Nothing Worth Having Comes Easy

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I’ll never forget the moment that I whole-heartedly decided I wanted to become a SoulCycle instructor. Ever since I took my very first class back in 2010, the thought had always lingered in the back of my mind, but I never took action. I never thought it was something that I, a graphic designer who rarely set foot in a gym and who struggled with social anxiety, was even remotely capable of.

When I started exercising consistently back in April 2015, it wasn’t until early fall that I started going back to SoulCycle classes on a regular basis. I fell in love with it all over again- the sweat drenched workout, the booming music, and that somehow, this heart pounding forty five minutes managed to reach something inside of me that was far more than just physical. SoulCycle was so much more than just a workout for me.

Each class was a therapy session- the downward stroke of each pedal, a release of all the stress and uncertainty in my life, and each upward stroke, a step towards the person I wanted to become. Adding SoulCycle back into my routine brought so much positivity and strength into my life.

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It was a cold November evening and I was waiting for a Bolt Bus to take me from New York City to Boston for the weekend. Attempting to distract myself from the boredom of standing in line, I pulled out my phone and typed into Google “how to become a SoulCycle instructor”. One of the first links to pop up on the results page was a blog post by Hallie of Corals and Cognacsabout how she left her job in digital media to become a SoulCycle instructor. As I stood there in the crisp air, my head bent down in the glow of my phone’s light, I had to hold back tears. I grasped on to each of Hallie’s words because I felt like I was reading my story. Her past was everything that I was currently going through, and her present was what I dreamed my future to be.

As I stood there, I reread her blog post at least three times, and while boarding the bus, I texted both my mom and my SoulCycle obsessed bestie, Ash, and told them, verbatim, “I’m going to become a SoulCycle instructor”. That was the moment where everything changed. It was the moment that I decided to dive in head first with my heart leading the way. I knew I was going to do whatever it took to make this dream that had been hibernating for several years come to life.

Over the next two months, I spoke with as many SoulCycle instructors as possible to hear about their experience (huge shout out to Trammell, Sabine, and Sunny, love you all!) I prepped my email to send into the SoulCycle team explaining why I wanted to become an instructor and reread it 1000 times. I became a certified spin instructor through Spinning with the thought that I could start teaching at a local gym right away and get some instructing experience. I went to as many SoulCycle classes each week as I could afford. And then, it happened. At the end of January, I got an email back from the SoulCycle team inviting me to audition on February 19. My stomach did back flips, my heart shot up through my throat, I did a crazy dance around my apartment, and when I finally caught my breath, I thought, “Holy shit! I am making this happen!” The rush of adrenaline that I felt from realizing that I was a small step closer to the goal that I set out to achieve was indescribable.

The audition on February 19 was one of the scariest experiences of my life. Some may think I’m exaggerating, but for a person with an intense fear of public speaking and zero background in fitness instruction, this was up there on the list with heights and death. But I wanted this. This was my dream. So I pushed past the fear, and with my hands shaking, mouth dry, and heart beating so fast it could have popped out through my ribs, I got up on the podium in front of about forty people and shared my soul. To be honest, when I left that audition, I burst into tears from all the emotion I felt. I didn’t even remember what happened. I had blacked out from the amount of nervous energy pumping through my body, but I knew that despite the fear, I did it. I was so proud of myself and so excited for what was to come.

The following week, the email I had been waiting for finally arrived in my inbox. I opened it up, and my instantly my heart dropped and splattered on the floor. And I wanted to puke. And I wanted to crawl into a hole. It was a big, fat, slap across the face “no”. I allowed myself to cry and feel sorry for myself, but after a day, I reality checked myself. No ever said that this process would be easy, and just because it’s a no right now, doesn’t mean that no won’t turn into a yes later down the line. I was heartbroken, but refused to give up. I set forth more determined than ever to become a SoulCycle instructor.

My efforts did not go unseen, and I was invited to audition for a second time on April 19. I practiced for that audition like a mofo. I went to as many classes as I could to work on my form and endurance. I strategically chose my audition songs. I practiced speaking out loud. I sat at my table at home, pretending it was a bike, going through the motions of my audition.

