriously difficult and as a recent graduate, the need to hustle in order to progress in my field is just as much as it was when I was hustling to get into art school.

 

inarut-3-bike-1What do you do to de-stress after or during a long, stressful day?

Like most artists, and as ironic as it is, to de-stress myself I usually end up churning out a few sketches in my moleskine or painting a quick piece digitally. Sometimes I don’t need a break from art-making, just from the specific piece of art itself. Drawing something that isn’t for my comic project or for a commission can provide the energy I need to continue these projects. Reading, listening to music, snuggling with my bunny are also great alternatives for me to do if doodling isn’t cutting it!

 

 

Where do you go for inspiration?

I take a lot of inspiration from classical painters, particularly those from the Pre-Raphelite Brotherhood period. Some of my favorite painters come from this group: Waterhouse, Rossetti, Millias — the list goes on. Classical and Neo-Classical work will always be a source of inspiration for me.

Other sources of inspiration for me are alternative manga (such as Taiyo Matsumoto and Kyoko Okazaki) and indie comics (the Tamaki cousins, Glyn Dillion — to name a few.)

Often times, I am most inspired after reading work by some of my favorite creators.

 

whitebirchtrees_websiteWhat are you currently reading or listening to (podcasts, books, blogs, etc.)?

The last book I read was really great, it’s a comic called My Friend Dahmer by John “Derf" Backderf. It tells the story of the notorious serial killer, Jeffery Dahmer but from a very unique perspective. The creator of the comic actually grew up with Dahmer and the combination of thorough research and first-hand experiences interacting with him was really surreal to read about. The art is great and the storytelling feels much like the pacing of a movie — which is cool because it’s actually being made into one now!

As for blogs and anything else, I read MuddyColors blog regularly. The blog has rotating writers, all different artists and art directors in the illustration and fine arts field. Many of the artists that contribute are ones I look up to and it’s very insightful about how the business of illustration functions.

 

morningroutineWhat is one piece of advice you'd give to someone just starting their happy hustle journey?

My advice is to establish if hustling is something you actually want to do for your career. While often fulfilling and inspiring, hustling isn’t always happy and by definition, it isn’t easy. I wish creating art, getting paid for illustrating, and having consistent commission work wasn’t always a hustle, but it makes me happy in the long run and a sense of accomplishment. Art functions as both an outlet and a source of income, but both are work and require quite a lot of hustling! I would advise others to find what makes them want to hustle and to keep in mind that hustling is hard, but can be very rewarding.

 

What are some of your favorite quotes or words to live by?

As cliché as it may be, the painter and teacher Bob Ross often says it best, “You do your best work if you do a job that makes you happy.” And while art isn’t always easy, it ultimately makes me happy and happy enough to want to continue to illustrate.

 

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In one word, sum up your life as a Happy Hustler.

Create!

 

What are the three core values of your hustle and how do those values relate to your happiness?

Discipline is essential — without discipline, art wouldn’t be made. When I’m disciplined, I can see the rewards through work being done on time, or improvement in a particular area of drawing that I lack in. Another core value would be to remain opened to criticism. Like most, this isn’t always easy for me, but it’s imperative to anyone wanting to improve in anything they do. Thankfully, I am blessed with supportive friends, often artistic ones themselves, that are able to give me constructive input and help me improve. Learning to rest is a final core value that I think is important. I don’t always do it and it seems contradictory to being disciplined, but they actually work together. Just as important as it is to be focused in illustrating, it’s also important to be disciplined in being healthy, getting enough rest, learning to take breaks when you are drawing, and allowing yourself time to go out of the studio and enjoy time with others. Often times, experiences outside of my work end up being reflected in it.

Connect with Maria:

Website // Facebook // Instagram // Tumblr 

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Happy Hustler Dan Metts

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"Hi! My name is Dan Metts.  I live in Athens, Ohio.  As a little kid, I was in sports all year round - football, basketball, baseball, you name it.  During the summer, I played on a few baseball teams.  Until high school, I stayed pretty busy with team sports, that was when my life calmed down a bit. In high school I just played football and baseball, which allowed me to spend time in the woods hunting and fishing every chance I got. IMAG0821I did well enough in football to have colleges looking to recruit me.  Football was my life!  My whole high school career I lived in the weight room and ended up going to Marietta college. I played there for two years - two entire years of the sport I loved...at the next level.  Then life started calling.

At this point, I came home and worked with my father.  He owned his own electric company, but after a few years working together, he finally closed up shop.  That's when I was hired with Sun Electric. I'm still there today.  Around this time I had my first born son, got married, had my daughter, life was great!  Then the darker days came.  The big 'D' word came along. We all struggled with the fact that our family was falling apart.  What's worse... I found out that my 7 year old son was actually not mine at all.

That's when the alcohol came into play.

It helped me cope. It helped me feel a little better, even if it was just for a minute, but eventually I came back from it. It took a little while, but one day a light bulb went off... I realized I still had a beautiful little girl. I had a daughter that still needed her daddy and I had a mission to accomplish. My son was still my son. According to the courts, I needed to adopt him to make him mine in again.

IMG_0003By this time, life was full of soccer practices, games and tournaments.  Bradley, my son, was on a travel soccer team and Brooklyn, my daughter, was just starting in a recreational league.  Of course, I was coaching them both. I coached them both through the years... until November 9, 2013.  That's the day our worlds were turned upside down.

Bradley had an ear infection that had spread to his brain.  The surgeons went in and took all the infection out that they could find.  Then something happened, with the lack of monitoring of brain swelling and the pressure in his head, he ended up having a brain-stem stroke at 9 years old.  It was so surreal. He had just walked into the hospital himself. Two weekends before his soccer team won a tournament in Dayton, Ohio...  A week before that he went to basketball tryouts for the first time. He did great!  At this point, he was in the hospital where he stayed for a total of five months. He passed away three times there.

IMAG0019Now Bradley is in a wheelchair, on a ventilator, has minimal controlled movements, and communicates by blinking his eyes.  Now, with all that, he still doesn't qualify for rehab, so I do all his rehab, everyday when I get home from work, but I also have to be a father to Brook. I'm doing Bradley's rehab and helping Brooklyn with her homework. I'm taking her taking her to soccer practices and games. I'm cooking dinner and making sure she is showered.  I'm giving her the daddy/daughter time she needs to grow up healthy and happy.

 Of course, I just can't say enough about Bradley. We've made slow, but sure progress. We are going on 3 years since the stroke. He is still positive and works hard everyday to get better.  No one knows how much he can be rehabilitated, but as far as we are concerned, the sky is the limit.  He is also starts back to school one day a week, the day after labor day, this year!"

20160810_185800 (1)What do you do to de-stress after or during a long, stressful day?

After a long day at work, I for one, know a little about stress.  I constantly deal with deadlines and contracts on the jobs at work. Sometimes we all have to push a little harder to get a job done, or worry about material showing up.  Normally, I'm dealing with doctors appointments all day for Brad. He has numerous and I have to work with the school. I have to get things ready for Brad to go back.  The highlight of my day, is walking in the house after work. As soon as I come in, Bradley has a big smile on his face, and he's ready to work.

Everyday his smile melts away all my stress. Him and I set in and work for another 6 or 7 hours and, Brook, well I work with her too. We work on her homework and more.  So after everything, I'll either lift weights, jump in the hot tub, or just sit in silence and reflect on the day... the great work Bradley did, or get excited about things I can do with him the next day.  I try, when the weather permits it, to get some wind therapy on the weekends.  I just jump on the Harley and let everything from the crazy week, just blow right off.

 

IMAG1025Where do you go for inspiration?

I find inspiration in a lot of places.  Throughout the community there are many people that have it worse than I do, and they keep pushing forward.  I have a few friends that I can looks towards for a good boost.  I'm also on social media sites for stroke victims and locked in syndrome victims; hearing people's unbelievable stories and actually chatting with them about their experiences has pushed me to keep going.

But, of course, the biggest source of inspiration for me, is my son.  It has been almost three years post-stroke, and he is still ready and willing to work.  As long as he's ready, it doesn't matter how tired, or sore, or how bad a day I've had. ITS GO TIME!

 

 

20140219_123438_4 (1)What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone just starting their happy hustle journey?

The biggest piece of advice I can give to anyone is to learn patience.   Take it from someone who had absolutely no patience, once you watch your son walk into a hospital, have a supposedly simple operation, code three times and every doctor tells you that you will never have your son back, time limits and deadlines don't matter.  Every little step, as little as an eye movement, or being able to monitor your own blood pressure or temperature, is HUGE.  After one accomplishment, start over and go for another.  No rush, just keep working and waiting for the next tiny thing, that will mean the world!

 

What are some of your favorite quotes or words to live by?

"Small steps are more sturdy than big steps.  You fall easier with big steps, especially if its slippery."
 "Let's Go Headhunters!" -Dan's Father
 "If it doesn't happen today, it just might tomorrow."

IMAG0038In one word, sum up your life as a Happy Hustler.

Positive-  I am a firm believer that a person's outlook and mood will determine the outcome of any situation.  I have tried to be positive from day one.  As soon as someone walks through the door and into my house, all negativity stays outside.  I not only have to keep myself positive, I have to keep Bradley positive too.  I honestly feel, he would not be as far as he is if he hadn't stayed positive all this time!

 

What are the three core values of your hustle and how do those values relate to your happiness?

Initiative- I tell Bradley this all the time, numerous times a day.  If you can't take the initiative to make yourself better, then you'll never get there.  You can't depend on someone else to get you to your goals.  If you set reachable goals, but you don't put forth the effort to reach them then there is no reason for anyone else to put forth the effort for you.  Work while you're laying in bed all day, even if its on little things.  Work on moving your tongue, work on moving a finger, work on something, don't just lay there.
IMG_1504Honesty-  I feel that if you are not honest, it will come back and bite you in the butt.  First, you have to be honest with yourself.  That's the hardest person to lie to!  If you can't be honest with yourself when setting goals, then you can't set goals that you will ever reach.  Being honest with others, keeps you on top of your game, it lets you focus on your goals instead of focusing on the next lie.  Honesty gets you further in life.
Hope-  I'm not sure if it's a core value, but even in the early days of Bradley's injury, I never lost hope.  I never had a hopeless feeling.  Even when the doctors spent 2 and a half hours arguing with us about pulling the plug and not five minutes later I walk in and start talking to Bradley's lifeless body and he moves a foot! There is always hope.  Do not let yourself get filled with false hope, but fill yourself with hope keeps you going, keeps you moving forward, and drives you to never give up!

