Ninja Interview: Caitlin Shukwit 2015 Wild Card
Caitlin Shukwit stole all our hearts. She makes it really easy. She comes across as a wonderfully nice person. And she really is. She is also much deeper than just nice. She is driven, passionate, and a hell of an athlete.
Chaos had the opportunity to see Caitlin as a competitor at Chaos’ Ninja Warrior competition and on the big stage for American Ninja Warrior in Kansas City. She supported those around her, encouraged their efforts, and brought the best energy you could ask for.
1. Passion. Passion is the word I think that is almost too little for who you are. It doesn’t seem enough. You seem to LOVE the things you do with a vigor others never find. Tell me about the top 3 things you are most passionate about?
You pretty much hit the mark with that description…I would say my biggest strength, yet biggest weakness is Passion. I constantly find this energy within me that is pushing me to just jump head first into every experience I encounter. Sometimes I find myself going full force in a million different directions, but I think that’s what keeps life interesting. We will always be students, and life is the teacher. Every day we wake up and can learn something new or push ourselves to be a better person, which I think can be formulated through passion. The first thing I am the MOST passionate about is people. The communication formed between humans constantly intrigues me. I love getting to know a person, and more than just their name. I am curious about their story, and what their life has been to make them the wonderful person they are at that moment! The second thing I am most passionate about is physical movement. I am a mover; I always have been. All of my interests have been guided by a new outlet of physical movement. For example, I was always very into sports when I was younger and as I worked my way through school, I discovered I was a kinesthetic learner. This is one of the reasons I picked one of my majors as dance. It is such a rich art form that is very intellectual and complex, and I can physically explore my education. The third thing I am passionate about is travel. I think the world we live in is a beautiful place, and if I am able to discover the variety of cultures, beauty, and people throughout it, why not? I think passion is the reason I have loved my experience with American Ninja Warrior. It has allowed to me connect with so many incredible people, express myself through physical movement, and travel!
2. Warrior Sports is your Ninja Warrior gym. (Located in Springfield MO and owned by Andy Mariage http://www.springfieldwarriorsports.com/ ). We have competed there with you all, hosted you at Chaos, and hung out at Union Station. You guys have a beautiful camaraderie. Tell us about your Warrior Sports Family.
This Warrior Sports family is unlike any friendships I have ever had. We all started training at the gym within a couple of months of each other, and all on our own. We were interested in the ninja training, we appreciated adventure and physical activity, and we were looking for a new place to call home. Warrior Sports and Andy Marriage did just that for us. Over the past year, we have gone from acquaintances that show up at the gym at the same time to having some of the best friends I will ever have. We are a family. When one of us is successful, we all share the success. When one of us is hurting, we all feel the pain. As cliché as it is, this started with Ninja Warrior, but has grown into lifelong family. We push each other past our limits to help each other achieve ANY goal we set our mind too. Andy has not just given us a gym, he has given us a home. I am eternally thankful to him and the Warrior Sports family: Andy, Josh, Kim, Jon, Jon, John, Adam, and Sam, for their friendship. I would not have been able to do any of this without them!
3. Having been a social worker and psychologist, I have worked tirelessly to help kiddos be ok with who they are. We shouldn’t hide our beautiful selves, no matter how unique. You have openly and without apology discussed your OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) and Tourettes syndrome with America. You wear it like a comfortable shirt you just feel good in, not like a pair of “stuffed in” skinny jeans you need cut off. You seems so comfortable in your skin. This is usually a journey. Was it for you?
It really has been a journey. It is crazy to look back to the day I was diagnosed and realized how far I have come. I remember the doctor saying, “now this might be a little difficult as you get older. It could go away in high school, or you might have it for the rest of your life.” As a 9 year old, there is no way to comprehend what he was saying, or how this would affect me. I just had to keep living my life the only way I knew, which was to have as much fun as possible and just dealing with the disorders as they came. A few years after being diagnosed, the tics got a lot worse. I could not go anywhere without them being recognized. They became physically more painful causing several injuries, and it became a stress in my life. It was a struggle every day. My mind was always fighting the tics and obsessions. It was mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausting. This is where open communication and a supportive environment were key. I had the best parents who, as uncomfortable as it was, made me talk about how I was feeling with the disorders. I had a school where everyone knew and embraced who I was. I had a gymnastics gym that not only embraced my disorders, but truly made me feel almost proud to deal with them. Everyone had problems they had to deal with; mine were just out there for the world to see. The best coping mechanism I found helpful was to start not caring about how other people thought of me. If someone was staring or was freaked out, I just had to remember that their opinion did not affect me. How someone else labels me does not change my abilities, it does not affect my decisions, and if anything it fuels me to achieve my wildest goals. I am not sitting here saying that this is easy to do. I still get embarrassed on the tics and have days where I cannot leave my house because of my OCD rituals. It is a constant battle. However, I have control over my life, no one else. You just cannot let the opinions, ridicule, or treatment of others define you. On the opposing side, remember when you are looking in on someone else’s life, give them the same respect you would want to be given; there is no telling the obstacles they are facing.
