I was excited to start writing for RX last year. My first column was a success in my mind and Dave really liked the style. The Second one....eh, not so much. The exact reply I got back was "Were you drunk?" I replied, " Yes" with the mandatory " ha..ha" just because I knew things were going south quickly. Dirty South. Couple that with the missed opportunity at commentating with Bryan Hildebrand at the Arnold Classic this year and you can go ahead and mark those two down boldly in the - Yet ANOTHER wasted opportunity category.
It was hard for me to take the idea of failing. Like so many of us in the industry failing just doesn't sit well deep within our muscled DNA. Failing. It's something I've done a lot personally in the past year. I've gotten used to the taste of it. It's not as bad as you'd anticipate. You would think failing to an overachiever would be a sharp bile tasting potion. It's not. It's more like a bland preservative laden Hot Pocket. Almost devoid of taste or pleasure and packed with its hidden carcinogen laced goodness ready to perk up in 20 years and bite you in the not so proverbial ass.
Failure goes down smooth when you couple it with apathy. Like a Hot Pocket and a Natural Ice.... lethal combination those two! It's a sort of inebriated, microwaved super combo of a short fix answer for this mess of a life. Ahhh.. Ol' Nattie Ice. What can be said more about the elixir of teenage life? How many women fell pray to my 17 year old half groped attempts in a '92 VW because of Natural Ice's bottom dollar price and magic of lowered inhibitions? Like Frank Sinatra Sings, "When I was 17..........It was a veryyyy good year....... It was a very good year for backwoods girls....with puke in their hairrrrrr.....drunkenly fall down stairs....It felt like a dreammmm.....when I was sevenntteeeen."
But now, life is different. That was ten years ago. The world has changed. The excitement hasn't left at 27 years of age, it's dulled JUST a little bit if I were to be honest. All your dreams come to the halting realization if you aren't there by this point. You realize this about life; this is gonna be a hard ride. Maybe I kept myself from this realization through staying in school and doing enough to get by. The realization that status quo equated failing, came suddenly for me.
And I'll tell you the exact moment.
I applied to be an Officer in the United States Army. I was excited. Re-invigorated. A change of pace seemed quite refreshing. I've got a lot of past debt and enough emotional baggage to choke Greg Kovaks. The Army can help you with one of those. I flew through my ASVABS (the qualifying exam) scoring an 84 which I and the Commanding Officer were ecstatic about. My mom called me and she was happy. She never understood why I chased strongman and bodybuilding and spent so much time at the gym. My friends were all settled and married working for warehouses or on assembly lines or logging their way through the deep hills of Northern Pennsylvania.
Maybe many of you can relate? I wouldn't write this if I thought otherwise.
She was proud. My little fire headed loving mom is always proud, but I heard it in her voice, this was different and that was important. I was riding high and I planned life around it. I called my buddies that joined up years ago (I was 18 when 911 happened) so many of my cohorts in teenage debauchery ended up serving.
Soon, the papers signed and then the bottom fell out...
Background checks came in: 2 DUI's. One when I was 17. One when I was 24. Credit Check: Defaulted on a loan and repossessed car 4 years ago. I had lost my job because of the DUI. Physical History: 2 ACL replacements, 12 inch plate attached to tibia. All the result of Football injuries. Body Measurements: 41 inch waist and weight was at 288 lbs. That makes for an off the charts BMI. Fat in other words.
Funny when you finally get "The Call" right? It happens in life from time to time. Your boss calls you into his/her office. Your girlfriend or wife calls you on the phone. Injured family or friends. It's a sixth sense and sometimes by just the void at the beginning of the conversation you know your about to receive worst case scenario news. The officer was polite during his call. All the excitement they had shown after my high placement scores was gone. He rattled off all the reasons like I just listed for you. Funny. When your filthy past is laid out in front of you and you are judged by it. You don't get to tell your side of the story. What would you say?