Happy Hustler of the Month: Nathan Hale

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About:

"My Name is Nathan Hale of Albany, Ohio, a small village located in Southeast Ohio. The youngest of four boys and I was born with Bilateral Congenital Vertical Talus also known as Rocker Bottom Feet. In short my Achilles Tendons were about 1.5inches to short and my arches are upside down so I walk on a bone mass located in the middle of my feet where the arch normally is located. This would become a big problem for me by the age of twelve as I was active in three sports and developed a love for football. Starting at age twelve the pain had gotten so bad I finally met a sports medicine doctor who was willing to try and help. From age 12-17 I had 2 complete reconstructive feet operations and 2 more screw removal operations. At age 18 I had one more major foot operation in hopes that if it worked I could have the same operation on my other foot then I could go back and play college football. A few months before that operation I was instructed by my surgeon to quit college football after bones shifted in my left foot crushing my Plantar nerve and artery. I tried this last big operation in hopes that it would allow me to go back to play college football, it was unsuccessful.

photo 1This was the start of some bad years in my life. I moved home and I started drinking heavily and using drugs. The pain of losing a game I loved and working so hard to make it to the next level crushed me. I was able to hide my troubles from the world and worked building houses while I attended Ohio University where I would eventually earn a degree in Specialized Studies in Psychology and Child and Family Life Studies. Then at the age of 28 I was told by my surgeon that double below the knee amputation would be my best option. I understood it could be an option due to the kind of pain I felt daily. From the time I woke up till I went to bed my feet hurt and if I did any activity it made my knees hurt worse than my feet and on some days my hips would start hurting bad too. Over the next 4-5 years I visited many Podiatrist and Orthopedic doctors. Most agreed with amputation, some didn’t and some had never even seen a case of what I had in real life. One thing they all agreed on is that I would experience a lot of pain my whole life living on these feet especially if I wanted to remain active. So at the end of all that it came down to this a choice, my choice to in my early 30’s amputate or start living a life of pain and take serious pain medicine daily to try and have some “normalcy” to life. At that moment I also knew I could not make this choice living the hidden life of addiction and feel 100% confident in it. I was able to stop using and became a man of faith, changed the way I thought and the kinds of thoughts I would allow myself to have and nothing has been the same since and life has been amazing. After a year of prayer, weighing my options and even seeing a therapist a few months I made the choice to have my right foot amputated on September 15, 2016. That fall I spent a lot of time in the woods during archery season healing both physically and mentally as I adjusted to learning how to live as an amputee. All that time setting in such a beautiful place watching life at its most basic gave me time to think on where I would like to take my life from here and the impact I would like to make with my story.

As I continue to heal physically and am now back on my feet I am currently working on starting a career in public speaking. I want to focus on high school and college athletes and share my story of losing college football, the fight with addiction that followed and how I was able to fight back from that to become a happy, healthy amputee (and possible double amputee) who loves life as much now as I ever have and am excited for a future of making others the best they can be by sharing my life, the mistakes I have made and the life of hope and happiness I have created for myself."  

 

photo 2Tell us a little bit about your hustle and your happiness journey.

I would describe my hustle as “humble and serve.” With all I have been through physically from operations at a young age, the loss of a personal dream (college football) and overcoming addiction and a negative thought process it has made me very humble from a young age. To hurt so bad after an athletic competition at such a young age made me grateful to even be able to compete. Getting up early to get to the woods to watch the sun come up and then take a walk through the woods knowing I would hurt worse for a couple days makes you enjoy that sunrise and the world waking up just a bit more. Watching my physical ability decline like it did in my mid 20’s brought about a feeling of humility I would have probably never of had if not born with Bilateral Congenital Vertical Talus. This condition has also given me a chance to serve others. By simply sharing what I have been through and living my life as a victor people have an example they can relate to and realize there is nothing stopping them from doing things they thought they could not do. If an amputee with his other foot being bad can get up, keep a happy mindset and love others while living the most active life he can there really is no reason those who are healthy cannot do the same or better. With hard work and persistence I hope that I am able to serve others further by speaking publicly and sharing my entire story to make sure others don’t have to go down the road I did at times in my life and give them hope for a better life for themselves.

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What do you do to de-stress after or during a long, stressful day?

I know in my own life that high levels of stress lead to nothing positive. There are a few things I do to de-stress when life sometimes gets to be getting the better of me. As a man of faith I pray, it’s something I can do and always have a little peace about what I prayed over. I am not saying that it fixes everything but to have a little peace to where we can think more clearly and make better decisions is a big help.  I realize that faith is not everyone’s thing so I would say meditation or finding just 10 minutes of quiet time where you can simply slow your breathing, focus on the things that are good and get your thoughts going in a more positive direction. I also like to spend time outdoors when things are stressful. In the woods and in nature brings such calmness over me. Seeing the wildlife in its environment and how natural it all is brings peace and my mind is quiet and just lets goes of the stressors it was thinking about. The final thing I do for stress relief is exercise. The gym gives me a place to tap into doing something physical and positive for my body. By losing some of the physical ability I once had it feels good mentally to go to the gym and work my body to the best of my ability. I feel like I am accomplishing something that I used to take for granted and always feel better when I leave the gym then I did before I went.

 

photo 2 (2)Where do you go for inspiration?

I often am inspired by other people. In this day of social media and YouTube a person can find someone doing something to inspire or be their best daily. I will get on YouTube and watch a speech from Inky Johnson or Eric Thomas, watch one of those guys and tell me you do not want to be a better you. I also follow people on Instagram and other social media outlets that I look up to or people who are using their lives to make others better, the Rock, Cameron Hanes and Inky Johnson as well as people I have met or people in and around my community. Inspiration is everywhere if we choose to look for it.

 

What are you currently reading or listening to (podcasts, books, blogs, etc.)?

I try and read some of the Bible daily, even if one is not a person of faith there is so much information about life in that book, how to treat others, how to live your life and as a man of faith it is very helpful to me. I am also currently reading the Napoleon Hill classic Think and Grow Rich. I also enjoy the author Andy Andrews and many other books that focus on success or the power of thought. I also listen to the podcast Cameron Hanes “Keep Hammering” an amazing podcast that inspires so many to live a healthy life and enjoying the outdoor lifestyle. An often I will try and listen every week to Inky Johnson’s “Inkspirations” and Eric Thomas “TGIM” Thank God it’s Monday. One very important thing I have learned is that if we feed our minds positive we will get positive from our minds.

 

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone just starting their happy hustle journey?

Persist, and realize that change does not happen overnight. You have to be persistent in your actions, habits and thoughts. There will be days we don’t feel like being happy or sticking to the changes we are trying to make, on those days persist. Keep your thoughts focused on good things, keep doing the positive habits and actions when you don’t want to and at the end of the day you will have made it through a bad day still one step closer to the person you are trying to become. One last thing, for anyone going through a major life change or battle, like fighting cancer, becoming an amputee or losing a loved one. There will be days when you just can’t fight and that is ok. On those days let someone who loves you fight for you, let them cry for you or carry the burden for that day and then come back strong the next day. Just do your best, some days your best may be a little better than other days but always just do your best.   

 

What are some of your favorite quotes or words to live by?

“No problem can be solved with the same consciousness that created it.” –Albert Einstein

“If decisions are choices…and our thinking dictates our decisions then we are where we are because of our thinking.” –Andy Andrews

“Nothing is impossible, the word itself says IMpossible”

I empty my bucket –Inky Johnson

“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”  Phil 4:13

 

In one word, sum up your life as a Happy Hustler.

BLESSED

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What are the three core values of your hustle and how do those values relate to your happiness?

  1. Honesty- Being honest with others is always important but honesty with yourself is paramount. We can talk ourselves into any excuse or negative thought pattern so easily, yet when we look in the mirror we justify it because we are not honest with ourselves. Being honest with yourself is not about condemning yourself when we don’t do our best or we mess up. It is so when we do mess up we can be honest with ourselves and come to a conclusion about how to make it right much easier and faster than if we are constantly making excuses for ourselves.
  2. Purpose- One of my favorite speakers Dr. Eric Thomas explains it as “know your WHY.” When we have a deep desire to accomplish something all the challenges that come our way are easier to battle if we have a vision, a purpose for the pain. Finding my “why” or my purpose has given me an understanding that for so long I didn’t have as to why I was born with Bilateral Congenital Vertical Talus. I used to think why me, why was I born with this? Why not someone who didn’t love an active sport or someone who didn’t want to be great? As I began to study my purpose I also gained understanding. I understand that my purpose was to share this story with others to provide them an example and hope. My football career ended like it did and I went down that bad road so I could go back and save other young athletes and people from doing the same thing. I can use this amputation (and possible double amputation) to show others we can get through the hardest choices and struggles of our life and yet, live in happiness with a peace about us that others want and need and we can help them attain it.
  3. Faith- I understand that not everyone is a person of faith and I can respect what others choose to believe in. For myself however, my faith has kept me going in the toughest times of my life. When I was living in a world of shame and addiction I still felt loved even though I couldn’t love myself. While making the choice to let doctors amputate my right foot I spent so much time in prayer and thought and was able to reach the decision to amputate with peace and no regrets. I am not saying this is what others should do or have to do but one thing I would say is find something to have faith in, something bigger than yourself. Volunteer; join an organization that is making an impact in your community and in people’s lives. When we have faith in something bigger than us it allows us to take the focus off of ourselves, we don’t think about our problems near as much and the feel good emotions we get from what we have faith in often helps provide answers for problems that do arise in our life. Those three values along with others have kept me positive, happy and driven through the biggest physical challenge of my life since becoming an amputee. I personally know others who are facing challenges much greater than mine; yet, they have remained steadfast in positivity, love and inspiration. I am learning we all have a story, we all are unique in our own way and can make a difference in others lives. It is up to us to step out on faith and become the people we want to be that makes this world better because we are in it. One great step in becoming that person is living a life of love and happiness and watching as your happiness hustle develops into a lifestyle that can and will literally change your life.  

 

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Happy Hustler of the Month: Greg Miller

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About Greg:

Greg Miller, Owner of Authentic Awesomeness, encourages people to be ‘Authentically Awesome’, by living and inspiring other to live a positive, energized lifestyle whether in sport, at work, or in everyday life; by not worrying about what others think, but improving yourself each and everyday spiritually, mentally or physically. He believes in investing our time, rather than just letting it pass. He believes in embracing our own uniqueness, our own goofy, whacky and weird selves. Greg Miller believes in embracing who we truly are without reserve, without the thought of “Is someone judging me,” because yes they are and WHO CARES!! Whether they are judging for better or worse, BE YOU!!

He is:

  • Here to inspire others to be the best version of themselves.
  • Master Trainer
  • Motivational coach
  • A 2008 10th round MLB Draft pick

 

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Tell us a little bit about your hustle and your happiness journey.

Where to begin, my happy hustle journey began after losing my professional baseball career due to elbow surgery and poor choices. These poor choices cost me my dream that I worked all my life to achieve. I even wrote a poem about it and the poor choice. My journey of a happy hustler didn’t begin so “Happy” per say as I battled a strong addiction to pain pills and opiates in general.

