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Gymtimidation: What It is + How To Overcome It

Gymtimidation is defined as “the fear of working out in front of others.” According to a recent survey of 2,000 Americans, as many as 50% experienced gymtimidation while working out at their fitness centers. This can be especially common in women, who might face anxiety or nerves going into the often male-dominated spaces in the gym.   

The CHAARG community is all about empowering women — in the gym + beyond! We thought we would get your advice + see what your tips are on how to overcome gymtimidation! Here’s what you said:

#1] Wear your cutest fit! Look confident, be confident! — @alexisskimm_inchaarg

#2] Don’t be afraid to ask the people who work at the gym for help! They’ll teach you! — @meghanbarter21

#3] Start any workout with light cardio, that way you can spot what machines are taken ahead of time. — @nani_inchaarg

#4] Have your workout written out + pulled up for easy reference. — @kkaitlyn_inchaarg

#5] Go [to the gym] with your Small Group! — @erikahope_inchaarg 

#6] Listen to music! + focus on the lift more than those around you, we all start somewhere! — @katefry_inchaarg

#7] Just know that you have as much of a right to be there as anybody else! — @_it.27

#8] Remember that everyone is focused on themselves + no one is judging you! Concentrate on yourself + *your* motives! – so. many. of. you!

Feeling gymtimidation is entirely valid, but using these tips, you can overcome it! When it comes to feeling liberated in the gym, know that the CHAARG community always has your back ; )

Olivia Moosey: Changing The Stigma Around Physical Disabilities In Fitness

My name is Olivia Moosey + I’m a current junior at DePaul University. I joined CHAARG my first quarter at college + it was the best ++ healthiest decision I’ve ever made. 

My entire life, I’ve always felt like an outsider. I have a physical disability called Cerebral Palsy [right side hemiplegia] meaning I have weakness on the right side of my body. From pre-K through college, I was the only student in my grade or class with a physical disability. I grew up genuinely thinking that I was the only person who looked like me. I always did my best to fit in with the able-bodied crowd + I never let my disability get to me or get in the way of the things I wanted to accomplish. 

Living with a physical disability, I know that I go through things able-bodied people don’t experience. I’ve faced discrimination from my peers, I’ve been fired from a job due to my disability, I’ve had to fight to get into higher level classes, + people tend to stare at me when I walk because I have a bit of a limp. Thankfully, I’ve learned to take all of these things as a learning opportunity. I feel that I’ve been able to better understand the world around me, I’ve learned how to stand up for myself, + I’ve become a stronger person from my experience with a physical disability.

When I joined CHAARG, I found that it was really the only place that I could truly be myself + not feel judged. I felt accepted, which was an amazing feeling. I, sadly, didn’t have that anywhere else when I first started college. I immediately saw that everyone was so nice, supportive, + encouraging in the DePaul CHAARG Chapter. It was truly an empowering community of women! I will never forget at the end of my first quarter #inCHAARG, an exec leader came up to me + went, “Oh my god, Olivia! We love you + thank you so much for joining! We hope you continue with this!”

For all other exec leaders: that made my whole year. Never underestimate the power of your words! 

I not only continued being a part of CHAARG, I ended up re-launching the DePaul CHAARG Chapter + becoming an Ambassador. I’m now serving as an Event Coordinator for the DePaul CHAARG exec team + hope that I can be a part of changing the stigma around people with physical disabilities in health + fitness. 

There are many able bodied people who think that people with disabilities can’t do anything that involves physical exercise. That can’t be further from the truth! People with disabilities actually need physical exercise more than anything because of our weaker muscles — we need to move them regularly so they don’t deteriorate more! Yes, there are certain activities + exercises that we  physically can’t do, but we are able to adapt, find ones that work for us, + get the job done!

I want CHAARG to be able to show people that no matter your ability level or where you are in your fitness journey that fitness looks different on everyone. As long as you’re showing up, doing the work, + are getting stronger in your body + mind… that’s all that matters!

