The drive from upstate NY to Charlotte, NC usually took about 12 hours for me, give or take an hour, depending on traffic conditions. But I was a young, impatient fuck, determined to do that drive in 10 hours that day. The morning I left my house to leave and start my new life is still pretty vivid to me, despite that day being over 2 decades ago.
My 2 door 91′ Honda Accord was packed with clothes and $500 cash was in my wallet. I walked into the kitchen still half asleep and hugged my mom goodbye, and then into the kitchen walked my father. My dad broke down crying and hugged me goodbye, a reaction from a parent that I’d never truly understand until that guy was myself one day. This was it; I was getting in that car and driving a long way away to start fresh and hopefully make something of myself one day.
I had gone to a community college for a couple years but never finished. My plan at the time was to move to Charlotte, work for a year and become a state resident, and then go back to college. After all, that seemed to be the plan that everybody told me I needed to follow in order to “make it” in this world.
I had a construction job lined up down there, so there was at least some source of income waiting on me, even if it was just a $10/hr construction job. You see, this guy I hung out with in high school had a dad that owned a business down there and he would hire us to work when we got there. Long story short, I did the roommate thing for about 3 months, then due to a difference of opinions and lifestyle, I moved out of the place and got my own apartment as well as a different job.
I was lucky enough to be able to stay in his father’s apartment the first couple weeks I was there, until I had the money to go in on an apartment with my “friend.”
My life seemed like one big thriller movie at that time, and the only thing that I was really 100% sure of was that I loved bodybuilding. I mean, I didn’t just go to the gym, that gym was a part of me, and it was like my best friend! NOTHING. AND DAMNIT, I MEAN NOTHING, was going to stand in the way of getting to that gym and building my body.
Not construction work, not a shit night’s sleep, not being broke, not a damn thing was getting in my way of doing the one thing that I loved the most in life! I had never been in a nice gym before I moved away. The gym I came from was an old YMCA that was built during the Great Depression, and the weights were downstairs in the basement.
You’d open the metal door to walk downstairs to the gym and immediately get hit with the smell of piss and chlorine (I miss that smell, oddly enough). There was no shake bar, there were no tanning beds, and most of the time the drinking fountain was broken.
Being that the bathroom was all the way back upstairs, we eventually learned to walk into a maintenance closet and take a piss in a drainage hole on the cement floor down there in that basement gym. There was the main weight area with half of the larger hexagon dumbbells somewhat bent to shit, and in a separate room next to the main weight equipment there was the Nautilus room (which I’m pretty sure housed the very first generation of Nautilus equipment).
So, at that time Gold’s gym was a pretty big deal to me. No, it wasn’t Venice beach or anything, but just the fact that I could train in a Gold’s gym compared to what I was used to was pretty incredible to me!
But I’m getting sidetracked here, back to focusing on the highway for that long drive that I wanted to get over as quickly as possible.
You know, radar detectors were a big thing back in the day, and I remember that little Cobra radar detector that I had in that Honda. The only thing they didn’t tell you, was the things weren’t worth a shit if you were the first one the cop clocked. I guess they work by the signal bouncing off other vehicles in front of you.
I was driving through a stretch of highway full of orange barrels signifying road work, running about 105 mph. The traffic was really heavy that morning, and this piece of shit Pontiac Aztec continued to tailgate me, no matter how fast I seemed to go to create a gap.
Then all of a sudden, I see this highway patrol vehicle sitting in the median between some trees, and a radar gun held up in the air within the vehicle, pointed straight at me.
“SON… OF… A… FUCKING BITCH!”
I couldn’t get pulled over that day! Man, if I got pulled over, I wasn’t getting down there! Not to mention, I had a couple small boxes under my driver’s seat full of D-bol tabs. This guy was going to pull me over, and it was going to be like, “Go directly to jail, do not stop at ‘go’ and go directly to jail!”
I’ll never forget that moment when that trooper clocked me. That moment is so clear in my mind to this day that I still remember Nirvana’s “Smells like teen spirit” blaring through my Alpine 6×9 speakers as I hauled ass down that highway! My body all of a sudden went half limp and this shot of adrenaline seemed to pour through my veins.