I was in and out of rehab for several years, lost in the grips of space and time withno direction, no goals, and a will to live that became completely stripped. It was not until my best friend Ezekiel Boren, entered my life and told me exactly what I needed to hear, the TRUTH. I had become so accustomed to being Greg, “The baseball player,” that I had no identity anymore. I just lied to myself about who I was, and was living this unauthentic, self-deceiving type of lifestyle and mindset. It was not until I made a conscious CHOICE, to choose a different way; to think different thoughts; to FUEL my mind with positive thoughts and feed those thoughts that aligned with my true self, my AUTHENTIC self, that I began to RECREATE who I was and ultimately begin to build my own AUTHENTIC AWESOMENESS…. And that is how our company began - through finding my own Gratitude and Love for myself, which is the foundation for what our company represents. Gratitude, Self-Love and Self-Empowerment!

 

What do you do to de-stress after or during a long, stressful day?

I do a lot of meditation, even just sitting at my desk, I will close my eyes, count my breaths for some time, get myself centered and continue on with my day. It is very relaxing and calming - relax the mind and RELAX THE BODY! Working IN and not just working OUT, the body only does what the mind tells it to do. Because of this we call our workouts, workINs because it all starts with a mindset - it all starts WITHIN!

My favorite workout is to hang my Olympic rings in nature, on a big branch, or under a waterfall like I did in Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. I create a little circuit and get after it.

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Where do you go for inspiration?

For inspiration I go to nature and connect with the things that are greater than myself. I also listen to a lot of motivational speakers, Tony Robbins is classic, but also guys like Eric Thomas, Bob Proctor, Dan Pena and many others.

 

What are you currently reading or listening to (podcasts, books, blogs, etc.)?

Currently I have just finished the “Three Pillars or Zen” by Philip Kapleau and am re-reading “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill. I find that life is a lot about repetition, and enhancing what already IS. Re-affirming and re-instilling what works, especially if we begin to lose our balance and our “way” so to speak. One other book, the one that changed my life is “As a Man Thinketh,” by James Allen. I listen to it in my car, before I go to sleep. It is awesome.

 

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone just starting their happy hustle journey?

If there was just ONE piece of advice haha, even though that’s very limiting because there are infinite things to give for advice; I would have to say Perseverance. Life is not all rainbows and butterflies, and it is how we RESPOND to life challenges, as opposed to how we REACT to them. They say life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond; I have to disagree because life is ALL about how we respond to certain circumstances and people in our lives. Life is going to happen regardless.

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What are some of your favorite quotes or words to live by?

Well I love Muhammad Ali’s “The man with no imagination has no wings,” this one is awesome. But I am a big Ralph Waldo Emerson fan and he has two quotes that stick out to me, one being “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment,” and also “Write it in your heart that everyday is the best day in the year.” But I also love ANY Bruce Lee quote, I can go on and on about quotes. Buddha is also one of my favorites and the fact is what we think, we ultimately do become. One of my favorite personal quotes is “Best Day Ever!” or BDE. Very similar to Emerson’s quote, but it means that each day is the best and only day, all we have is the HERE and NOW moment. There is no yesterday, there is no tomorrow…. There is only this current breath and current moment at hand and to live each day as its own “rebirth” so to speak, almost like being resurrected each morning, into a new day, a new opportunity to be BETTER than we were the day before.

 

 

unnamedIn one word, sum up your life as a Happy Hustler.

AWESOME!!!

 

What are the three core values of your hustle and how do those values relate to your happiness?

Gratitude, Love and Humility.

These values are what allow more good to flow in my life. If we are our thoughts, then what we think we attract, so it comes down to what we choose to focus our energy on. I choose to focus my energy on being grateful, not only for what I DO have, and also being grateful for all future moments and things that will have, as well as what I have had in the past. Love is just a state of being for me. Loving myself first so that I may spread love to all others and Humility is just as simple as that. Being humble and realizing we don’t know, life is mostly a matter of opinion and perspective with very little truth. The only TRUTH we know of is the one we live, otherwise, we are all on the same journey looking to figure out the same things and which way is best to do this or do that…. Life is about trial and error and being humble enough to take risks, fall down, and be able to get back up that much better, that much stronger the next time… That’s what life is to me and why humility is so important.

 

Connect with Greg:

Website // Facebook // Instagram

 

Know someone who we should feature? Nominate them here!


 

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This feature was sponsored by APOP Studios’ Feeling Salty Workshops. Schedule your workshop today to let go of that negative baggage and build a happier you! Great for work and school events. Email info@apopstudios.com or find more information at:  www.apopstudios.com/movingmindfully

Happy Hustler of the Month: Luiza Cardenuto

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  Luiza Cardenuto is a Philadelphia Artist and Art Educator who believes art can be anyone's source of happiness and peace. She has exhibited in public urban spaces as well as traditional galleries all over the U.S. and abroad.

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Tell us a little bit about your hustle and your happiness journey.

I am an artist, but I wasn’t always one. I battled with the decision to become one for quite sometime growing up. I did not fit in. I felt misunderstood. I simply had no other interests besides drawing and when I moved to USA at age 16, I was officially labeled a misfit. I was a super shy immigrate from Brazil, who didn’t speak English well, didn’t understand the culture, yet the punks, cubans and goths in my high school came to my rescue. The rest was history; I became an artist. I made jewelry all the time, and sold it at my school. Quickly, I became known as the Brazilian Hippie girl who makes art.

Art school seemed to be a given and the only option at this point. First, I got my AA in Miami, then I headed off to NYC to pursue my calling...and my BFA.

When I graduated art school I had a strange, eerie feeling that the art world was not for me. Nevertheless, I kept going even though I was disenchanted. I still am. But, art is here, art is always here. I think that creativity has saved me and kept me sane.

Now, I am in Philly where I make art and teach art 24/7. It doesn’t get much better than that!

What do you do to de-stress after or during a long, stressful day?

I have to do yoga everyday now that I am 26. I feel that my body is getting stiffer by the minute. So I stretch and pull, I bend and bounce. It’s what keeps me moving and what keeps me smiling.

Where do you go for inspiration?

To get started at the studio, I have been getting into meditation. I typically do about 20 minute sessions. My mind is an interesting place to go.

There’s also nothing better than traveling, I go back to Brazil every chance I get as well as visit somewhere new every year. I love to be outside, to see different plants, to look at the sky and experience nature. She’s the ultimate teacher and inspiration.

Lately, I have also been going to the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia, and the Natural History Museum in NYC. I live for that stuff.

 

What are you currently reading or listening to (podcasts, books, blogs, etc.)?

I listen to a lot of lectures from philosopher Alan Watts and Terence McKenna.

I watch the occasional TED talk, some videos by Jason Silva and I get my comedic relief from Porta Dos Fundos, a brazilian comedy Youtube channel.

I recently discovered the magical world of comics. I’ve been buying graphic novels to read by Scott McCloud and others. I’m also a sucker for National Geographic magazines, I love their photography.

As for books, I am reading “A Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley again. My all time favorite book is “fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury.

 

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone just starting their happy hustle journey?

I’d say- look deep within. There’s always something new to learn about yourself. Make it fun and interesting.

 

What are some of your favorite quotes or words to live by?

“Change is the only Constant” - Heraclitus

“There’s always spring after winter” -Buddha

“Trying to be happy by accumulating possessions is like trying to satisfy hunger by taping sandwiches all over your body.”- George Carlin

 

In one word, sum up your life as a Happy Hustler.

Steep.

 

What are the three core values of your hustle and how do those values relate to your happiness?

  • Fulfillment (if it doesn’t fill, it doesn’t spill)
    • Whatever I do, I always ask if I feel fulfilled when doing it. I think it is important to check in with myself and see where the urge comes from.
  • Persistence (measure once, cut twice, and vice-versa)
    • I am definitely a mistake-making-machine. Often the same ones. But  persistence is like the oil that keeps the tin-man going, so he can get nickel-plated by the Wizard in Emerald City...right?!
  • Lightness (life ain’t so serious)
    • I’ve learned to take things lightly by letting go of control. I live with a certain level of detachment that I think is necessary to keep my sanity.

 

Connect with Luiza:

Website / Facebook / Instagram


 

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This feature was sponsored by APOP Studios’ Creative Stress Management Workshops. Schedule your group stress management workshop today! Great for work and school events. Email info@apopstudios.com or find more information at: www.apopstudios.com/movingmindfully.

 

First Friday Feature: Leah Koontz

This First Friday APOP Studios is celebrating the work of Philadelphia Artist, Leah Koontz. Her work directly relates to equality and the marginalized--demanding she and society as a whole are progressive and forward thinking through the critique of societal standards and beliefs. She has exhibited many places in Philadelphia among which include, New Boon(e), The Galleries at Moore, and The Water Gallery. She has also shown at the Ice Cube Gallery in Denver. She received the Sarah Peter fellowship from MCAD and has been published with Cleaver Magazine and The Philadelphia artblog. 13113205_10206600362873139_1605093997_o

Leah's Statement

"I make work about equality because I feel that this is my duty as a contemporary artist and engaged citizen. I am particularly interested in challenging American society's perception of marginalized groups. I also explore collaboration and growth. It is important for me to consider the tension and possible space for growth which happens among people as they attempt to communicate. I routinely think about my position, with respect to balance and control, as well as society’s relationship to these ideas. I want my art to contribute to learning and conversation, which hopefully spawns from my viewer’s experience. My work deals with themes of excess, conformity, and deterioration. Material is usually the byproduct of an idea. I enjoy working with a range of mixed media and genres to build a vessel for my thoughts as well as combining the grotesque with the seductive."

 

https://youtu.be/fV5TsL4uCnk

APOP Studios Feature: Lucy Smith

LSmith1Name: Lucy Smith Age: 26

Original Goal: Getting rid of her Imposter Syndrome. Lucy describes it as that feeling when you are applying for a job and think to yourself, “Oh that has a few things I might like, but I can’t do all of it so I shouldn’t apply for it.” The constant feeling of someone else being more qualified than ourselves.

Today’s Goal: To get rid of Imposter Syndrome all together.

Advice: “You are never alone. You are going to find support no matter what, but support really starts within yourself.”

Story:

As human beings, the way that we are raised says a lot about the problems and insecurities that many of us face as adults. For Lucy, growing up as the daughter of a very southern conservative father, and a liberal mother was a constant challenge. As a self-proclaimed hardcore liberal, Lucy and her father clashed heads a lot growing up. However, this tug and pull relationship with her father is what she credits a large part of her finding such self assurance and confidence in her young adult life.

One of the biggest hurdles that Lucy faces day to day is her body. With a smaller, more petite frame but not falling into the “slender” category, she has faced a lot of negative backlash for her silhouette and body type.

“People are like, ‘oh you’re fat’ because I’m not slender. People automatically think it’s a bad thing-- but I mean, being fat is an adjective. To me, it’s just a descriptor.”

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One of the ways that Lucy has come to accept her body image was through a stint of time that she spent burlesque dancing. Being able to go up on stage and improv was something that really helped to build Lucy’s self confidence. People really supported her burlesque dancing, and one of the more defining highlights of her time spent dancing culminated after one of her performances. “A woman came up to me and said, ‘ I didn’t know people like you could be sexy. You showed me that.’ It was great, it was wonderful.”