Rapid Fire Questions With Olivia:
#1] One Word That Describes Me: Strong
#2] Favorite Workout: Shadow Boxing + Zumba
#3] Workout I Want To Try: Rock Climbing!
#4] Favorite Disability Creator On Instagram: My top 3 are @realchelseabear, @pauuzzo, + @stephthehammer
#5] Favorite Book/Resource On Disabilities: The Power of Different by Gail Saltz
#6] One Thing That Might Surprise You About Cerebral Palsy: It’s the most common lifelong physical disability in the world + March 25th is CP Awareness Day!
#7] One Way You Can Be An Ally To People With Disabilities: Questions out of respect always are the way to go. We completely get you are curious as to what happened to us. Using phrases such as “May I ask you something” or “Is it okay if I ask you?” makes us feel that you understand what you’re about to ask might be sensitive.
#8] Favorite CHAARG Memory: TOO MANY!!! I remember we had a movie night + I brought Thin Mints and one goes “Did you freeze them?” I went, “Yes!” and she goes, “YOU ARE THE BEST!!!” They were eaten within the first 10 minutes, haha!
#9] Being #inCHAARG To Me Means… Trying your best! As long as you show up, do what you can, are getting stronger and making progress in your own way that’s all that matters!! Also, supporting + encouraging other CHAARG members : )

How Running Gave Me Vision Even Without Sight

As the oldest of triplets, you could say I’ve been racing my entire life. I didn’t come to find a love of running until my teens, + I didn’t truly compete until college, but the lessons I’ve learned along the way are ones that I carry with me in all facets of my life – running + otherwise.

Like most good stories, we should probably start from the beginning. My sisters + I made our entrance into the world a bit early…about thirteen weeks early. As a result of this extremely premature birth, we were all three diagnosed with an eye condition called Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP) – which basically means that because we were born early, our eyes + the surrounding structures/nerves weren’t able to fully develop. We all three have different degrees of ROP ranging from minimally impaired with correction (one of my sisters wears contacts + can drive a car, read standard sized fonts, etc.), to my other sister who has a moderate impairment (think larger fonts, magnifiers, audiobooks, + no driving), to me who has severe impairment (think Braille, white canes, audio output whenever possible, screen readers, functioning with little to no sight etc.)

You’re probably wondering where running comes into play here because this is a blog about movement + activity. I grew up with an extremely active family, I played basketball through middle school up until I couldn’t physically see enough to be safe on the court. I loved the sport and giving it up was devastating at the time. Little did I know the best was yet to come.

Running became a beacon of hope for me. It became something I could do regardless of what happened to my eyes. Today, even as someone who is confident in who they are as a blind person, running still provides me the consistency I need. I started running at 13 + haven’t stopped since.

As a blind person, I need sighted people to run with me. I use a tether – waist or hand held – to run safely. I rely on verbal cues + constant communication from start to finish. I didn’t stop with running, I lost a bet just before college + had to do a triathlon – something at the time I thought would be a “one + done.” Since then, I’ve competed as an NCAA triathlete, raced with Team USA’s triathlon team, raced + won multiple National Titles, + I compete amongst the best blind women in the world in triathlon.

I have been fortunate to swim, bike, + run alongside some pretty phenomenal humans – they’ve taught me more about life then I think they’ll ever know, so here’s something that has rang true for me lately that I think you all should leave this page with:

Surround yourself with people that make you want to be better – my guides (often faster runners than me) push me workout after workout to make gains and redefine my limits. I love them for that, + I can’t thank them enough, but I think it’s also important to remember that the people who push you to be better also want to be there for you after a failed PR attempt or on the hard days running related or otherwise. So whether you’re interested in guiding a blind runner, or just looking to get moving – grab a friend and go for a run, it might be the start of an amazing opportunity!

Being Ashley’s Eyes: Guiding A VI Athlete

As pretty much everyone in the CHAARG community knows, I am a *runner* + have been running for the past 16 years. I love helping other people learn to love running (hello CHAARG Run Club!) + I have found that running + the community I’ve found through it has opened so many doors. 

One of the best doors it has opened for me has been the opportunity to be someone else’s eyes. 

I met Ashley Eisenmenger this past summer when I went to a tandem bike clinic through an organization called Dare2Tri — an organization with the mission to enhance the lives of individuals with physical disabilities and visual impairments by building confidence, community, health and wellness through swimming, biking, and running. I had run with the co-founder of Dare2Tri (Hi Dan!) through my running group for a couple of years + had always wanted to learn more about the organization *(you can learn more about how amazing they are here!). I also thought it’d be really cool to be able to ride a tandem bike. 

Ashley is a visually impaired elite triathlete. You can read more about her story here (++ yes – you’ll be just as obsessed with her as I am). Even though I had never ridden a tandem bike before, Ashley had no fears about hopping on the bike with me (I was way more nervous than she was). Surprise: we didn’t crash! + Ashley was able to coach me through riding around the parking lot with no hesitation. By the end of the clinic, I felt pretty confident on the front of a tandem bike + knew that becoming more involved with Dare2Tri was something I really wanted to do. 

The following week, I was so excited when Ashley came with another friend to our Thursday morning speed workout. I was even more excited when I had the opportunity to be her eyes for that workout. 

