There must be something to the cold air of December. It is as if zipping up a jacket and closing off my body from the elements tells my brain to go even deeper inside than normal. Time to search the soul, become reflective, and find that answer that you've been searching for all year.
This time last year, on the way home from my last Christmas in the home I grew up in, and my first one without my loving grandmother there to share it, I wrote The Art of Letting Go. To this day, no matter how many articles of mine are shared or plastered across websites, I hold tremendous pride in this one.
So, here I am again - feeling particularly reflective once again as the bitter chill of a December Thursday bites at the windows just feet to my left. Ten days into my 28th year on this round rock and ten more from feeling the warmth of my parents home in Florida (literally and metaphorically) I just can't help but to lean back and look at it all.
There has to be lessons in those 365 days. Otherwise, how can we grow? If there are no moments of clarity, then there can be no such thing as the fog of war - at least if the laws of homeostasis apply equally across this universe.
We have to be able to wrap our heads around what the F*** just happened. It is our reflective self, an internal debrief of sorts, that allows for us to modify courses to meet our needs and wants. Hopefully, we do this enough to meet our dreams.
I've said for a while now that much of our problem as a society stems from our lack of processing time. We are constantly consuming information in a world where people get their news from Social Feeds and don't bother fact checking what we've read. When we aren't consuming data, we are spewing it - real or fake - without aim.
Our Facebook feeds lead us to shows that blur our relationship with time and numb us to the world that continues to move around us. When we have had enough Netflix we find ourselves scrolling our Instagram feed and seeing this person and that person. Flash judgements lead to lifelong obsessions, and our actions become lead by others and not by our own intuition.
We share, retweet, and comment until we have nothing left to say; that is, until the next piece of fodder grabs our eyes, our attention, and our soul.
What of thought?
When do we process what we've seen?
When can we take a shit without bringing our device into the stall to entertain us?
Instead of letting our brain process, metabolize, and sort out all the things we see each day - we just keep feeding it like a paper shredder. A paper shredder will do its job of cutting things up into unidentifiable bits, scattering truth into little strips that sit in a basket until it needs to be emptied. That, or it breaks. It jams. When it jams - the whole operation must stop.
Yet, our brains can't be replaced. You can't discard it. You have to clear the jam.
In 2016 - I cleared my jam.
What can change in a year?
Logistically a lot can change as a calendar cycles through twelve pages, three-hundred and sixty five days, and a whole lot of memories.
This year I became a Master Instructor for Equinox, a title that allows me the opportunity to groom the next wave of trainers as the progress from one tier to the next.
I continued writing, less for this site, and more for sites such as PTDC and PTontheNet. An outlet to help groom other trainers via text.
I acted in a few short films, appeared on local TV a few times, was quoted in magazines and newspapers a few times
I spent two weeks in Spain and Italy with my best friend and his girlfriend. I toured Rome and saw shows in Ibiza.
I trained thousands of sessions, coached hundreds of classes, and ran tens of miles (for the first time in years).
These details read like a resume. If I wanted to get a job based on my 2016 scrapbook - this is probably how I'd present it. Therein lies the problem. These details, are all things that changed in my life - jobs, titles, people, places - and none of them have to do with me as a person. There is no look at how I feel, or how I think. No examination of my confidence and insecurities.
Just a series of "look at me's". I mean, for God sakes, at the beginning of the year I was publishing a monthly update about the things I'm doing in my life like you actually give a damn about how many sessions I've trained, films I've thrown my mug into, or what bourbon I was hiding my bullshit under that month.
So concerned about "what" I was doing that I didn't stop to think about "what" was happening to the person doing all of these things. I assumed that everyone would like me more, look up to me differently, if I just showed the cool shit I was doing on a regular basis. The truth is - I was. I was crushing life. Yet, It was a big pile of steaming poo in comparison to what was inside of me.
I didn't process the actions and reactions. I sure as hell wasn't doing any inventory on my feelings. I'd just work harder, drink harder, and hide myself within an identity I had crafted so carefully - Mr. Superhuman. I'd slide into that alter ego like a onesie and crush my days, fueled by caffeine, only to need a few too many sips of whiskey at night to come back down...
Because...bourbon tastes a whole lot better than your own tears.
Authenticity is one of the world's rarest commodities and it is only getting harder to find. Carefully curated social media, "candid" photos, and the age of the personal "brand" force us to manipulate the world around us. We are all magicians in some ways. A little slight of hand can fool even the brightest of minds.
In a world where no one takes the time to process it has become even easier to pull a rabbit out of a hat. Even if the audience saw you put the rabbit in the hat in the first place. You just have to occupy their minds long enough that they forget. People trust their eyes...too much.
I thrived off of this reality. People saw the brash guy with blue eyes, a website and a bunch of media appearances on his resume. Thousands of sessions, a gift of gab, and just enough charm to change a lonely night. Caught up in the world of accomplishments and masculinity that I had dove head first into - I suddenly found myself drowning.
Just enough talent to keep it together, but not enough efficacy to keep it from catching up, this year brought about a need for change. The ego craved a promotion, more money, a chance to be famous. The little boy inside just wanted to know he mattered.
Tony Robbins has said, "heal the boy, reveal the man".
Take his antics or leave em'. I don't care. The man has helped thousands of people wake up with new inspiration or go to bed free from burden. He is on to something and he is changing people every single day.
For me, his quote gave clarity, and a vision of what to work towards.
