Before and After

Most people wouldn’t start their birthday with a workout, but I am not most people.

I woke up this morning, threw on my dark blue bathrobe, and turned on some soccer. It didn’t matter who was playing. I had plans for later, but they weren’t now, and I entered my 31st birthday by having the morning to myself, doing the things that I wanted to do, even if I wasn’t doing much of anything. It’s lovely to just be able to sit and relax and have a cup of coffee. I’m not sure there’s anything more romantic than that. My routine during the week is strikingly similar, except that on the weekends, there is no rush to get anywhere. During the weeks there’s always this undercurrent of being hurried, and to just be able to sit there in comfort is something I’ll never take for granted.

When caffeine was flowing through my veins, it was time for the workout. It was a simple one: pushups, pull-ups, and dips, on repeat, for thirty minutes. I was feeling a gassed about 10 minutes in, but I was able to regain my stamina, and keep going. After that, I did a quick leg workout, and I was toast at that point. I was tired, but also grateful. I’ve achieved something that most won’t in their lifetime: I love to workout. Rather than feeling it to be an obligation, something to done because of a doctor’s orders, I love what I do, and the love keeps me coming back. I know that I am a much better person today than I ever would be without exercise. Exercise teaches me things like dedication, perseverance, and I’ve learned to just check my ego at the door, rather than worrying about how strong I am. I know that I’m a long way from the 140-pound kid starting his freshman year of college.

I wish I had pictures of those two people, the person I was then and the person I am now, because I’m sure the differences would be striking, almost comical. It’s easy to see why before-and-after photos are so compelling: you get to see how far you’ve come, something that is harder to notice when you wake up with the same body each and every day. It’s more noticeable to friends and acquaintances you haven’t seen in a while because in their minds, the last time they saw you is the way they remember you. When they see you again and realize how much progress you’ve made, they’re astounded, while you sit there and think, “I didn’t realize anything was different.”

I’ve found something I love, something that has sustained me and continues to keep me interested. I’ve left the gym, and I’ve never been happier than I am when I’m working out in the comfort of my own home. This post isn’t supposed to inspire people to get into the gym or to workout, but I will say that if you do decide to go that route, make sure you find something that jibes with you. Make sure that everything in your life is something that you love and are passionate about, as you’ll wake up feeling energized and ready to take on the day. You’ll feel like a crazed animal just before the cage is opened.

As I wrote in my 31st birthday post, it hasn’t been my best year. The year wasn’t my favorite, but when I sat down and listed all of the positives, all of the blessings in my life, it was much longer than the list of negatives. It blew me away, and I’m now recognizing that keeping a gratitude journal is not such a bad idea. When you sit down and make a pros and cons list of all the things you like and dislike in your life, you’ll be amazed at just how many things are going the way you want them to, rather than how many things aren’t. It’ll reshape the way you look at your life, and you’ll be happier for it. We tend to let the negatives in our lives carry much more weight, and this is a mistake.

A good friend asked me about turning 31. My response was that I felt far better this year, and it’s not just physically. When I think about where I was a year ago, and where I am today, I know that I’ve made some big changes to make sure that my future is bright. It feels like I’m doing some things right, when I’m much more inclined to think that everything I do is wrong. It’s so easy to give into pessimism, especially when it’s your natural state of being, but more and more I’m conditioning myself to drive it all out, to beat it back with positivity. I have no doubt that it’s making me happier in the process, even if the progress has been slow at times. Sometimes it feels incremental, but when I look at where I was last year in comparison to this year, I’m feeling so much stronger about where I am.

Maybe 31 will be the year I wanted 30 to be, maybe not. Maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe as long as I end up happier at 32 than I was at 31, then that means the year has been a success. Maybe the things I want aren’t what I need, and I’ll redefine what success means to me each and every year. I still don’t have everything figured out, but I have a feeling this year is going to be great. After all, I’ll become an uncle in just a few short weeks, and it’s hard for me to believe that anything will top that. I’m comfortable in knowing that that will be the most significant moment of my year, and that everything else will pale in comparison. This is coming from the person who used to not like kids, and it’s proof that we all do change with time, whether we realize it or not.

The overarching goal is to get better with age. You hope that the after is always better, and that you’re always improving. Life isn’t always a direct arrow pointing upward, but I have a feeling that when you count up the positives and negatives in your life, that you’ll realize you’re doing much better than you think you are. Forget the silver lining. So many things are going the way you want them to, so embrace them, and if something needs to be changed, then change it. This is going to be your year, and so will all of the other years after it. Be better this time next year, for every year, for the rest of your life. Thanks for reading.




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