In all honesty — I had shown up to that morning’s workout in a bad mood. It was early, I was tired, + I had no interest in doing a speed workout. But the challenge of doing something different + guiding someone while running really got my blood pumping. Guiding a VI athlete was something I had never really thought about. In fact — I had only seen a few VI athletes throughout my time competing in high school cross country + running half marathons + full marathons as a post-grad. 

As with trying anything new — I was nervous. A thousand what-if’s + questions went through my mind. Am I talking too much? Why are there so many sticks on the ground? Will we make it under that tree branch? But, Ashley, being the pro she is, ended up guiding *me* through most of the workout + affirming what I was doing. I finished that workout in a much better mood than I had started — it was honestly one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had. It was such a mental challenge + kept me *in the moment* the entire time. 

Since that workout, I’ve had the opportunity to start consistently guiding Ashley once to twice/week ++ learning more about her journey as a VI athlete. Every time I run with her — I’m blown away by her confidence, kindness, + sense of humor. I believe that being able to guide another athlete has been one of the most amazing experiences in my life + is something I would encourage everyone to do. 

Since doing anything for the first time can be a nerve-wracking experience, below I’m sharing the 3 biggest lessons I’ve learned from guiding Ashley: 

#1] Don’t hesitate to ask questions. I’ve lived with able-body privilege for my entire life + haven’t had many experiences with visually impaired or disabled people. So, I realized early on there is A LOT for me to learn! I sometimes would find myself not wanting to ask questions out of a fear of sounding ignorant… but I quickly realized that if you don’t ask, you’re not going to learn. Thankfully, Ashley is incredibly gracious with my questions + has never made me feel ignorant when answering them. It has been incredible to learn more about her + her lived experiences ++ has opened my eyes (no pun intended) in such a new way. 

#2] This is a mental + physical workout. Guiding a VI athlete is just as much of a mental workout as it is physical. You need to stay completely present in the moment + communicate all of the things you are seeing. Branches, shifts in the pavement/earth, curves + turns, how much you have left in the workout, what pace you’re hitting… it all needs to go from your visuals to spoken + timed so that the other person can adjust accordingly. 

#3] Build a relationship with the person you’re guiding! I’d like to think that Ashley + I hit it off pretty quickly ++ I think that is a big part of what makes me love showing up to workout with her. You’ll get more out of your workouts with someone when you invest in getting to know them + learning from them!

24 Hours In Missoula, MT

Missoula stole the show! We were only in Missoula for 24 hours but we did it right. Isaac + I feel in love with Missoula instantly. A gorgeous river, breathtaking mountains + trees, tons of cute shops, + just a really good vibe. Visit in the summer!

#2] Walk through the University of Montana’s campus to The “M” Trail. It’s about a mile from Black Coffee Roasting Company to the start of the trail. I always love seeing university campuses!

#3] Hike The “M” Trail, the most classic trail in Missoula. It’s a 1.2 mile out + back trail… that’s straight up hill with the most gorgeous views!

#4] Head to Veera Donuts if you’re a donut fan [they are all vegan!]. Apparently the vegan breakfast burrito is also amazing : )

#2] Grab a salad at Basal or Green Source — everything on both of their menus look delicious, you can’t go wrong!

#3] Float the river. AN ABSOLUTE MUST! You have to do it with Clark Fork Yaht Club, they’re the best + you get neon pink tubes ; ) You can pick up beer/drinks at KettleHouse Brewing Co, which is a block away. The float is about 2–3 hours!

#2] See live music + eat late night food at Top Hat — we definitely end up making it here, but it had a huge outdoor patio, dance floor, extensive menu, + came highly recommended.

#3] Finish with a sunset walk down the river. The best part about summer in Montana is that the sun sets *so* late! We’re talking like 930 PM. It’s amazing!

#2] Eats + Drink: The Dram Shop, Cambie Taphouse + Coffee, Rattlesnake Market + Cafe, Market On Front, Mountain Berry Bowls Missoula, Boxcar Bistro

#3] Coffee: Drum Coffee, Hunter Bay

#3] Grocery: Good Food Store

#4] Explore: Garden Of One Thousand Buddhas [30 min drive]. Missoula is also a jumping off point to Glacier National Park [3 hour drive] — I’ve heard absolutely amazing things.

Have you been to Missoula? What did I miss?! Let me know : )

Wellness Guide To Bozeman

Montana might be the USA’s best kept secret. Isaac + I went to Montana on our honeymoon + instantly fell in love [we may or may not have added “Build A Cabin In Montana” on our dream list ; )]. Our first stop was Bozeman! Bozeman is very much one of the new it outdoor towns, but doesn’t feel touristy at all [yet ; )]. Highly recommend making a stop in Bozeman if you visit Montana!