4. You have such strength. For some, that comes from finding it yourself. For others, it comes from seeing it in your family. Which was it for you?
Family and friends are my constant strength. I am so fortunate to have such an incredible support system within my family. My brothers, sisters-in-law, nieces and nephews have been by my side since day one. When I doubted my abilities, they were there to keep pushing me forward and celebrate my success. My grandparents, cousins, aunts, and uncles, have also been support from all across the country!
My parents…are the most two caring people in the world. They support my crazy life journey more than I could ever ask. I cannot tell you how many times a day I am on the phone with them in need of serious inspiration or celebrating a recent success. No matter the time, not matter how long, my parents go above and beyond to ensure that I feel loved and supported in every choice I make. They are also the most honest people I know (I think it is where I get it from). Nothing in my life would have been possible without them. They are the realistic voice of reason in my head that is completely needed when I plan to live my life with this unique path.
My friends…I don’t know how I deserve the friends I have. There are so many beautiful friends in my life that have gotten me through every up and down. They took their support system into full gear with Ninja Warrior…but it doesn’t stop there. These people in my life stand by me every single day. I truly do not think I deserve the incredible friends I have. I hope that I can be that great of a friend to everyone else in my life as they are to me.
So in short, yes , my strength is all credited to the incredible people in my life.
5. You are a double major in Dance and Communication? What do you dream your life to be?
Unfortunately, I cannot answer that right now. I dream life to be a constant adventure with something new around every corner. I do not want to limit myself by creating an ideal life because I don’t want to be disappointed from my own expectations. Living in the moment and let life unfold the way it is supposed to, is where my mind is at right now. I dream life as a blank page and I will keep you posted when the words are written.
6. I am so inspired by dancers, perhaps because I am SO not. (Unless I’ve had a couple adult beverages, then I’m totally bad ass). You dancers create such astonishing art. Inspires you as a dancer?
Dance is such an intellectual art form that I find more appealing every day. So many different things can inspire a dancer: music, movement, people, and other art. The challenge comes after finding inspiration, how to focus it into your art. Personally I am inspired by different life experiences and how they can be expressed through movement. Once I have created a movement vocabulary the rest of dance (music, formation, timing) follows through. I think it goes back to being passionate about physical movement, I love seeing and finding new ways to move your body that not just look cool, but more importantly feel good. Another inspiration I find is other dancers. Seeing the way that other dancers move can be the most successful form of inspiration because it challenges you to grow in your own dancing.
7. Back to Ninja stuff, on that platform at Union Station, you have your friends watching, family cheering. What was going through your head?
I was actually getting ready to compete, waiting for the camera guy to reset and I was FREAKING out, I was so nervous! I suddenly took a look around and it hit me…I was about to compete on American Ninja Warrior…what?! How the heck did that happen?? I shook myself awake and with a quick pep talk said, do not rush this experience. Enjoy every moment, just deal with the obstacle in front of you, and HAVE FUN! I am so grateful I was able to remind myself in that moment, because I remember almost every step of that course. I am so blessed I could share it with my friends and family. To be honest…every time I finished an obstacle I was shocked. I was thinking, “oh wow! I completed it? Okay…guess I will try the next one.”
8. To those who think fitness is not for them: that this stuff is too crazy, I cannot dance, I’m not athletic. What do say? How do we inspire more people to love fitness and be healthy?
I think there is a lot of competitiveness when it comes to fitness and healthy lifestyles, which in some situations is good. However, I think we need to encourage more of the mentality rather than the result. How fit and in shape someone is does not matter as much as maintaining the fit mentality and trying the best you can! Whatever shape people are physically and mentally, embrace it! Challenge yourself based off of your own personal goals, not your neighbors. We were all made unique for a reason. This world would be boring if everybody did the same thing the same way. Find out what works best for you and apply that to a healthy mentality.
9. For kids who are struggling to be who they are, who are still figuring it all out, who haven’t found the strength you have, what can you give them?
It is not easy to love and embrace who you are. I have been trying for 22 years, and still have serious insecurities. One thing I have learned, because it is not easy to completely accept who you are, surround yourself with people that make you comfortable in your own skin. The more you feel love from the people around you, the more love you will have for yourself. It is not easy, but life is short, so we might as well try. Another thing that helps is involving yourself in activities that make you happy. If you force yourself to study a certain subject, play a certain sport, or make certain decisions because other people want you to, then that you aren’t being true to yourself. Your happiness is the most important, be brave enough to make those decisions and bring positive light into your life!
10. Season 8, American Ninja Warrior has been confirmed. Will you be there?
Without a doubt in my mind.