Mind Over Matter: A Zip Lining Adventure in Costa Rica

Zip Lining in Costa RicaIt was a chilly Tuesday morning in the mountains of Costa Rica and my fifth day in this incredibly inspired place. I was committed to making it count so I kind of, sort of went on a 12-cable zip lining tour through the rain forest in La Fortuna. No big deal, right?!

Wrong! Even just sitting here writing about it now feels almost surreal. I still can’t believe I actually went through with it. You see, I’m that girl who can’t even ride a roller coaster at theme parks – shoot, even Mary-go-rounds give me a little jumpy feeling in my stomach and make me dizzy as all heck. I am not necessarily scared of all heights, but at a certain point, I do start feeling that tickle in my stomach that even a fast car ride will quickly induce in this certainly-not-livin’-on-the-edge gal. I don’t know how to swim or ride a bike, and it took me years to get over an intense phobia of all animals – even the sweetest, cutest little puppy dog could send me into a screaming fit once upon a time. Conclusion? I am a big ol’ scaredy cat –probably as big as they come, my friends.  Still, throughout the years, and throughout my journey to conquer fear and live positively and happily, I have acquired a few skills that have enabled me to stop saying NO and start living with a big, loud YES – mostly the ability to put mind over matter and talk myself through tough or scary situations.

Cue this incredible adventure I almost didn’t go on! I’ve wanted to go zip lining for a long time, but never really had the opportunity to do so. Costa Rica is known for great zip lining terrains, and this is in fact the biggest trip I’ve ever taken. I had to do it. I could never forgive myself if I didn’t. Besides, it was my idea to even make the reservation for my friends and I in the first place. How could I back out?

So off we went (myself and three brave girlfriends). We woke up at the crack of dawn on Tuesday, had our breakfast at the amazing Villa Blanca Cloud Forest Hotel and Nature Reserve in San Ramon (we literally slept in the clouds y’all!), piled in the car with our water bottles and snacks, and headed off on the two hour drive.

We arrived at Mundo Aventura at about 10:30 that morning, paid for the tour, and sat through a quick orientation. Tears of fear were already welling up in my eyes and my stomach was turning, yelling, “Don’t do this, Sonia!” I ignored my stomach’s and heart’s raging pleas, and hopped on the bus that would take us to the start off the tour. It was a 20 minute ride down the bumpiest road you could imagine. Everyone on the bus was hyped, laughing and chit-chatting. Me? I sat there, more pale than I’d ever been in the dead of a Chicago winter, tears falling down my flushed face, feeling absolutely, over-the-moon TER-RI-FIED. Just from looking at me, you might have thought I was being taken to prison or off to my untimely death. I can’t even accurately explain how scared I felt, but I sat there quietly, let the tears fall, and committed myself to the thought that I would in fact go through with this impending madness, no matter what.

After what seemed like an hour instead of just 20 minutes in my tortured state, we arrived at the start of the tour. The guides strapped all of our gear on, and pointed us in the direction of our initial hike up to the first line. It now became increasingly warm, and the thin jacket I had worn in light of the early morning chill in the mountains began to feel like 1,000 pounds on my tense shoulders. Each step forward became more and more riddled with a profound heavy-ness as I realized how freakin’ out of shape I am. Soon the heat, the fear and the struggle to get up each step in the terrain melded together into quite a lovely panic attack. I fell into a squat, crying hysterically, struggling for breathes, blurting out one “I’m sorry” after another. Then, one of the guides gave me some kind of minty leaf to chew on – he said it would calm me down. Thinking about it now, that could have been a pretty dangerous decision, but I was desperate. It did the trick, and I got back up repeating over and over again to myself, “You can do this, Sonia” while my friends cheered me on, one saying, “You’ve gotten through a lot worse!” She was right, so on I marched.

Soon we arrived at the first line, and of course, I let everyone else go ahead of me. Then, there it was, the moment of truth. My legs froze, and I thought there is no way I can actually let go and do this – there is just no way. It was now just me and the last guide on this side of the line. I can’t remember her name now, but she was amazing. The guys on the other side rushed her to get me on the line as she pleaded with them to give her a minute to talk me through it. As she kindly asked me to make a decision, I thought of my friends, already on the other side of the line. I thought of how much I had wanted to do this. I thought about how awful that failure would feel if I backed out now. And suddenly I realized there is no way I could let this get the best of me.