Using social media as a platform to discuss fat positivity and Imposter Syndrome has also been very cathartic for Lucy on her journey to loving herself. Lucy uses her social media pages to help bring awareness and draw community together around those dealing with their journeys to self love and worthiness. The internet is a massive tangle of people, so finding others that are in need of support and hope is not something that is hard to find. Although it’s certainly a cathartic experience for Lucy, to be able to help others on their journey to beating their own versions of Imposter Syndrome.

In my opinion, it’s more important to be proactive and stand up for yourself and say the unpopular things, because somewhere along the line someone else agrees with you.”

LSmith2One of the defining moments in Lucy’s journey came several years ago when a family member slipped her an informational pamphlet about Cryosurgery. Cryosurgery: surgery using the local application of intense cold to destroy unwanted tissue. In most instances the unwanted tissue are localized fat cells.

Lucy was having trouble fitting into the clothes that she wanted to, and her silhouette was not what she wanted it to be. Working hard in the gym was having no results on the lover stomach bulge that she wanted to eliminate. When in theatre school, a professor encouraged her to get into good cardiac shape to be able to make it through a two and a half hour show. Even after doing forty-five minutes on an elliptical every day, she was seeing results everywhere on her body BUT her lower stomach.

After doing all of her research on Cryosurgery/Coolsculpting she decided to go and do the surgery. Lucy describes the process like having your skin sucked into a high intensity vacuum. After her treatment, Lucy had bruises where the coolsculpting had been performed.

I wanted to improve my silhouette because I knew that this was stubborn fat. Because of my circumstances, I was eligible for this treatment because when they touched my stomach...when they grabbed it...they said that it was really soft so the treatment would work.”

The surgery was a real turning point in helping to motivate Lucy to begin to exercise more. Before she underwent the coolsculpting Lucy had been having no success with working out to help achieve the look she wanted. With the fat cells removed, she was starting to see tangible success with working out.

It’s worth saying that I loved and will continue to love my body no matter what my stomach looks like- but I got my silhouette changed because of my own preference. It is not anyone's prerogative to judge anyone else's body based on their own individual preferences...My shape is more appropriate for my body now. I don’t feel like anything is out of shape, or place. That’s what motivates me to get out and exercise.”

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Lucy has learned a lot through her journey, but one of the best things she has gleaned from her ups and downs has been just how important being more assertive is for her well-being.

“Getting rid of that little voice in the back of my head telling me that nobody wants to hear what I have to say. Being more positive and extending that generosity to others. If negativity can’t be influenced by positivity, it might be best leave that conversation or that person behind.”

Now Lucy is exercising two days per week in addition to light walking around the city of Philadelphia. She has achieved her own personal preferred silhouette and has changed her outlook on life to reflect a mindset of happiness. In addition to her physical and mental health achievements, Lucy is also on her way to academic and entrepreneurial success. Lucy is a graduating senior illustration student at Moore College of Art & Design, running her illustration business Lucy Smith Illustrations, and a weekend business venture “Snow Princess Parties.”


Q&A:

Can you explain more about Cryosurgery?

I guess the technical term is coolsculpting, because it freezes the fat cells. When it freezes them, it kills them. The fat cells don’t grow back unless you really go all out with your diet/lifestyle, but for the most part they never come back. On average it takes about one hour per section for treatment. They cover your skin in a gel, so that the sucking of the vacuum doesn’t really hurt.

 

How do you stay active?

I love walking all around the city. When I come back at night, I’m like “that was really fun AND I walked all around the city AND I got to pet dogs in Rittenhouse Park.” I can do all of those things now while exercising.

 

How did this surgery change the way you look and relate to your body?

It has really motivated me to exercise. Before, my body would look the same after three months of real exercise and I would just feel like, “What’s the point?” I feel more free. I can walk around and not feel self-conscious about my lower stomach. I can walk around with so much more confidence.

 

When you find yourself in a negative mindset how do you get out of that?

Start thinking of all the things that I am grateful for. My family had a house fire last year, and we are still hanging in there and plugging forward.  People ask me, “How can you be so confident?” I say it’s because I love myself, and a lot of people don’t. What are a few things you’re grateful for?

My health, mentally, emotionally, and physically. I’ve lost four pounds. My family. My dog Ruby, she’s my daughter.

 


 

20140514_163943This feature was sponsored by APOP Studios’ Creative Stress Management Workshops. Schedule your group stress management workshop today! Great for work and school events. Email info@apopstudios.com or find more information at http://www.apopstudios.com/movingmindfully.

 

 

 

APOP Studios Feature: Jayden Phillips

Jayden Phillips4Name: Jayden Phillips Age: 25

Subject: General Self-Improvement

Original Goal: To lose weight and gain muscle

Today’s Goal(s): To make it a point every day to positively affirm himself and do things that take him out of his comfort zone so that he can continue to grow as a person both mentally and physically.

Advice: “Be true to yourself and love yourself first. Don’t be afraid to be different because that difference is in fact what makes you special.”

PhotoGrid_1458185412835Story: Growing up, playing sports was Jayden’s passion. He was involved with six different teams throughout middle and high school - three traveling teams and three school teams. Not only did Jayden play softball and field hockey, but he was good - so good he went on to play Field Hockey at the Division I collegiate level. He played for two years until he had to make the difficult decision to leave the University. Jayden knew he needed to find himself help so he voluntarily admitted himself to the hospital for self-injury and suicidal ideation.

He had suffered from both since he was 17. Over the years, he had gotten pretty good at hiding his true feelings from those in his life. In hindsight, he says his depression was written all over his face and etched onto his skin all over his body. He felt guilt and shame for the harm he caused himself and he didn't understand why he felt the need to engage in harmful behaviors. Now, he recognizes that self-harm was a means of escaping his emotional pain. In his eyes, his mental suffering was, by far, worse than the physical pain he caused himself regularly.  

IMG_20130918_120528_321What caused this emotional turmoil? Jayden’s sexuality. It was what consumed his thoughts and overwhelmed his mind during this time in his life. Being outside the hetero-normative had and still has a cultural stigma. At 12 years of age, Jayden remembers the first time he acknowledged his attraction to the same sex; he didn't dare share those thoughts with anyone--at least not for a few more years. It wasn’t until he turned 17 that Jayden, a high school senior at the time, boldly came out as bi-sexual. Struggling to adjust to the strong opinions and hatred he perceived from the world, self-harm became part of his everyday routine. From 17 on, Jayden struggled, but not alone; he had a support network of family, friends and professionals. Therapy was an important part of working out his own internalized issues with sexuality. Therapy helped Jayden do some introspection for more answers during college and this process led him to begin to identify as gay at the age of 19. With the transitioning from one label to another more appropriate label, Jayden found a sense of relief, but he knew that label wasn’t quite right.

“None of these labels on my sexuality ever felt completely right. I still felt lost. I still felt different. I still felt that there was something else missing.”

After leaving college Jayden met a girl whose friend was transgender and after getting to know him found that the similarities within their lives were unprecedented. This man opened a whole new world of possibility and he gave Jayden the knowledge and the language that he would have otherwise never been exposed to had they not met. Jayden began to understand that he was not alone in his thoughts and in his feelings. “It all made perfect sense,” he said. As a young child he was constantly asking questions like, ‘Why can’t I be like the boys?’; ‘Why can't I wear a suit like the other boys making confirmation at church?’; ‘Why can’t I play football?’; ‘Why can’t I stand to pee?’ The questions and conversations went on and on. He didn't like pink, purple, or butterflies; He associated those things with girls. He wanted things that boys played with, used and wore. Society told him that as a female he was supposed to like all these things. Society told him to do all these feminine things, but the truth was that those things didn’t suit his interests. “I always felt different from all the other girls, and I was,” he said.  

Jayden PhillipsAlthough sexuality played a part in his internal struggles growing up, gender identity was ultimately the reason behind Jayden’s pain. At the age of 21 he came out as transgender with a fully supportive group of family and friends. This support made his transition from female to male much easier. What’s more, Jayden makes it clear that he couldn’t be more thankful to those in his life for that support, patience and acceptance.

After extensive research about local transgender care, Jayden decided to go to the Mazzoni Center, a LGBT health services office in Philadelpia, PA. He had two initial doctors appointments at the Mazzoni Center before being prescribed testosterone--one with a Trans intake specialist and another with a doctors to go over his bloodwork and the Mazzoni’s ‘informed consent’ policy of care, which was to ensure he was aware of what he was about to do.  Another requirement before treatment was a letter from his therapist validating that he in fact suffered from gender dysphoria and that hormone treatment was the next necessary step. On August 12, 2012 Jayden gave himself his first shot of testosterone which he now takes once a week subcutaneously (into fat).

Jayden Phillips2At 5 feet tall and 180 lbs, Jayden was looking to masculinize his figure. His primary goals were to lose weight and gain muscle in preparation for his chest surgery, essentially getting his body in the best shape he could beforehand. Cardio helped him shed some of those unwanted pounds, but he makes it clear that he was never one to run; he never had good stamina. After an important shift in mindset, Jayden dedicated himself to the gym so he could not only achieve his physical health goals, but also achieve goals pertaining to his own wellbeing and happiness. He did cardio almost every day along with weight training up until the date of his chest surgery. In January 2014 Jayden traveled with his parents to Fort Lauderdale, Florida to undergo female to male reconstructive chest surgery. This consisted of a double mastectomy and resizing of the nipples, as male nipples are generally smaller than females’. The procedure went well and set him on a path to be clear for activity in six short weeks. After he did the necessary resting, he jumped back into the gym-- this time with even more confidence. He was constantly releasing endorphins and losing weight. At 140 lbs he was feeling wonderful.

Since hitting that 40lb mark, Jayden has gained 10lb, but one thing sets him apart: his mindset. He is persistent in reminding himself that his journey isn't over and, in fact, it will never be over. His journey to his best self is just that, a journey. He believes that if he remains positive and motivated he can achieve anything he sets out to do including staying disciplined in the kitchen and getting back to where he wants to be on the scale. Although, he says, “It’s not always about the number, it’s about how you feel”.

IMG_20151016_140247Additionally, Jayden is motivated to stay healthy as he is a Type 1 Diabetic. He was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at 12 years old on Wednesday. November 26, 2003. It was the day before Thanksgiving. He was taken out of school early by his mother, a nurse, to go to the doctor. Jayden had no idea what was going on with his body, but his mother had a pretty strong feeling that Diabetes was going to be the diagnosis after talking about it with her nursing friends. Jayden had all the symptoms in the book--extreme thirst, frequent urination (especially during the night, he would wake up 3 to 4 times to go), extreme hunger, unexplained weight loss (about 20 lbs in 2 weeks), dry skin, hair loss, decreased immune system, discontinued period, loss of muscle, vision impairment, you name it. Jayden’s entire body was shutting down. At the doctor’s office they tested his urine and checked his sugar level with a finger stick. He positively had Type 1 Diabetes. With a blood sugar level of 547mg/dl and large keytones, Jayden and his family then had the answer to all of his symptoms he’d been living with for close to about 9 months. His mother's immediate reaction was to cry, so being 12 years old and not really understanding what this all meant, Jayden too cried. At this point, Jayden and his mother left the doctor’s office, went back home to gather his things, and left for CHOP with his family where he would be admitted for three days to learn about Diabetes. Before he could go home, Jayden learned how to give himself insulin shots and how to count carbs. It was scary, but he was fully capable of taking the Disease on as his own. He would not let it define him or hold him back. In fact, the day he left the hospital his travel soccer team had a game and I went. He played as the goalkeeper, but not the entire time as it was a cold day and his fingers were sore from all the finger sticks that were done in the hospital. He NEVER let Diabetes stop him from doing anything. This diagnosis wasn’t a death sentence and he wasn't incapable of doing what he did previous to being diagnosed Diabetes. He simply had a little extra to worry about going forward. Jayden makes a point not to downplay Diabetes and the struggles that come with it, but he does say that he has always tried his best to stay positive about it. Growing up he made sure that he learned everything he needed to know in order to take care of himself. The best thing he did was own it and learn to manage it.

