“This is just my personal opinion, but …”

I remember one of the annoying things I used to do when I was younger was either start or end statements I made with a disclaimer. I was always so worried about stepping on toes or being misinterpreted whenever I spoke that I felt the need to constantly remind people that it was just my thoughts.

Now, in moderation, this is fine. It’s something I still do to a certain extent. I tend to say things like “I feel like” and append “this is what has worked for me” to advice I give, but it was a problem when I ended every other sentence or thought with a disclaimer. I realized that the reason I did this was not truly because I was concerned about others, but more about myself. It was more a sense of insecurity and avoidance of scrutiny. It’s great to be considerate and to mind others while talking, but at the time I was more afraid of the backlash I would receive should I say anything outlandish. It was a way to sort of excuse myself.

By reminding others that the statements I made were purely based on my own experiences or that they were my own personal opinions, I’ve realized that I was just being childish, and even redundant. It’s generally assumed among the educated that statements you make are based on your experiences and opinions you express are your own. There’s not much reason to remind others of that fact, much less to do so constantly.

I notice lots of people still do this, even amongst my friends. This is more of a tangent example, but one that I see as a direct result of this problem and is probably more easily relatable: deciding where to eat. You know how it goes; you and your group of friends decide to go out to eat (first mistake), but all of you first have to agree on where exactly you want to eat (second mistake, declaring you want to go out to eat without already deciding where). So you’ll go back and forth and everyone makes suggestions, but only suggestions. They’ll suggest or encourage going to a particular place, but then end it with “but I’m fine going anywhere”. However, when we do go to a different place they’ll be genuinely upset or visibly disappointed. They’ll be very obviously not fine with the location.

Like I said, it’s good to be conscious and mindful of others, but be sure that’s your true intention. If you’re doing it only to appear mindful or out of your own insecurity, please stop. It’s annoying. Trust me, I know, I have this trait; it’s one of the characteristics I hate about myself and have been trying to fix. Just state your thoughts and stand by it. If you really do want to be mindful, and notice others don’t agree, then ask them for their preference. If they have a preference, compromise from there (true compromise, that is, no attitude). Otherwise, stand by what you’ve said. Either stop throwing out statements without any support or stop talking altogether.

Part of me wants to put the blame on childhood experiences. I know I developed the habit because others spoke out when I said things that they didn’t agree with. But honestly, there’s no one to blame. As kids it was natural for you to speak your mind, among your peers anyways – can’t pull that kind of stunt at home. So if you didn’t agree you just said so. And as a kid, it was only natural to take any words spoken to you to heart. So it’s definitely not a problem that it came up. It’s just a problem to cling to those experiences and allow them to develop into a social habit that lasts beyond adolescence.

This is less of a problem for me now, but still not completely gone. It’s just difficult because not only is it a natural part of my speech, but it’s also reflective of my personality. Lots of progress though. This year I really took a stand with a speech I made during elections for a student organization. I stepped on many toes and there were no disclaimers attached; it was great. Don’t get me wrong, the point of this entry is definitely not to be a douche. It’s more to say … if you’re going to be a douche, then own up to it. Either stop pretending you’re not a douche or change who you are. Just stop trying to cover it up or excuse yourself because it doesn’t work.

Against Every Fiber

One of the things I’ve realized helped me remain motivated to exercise was progress; to see how far I’ve come since first deciding that I wanted to be more fit.

It’s really crazy just how much difficulty I experienced trying to get started. I always knew the phrase, “no pain, no gain” but as someone who wasn’t accustomed to experiencing pain, the struggle was just too real.

Twenty-five Thousand Push-ups  – A serious lack of strength was the first problem I ran into when I finally decided I wanted to be more fit to help others. Since I was more focused on how I could help physically (moving or carrying things), strength was my main and only goal for quite some time. The problem with this though was that it seemed like to build strength I first had to have strength; kind of like how many internships seem to work. I couldn’t lift any of the available dumbbells, bench presses were out of the question as I couldn’t even move the bar, and I could barely manage a proper push-up. Frustrating, to say the least. Not only was fitness already something I had to change my habits and schedule to incorporate, but my body was also making it extremely difficult for me to even start.

100 Pushups LogSo how was I to start? I figured out that I could at least do several knee push-ups, i.e. girl push-ups, so that’s what I started with. I suppose this was where being light-weight was to my advantage. As I got used to it, I transitioned to normal push-ups which actually became my only exercise for over a year. It was just very convenient since I could do it practically anywhere and at any time. I also thought it was a great exercise to stick with because I felt that if/when I developed muscles more weight would be added to my push-ups thus giving me an exercise that naturally increased in difficulty as I got stronger. Now is that really how it works, probably not, but that was my mindset. When I got to a point where I was able to do 20 push-ups in a row I found this program called “hundred pushups” and made that my new goal. The program scheduled three sessions a week, with each session varying in the number of sets and reps, for 7 weeks, with the goal of getting you from doing a single push-up to 100 consecutive push-ups. Truth be told, I never reached 100 because I reset the program several times (couldn’t keep up), and when I got to college I went to the gym instead of doing push-ups. The highest I ever got was 75 consecutive push-ups and 280 push-ups during a single session; a total of 26,819 push-ups logged. Obviously, quantity of push-ups is not a great indicator of overall fitness, but still something I’m extremely proud of just because it shows how far I’ve come.

