Monday, August 3, 2015

Dear Crossfit - Welcome to Professional Sports

It’s not about being the fittest person on earth. It’s about money. And, sure - maybe a little about being fit. But mostly, it's about the money.

My medical knowledge extends to the BandAids and knock-off Neosporin I have in my bathroom cabinet, so I will not claim to have any understanding of the programming of Crossfit games.

But I do know pro sports.

Why do NFL players suffer concussions? Because these guys, coming in at roughly 6'5'' 250, are paid to lay them out. Again. And again. And again.

Why does the NBA have forty days of playoffs after an 82 game season and before the finals?

Why does MLB have 162 games - no one knows, that's ridiculous. I do know why this year's home run derby was more scintillating than years passed, though. Rather than watching ball after ball sail over home plate, players had four minutes to hit as many home runs as possible. It was intense. It was exciting. Did it accurately crown the major league's best homerun hitter? Maybe, maybe not. But it was the first time in ten years I watched the whole thing.

ESPN is not just catering to a particular sport’s aficionados; it's catering to casual sports enthusiasts who will change the channel if it is not entertaining.

Did anyone watch the NBA Finals? The Cavs were dropping like flies. Kyrie Irving breaks his knee because his body was so banged up. He’s not calling the commish, crying that the season is too long. He's recovering so he can play next season.

And why do the players keep playing, through nagging injuries at risk of more severe ones? Because they want to win. Because they’re competitors. And because they're getting paid.

It’s a two way street, and Crossfit athletes are not complaining about the improved ratings and increased volume of the prize pool or sponsorships.

The distinction lies here: This is not a local gym. This is not a regional Crossfit competition. This is professional. It involves money, and money changes everything.

Crossfit gyms are not programming their classes as if the students were elite athletes, and as a Crossfit athlete, I do not treat these classes as if I were elite. I have never puked during a workout, and I have never pushed myself to the point of injury. I take an extra second to breathe when I need one and drop the weight when I am not feeling strong. The risk is just not worth it. I hear my body say, “hey Anna, not a good idea,” and I listen. If 275 grand were on the line, I might tell my body to shut up, but that is my choice.

Sports like football and even baseball have been determining the balance between the sport and player safety for nearly a century, so I sense this discussion will not go away anytime soon, and I believe it is a good one to have.

It will be interesting to see how Crossfit handles the balance of money, entertainment, and the sanctity of a sport that is still, in many ways, defining itself. Perhaps the powers that be will figure out that perfect programming to effectively judge performance, provide entertainment and generate revenue, and keep the athlete free of injury.

Until then though, to casual viewers: just like following an NFL workout regiment is not the NFL, a Crossfit gym does not mirror elite Crossfit competition. Most gym trainers genuinely want you to improve and better your life through smart fitness and community.

To the professionals: I respect you for choosing to compete - you are beasts - but I will not pity you for that choice.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Family Dinners in Charlottesville

I am currently sitting at the Nostrana bar in Portland, sipping a glass of Pinot Noir Brut Rose and eating a Caesar salad. Caesar salads have always been an oxymoron to me because in theory they are healthy, but in reality, they are simply cheese, croutons and cream based dressing disguised as healthy by a few pieces of lettuce. Fret not, my main course of wood grilled pizza is not even disguising itself as healthy.

I was convicted the other day. My blog often becomes a means to reflect on the goodness of family and channel my longing for home. I do not, however, often thank the people in Charlottesville for enriching my life so deeply. Perhaps that is because if I were to go through that list, it would take an immensely long time, whereas my family is limited. Still large, but limited. Regardless, this is no excuse. Since I am dining at the moment, I think it only appropriate to begin with family dinners.

I met Armin the day I moved into my Park Street apartment. More appropriately, my mother met Armin. Of course, she quickly discovered his country of origin, occupation, length of stay in Charlottesville, and even acquiesced his help in moving some furniture into the apartment. I remained skeptical. After all, he was a man, and in my limited experience, males in their mid-twenties are rarely looking for female comrades unless they are bringing something else to the table. Over time and as the smells of his cooking prowess wafted into my apartment from a couple doors down, I began to trust him.* Then, he introduced me to the family.

