The World In The Life Of A Guy – Part 9 – Shape and Satisfaction

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I used to be a bit of a portly fellow, whose relationship with food was probably not the healthiest.  Whenever I was bored (which was a lot), I go to food to fill my life with some sort of relief from the pains of nothing to do.  To the point where I would spontaneously get hungry whenever there was a lull in my life.  I’m sure there were some deeper reasons why food became such a contentious thing, but my relationship with how I look and who I was about food change a lot when I hit puberty, I think it does for every guy.

When I entered high school, I was already a towering five foot ten inches. Though not the tallest person I knew in my grade, I was, for the most part, a head above the rest of my peers.  Since I was young, I would go through periods where I would grow several inches and become a bit leaner. After this one, my growth to where I am now was slightly more gradual.  The eating didn’t stop though, and I ballooned in weight and in size.  I didn’t understand healthy eating, and like most burgeoning teenagers I really didn’t care too.  I had never been fit before, at least not in since I was much younger. I did sports but it never really was an exercise more of just play.  Of course, a with hormones and age comes with a cruel sense of self and my pitfalling self-esteem coincided with my first couple years in high school.  I learned how to calculate my body mass index and the readings weren’t exactly favorable.

By the time my second year was coming to a close, I was determined to get thin.  I spent every evening when I could outside running.  Food became the enemy, I counted calories to a fault and would hardly eat.  I wanted to look like those popular people with a sense of curve and strength.  So that my body didn’t feel like a condensed blob of fat and skin.  I remember at the height my pursuits I would begin to get dizzy spells in the middle of the day that would feel like my head was hit by a wave and my body would feel off balance.  I achieved my goal though, and with that, my self-confidence rose again.  From then on out, it’s always been a struggle, a yo-yoing of weight and fitness. My relationship with food is significantly better than what it was, and fitness has become a staple in my life. My goals over the years have changed, but it’s always easier to get started after the first time doing it.

I feel that for many men out there, their fitness and health trials and tribulations go largely overlooked.  There’s still an extreme amount of effort people have to put out to get the look or feel that they want.  I know that for many girls out there, there is a significant hormonal component that keeps them from dropping undesired poundage but there are many obstacles for men also.  Look at the expectation for a lot of guys, whose idols and comparisons usually lend themselves to A-list actors, musicians, and athletes.  I am always amazed at the amount of work people have those types of muscular physiques put in. Hours upon hours of time to craft and create muscle in just the right way to accentuate their features.  The almost comical diets they have to put themselves though, that at least by their accounts feels almost close to slow starvation.  All to obtain a look, which is good for them, they deserve it after that type of dedication. For those who are less willing or able, they are relegated to fall into the stereotypic role of being the funny guy, or rich to get ahead.

My point is that for a lot of men, that expectation is bit unrealistic, at least from the onset.  It’s like watching an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie and expecting to be able to become a bodybuilder like him from going to the gym once a week. There are different ways to healthy and be fit, and each person should find their own. Some will be more extreme than others, but sometimes it can be just as simple as wanting to be able to run a mile without feeling like you’re going to die.

I have an old non-updated license photo in my wallet that ever so often I will end up looking at.   It’s a picture of me, several inches shorter but heavier and a lot rounder face.  It of when I was sixteen and a lot of changes were happening. The picture works as both a motivator and a remembrance of what things were like before and why I should always keep trying.  Our self-image impacts so much of how we go through the world, do it the way you want to and what feels right to you because you are the only one who knows what it’s like to be 100% you.

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A Community of Musketeers

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I’ve recently join now a collective referred to as a cohort which is something I have been working towards for a while. What it is, is a simple name for a group of graduate students which come into a department or program the same year you do. In essence, these people are people with whom you’ll be traveling with on the part of your journey to the ultimate goal of the degree.

I have, as always, been thinking a lot about that means.  One of the functions of higher learning is to find a place you both you fit, and that fits you. Though in doing masters, it’s the process is a bit simplified because of the supposed two-year time clock that is ticking away until the end.  Either way, the people I came in with will still be people who I share this experience with one way or another.

