There was a long uphill trail that began with a simple incline before it turned upwards. There was me, of course, and there was a longtime friend of mine who had been hiking for several years. I was quite heavy at the time. I was overweight and unaware of myself or who I had become. I was caught in the confines of a life that became average. I never thought much about my future. I never looked forward to my next project at work.
At the time, my life became a routine. I ate. I worked. I slept. Then I ate more. At best, I was north of the average body weight for my size. I was somewhat aimless and was mainly unaware that this had become me.
I had no idea what was coming. I certainly had no idea that a simple walk would change my thinking nor did I realize that this would alter the direction of my life. It was clear that I was out of shape. However, I didn’t know that I was that bad. I had no clue. It could be safe to say that I did not want to see this. Instead, I could have stayed in my personal blindness. Of course, I knew that I wasn’t as light as I used to be. I certainly wasn’t as young and it was obvious to me that I had not felt young or youthful in a long time. In an instant, all of this became painfully clear as we hiked up the mountain.
My breathing was the first thing to change. I knew that this trip was going to be long. The air was hot and humid. I was carrying water and staying hydrated. Then again, I was carrying more weight than necessary and all the hydration in the world was not going to change this fact. On top of lugging my body up the hill, I over packed my backpack, which didn’t seem too heavy at first. However, all of this changed once the terrain took on a steeper incline.
All I kept wondering was how far was this hike going to be. How high were we going? I kept asking how much longer until we rest? I kept panting and in all honesty, I can remember thinking that perhaps this is how an out-of-shape, overweight, middle-aged man dies of a heart attack.
How much farther was the question.
How much farther until we get to where we are supposed to be?
I kept hearing about these overlooks. I kept hearing about the scenery from high up above and at a cliff that overlooks the scenery. I heard about the different variations of color while looking down and how the shades of green trees varied underneath the shadows of fluffy white clouds and sun-drenched tree-tops. I was told about the breeze as it sweeps across the tree-lined mountains and how this magically basks in the sunlight below. The view was like a sea of green mountains and the sky was as blue as a childhood dream.
It was beautiful to say the least; but to be clear, it took a lot of pain for me to reach the first cliff. Without exaggeration; I thought I was going to die. I was panting and sweating. I was carrying too much weight in my backpack; not to mention, I was carrying too much weight on my body’s frame.
Finally, about six or seven miles later and approximately a dozen or so, “Are we there yet?” questions, we finally made it to an overlook where the world took on a different dimension. There was nothing man made around to interrupt the scenery. There were no people around.
Least of all, there were no cabbies and speeding taxis swerving down the street, like the way they do on Lexington Avenue in the dead-center of New York City. There was nothing here but a blue sky and a view from a ledge on the side of a mountain.
We sat and made campfire coffee, which I had never tried before. We brought some food to take along or MER’s (Meals Ready to Eat) which are far from a gourmet meal.
At the same time, there was nothing like this experience. There was nothing else like this in the world. Typically, I would call myself more of a city kid. I would say that I have seen almost every kind of neighborhood that New York City has to offer – but I had never seen anything like this before.
I remember being asked a simple question.
Where do you see yourself in three years?
What a question to ask on a day like this. . .
I had no answer. There was no direction whatsoever; but more, there was no passion either. There was nothing but the mundane response of a mediocre person in an average life with a slightly above average salary and the benefit of good health insurance, an annuity and a pension that awaited me at the age of retirement.
The question itself was simple. Where do you see yourself in three years?
Although the question itself was not astonishing in any way, I had no answer. This is what was astonishing.
Perhaps for the first time, I saw myself as average. I sought the average and accepted average things. There were no great rewards nor huge disappointments; but instead, there were only common everyday things of a common, everyday life without any real exuberance, no real challenges, no big rewards, nor fuel or desire to push my spirits to the next level.
I was not living but only existing, only reacting, only responding and neither was I thrilled or bored – I was evenly in-between.
I had to take a good look at myself. It was here that I realized how much I was missing. This was more than me being happy or satisfied. This was me coming to the realization that I had let myself down.