We played charades at my first family dinner, and though I was with strangers, I felt comfortable. That’s the thing about the family – newcomers are always welcome. There are no airs or pretentions - just a hodge-podge group, wanting to rock life and have a good time while doing so. They are honest, real, and at times, a bit crazy.

I met them at a time when I desperately needed close friends. I was working through career and other relationship questions, blatantly wondering why I was in Charlottesville. And they were there.

Years later, they still are. The women are strong and supportive, driving me to push myself in my career and never settle when it comes to men. I respect each of them for their personal drive and consistent effort to build and maintain relationships with others. I am blessed to have been a recipient. They are constant voices of sarcasm, reason, encouragement and humor. Plus, they love wine and dancing.

The men - they are ridiculous. But they are always there, whether it is a night out, a home cooked meal, or carrying your mattress up six flights of stairs.

As I finish my meal with a sophisticated spot of cheese and half glass of Prosecco, I am thankful that when I return to Charlottesville, they will be there. Though we shall not scour the downtown mall as we did during days of old, they will always be at my C-ville core. They brought an entirely refreshing and joyful light to my life away from family, enabling me to make Charlottesville a home. For that, I am incredibly grateful.

*Let’s be honest, the way to all hearts is through the stomach.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

On Being an Individual

I was twelve years old, that highly volatile age when middle school girls are mean, boys are awkward, and every pimple seems to be the end of the world. In all honesty, I did not experience much of an awkward phase. My sisters claim I just never grew out of it, which is entirely possible. There was this one time, though...

I had a friend spend the night. She was a friend I thought was a little cooler than I, and some small part felt honored that she was spending time with me. After staying up late, we were both a bit sluggish in the morning. I slouched at the kitchen table as I ate the waffles Mom had made us. But I never slouched, and Mom noticed.

She pulled me aside later that day and voiced her concern. "Anna, I felt like you changed your behavior because of her. I do not want you to ever change who you are because of other people." Of course, I denied any such thing, but to this day, those words stick.

My oldest sister got married a couple months ago, and I was able to spend a week with my family, the people who bring me the most joy. As we sat at the kitchen table, entertained by my nieces and nephews, laughing at one another's stories and chatting about life, my mom was buzzing around as she did when we were younger.

Mom stayed at home for thirty-six years. She had to discipline, encourage and love five very unique children, and she was our champion. She still remembers that one time my fourth grade teacher was mean. She was at every tennis match with a cooler, a bag of gummies and an extra Gatorade. She was the one I called the morning I quit my first job out of college to wait tables, encouraging me to take a step of faith.

She also gracefully reminds me where my priorities should lie, when I should adjust my expectations, when I should act, and when I should trust.

My parents raised five fiercely independent individuals with five starkly different personalities. We have walked very different paths, and they have been the greatest support for each of us. They have never tried to mold us, but instead have been there as we work, and sometimes struggle, to create our own mold, loving us throughout the process.

I do not think parenting gets easier as children get older. It may even get more intense. As we have all become adults, our parents continue to lead our family by example, demonstrating what it means to live a life of faith and pushing us to be stronger. Hundreds of miles away, they remain my greatest support.

It is hard to be an individual. To be yourself when others mock or question you. To speak when you would rather be silent. To remain true to your convictions, and to make those bold decisions that make you a leader and not a follower. When I look around the kitchen table, there is one character trait the Navatsyk children share: we know who we are, and we are not ashamed. I thank my parents for instilling that in us.

Photo Cred

Saturday, July 4, 2015

A Peak Inside My Head

Hi friend. I am writing to you from my fire escape, and I have just watered the plants lining the small fence. It's quite New York of me, I know, though my view is of mountains rather than skyscrapers, and I have no idea what the plants actually are. Speaking of plants, I am considering using flowers as insults and compliments - adjectives in general. I was walking through botanical gardens the other weekend, and some seem quite apt. For instance, that dude is a total brodiaea or you are being a real campsis radican today. Clearly, I don't have much cohesive to say, but I think it appropriate to exercise my free speech on such a day.

