Hello, Goodbye

September was very good to me. Life handed me a stein full of cold beer, and let me tell you, the eighth swig was just as good as the first: refreshing, crisp, and ever so satisfying. And I lapped it up. Believe me, did I ever. I felt like Steph Curry in Game 4 against the Denver Nuggets back in 2013. It was amazing. Straight fire.  

Then October started. And some annoying work stuff happened. And I started pitying myself, which led to me counting the hours until I could get out of the office and wallow in that pity.  

But then, something unexpected happen. A friend gave me a life update. This person’s life had taken a turn, and they had to go another direction—which meant leaving my life story for the time being. 

The news stunned me. I sat at my desk shaking for several moments. How could this happen? Why? This was so unfair! My emotions ran the gamut several times over and left my head spinning. Only when I got into my car to go home could I begin gathering my thoughts. Here is the main thought I arrived at.

People leave our lives all the time—sometimes expectedly, sometimes not. Either way, you are then forced to say goodbye. A common reaction tends to be, “Why didn’t I spend more time with this person? Why didn’t I grab lunch when they asked? Why didn’t I respond to their message more promptly? Why wasn’t I a better friend?” Now, feeling guilty is natural, but it isn't terribly productive either. You don’t get to rewind and do it differently. Give thanks for that person’s presence, and if you wish, resolve to make time next time.

But there is something you can do, right here, right now. And it’s much easier than you might think.

Think about the people you care about and are with you in your story right now. Then go one step further: Tell them you care about them and that they matter. Do it directly: text message, phone call, email, video chat, whatever. Don’t be afraid of being honest. Tell me, what is the worst thing that can happen when you open up your heart to someone who matters to you and you know feels the same way? You aren’t talking to your middle-school crush. You’re talking to a parent, a sibling, a cousin, a neighborhood friend, a high school teammate, a college roommate. This is someone you already adore, no strings attached. Why not remind them of that adoration? Speak it into existence. The whole world doesn’t need to know. Just that person. 

Here, if you need a little template for inspiration: “Hey (INSERT NAME HERE). Was just thinking of you. Remember (INSERT FUN MEMORY HERE)? Good times. Appreciate you.”

Even if you make that person smile just for a moment, isn’t that worth it? To bring light to someone you care about?

Because let me tell you something. Time is our most precious resource in the world, and we really don’t know how much any of us truly have with each other. Lives are dynamic, not static. That doesn’t mean you should live afraid. Rather, it means there is little time to be afraid. Why hoard positivity? It isn’t a finite commodity. Plus, what happens if that person’s (or your, for that matter) story changes, and their chapter in your story ends? All those positive vibes you thought about but never shared do you little good. So please, open your heart with those that matter to you. I am certain you’ll brighten their spirits. We all could use a little more light in this world. 

Five Years Later, Mission Accomplished?

For the past several years, I’ve celebrated May 19. It was the day I decided to “get healthy” and lose weight. I entered a dark place that night and did some serious self-introspection. I realized I could no longer make excuses for why I was overweight and that it was time to start doing something about it. So I did, and over the past five years, I’ve been on an amazing, eye-opening journey. Depending how you look at it, May 19 was the day I either hit rock bottom or began a new life—perhaps those things are one in the same. 

However, it hasn’t all been fun times. My weight loss journey taught me a lot about both myself and the world. It opened my eyes, and I often wasn’t prepared for what I saw. 

In that spirit, here are five things I learned over the past five years.

Looks Matter…

… But not as much as I thought. 

The primary reason I wanted to lose weight was because I thought it would help my romantic life. And to be real, it did. Wooing girls is easier when you’re fit and trim compared to when you’re rotund and jolly. It isn’t just the appearance, though—being in good shape bestows additional confidence. And confidence helps! It’s a positive feedback loop: greater confidence begets a greater penchant for risk-taking, which is what you need when you approach a stranger. 

However, looks only take you so far. Me rocking a smedium t-shirt didn’t make me God’s gift to women. If anything, I felt more awkward, more aware, and more worried about what people thought of me. That isn’t a good feeling, especially since I didn’t feel that way to that extent before. A while ago, a friend once asked me how I felt after I had lost all the weight. She caught me in an honest moment, and I ruefully said, “I may look better now, but I was happier when I was fatter.”

Revenge Is a Stimpak

If you ever played the computer game Starcraft and used the Terran race, you know one of the power-ups for the infantry (e.g., the Marine unit) is the “stimpak.” Basically, a stimpak provides a short-term jolt and improves the unit’s fighting prowess, but there is a recoil effect—it comes with a cost.

Similarly, if your motivation to accomplish a goal is to prove your worth to someone else, that also comes with a cost. 

In the short term, revenge is an effective motivator. It gives you purpose; it provides direction; it stimulates powerful emotions to keep you going when you lose patience and discipline. However, if you allow revenge to drive you, you risk two consequences: becoming increasingly bitter and losing perspective on why you want to make the change in the first place (presumably because you want to better yourself). Revenge works in short bursts, but if you aren’t careful, it will consume you. That’s not good either.

You Could Always Do More...

And that isn’t always a good thing.

A coworker once commented on my weight loss progress and asked me how much further I planned to take it. I demurred, saying something about 10-15 more pounds or so, and then “I’d be good.” She then warned me against chasing numbers mindlessly. For one, cutting weight without purpose could end up being just as unhealthy as being super overweight—being skinny doesn’t mean you’re healthy if you’re robbing your body of nourishment and energy. Plus, if you aren’t careful, the pursuit of being “healthy” could take over your life. I had to constantly remind myself why I was doing all of this, what I could handle, and when to say “when.” I’m glad I had positive support in my life, because if left to my own devices, I would have kept chasing an unattainable moving target. 

The Journey Never Ends

A lifestyle change is just what it sounds like: You are literally changing your life. Change isn’t easy! It’s uncomfortable and you don’t get to do things you used to enjoy. When I was younger, I could finish a whole pizza and wash it down with soda or beer. I realize that doesn’t sound appealing to most of my peers now, but back in high school and college, it was an impressive feat! 

Likewise, I now make time every week to run a couple miles and hit the gym to lift weights. Such activities would have been inconceivable to me when I was younger even though I knew exercise was good for me starting at a young age. Friends half-jokingly comment to me, “I don’t understand how you run as often as you do, I’d get bored so quickly.” They aren’t wrong—running can be monotonous for the mind and trying on the body. But as challenging as it is, my body has learned to accept it because the benefits outweigh the costs. It’s like paying a bill. Do you like having electricity? You need to pay your electric bill. Do you like having energy and wearing tank tops without getting uncomfortable, judging stares? Then you should probably exercise regularly. That’s a simplification, I realize, but when you experience the benefits of a certain lifestyle firsthand, you’re more open to adapting it in your own life.    

This Is Me

This lesson has taken me the longest to learn. Ever since I started losing weight, I looked at life as two time periods: the “Big Chris” (BC) era and the “Less Big Chris” (LBC) era. Heck, this whole blog post reflects that mindset to an extent. However, as close friends and family have constantly reiterated to me, I am the same person I was before. I look different, yes, but my heart hasn’t changed; my spirit hasn’t changed; my approach to life hasn’t changed. If anything, my physical body now better reflects my whole being. I didn’t believe them at first, but I’m starting to get it now. This really is me—this is who I am. I had been so focused on achieving an end, I lost sight of that for a bit. Like the Apostle Thomas, though, I had to see it to believe it. Blessed are those who believe without seeing. 

In that spirit, though, I think I’ve dwelled on my past self for long enough. It’s time to move on to new challenges and let the past rest. Onward and upward!