#2] Treeline Coffee: Gorgeous space, great coffee, + fun spot to hang out/work

#3] Wild Crumb: Amazing pastries!

For Next Time: Essy’s Coffee + Frozen Yogurt

#2] Feed Cafe: Cutest breakfast spot in a red barn. Lots of outdoor seating, too!

#3] Faber’s Bakery + Deli: Lots of baked goods, but we actually loved their sandwiches from here! Get one to take with you on a long hike : ).

#4] SHINE Beer Sanctuary + Bottle Shop: Beer hall with a good atmosphere… + tacos!

#5] Reverly: Loved the pizza here! + good happy hour menu.

For Next Time: Mountain Berry Bowls [acai!], Zesty Booch, Little Star Diner, Nordic Brew Works

#2] Massage: We got connected to the best massage therapist ever, Lydia. Highly, highly recommend!

#3] Bozeman Community Co-op: All your nourishing needs inside!

#4] Shen: Spa that focuses on accupuncture, cupping, + massage. We didn’t get a treatment here, but we stepped inside + it was *so* cute! Also had a lot of people recommend it, so wanted to add it to the list!

#5] Walk Around + Explore! One of my favorite things to do is simply walk aound a city + explore. On your walk check out Biome Slow Craft Collection, Inner Alchemy, + Heyday. Also, if you are here in the summer — check out the farmer’s market on Tuesday evenings at Lindley Park!

#6] Go Hiking! Of course : ) Bozeman is a big jumping out point for Yellowstone National Park [1.5–2 hours away], but there are plenty of other amazing hikes to check out near Bozeman. Use AllTrails to find your adventure!

We stayed at RSVP Hotel which was nice + they let you use their bikes for free, which was essential for biking around Bozeman [since RSVP Hotelwasn’t on the *main* street]. It also had a pool, fruit infused water, + free champagne ; ). We also looked into The LARK, which is perfect if you want to be able to easily walk everywhere.

#2] We had 3 full days to explore the city, but felt like we could have easily done everything we wanted to do in 2 full days!

#3] You don’t need a car for Bozeman [unless you plan on hiking!]. There are places in town to rent bikes if needed, but everything is pretty easily walkable.

#4] Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport is only 15 minutes away from the city center — so easy!

Have you been to Bozeman? What did I miss?! Let me know : )

Full Body AMRAP

This workout is set up AMRAP style — “as many rounds as possible.” Complete each AMRAP as a circuit, resting for 0-30 secs between each exercise. *Rest 1 minute after each AMRAP!

Let us know what you think of this workout on instagram — tag @CHAARG! This is from CHAARG Summer Studio from trainer Natty! 💕

8 minutes: AMRAP — as many rounds as possible in 8 min

6 minutes: AMRAP — as many rounds as possible in 6 min

4 minutes: AMRAP — as many rounds as possible in 4 min

2 minutes: AMRAP — as many rounds as possible in 2 min

1 minute: AMRAP — as many rounds as possible in 1 min

Things I Learned [Outside Of Class!] When Studying Abroad

Remember when a public health emergency didn’t prevent people from traveling to other countries? [looking at you 2019!] During that time in my life I was fortunate to have the opportunity to study abroad in Ireland.  Hopefully, this school year will be a little bit ‘back to normal’ + experiences like studying abroad can be an option once again. 

I actually kept a journal during that time in my life + I am so glad that I did. I look back on all of the places I went, people I met, + adventures I had ++ usually remember that time as such an amazing experience I am so grateful for. I had the chance to not only explore Ireland + the beautiful place it is, but I also visited 10 other countries during my time abroad. While some times were definitely challenging, my time abroad taught me so much about the world + myself. Here are the top four things I learned [outside of the classroom!] during my experience abroad. 

#1] There’s a big world out there

I am the definition of a small town girl [seriously, my hometown has a population of *almost* 1,500!] so studying abroad definitely taught me how big the world truly is. Even though Ireland is literally the size of Indiana, exploring the natural beauty of the country was absolutely one of my favorite aspects of my experience.  The country has six incredible national parks + I had the pleasure of experiencing all of them. I went rock climbing off the coast in Burren National Park, hiking up the mountain of Connemara National Park + kayaking in Killarney National Park. As a girl who loves to be outside, this was absolutely an incredible aspect of my time abroad + some of the most beautiful experiences of my life. 