This is not to downplay everyone’s personal intentions for coming to this particular program, but it does beg the question. How do we want our relationship with each other to be and how will that shape the future of our time together? I feel this is extremely important because there are so few of us, that the decision we make individually will affect the group collectively.

My dearest hope is that in some way or another we ban together. As reminiscent of the title I chose, the musketeers,  it would be nice to form some sort of bond in which we can really help each other out in our times of need. All for one, and one for all.  I know this sounds a bit idealistic, but I think that’s the spirit needed to actually accomplish something great.  I’m not saying that we have to hang out with each other all the time or even really become close. What I am saying is that in our times of need or weakness someone is there to help and lend a hand.  We will act as both colleagues and rivals. We can set the obstacles and help people overcome them so when the actual danger comes, we will be ready.  Even though we go to the end on our own merit and alone, it doesn’t mean that our strength has to only come from within, you are always much stronger with others are helping you.

I think it all comes down to wanting to leave this place a lot better than where I found it.  The act of giving is one few things we can do where we end up with more than what we started out with.  I honestly believe that if we want this experience to be the most successful, it can be then we must give and not just take. We must utilize what we can and blaze a path for our future. This doesn’t have to be the worst experience of our lives, and even with the difficulties that come with grad school, we will be able to look back and remember something great. It is the beginning of our future.

The Fire Within That Burns The World

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At times it’s hard to so optimistic. Day in and day out, bright. Don’t get me wrong, I love the sunny disposition, it’s what I default back to when I am in new situations.  It’s not even just because of the amount of energy I expend, the cost is negligible because at the end of the day it makes me and others happy.   What the main problem is, that people take it as being disingenuous or too much all the time. Like opening the blinds in a darkened room, the suns rays being to burn your eyes as you squint to see.  It’s a good moment every now and again, but eventually, people will be seeing me through sunglasses or create blinders so that the light stops bothering them.  I become a special case, no longer seeing me for who I am, but a dimmer version of myself.  It gets lost, and though at times I am aware of this light and make motion to try and dampen it, I can’t help but burn within.

I don’t really understand why, but part of me feels this passion for life all the time. It dwells right there within my chest, like a ignited ember, a fire ready to take hold of many exciting things this world has to offer.  Life has a funny way of being able to make things incredibly fascinating.  Like Alice in Wonderland, each little piece has a whole world to it if you’re willing to go down the rabbit hole.  It all acts as kindling for me, and as long as I am moving forward, there is an inexhaustible supply of it.  It keeps me knowing I’m alive sometimes, like breathing and in its absence, it feels like I am suffocating.

But fire burns, and growing up with it makes it, so I am resistant to the heat and the light, but not everyone is or wants to be subjected to it. It radiates out, and sometimes it feels like those around me will eventually get burned unless the light and heat is scattered.  Like I have to continue moving just enough that people will be able to handle it.   I’m learning, of course, each day observing the reactions of others so that I know how much is enough and when to keep my mouth shut. It’s a trail littered with mistakes but at least its progress.

Fire burns hot and requires a lot to burn.  I need to find places where this fire will sit last, a slow burn that warms the spirit and doesn’t burn the soul.  It’s like finding where you belong, and the people you belong with, I want to find both, but there’s really no easy way to look, just keep following your feet. Hopefully, I can find that place where the fire will able to sit for a while and create a fixed light. A light that you can count on light the warms people instead of burning the world.

past.

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
The Great Gatsby

The past
I laugh to keep from crying
It trails me from afar
In a way I can never predict
It bites me when I’m tired
It hovers when I’m sick
I have given all I have to fight it
Or I may never win

It sits there haunting me
Like a regret but more subtle.
It’s not that I haven’t gotten over it
It’s because I am worried it isn’t done with me

Maybe it’s my fault
Thinking it might shatter my grand illusion
But I shouldn’t be worried
As long as I who I say I am
Maybe that’s my sin
That I may just fall apart
and all I will be left with is him.

