I’ve found myself time and again staring down the face of daunting circumstances; moments which call for difficult and timely decisions. “Difficult” became regular even if it was subconscious and my threshold for pain was rising. Over time, I was slowly building up an immunity to the fear of discomfort because I would only worry about what was in my control. Being mired by difficult circumstances physically, mentally, and emotionally was undoubtedly one the biggest accelerators for my personal growth.
I tell you this because this subconscious realization has fueled my relationship with fitness. On my thirteenth birthday I underwent neurosurgery to remove a golf-ball sized mass from my right frontal lobe. My parents were never so terrified in their lives and my first question with staples patched across my hairline and a cast that felt like a brick wrapped around my head was “So when can I play ball again?”
Admittedly as a youngster, I was not a great athlete. Trust me, I wanted to be and innately I was doing everything right but on the outside I was battling something bigger, I couldn’t keep up with the rest of them. Nobody wanted it more than me but that didn’t matter. I was slower coming up the court, I wasn’t as well conditioned regardless of all the hours put in, no matter the late nights outside shooting hoops or being the first one in and the last one out of the gym, it didn’t make a difference because my body was fighting two battles at once.
Nearly 17 years later, on a scorching summer day I found myself in a rural part of Maryland on the 40th mile of an IronMan 70.3. I was depleted, salt all over my skin from dehydration and not a single competitor in sight. In that moment, I questioned how life brought me there, I asked myself if I belonged amongst the other athletes on the course, I had flashbacks to those middle school suicide lines and recalled how I always finished LAST. In that Mile 40 Moment, my thoughts were dark, my soul was quenched with dismay and I felt like a fraud.
A few minutes later as the pity party subsided and I acknowledged that I had to find a hydration station, I started to think about that young boy, the boy who was accustomed to “difficult”, the boy who was immune to fear of the unknown and the boy who grew up so quickly because of his relationship with pain. Pain was my advantage and I was built to embrace it. I reminded myself to focus on the controllable’s and hone in on celebrating small wins, I broke down the next 30 miles into individual milestones and I celebrated every single one of them. 30 miles and what felt like an eternity later, I crossed that finish line with nothing left in the tank but I did have a heart full of acknowledgement that comebacks are greater than setbacks.
Completing that race helped me realize that I do “belong on the course” and that was the day that I accepted my mission. My mission is to help others channel the “Mile 40” mindset to rise up in moments of darkness and despair. My mission is to help others accept that barriers are meant to be broken.