I let myself go. There was no personal maintenance. I was like an old car that ran along, uncared for and irregularly maintained.
I found myself, face first, and staring at my figurative reflection. This was amazing to me.
Later that day, I saw a photograph of myself and what’s worse is I hardly recognized myself.
I thought to myself, “Who the hell is that?”
Then I realized. Holy Shit!
I realized that my belly was big and that my face was round. I didn’t have the energy or the stamina to make this hike as great as it could have been. I also realized that I had no direction. There was nothing exciting about my future; but more, I realized that I had become a constant routine. I became one of those robots we see in our daily commute. I was in and out, each day and all day, every day. I was going to work to earn a living. Then I’d go home. I’d eat. I’d watch television. Then I’d sleep, only to wake up the next morning and repeat this process with more of the same.
This was me, five years ago. What’s happened since?
I lost 60lbs. I’d love to say that all of the weight has stayed off but no, I go up and down. But I can say that since this moment of realization, I found my passion. I learned about my secret of endurance. I also learned that I can endure far more than I realized and that I am far more capable than I ever imagined.
Since this transformation, I found myself as an acting part of opiate overdose recovery programs. I was deployed to hospitals and emergency rooms. In some cases, I witnessed what it means to be pronounced dead on arrival and on other occasions, I was privy to see what happens when a person touches death and then comes back to life.
I have spoken in schools and in front of administrators as well as politicians and law enforcement. I was on the news several times. I have been flown across the country to places like Los Angeles, Dallas, North Carolina and Miami, Florida.
Since this time, I have acquired different credentials to be helpful and supportive in the behavioral health and life coaching categories. I became a Certified Professional Life Coach. I received the certification to act as a consulting hypnotist. I am a certified recovery coach and, in the State of New York, I hold the following state recognized qualifications for a Certified Recovery Peer Advocate, a Certified Addiction and Recovery Coach. I have accomplished all the necessary clinical hours to achieve these credentials as well as the 2,000 plus hours to become a Certified Peer Specialist.
But wait, I’m not finished yet.
I achieved a passing grade to become a mental health first aid instructor, which was an eye-opening experience for me. Rather than live in the average mindset without challenge or without any future gains – I decided to create a business that allows me to incorporate my passion and my skills by creating wellness-based programs and curriculum.
Know what I call this?
I call this living my dream.
I saw myself as this uneventful person. I never dared or tried. I never thought much about my abilities nor did I see myself as a person who could advise, inform, or inspire anyone. However, once I found this and once I felt the drive, it was as if my engine was suddenly cleaned. All of my cylinders were working again. I felt whole. I felt inspired. I felt as if I was able and capable.
I would like to quickly share something with you. In this world that we live in, I find it easy to become distracted or lose faith. There are times like now or times when I was on the mountain – there are times when I am encouraged or inspired by the people I meet.
I am empowered by them – to move, to be, to grow, to create, and build. Yet, I find that I can adjust to anything now because, quite honestly, I find myself inspired because of people like you.
I am moved by the shared motivation of those who seek to improve.
I am motivated by those who look to promote change and who encourage transformational growth. As we find ourselves in the midst of a world where change is needed and necessary, I have not lost hope. I have not given up. I have not submitted nor have I decided to turn away.
No. Instead, I am here at the eleventh entry of a journal which I intend to publish.
I am here because of you. I am here because of all those who inspire me. I am here because although there are times when it’s hard to catch my breath, at least I know there is breath in my lungs. If I have the breath to speak then I have the breath to live. And if I have the breath to live, then I have the ability to do anything I choose. One day at a time. (So help me, God.)
The truth is that most times, we don’t know what we’re missing. We don’t know what we have (until it’s gone) and we often mistake comfort for satisfaction. But fortunately, life has a way of turning the lights on and suddenly, we can see. Suddenly, we find what we were looking for – even when we weren’t looking for it.
By the way, if you’ve never sat at a campfire and had campfire coffee –
You need to do this ASAP.