“Sometimes, when young kids are diagnosed with Diabetes it becomes the parents’ job to take care of everything, but I was at a perfect age to really understand how to take care of it for myself. My mom did help me tremendously, being a nurse, but I made sure that it was me who was doing my shots and it was me who was counting carbs and memorizing how many carbs were in different foods...etc. I am proud to say that I've had Diabetes for nearly 13 years and I've never been hospitalized for complications from diabetes other than my original diagnosis. I've managed to control this disease fairly well and that is something I'm very proud of. It is a difficult and frustrating disease but it’s important to stay positive and to not let it get me down.”

Jayden continually tries to remind myself how grateful he is that he is alive and lives in a time that has the technology and science available for him to live a happy, healthy life despite having diabetes.  For the last 10 years he has demonstrated this gratefulness by being involved with an annual week-long overnight camp for kids with diabetes. He emphasizes what a blessing this has been for him. The life-long friendships and connections he’s made through camp are irreplaceable and he’s not sure he would have the same outlook on diabetes as he does today, had I not gone to camp at all. He was only a camper for two years, but he stayed and continued as a camp counselor every year since.

“It is rewarding and comforting to be around 100 plus people who all suffer from the same disease. We can relate to one another on a level that other non-diabetics can't. Sharing stories and experience with one another and knowing we aren't alone is what allows us to push through each day. So, if you are reading this and you know someone or you yourself face any of these challenges, just know that you are not alone and it will get better so long as you stay motivated, stay disciplined, stay active, stay inspired, and always stay true to yourself.”


Q&A

1437585727674 (1)C: Can you talk more about your sports background?

J: I ended his High school Field Hockey career as a 1st Team All American Field Hockey Goal Keeper. I played on a travel Field Hockey team called the Mystx that won both the indoor and outdoor national championships with him as their Goal Keeper. This led me to college at Drexel University, where I played Field Hockey on scholarship. My freshman year I started Goalkeeper and in that first year my team made it to the NCAA Elite 8 game ending our season with 19 wins (the highest number of wins in a single season). This record still holds true today! I also played travel softball for the Horsham Banshees from age 12-18 and was on the 2008 State Championship PIAA AAAA softball team at Hatboro Horsham High School. I didn’t play soccer for school because it was in the same season as softball but I did play travel soccer as a GK in middle school which I think helped me be a better FH Goalie. I also played varsity basketball my Freshman and Sophomore year of HS. Sports were definitely, my thing!   

 

C: Can you talk a little bit more about how you view psychological pain versus physical pain?

J:  For me physical pain served as distraction from my own thoughts. It was something I had control over whereas my thoughts I could not control. One pain would feed the other and vice versa, it was a vicious cycle. It almost became an addiction. Cutting for me was like a drug-- to distract myself and escape reality.

 

C: Can you delve a little deeper into your hospitalization?

J: My family was very supportive. Although I didn’t want any visitors, I know they wanted to see me because they were scared for me and love me very much. I believe my mom is the only one I allowed to visit and maybe my dad did too. I don’t quite remember. However, they were all always very supportive towards me throughout all my struggles. I self-injured multiple times a day, 50-100 cuts at a time, for the better part of 5 years. My 1st hospitalization came in January 2011 after my normal cutting behavior wasn’t enough to relieve the psychological pain I was feeling at the time. I wrote a note and I tied a tie around my neck attempting to choke myself in my college dorm room, but couldn’t do it.  Immediately after this serious contemplation of suicide, I contacted my therapist who I had been seeing and working with since I arrived at college in 2009. It was my decision to ask for help and it was my decision to seek treatment. I knew I didn’t really want to end my life, but the mental state that I was in had me contemplating suicide on a regular basis. I think that alone scared me enough to try and get more help. I knew I couldn’t continue to live the way I was living. So, my therapist had a public safety officer drive her and I over to the nearest hospital Emergency Room. It didn’t take long for me to to be seen by a doctor. I was immediately treated for surface abrasions and given a 1 to 1-- meaning someone continually kept a close eye on me due to my suicidal ideations. I was eventually transferred to a psychiatric hospital associated with that ER via ambulance. I stayed there for a duration of five days. When I went into this, I wasn’t expecting to be cured, but I hoped to gain more tools in coping with depression, anxiety, and self-harm behaviors. This short time did allow me to clear my head and take a break from stressors of the real world, but after leaving I still felt unsafe from myself. It didn’t help that when I was discharged they called me a taxi that would take me to a location near campus. Immediately after being discharged, I had an appointment with my psychiatrist whom I had been seeing for medication treatment prior to being hospitalized. Anxiety ridden and vulnerable, leaving the hospital in this way was not beneficial for me. Later talking with my Mom, she reassured me that she and the rest of my family were on my side and whatever I needed they would try their best to accommodate. She even said I could go back to the hospital if I wasn’t ready. Not even a month later, I found myself back in the hospital. This time in a different hospital. This second stay lasted nine days and it was a much better experience. Still, I knew I couldn’t leave there cured, but having this time to really work intensely on my mental health helped change my outlook on life.         

 

1438207208152C: What activities do you usually do when you hit the gym?

J: I usually start my gym sessions by running on the treadmill for at least a mile. I walk at 3.0 mph pace for a minute then go to either 6.5 or 7.0 mph at 2.0 incline for the remainder of that mile interval. Sometimes I’ll sprint for a quarter of a mile then get off do either some pushups or burpees then repeat the process. At this point I do some stretching before I hit the weight section. I usually focus on a specific body part or parts each day: shoulders, back and biceps, chest and triceps, legs, etc. I take how my body is feeling into consideration and plan to be flexible if any desired machine is occupied. I don’t always have a set plan, but this is a recent goal of mine-- to get into a more regimented routine. I’m also known by my friends to randomly do pushups or headstands at anytime or place.

 

C: Do you have any advice for someone trying to get in shape/transform their body?

J: Be consistent in going to the gym or engaging in physical activity. The gym is not necessary for achieving fitness. Stay motivated and make your workouts fun. Change things up to keep it fresh and to confuse your muscles. Doing the same things over and over will limit your growth and most likely cause you to plateau. Be disciplined in the kitchen, but don’t deprive yourself of foods you enjoy. Everything is OK in moderation.     

 

Jayden Phillips1C: How specifically did the trans-man you met help you accept or love yourself more?

J: I can say that he opened my eyes to the possibilities of transitioning. He introduced me to the Trans Youtube community where people with this background share their stories and journeys throughout their transition. After learning about what transgender was, I found comfort in knowing I wasn’t the only one who had these feelings their entire lives. Watching these videos allowed me to better understand the process transitioning and its effects. I’d say for about 6 months I obsessively watched youtube videos of voice changes and body changes from guys who were already on hormones and for good reasons; I knew that this was something I had to do in order to finally feel at peace with my own self-image.  

IMG_20150904_171319 (1)

 

C: You mentioned earlier that you had a strong support network thus far. Can you talk a little bit more about how they supported and continue to support you?

J: My support network is just there for me. They let me know that they care and that my happiness is all they ever wanted for me. They showed that they love me no matter what the circumstances. It was hard for them to get used to calling me male pronouns and my new name, Jayden, but that didn’t bother me because I knew they were trying their best to support me. My support network would correct themselves when they slipped and correct others if they slipped. The act of trying was good enough because I knew in time it would become easier. For 21 years I was referred to as one pronoun, “she,” and name “Jenna”. I understood that it’s difficult to suddenly switch pronouns and name. It was even hard for me. It was not only a transition for me but for everyone in my life and that’s important to remember when being misgendered or called the wrong name. For me, it only becomes a problem if someone maliciously or purposefully ignores my wishes and misgenders me or calls me the wrong name.

 

C: Do you have any recommendations for our readers on how to build a support network this strong?

J: Surround yourself with people who will not necessarily understand you but accept you for who you are. It is not their understanding but their acceptance that is important.  

 

C: Can you talk more about therapy and how that has helped you move forward a better person?

J: Although therapy can often be stigmatized, it shouldn’t be. Going to therapy doesn’t make you weak or incapable of figuring things out. Having someone to talk to who is unbiased to your situation can be refreshing and quite rewarding. It can help you to process, evaluate, and work through any situation you feel the need to talk about.

awareness


 

cropped-apop_studios-final-logo_color-logo-1-1.jpg

This feature was sponsored by APOP Studios' Creative Stress Management Workshops. Schedule your group stress management workshop today! Great for work and school events. Email info@apopstudios.com or find more information at www.apopstudios.com/movingmindfully.

Workshop Brochure

 

First Friday Feature: Andrew Cerami

First Friday Feature: Andrew Cerami

"First Friday Feature, Andrew Cerami, says ,"My biggest hope as an artist is to make things that inspire the viewer to contemplate and search inside themselves so that they too can begin to engage the creative power of Self and bring its healing and transforming power into everyday life." -Andrew Cerami

"Art has helped me become a happier, healthier person": Philadelphia Artist Kimberly Jackson

12741938_10156442415255618_6805246031405463249_nIn honor of First Friday, an exciting day once a month during which Philadelphia art galleries usually hold their opening receptions, we are pleased to highlight an artist who is changing the way we look at mental health. Kim Jackson's latest piece, Dissociation, hits the nail right on the head for so many people struggling with depression and anxiety. Her work not only gives its viewers a deeper understanding about the struggles of having a mental illness, but also demonstrates that these same negative emotions and thoughts CAN be used for positive social change by raising awareness.


Kim on Dissociation:

https://youtu.be/r_phc2suXcI

12717567_10156441443440618_8208616097191760753_nAs I prepared the piece and put everything together, I realized I have never vocalized some of these feelings before. I had never spoken those words out loud, and I had never allowed anyone to see those intimate moments. It was the most difficult project I have ever worked on, but in the end, it was the absolute most rewarding. By allowing myself to truly be the most vulnerable I have ever been in public, I allowed myself to experience the kindness of others. Each and every person who saw my piece expressed to me how they personally connected to the piece, and how they relate to anxiety and depression. So many people shared their struggles and it helped me heal in a way no one can ever imagine. It helped me realize that hiding your struggles only holds you back and prevents you from moving on. Now, I am honest and truthful to my friends about my state of mind, and I ask for help if I recognize I need it. Putting myself fully into my art, has helped me become a happier, healthier person, and I hope my art has helped others the same way.