A Hundred Miles and Counting – Next up after strength was cardio. As my fitness improved, I became more and more interested in physical activities so naturally that meant I needed to work on cardio so I didn’t die from running for half a minute. Let me tell you, running was a thousand times more frustrating and awkward than having to do knee push-ups. For those of you who have ever had the misfortune of deciding to improve your fitness after a couple decades of inactivity, you’ll probably know what I mean when I say running made by body itch as if I was bitten all over by mosquitoes while suffering from chicken pox. No exaggeration. Damn I can’t even begin to explain just how irritating (pun-intended) the whole experience with trying to start running was. After only a couple minutes of sprinting, if I could even last that long before running out of breath, my body would spazz out on me and start itching like crazy. It was as if every fiber of my being was telling me to stop the madness and to just go back to being a couch potato. I never talked to my family or a doctor about it, but instead just did what everyone else did when they had questions; I Google’d the symptoms. It turns out it was pretty common among those starting out and that it was just because my body wasn’t used to the increased blood circulation. So I became more understanding of it, but it still didn’t change the fact that I had to stop running because it was physically unbearable how itchy I got.

Nike Plus Status July 22The itchiness made me stop trying to exercise altogether several times, but fitness was something I really wanted so I kept trying again and again to see if it would go away. I eventually realized that I could walk for much longer than I could run before my body started itching so that’s what I did instead. I walked for as long as I could last and each time I made it a point to try and continue for half a minute or so after my body started freaking out. As time went on, I was able to last longer and longer. Eventually I started adding in super short jogs to my walks, half a minute max. I got to a point where I knew how long I could jog before my body started itching so I just stopped before then and continued walking. Eventually that improved and I just kept upping the intensity and well, the rest is history. It wasn’t until this past March that I really committed to cardio, but so far I’ve kept up with it just about every week, minus finals week. Managed to go from 20’/mile to a record of 8’30″/mile, with a total of 120 miles logged. Still terrible time from the standard 5′ to 6′ that I hear people generally run, but as with the push-ups, lots of personal progress. And it makes me happy because now I can walk with my friends who live off campus without my legs feeling like they’re going to collapse haha.

Why I Started Working Out

As the category might suggest, I did start working out. I eventually found reason to overlook what concerns I had and have since been actively trying to improve my fitness.

I don’t think there was an exact moment when I decided I wanted to get fit. I know it wasn’t until the later half of senior year of high school that I really got going, but I had planned to exercise and work out before then. What gave me the push to finally overcome my apprehension over working out though was a feeling of helplessness. I’ve come to realize that one of the few joys I get out of life is being able to help others, and that was true even back then.

I remember always feeling so useless when it came to anything physical. Teachers always asked for help to move desks or carry boxes and while several students ran up to help out, I always just slumped down into my chair because I knew I wouldn’t have the strength to do anything. Every now and then statements like, “I need a couple of strong guys to help me with something” would come up and again I would just sit back. I’ll admit sometimes it just felt embarrassing, being so weak. You can probably imagine just how much fun I had during my P.E. class. But that didn’t really matter to me. As someone who was always weaker than his sister, who was only a year older, I stopped caring about those kinds of things a long time ago. What really killed me was just not being able to help.

So that’s what I used to drive and motivate me. If my reasoning for not wanting to get stronger were wheel locks then my desire to help was my fuel.

I was on and off for a while, but I can now proudly say that I’ve been consistently exercising for three years straight. I’m not exactly the poster child for fitness, but I feel like I’ve come a long way from before I started working out. And boy was it a rough journey.

What I’m really proud of though is the fact that I only started working out when I decided that the reason would be to help others. It wasn’t out of frustration, so that I would no longer have to bite my tongue. I can’t even count the number of times I would have taken a swing at someone growing up if I knew it would actually hurt them. It wasn’t because of ego, so that I was more able to fit in or to look good. And it definitely wasn’t because I was told to, despite many years of my parents and even extended family’s nagging – who all did so mainly because they wanted me to look better. I made sure I had full control of my temper and then held out until I had something of actual meaning and value to work for.

So that’s why I wanted to write this before documenting my fitness progress from here on out; I don’t want to lose sight of why I started working out. My exercising should simply be about fitness; a healthier life so that I can live long, and strong, so that I can continue to serve.

Why I Refused to Work Out

Since one of the activities I wanted to document with this journal was my fitness I’m going to first write about why I originally didn’t want to work out and why I finally started.

Fitness was something I didn’t really care about until my senior year in high school. One of my main excuses for resisting working out until then was my short temper. I grew up with a very short fuse and I was always wary of being set off. While I was calm my moral compass was operational, but once I was set off there was no telling what I would do. My fits of rage could mean anything from verbal lashings to those around me to physical thrashings to my surrounding. So to help minimize damage, I controlled what I could do; I made sure I was weak so that I couldn’t actually hurt anyone or anything.

