So it’s week 8 of my campaign to lessen the gravitational pull from my stomach. Oh it wasn’t my idea, NASA was getting tired  of having their satellites pulled out of orbit, and after some men in black suits insinuated that I might be making the first manned exploration of deep space, I decided to start up at the gym again.

Oh yes, this isn’t my first experience with the black crucibles of pain known as gym. The past couple of years I’ve gotten into a habit of going to the gym 3 times a week, losing about ten pounds, and then relapsing into laziness. The most recent setback I’ve had came about last April when my sleep apnea finally got the better of me, and left me bedridden and exhausted for four months for some reason it took 4 god damn months to fill out the proper forms and get the damn machine I needed. If ever I needed proof of the inefficiency of our healthcare system, trying to get my sleep apnea treated provided me with so much proof that it nearly killed me. But that’s a story for another day.

While that is my most recent setback with my continuing efforts to get in shape, it was hardly my biggest setback. Picture it: The year is 2007, and I’m on top of the world. My depression has been in remission for over a year, I graduate highschool only a year later than usual despite being behind nearly 3 years in credits, I have a girlfriend, and a wonderful job. My mother and I are eating healthy, and going for walks daily, and the results are outstanding. I was down to 300 pounds, and while that is still overweight, I could no longer be mistaken for one of Jupiter’s moons like I could at 350.

Jupiter's Moon Ganymede...Or me after a bout of binge eating.

I had life by the reigns, and was ready to charge to the finish line. I had already written my acceptance speeches for the Pulitzer Prize and the Nobel Peace Prize that were inevitably going to fall into my lap at some point. I was riding high on a wave of success and happiness.

In the movies this is where the character riding that same wave of success would crash into the jagged rocky shoals of failure and despair. For me, however, the wave just sort of dispersed, without my even noticing. It wasn’t until I was left on the desolate fossilized seabed of a long since extinct ocean that I realized what had happened. And how badly I’ve beaten this surfing analogy into the ground.

It started slowly. I felt lost in the local community college. Whereas in Sequoia the teachers and staff were committed to helping out the students, at colleges they just don’t give a damn. As long as the tuition is paid on time, the college was perfectly content to watch students flounder around helplessly. Then a couple of bad months at my job caused me to look for another one, rather than sticking it out like I should have. I found a new one that allowed me to work overnight, which allow me to attend classes at the new school I had just chosen. I was feeling so good at the time that I felt like working overnight wouldn’t be a problem, and for a while it wasn’t. But working on 4-5 hours of sleep over the course of three months does start to wear on you. And after nearly six months you start to suffer from hallucinations.

 

And those were just the pebbles that fall before an avalanche starts.

Creepy, hallucinated pebbles...

What followed would take an entire book to explain, but the main points were that over the course of a few weeks I had both lost my job and been kicked out of school. The housing market had crashed a couple months earlier taking with it most of the economy, which made finding another job nearly impossible. And by the time life was finished exploding in my face, I had swollen up to my original 350 pounds again, and was once again pulling GPS satellites out of orbit.

And I’ve spent the last two years trying to figure out what to do about it. Which brings us back, in a roundabout way, to the gym.

You see, having been going to the gym for the past two months or so, I think I finally understand where I was going wrong all those other times I’ve started at the gym. Previously I’d been trying to get back to where I was in 2007, staying for 90 minutes, and not quitting until my muscles have seized up. Unfortunately after a couple weeks of that, my body would refuse to suffer any more, and I’d quit  going. What I’ve done instead this time, is start slow. I started off only going twice a week, and doing about 20 minutes of cardio and 10 minutes of weightlifting. I know it doesn’t sound like much right? And that’s what always bugged me, it felt like if I wasn’t in a state nearing complete physical exhaustion by the end of it, it wasn’t worth it.

But you gotta build up to it, and now after 2 months, I’m starting to see improvement. I’m now going a full half hour on the elliptical, and a half hour of weightlifting. And after hovering around 350 again for six months, I’m down to 330. Exercise isn’t an all or nothing game, and neither is life.

I’d been trying all this time to get my life back in order by getting a job, getting a girlfriend, or getting into a good school. Feeling as if I didn’t have all the things that I had back in 2007, it wasn’t worth trying to do anything else.  Just like the all-or-nothing mentality of my gym workouts. And yet look what I got out a seemingly small decision I made back in August: Deciding to go to Aeterno Elementum. Four short months later and I have a new set of friends, had some wonderful times working with the people at Ara’Kus Productions and even have a job writing for their website and newsletter.

Life isn’t a race, it’s a marathon. You got to climb that sheer cliff wall one foot hold at a time.

And when you get to the top, it's a hell of a view.

 

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Written by John Stevenson

I'm a freelance writer based out of Seattle, Washington.

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