Creating Mindfully: Philadelphia Artist Julia Fox

Here at APOP we like to recognize people who take the term "moving meditation" to the next level. Philadelphia artist, Julia Fox, is an inspiring example of how art can not only be used to become more mindful of beauty on a daily basis, but also more aware of the importance of community and connectedness. 11224036_10152910831870706_7929759179449673491_o

My artistic practice started as a way to focus. Creative energy allowed me to be content for hours that would have normally been spent getting into trouble or pestering my siblings. Although my art practice has maintained these qualities into adulthood, art-making for me has also become a way to process and understand the society in which I live. My work is meant to capture a moment in the life of an urban structure that epitomizes the state of the neighborhood or city in which it resides. A finished work describes the moment I took an interest in the architecture and slowed down to process my surroundings. My work serves as a connection between myself and the city in which I work, and is meant to take those moments of observation, and share them with a viewer. I intend for them to serve as a reminder of the beauty in the forgotten and overlooked, for that is on my mind during that first moment of observation. In a way the moments of observation themselves can be seen as a meditation and although the physical act of making is what initially drew me to art, the concept and connection to a community or city has become just as important in my mature work. -Julia Fox

Visit Julia Fox's artist website here.

APOP Studios Feature: Viktor Seredich

Screenshot_2016-01-17-09-38-23-1Name: Viktor Seredich

Age: 23

Subject: Body Transformation

Original Goal(s): To get in shape

Today's Goal(s):

To become the best version of himself.

To train for success at the NPC Gladiator in Baltimore, MD on March 19th, 2015

To become a personal trainer.

Advice: Focus on the journey itself, not the end goal. Also, take your larger goals one step at a time rather than one large leap.

Story: About four years ago Viktor Seredich found himself in a room with Elliott Hulse, a famous Fitness YouTuber. He was dissatisfied with his job and, simply put, where he was in life. He was just floating along; he was going whereever life was taking him and those places were definitely were not exciting. Viktor's dream has always been to be the best possible version of himself-- to constantly keep growing in every aspect of life, yet sitting in this room he discovered that he just wasn't happy with his life and its trajectory. At the conclusion of Hulse’s motivational speech, Hulse asked everyone to ask themselves a key question, "Are you currently the best version of yourself?" He followed up with, "Are you satisfied? If not, then change." Viktor realized at this moment that over the course of his life he had grown little as a person. Viktor had not had any goals and therefore had not achieved much, but that all changed.

ViktorOn January 2nd, 2012 Viktor decided to make that change. He had make a new year's resolution to hit the gym.  Viktor's goal?--to be the best possible version of himself. When asked what exactly he meant he responded, "Having a healthy body is one of the most important things to me." He saw his first solid results three months into hitting the gym and it was at this point he realized working out was more than just something he did after work; it was his calling. Since Viktor was a teenager working his first job, he has always wanted to be his own boss and, now, has dreams of becoming a certified personal trainer.

As of today, Viktor works a small gig unloading trucks. He admits it doesn't sound all too exciting, but loves the flexibility it gives him to pursue his dreams outside of work. Since his main priority became the health of his body in 2012, the flexibility of his day job has proven to be a huge benefit. Viktor has made serious gains. He built muscle through maintaining a mindset ten times stronger than his body--a mindset that has kept him motivated to hit the gym day after day without fail and to make decisions that ultimately will lead to the success of his overarching goal: to become the best person he can.

Now that he has accomplished his primary goal of creating, maintaining and growing a healthy body, Viktor has also begun to focus on the fitness industry for his career. He will be doing his first Men's Physique competition, the NPC Gladiator in Baltimore, MD on March 19th, and from there he plans to start his own fitness brand. He strongly believes his ‘top secret’ unique approach to fitness is what he owes his results to. Now, he wants to help others find that same success!

Viktor2

Q&A

Viktor3

C: Carlee Myers, Founder of APOP
V: Viktor Seredich

C: What is it about Elliott Hulse that really stood out to you? Is he someone that you look up to?

V: Elliott Hulse has a lot of useful knowledge and has a way of speaking that really clicks. I used to look up to him when I first started. I don't look up to him as much anymore as I'm further on my own journey and relate a bit less. Since everyone's body is so different it makes it difficult to find someone to look up to in such a direct way.

C: Who else do you look to for inspiration?

V: Now I am very self-motivated person although I still get inspiration from different YouTubers and random speakers.

C: What does your typical day look like?

V: I usually do a small job unloading trucks in the morning around 7 am. Once I finish the job I have breakfast and get to work on my personal goals. After eating, I usually read and work. This typically includes doing just about anything I think is beneficial towards accomplishing these goals-- researching, brainstorming new ideas, talking with others about their fitness goals and providing advice, etc. After I accomplish my daily goals, I hit the gym around 7 pm, workout, then head back home to finish working on any daily goals I didn't accomplish. After I finish, I head off to bed. Sometimes it's around 12 am, sometimes it's 4 am. Haha.

C: What does your typical gym routine look like?

V: My gym routine is pretty basic when you actually look it:

Monday - Chest and triceps

Tuesday - Back and biceps

Wednesday - Legs

Thursday - Either chest or back or both. It depends how my body feels.

Friday - Arms and shoulders

Weekends - If I end up going to the gym, I always do legs.

C: Do you diet or watch what you eat?

V: I actually don’t have a strict diet. I never have, but I haven't really had to change my diet due to my high metabolism. On the other hand, I am conscious of what I put in my body. I just avoid certain things: I hate sweets. So I don't eat any sweets, I don't drink soda, I don't eat fried foods and I've cut back on salt.

C: How has your mindset changed since you started your journey?

V: My mindset really shifted once I realized exactly what I wanted to accomplish. I started to understand that setting up unrealistic time frames to accomplish goals can lead to disappointment. You have to focus on the journey itself not the end goal--one step at a time.

11 Tips for Conquering Life over the Holidays (APOP Member Edition)

The holidays tend to be a crazy time of the year for most of us. Here are a few tips from our Fitness Nerd Family Members to help you get through them without letting your healthy habits slip: unnamed-4

1. "The steps to getting myself help were the hardest and greatest things I ever did. The first step to solving any problem is talking." When you're feeling down, Stormy Smith, APOP member since March 2014, says that reaching out for help is key. Don't be afraid to ask for help-whether that is from friends, family or a professional. Everyone needs someone to lean on.

2. “You only get one shot at this life. So be you; do you. Be happy with your choices and don’t worry about impressing others or conforming.” -Misty Mann, Member since December 2015

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3. "Embrace who you are! It took me a year into college to remember that I need to embrace who I am, a quirky and random human being, and I couldn’t be happier with that. Sure some people think you suck, but comparatively you will bump into and find some incredibly awesome like-minded people along the way. Trust me." -Will Hurry, member since November 2015

4. "The more you act happy, the more you end up feeling happy." -Will Hurry, member since November 2015

 

Max Kohls

5. “Willpower is so important in weight loss–willpower and dedication. You have to get up every morning and say, ‘This is who I’m going to be today.’ You have to be your higher-self. There is an opportunity to be your lower self: not go to the gym, eat poorly, etc., but you have to choose to be your higher-self. It’s a choice. It’s all choices. Everyday is a choice.”-Max Kohls, member since October 2015 (Max also recommends this podcast:  http://www.stuffyoushouldknow.com/podcasts/willpower-works/)

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6. Avoid those  pesky cravings by drinking lots of water. -Misty Mann, member since December 2015

7. Do it for yourself not for others. Both Misty Mann, member since December 2015, and Max Kohls, member since October 2015, agree that this is key for achieving your personal goals.

8. "Feeling down? Hit the Gym! Not only do you get to work off your frustrations, but you leave feeling like a rock star–because you really have accomplished something!" -Carlee Myers, Founder APOP

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9. "Never let food become an obsession. I know it’s comfortable and it makes many of us feel better, but in reality food doesn’t change a thing. My challenge to you is to directly deal with the problems you have in life." -Michelle McDonnell, member since August 2015

10. "Love your neighbor(s)." -Mary Ellen McAbee, member since September 2015

11. "Don't get caught up in the hustle and bustle; This season, more than any other time of year, is about family and friends." -Cathy Myers, member since March 2015

#APOPFNF Profile: Misty Mann

20151216_180659 (1) Name: Misty Mann

Age: 43

Subject: Smoking

Original Goal(s):  To quit smoking.

Today’s Goal(s): To be healthy--mentally and physically; To eat healthier, exercise and discover herself.

Advice: “You only get one shot at this life. So be you; do you. Be happy with your choices and don’t worry about impressing others or conforming. Oh, and manners go a long way.”

Story: Misty started smoking cigarettes when she was a freshman in high school. 15 years old and wanting to hang out with a particular group of kids who just so happened to smoke, she thought, ‘why not?’

“The first time I smoked is super fresh in my mind. My cousin, Dawn, and I stole a pack of kent III cigarettes from my dad and walked a block away from my house. It had just started to snow; everything was dusted in white. Dawn lit hers first and smoked away. She had been doing it longer. I was next. I tried to light it and couldn't so she did it for me. I held it between my fingers like you see in the movies. I thought I was so cool. I inhaled and blew the smoke out. I wasn't inhaling all the way, but it was cold out and the smoke mixed with the cold air so it looked more like smoke. Dawn laughed at me and told me I was doing it wrong and said to pretend my mom was going to catch me. A few moments later I inhaled and she hollered, “Oh crap! Your mom!” She turned and pointed. I had already forgotten she said to pretend and I thought my mom was really there. I accidentally inhaled.  Dawn told me I did good and I felt super excited. It seems stupid now that I look back on it, but at 15 I felt in charge of something. I liked the attention I got from it.”

A pack of cigarettes were just 80 cents from the local vending machine--meaning she didn’t have to flash her ID. When thinking about that time in her life versus now Misty says unsatisfied, “I’m sure the cigarettes had a warning on the pack that smoking was dangerous, but it was not as prevalent as it is today.”

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The battle to quit smoking was a 25 year process for Misty--perhaps if that label had been just a little bit bigger things would be different, but it wasn’t. It was actually quite unnoticable if it was there at all. The first time she tried to quit she was 19 years old; It was 1991 and she had just found out she was pregnant with a beautiful baby girl. The doctor suggested she cut back, not quit. At this point in her life, quitting wasn’t top of mind. As per the doctor’s request, she went from a pack of cigarettes a day to about a half pack (about 10 smokes per day). Of course since there was no self-ingrained urge to quit Misty went back to smoking full packs a day after her daughter was born. Then came along another beautiful baby girl in 2002; once again she tried to quit, but went back to her old habits shortly thereafter.

