Getting Out There: Trying Hot Yoga!

Early Monday morning, I found myself in an extremely hot room, bending into various shapes, sweating more than I think I’ve ever sweat, surrounded by a selection of other stretchy, sweaty strangers. Glamorous? Not really. But would you believe me if I told you it was one of the best physical experiences of my life so far?

When the possibility of taking a Hot Yoga Class at the Weber Street GoodLife Fitness presented itself, I was a strange mix of nerves and ambition.  On one hand, as I mentioned in my last post, I really want to take advantage of the opportunities spring term brings; especially by taking charge of my time and my health. On the other, I had never been to a gym by myself, let alone have I done yoga in 106° F (approximately 41° C) room.

As you may expect an anxious and paranoid person to do, I immediately took to the internet for information.  A number of articles I read highlighted the fact that those with low blood pressure should be very careful in the heat, as you are at higher risk of becoming dizzy or fainting.  This, of course, totally calmed my being that possesses― as my Doctor so eloquently puts it― “lower than low blood pressure”.  But this term is the term I push past my fears and paranoia, and try the things I want to try.  So I packed my bag, trekked to the gym, and had one of the best mornings of my entire life.

My Experience

The Facility

Entering the foreign land of a GoodLife Fitness facility was like opening a door to a world that shattered everything previously fuelling my avoidance of public gyms.  From my (small) selection of past gym experiences (one in a hotel, and one in the CIF here on campus) I was under the impression that gyms can quickly make me feel overwhelmed, and closed in; which leaves me finding comfort in the idea of leaving, rather than motivation to get active.  But GoodLife Fitness felt very open and airy.

Finding my way to the Hot Yoga Studio was a simple task, after slight direction from a friendly staff member, and the studio itself is absolutely gorgeous! You first enter through a single door into the Lobby (pictured below).  It has two wall units of storage space deep enough for a yoga mat, and tall enough for a water bottle, with lots of extra space.  There are also benches, a water fountain and bottle fill station, a sink, and a mirror in this zen space.

Erin, one of the Hot Yoga Instructors, posing in the spacious and calming lobby.

Erin, one of the Hot Yoga Instructors, posing in the spacious and calming lobby.

Storage Cubbies and a number of GoodLife Yoga mats, free for attendees to use!

Storage Cubbies and a number of GoodLife Yoga mats, free for attendees to use!

Through a second door you find the Hot Yoga Studio. The first thing you notice is definitely the heat, but it is not the harsh or overwhelming heat that I had come to expect from various articles. I would describe it more like a sauna, or a tropical environment, but with much less noticeable humidity.

You open the door and step into a room that instantly feels disconnected from the hustle and bustle of the outside world. The walls of mirrors make the space feel infinite, yet you are still aware of the community, within this safe and open environment, that you have just become a part of.

View to the left of the entrance from the Lobby

View to the left of the entrance from the Lobby (I would say this photo best represents the colour of the studio!)

View to the right of the entrance from the Lobby

View to the right of the entrance from the Lobby (Sorry for the colour change, I neglected to adjust my camera!)

The Lights within the studio are on dimmer switches and, while I had turned them all of the way up for photo purposes, the class takes place in a soft light.  Mirrors enable easy view of the instructor and/or people around you if you are unsure of any poses, and the space allows for a comfortable arms reach between each participant, during both standing and laying postures.

The Class

This brings me to my experience with the actual class.

Once you enter the studio, you find a place you feel comfortable and lay down your mat.  If you don’t have a mat, there are free yoga mats available in the lobby, as well as any yoga accessories (like blocks and straps) that you may need to modify any of the poses to suit you better.  Throughout the practice, modification is encouraged by the instructor to ensure you are getting the benefits of the poses and not any undesired side effects, discomfort, and pain.

My instructor’s name was Erin, (pictured above in the studio lobby in her One-Legged King Pigeon Pose!).  She was such a lovely person, who truly did what she could to connect with us all during the practice.

When the class began, Erin brought us all together and moved into some simple breathing exercises and poses.  The poses are presented in sequences, some taking place in a seated posture, a standing posture, and whilst laying down.  Throughout each sequence, Erin made sure to speak clearly and descriptively as she instructed us through the poses; and when demonstrating a pose she effortlessly moved to an area of visibility to the most people possible (and those who could not see her could easily follow those who could).