Well sir., one DUI was when I was 17. One of those knee injuries you also judged me on, happened halfway through the middle of my senior football season. The reasoning or excuses just go on and on. None of them matter at all. He writes two knee surgeries, one ankle. Blandly...his version just stares you in the face.
I think of the hours of rehabilitation. The recovery time and pain and effort and years it took to come back. Taking my leg out of a cast and seeing how many sets of hard work were gone. They write 288lbs which in their estimation equates to being a fat body. I thought to myself. How many groceries and gym hours did that take ? Think about the money you spend Good lord the amount of chickens I've killed to have 20 inch biceps and an 800 lb. dead lift. I have probably consumed thousands of fucking chickens just to be this size.
He writes defaulted on car loan.
My mind flashes to watching the first car I ever bought brand new getting towed away after I killed myself working for 2 years to make payments. At that moment it hit me. I hadn't been "winning" up to this point. At least from their approximations and by the judgment of many people I would guess. Wasn't the military taking everyone? How the fuck could I not make it into the Army? I ran the two mile test in 15 minutes and did over 100 pushups and maxed out the sit up tests. I excelled at the physical stuff, like most of us would.
Why wasn't this good enough? I sacrifice....We sacrifice dammit! We bang away at the gym. Rep after rep, hour after hour. Listening to our girlfriends and wives bitch and moan about the time spent away. The money we spent. At least in strongman there is a huge investment of all of these examples. Obviously in bodybuilding there is as well.
It's a passion. A drive. Why isn't that applauded?
When I walk into the gym. I'm angry and I'm intense, and people take notice. Walls shake. Sweat Drips. In my mind I'm at my job as if I'm literally going to work. It makes sense to me. It makes sense to all of us right? One more rep. I grow. One more plate. I grow. One more set. One more minute. One more bite. One more ......more.....more....more, until we grow into these beasts. These muscle armored machines that the Greek sculptors could have never imagined. Were not Adonis. Were bigger.
I know I'm badder. I know few people can do what I do. Push and pull what we push and pull. That is what my immature brain thought life was about. I'm not an imbecile enough to think that's all there was to life. But.. Maybe it's just my generation growing up. Nothing to stand for. Blasted with adds for video games, cell phones and muscle mags daily. Disenchanted. We all think were gonna be Jay Cutler or Brian Shaw.
I lived that way. For 3 or 4 years after college. Chasing. Pushing. Scowling from underneath my hoodie in the gym. Building massive legs and arms and delts. As strong as anyone on earth for the most part and here I was, blindsided by this phone call. I had been judged and sent away. I'm smart. I knew this day was coming. It's like the oil crisis of the world. We know it's gonna end. Were just waiting for the drop off point before the breaking point, like a zombie apocalypse.
You mean to tell me someone is judging my adult past ? Not just the persona I've created. The bench presses. The Squats. You mean to tell me I'm not gonna make it in the industry after whole hardheartedly just believing it for years! I'm hear to tell you; absolutely. It was crushing. I couldn't give my life away to the military for the cause of betterment for myself! "KEEP PUSHING! I would tell myself. "Almost there." Non of that mattered now.
As I was on the phone...this culminating catastrophe of personal irresponsibility I had built around me was staring me in the face. Now my own personal oil crisis arrived. Gas just became $20.00a gallon!
It took me a second over the phone to not take it personal. "THIS IS BULLSHIT" I yelled into the phone. Calmly..."Sorry Mr. Costa. Apply again in a few years if this is best for you." Click.
Let me be clear. This is not a critique of the ARMY and its regulatory systems. This is a critique of ourselves. Of myself. It was dizzying to me. My last ditch effort at jump starting my life, furthering my education/eliminating debt/and serving my country: failed. Not on their accord. But my own. A past I thought I was so proud of... you realize is a delusion in the eyes of most.