Now, at that point I could have done 1 of 2 different things. I could have pulled over and taken my chances on dealing with the cop and probably gone straight to jail, or I could have put my foot to the floor, kept on hauling ass, and taken the first off-ramp and a bunch of crazy turns to get out of harm’s way. I mean, if he was at a standstill and I was already going 105 mph, how long would it take him to catch up to me?
He didn’t have my tag yet, he had to wait a few seconds to pull out due to the 18 wheelers and insane amount of traffic coming down the highway, and how much longer would it take him to close the gap if I put my foot straight to the floor and got that little Honda up around 120 mph? I just thought to myself, “LET’S FUCKING GO!”
With my body full of adrenaline, my hands shaking like an alcoholic that needed a drink, and the volume amped up just a few more notches, I kept on going!
“With the lights out, it’s less dangerous
Here we are now, entertain us,
I FEEL STUPID, AND CONTAGIOUS
HERE WE ARE NOW, ENTERTAIN US
A MULATTO, AN ALBINO
A MOSQUITO, MY LIBIDO
A DENIAL! A DENIAL!
A DENIAL! A DENIAL!
“Okay, only 1 more mile to the first exit, come on motherfucker, come on!”
I tore off that exit, ripped straight through a red light, then took a quick right hand turn into a parking lot, and then off the pavement and onto a dirt road that led through a trailer park! Why not right? I mean, this was in fact trailer park behavior, so it seemed fitting enough anyways.
I ended up tearing the exhaust off my car when the pavement had a slight drop onto the dirt road, a stupid mistake that was 100% from adrenaline. I ended up in front of an abandoned trailer next to a stream, with weeds and grass around me that seemed as tall as my waist. I just sat there in my car shaking for a few minutes and struggling to get my breathing back on track.
I think I sat there for what must have been at least an hour. No, I didn’t toss my Dbol tabs either. I mean, those were the old Russian Naposim Dianabol tabs, and they were fucking awesome!
I slowly crept back out of there and onto the highway once again. I only had about 20 miles to go until I hit Maryland, and it was only after crossing into Maryland that I felt the weight of what I had just done, truly lifted off me.
I finally arrived at my destination, no exhaust present on my vehicle. That $500 in my wallet had just gone down to $300. But I was there, and that’s all that mattered at the time.
Sometimes, I miss those days when you could only see what was right in front of your face, and nailing those goals seemed like a true reward mixed in with real self-awareness.
Not having any real skill outside of using my body like a fucking wheelbarrow, I began my job as a commercial construction worker. The challenge to maintain gym life, meals, and intense workouts was very real. The job site I was working at was close to an hour drive from where I was staying, and if waking up early wasn’t already early enough, it would be even earlier so I could make my eggs and oatmeal before I left.
Then it was off into the hot sun for the day, probably slamming what seemed like 2 gallons of water each day! Meals were very hard to get in for me, because aside from the 30 minute lunch break daily, there was no real break time. But I didn’t skip meals, I would wander off like I was going to use the bathroom so I could stuff something in my face really quick.
I often sat on the ground underneath a parked tractor trailer, with my back leaned up against the rear tire, and scarfed down whatever calories I could quickly get in me. Maybe one day it was a couple yogurts and a sandwich, the next day it would be ground beef and rice and barbecue sauce in a Tupperware container that was often left behind.
I couldn’t miss too many meals, because after the day’s work on the job site, I had REAL WORK to put in at the gym!
You see, I quickly realized that I wasn’t hanging out with anyone, and that the roommate situation wasn’t what I thought it was going to be. Therefore, my best friend was the gym.
As long as I seemed to be making progress somewhere in my life, even if it was just the gym, the fear of not knowing what the fuck I was doing with my life wasn’t so bad!
In hindsight, I was most definitely overtraining back then! We aren’t talking about brief 45 minute, get the fuck in and out type workouts here. No Sir, I’m talking like 2-3 hour workouts on top of a 10 hour day out in the heat. But I needed those days back then, I don’t think I would have changed the way I trained back then, because mentally I needed that in my life.
I feel like one of the worst fears someone can have in life, especially in their early 20’s, is that fear that you might not amount to anything great in life. So many times, I would think to myself, “Man, what the fuck am I doing with my life?”
It’s like I just took this path that was different from what the normal thing to do was, and I was scared that path might lead me to nowhere and just waste time.
