It’s a Saturday morning. I break into my collegiate coach’s van, steal the bathroom scale from under the seat, and hurl it into the woods. I am sick of being weighed again after official weigh-in for no other reason than to be called fat. The final race of my career is in 8 hours and I am not magically 109 lbs, just like I haven’t been all four years of college: what difference does it make at this point? At 5 PM, my boat races. When we get off the water, I retire from cutting weight forever. At 11 PM, one of my teammates finds me curled up on an ottoman in the rowing house, making out hardcore with an M&M McFlurry.
Three Years Ago:
It’s a Monday. My car got broken into for the eleventh time since I moved to Miami. This time, they ate my brand new bag of Sun Chips and left the empty bag in my car when they departed. Today, I have a phone interview for Palantir Technologies. I take the call, pacing barefoot on the faux-wood floors of my almost-empty apartment with the phone in my left hand and an eight-inch chef’s knife in my right. When I hang up, I stab my queen-size air mattress in the guts, then slide the knife all the way down her side to the corner. I leave her deflated body in the dumpster. The supermercado near my house sells Delta airline cookies in bulk. I buy myself a full box, then head for the highway and speed north at 89 mph. I run right over a loose couch cushion on the road. For the entire 16 hour drive to Louisiana, I sustain myself on the box of Biscoff cookies.
Two Years Ago:
I live in Washington D.C. By day, I research organized crime networks for the sum total of $0/hr. By night, I perform standup comedy all around D.C., also for $0/hr. My diet consists of McDonalds, empanadas, and beer. My internship ends in eight days: I hope they plan to offer me a job because, if they don’t, I have no plan whatsoever. I am, in all ways, not in good shape.
My internship ends. There is no job offer; the organization barely has money to keep the current staff. An old friend calls me on the phone: he is starting a programming bootcamp in Chicago, and he has no female applicants. Will I come?
Um, hell yes. I go on Craigslist to find lodging. I specifically look for places 2–3 miles away from the place where bootcamp will be held. This will, I hope, encourage me to walk to and from bootcamp every day.
I arrive in Chicago. It’s cloudy and drab. I go on my first exercise walk in the city. I am desperately lonely.
One and a Half Years Ago:
I complete bootcamp and secure a position at a software consultancy in town. I did walk to and from bootcamp almost every day, and I am down about ten pounds. I go in for my first appointment with a personal trainer at a gym in my work building. I do 30 or so step-ups onto a bench. The next day, I can barely walk.
Six Months Ago:
I manage to perform a pull-up. The realization that I can do this shocks me so much that I spend the next 70 seconds staring at the bar, dumbfounded.
As I stare at that bar, I realize two things:
- Somewhere along the line I stopped caring what I weigh. Don’t have much motivation to lose any, except that it would make pull-ups easier. Certainly not looking to lose any for aesthetic reasons because why on Earth should I shrink myself to make somebody else happy? Also, I generally stopped caring what people say is supposed to be attractive, because who needs somebody else telling them what to do every time they look in the mirror?
- I’m no longer convinced that it is possible to remain weak at something if you refuse to stop practicing. I started from literally nothing on the pull up. Not an inch. Zero. And I assumed that, as much as I practiced, I would never actually get one — women can only do those if they did gymnastics as children. Normal adult women don’t acquire pull-ups.
I thought this way about computer programming, too: until I moved to Chicago, I assumed I had missed my chance to acquire that skill. I went through the motions a few times, but I didn’t think I could learn it for a long time.
This makes me wonder how many other things I have convinced myself I’ll never do. For example, I had definitely convinced myself that I am too old to learn to play the guitar. I’m not trying to pick it up right now, mind you, but now I’m not so convinced that it’s out of reach if I ever decided to do it.
I’m interested to know there’s stuff you currently notice yourself figuring you’ll never do because your time has passed or something. I just see so many indications that I’ve done that to myself over time, and I wonder how common it is. And I also wonder how often it’s true.
I get the impression that, with enough perseverance, maybe it’s not.