"This is the real world homie. Schools' finished. They done stole your dreams, you don't know who did it." - Kanye
I sat for a week as sometimes I do, waiting for my moment of clarity. Lazily waiting for the click in my brain. Working as a bouncer in the bars. Just Getting by. The usual Lou status quo bullshit. "At what point did you find your dream ?" Something I had to ask myself. What happens when Cutler's determination doesn’t apply to you? When Phil's genetics aren't possessed? When you say you aren't willing to sacrifice your body, your future, your life anymore as so many have for the “dream?”
There are stories in Flex and ESPN and anywhere you look if you want to find out about SUCCESS. But where do you go to find my story, of real life, the reality of most people? Who is telling our story ? Where are We? A disenchanted generation with seemingly zero purpose and no real appropriate avenue or recourse? Our people. The people that drive to the gym at 6:00 in the morning, that spend all their money on supplements. That dream of giant biceps and stepping on an Olympia stage and playing to the crowd at world strongest man ?
Where is our glory? The glory of the failed college athletes, the injury laden strongmen, the genetically stricken bodybuilders? Isn't there a massive sample of driven, hungry, hard working men and women that will never sniff any sense of fame? But I mean after you take an honest shot at it and fail, what's left? Watching high school football videos and looking at pics and trophies for the rest of your life? It's just not easy throwing away job opportunities. Maxing credit cards. Paying for trips and working full time. Ya, Ronnie can do it, but we ain't him. We're the under belly, the voice of this machine. We buy the tickets and dream the dreams.
When the Dream failed for me. It was heartbreaking, but obvious. And in some ways, lifted a huge weight off my mind. I thought to myself, damn, look what I've done. There is a positive history to go with that blackened mistake riddled past. I manned up and made the choice. I went to work hocking cellphones for the man. Retired the jacked up, smelly Rehband knee sleeves and started a cleanse diet and forwarded that into a lifestyle change of eating 6 weeks ago. I began to rotate heavy training sessions with a crossfit/bodybuilding/lite strongman breed of workout and shed off 25 lbs, with my weight hanging around 265 at 10 % bodyfat.
I'm weak. Compared to the 320 lb. Hollywood version of Lou. But I'm healthy. And still stronger than most. I'm happier this way. Competing in life and the gym. I'm balanced. Don't cue the happy guitar music at the end of INTERVENTION just yet. There is a purpose to this life and I'm not so sure its making ourselves as conceited and egotistically big and strong by any cost possible or killing thousands of chickens to get there.
I am not a wise enough man to suggest what may or may not be your calling or equilibrium of happiness in this life. You could be perfectly happy attempting to be a star for the rest of your time here on earth. Singing badly in the shower thinking your Mariah and flexing that bicep vein knowing it looks like Ronnie’s.
But if there is anything the American Idol / X Factor / America's Got Talent delusional failing contestants can prove to us is that you probably aren't a star and that's OK. Delusional if you still think so, but its OK. I've learned...almost begrudgingly what my place in this world is going to be; a family man, a father, and a provider.
you can call that a failure if you want. Giving up a dream. I'm almost certain its hard to do both at a 100 % operating level. I feel it's a maturation of mind and further sagging of balls that prompts the decision to settle down. Hey, if you can keep on trucking till your heart fails, I salute you.
If your one of the 99% of people striving in our industry to be recognized, spending rent money on supplements and entry fees, killing yourself for hours in the gym, it is you I wanted to share my voice with. However, be certain that my intent is not to dissuade you from YOUR dream. But to show failure and it's ugly mask. This is what it looks like.
God I fucking hate that word. Maybe I won't completely give up yet. Maybe I can fit in an extra workout on my lunch break? Damn did you see Phil's back double bi? Maybe I need to do another few sets of pulldowns? One more protein shake a day. Mike Jenkins made it to Worlds Strongest Man. I absolutely know I can do it. One more year....
Oh god, here it goes. I'm hooked again. These dreams just will not die, along with my new found acceptance of failure.