But in the gym, I didn’t feel that way. I might not have needed to do another few sets, but it helped my mind at the time. I often thought about how normal people my age were attending parties and having a good time, while still walking this perfectly paved out path to building a good life for themselves. And there I was, just crushing the gym without any other real plan in mind.
On the weekends it got worse, because at 3:30 am when people my age were either partying or sleeping, I was driving down to this place to pick up my newspapers so I could deliver them to apartment complexes for extra money to buy groceries with. This was shortly after I had left commercial construction work and got a job in a fabrication shop.
So, like I said, a lot of times I struggled not to feel like some sort of loser when I would be out at 3:30 am delivering fucking newspapers. Then one day I figured that there was 2 ways that I could look at doing that…
I could be that 21 year old loser that was delivering newspapers to apartment communities on the weekends, or…
I COULD BE THAT BAD MOTHERFUCKER GETTING HIS CARDIO IN WHILE THE REST OF THE WORLD WAS ASLEEP!
Once again, my foot went straight to the floor.
“LET’S FUCKING GO!”
This was a really weird phase I went through, where I thought it would be fun to blare death metal music in apartment communities at 4 am, in between driving around and intermittently jumping out my car to run up and down stairs and drop off newspapers.
Now, you have to understand something here, you might have been running all the way to the 3rd floor for 1 fucking newspaper! But it wasn’t about that, it was about getting that cardio in damnit! Occasionally you’d run into someone walking a dog at 4 am, and it would scare the ever-loving shit out of you!
At that time of the morning, you go for long periods of time without seeing anyone else, because you’re the only stupid son of a bitch with a paper route that’s awake that early! But hey, I was now able to buy decent groceries with the extra money plus I was hitting my cardio on the weekends!
You know, I sort of miss blaring that death metal and doing that shitty paper route sometimes.
But yeah, the fear of not knowing what I was going to do with my life was definitely real. Hell, I think sometimes that fear is still there a little bit. I don’t think that we ever truly get to a position in life where we feel like we’ve finally reached that horizon that we have been chasing. Mind you, I’m in a much more stable position at this point in my life, but this was definitely where my head was at a lot back then.
I feel like a lot of times life is like that day where I was traveling to a new place and had to make that quick decision of whether I was going to put my foot to the floor and keep on going or pull over and never get there.
Now, I’m not telling anyone not to pull over if you’re speeding and a trooper pulls out to come after you. That usually doesn’t end well for most people. But metaphorically speaking, most of the time you’re going through something in life, it’s all about whether or not you’re going to put your foot to that floor or pull over and deal with whatever is coming your way.
You can’t always outrun a tornado, but sitting there and waiting just might get you fucked up!
I shared this story with my son once when we were driving down the highway to go to this trail system to ride dirt bikes. I basically told him that there were a few major decisions in your life that you’re going to make that would pave your way for life. These decisions don’t come from seeing that clear route in front of you or having some sort of map layout of where the hell you’re even going.
There is no clearer definition of irony, than riding down the road with your son, talking about how making some stupid decision not to pull over is the reason he’s here right now.
Don’t take this article the wrong way, this isn’t some “woe is me” article. The points I’m trying to drive home here are basic.
- You won’t always see the benefits in what you’re doing until you look back on things.
- Sometimes shit isn’t always easy, but it’s your outlook on the challenge that often determines whether or not it’s a positive or a negative.
- The bodybuilding lifestyle can train you to deal with breaking out of comfort zones to overcome other obstacles in your life.
For anyone reading this that currently has the same fear that I once had, you are not alone. I wasn’t some guy that just built my body up one day and decided to start slaying chicks, like some of my articles would lead you to believe. Nope, there was a time when I was scared that I wouldn’t amount to anything and that women really wouldn’t see any real potential in me.
There was a time in life when I was lonely as fuck, and I had to make the gym my best friend. But my best friend was always there for me. It gave me back as much as I gave to it, I just didn’t realize it until later in life.
I honestly don’t feel like my life truly began until I left that small rust belt town with $500 to my name. And on day #1, I had to make a tough decision on whether to pull the fuck over or keep going. I now realize that the decision I made on that day, was how I had to look at almost everything in my life that I’ve ever done worthwhile.
MY FOOT IS STILL ON THAT FUCKING FLOOR!