I’ll never forget the moment when that post-audition email hit my inbox. I had just gotten out of a SoulCycle class with all my girlfriends at the SoHo studio. Dripping in sweat with that post class high, I opened my locker, and took my phone out of my bag. I saw the SoulCycle email notification pop up on my screen. My heart raced as I quickly swiped left to open it. I felt dizzy from that instantaneous moment that dangled my hopes and dreams from a ledge, easily teeter tottering to one side or the other. And then, I the saw the words that unlocked the next step. The words that I had been dreaming of, and working so hard for. “Congratulations! Welcome to SoulCycle instructor training!”

Cue yelling, dancing, and hooting, and hollering. Tears, and love, and all the feels.

“I DID IT! I DID IT! I FREAKING DID IT! I’M GOING TO BE A SOULCYCLE INSTRUCTOR!”

I screamed. My friends screamed. And my heart burst into a million pieces because after not just wishing but actually doing, I was making my dream come true.

And so, a month later, week one of SoulCycle instructor training began. I had no idea what the next ten weeks had in store for me, but I did know that I hadn’t felt so purely excited about something in so long. It was a crazy mixture of happiness, nerves, anticipation, giddiness, freedom, joy, and I couldn’t get enough it.

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I’m not going to sugar coat it though. Training was tough. It was challenging physically because we were riding more than we ever had before. It was challenging mentally because we were constantly presented with new information and had to absorb it quickly. It was challenging emotionally because it was not just about learning about how to become a SoulCycle instructor, but learning about who we were and who we wanted to become.

I was pushed outside of my comfort zone daily. I cried on multiple occasions. My body constantly felt tired. But here’s the thing… I freaking loved it. I finally felt like I was doing something that made me so happy and I was in the presence of the other trainees who all felt the same way. I learned that we were all on such different paths; we arrived at SoulCycle in such different ways. But the one thing that bonded us all together was our passion for working hard, making a positive difference in other people’s lives, and spreading love and self-acceptance.

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After the first six weeks of lectures, workshops, and drills, it was time for our group to put to test all that we had learned. It was community ride time! Community rides were real SoulCycle classes that each of us taught, followed by a critique to understand what we did well, and what we needed to work on. We each got one class per week over the course of three weeks. It was exhilarating to see all of my fellow trainees, which felt more like family after all that we had experienced together, come to life up on the podium.

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Before my very first community ride, I had never felt such a perfect balance of both nerves and excitement before in my life. I was scared, but I was also incredibly ready. I found an odd sense of calm in the fact that I had worked so hard for this moment and it had finally arrived. I knew that it wouldn’t even be close to perfect, and I was ok with that. But knowing what I had worked through to be able to even attempt this, looking back on where I had come from, acknowledging all the fears I faced to be able to stand on that podium in front of sixty people and lead them through a forty five minute SoulCycle class… to me, that was perfect.

Each community class that I taught was thrilling. I finished each one feeling absolutely exhausted, but also fulfilled. But what was even more important to me was the feedback I got from my riders. Whether it was text, email, or a brief conversation after class, I had people telling me that my class had an impact on them, and that made my heart full. As much as I started this crazy journey for myself, it was even more inspired by the desire to affect people in a positive way. My goal was to motivate my riders and make them feel that they are capable of their dreams, just as so many instructors have done for me. I started to feel everything come full circle, and it felt so good.

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Our lives our filled with an infinite amount of moments, most of which pass us by and we soon forget. But certain moments stay with us forever. The moment where things begin to change. The moment that sets you on a new path. The moment that makes you turn left instead of right at the fork in the road. Just as I’ll never forget when I  decided to become a SoulCycle instructor and I’ll never forget when I received that email after my second audition inviting me to the training program, I’ll never forget the moment I was told that I would not become a SoulCycle instructor.

After our community rides, we each had individual meetings in order to inform us of whether or not we passed training. I felt so confident walking into that room. “I have this!” I told myself. I completed training, I felt awesome during my community rides, it was time to finally achieve my goal.

I sat down, ready to hear the good news. But instead I was asked, “how would you feel about going through the training program again?”

It hit me like a ton of bricks, straight into the center of my chest. That spot where all the wind is knocked out of your lungs and you’re choking from the lack of air. Everything came crashing down in a matter of seconds. I didn’t even fully comprehend what was happening.

