“These pyramids don’t build themselves, now go resume the grind. I tell ’em I don’t follow in the footsteps of insane. I tell ’em I don’t trail along a path with no terrain. I tell ’em you can work the fields and bask in all your grain, but for one don’t live to work. I will not live in vain.” – Zack Hemsey: Slave
I remember the first time I tried to get into the Marine Corps. It was 2003, and I was just starting to grind out of the destruction that was my late teens. I was a completely troubled youth, even dropped out of high school. One of my greatest weaknesses, now a strength, is that I am defiant by nature. It took a long time to harness that energy, and some intense tools. Because of that intensity in my early years though, there was a fair amount of work I put into destroying my own life. When I decided to make a difference, and get my shit together, it was like a freight train suddenly slammed on its brakes, and all of the cars came crashing into each other. What I mean by this is that there were repercussions to my actions. I couldn’t just join the Marine Corps.
When I walked in, the recruiter (I can’t remember his name), saw my record. Instead of trying to work with it, he tried to hide it. He told me to lie about everything. Being 19, I just did what he told me. After all, he was the recruiter. I got fairly far, into MEPS. At 0400 I was there. I went through the motions and got all the way to the end, when the Gunny gives you a small “Moment Of Truth,” before you swear in. He asked me, point blank, “Are you sure you’re not hiding anything?” I kept thinking of my recruiter, protecting him, being a loyal 19 year old. I told him, “I’m not hiding anything.” Then he dropped the bomb… he had done his research on me, and told me everything he knew I was hiding. I was devastated. He didn’t get mad at me, he knew my recruiter was responsible. Basically my recruiter gave up, probably got in trouble, and I was told to leave. When I was leaving I was approached by another recruiter. He told me that if I went and did some college, I may stand a chance for a waiver. I left and went on to get my GED at Durham Technical College.
Training is not linear. In our own minds we often think that 1 + 2 = 3. If I train, I will get stronger, and day after day that will be the result. This will work for a time. Then, inevitably you will hit snags. The easy ones are when your progress slows. That’s when you will need to start making mistakes… and you will. You will be thinking one thing will work, when something else is actually what you need to do. You will critique diet, look at crazy programs, research on the internet, talk to people. This will never actually stop. What happens is that you just learn what works for you, and what doesn’t. Who is undeniably full of shit, and who gives a shit… and has real knowledge. Even if you find someone who knows something about something, their personality may not work for you. It’s a lot like a relationship… you have to fail at love many times to be ready for the real thing.
I’ve been injured, dumped, sick, fallen into despair and drank away a few months, death in the family or friends, displacement through relocation, focus lost due to outside circumstances and friendships/family. Just read some of my other blog posts, you’ll see. I have been in and out of shape so many times I have lost count. But, ultimately, I am a stronger version of myself now than I have ever been. As I get older, what I may lack in prime fitness I more than make up for in experience, discipline, and the power of a controlled mind.
At this point I am considering my next steps. After Flight, what will I do now? I have been speaking to my friend Kevin Carroll, who now has a PhD, and he has offered to program for me. In turn I told him I will show the world that at 32 you can gun for the American Open, drug free. He approached me and told me he knows that I’m going through a hard time. That he knows training is not linear, and is ready for me. Thanks Kevin. Goals are important. Goals keep you focused. Want a tip? When you’re thinking about doing something, stop and ask yourself: “Will this help my goal?” Now, it’s not about direct physical training. Many things are required to ultimately be stronger. You have to have relationships with people, have a balance, have fun, be driven, and be able to support yourself. Sacrifices will need to be made, and some pull and push will be necessary… it is all a careful balance of what it takes to be successful at this. Training is not linear.
I eventually got my GED, and then needed 12 credit hours of college. I got some at Durham tech and a few at NC State. This was about 1.5 years later, and I was going through life. I hadn’t lost the will to join the Marines, but had certainly been side tracked by life. My brother came to visit, recently having graduated into the Coast Guard, and took me into the recruit station. I learned from my mistakes before. I walked right up to the recruiter and said, “I want to be a Marine. I have this stuff on my record, I have done these things for a waiver. Can I get in?” He said, “I’ll work as hard as I can to get you in.” Now the playing field had been leveled. I had to go through some shit. Many, many waivers had to be addressed, I had to talk to a Colonel at one point. He drilled me, and finally, after having been humbled, I said, “Sir, I have never tried so hard in my life to get my ass kicked.” He smiled, said, “You’re ready,” and signed the waiver. Time passed, and I grew into the man I am today, and will continue to grow with the tools of self development I find around me. I got a degree from Appalachian State University after the war using my GI Bill, put in time working in my field, and am now successful, make a healthy salary, train regularly, and help my community around me. One may look at me and think I did all the P’s and Q’s… but nothing could be further from the truth. I went through hell. This is all a far cry from the 18 year old kid who dropped out of school and got slammed on the hood of his truck by cops and hand-cuffed, high on some shit. Training is not linear. Life is not linear. You can become stronger, or you can give up in the face of adversity. The choice is yours. See you in the arena.