While she began at the front of the room, as you would expect an instructor to do, she spent most of the class moving about to ensure each participant got the same level of attention. She would encourage you, make sure you had the pose right, or provide a suggestion to modify if you were experiencing any discomfort.

When poses got more challenging, she showed great empathy and understanding and gave assuring words that warded off any instance of embarrassment or self-consciousness that may have tried to enter your mind.

As the class came toward an end, we were in a seated posture again, and were trying a pose that felt a little silly, but if anyone toppled over or rocked backward and laughed, she told them that was great and laughed with them. You never felt like you were doing anything wrong, even if your pose didn’t look the same as others’.

The class just felt like a beautiful space of connectivity and activity, and I know you might be wondering, so I’ll assure you: the sweat did not produce any sort of unpleasant odour.  To be honest I barely noticed it until I touched my leg or felt a drip on my lip when I was upside down in Downward Dog.

The People

While the facility and class are both incredible, I honestly think my favourite part of trying Hot Yoga was the people I had the pleasure of interacting with.

When I first went up to the studio, I was early, and I was unsure of where to spend my time before the class started, as well as where to put my massive backpack.  I went out on a limb and approached a woman who had walked beside me on our way to the studio, and she graciously allowed me to stick with her.  She even gave me a tour of everything there is to know about the GoodLife on Weber, and let me share her locker during the class.

It was not only my experience with other members that was wonderful, every employee I spoke to was genuine and always had a smile on.  In particular, everyone involved in Hot Yoga was incredibly passionate and excited as they worked to make sure we all had a positive experience.

As this was the studio’s grand opening event, they even offered fruit infused water, granola bars, and apples to us following the class.  And while this won’t likely be the normal after every class, they made sure to share recipes for the water and have real conversations with everyone who approached the table.

This effort of actually treating members like people, rather than just customers, was also evident in Erin’s instruction of the class, as she spoke to certain participants who had been with her previously at another studio.

DSC_1288 Hot Yoga BrochureDSC_1290

So, should you try Hot Yoga?

I had the pleasure of speaking with Cheryl, the manager of Hot Yoga at the Weber Street GoodLife Fitness, and she took the time to share some further information for those reading, and for those curious about the practice.  I have presented her words, alongside my experiences, below.

Benefits

“Hot Yoga is such a valuable practice because the class environment very much feels like you are working alone, giving you time to be at peace and alone in your own mind. For Students, it would provide you with a chance to set aside time to really clear your mind and spend time with yourself. You get the chance to cleanse yourself from the week. Something just kind of releases.” – Cheryl

It seemed to me that Cheryl could have gone on for hours as she shared the benefits of Hot Yoga with me, as we sat upon one of the benches in the lobby, following my class.  In addition to managing Hot Yoga, Cheryl also practices often during the week, and went on to say, “If I don’t do my hot yoga for a week, I feel it.”

When Erin ended our class, I found myself sitting on my mat feeling so refreshed.  I honestly felt more clear and capable sitting there covered in sweat than I have in as long as I can remember.

“There are the physical benefits of core strength, and muscle toning, but there are also great mental benefits. You can decrease stress, and increase your ability to deal with the week ahead.”

Feasibility

For those new to the practice, or new to yoga entirely, you may be sceptical as to whether it is something you can do, and feel comfortable while doing. I get it! I felt the same way.  Some of the poses look hard but are simpler in actual practice, and some of them are indeed challenging! But there is no pressure to bend in impossible ways.  Only in ways that work for you.

Cheryl describes GoodLife’s classes as, “Hot Yoga for everybody!”  And I can attest to this.  The variety of bodies in my class was extremely diverse, and yet I heard nearly all of them expressing great appreciation for the class after it ended.

“We are offering a variety of classes that take place in a variety of temperatures. You can participate in classes that offer a more classic yoga experience through a sequence of poses in the higher temperatures. Or we have hot yoga with flow sequences that involve a higher lever of cardio in a lower temperature.”

If you are interested in trying hot yoga, I am sure you can find a style that best suits your needs and your ability.

Affordability

But what about the cost?  Trust me, this was the first thing that crossed my mind after I finished the class, following the sequence of thoughts: that was incredible. I want to keep doing this. I can’t believe this was a free class…wait, this was a free class. What about after this week? 

