I am doing a series on inspiring people who are changing their lives through trying new things, persevering, and overcoming obstacles and heartbreak. This interview is the second in the series. If you know someone I need to interview, or you have your own story you’d like to share, contact me and be the reason someone loves their life all over again (or maybe even for the first time).
Kym loves to shout at women to reach for their goals for just five more minutes… one more minute… 10, 9, 8…. When she tore her ACL in 2010 playing softball, she couldn’t use her body as she had been all her life, and she worried about her ability to continue on with fitness instruction.
The timing of the injury increased the degree of trauma she felt. Her beloved father had recently passed away, her marriage ended (by choice) and a subsequent relationship ended (not so much by choice). So much change in a short period of time would leave anyone feeling emotionally vulnerable. Now, she was weakened physically, too.
Through pursuit of fitness and playing sports, people build up excellent habits of endurance and striving. It’s the job of fitness instructors to find accommodations for people who cannot do a certain move or use a certain body part. Using her skills and habits for pressing forward and finding accommodations, Kym found ways to encourage her classes verbally and through body language alone. And all was well and good (enough).
Then she tore the ACL of her other knee, while skiing. Though she is moderately active on Facebook without sharing overly personal things, I knew about the injury through her Facebook posts and could tell that it was really getting her down.
KH: “The injury pushed me to a level of vulnerability that I had never experienced before. I am by nature fiercely independent and driven. This took away my ability to do so many things. I knew that the effort that I threw into remaining active in whatever capacity I could made me feel like me. I actually taught a spin class peddling with one leg and having the other grounded behind me in a brace. […] I jumped out of a marriage hoping that I could be independent and strong. I struggled through those two injuries and knew that I had arrived at a time of great independence, strength and self reliance in my life.”
Me: “But you weren’t ready to go back to skiing yet.”
KH: “The body healed before the mind did. Physically I was good to go, but emotionally I couldn’t put myself back on the hill. The fear of hurting myself again was paralyzing.”
Me: “So, why did you decide to go bungee jumping? Is this something you had been wanting to do for a while?”
KH: “No. I needed to do something to prove to myself that I was in control of my fears. This was it. I was worried about my knee even though by 2012, it was healed post-surgery. I needed to push myself back into a place where I felt like I could do anything, because I felt so lost. [The bungee jumping] was a celebration of knowing I had weathered a huge storm, been torn down both emotionally and physically and had come out a stronger, better and more fearless person because of it.”
Me: “On a level of 1 (a yawn) to 10 (passing out from terror), where were you before you jumped? And no one pushed you, right? You just jumped when you were expected to at the end of the countdown?”
KH: “Climbing the tower was an 8. Harness fitting: 9. Walking out on the boom: 7. Standing with my feet over the edge: 8.9. Hearing that guy say, ‘ONE!’ was an 8. The moment my feet left the platform: 15.
The guys were very specific that I had to listen for the countdown and that when I heard him say ‘one,’ I had to just jump because they guaranteed me that if I allowed my brain to consider what was next, I never would have left that platform.”
Me: “How much planning went into doing it? When did you first get the idea?”
KH: “It was more of a conversation with the guy that I am dating. I had told him that I needed to do something just a little bit wild. I had this feeling in my soul that I needed to shake things up a bit. We considered three options. White water rafting, bungee jumping, or skydiving. I guess the most comfortable and accessible at that time of the year was the bungee jumping and quite honestly it was within my comfort zone. It seemed scarier than white water rafting and nowhere near as terrifying as skydiving.”
Me: “I was very impressed that you jumped when you were supposed to. My reaction was, ‘I’ll jump when I’m ready, you shut up, Counting Man!'”
KH: “If I had allowed myself to decide when I was ready to throw myself off of the platform, I probably would still be standing there.”
Me: “How has it changed you? Are you less scared to do other things? Do you feel stronger, like when you have to tear at muscle to rebuild it into something even stronger?”
KH: “Once I decide that I’m going to do something, I am so incredibly determined that there really is no turning me around. It definitely has made me stronger. My next plan is to skydive this coming summer. […]
I think the biggest thing for me in terms of conquering the next fear is going to be how I decide to proceed with my career. There’s going to come a time where I’m going to have to make some drastic changes and I’m not going to be able to continue working the way that I currently do. Figuring out what that chapter is gonna look like, it’s a little scary. It’s going to take some work on my part to beef up my qualifications and potentially even go back to school.
Also, this year I’ll be back on the slopes. I’ve decided it’s time and I’ve started to actually miss it.”
Me: “Have your [teen] daughters said that they are inspired by you?”
KH: “I think that they have watched me struggle and watched me pick myself back up again which in itself is a lesson that they need to learn as women. I just asked Olivia [if she was inspired] and she said no. [Laughs.] Gotta love this child. I’m going to say that she’s joking.”
I’m inspired by Kym’s ability to keep going and find creative solutions, and to try new things she hadn’t considered before. She’s even planning her first tattoo, in her 40s!
But what I will draw upon for strength and inspiration when I have hard things to do, is the lesson that if we decide in advance that we are going to do something, and we have a powerful reason to do it, and if we don’t allow ourselves to listen to our feelings of fear and trepidation, we can do the scary thing.
Is something in your life not working, feeling sluggish, sapping you of energy? Listen to your feelings as you search for answers to meet your needs. Listen to your feelings without pressure of time, social influence, or fear. What would make you happy? What would change your life and energize you? Then plan out how you can accomplish that thing. Think of all the pitfalls you can and plan for them. Then, when the moment comes to take the first step (or leap!), and you’re meeting your first obstacle you already anticipated, do not consult your reptilian brain at all. Anxiety and fear are not always smart and they do not always have your back. If a new obstacle or consequence comes into view that you haven’t yet considered, then sure, listen to your fear and step back to reevaluate, because there might be something there. But if it’s just, “Jumping off this platform is actually really scary!” well, you knew when you set the goal that it would be.