The clarity of 2016 is as follows -
No one gives a shit what you've done, including yourself, if you aren't cool with the person underneath. If you aren't taking the time process what the hell is going on around you, how it is making you feel, and why you are feeling the way you are, then you will always be just one false-step from screwed.
The question we should be asking is:
"Who did you become this year?" or "How did you change this year?"
It took my first experience with anxiety and depression to learn this. It took almost ruining everything I've worked for and dreamed of in order to figure out that there was some serious shit that needed to be dealt with in order for me to keep going.
It took a strong woman standing by my side, a great family behind me, and the help of a professional who knew I had only ran from my feelings up to this point. With the help of everyone, the inspiration of a simple quote, and my ever-growing desire to unfuck myself, I went for it.
I had to let go of that scared little boy who watched his Dad board a plane to who-the-hell-knows where in the middle of the desert (Qutar/Kuwait). I had to finally feel the rush of elation when he came home on his own two feet. I did.
I had to come to grips with the kid who didn't make this team, or date that girl...and I had to stop motivating myself by trying to show off to all those who had written me off in the past and start living for the guy I am now. I have.
I had to let go of the betrayal from others, especially the ones closest enough to leave a scar. I had to stop fearing pain and instead run head first into it. Growth happens when you are most uncomfortable. Holy smokes was I uncomfortable.
I had to stop lying to everyone around me about how happy I was, about how well I was doing, and about how every day "was a holiday". I had to stop being an actor and stop filling the roles that I assumed others wanted or need me to play in order to keep the script rolling. I had to stop hiding the real me in an effort to not offend anyone's expectations of me - not to ruin the story.
See, everyone likes a good narrative. The underdog story, the long lost lovers destined to find each other, and the fantasy worlds of our childhood dreams. They line the shelves of the bookstore, and fill the queue of our Netflix accounts; awaiting our consumption, demanding our acknowledgement, and quickly fulfilling our palate.
Our lives, like the script of a movie or the pages of a novel, follow a narrative as well. Yet, unlike this predetermined pages of text in which the actor responds to the director, or the characters act upon the whim of the writer - life presents a chance to write, portray, re-write, and edit the story.
The story is not constrained to the limits of glue and paperback, nor the confines of the human attention span. It is not determined, then released for consumption, review, and applause. It is fluid, as water running through your hands can be held for a moment only to be lost to the laws of gravity and pressure. It is a series of intentions formed by pain and pleasure, memory and prognostication, love and hate - acted out in a series of twenty-four hour films set in succession until the film runs out of reel, and the heart runs out of beats.
The story is one that is written with omniscience. The past, present, and future intertwine in an orgy of the mind. Hopes and dreams mingle with fears and regrets to develop a script, nay, a plan of action. Under the watchful eye of actor and writer, acting as one organism - this is what we call life.
There are tons more of these thoughts that have raced through my mind as I've reassembled myself. With every keystroke I find a sense of certainty that was lacking before. By taking the time to process how I felt, why I felt it, and what it all meant - I took the power from my own bullshit.
We all have burdens, scars, and things we don't want to revisit. We have parts of ourselves that we hide from the world at all costs. That's normal. What isn't normal - is hiding them from yourself and pretending they don't exist - just because you want everyone to look up to you as this painless person who doesn't had the same problems as everyone else.
I share my personal struggle, something that was long overdue, in the hopes that it inspires you to change your own attitude towards what you are....no, WHO you are. You can't be the successful trainer, build your best body, or even become the mother or father you want to be....
If you can't let go of your demons.
Last year I wrote about letting go of the past. I meant every word. Yet, I never realized that I was only coming to accept the beauty of the past - the memories in my old home, my grandmothers beautiful face, etc.
What I didn't know yet...
Is that you have to embrace those failures and shortcomings and wear them as pride stickers. Don't hide from them - because they made you the person you are today. Embrace the challenge of taking your pains head on and coming to understand why they still hurt. Maybe they don't hurt anymore, but you hadn't opened up the box in a while and didn't know that.
Or, maybe they hurt like hell. Maybe they'll cause you to weep into your loved one's arms, or talk in circles in the office of the professional whom you are paying to help sort it all out. They'll make you angry and sad, laugh out loud at weird times, and definitely make you feel a knot in your chest and a pit in your stomach.
You'll question everything around you, want to knock down everything you've ever built, and run away to a whole new place and hide away from everyone.
And that is the most beautiful moment.
Like anything in life, the challenges make you. A term paper due overnight tests your work ethic. A broken heart tests your willpower to love again. And fighting with yourself in your own head forges an unbreakable sense of self.
You have push through this final part of the fight, just as the hero gets knocked down before he finally defeats the big bad enemy. They wipe off the blood, say something cool, and kick the shit out of the bad guy until the story ends.
You can too.
When you fix your belief in yourself, and you face the parts of yourself that you've left unchallenged - THAT is when you become Superhuman. When you put your phone down, stop checking who commented on your post, stop binge watching seven seasons of a show, stop floundering in excuses and bullshit bravado....
That's when you live.
That's when you become great.
Don't be afraid to be authentic. Don't be afraid to take off your armor. This world is a scary place and everything can change in a minute. The coldness of the winter doesn't go away once the sun comes back out - it lives in the souls of so many around you. It makes you draw your sword and hide underneath your shield. It makes you conjure up a narrative to hide the real you.
Yet, stay authentic. Stay true to yourself, good and bad, and everything you've ever wanted will find its way to you.