“I constantly recommend what little bit of disdain, a little bit of resistance, they can hang. I was a new jack, tryin’ to decide where I fit. I got busy. I destroy the walls how I live, and they ain’t got the balls or the ovaries to get a fucking grip… so content to let it slip, hell bent, none held in, their story full of holes some of ya’ll fell in. How could I possibly offer up anything except dissent? Get on the fucking bus.” P.O.S.: Lock Picks, Knives, Bricks, and Bats.
In college one day, I believe it was Psychology 1001 or something of that manner (basically a communist manifesto), the topic of the American Dream came up. I was a bit older, a 28 year old former combat Marine, sitting in a large class filled with 18-somethings and a professor who might be one degree away from becoming an ex-pat to communist N. Korea. I typically sit in the back, keeping quiet and listening to this prattle of beliefs… after all, it is the fruit of my labor. Whether I believe what is being said or not, their right and freedom to say what they want is our (veterans) gift to them. It means they don’t know the strife of the rest of the world… the war never spilt into their back yards. During the discussion the professor made the argument that the American Dream has been perverted. That the kids now have to make a six-digit income, have a McMansion, 2 1/2 kids, a picket fence… and a mountain of debt. As I watched the kids around me buy into this ideology… I interrupted. My argument was that the American Dream was very much alive. What the American Dream meant was that you have the ability, through work and dedication, to make a better life for yourself. It wasn’t about getting a suburban home, it meant that perhaps one day you could eat 3 meals instead of 2, or that you could buy a used car instead of taking the bus through some shitty neighborhood, or that you could finally afford to go to school and get a better job. It simply meant that America provided the means to break your caste… you just have to keep trying, make sacrifices, and work hard.
During training, lately, since I have picked up the barbell full time (training full time, not life full time), parts of my body take a beating more often now, and respond as a result. I am constantly dealing with ripped skin, inflamed collar bones, maimed hands…. People interrupt me a lot to tell me I am bleeding from my shins. It is typically all over the barbell and on the platform. I’ve even tried socks… I just bleed through them. My reply is always, “It’s just a close pull.” You see, people are alarmed by it, at least most of them are (some get it). They can’t believe that I am abusing myself in such ways, like some freak who is into self mutilation. In a way it is, but I assure you I do not enjoy scraping the skin off of my shins. It’s just what it takes.
A close 1st pull keeps the barbell close, it allows you to shoot your hips back and load the hamstrings in preparation for the second pull. If you aren’t as close as you can be to your shins, then the weight dips forward, your back goes into flexion, or you open too early and bail forward. It is simply what is required of you. I train these pulls constantly, pushing through the pain and blood in order to come as close to perfection of the pull as possible. It is the very first step… if it is off, the entire lift is off. Every rip, every tear, every drop of blood I put onto the barbell or the platform… is a reminder of my goals, a reminder of where I want to be, a reminder that I am doing it correctly. Any goal costs something. It costs your time, your pain, your dedication… even your blood and sweat.
The American workhorse is a dangerous game. It often tries to beat us into submission. Recently I came across a situation at work where I was extremely angered by a certain treatment. I could have allowed it to happen, said nothing, gone home passively angry and bitched about it. But that’s not who I am… and the barbell does not promote that either. You have to scrape through the blood. I let my environment know how I felt, up front and honestly, ready to accept the repercussions. How many Americans allow themselves to be over worked? How many Americans get up every day dreading their job, thinking about debt, letting things at work go that upset them, do nothing about it, go home, go to bed, and turn off the lights? That is not what my principles are about. I believe in the human spirit, I believe as humans we have certain inalienable rights. People will try to use you where they can, and if you let it happen often, it becomes a behavior, and a precedent that will be pursued. I say ignore the blood, pull through it anyway, because that’s what it takes. You have to be willing to accept the pain it will take to achieve where you want to be. It takes that kind of dedication. It takes that kind of defiance. If you are beaten into submission, you lose who you are, and will therefore be slowly dying inside. There is a fire in us all, it takes bravery to kindle it. Don’t buy into what my professor said was the American Dream. The American Dream is what you make of it. It is the small choices you make everyday in the pursuit of happiness. You will be alone, with flame and fire.
Hold the barbell close, scrape through the blood, embrace the sacrifice and know that you are one step closer to gaining control of the situation. Then the lift is yours. Then the choice is yours. Then… you become stronger. It is the only good fight… there is.