It sounds dorky, but my time abroad also sparked an interest in history unlike anything I had ever had before. I had the chance to travel + learn about history ++ the culture of different places that is unmatched by an educational experience in the classroom. I visited the holocaust museum in Berlin, the “Peace Wall” that separates the Protestants from the Catholics in Northern Ireland, the Habsburg’s castles in Vienna + so much more. Experiencing these incredible sights in person are worth so much more than anything I could learn in a textbook. 

Whenever I have the opportunity to travel, it always reminds me that there is so much more to see + experience. Studying abroad provided me with a platform to expand my horizons, but I truly did just dip my toes into the incredible world out there. Whether it’s taking in the exploring the natural beauty of a country, connecting with the local culture or experiencing a nation’s historical significance, it really is a big world out there. 

#2] It is so okay to do things alone

I can not emphasize this point enough. Unlike some others who go have the chance togo abroad, no other students from my school back home went to Ireland at the same time, so I didn’t know anyone at all. When I arrived at the University of Limerick in Ireland, I didn’t necessarily find ‘my people’ to travel + explore like I would have hoped. I heard wild tales from friends + family who also had the fortunate opportunity to study abroad ++ went on crazy adventures with their best friends. In hindsight, I am glad that I wasn’t in a bubble with people I was already comfortable with when traveling because it encouraged me to meet other people from all over the world.

When I went out to explore on my own, I met so many new + interesting fellow travelers in my hostels, on tours, or even just on the bus. Don’t get me wrong, there were definitely some moments where it would have been nice to not be alone, but solo experiences are so underrated! Being forced to meet new people everywhere I went opened my eyes to the fact that everyone truly has their story to share. If I had been traveling with friends that I knew, I don’t know if I would have been as eager to connect with new people + I would have missed out on hearing their stories. 

Traveling alone also helped me develop my problem solving skills + a sense of responsibility unlike any experience. Even though I am a ‘thorough planner’ when it comes to travel plans, there were still moments where things went wrong. Being responsible for all of my bus, train + plane tickets, as well as my hostel stays ++ tour dates was definitely daunting at first [especially when it was in a different language!] However, these challenges pushed me to develop my independence in a way I never thought possible. Learning how to navigate new places all by myself was one of the best lessons of studying abroad. 

#3] But it’s also so okay to miss your family, friends, + life back home

It is so easy to remember my experiences + romanticize about how incredible ++ life changing it all was. When looking back at it now, it’s easy to forget that some days were really hard. Sometimes the loneliness + unfamiliarity got to me ++ I just really wanted to come home. 

The experience of moving to a new country + traveling to new places created a constant state of being out of my comfort zone. Everything was unfamiliar + different than what I was used to + it took me forever to figure out how to navigate my new home. These experiences of constantly being ‘out of my element’ made me miss the comfort + familiarity of home even more. 

One of the worst parts of these days when my anxiety took over was the immediate guilt I would feel about experiencing this. Why can’t I appreciate what I have? So many individuals would kill to have this opportunity + I shouldn’t be wasting it feeling sad or sorry for myself. 

Studying abroad helped me to learn how to show grace to myself for feeling this way. It is totally okay to miss home + crave the comfort it provides. My time overseas taught me how to admit when things are hard + give myself a break when I was feeling down. Being out of my comfort zone wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, it helped me to grow + become far more independent. But it did make me miss home more + that is totally okay. 

#4] Life isn’t as serious as we think it is 

One of my favorite aspects of my time abroad was experiencing all different cultures. Every new country had a different way of doing things + it was so eye opening to see how all different people wake up ++ live their lives. Even though every place I visited was incredibly unique, I did notice one important commonality — their ‘pace of life’ is much slower than the United States [in a good way!]

We are always in a hurry in the United States in so many aspects of our lives. From a day to day standpoint, we are always rushing to our next meeting, activity + class — packing our days to the brim with commitments. There are never enough hours in the day to get done what we need to get done. 

In Ireland [+ Europe in general] this was so not the case. First of all, the country does not wake up before 8 or 9 AM, ever. Their classes are structured with plenty of time to get ‘a pint’ between classes at the pub on campus. They even had this wild idea of ‘closing their library’ on campus, forcing students to go home + not study. I don’t think I ever quite got used to this cultural difference, but it was definitely different from the hectic lives we live here in the United States. 

In more general terms, the people I met abroad were just in less of a hurry in their lives in general. A lot of other students + travelers were busy taking gap years + seeing the world before they started their real lives. It was almost more out of the ordinary to go right from secondary school [high school] to University to a career without taking a break. Back at home, I unfortunately feel like it’s the opposite as so many of my friends + peers [myself included] are busy on the conveyor belt of high school, college, then career. I hope I can take this lesson with me + learn to relax a little bit when it comes to starting new phases of my life. After all, why are we in a hurry? 