As the folks on the other side became increasingly impatient with my indecision, the nice girl offered to go with me, and I was sold. In that instant, I forgot about everything that was holding me back, and I just stepped off that ledge screaming at the top of my lungs, “Pura viiiiiiiiida!,” or “pure life,” a common greeting in Costa Rica akin to “hakuna matata.” I got to the other side, still pretty terrified, but absolutely thrilled. I had done it!!! I had conquered the fear, put mind over matter, and I had found the strength to let go. I had allowed the sense of who I am in life – a doer, a go getter, a ballsy badass B, and I had ran with it, despite a deep-rooted feeling that this wasn’t the type of thing Sonia does. Thinking about it now, it’s the same thought that has forged me through all of the scary decisions in my life – the perception of who I am versus who I want to be. I don’t want to be someone who is scared, someone who quits, someone who walks away every time it gets hard, so I won’t be. Simple as that.

Anyway, all I had to do now was get through the same thing 11 more times! Sh*t! Well, there was no turning back now, so off I went on every cable, each one higher and faster than the last, screaming at the top of my lungs each time. But by about the fifth cable something amazing started to happen. I started to unclench a little, feeling the awesome breeze in my face, and taking in the enormity of where I was at that moment – just flying through the trees like a bird, like a veritable badass. I had never felt more connected to the universe and to God than on that zip lining tour in those majestic mountains full of promise, hope and courage. What an amazing freakin’ day it was! I will remember every breath of it forever. I can’t even imagine how it would have felt to have given all of that up for fear. During those 3 or 4 hours, I was challenged physically, mentally and spiritually, but in the end, all that matters is that I got through it all. 

So let’s recap here, shall we? Next time you’re scared or hesitant to take a leap of faith, stop worrying about what could happen or who you think you aren’t, and focus instead on the kind of person you want to be, on how you’re going to feel when you get to the other side of that proverbial zip line. Don’t think about all of the things that are making you panic and telling you to turn back, to quit. Whatever you do, just don’t. Instead, forge forward. Talk yourself through it. Focus on the possibilities, not on the fear. And always, always remember, mind over matter can get you there because you are capable, you are strong, and you are worthy!

And now, for your personal entertainment pleasure (laugh at me, it’s OK, I did!), here’s a video of me nearing the end of that very first line.

Today, I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to take this amazing trip and have this incredible adventure, and I am even more grateful for that spark inside of me that rarely lets me back down. Thank you for reading my story. I sincerely hope it has given you a spoonful of inspiration for your week!

Sonia, Word Share Junkie

The Hunger Games and the Gift of Hope

Hunger Games and the Gift of Hope

Last weekend, I watched The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Having never read the books (please hold your contempt :)), I had no idea what to expect as much as I didn’t know what to expect from the first movie. I must say I was thoroughly entertained even with my hands going up in my face half of the time to block the view of all the impending violence (I’m a scaredy-cat, what can I say?). But I was surprised at the thing that struck me most about the movie, and that I really didn’t expect to see in the development of this story; that is the overarching theme that fear only works so long as people lack the gift of hope. It’s such a simple, yet powerful message. Dontcha think?

I won’t attempt to summarize the movie, because I am sure most of you are familiar with the story or might be planning to go see the movie, read the books, or both. But just for some context, essentially the main character, Katniss Everdeen, through her strong and rebellious spirit, manages to give the gift of hope to a society that has been bogged down by the government-led fear tactics they have endured their entire lives. When the leader of this society, President Snow, starts to realize that Katniss has become a symbol of hope for his people, he begins to worry that his fear tactics will become increasingly unsuccessful, because fear only works when there is no hope. In other words, the gift hope is stronger than the threat of fear.

Those words really struck a chord in me, and I’ve been thinking about them ever since. Today, on Thanksgiving, I have to say that the thing I am definitely most thankful for in 2013 is the realization that the gift of hope in my heart really is and always will be stronger than any threat of fear in my mind. I have fought some demons this year, particularly in the shape of toxic people, but through the gift of hope, I was able to let go, and come out of it all stronger, more determined and more confident.

This year, I realized that I have enough belief in myself that I rather wait for the right things, than to accept the mediocre things that deplete instead of nourish my soul. I realized that no matter what is happening around me, I always have hope that tomorrow, next week, next month, and next year holds something spectacular for me and usually, little by little, it does. I realized that flowers always blossom out of just buds, that strength can be derived from pain, and that fear will never win, so long as I have the gift of hope with me.

So my point is, if you are not feeling too hopeful, I suggest you dig deep, because that little hope sucka is quite helpful, even when you’re dealing with the likes of President Snow! And when you find it, hold on to it, because it will save you and give you so much.

So, what are you most thankful for this year? Even if you don’t wish to share it, it’s definitely a worthwhile reflection. Just stop, take a deep breath and find a moment to be truly grateful for whatever that might be.

Happy Thanksgiving ya’ll!


