I met my friend Linsey 2 years ago at a NACA conference - and from the moment we met, I knew she was someone incredibly special. She is a professional strongwoman, going by the name of Mama Lou. She was challenging people to different feats of strengths, and I reluctantly decided to embarrass myself. I walk up to her and choose a challenge. She tells me I have to bend a nail in half with my hands. Ok, I get the trick. I attempt something that I can't do. I struggle and make a fool of myself. She does it without really trying. I get it. I keep telling her how I don't think I can do it. She hands me the nail and cloth to protect my hands. I try. I feel it bending, but I'm convinced it's just in my head. Keep going. Keep going. When I'm done, and take the cloth away, the nail is almost at a 90 degree angle. I'm shocked. She pulls me in closer and says "This is why you never doubt yourself. You never know what you're capable of until you try."
In that moment, Mama Lou changed my life.
Throughout the rest of the weekend, the chaos of the conference was apparent, but I found myself always stopping by and chatting with ML every time I saw her. She challenged me to blow up a whoopie cushion until it exploded. Challenge accepted. After a handful of minutes and getting extremely light headed, challenge completed. In her shows, she always picks on a "villain." For the conference, she chose me. She made me put on a sparkly orange leotard and try to rip a phone book in half. Not a chance. I tried, and tried... nothing. Mama Lou to the rescue. She grabs the phone book and with a few bursts of strength, there lies the phone book in 2 pieces.
Over the last two years, I'm so glad we've been able to keep in touch. We had her perform at our campus in Florida, we've met up when she was in town, we saw each other again at the conference, and have kept in touch over facebook. She is also a Words With Friends extraordinaire.
Linsey is without a doubt one of the most uplifting people you will ever meet. She believes in you and encourages you whether she's known you her whole life or even just a day. She is such a pleasure to talk to - whether it's our passions, running, life, or our shared love of pancakes. She also has some of those qualities that so many people are missing. I feel that people get so caught up in the future that they lose sight of the here and now. People set limits on each other and themselves, and they make decisions based on a track that they may or may not ever make it to. Linsey is different. She has told me that she wants to be a college professor. She would be amazing. This is her future path, but not her current one. She looks at her life and says "Yes, this is what I want to do, but not right now." She feels she can do that later in life. For now, she is more than happy with and feels inspired the path she has chosen. A street performer turned professional strongwoman who challenges people to find new strength. An aerialist who teaches so many people to soar to new heights. Linsey's path is touching the hearts and lives of everyone around her.
Mama Lou has a blog that I find inspirational. Along with some updates in her life, most of her posts are about challenging yourself to do things you thought were impossible, pushing yourself and expanding your comfort zone, accepting yourself, and the beauty that every person has, and thinking differently about the world around you. If moms want a role model for their daughters, look no further - Linsey is simply one of the best people you will ever come accross. The other day, I wrote a letter to myself for when I cross the finish line of my first half marathon in May. Linsey let me know that she wanted to include it in her blog, so she made a post about me.
So this is my rebuttal post to one of the most amazing and awe inspiring people I know. She even met her husband while traveling on a bus. Two strangers sitting by each other struck up conversation, and the rest is history. How cool is that?
I am so proud of who Linsey. Above all else, one of the things I have taken away from her is she lives, encourages, and inspires one of my favorite quotes in the world:
"When you want something in life, you just gotta reach out and grab it." - Into the Wild