Mike Tyson is credited with that quote. Taken out of context it is an incredibly deep and meaningful statement.
And my plans as a college freshman were simple. I was going to walk onto the hockey team and show everyone what I could do. Then, I got punched in the mouth a little bit. There were eight goalies at tryouts that year. Eight. At most there were four open spots. But that would assume the senior starter, and the two juniors would somehow not make the team. The rest of us, four freshman and a sophomore, were fighting for one remaining spot. Two of us freshmen were mostly unknown. One had been recruited. The other had at least talked with the coach before applying to the school. I don’t remember much about the sophomore, but I don’t think I saw him much after tryouts.
And there I was. A hockey player without a team.
So what did I do? Hey, it was college. I drank beer, ate pizza, and used all my spare time trying to impress girls by studying. (Never said I was smart. Not once.) Eventually I wandered into a team situation with a school across town, but that was short lived due to liability reasons.
And I started gaining weight again. I couldn’t really notice at first. But it didn’t take long until those baggy pants I was wearing weren’t so baggy anymore. Even after making the JV squad my sophomore year I didn’t really drop pounds. I would tell myself I was working out more (which I was) and I was gaining muscle. I’m sure that is partly true, but I was up about 50 pounds over two years. And I wasn’t built like Arnold.
Then I got punched in the mouth again. All that hockey meant less time trying to impress girls by studying. I was facing academic probation at the end of hockey season. I was at what is known as a crossroads. Hockey, or college? It was right about that time I realized I wasn’t going pro. (Like I said, I wasn’t all that smart.) So, I picked school. And that meant less exercise.
A couple more years pass and I graduate college. I went in weighing about 140 pounds and graduated right at 190. I was able to maintain fairly well playing ultimate frisbee. It’s mostly running. And drinking. And eating junk food.
And there I was, a hockey player with no team, an ultimate frisbee player with no team, and a college graduate with no job.
For some reason I decide to start with the job.
It was the ’90’s and employment was plentiful for people with my background. I was easily able to land a desk job hustling computers. Not only was I not playing hockey, I wasn’t playing ultimate frisbee, and I wasn’t walking across campus for food or classes. Knowing I had to take care of myself I joined a gym. I went pretty regularly for most of a year. I also bought a bike. A good one. And I rode it several times a week. But all that work sure made a guy thirsty. And the beer was cold and it cured that thirst. And the TV dinners were so easy to make.
Next thing I know, 190 pounds is somewhere in my past. Somewhere along the lines I picked up rock climbing and ice climbing. Mountaineering was always sort of in there as well. And I was a 200 pound mountain biking, rock climbing, mountain climbing, ice climbing, peak bagging, maniac.
At one point my typical Saturday would be a 20 mile bike ride, a five mile hike, and a couple hours playing around on house-sized boulders.
And it was all capped with good beer and even better pizza.
And I don’t think I dropped below 200 pounds for more than a couple days each year – a back packing trip usually. Fast forward a couple more years and I meet a girl. She’s wonderful, but my Saturday routine and after work biking excursions are pretty much eliminated. But it’s OK. She’s nice. And she can cook! And, she likes beer! At some point we get married and have a beautiful baby girl. Never mind the exact order of events.
And then I get punched in the mouth one more time.
At work, we have a health fair. Everyone else was going, so I go too. They weigh me. Measure me. Poke me. Pinch me. Even take my blood.
I learned after the fact that a proper cholesterol test requires fasting. So, stuffing myself with a monster breakfast burrito at my desk a couple hours before probably wasn’t the best idea. But I don’t think the results would have been so dramatic and caught my attention quite like it did.
The doctor took me into the corner to go over my results. I had never before or since had a doctor talk to me in this tone. He pulled me in close, looked me in the eye and said, “Son, you’re 30 years old. You have a family. You’re morbidly obese, and your cholesterol is through the roof. If you don’t change something fast you won’t be around much longer.” He shook my hand and we parted ways.
I did what any self respecting 30 year old would do. After work I went home and drank several beers. Me? Morbidly obese? High cholesterol? Dude! I’m the guy on the bike roaring through the hills. I’m the guy climbing rocks, ice, and other natural formations.
Unlike a true punch to the mouth, it took most of a week for the impact to settle in. And when you get punched in the mouth, there are two options 1) Just take it. 2) Punch right back.
Up next – punch back.
Until next time – Don’t let the fat man catch you!