This worked fairly well for me. As someone who was much more interested in computers than sports, and someone who apparently had great metabolism, it wasn’t that hard for me to remain scrawny. And because of my stature and lack of strength, I always felt weak. This forced me to learn to bite my tongue and to walk away from fights simply because I never felt like I could win, no matter who the challenger. Since I decreased the blast radius I was able to worry less about fixing the destruction I caused every time I was set off which allowed me to focus more on lowering the frequency of the explosions. It was such a breakthrough for me. I was always so frightened of the monster that I was becoming with each outburst; I just didn’t want it to continue. The decision to stay small, scrawny and weak was my way of outmaneuvering the monster and taking back some control of my life.

So that became my excuse for many years, even after I got to a point where I couldn’t even remember my last outburst. I lived a comfortable life and contrary to how others interpreted my physical appearance, I felt just fine. I just owed so much to that one decision I made that since I didn’t notice any major health problems, there was just no reason for me to change. So I didn’t, at least not until a more significant reason came along.

Change Your Perspective: Appearances

Yesterday I stumbled upon a music video that reminded me of something I’ve always been rather annoyed about; how people choose to perceive others, and themselves, based on physical appearances.

I guess most of my disdain for this came from personal experiences growing up. I’ll save the details for another post, but suffice to say I was not, and still am not, an attractive person. It never got to the point where someone outright said, in a serious tone, “you’re ugly” to me or anything like that, but there were always not-so-subtle concerns expressed by my family members about my physical appearance. Most of the time the concerns were expressed in the context of health, so again, not as bad, but other times it was pure judgement.

It was just frustrating more than anything. As if struggling to figure out the kind of person you wanted to be wasn’t hard enough, society decided to pile on all it’s superficial baggage, imposing it’s ideals and punishing those who didn’t fit those ideals. The punishments as kids could be something like name-calling or bullying while as adults they could mean losing a chance to get to know someone or losing a potential job opportunity. It’s interesting looking back though because in the midst of all that judgement I received as a kid I gained understanding of a concept I was trying to grasp within Buddhism.

Learning about Buddhism I recall various lessons on looking past the material world and seeing beyond what our physical eyes capture. I remember always being baffled by the idea, “these teachings are talking about something that supposedly could only be experienced or understood upon attaining Buddhahood, how could you possibly trust it” were more or less my thoughts. After some time though I noticed something strange about how I perceived others. As corny as it might sound, the only way I can describe it is to say that I was starting to see others’ souls instead of their physical body. Stupid, right? But this is honestly the best way I know how to describe it in the written language. Imagine it: look at someone and instead of seeing distinct physical features – such as their eyes (single/double lid, chinky, big, colored, bags, cat), hair (long, short, bangs, no bangs, colored, flat, frizzy), ears (big, unnoticeable), brows (thick, thin, uni), head shape (round, small, big), complexion (like a baby’s bottom, wrinkly, acne, photoshopped), etc. – instead of all of that, you see their characteristics or traits; quiet, outgoing, insecure, arrogant, lazy, genuine. I feel like this is a much better way to perceive others. From a logical standpoint, at the very least its a more productive perception. We all understand as we get older that we cherish deep relationships and value an individual’s personality more than how they look, but yet we still continue to not only judge others, and ourselves, based on physical appearance, but also base our lives around achieving a particular look. I have no right to tell you what is or is not the correct way to view the world, but at the very least, with this change in perspective, you’d be consistent.

I feel like the majority of us naturally develop this kind of perception, more or less, as we grow older, but I see no reason to wait for time when you can consciously change how you view others now. No guide or walkthrough, just go out and try it. Make a conscious effort to look past a person’s physical appearance. Think about all the people who you might already be subconsciously doing that with. I know for me, when I still generally payed great attention to physical features, I overlooked them when it came to close friends. No judgments, no thoughts, I just saw them as the amazing individuals who I was fortunate enough to call my friends. That was where I started, I thought about how I was able to see past the appearance of my close friends and sought to apply that same perspective to everyone I met. It eventually stuck.

Don’t get me wrong, none of the indirect lessons that were ingrained in me disappeared. When I meet a person today I can spot most of what many would consider to be physical imperfections, it’s not something that I can just un-see or knowledge that I can erase; that mindset is unfortunately still in me. What has changed is the lens I choose to look through and the lens that I choose to act upon. I’ve stopped listening to the judgmental voice in my head and often times, I can’t even hear it. Maybe one day it will die completely.

Honestly, I don’t know what I want to say with all of this. I just know that it’s troubling when I have to explain to others why physical appearances shouldn’t matter and that they don’t need to put all their energy into changing how they look. I’m not delusional, I know that in today’s society how you look can sometimes be the only key to certain doors for you. Really think about it though, are those the doors you want to walk through?


This isn’t any where near what I wanted my first public post to be about, but at least it got me motivated enough to finally start. Hopefully, more to come. It’s just really hard to decide to make something open for all of the world to see.