“The good news is that, with our studio being located within the facility, we are able to offer Hot Yoga for a much more feasible price.”

For GoodLife members, only $5 a week gets you unlimited access to Hot Yoga classes.  If you do not have a gym membership, you get the same unlimited access to the for only $65 a month.

“Because of our studio’s location, we are able to cut more than half of the price.”

The Student Perspective: Is it worth it?

Honestly, I am going to 100% try to find a way to do more Hot Yoga in the months to come. Currently, I may not have the funds to make it a scheduled part of my routine, but the moment my budget is stable and I can, I will.  If you are interested in Hot Yoga, even in the slightest, see if you can sign up for a free pass to experience it yourself.

I totally understand if you don’t want to spend money, but at least get out there and try things when opportunities arise for free participation.  Find what you like, and if you feel as if you need more after your taste, as I do, you can find a way to make it work.

Cheryl said something that really stuck with me, and I want to end this post by sharing it with you.

Life is busy. Can you find an hour that is just for you?”

Whether you can find peace and reflection in hot yoga, or it is something completely different, I hope that you do all that you can to ensure that practice remains part of your life.

Take care of your body, and take time to care for your mind.

I wish you the best in finding your own balance.


I was invited by GoodLife Fitness to attend the opening of their Hot Yoga Studio at their Weber Street Facility. They are offering free classes from May 4th to May 10th for any and all members of the public to enjoy. All experiences, opinions, and statements made are my own unless otherwise stated in the post. I have simply been asked to share my experience with the Studio, and so I have; honestly and openly.

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Getting Out There: Spring Term, and Springing into Action

Spring term has officially begun!

I apologise for the pun in my title but I couldn’t help it.

With the (finally) warmer weather, we Warriors find ourselves in many different situations.  Perhaps you are transitioning back into studying (that’s me!).  Perhaps you are embarking on a brand new journey with a co-op position.  Or maybe you have found yourself returning home to take a well deserved break from your of hard work, personal growth, desperately trying to squeeze in just one more episode of your favourite series (hey, binge watching shows in between assignments can take a lot out of you!).

Wherever you find yourself this term, the season provides a perfect opportunity to embrace the spirit of growth and take steps toward a healthier, happier you.  If you’re anything like me, first year may have proven to be a bit less of a journey of self improvement, and more of a journey of getting through your classes. But that doesn’t mean all is lost!

Take advantage of the sunshine and get out into your surroundings. Try things you’ve never tried, but have always had an interest in. Turn on your favourite pump-up song and kick-start that fitness goal you have been considering.  Explore ways to spend your time that leave you with feelings of satisfaction rather than feeling like you should have been doing something else.

Set personal goals, but always remember to forgive yourself if you get off track. The fact that you are putting in effort is a beautiful and admirable thing. So take each day as a new opportunity and a fresh start, get out there, and see what the next four months can bring.

Along the way, I will be doing the same.  I will be making posts about my own adventures in Waterloo, as I explore the city and document my experiences. I would love for you to read along, and I invite you to reflect, (or perhaps leave a comment!) sharing your own story as you spring into action this term!

Take care, and take time for yourself.

Get yourself out there, and see what lies ahead in the wide open expanse of opportunities.

Where I’ve been, and where I am going from here: Explaining the absence of posts last term

If you look at my blog, it is as if I disappeared after September 1, 2014.

This is a worrisome observation as the purpose of this blog was to share my first year experience and yet there is not a single post documenting anything from my first term.

There were a number of times I tried to write this post:

“A Month in Review: my first month as a Warrior!”

The Midterm in Review” (a series where I posted everything I had intended to post within September and October) *This almost happened twice as I had two Biology Midterms scheduled*

And of course, “A Term in Review” (the same idea as the series above)

But none of them ever followed through.  I know I don’t have a dedicated following or anything, but at the same time I feel I owe it to whoever may come across my blog to explain what it is that happened.

More specifically, I owe it to the high school student that may seek out the student blogs, as I did when searching for information to help me choose my post secondary destination, to tell them what I’ve experienced. And, most importantly, what I have learned from those experiences. 

It turns out that University can be hard.

It turns out that, no matter how strongly you desire to be different, you can fall into old habits.