Misty’s third attempt to quit smoking was in her 30's back in 2006. Around this time, anti-smoking campaigns were going strong. The government and other organizations began the education process on exactly how bad smoking cigarettes can be for the body. Misty recounts that everyone, especially her loved ones, began pressuring her to quit. Although she tried to quit at the time, she remembers being angry and reticent. She started her third journey to imposed improvement by using the nicotine patch. With the nicotine patch it took her several tries over a few months to actually start a streak, but once she had a few days without smokes under her belt she ended up sticking to it for five months. At this point, something went askew--perhaps it was the fact that she didn’t do it for herself in the first place, perhaps it was the tragedy she witnessed while waiting at a red light in Myrtle Beach...a man and a woman riding a motorcycle getting hit by a truck. Either way, she that day she immediately went back to the hotel, bought a pack of cigarettes and headed for the beach...alone. Once again, she began smoking a pack a day again.

The rest of Misty’s 30's quitting was on her mind constantly. She would go to bed every single night and say to herself, “This is it. Tomorrow morning you are done!” but each morning she would find herself grabbing for that cigarette and lighting it. Each morning there would be a new excuse as to why she shouldn’t be quitting that particular day. She enjoyed smoking. It was her escape from meetings, family functions, etc. She could excuse herself from almost any situation with “I need to go smoke.” It was society's acceptable social crutch and she used it, but overtime she began getting upset with herself thinking, ‘Why can’t I just quit?!’ She began to hate the way it smelled, how it made her family and surrounding environment smell; her clothes, car and even presents she gave to people smelled of cigarettes. What’s worse, she noticed she was having trouble breathing; she couldn’t even carry a load of laundry up the steps without sitting on the top step to catch her breath. Towards the end of her 30's she was up to two packs a day. As if the breathing difficulties weren’t enough, the cost of one pack of cigarettes were now over six dollars. Misty talked about how much cigarettes drained her wallet. She used to say that when they hit four dollars she would quit, then five dollars, then six and she still hadn’t quit.”

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Misty had her turning point at 39, she took her oldest daughter to see a psychic for her October birthday, something both she and her daughter thought would be an exciting adventure for an exciting day. It went smoothly, until the end; Misty, still a little shaken up by what the psychic told her, recounted that when her and her daughter were heading for the door the psychic approached her telling her, “If you dont quit smoking when you are 40, you will be on an oxygen mask by the time you hit 43.” Now, whether the psychic was right or not did not matter. The thought that, at 43 years young, she would be on oxygen terrified her.  A few months after this encounter, in February 2012 Misty turned 40 years old and by May 2012, Misty began having even more difficulty breathing. All she could think was, ‘What if the psychic is right?’ Misty needed to quit and so she did; slowly but surely she cut back one cigarette per day, then a few a week. It was difficult to say the least, but by September 2012 she was ready to completely cut smokes from her life. The first day without a cigarette was horrible. She was sweating and crying; you would have thought Misty was on serious drugs. She called her doctor and her doctor said that some people have severe withdrawal from cigarettes, comparable to heroin withdrawal. She ended up smoking the first day and recounts that she was so disappointed in herself. Three days later she went and bought the nicotine patch and on september 25th she marked a important day in her personal story. She put the patch on and made up her mind--September 25, 2012 would be the first day of the rest of her life, without cigarettes. She knew that she could quit this time and kept reminding herself that an oxygen tank would absolutely not be in her future--she was and still is better than that.

The first week was awful; Misty was beyond cranky, but everyday it got easier and three months in she noticed a huge difference in her life and health. She was breathing better, not to mention smelling better. She eventually stopped craving cigarettes every day and stopped wearing the patch--she no longer needed it.

Now Misty is 43 years old and healthier than ever before. It’s been over three years and three months since she touched a cigarette. Today, she’s basking in her own success and even has a few more tricks up her sleeve she’s using to achieve her next goal--to become mentally and physically fit.


 

Q&A:

C=Carlee Myers, Founder of APOP

M=Misty Mann, Member of APOP since 2015

 

C: Can you elaborate further on how peer pressure to quit smoking made you feel over the years?

M: Peer pressure to quit over the years? Hahaha. It honestly pissed me off. The more my sister or mom said something the more I smoked. I was being stubborn, but it’s like asking to someone overweight when they are going to drop a few pounds. It’s not nice and certainly isn’t good for that person’s mental health. I found it rude and annoying that people would point out my flaw and comment on something that I struggled with everyday.

 

C: Can you talk about the pressure you felt from others to smoke?

M: I actually never felt pressured to smoke by anyone. It was something I wanted to try just because I thought I could hang out with the ‘bad ass kids,’ but they never forced it.

 

C: Can you elaborate further on the day that you went to the psychic with your daughter?

M: The day I went to the psychic was actually pretty boring. I sat in the waiting room and went out on her porch to smoke once or twice while I waited, which I’m sure is one of the reasons she originally told me to quit...but she was so specific about me quitting at the age of 40. She didn't know how old I was, which made me think that maybe she was right. Either way it was the push I had been waiting for; I wanted to quit, but I didn't want to give the satisfaction to my sister or mom that what they said made me quit. I guess I used the psychic as my reason.

 

C: I often hear from people who are trying to quit smoking that drinking triggers the urge to smoke again. Did you experience anything like this?

M: Drinking was never a trigger for me.

 

C: Do you have any advice for avoiding cigarette cravings?

M: Drink lots of water. I also used mint gum, which I’m now addicted to. Haha, but I guess it’s better than smoking.

 

C: Do you have any advice for someone who is trying to quit?

M: The urge to pick up that cigarette always passes. That horrible feeling does get easier. Just ride it out. It’s worth it.

 

C: Why do you think that you succeeded this time, but fell back into the habit in the past?

M: I think I succeeded this time because I was ready. I did it the other times because I was told to quit...because it was unhealthy...blah blah blah. This time it was for me, not them.

 

C: Do you think giving up cigarettes one-by-one is one of the reasons you were successful? Perhaps small goals leading up to a larger goal was important to your success?

M: I think slowly giving up day by day was just an excuse to keep smoking longer. I knew I had to quit at some point so I justified in my mind that slowly doing it was ok, so I didn't have to give it up all at once.  

 

C: How else has giving up cigarettes positively influenced your life?

M: Giving up cigarettes has completely changed my life. First off, I feel so much better. I’m able to do things without being winded. I smell better. On the down side, I have no excuse for bad behavior. I can’t blame being cranky on nicotine withdrawal any longer, but I’m working on my mental health so I hope that won’t be struggle much longer.

 

C: Becoming healthier usually requires a complete lifestyle change, how did you change your day to day life? Have you integrated different things into your daily life to set yourself up for success?

M: Well I gained a ton of weight when I quit smoking...about 50 pounds. Apparently, I ate instead of smoking but didn't realize it until recently. So my day to day for the last three years has been just getting by, not really changing anything. Honestly, this lack of further change has led to issues with depression, but that’s a whole other story. Haha.

 

C: What are your goals for self-improvement today?

M: My goals have drastically changed in the last few months. I want to be healthy, and not just from quitting smoking. I'm trying to eat healthier and exercise. I've lost 10 pounds so far. I'm trying to "discover me" and am combining my physical health with my mental and spiritual health. I’m reading more on adventures for the soul, to become more positive and truly happy...with my relationships, finding a new career, etc. My newest journey might actually be more ‘traumatic’ than cutting cigarettes out of my life. Haha.


 

Know someone that deserves recognition for their success? Comment below to nominate them!

#APOPFNF Profile: Will Hurry

Name: Will Hurry Age: 23

Subject: Weight Loss & Mental Well-being

Original Goal(s): Spend the entire month of April living a healthy lifestyle.

Today’s Goal(s): Lose 20 pounds, in addition to the 50 that I’ve already lost; to reach my goal weight of 200lbs.

Advice: Embrace who you are! It took me a year into college to remember that I need to embrace who I am, a quirky and random human being, and I couldn’t be happier with that. Sure some people think you suck, but comparatively you will bump into and find some incredibly awesome like-minded people along the way. Trust me.

Story: It all started at Barnes and Noble back in March 2015. Will was talking with his best friend about the number of energy drinks and coffee he drank per day—roughly 4+ cups a day (about 8-10 servings). Lent was coming up and his best friend suggested a challenge that he had no idea would develop into a what, now, is his journey to self-betterment—Will’s friend suggested that he give up energy drinks for lent. For the month of April, he decided to put his unhealthy habits to the test. Will was just crazy enough to give up energy drinks, coffee, junk food, and fast food. After the first week of success, Will decided that cutting all those unhealthy choices out of his life wasn’t quite enough and even added the challenge of going to the gym on a regular basis. Will recounts that going to the gym “was rough and it really sucked.” After successfully completing an entire month of practicing a healthier lifestyle, Will felt great, so he kept at it. For the first few months he hit the gym with his friends, but as his friends lost momentum one by one, he was still working hard-- going on sporadic adventures to the gym and continuing those healthy eating happens.

Will HurryOver time, Will revamped many of his unhealthy habits. He no longer ordered take out--a huge success as he had ordered from the local pizza place so many times that he could walk in and the staff would simply hand his order over without saying a word. He stopped going to Rite Aid to buy junk food--another huge hurdle overcome as his previous diet consisted of different combinations of junk food such as candy, chips or cookies. Now, Will eats more fruits, vegetables and high-protein foods such as chicken instead and has even limited his alcohol intake on the weekends and replaced those extra sugary drinks with, you guessed it, water. When asked more about the changes he has noticed, Will says, “Beforehand I could cook enough food for a family four and eat it all myself, but now I sometimes struggle to get through a plate of food and, very rarely these days, do I go for seconds.”

skinny meAs of November, Will lost a whopping total of 50lbs (now weighing in at 227lb) and celebrated in the most humorous of ways by googling what fifty pounds of fat actually looks like. He recounts humorously that “it is a huge mountain of yellow mess”, but continues on a more serious and prideful note when he says, “The benefits from all of this [hardwork] is the fact that I have dropped two to three shirt sizes, I get out of breath way less, and, now, I have some mild confidence.” Today, Will is still going strong, but he does say that “being able to look at my reflection and think ‘I finally look good’ is the best feeling after spending so long over weight and that feeling continues to amplify with the more weight I lose.”


Q&A:

C: People tend to feel more motivated when they accomplish smaller goals leading up to accomplishing their larger goals. Do you think the idea that only temporarily giving up energy drinks and coffee helped you succeed?

W: Yeah, the idea of being able to give up energy drinks and coffee cold turkey was definitely a step that helped me succeed in this weird half year adventure. Mentally this step was basically summed up in my head like this, “If I can give up these things and endure for the entire month then I can definitely succeed at living a healthier lifestyle.”

C: Do you have any advice on how to get through a week of caffeine withdrawal without giving back into the “addition”?

W: Going cold turkey from caffeine was basically a week long hangover where you sweat constantly and have the worst headache of your life. My advice would be to try to pretend to be happy during the withdrawal period—this span of time, for me, was the grumpiest of my life. The more you act happy, the more you end up feeling happy. I’m really glad I cut caffeine out of my diet as my heart rate has been able to return to a normal level and I can just feel how much happier my body is on a daily basis.

C: What does your typical workout look like at the gym? What did your first workout look like versus your workouts today?