Since we last spoke, I have decided my dreams are not prophetic. I was clinging to the hope they were because I dreamt the Cavs won a championship. Then they lost, and I had a dream I had cancer, a friend died, and a woman I know was killed. So I'm going to let that idea go - but maybe the Cavs will still win a championship. I was also thinking perhaps the success of my dating life will correlate with the success of Cleveland sports. My mother told me I probably should not proclaim that.

There's this Seinfeld episode where George stops having sex and becomes a genius because the portion of his brain dedicated to sex is now free to exercise its power elsewhere. I think this theory affects females in a slightly different way in that we have this portion of the brain that can be consumed with the idea of a guy. Anyways, with that portion of my brain free from any sort of preoccupation, I have been quite productive lately, cranking out killer grad school essays. Turns out, I like writing about myself. Who knew.

Charlottesville added a superfluous traffic light on my ten minute commute. It's now twelve minutes, and I must control my indignation each extra minute. I think they made some adjustments, because the first day, there was literally a point where no cars were able to go. Just when I thought Charlottesville was understanding traffic flow, they do something like this and totally lose my trust.

We have this sales tool at work that allows you to see when people open emails. The idea is you call someone when they have your email open, they think it's fate and subsequently purchase your product. Something like that. Anyways, it works with my personal email, too, so I know when people open my emails and are not responding. Creepy.

I've also been thinking about freedom lately - freedom of choice in particular. On one end of the spectrum, there is paralysis of choice, where an individual gets overwhelmed with choice and does not act. For instance, in the chocolate aisle at the store, when you cannot decide whether you want Godiva, Dove, or Reese's, so you simply leave without chocolate.

I do not struggle with that. I just buy all three. My struggle lately has been with obsession over choice. What if I get accepted to grad school? What if I get accepted to multiple? What if VividCortex raises funding? What if my job continues to get more interesting and I am growing there? What if I leave Charlottesville? What if I have a reason to stay? It is a futile spiral, though, as those decisions are not yet upon me, and dwelling on an unknown future keeps me from contributing in the present. It is far more beneficial to rest in the present and trust that when the time comes to make decisions, I will know the decision I need to make.

So thank you, America, for giving me so many choices. I will never take that for granted. For now, though, I am going to enjoy a day by the pool.

Happy Fourth of July, all!

Friday, June 5, 2015

Confessions of a Rabid Anti-Dentite

I had too.

First confession: I fell on my face the other day. How does that relate? Follow me, friend.

Perhaps you were one of the privileged youth who went to a dentist with cartoons, ice cream flavored fluoride, and a massage chair. I was not. My first memory of the dentist was at age six, listening to him yell at my mother and me as if I was drinking bottles of tequila instead of juice boxes because I had a couple cavities. I dreaded the bi-annual visit. We entered the sterile building that smelled of old women bathed in Robitussin. After thirty minutes of waiting, during which I piously considered how many dental emergencies made the complete disregard of my schedule acceptable, I heard my name.

I took my place beneath the light and closed my eyes indicating that I had no desire to communicate. Instead of receiving the hint, the assistant asked how is your day, how is school, are you even in school right now? I hate small talk. But I especially hate small talk when someone is picking at my teeth's crevices. If I were administering the cleaning, I think I would fill the time by telling the client my general thoughts on life. There's a captive audience if there ever was one. Obviously, this scenario is a win-win.

Instead, though, I grunted what answers I could, feeling as though I had digressed to the evolutionary state of a cavewoman. This was only perpetuated when the hand was removed and a stream of drool flowed from my mouth. I must admit, though, I like the suction utensil they use to gather said drool, and I often wish I had a pocket-sized one for those times when I over-salivate. As you know, I have over productive facial fluids.

Back to my rant. I am not really an anti-dentite. If my tooth is in extreme pain, I am immensely appreciative of administered care. I am a grown woman, though, and do not need to visit every six months to make sure all is well. Because let's be honest, the whole ritual is a nuisance stemming from a false sense of necessity imposed by an entity with an inferiority complex.

Since when did six months become the standard? I have not been to the physician in seven years, and I think my vitals are more important than my teeth. I probably have a lot of weird things accumulating throughout my body, yet it is absolutely imperative that I get them removed from my teeth. What if plaque is actually your teeth's natural sealant, protecting them from the really harmful stuff? Maybe I like the plaque build up.