It turns out that Procrastination and Perfectionism are devious beings that don’t just sit on your shoulders flooding your mind with conflicting thoughts, they also enjoy playing with their good pals, Negativity and Anxiety.

It turns out that you can and will make mistakes, but they can’t and don’t actually kill you.

It turns out that Professors can be really understanding people, and are willing to help you in times of difficulty (personally or academically).

It turns out that balancing a job and your studies and extracurriculars can be taxing, but it can also be possible.

It turns out that you will make friends, and yeah, sometimes you’ll still feel lonely, but the people here are incredible, and you will always be in good company should you seek it.

It turns out you can find an escape with people of common interests.

It turns out that you actually can get used to dancing in a the bottom of the Student Life Centre, and you can actually get used to the eyes peering at you.

It turns out that seeking out support and resources to help you climb out of a hole you’ve dug yourself into can be the difference between suffering and success in your studies and personal life.

And overall, it turns out that no matter how impossible things may seem, the term always ends, and everything does turn out okay.  

Throughout this term, I will be posting about all of these lessons and more, amidst already drafted posts of original, fun and less personal/more universal content described in the About page of my blog.

I want anyone who reads this blog to know not only of the amazing things that University (and specifically the University of Waterloo) has to offer, but also of the support available if they should ever find things not going as planned.

This term is already off to a better start for me, but my issues are far from resolved. So I invite you to follow me this term as I share my journey of making University the experience I have always wanted it to be.

Last term, I was trapped within a terrible cycle and merely scratched the surface of University life.  But over the next four months, I will truly break the University of Waterloo wide open.

Here’s to change, growth, and discovery.

Here’s to new beginnings and the new term.

Here’s to hope.

Before Arriving on Campus: Lessons Before Entering a Lecture Hall (Part 1)

Actual Post Date: January 19, 2015- See why here.

I know it is now nearly a month into second term, but let’s travel back to the very first days I spent on campus.  In this post, written on September 1st (move in day) and September 5 (the end of O-Week), I introduced the series Lessons Before Entering a Lecture Hall.  A three part series of posts that would describe what I learned about myself and university life before even arriving on campus, after arriving on campus, and during orientation week.

Finally, I present to you the first instalment.

And if you notice by the date, I have also perfected time travelling 😉

As a student in your final year of high school, your mind is often kept busy by thoughts surrounding your future and the all-too-quickly approaching choices you have to make. If you’re like me, and take an extra year of school (grade 13 woo!) your lucky soul gets to cycle round these thoughts for not only four semesters, but two summers! A joy isn’t it?

Yes, I am a little bitter toward all of the stress I felt as I was going through the countdown to my university years, but to be honest it’s only because, as I look back now, things weren’t nearly as bad as they often seemed.  And if I hadn’t been so worried about them, the stress would have been much less intense.

I will speak more to the application process etc. in an upcoming post, to share those lessons/experiences with you.  But in this post I would like to focus on the time period of the summer before you leave to begin your uni adventure. (For me, most of these things occurred during August, but I have a procrastination problem that I’m sure to write about at some point, so stay tuned for that as well!)

Before arriving on campus, I learned that…

  1. ... You do not, I repeat: do not, need to get everything before you move to campus. Especially text books.  And if you do want to be prepared get your text books in advance and decide to arrange sales over one of the Facebook pages associated with uWaterloo, please take your time and don’t rush. 

    1. And if you do end up with a deal that you are unhappy with, don’t sweat it too much.  Odds are that you still paid much less than the full cost of the book, and you know better for next time!
  2. … You have a lot of stuff.  And it feels like you need to buy a lot of stuff. But in reality the list isn’t as long as it sometimes feels, and it turns out that what you actually need to bring to residence is quite compact when you have it all together.
    1. You may be surprised how few bags you need to carry your necessities with you, and also how many things in your room are just sort of there (despite their seeming necessary at some point).
  3. … (Speaking of residence) your future living arrangements are really fun to explore.
    1. I recommend looking into them as much as you’d like until you start to get a feel for them.  Even if in person visits aren’t possible, virtual tours, pictures, and videos available on your university’s housing website (See Waterloo’s here) are really helpful!  This is also a nice activity to do with friends or family, because it’s true that sometimes they have very valuable input into what type of living arrangement will work best for you. 
  4. … You may start to get obsessed with the idea of having your own space, and actually making it your own. 
    1. This one may be less universal, but I know that I found a number of days that my browser history was primarily videos of Dorm Room Tours, DIY Projects, and Advice posts or articles.  And I really loved spending time looking at these things and imagining what I wanted my own space to be like. (Some of my inspiration can be found here on my Pinterest Board).
  5. … It will probably feel like you don’t have enough time, or that time passed too quickly in the summer and you have “so much more that you wanted to or had to get done,” but don’t worry.  You most likely tried to put too much on your to-do list, and in truth I don’t know if you will ever feel completely prepared.
    1. Throughout the summer, don’t fill your time completely with university things.  Yes, there are some you need to take care of, but don’t try to do everything, because one of the most important things for you to do is enjoy yourself and the company you keep back home before you venture off for a while. Go ahead, take that dream road trip to Florida you always wanted to go on (read about mine here *posts still in progress), and make some memories that can keep you company when university really gets going.