W: My typical workout has me running to the college gym, which is a mile away. Once I arrive, I go to the weight room and do a rotation of the machines --every time I go there I do them in the same order. I start with chest, shoulders, arms, abs and then leg machines. Then I end my workout standing on the scale. My first workout was a mess. I was extremely out of breath; I sounded like I got sucked into the vacuum of space where I was trying to suck up any and all oxygen in existence. The rest of my first workout was filled with confusion. I remember thinking, “What is that strange thing?…and why can I pull or push it?” Now I can breath and work out with a general sense of what I’m doing. I also workout alone now, but I had started working out with three friends.

C: Becoming healthier usually requires a complete lifestyle change, how did becoming healthier change your life? How did it affect your life on a daily basis?

W: I am going to break my success into three sections which are appearance, mental well-being and physical well-being.

Since I began my new lifestyle, there has been a shift in my appearance. Before I was wearing plain old t-shirts and a pair of jeans, but now I generally like to dress better--my newest favorite item is the button down shirt.  Being able to dress mildly fancy in my daily life makes me feel like I look good. I’d like to think people notice my new appearance--this is a great segway into how my lifestyle change effected my mental well-being.

I can now look at myself and think “I look great!”  I stopped making self-deprecating jokes because with the more weight I lost the less relevant these jokes became. Now, I have some mild self confidence--which is nice.  

Lastly, my physical well-being. I feel like perhaps the largest impact these changes have had on my life can be summed up in one word, “transportation.”  What I mean by this is that at the age of twenty-three, I finally learned to ride a bike, simply because it would help me lose weight.  One of the biggest successes I’ve had to date is that I ride my bike to and from work part of the time and I walk more places; if I know I can either bike or walk to a destination, I will.  

C: Most people who try to improve their lives for the better fail a few times or make a few mistakes along the way. Can you talk about a time that you made a “mistake” during your journey to self-improvement? Did you find a way to turn this failure/mistake into a success?

W: I have slipped back into drinking some caffeine and eating some junk food every now and then. I don’t feel guilty, but it does serve as a motivating factor for my next visit to the gym. I also went three weeks without going to the gym and, quite honestly, I am still working on turning that into a full fledge success story. I try to go to the gym at least three times a week. As of now, I am currently going to the gym two to three time a week at the moment; as my college classes ramp up for finals, the amount of time I spend at the gym has been reduced.

C: Can you elaborate on your comment about mild self-confidence?

W: Mild self-confidence is a new thing for me. I now see myself as looking awesome and being a great person. I also see some women glance at me every now and then, which is weird, yet oddly exciting. About a month or so ago, I came across a thought that went something along the lines of “I feel like this women is looking at me, weird. Wait a minute, no it’s not, I’m fucking awesome. Why wouldn’t a woman be looking at me?”  It’s mainly just me coming to the realization that I’m a pretty great person. The part I need to work on now is being confident enough to go up to someone and say, “Hey! I like you. We should go get coffee or a drink sometime.”  

#APOPFNF Profile: Max Kohls

IMG_5325Name: Max Kohls

Age: 24 years old

Subject: Weight Loss & Mental Health

Original Goal:  Lose 105 lbs; reach goal weight of 165lb.

Today's Goals:

      • Reevaluate whether my original goal matters considering the following
      • Gain strength and muscle (and therefore weight)
      • Continue to choose happiness and health on a daily basis

Advice: You can’t change what you are, but you can change who you are. It’s up to you to choose the person you want to be everyday and remember to choose who you are wisely.

Story: Max is a 24 year old gender-non-conforming Graphic Designer and the newest member of APOP's Fitness Nerd Family. They started their journey back in the summer of 2013 after graduating from Moore College of Art & Design with a  Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in--you guessed it--Graphic Design. Growing up and going to school in PA, Max decided it wasn't exactly the place they wanted to launch their career. California was where they headed, Los Angeles, where dreams are made.  With a background in Graphic Design, Max was well primed for a job in the television industry, but the dreams they ended up accomplishing in California were different than the plans they had previously set for themselves. Alone and without a job due to the relocation; Max saw Los Angeles as a great opportunity to do some soul-searching--to really figure out who they were as a person and challenge themself, but before we jump into how Max improved their life let me provide you with a little more background.

Upon graduation, Max was 270 lbs and unhappy. College was difficult. Like most of us during college, they got caught up in a little thing called stress. Being an art and design student had proven to be more challenging than anticipated. With six hour classes and a ton of all-nighters doing homework and class projects, it was hard to find time to eat, let alone make a healthy meal from scratch. Don't get them wrong, college wasn't the reason they had become unhealthy and depressed; the stresses of college simply added to their unhappiness.

"I wouldn't say that I have depression, I would say that I was depressed. I was just unhappy and uncomfortable constantly and that's why I was depressed, but now I feel better--I don't feel depressed anymore." - Max Kohls

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Before the stresses of college, Max encountered other hurdles-- growing up with learning differences, body image issues, and trying to find their place in the LGBT community. Max’s mother always loved, supported, and cared for them, but it was very difficult for her to see her child as 'bigger' and unhappy.  Max's mother was always working hard to stay healthy and fit and wanted Max to try new workouts or diets with her. Even though most might see this as supportive, Max felt pressured to be thin which weakened their relationship.

Max wanted to have control over their life--including their body. Max reflects on their thoughts of that time in our interview, "Two boxes of Oreos a week... whatever not a big deal! Who’s telling me what to do? It's my own body!...but now I'm more in control of my body. I go to the gym and make myself eat healthy." They say, "no one can force you to do anything unless your heart is truly in it." Before moving to California, Max always found themself feeling ashamed of eating certain foods and therefore hiding those habits from friends and family. "[My mother] always wanted to encourage me to lose weight and I was always the one who wanted to take back control, so I would eat by myself; I would hide and eat." Max would think to themself, "I'm not going to lose weight for you, I'm going to do what I want." Now, Max understands that for their mother it was difficult to see her child struggling and as it turns out all their mother wanted was for Max to be happy; it turns out their mom was their biggest fan.

"It's hard to feel like people expect things from you and that you might disappoint them...but it really isn't affecting them except for that it makes them happier for you." -Max Kohls

Moving to California was the perfect way for Max to separate themself from the family and friends "Let Down Factor”, their own bad habits, and their negative emotions. Los Angeles is such an encouraging place to begin a mental and physical health journey. The weather is nice, all the fruit is fresh, and the people--well they're beautiful. They never had to worry about their family seeing them workout. They didn’t have to worry that their loved ones would "get their hopes up" just to be disappointed once again. The pressure was lesser in California--if Max failed no would have to know, but if they succeeded they could share their success and feel proud that this time it was their choice...to be happy, to be healthy, to be successful.

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Making the choice everyday to work towards being healthy has allowed Max to become more connected with their body. Reflecting on this Max says, "I used to pull a blanket up to my head and I used to think, ‘I wish we were all just heads, I wish we didn't have to deal with our bodies’...and I told my therapist that and she said, 'it's clear that you're not connected with the rest of your body.' Once I started exercising and really getting in touch with my body, I began to feel more confident and empowered."

And even after moving back to the east coast they’ve continued to choose to be their “higher-self” on a daily basis--with the full support of their family and girlfriend. Max knew they had finally reached a point where they didn’t have to be ashamed of what they ate in front of their mother. “When I came back from LA after 5 months 35lbs thinner my mom saw that I could take care of myself.”  It was at this point they both knew that Max was in control of their health and would continue to be.

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For the last two years, back in Philadelphia, Max continues to be in control. They go to the gym five days a week, two days of which are spent with a personal trainer. When asked more about their fitness goals in relation to having a personal trainer, Max states, "I'm not just trying to lose weight anymore, I'm trying to gain muscle and heighten my testosterone levels naturally." As an non-binary individual Max is trying to find a comfortable balance between masculine and feminine. With this in mind, Max’s trainer has developed a exercise regime for Max to continue to achieve an androgynous appearance. “Its an amazing feeling to look in the mirror and be pround and happy with my reflection.”

Want to know more about Max? Continue reading the Q&A portion of the profile below.


Additional Q&A:

C: Many people have had a similar parent/child relationship as you and your mother. With this in mind, what would your advice be to parents who want their child(ren) to begin living a healthier lifestyle?

M: I honestly think therapy would be the best choice. I think therapy has a really bad stigma. You don’t have to be clinically depressed or suicidal to talk to a therapist. As someone who was just unhappy, talking to a third-party who wants to support you is wonderful. Her training has been more than helpful with not only weight loss but my relationship with my mother. I have been seeing my therapist for three years and even while I was in California for five months. I called her once a week and we would talk for an hour. It's so freeing to have her in my life. It's too difficult to talk to a parent that's just too close to the situation. I was always encouraged by my mother to make health a priority, but it wasn’t enough. Having a therapist for an objective opinion or point of view, has been extremely helpful in achieving my goal of being the best I can be.

C: You talk a lot about continually choosing your higher-self ; can you elaborate on that?

M: "Willpower is so important in weight loss--willpower and dedication. You have to get up every morning and say, 'This is who I'm going to be today.’ You have to be your higher-self. There is an opportunity to be your lower self: not go to the gym, eat poorly, etc., but you have to choose to be your higher-self. It's a choice. It's all choices. Everyday is a choice." Max later referenced the podcast that they had listened to previously that informed this conversation: http://www.stuffyoushouldknow.com/podcasts/willpower-works/

C: How do you feel about Jennifer Aditison's quote "Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels."?

M: That's so not true. First of all, I had had like nine s'mores the other week and all I could think is I'm going to have to workout really hard next week, but then I thought, 'no'...like how often do I really have s'mores...they are so worth it. Second of all, it's not about being skinny, it's about being healthy and your livelihood. It's about feeling good about yourself.

C: How do you manage the stresses of life and remain healthy?

M: "By being selfish sometimes...I always use the word ‘selfish’, but...it's not selfish if it's for your own well-being." I make the choice over and over again to be healthy. I remain healthy because I choose to and because I have a support network that helps me make that choice daily.

C: What does one of your typical workouts look like?

M: 45-60 minutes of cardio. If I’m on the treadmill, I start off running for as long as I can, usually 30 minutes, then I walk--sometimes on an incline. If I’m on the StairMaster, I usually just do 45 minutes while I watch TV shows like F.R.I.E.N.D.S. After that I do back, triceps, and biceps then head over to the free weights and do 20 hammer curls, 20 squats, you know, different exercises.* I love cables and free weights…I feel bad ass not using the weight machines. When I work out with my trainer Ralph Gilmore at Body Dynamics, I do more challenging exercises. He pushes me to try new things like weighted squats and leg lifts. He loves to remind me, “If you weren’t working out with me you wouldn’t be lifting this heavy,” and it’s true!  He shows how much weight to lift, corrects my form, and reminds me to breath. I am so thankful to have someone so knowledgeable helping me reach my goals.   

*Recommended Resource: Bodybuilding.com's exercise database--it's an exciting and interactive online encyclopedia of exercise how to's and how not to's.