Chapter VIII: Lauren

Meet Lauren.

This is her story…

 

I am 28 years old, the youngest of 3 kids. We were brought up as a very traditional family, we were put into a good private Anglican school and attended a Baptist church every Sunday. I did fairly average in high school, as I was distracted by my first love and my studies took a back seat.

I always knew I wanted to work with children and becoming a primary school teacher became my goal. Luckily I was accepted into university, based not on my ENTER score, but as a part time student on the basis that if I did well. I could continue into a Bachelor of Education, which I did.

Throughout uni I worked in some dead end jobs; I suffered from Generalised Anxiety Disorder which impacted the number of days I worked, and therefore how much money I made. I always found an escape from this through sports. Having started calisthenics at 3 years old, I always loved getting my body moving as a stress reliever. After I moved on from calisthenics, I started playing low grade mixed netball and swimming.

After 3 years, I realised my relationship no longer brought me happiness and decided to move on from it. I began working casually as a teacher and enjoyed spending my weekends going out with other single girlfriends and dancing the night away. I decided to take the plunge and move to London to travel and work in teaching. However in the weeks leading up to my trip, I pushed my body too hard, and after completing my third Tough Mudder my body started failing.

My liver was functioning abnormally, and, although I didn’t know it at the time, I also had glandular fever and coeliac disease. I decided to postpone my trip which was a huge disappointment but also turned out to be a good thing, as I met my soon-to-be husband at Tough Mudder five weeks before I was due to leave for London. Things between us progressed quickly and 6 weeks later I moved in with my boyfriend Chris.

I moved from Melbourne’s northern suburbs down to the south east, because being a casual teacher, I could work anywhere. I soon realised how much I missed the familiarity of living in the one house for 25 years and having friends and family all around me. I felt isolated and as though all of my friends were my boyfriend’s mates and their girlfriends.

I was talking to one of these girlfriends a month after moving and she was telling me all about how she does pole dancing for a sport. It was something that I knew was gaining popularity and thought I might give it a try. I organised to start classes with a girlfriend from uni who lived nearby. The day came to start classes and I was so excited, picturing how sexy and coordinated I would start to become! My friend bailed on me and decided not to do the classes after all as she had too much on. I was terrified to go alone but had already paid for the term up front and didn’t want to waste my money. So off I go thinking I knew exactly what was in store for me. Well, how wrong I was!!

I thought I knew the type of girls that would be there, sporty, slim and oozing with confidence. There were about 10 girls in my class, two that were still in high school, one in her 40s, and the rest in their mid 20s but each of us with completely different body types, some tall, some short, some slim, some very overweight. But we all had one thing in common: we were all very weak!

Over the course of the 8 week term these girls that started as strangers became my very best friends. We supported and encouraged each other. We pushed each other to try harder and do better all whilst standing underneath the other ready to catch them if they fell. As the term came to an end we decided to sign up for level 2. Now our tricks got harder but we got stronger. We were going upside down and doing things we never thought possible.

Fast forward 3 years and I have just started entering some local competitions and hope to build up to enter a bigger competition in the amateur category. I also now train at the gym 5 days a week with my fiancé building up strength which will also help to prevent injury. My main goal has been to get into the best possible shape for my upcoming wedding, and as I continue to reach goals and milestones in my training I am also looking to enter bikini competitions and to have a new goal to strive towards.

I feel as though people walking down the street would see me as a typical girly girl. I love to keep my appearances up with getting my hair and nails done and tanning religiously every Thursday. I enjoy doing my makeup and wearing nice clothes. What they probably don’t see is my strength and determination and as I train at the gym with two men I work my arse off to keep up with them and never want to be taken as weak or unable to do something.

As I was diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder in my late teens, I found it was holding me back from life. I would have panic attacks on trains and trams and would often call in sick to work. I hated going out to parties and was terrified to meet new people. I was also unable to sleep in my house alone and would avoid it at all costs. I couldn’t take it anymore and decided to seek help seeing my GP and asking for a referral to a psychologist. After only a few sessions I had gained so much knowledge about what anxiety was and was given tools to help cope with it. I had soon set goals to achieve and overcome and have not suffered an anxiety attacks for years and although I don’t enjoy sleeping at home alone, I can now do it.

The one dream that I will always regret passing me by was the opportunity to work and travel overseas. I was unwell the opportunity presented itself however I do now realise that I wouldn’t be where I am today if I had gone. I am now teaching full time in a primary school that I absolutely love, I am getting married to the man of my dreams and we have built our own house. We have our fur babies (2 dogs and a cat) that I absolutely adore. Although I am still faced with the repercussions of coeliac disease I am healthier now than I have ever been and look forward to one day travelling with my partner and being able to experience the world with him instead of on my own.

I am one of the lucky people who wakes up every morning and is excited to get to work. I teach a grade 2 class and just absolutely love them, the school I work at and the people I work with. I studied hard at university to be here today and I will forever be grateful for that. I work hard while I’m at work but as soon as I can I leave and go straight to the gym to meet my fiancé and one of his friends. We have a set schedule for every session in the gym (legs is my favourite!) and I look forward to pushing myself and growing stronger every day.

Once a week I get to my pole dancing class and love to try new moves and when faced with one I can’t get I love to continue working on it through the week on my pole at home.

Happiness to me is pushing myself to the limits. I see and meet so many people around me faced with life altering disabilities and diseases. I feel for them that their bodies are failing them and they are not always able to do the things they want to do. So for their sakes and my own I need to take advantage of what I have and continue to work hard. Happiness is also being surrounded by those you love and I have worked hard to build my own home and although I now live further away from my family than I would like I still make sure I travel to see them.

I will always remember a childhood of riding bikes and roller blades, and spending our summers swimming. We were not allowed dessert until we had finished all our vegetables, and it was such a treat to have soft drink or lollies. These days I ask my students to have something healthy first when they get their lunch boxes out and so many of them will say ‘I don’t have anything healthy!’ Some of them even bring in old cheeseburgers for lunch. Once I asked a student if he plays outside on the weekends and his reply was ‘yeah sometimes I take my iPad to play’. I don’t think we can blame it all on technology though because we still had computers and Gameboys growing up, it’s up to parents to monitor the time their children spend on these things and encourage them to play outside. It’s also important for parents to lead by example.

My hope is that as a country we can change our pathway for the future. We can encourage the next generations to take control of their health and to encourage them to play sports and to stay strong and healthy.

I am many things. I am a daughter, a sister, an aunty, soon to be a wife, a teacher and most importantly an example. I need to show those around me that women can be strong and healthy and that is ok. It does not mean I am sexy or coordinated or that I am a great dancer, and I definitely wasn’t strong when I started but it’s one of those things you need to work at, it doesn’t get easier you just get stronger!

You can be a pole dancer as well as a professional and a good person. It does not make me stripper (although it is ok if that’s what I wanted to do!) and it does not mean I am attention seeking. What it does mean is that I am fit and I am healthy and I am open to new challenges.

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