These are just the first five personal/life lessons that entered my mind as of right now, and I think I will leave it here for now as this post is very long.

But I also wanted to make sure that I emphasised the fact that learning these things about yourself and the experience you are about to have as a university student are lessons which are just as essential as learning about the technical aspects like course selection, scholarship applications, and OSAP (all of which will have separate posts soon!).

Discovering how which method of getting your textbooks works for you, how you feel about moving and living arrangements, and being in touch with how to spend your time most effectively for your well-being are important things to know about yourself and they will help to make future terms and transitions much smoother and stress free!

If you have any questions about these, or any other aspect of university, please don’t hesitate to ask me over on this page.  I am hoping to build a Q&A page for future reference, so it would mean a lot to me if you asked away!

Thanks for reading, and I hope to have you visit again soon!

Related Upcoming Posts

*In no particular order, here are some topics mentioned in this post, or just relevant to some of it’s themes, that I will for sure be referencing in more detail throughout the term*

  1. On Textbooks and Class Materials
  2. On Course Selection
  3. On Making Your Dorm Room Feel Like Home
  4. On the Night Before You Move
  5. On OSAP
  6. On Pushing Through Procrastination
  7. On the Residence Selection Process
  8. On Applying for Scholarships
  9. On the UW AIF (Application Information Form)

Sun Behind Clouds: Lessons Before Entering a Lecture Hall (Intro)

Thoughts From the Road

Move In Day: September 1, 2014

You know that expression, “not a cloud in the sky,”? That simple metaphor for ease, positivity, happiness, and all other things that we associate with a bright, clear, expanse of colour above us as we look up into the atmosphere? Clear skies.  Smooth sailing. It’s something we all hope for, isn’t it? Because when we look up to see clouds we see set backs, we see negativity, and we see obstacles keeping us away from our view of the sun swimming in an ocean of blue.

Yesterday was my final full day at home before I moved into campus; and I can honestly say that the journey up until this point has contained a lot more clouds than I would have liked.

What I’ve come to realise over the last five years is that the things we go through are truly what shape our beings into the people we’re meant to be. The clouds that may fill our skies or simply darken our days are not mere moments of negativity to punish us for being too unattentive, too impulsive, or too vulnerable. They are tests of our attentiveness to the little things that mean the most. They inspire reflection of the ways we spend our time, who we spend it with, and the risks we are, or should be, taking. They force us to get in touch with our emotions and, whether it is unpleasant or uplifting, we grow.

There is always a lesson. Even the darkest clouds hide sun.

I am currently on route to campus with my parents, my aunt and uncle, and my trustee stuffed lion. Despite the clouds, I have made it alive; and before even entering a lecture hall I have learned many lessons.  These and those that will undoubtedly accumulate over the next little while will be summarised below for you after my first official week as a Warrior has ended.

***

Thoughts From the Dorm

Just a Day: September 5, 2014

In order to keep the reading short and succinct, I have split my learnings into the following categories:

Part 1: Before Arriving on Campus

Part 2:  After Arriving on Campus

and Part 3: During Orientation Week

I honestly never expected this adventure to become what it has in such a short amount of time. Such an insane spectrum of experiences and feelings have already found their way into my life, and I can’t wait to share them with you.

The Day Reality Struck: Picking Up My WATcard and the Final “Visit” to Campus

I’ve always been the type to run away with my imagination.

To envelop myself in scenarios and daydreams.