Sonia, Word Share Junkie

FEAR is a Bully & a Phony


Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about fear, and I’ve come to realize how much of our lives are affected by what seems to me is nothing more than a big, grizzly, rock throwing bully. Too often, we let fear stop us from going for professional opportunities, from loving, from trying something new, from taking a risk, changing our path, expressing ourselves, and just living.

I’ve always been one to fight fear, and trust me, there are many things that scare me. But I’ve always forced myself to face fear, to go for it, to fight back, because fear is rarely ever real. Fear is something people use to modify your behavior, to convince you to live your life based on their expectations. I also believe fear is something life uses to test you, see how easily you will give up, how quietly you will stay seated.

In true Word Share Junkie style, I’ll share a few ways I’ve fought that bully fear throughout life, and how much better things turned out because I did. Here’s hoping I can inspire a little gumption in you today to stand up to the bully, and take more control over your life and your destiny.

When I was a teenager, my dad was insanely strict and really not a very laid-back fellow. I was always a little terrified of him, not because of any psychical threat, but because his screams were so chilling and stomach crushing that they instilled fear. Fear of what, I’m not exactly sure. But even with that fear nestled firmly in my gut, I began to fight back. I’d always ask for logical explanations when he’s day no to a simple outing request. I’d call a friend to drive me to work when he wouldn’t show up to do so, because he didn’t want me to work, even though I’d get in trouble for it later. I voiced the fact that I was a good student, a good kid and a hard worker, and I deserved certain liberties.  And sometimes, it got really nasty. I felt like I was somehow causing trouble for others, especially for my mother, but in the end I realize I was standing up for myself and against the illusion of fear, and today I believe my mother is proud of me for that.

When I moved to Chicago back in the summer of 2010, I was terrified. I didn’t know how it would go for me here, and I was afraid I wouldn’t hack it in my MBA program. I’m a smart girl with many talents, but math had never been one of them, and I was afraid a curriculum heavily focused on quantitative courses would crush me. I was afraid to leave behind a full-time job to go back to being a student, living on loans and interning, etc. Leaving my little sister was insanely hard (she was 8 at the time), and I was afraid she’d resent me for it.  I was also dealing with everyone around me doubting my decision to leave, and trying to guilt me into staying.

But I packed up that fear, and I drove to Chicago anyway. I busted my butt in school, and made it through those quantitative courses, and got my degree. I found internships, encountered many great mentors, developed a lot of incredible friendships, lost 50 pounds, and became a better person for my little sister to be around when I go home to visit. The depression I experienced in Miami for too long had lifted, and I could now be more there for her than I was ever able to be when I lived in the same city.

When I finished school, and realized it was time to really start pushing on my writing career, my author and motivational speaker dreams, I was terrified too. I’ve always been an extremely open person, and I’ve never really been one to hide anything (like, ANYTHING), but it was a different thing to start writing everything down for strangers to read. It was incredibly scary to think of putting myself out there in such an honest and explicit way. I was scared of what people might think, how my family might react, etc. I was scared no one would be interested in what I have to say or share.

But I started the blog anyway, and continue to work through my book and my fears, build my social media presence, forging ahead to where I see myself in maybe 6-10 years. I somehow find the time to work on everything piece by piece while I do the other things I love; marketing, nurture friendships and relationships, and live my HAPPY.  Plus, I’ve received some great feedback, and heard from many folks who are already saying my message helps them in some way.

As my final example, I’ll bring up LOVE for the first time on this blog (oh boy!). I haven’t had the best luck in this arena, despite my general success in most other facets of my life. I haven’t really had a real relationship in about a decade, although I’ve dated quite a bit. I’ve been hurt and disappointed immensely many times, and given up on the whole idea of love for long periods of time. But now that I have realized the growth I’ve attained from those experiences, I choose to love regardless of the fear. I choose to be open to it despite the very real risk of getting hurt. I choose to fight back, because I know I deserve love, I know it’s out there for me, and I know I will attain it.

So really, my point is where would I be today if I had succumbed to fear? Where would I be if I had allowed my father to control my life, if I had let people convince me to stay in Miami where I was terribly unhappy? What kind of life would I have if I had allowed my fear of numbers to keep me from attaining that MBA and taking my career to a new, desperately needed level? Where would I be if I had let all of my past experiences and history with emotional abuse keep me from loving people openly and completely, from believing in others, from believing in the good in this world and in us all?

It’s a scary thing to imagine where I’d be, and I’m so glad I’m here and not there. So when you encounter fear, recognize the bully, and fight. Once you get past that initial hump of fright, you will realize fear is also a big phony, and you will have won because you dared to question it, fight it and reject it.

Sonia, Word Share Junkie