Interested in studying abroad? Here is what I have learned about the process + how it works at most schools. There usually are a few options:

1] A University Led Program — a lot of schools will administer their own study abroad programs where they have agreements with universities in other countries. These programs can be more convenient as your school will likely have all of the information about the experience + how to enroll. However, most schools do not have partners in every country you might want to visit + you might only have a few options to choose from. Ask your advisor at your University if your school has a study abroad office so you can find out about the programs they offer!

2] Third-Party Programs — this is what I did! Organizations like the Council on International Educational Exchange + IES Abroad offer a ton of options for students to spend time in other countries. Some programs even happen in the summer if you can not find time during your school year! The advisor or study abroad office at your school will likely have more information about these options but you can also do independent research to find programs that interest you. Going through a ‘third party’ can be more challenging to get your courses approved + to arrange your study abroad experience but it is totally worth it. 

Frozen Berry Bites

I live for berries. Seriously — I have them every day! Whether in a smoothie, with oatmeal, or just a cup for a snack, they are SO delicious! With it being so hot lately, I find that *frozen* berries are just as yummy + refreshing! Plus, if we cover them with some yogurt first, they become the perfect filling snack when you are craving something sweet.

So — we’re taking it back to the basics with this one. Yogurt + berries + your freezer. That’s it.

For your berry choice, I recommend blueberries or strawberries as they freeze into perfect bite-sized pieces. You can use any other berry [or piece of fruit for that matter!] for this recipe, like raspberries, blackberries, or even diced mango or kiwi!

The yogurt choice is also totally up to you. I used a vanilla Greek yogurt for some sweetness, but you can also go plain! Dairy free alternatives also work just fine : )

Let me know what combination you choose! Tag #CHAARGeats + @CHAARG.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup berries of your choosing
  • 1/4 cup yogurt
  • A few toothpicks/or fork
  • Parchment paper + a tray

DIRECTIONS

#1. ] Prep: Line a baking sheet or plate with parchment or wax paper. If needed, wash your berries of choice + dry.
#2. ] Dip: Place a berry on a toothpick + dip in the yogurt. Set on the parchment paper in a single layer, + repeat until all the berries are dipped. [Bonus — add sprinkles on top!]. Freeze until solid, about 1 hour.
#3. ] Store: Eat immediately [my recommendation!] or transfer to an airtight container + store in the freezer.
#4] Share: Send us a pic of your Frozen Berry Bites — @CHAARG + #CHAARGeats!

Coming Out [Again]: CHAARG’s Role In Reclaiming My Bisexuality

My name is Avery Collard, I’m a Team CHAARG CLC + was the founding Ambassador of Northeastern CHAARG, + a proud queer woman. I’ve known I was bisexual since I was 12 years old – I even have a page from my journal from 2012 where I detailed my feelings for a close female friend of mine. Growing up, being queer was as natural to me as walking or breathing.

I want to preface this article with this: I am aware that my experience as a queer woman does not begin to parallel other’s experiences – I grew up in Oakland, a place where diversity + love are celebrated, no matter what. Even before gay marriage was legalized, I saw queer couples + families everywhere I went. I also have the privilege of being white + straight passing, two aspects of my life that provide me protection from some of the discrimination so many people in the queer community face. I have never talked about what you’re about to read for this reason – I have big imposter syndrome when it comes to being an outwardly, prideful, queer woman because I have not had the struggle + the discrimination that my queer family has faced, + I feel that I am less valid because I have not had to push against odds – I just exist. I write this with that sentiment in mind, however I feel that it is important to share my story.

My friends will tell you they admire how secure I am in my bisexuality, + how much they admire my outwardness + confidence with my sexuality. However, the truth is – this was a normal part of my life until I moved to the east coast. I never “came out”, I just was Bisexual. I remember coming home + telling my Mom I went on a date with a girl for the first time, + without missing a beat she asked me how it went, what we did, etc. – as if it was any other date. Being bisexual was never a big deal. Only when I moved to Boston did I start to notice that queer was “different”, + that people would look at me differently because of my sexuality. Moving to Boston was a culture shock, but different in the way that most people would assume. Boston, when compared to my hometown of Oakland [right next to San Francisco] is very conservative in their views + their expression.

When I moved to Boston, there were three things that made it painfully obvious that queerness was treated as different.

#1] The first was when dating here, being bisexual was something I learned had to disclose, because for the first time in my life, that was a dealbreaker for some people. I was met with bi-phobic comments indicating that I was more likely to cheat + therefore unappealing, asking about threesomes, saying that they would hookup with a bi girl but not date her. I had to start vetting my dates + ensuring they weren’t homophobic or fetishizing my queerness for their own needs. I stopped going on dates with women for the first year + a half I was in Boston, because I was having dealing with being queer in a place where I felt like I was forced to come out + be judged again, + again, ++ again.