To sum it up succinctly, the training team didn’t think I was ready to become an instructor quite yet. There was too much for me to work on still, and they explained that I need to go through training again in order to solidify the necessary skills that an instructor must have. It was a no this time around, but I was given the option of a second chance to join the next group of trainees in the fall.

I can’t quite put into the words the disappointment that wraps around your chest so tightly when not just weeks, but months, of hard work collapse. The feeling of rejection when you’re one of three people who got a no, and the other twenty-three got a yes. The feeling of despair when you were just in arm’s reach from grasping tightly onto your dream, and it slips away so quickly that you’re unsure of if it was ever there to begin with.

I can’t tell you how long I’ve wanted to write this blog post. Ever since I read Hallie’s post months ago that was the catalyst for me starting this adventure, I always imagined writing my own post that would tell a similar story.  The tale of an unhappy Jera, miserable at her desk job, to the dream chasing, ever inspiring, empowered Jera, changing people’s lives as a SoulCycle instructor. But here I am, writing this post, with a slightly different outcome than I originally envisioned.

But the ending to this chapter is not a sad one. It’s been a little over a week since I received the news, and I’ve had some time to process all that has happened.

SoulCycle training was not only an incredible experience, it was life changing. Even with the disappointing result, I wouldn’t trade the ten weeks that I just went through for anything. What I learned about myself and what I learned about others has given me the tools to face life head on and tackle whatever challenges may come my way. After a bit of soul searching, here’s what I’m taking away from it all.

The power of friendship, love, and support is so real. As adults, it’s challenging to make friends. And it’s even more difficult to make deeper connections that go past the “Hey, how are you?” and “I’m good, thanks for asking!” type of interactions. At the beginning of our training, twenty six strangers were thrown into a room together. We were from different cities, of different ages, and from a wide array of backgrounds. But something really beautiful happened very early on. A collective mentality formed that bonded us together very quickly. Through sweat, tears, and endless amounts of food (don’t even get me started on the subject of how hungry SoulCycle trainees are!) we became a close knit family. We were all on this crazy, exhilarating, emotional journey together and we were all there to support each other. I’m so incredibly grateful for the friendships that I made throughout training- I don’t think those relationships could have been formed the way that they did anywhere else besides SoulCycle training.

Feel the fear and do it anyway. During our second week of Drills, training officer and amazing instructor Emily Turner told us something that stuck with me- “feel the fear and do it anyway”. We all have things that we want to do and pursue, but so often, fear holds us back. The fear that we can’t do it, the fear of how people will perceive us, the fear that no matter how hard we try, we’ll never attain it. If there’s one thing that this entire process has taught me, it’s to acknowledge the fear we feel and push past it. Back in November, simply the idea of becoming a SoulCycle instructor terrified me. In February and April, the two auditions that I went through were so intense that I left both hyperventilating. During training, I kept thinking to myself, “how am I going to teach an entire class in just a few weeks? Am I going to be ready?!” And during my community rides, just before class started, I stood on the podium in front of a room full of people, my heart beating out of my chest, about to do something that would have sent me running in the opposite direction just a few months prior. All of these situations created the feeling of fear in the pit of my stomach, but my determination was more powerful than that feeling of fear. I look back now at each individual situation that I faced since November, and I’m stunned at what I was able to do. And so proud.  Through pushing myself out of my comfort zone and facing fears head on, I have grown more in the last nine months than I have in the last few years.

In order to succeed, you must first be willing to experience failure. Just because you wish for something with all your heart, want it with all your soul, and work for it nonstop, doesn’t mean you’re going to get it, at least right away. That’s the cold hard truth of life, my friends, and something that I’ve now learned first hand. But knowing that the outcome might be “failure” shouldn’t deter you from chasing your dreams, because even if you don’t catch that wild dream, the sheer act of working towards it is going to result in some amazing things. Even though I didn’t become a SoulCycle instructor after prepping for six months and working for it for close to three, I became stronger physically and mentally, I learned what it meant to really work for something, I taught myself how to push way past my comfort zone, and I made incredible friends. I believe that failure is actually success if we learn something from it, and it’s not actually failure if we refuse to give up. So, I guess what I’m saying is, this whole experience was actually pretty successful.

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