By Halle Murcek
If you would have told me a year and a half ago that I’d be sitting here right now, writing what it means to have found confidence, I would have shrugged it off and quickly chalked it up to someone’s attempt at trying to be nice, or trying to make me feel better about what a less than stellar person I thought I was.
Like most personality traits confidence is learned early on. Those who cultivate it in the early stages of growing up are a step ahead of the majority of the population.
For most of my life confidence was something I thought I would never obtain, that it just wasn’t in the cards for me. I’m an only child and struggled early on in my pre-teen years with an awkward shyness that some of the more popular students sniffed out right away. I wanted to use college as an opportunity to start over, but it was easier to take shelter in the library than facing my fears of being social and going to a party across campus. My professors and mentors are what saved me, and where I found my true calling as a writer. Finally I found something that made me, me. I was a writer and I was good at it. I could, perhaps, even be great.
Post college, I moved to Detroit to start my official, real life, working at a high-end restaurant of a very well known chef. Working in the industry didn’t gently nudge me into the adult world. It shoved me, hard, into oncoming traffic. I learned very quickly that I had to leave my little issues with myself at the door. I ran with a wild crowd of DJs and movie producers who wreaked havoc on the city. The shy, unsure part of myself slowly wore away like the ocean works on a piece of glass. But I wasn’t smooth. I was hard, rough around the edges, a mess. I fell in love for the very first time, hard, fast, and messily. Finally one day I woke up in my bed next to my boyfriend at the time, and had a revelation. I was done.
New York had been the love of my life since I was 13 years old. It was a place so far out of reach for me for so many years, but I knew that I would end up here someday. Graduate school was my chance. The fast pace of the city swept me into its undercurrent with such force I didn’t have a moment to second guess any decision. For the first year it felt like vacation, and then the summer of my second year in the city, it happened. Doubt, anxiety, that feeling of being utterly alone in a city so big, you feel swallowed whole by it. I went home several times that summer, unsure each time if I could muster the courage to pack my suitcase to go back. While on winter break in Ohio that year, my best friend Charlotte messaged me one morning from the city.
“When you come back, I’m taking you to SoulCycle.”
“Oh god, you mean that spin place where you have to pay $34 dollars for a class? Those people seem so entitled.” I even scrunched up my face as I wrote my response. “I don’t need to pay $34 for a good workout. That’s such crap.”
“Just trust me,” she said.
When I got back to the city I gave in, purchased a class and on January 23rd at 4PM, I found myself at SoulCycle Union Square for Parker’s class. I can’t tell you what happened in that room because I quite honestly blacked out. But I remember leaving, barely able to speak, red-faced and high. I remember being on the train on the way home; sweat dripping down my back and neck. I remember getting back to my room, my coat still on, sliding to the floor and crying silently. I made my way to my computer and purchased a 5 pack of classes. That was the night I started over.
Over the course of the next few months I rode with Parker and only Parker. I sat in the back and, at first, wasn’t able to understand fully what was happening to me. But each time I took a class, every single time I walked into and out of that studio something different happened. I learned to let go, I learned to stay present, I finally saw that I am a strong person, a smart person worth loving. I learned what it meant to have self worth. Sometimes you don't realize you are missing something until you look back and see how different you used to be.
After riding for a good four months, I had found my home at SoulCycle. I was working at the front desk at the Williamsburg studio, hoping to work my way up to corporate or management, and I had started riding with other instructors, finding that each one did something different for me. Danny, Marvin, Ian, and Karyn were the first few I ventured into outside of my Parker zone. It happened not too long after: Riders, trainees, and instructors started asking me if I ever thought about auditioning. That quickly transitioned to people telling me I had to audition. My response?
“There is absolutely no way I could ever do that.” I went back into an old way of thinking, “Oh they are just being nice. They don’t really think I could be an instructor.” But the more I rode, and the more I paid attention to what was happening in class, the more I envisioned myself on the podium.
I auditioned in August of 2013 and to my surprise made it into the training program on the first try. I knew that I was in store for a very long, very difficult road. I was afraid. But I also knew that training would strip away that layer of myself that I just couldn’t get rid of. I already felt like I had started over countless times in my life, but this was the real deal.
I used our time in Master Instructors classes to take everything I hated about myself, everything from my past, and I put it all in each turn I took control of on that resistance knob. I wrung out and wrung out and wrung out in sweat, in tears in the dark. I wrung out in sheer bliss in Parker’s class when he came over to my bike and placed his hands on mine on the handlebars. I wrung out listening to everything that came out of those instructors’ mouths, and I finally was able to hold myself a little taller each time. I realized that it wasn’t just about what happened in that room. It was about what I took with me when I left. I took those words with me and repeated them until they became my truth, “You are enough. You will change lives. You are enough. You are enough. You. Are. Enough.”
There were a few moments that really solidified it for me. The first time I had to present a song on the podium, I choked. The music played, my body moved, but no words came. Danny, one of the training officers, stopped my music and told me to try again. Every kind of emotion was stuck at the back of my throat, holding what I wanted to say, hostage. I tried again and again, nothing. The room didn’t move and Danny stopped the music again. It was the first time I remember him being firm with me.
“Halle, this is your religion. Everyone knows that. You see it when you ride, in the way you talk about SoulCycle, in the passion you have for this company. But you have got to break out of that shell you have created around you, or this won’t happen for you.”
Before my first community ride, he knew I was a wreck. He didn’t try to make me less nervous, instead he put it into a perspective that would resonate with me. “You can let your nerves make you recoil and go back into that shell, or you can use them to create magic, to explode.” And that is exactly what I did.
Confidence, for me, isn’t fleeting anymore, it’s something I know I will always have inside of me, a light that sometimes flickers or dims, but it is up to me to make it as bright as I possibly can. Confidence means knowing what you want and what you deserve. Confidence means being brave enough to fuck up and having to start all over again. Confidence means faking it sometimes when you have those days you just aren’t sure of yourself. But I think the most important thing for me was in learning that when I step onto that podium it’s not just about me anymore.
There are times when I am teaching or riding where I look in the mirror at the gleam of sweat on my body, the crazy hair in my face - which I have since cut off and dyed blonde - where I have a split second of un-recognition. “Who is that woman?” I think. “She is so strong and so grounded and so utterly sure of herself.” And then I remember; it's me.
Halle Murcek is a total music geek, and spends every single free moment researching and writing about music. Music has become such a HUGE part of her life, and what she writes about now. She is also a SoulCycle instructor, and you can find her whipping her hair around and banging on the handlebars in Williamsburg and NYC.
Find Halle at Twitter @xLoveIsADrug, Instagram @Ingenuance, at her blog boomboxearcandy.tumblr.com where she writes about her latest music ventures, and at www.soul-cycle.com/instructors/270/halle+m./