#2] When making friends at Northeastern freshman, I quickly discovered that I was the first openly queer person most of my friends had met. It’s hard to put into words how I felt that first year – every time I made a friend, I felt like my queerness was something that could either make or break the friendship. There were some friendships, particularly with males, where I felt extremely tokenized + alienated. My male friends also took my interest in women as an excuse to “locker room talk” around me in the thought that I could join in + bond with them. My freshman year I was constantly sitting in rooms of straight men, listening to them rate women’s Instagram pictures, plot hookups, share strategies for getting girls, + then would have to laugh + smile when asked my opinion or be met with a “come on, it’s not that serious”. I was the token gay friend that you could talk about girls with, + sometimes it felt like nothing more.

#3] My luck with female friends was no different. I joined a sorority my freshman year in the hopes of finding a group of women where I could feel supported + find my people. However, this was where I experienced my first real, obvious act of discrimination. When I joined a sorority, I didn’t fully understand how Bostoners + Northeastern students treated queerness. Northeastern + Boston have the façade of a liberal, accepting place. However, I quickly found that the “acceptance” was surface level, + that people looked at you differently after finding out you were queer. In my pledge class, I had two girls stop talking to me, sitting near me, + even looking at me after they found out I was queer. When I disclosed this to an older sister, she told me that they “probably didn’t think badly of me” + that it was “really in my head”. This incident helped me understand that there were people here who didn’t fit into the accepting façade – + that at the age of 18 I was going to have to navigate bi-phobia, alone, for the first real time in my life.

This was around the time I found CHAARG. CHAARG appeared to me as an inclusive, supportive place where women were empowered to be the best versions of themselves [spoiler alert: that’s completely what it is!]. I took a leap of faith founding CHAARG at Northeastern, doing it as much for myself as my community. I needed a place in Boston where I could be comfortably + unapologetically myself – which meant bisexual + proud. Through CHAARG, I was able to find myself + feel secure in my personality + self – which meant reclaiming my bisexuality in a place where it had previously been stifled. CHAARG provided me with a community, platform, + a family where I could be authentically myself without fear of discrimination or judgment.

The people in my chapter + around the country have never looked at or treated me differently after finding out about my sexuality. I have found it very similar to being queer in Oakland – I just exist. CHAARG was a refreshing breath of fresh air after a year in the cloaked homophobia of Boston. It is because of CHAARG that my life is the way it is today – without this community I would never have developed the confidence in myself to pursue my passions + live without fear of judgement. I will forever be grateful + in debt to this community for the happiness they have brought to my life – thank you for allowing me to be my true self <3.

[To any CHAARG member [or person!] struggling with their sexuality – even though you may not know me, my DMs are always open! Please reach out to me @avery.inchaarg if you ever want to talk or need support – I am here for all of you!]

Living Alone As A College Student: 5 Things I’ve Learned

I lived alone for five months in a tiny studio apartment, in a large populated city. Doing so was such an eye opening experience. I learned so much about myself, boundaries, mental health, + relationships. One thing people automatically ask when they hear I live alone is, “Are you lonely?” or “Don’t you get bored?” There is a huge difference between being by yourself + being lonely. Everyone experiences loneliness from time to time. Something not everyone gets to experience, that I feel everyone should, is living alone. Being able to do things alone without interruptions is one of the biggest perks of living alone! 

Here are 5 things I learned while living alone:

#1] This is a huge chance for some inner reflection + growth

When I began my journey of living alone, I’ll admit, I was very scared. This was my first time being fully on my own. Without roommates or family surrounding me. It was nerve racking, but also a little freeing. Coming home to an empty house is one of the best feelings for me. As someone who spends the majority of the day socializing + being on social media for work, it gets draining to have to come home to people + strike up even more conversations. With this new environment,  I was able to recharge my batteries by spending time alone. I’m a very independent person by nature, so I thrive while living alone. I was able to create a space that was mine + I was able to escape from the rest of the world. 

#2] I was in control of something for once in my life

I am someone who suffers from anxiety, which means part of my daily routine is feeling like I have no control over anything. I genuinely feel that every decision that is made for my life is impacted even a little by someone else’s control. I never truly feel like I have full control over my life. Except for when I started living alone. I could control everything. The temperature of my home, when I ate dinner, what music I listened to + at what volume. I controlled how late I slept in + how early I went to bed. I controlled everything + it gave me a sense of stability, something I hadn’t felt in a very long time.

