This is my 20th year as a high school math teacher. This is my 6th year of my health transformation. It’s my 3rd year as a competitive bodybuilder. Maybe it’s just because all these things are threads of my reality, but in my mind, there are lessons that I’ve learned in one area that apply to the other two.
My teaching assignment this year is 10th grade geometry. This is a rough year for humans. Remember that year you were 16? These are the years when we expect kids to begin to accept consequences for their choices. It’s hard for them, though. Up to a certain point, there are ‘safety nets’ provided to help them in school…
“Yes, you can still do missing work.”
“Yes, you can retake that exam.”
“Yes, you can still turn in that project.”
We end up teaching ourselves (remember – we used to be kids) that there aren’t permanent consequences.
And then life happens.
I’m not going to get into the big, ugly, real-life things some of my kids have to deal with outside of school. We all know those things are exist. I think about those things every day when I look at them. It’s the little stuff I want to get into. It’s the late fees, the penalties, the loss of services if you don’t pay the bills, the relationships that can’t be fixed… the consequences of our daily choices that we have to live with. I am one of those teachers that believes a big part of my job is to help kids learn how to avoid negative consequences by making better decisions. Many kids figure it out fast enough. Some need to fall down and learn how to get back up. It’s hard, though. It’s hard for them. It’s hard for parents who don’t want to watch their kids struggle. It’s hard for the education system I work in to let kids fail – but does anyone ever learn the big lessons any other way? No. We learn from our mistakes. We learn from our struggle. And I’m one of those teachers who would rather my kids fall down with me so I can teach them how to avoid another fall before the consequences of impulsive choices haunt them as adults. I won’t take all the credit for how badass my kids are, but they are out there in the world doing some very impressive things. I know I gave them a couple of the tools in their toolbox.
For most of my followers, this lesson applies to health. How many years of self-neglect go by before we have medical problems that can’t be fixed easily? I was lucky. I was on the path to a major health situation, but my parents showed me how NOT to do it. My father had heart surgery to address what years of bad choices did to his heart. A brain aneurysm killed my mother after the same number of years of eating whatever and smoking. She was only 56.
So how far can you let it go before you can’t pull it back and fix it? After my mom died, I was afraid I would die early, too. I tried all kinds of “programs”. Short term success always rebounded to more weight gained later. I was working too much. I was depressed because I knew that the way I was living and feeling was going to continue until I died. Fear of what was in store for me probably brought on my issues faster, but it also made me paranoid enough to keep tabs on it. I was on high blood pressure meds by the time I was 45. In March 2009, a Sunday afternoon rush to the ER because I chest pains that wouldn’t subside – well, that was when I decided all the excuse-making and compromising was done. I would get help. I would throw money at the problem. I would change and I wouldn’t ever need to start over again. I knew if I didn’t fully commit to my own success this time, my life would end early.
But like I said, I was lucky to have had that ER visit when I did. I made the choice when I still had time to fix things. But there was no way I could have known that at the time. I just knew where I was was going to to end up if I didn’t change.
I also believed that change was going to happen One. Cell. At. A. Time. I think that’s reassuring. It means that rejuvenation is possible. I had to be patient. I knew that, but still had some impatient days. That’s when the support of people I put in my life helped. Change happened. And now I’m living with the happy consequences of those choices. That’s my truth.
So I’m standing in front of kids every day talking about consequences for choices. I’m setting due dates and sticking to them. I’m doing what I can to help kids rebound after they made bad choices. This is real-life, human training. We can’t fix some things, I know. But we can fix many things. We can transform.
I pray, that if you’re reading this, and you know you need to change, you will find the courage to start NOW. This minute. It starts with what you think and what you believe to be true. You know what you need to do to start. Come on now – we all know – we tend to overthink it as a form of procrastination. Eat better. Drink enough water. MOVE! Start with what you can do now and progress. Learn more, do better. Search YouTube for videos about activities you want to learn how to do. Hire a trainer.
Given enough time, fix enough cells, and things change dramatically. You can be “fake” like me! Hahahaha!