So when I tell someone I have not been to the dentist in five years, they are appalled, looking at me like a deviant as they gasp in dismay and question the very morals on which I base my existence. Really? I'm supposed to be okay with the fact that you have not done a single activity to benefit your body's well being the past ten years as you shove another fast food burger in your mouth, but you're aghast that I have not been to the dentist in a little while. I am still enforcing the daily habits that lead to dental health. I am simply not spending a precious half hour with someone's fist halfway down my throat. And fifty dollars.

Why don't I buy dental insurance and save myself money? Good question. Because between the deductible and the monthly payments, my teeth would have to be dropping like flies to make it worth it.

This year, I decided to go to the dentist, because five years seems like a reasonable amount of time. My appointment was this past Monday. Because it was my first time, I obviously had to pay $200 for an x-ray. After awkwardly biting a contraption for a couple minutes, I lay down, mentally preparing for the torture that lay before me.

I was pleasantly surprised when the dental assistant told me she would not be able to clean my teeth. Why? Because I had fallen on my face and my lip was too fat. The following fifteen minutes was spent in robust, human conversation as we waited for the dentist. He stopped by, looked at my teeth, examined the x-rays, told me I had a beautiful, healthy mouth, and I was on my way. It was my favorite trip to the dentist ever. I'll go back in five years. Maybe ten.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

We Are the Israelites

... Metaphorically speaking. Kind of.

Whole Foods sells Passover Matza when seasonally appropriate. It is covered with dark chocolate, almonds, glutinous sucrose - I don't even know what that means - and sea salt. Sixteen dollars a pound. I think Whole Foods gets the spirit of the season.

Today is my one year anniversary at VividCortex. I thought it appropriate to reflect. I have done some big things the last year including establishing myself as the best looking woman in the office and the smartest person in the marketing department, learning the difference between front end developers and backend developers and increasing my love for bacon.

Honestly, it's been hard.* Learning a new role in a new industry came with challenges. Being the only female and the only person dedicated to marketing proved more isolating than I anticipated. Who do I talk to when someone ticks me off? Or when I want to admire Apple's or Gatorade's marketing approach? Or when I can't decide what color to paint my toenails? The answer has become everyone - much to their dismay at times, I am sure.

More than that, though, this job was the latest in a seemingly endless transition in Charlottesville, during which I sometimes feel as though I am swimming through tar to make life work. So this post will be a reflection on that rather than the steps taken in my illustrious career. Rest easy, though, I can assure you I am closer to taking over the world than I was a year ago.

Earlier this year, I revisited the Old Testament for the first time since 3rd grade Sunday school with Mr. Pitrone - a class in which I learned more about Greek roots than I would my entire life. Twenty years later, I find the story of the Israelites' exodus from Egypt and journey to the Promised land less abstract and more relatable. The story is incredible and the lessons abound, but I will keep my extraction relatively brief.

We will join the Israelites immediately after Pharaoh releases them from captivity, and they begin to wander the desert. As a sidenote, I thought it fascinating that it is not until after God parts the Red Sea and destroys Pharaoh's army that the Israelites put their trust in Him. Really, dudes? The gnats and the frogs and the hail and the firstborn dying were not enough? Then again, how often is God so clearly working in front of us, but we are too stubborn to recognize His power? Okay... To the desert.

The thing is, they weren't really wandering. They were deliberately traveling, and God was leading the entire time. "Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people." Beyond that, though, there was a reason God was taking His time. In Exodus 23, God spoke to Moses, "See. I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared... to drive the Hivites, Canaanites and Hittites out of your way. But I will not drive them out in a single year, because the land would become desolate and the wild animals too numerous for you. Little by little I will drive them out before you, until you have increased enough to take possession of the land."

