I teach three SoulCycle classes every Sunday. Each class presents new people, new challenges, and new ways to connect to others. We celebrate ourselves, our bodies, our strengths and our lives. We stay motivated and keep going... keep trying, keep pushing, and keep loving ourselves and one another relentlessly through collective consciousness and community.
This Sunday presented an entirely new challenge that I am still grieving and processing.
Thirty minutes before my second class was set to begin, a coworker called me. "I have bad news," he said, before informing me that one of our most beloved friends of the SoulCycle community and the world had passed away unexpectedly the day before. Not just any friend, this man was the type of person I prayed for as an instructor. He was the friend we all should strive to be for one another. He was generous. He was encouraging. In many ways he was my first cheerleader—he believed in me when most people questioned whether or not my class was "good enough" or "for them."
He told me that I should keep being myself, because he loved my authenticity.
When he and his beautiful wife were in my class, it always felt like a special treat because my regular schedule didn't necessarily work with theirs or their son's school schedule. But when they were in the room with me, I truly felt like I could let my guard down and give the class the real me. They were powerful. Their love was infectious. Their passion for life was genuine and it always made me want to be better. When I doubted myself or had "one of those days" they were my mentors and my coaches, telling me to let go of the small stuff, hold my head high, and move on. They hugged me when we saw each other. They laughed at my dry sense of humor. They loved... more than anything they loved each other and their beautiful son and it always gave me hope that one day I could find such a love.
I don't know how to write about this experience without risking "making it about me," but the truth is that I am hurting. I am hurting for their family and all of the people who were deeply impacted by this man and his infectiously positive, radiant spirit. I am hurting for his wife and their son. I am hurting for all of the other people that are hurting as well, because I know there are many.
When I got up to teach my class on Sunday, I couldn't fake it or "leave it at the door." Instead, I hid in the back office for as long as I could. I hugged my colleagues, we cried into each other's arms, and we came up with a game plan. The lights would stay low, I would give myself permission to not force anything or say too much, and I would ride strong... for him. I would be the instructor he believed in—the instructor he helped me become.
As soon as I turned on my microphone and stood on the podium, it was an instant reminder of him. I thought about the joy I felt when I saw him clip into my class, and a deep sadness took over as I choked through an introduction and told the class that I had just learned some devastating news. I apologized to the new riders in the room, telling them that "today was going to be different." I looked around and saw many faces that I knew were there to support me no matter what, so I took a deep breath, wiped the tears and snot on my towel, and hit 'play' on my laptop.
People often ask me how I do it. "How do you get up and teach over and over? How do you come up with inspirational things to say?" Throughout that class, I didn't ignore how I was feeling or pretend everything was fine. I thought about my lost friend the entire time. I thought about the instructor that he encouraged me to be for almost four years of my life. I thought about the pep talks he would give me when I was down on myself, and I shared those memories with my riders—not to incite sadness, but to remind them of the impact that their actions and words really have on our lives.
The Union Street studio has battery-operated candles for the time being. Toward the end of class, as I started turning them off, one candle switch wouldn't turn off. There is a good chance that I broke it, but in that moment I recognized that it was my dear friend, lighting the room relentlessly and refusing to be dimmed. As I guided the class through our final stretch, the podium lights began to glow brighter and darker completely on their own. Without pointing it out or saying a word, I basked in this moment.
I prayed and I cried.
I would not be the instructor, friend, daughter, or girlfriend that I am today without the influence, love, and inspiration of my dear friend. He was my original cheerleader. He believed in me before I was sure that I believed in myself. He was at the Marin studio opening weekend and has been there almost daily with his wife ever since.
As the waves of mourning continue to crash and settle within my heart, I want to express my deepest condolences to the family and friends of my dear friend, Sevin Philips. He will continue to be a constant source of strength and inspiration to me, and I will continue to give back all of the love and encouragement to others that he bestowed upon me. Anyone who knew him knows that his light will never go out.
He will always be the candle that stays lit.