The Project

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Over 400 hours at this point, over the last 2 years.  400 hours of research that I have been doing since I got back from my trip after my graduation.  Every week, once a week going out to the lab and sitting down in front of a computer to do some sort of work towards my project.  Over 10,000 miles driven to and from home to Lab, adding up to hundreds of hours in the car.  I’ve never really questioned why I was doing it, I just knew I had to for both myself and my future. Hours now for a better life later.

It started as a project in my senior year of college, having gotten a fellowship I was allotted money to help fund my endeavors. Truth be told, it was more of a validation than a necessity to get the project off the ground.  That year flew by as I worked 12 hours a week to get it done and I did finish the preliminary project.

The real journey began after I graduated.  Expanding the project was a hassle, multiplying the work from 3 participants to 56 was no small thing.  I got help though, got to share the burden of this project with others as I both learned and fooled around with the numbers.  I didn’t realize how much of a novice I was until I was sitting in front of a computer, looking at a bunch of figures I didn’t know what to do with with a bunch of results that didn’t make sense except that I knew that I had to do them.

Wrapping my mind around these things, doing all this work outside of school, I’ve never really thought about what I would be doing instead of research.  I just knew I had to do it and so I did. I learned to ask for help. To admit when I was stuck and to bounce ideas off of others.  To stay positive even when things look bleak.

There has been a lot of self-learning, growing in ways along with frustration from lack of understanding.  Delving into areas unknown. I know that I have learned a lot from just being there, and it’s kept me going forward towards my dream.

I am nearing the end soon, the end of my time in this lab.  4 years in totality, 3 on my own project.  It will feel weird when I have gone and left, it been such a staple in my life. I’ve gone through a whole breadth of emotions there, kept coming even through depression because it was something I knew I had to do.  It will be strange when it was gone, and it feels weird now that I am reaching the finale.  I hope I leave on a high note, but at the very least I want to leave knowing that I at least did something.

My last day I imagine will be a quiet one, nothing big going on, with groups of Research Assistants working quietly in the lab.  They won’t know a thing about who I am, my generation has passed, and I will simply walk out that door, walk to my car, and drive away and maybe be remembered for what I did there one day.

I don’t know what the future holds, I just know not to waste it.

The Eventual Death Of The Universe

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Do you ever think about the heat death of the universe?
From the moment I learned about it in high school chemistry class, I reflect on it and what it means.  The heat death of the universe happens when all energy is expended when all matter has reached its equilibrium, and there is nothing left to do. It’s the ultimate end of everything because there’s nothing left, just the cold and the still.

Life and nature curve its way toward entropy, a chaotic system, without any help something that is orderly will slowly break down over time to little bits and pieces.  This happens until there is nothing left to do, and it will move on to something else. Nothing is immune to this effect, and if we want to build something or maintain it, we have to put an effort in, use up the energy to do so. This lost energy we can never get back and slowly it ticks us ever closer to the end.

I think about how this relates to people, the idea that our relationships or lives are these massive towers we build for ourselves.  To create these monuments in our lives we spend time and energy, and without time and energy, they simply wither away.  We try and sometimes maintain order in our lives, but all it takes is a little bit of disorder to throw us off our game.  Life is effortful, it takes a lot of energy to live the life we want to live.

Our bodies are made to conserve energy, to ration it properly, as if it were always in scarcity.  The truth of it is that people will always skew to doing the easier thing.  It’s within our nature to figure out the pattern to something and learn to cut down the process to its most essential.  That’s why patience and discipline, for the most part, are learned traits, not inate.  That’s also why when you hear about great peoples and their great actions, it’s not about what the result was, a lot of the time what they did was nothing more than a series of small, doable things, it’s more that they did it.  They pushed themselves beyond what peoples see as natural or the doable.  The push themselves to new heights because they are willing to continue to put in the energy to do so.
They are not afraid of building towers and having them fall willing in spite of that.

I think about the heat death of the universe and wonder if I can fight against it, even if by just a little for a little while.  To build a life that I expend this energy to create something more than what was there before.  To build and maintain relationships and a life that is in spite of the constant pull toward the comfortable and the easy.  I want to try at least, to become something more than this scarcity.

If I’m constantly worried about where my energy is going, I never am able to use it all for what really matters to me, living a good life the best way I can.