In a world of instant gratification and entitlement, this is both convicting and comforting. I often envision myself as a little girl, tugging on the robe of God - velvet, with gold and silver bling - crying, "I'm ready for this. You promised this, and I'm ready for it." Whatever this may be. He graciously answers, "you think you are ready, but if I gave it to you now, you would be overcome. Let's continue our deliberate traveling as I lead you.*" My response can either be: "Alright, Lord. Let's roll," or "I kind of feel like going back to Egypt. Slavery wasn't so bad.*"

It is easy to become disgruntled in the desert, and easier still to forget God's faithfulness in the past. But if we are open to His calling, know that He is leading us, and further recognize that we are not ultimately living for an earthly kingdom, the journey becomes more peaceful and fulfilling, even if it is still hard.

There is one other aspect of the Exodus I really enjoyed this time around, and that was the specifications of the tabernacle. Though admittedly, I still found the nearly six chapter explanation a bit excessive, I had a fresh appreciation for God's attention to detail. God cares deeply about the intricacies of our craft, as well as the intricacies our life.

Maybe Charlottesville is my desert. Maybe it will also be my Promised land, or maybe that will lie elsewhere. I do believe, though, that retrospectively, my time here will be part of a detailed picture of God's goodness. And at least in my desert, there is chocolate covered Matza and Sportscenter.

* I know, I know, I think a lot of things are hard.
* Doo-doo doo-doooo. That's my deliberate traveling tune.
* No, Anna, don't be an idiot. Disobedience often leaves you chilling in the desert longer.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

How I Rocked the GMAT

I couldn't help myself. But for real now...

Hebrews 11:6 "But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him." When I was a ten year old zealot, I resolved to put a different Bible verse on a note card every month and memorize a multitude of Scripture. I would be a regular concordance. This verse was my first and last note card, and I have seen it in my mirror every day since. Better than nothing, I suppose.

I have been wanting to write this for awhile, but alas, the months have been moving at a seemingly reckless pace. After taking the GMAT, I spent a couple weeks traveling with the youth group and work. More to be written about those later, but for now - the GMAT. I am done. No more studying. No more waking up at five o'clock in the morning. I no longer live in a sea of books, and my Saturdays are open to do with as I please.

I began studying because I believed God told me to do so, and I asked that He would bless it. In January, I looked at what lay before me between studying, work and life in general, and I could not overcome my exhaustion. I questioned how I was going to have the strength and discipline to dedicate myself to studying, and my answer was, per usual, found in Him.

"Be anxious for nothing, but in all things, through prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God... And your God will supply all your needs." I saw that provision in different ways, from new friendships to encouragement and support from steady friendships to a community group that has been challenging and uplifting. These were not necessarily the provisions I would have chosen, but in retrospect, they were exactly what I needed.

A month before the exam, my family began emailing our prayer requests to one another. I have come to very much enjoy this habit, as it is a great way to keep up with the goings-on of family members around the globe. Plus, any time Don and Nance are praying, I believe the odds of answers are greater. I responded to the chain and began submitting the request that I would get over a 700, because 1) that score would likely get me into a solid program 2) I knew I was capable of that and 3) if I asked for something higher and did not achieve it, that meant disappointment and failure.

As I was typing, I heard a small voice of conviction say, "Don't limit Me based on your skills and comfort level. Don't ask for something you know you can achieve on your own. That is not faith. That is weak. Ultimately, this is not about you. It is about Me and what I choose to do through you. Trust that. Ask for something you know you cannot achieve without Me, and allow Me to be glorified through you when you achieve it."

That was the gist of it, at least. I hit backspace a couple times and changed my sentence: I would like a 750. I told my family and my church, and I prayed for that.

The more I grow, the more I encounter the cyclical nature of a relationship with God. Depending on the day and my mood, this can be encouraging, frustrating or both. It seems to be a cycle of obeying, asking, giving and trusting. Obeying his call. Asking for what you know is only possible through Him. Giving those desires to Him. And trusting that He will do what is best for you and for the advancement of His kingdom.

There are plenty of areas still progressing through this cycle, but the GMAT cycle has closed. When I finished the test, hit submit, held my breath, and saw 750 on the screen, I gasped. I knew only one thing. That score was not mine. That was God's.

The funny thing is, I do not know what He is going to do with the GMAT, but the least I can do is encourage anyone who will read my ramblings that He will do more with your desires than you will. For me, this was a good reminder that God is real. He is faithful. And He rewards those who diligently seek Him.