To get lost in ideas. 

On many occasions I’ve found myself thinking that the extent to which I can become immersed in mere thoughts is probably dangerous, or damaging, in some way; but as there is little I can do to control my imagination, I accept its power and let it take me away time and time again.  

That is what I am used to: travelling into the future or somewhere far away; seeing, experiencing, and feeling a scene like a vivid memory… and then coming back to reality in the midst of whatever it was that I was supposed to be doing all along.  

University has always just been another one of my silly scenarios.  Just a crazy idea that I could indulge in and run wild with.

I’ve been around the world with University.  I’ve seen its classes, its people, its late nights, early mornings, and everything in between.  I love the University I picture for myself, and up until a few months ago I could always just return home. It was just a picture, after all.  

But as I went about the process of applying for OSAP, scholarships, picking courses, and residence, the picture came to consist less of pleasurable reverie and more of pressuring reality. The University I created was embellished with new settings, characters, conflicts and plot twists; but still, it didn’t feel completely real.  

That is, until I traveled to uWaterloo last week to pick up my Student Card.   

I’d visited the Waterloo campus four times before this so I’m not s stranger to the journey there.  But my gosh did this drive feel different.  

When I arrived to campus with my mom, my stomach tightened as a sudden rush of  awareness ran over me:

This is my last visit. 

This will be my home.

This is happening.

It’s funny how things don’t really click until they seem to slap you right across the face… Or in my case, until you are holding a picture of your face on a plastic card crested with the name of your future (now technically current) school.  

My first drive home as an official Waterloo student!

Holding the WATcard in my hand evoked a whole spectrum of emotions, but only one caught me off guard:  

Familiarity. 

It turns out that the university I’ve dreamed about is now truly my university.  

And I can’t wait to experience it all again outside of my head and in the wide open world of Waterloo.  

I hope you continue to experience it with me. 

I also bought myself a nice big backpack for an upcoming trip with my program that you will hear all about! So keep checking back 🙂

A Better Future Starts Here: Why I Chose the University of Waterloo

University: a time of change and growth; a chance to spread your wings and collect every little piece of the experience required to soar when the years are finally over and you have that degree in your hand.  Or, more universally: a time of nerves, excitement, and a million other emotions you have no idea how to describe, as you kiss your high school years goodbye (either with a reminiscent afterglow, reflecting on the best years of your life so far, or with a both-fists-in-the-air-screaming-to-the-sky-above, “SAYONARA!”, looking forward to a brighter future).

Whatever your position as you prepare for University, there are a number of really important choices to make. Let it be well noted that decision making is not my forte.  It’s very far from it, in fact.  Deciding which university to attend was something that burdened me for a very long time.  I was lucky in that each school I applied to accepted me; but for an over analytical 19 year old with poor decision making skills, this is a blessed curse.  Although very grateful, I came to wish that only one school would have accepted me so that I wouldn’t have had to dig myself into the chasm of research, school visits, open houses, informational events, and discussions back and forth to numerous people from each program (all the while fuelling the intensity of my aversion to deciding upon one school).

In the end, I chose the University of Waterloo.

It came down to a battle between my right and left brain.  In one corner: The Comfort School; the emotional connection and experience I’d had at Guelph University. In the other corner: The Challenge School; the program possibilities and opportunities at Waterloo.  It should be noted that I’m a very emotionally driven individual (and also a very anxious one), so feeling the comfort of Guelph was the most tempting choice I’ve ever had to turn down.  But, no matter how hard it was, and no matter my nerves, I went with the challenge.

Choosing the University of Waterloo is a choice to push myself outside of my comfort zone, away from decisions held back by my fears and anxiety.  It’s a choice to go to a land of self-discovery, as opposed to familiarity, where I’m granted the opportunity to explore myself in the people around me.  It’s a choice to invest myself in a program that is new, one of a kind, and, yes, could be a risk because it’s an unrecognized degree in the big picture; but I’m proud of the choice to be part of a growing community.  UWaterloo is a choice for change; something that I have been yearning for, whole-heartedly, for years now.

The university’s mantra is that “Ideas Start Here.” And I intend to embody that phrase throughout my experience, while adopting one of my own: A Better Future Starts Here.

I will learn. I will grow. I will begin.

I hope I can share my story with you as it unfolds.