#3] I learned to face some of my fears

Having anxiety, it also causes me to draw back + rely on others for certain things in life. For example, answering the door for our food delivery, making a phone call, or speaking with a landlord. Living alone forced me to practice these acts everyday + overcome those fears, even just a little bit. You also gain confidence knowing that no matter what, you will be okay on your own. I don’t need to fear dependence, because I know now how I am fully independent.

#4] Full freedom to be YOU

Do I put on a full performance every night when I’m in the shower? Yes! Living alone means I can be as loud as I want, listen to whatever music I want, with no judgement. It’s truly the one place where I can be myself, on my own, on my own terms.

#5] You are pushed to make more of an effort to see friends + admit when you are not okay

As someone who struggles with mental health issues, this was a huge fear of mine when living alone. What if I got really bad again + no one was there to help me or support me? + at one point, I did get really bad again. I found myself not reaching out to friends or family, relying on my own company + thoughts to get through it. I learned quickly that that was not going to work. I found my voice + reached out to friends + family, expressing that I needed help + got the support I needed. Like I mentioned earlier, there is a difference between being alone + being lonely. But sometimes, living alone can lead to loneliness + you find yourself repeating unhealthy patterns. No one is there to force you to eat, shower, or get out of bed everyday. You have to be there for YOU + understand when you are hitting a breaking point. This is when it’s important to reach out to friends, leave your tiny studio apartment, get outside, + do something good for you. Break the pattern + continue breaking the pattern, no matter how many tries it takes. But don’t give up on yourself. 

So if you’ve ever wanted to live alone, go for it! It’s going to be hard work + you’re going to learn a lot about yourself. But you’ll also have the most amazing feeling of independence, self-growth, + love for yourself that you’ve never experienced before. While I loved living alone, I will be living with roommates for the next year. To be transparent, it is expensive + something I’m so grateful for this experience. It is truly eye-opening + something I believe everyone should experience at least once. 

*Disclaimer: If you struggle with mental health, we encourage you to check out our Mental Health Resource Guide

Fresh Summer Spring Rolls

As it is getting warmer out [or I should say HOT if you live in the South], cool refreshing recipes are always my favorite. What I love so much about spring rolls is the amount of variety +  creativity you can have with them: Have a favorite veggie? Add it in! Have a favorite fresh herb? Add it in! Have a favorite favorite fruit, add it in! Basically, almost everything raw tastes great in spring rolls, especially with my favorite peanut sauce [below!].

My favorite spring roll add ins are crunchy lettuce, cucumbers, bell peppers, carrots, fresh basil, tofu + avocado. Let me know your favorite add ins! Tag #CHAARGeats + @CHAARG.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 Carrots
  • 1 Cucumber
  • Mixed Bell Peppers [will use about 1/3 of each]
  • Iceberg Lettuce [romaine, butter lettuce would also work great here]
  • Fresh basil
  • 1 Block Firm Tofu
  • 1 Avocado
  • or, again, any veggies/fruits/herbs you like
  • Teriyaki Sauce
  • Peanut Butter
  • Fresh Garlic, *few cloves
  • 1 Lime
  • Rice Paper Wrappers

DIRECTIONS

#1] Cut 1 block of extra firm tofu into strips + place in a flat bowl. Pour 1/4 cup of teriyaki sauce [store bought or homemade] over the strips, + gently flip until the tofu is coated evenly. Let sit for 10 minutes + then air fry or bake until golden [for about 12-15 minutes].

#2] Prep your veggies. This is your time to get creative! Use any veggies [or even fruits] that you like, just make sure that they are in small enough pieces to be able to fit comfortably in the spring roll wrapper. Tip: herbs are great as well — especially basil, cilantro and chives.

#3] Make your sauce. Mix 2 tablespoons of peanut butter, 1 tablespoon teriyaki sauce, 1 tablespoon minced garlic, 1 tablespoon minced ginger, a squeeze of lime, + red pepper/maple syrup if desired. Then add 2 tablespoons of water to get a more creamy consistency.

#4] Next, assemble! In order to use the spring rolls, I like to use a flat bowl filled with hot water to dip the wrappers into. You want to dip them in for a few seconds until they soften slightly. Make sure not to wet them for too long, or they will get slimy + make it hard to wrap. Next, lay it down + fill it with whatever toppings you have, then roll like a burrito!

#5] To eat, just dip it in your peanut sauce! Sweet chili sauce + sriracha are also great sauces for this. I also normally serve with sushi rice + seaweed + it is a great combo!

#6] ENJOY! Send us a pic of your spring rolls — @CHAARG + #CHAARGeats!