Friday, September 6, 2019

Been There, Done That

Also as a little sidenote. Have you gone through the same process as the people you're modding (skinny to fit/big)? If so surely you would have some sort of respect for people doing it and not just walk around calling everyone skeletons, trying to destroy their self-esteem.
 - A sobbing weenie, to WeaponizedSleep
Deakins: You know, Hale, I considered bringing you in on this. You know why I didn't?
Hale: Because I would have said "no"?
Deakins: Nah, if you'd said "no" I'd have just killed you; I was afraid that you were going to say "yes". 'Cause you don't have the balls to follow through with something like this, we both know that.'
- Broken Arrow, 1996*

I like to think of this blog as a brain toilet, in that most of what ends up here is the barely controlled expulsion of thoughts about something that's gotten stuck in my craw in much the same way as one might expel vomit when one has had too much to drink. In this case it is closer to having an immediate violent reaction to eating a bad sandwich, smelling moldy milk, or feeling the squish of the dog shit your asshole roommate has left all over the yard. I read a thing and something bubbled up in me rapidly, and I don't want to spend the weekend thinking about it.

There are people who come to internet forums convinced that they have a problem that is unique in such a way as to require an equally unique, personal human touch in order to solve it. They believe that their problem is too unique, their situation too complex, to get answers from, say, an FAQ page or searching for past posts that are similar. They are rarely in touch with reality.

There is a philosophy that I developed through my career as a software engineer which has spread to much of the rest of my life which can be put very simply - I will never be the first person to do anything. Anything that I will try to do, someone else has done before me. Any problem that I may have, someone else has also had, and solved. Thinking this way has served me very well in keeping a proper perspective about everything I set out to accomplish. I feel more people should embrace this mindset and all that it implies - including and especially the part where it means that you are not as unique as you want to believe yourself to be - especially in an age where decades worth of people talking about their problems is available in the palm of your hand, even while taking a dump.

The sentiment in the quote above is one that comes up often when some kinds of people, believing they are more unique than they are, run head first into the brick wall of being told that the only person to whom they are Mommy's Special Little Guy is their mother, at the age of four. It is an irredeemably whiny accusation that sounds the same in my ears as the noises my toddler makes when I turn off Sesame Street in the middle of Cookie Monster - "The only possible reason you don't have sympathy for me and my special problem is that you've never been where I am right now." This sad, whimpering finger-pointing is particularly popular with perpetually frustrated skinny dudes who view putting more food into their food hole much as a crippled man might view Mount Everest.

For everyone I know who routinely is a target for this accusation, it misses the mark so completely that the walking Halloween decoration slinging it would likely miss water if they fell out of a fucking boat.

I'm going to be an old man for a moment. Pull up a chair, reach into my front pocket, grab a Werther's Original, and have a listen.

When I was in college, I ended up with a roommate that sounds like the kind of person that is totally made up because nobody is actually like this. But Terry (not his real name) was somehow real anyway. Terry was really, really into bodybuilding and also one of the nicest, most helpful and humble guys I've ever known. At that time I was around 120lbs at 5'10, and desperately didn't want to be. Terry gave me a workout plan he thought would be good for me, helped me learn how to do a couple of lifts I couldn't figure out on my own, and told me "If you wanna get big, you gotta eat big".

I walked in on Terry giving himself an injection that I assumed was steroids a couple of times. I had this in the back of my mind for every month after the first that I had trouble gaining weight and making progress. After five or six months of mostly going nowhere, gaining only a couple of pounds, I worked up the courage to get past my embarrassment of failure and begged Terry to help me get started with steroids so I could get big, because I just couldn't get big. I told him I thought I had a fast metabolism, something my mother had always said about me. He laughed at me. He told me the same thing I now tell every skinny dude who claims they have a fast metabolism - I clearly wasn't eating enough. I protested that I was eating as much as I could.

It was this moment that was a turning point for me. I will never forget the way that Terry said, "I'll prove you're full of shit, Spengler. Peanut butter or milk - pick one." I chose peanut butter. He told me that for the next three months, I was to eat exactly as I had been, except also eat a quarter jar of peanut butter in front of him every day that he saw me, and I was not allowed to weigh myself. If I didn't gain weight, he'd hook me up.

I was determined to prove Terry wrong, that he was being an asshole, and get the fast track to being shredded. It was hard and miserable at first, but I got used to it over time. And at the end of three months, I had gained almost 20 lbs, and it was not Terry who was the asshole but me.

I will always be grateful for that experience, because it showed me that I hadn't really been trying, no matter what I had told myself. It formed the foundation of how I approach pursuing my fitness goals - forcing myself to do things that I know I need to do even (especially) when they're hard. Not making excuses. Always looking first to myself, my actions, my mindset as the source of a failure to achieve. In the humble opinion of one ultimately random anonymous mouthpiece, this is the way a person - an adult - should behave.

All that is a very long winded way of saying - "Nah."

It's not because any of us haven't been there that we don't have respect for people who caterwaul all over the digital universe about how hard things are and how they can't do them and why won't anybody just give them sympathy and support. It's because we have been there and therefore we know, from our own experience, that the only thing these people are missing most of the time is a backbone and the will to force themselves forward no matter what it takes.

And that's what it's all about. It is not the people who don't know your "struggle", but the people with direct experience, who have been there, who least want to hear you bleat endlessly about how tough it is. Because, having been there, they know that all that bitch-squeaking is just an excuse, a deflection, a smoke screen so that you don't have to look yourself in the soul and see that the only reason you haven't succeeded is that you haven't mustered the balls to go through with what's needed. Blaming a lack of external support, sympathy, compassion for a failure to succeed is the act of a coward. And for many of the experienced, accomplished people that don't have the patience for caterwauling, all of this can be said just as much to the person that they used to be as it can be said to you.

I know that there are people out there for whom all this is preaching to the choir. I also know that there are people out there who might categorize what I've written here as "macho bullshit" or "toxic masculinity" or "being a jock meathead asshole". It is to the latter that, in closing, I say this:

  • Deliberate fragility is neither virtuous nor defensible, and it should be discouraged - not spread.
  • Strength, determination, backbone, and grit are important traits for all people to cultivate in themselves and encourage in others.
  • Some ways of thinking, acting, and being are so shameful that the only thing they deserve is vigorous disparagement, and the only thing those who cling to them deserve is to be ostracized until they change.
  • Having the kind of pride that it takes to see yourself as a problem, and try to be different, is a goal worth aspiring to.
  • It is more useful to treat obstacles as a challenge than it is to treat them as a threat.
  • Fuck you.


*Inclusion of this quote not to be taken as an endorsement for stealing nuclear weapons.

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