8 months down - Kayaking and other discoveries!

Oh, man - SO MUCH has happened over the past month!

I never thought that this little change (deciding to not drink alcohol for a year) would make such a big difference in my life. As you probably read in my previous blog post, this month I quit my job to start something new.

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been working my booty off on this blog, finding part-time work, and finding writing and social media gigs. Even though this is all very unknown territory, and even though it’s the last thing I think of when I go to bed, and the first thing I think of when I wake up in the morning - I’m LOVING IT. Absolutely loving it. 

Sure, I still have doubts. I worry about when I’ll have another check to deposit into my bank account, and I worry about how long I can stretch out my last supply of groceries. But really, it has been worth it. I don’t know how things are working quite yet, but I’m figuring it out. And I’m excited.

The month of August I had another amazing experience: I overcame a HUGE fear of mine. I attended Girls on the Gorge, a 3-day all-girls whitewater kayaking trip in Montana. I did NOT know exactly what “whitewater kayaking” entailed, but I did know about my terrible fear of drowning. I definitely did not know what I was getting into.

Nina and I about to start our 14-hour road trip to Montana! That's the face of a girl who has no idea what she's about to be doing. Nope. No clue at all. 

Nina and I about to start our 14-hour road trip to Montana! That's the face of a girl who has no idea what she's about to be doing. Nope. No clue at all. 

Here’s pretty much how it went:

Day one.

Chandra, Instructor: “Okay ladies! First thing’s first! We’re going to flip you over, and you’re going to get comfortable with being upside-down underwater while still inside your boat."

Me: “Wait...What?!”

Chandra: “You’ll be fine! I’ll flip you right over again.”

Me: “WHAT!?”

It wasn’t so much the flipping part that scared me - it was the BEING STRAPPED INTO A BOAT UPSIDE DOWN UNDERWATER part that scared me.

After watching everyone go ahead of me, it was finally my turn. I took a deep breath and got flipped. I was back up so fast I barely had time to process the whole thing. But I was alive, and just fine. Then it was time to “wet exit” - getting out of my kayak on my own while underwater. This meant staying calm, pulling my tab, pushing my knees together, and pushing myself out. That’s a lot of steps when you’re hanging upside down while submerged in water.

When the time came, I panicked. I clawed my way out of the boat, bruised my legs, yanked my head above water while taking huge choking breaths of air. I can’t remember the last time I felt that terrified. I don’t know what happened, but all of my drowning fears bubbled their way to the surface as I began to sob with every shaking breath.

As I was standing on the beach dripping in all my gear and trying to slow my heartbeat again, I watched everyone working on their techniques and laughing together. I felt like such a failure. I was furious with myself.

After I calmed down a bit, I thought - I can either let this ruin my weekend, or I can get the hell over it already. Yes, I had a fear. But I had to figure out how to get through it. I realized the only way to get over my fear was to do it my way. With baby steps.

I got back in the water, and was ready to give it another shot. I told Chandra (my ever-patient instructor) that I needed to go slow - take it a step at a time. After a couple practice flips, I was ready to “wet exit”. Amazingly I was able to stay calm, and I totally did it. I DID IT. I got out of my boat just fine. I didn’t panic, I didn’t drown, and I didn’t let my fear take over my life.

It was absolutely thrilling.

Day two.

Empowered with the new-found understanding that it was very unlikely that I would die in my kayak, I was ready to take on our first set of rapids. I was just about to get through a pretty choppy section, when my boat started to tip over. I was out of that thing so fast I don’t even remember being upside down! My confidence only increased.

In a particularly rough part of the river, my friend Nina helped with guiding me through. There were some wave rollers that I somehow plowed right through while Nina helpfully reminded me to “PADDLE! PADDLE! PADDLE!” so that I could keep control of my boat. The waves crashed over my head as I smacked down on the other side (still upright) in a fit of giggles. I couldn’t believe how invigorated I felt!

By the end of the day, I was tearing through the rapids, paddle swinging, smile beaming, and screaming from the top of my lungs: “I’M KAAAAAYAKIIIIIING!!!”

That became my nickname on the trip: Beth “I’m kayaking!” Bogdewiecz.

My spirit animal, Nina, and ME! I'M KAYAKING!

My spirit animal, Nina, and ME! I'M KAYAKING!

It was awesome. The girls, the river, the yoga, the food, the camping, the sunrises, the shooting stars, the laughing, the hula-hooping, the fear-overcoming. I’ll never forget it.

Our group of amazing girls!

Our group of amazing girls!

I don’t think alcohol would have made the experience any less amazing, but I’m glad I didn’t have it clouding my experience. I think under different circumstances I would have just ended up on the beach and saying “screw it”, cracking open a beer, and accepting defeat. You can still have a fun weekend just hanging out and drinking the whole time, right? After the satisfaction of overcoming my fear though, I don’t think that would’ve been the case. I’d take that feeling over a weekend of boozing ANY day.

Every month, I learn a little more about who I am and what I’m capable of. Yes, I still could have done all of these things with alcohol in my life. But not having that distraction has opened up a surprising amount of possibilities. It has changed my perspective on things. I don’t think I would have gotten to the point of making other big changes in my life if I hadn’t started with a little one. It’s all about taking those baby steps, right?

Money saved in 8 months: Approximately $1,781.00

Weight: Who cares? I feel great, my clothes fit better, and I’m sleeping like a rock.

How I feel: Happy. Amazing. Excited. Fulfilled. Ready to take on the world!