Changing of the Guard

Tim McGraw never spoke more clearly to me than he did yesterday. When I listened to his song “My Next Thirty Years” for at least the thirtieth time, it finally hit me: I have to make some serious changes. For some time I have listened to this song and contemplated its meaning. Yet like so many things before, I was simply not ready to heed the call until  I was prepared to see my health for what it had become.

For years I was an athlete. I had trained to beat my opponent on the baseball field, to run races, to impress my wife and family on the day we got married, and to achieve personal weight lifting goals. Still, somewhere in the pursuit of progress I fell short and lost purpose. I had done all of these things with immediate goals in mind: win a baseball game, run a marathon, mold my body into a beach-ready state, and bench press three plates and dead lift four. And when each happened, I celebrated. And when I celebrated, I partied hard. And while the party life is not something I see myself totally eradicating from my lifestyle moving forward, I do want to finally achieve long-sought balance for a reason that has slowly emerged through my subconscious over the past few years with unparalleled clarity in the past week: I want to be healthy for as long as possible.

I want to be healthy so that I can be happy. I want to be healthy so that my wife has a husband that is committed to himself in order to be able to commit himself to her. I want to be healthy for the future and whatever it may hold. I want to control what I can, and in the process, I still want to indulge from time to time to satisfy my less desirable desires, namely India Pale Ales, buffalo wings, and fries.

It might surprise some that it has taken me until age 30 to proclaim that I want to be healthy. After all, when I finished chemotherapy treatments in my teen years, I went through a “my body is my temple” phase. However, the simple truth presents itself today: I was a boy of extreme habits and tendencies that emerged into a man of extreme habits and tendencies. I have even combined competing lifestyles at times, and for the past few years, I thought they could coexist.

Despite my best efforts and wishful thinking, they could not.

Could my yearning for fitness, IPAs, and pub fare coexist in moderation? Yes. So after many years of fluctuation, and after watching so many people in our world struggle with similar challenges, I am determined to appeal to my better self and invest in my long term being. As the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhaur once suggested, “It is a clear gain to sacrifice pleasure in order to avoid pain.” And perhaps in concert with Schopenhaur, Mia Hamm once noted, “It is not sacrifice if you love what you’re doing.” So my goal is to learn to love myself more, and in that process I believe that I will learn to love a healthier lifestyle and in time view my sacrifices as instrumental pieces in the development of a stronger, better, and more loving man.

Now as I reflect on the recent changes in my life, and the people that have helped encourage my evolving mindset, I pan back to McGraw’s song and intentionally begin to consider some its lyrics in new light. The opening lines indicate a classic coming of age story, resonating with the audience like only a heartfelt song can:

I think I’ll take a moment, celebrate my age
The ending of an era and the turning of a page
Now it’s time to focus in on where I go from here
Lord have mercy on my next thirty years
Hey my next thirty years I’m gonna have some fun
Try to forget about all the crazy things I’ve done
Maybe now I’ve conquered all my adolescent fears
And I’ll do it better in my next thirty years
The song continues to explore more heartfelt, humorous, and serious ideas that elicit a range of emotions. And as I pulled into my driveway yesterday at 4:05 p.m., the song reached its concluding note, I looked down at my odometer (as I always do after riding home from work), and I noticed that on this specific day, my journey home spanned exactly 26.2 miles, the distance of a traditional marathon.
Coincidence? Maybe. Or maybe I am relieving a past self from chasing expectations of the world around me in a quest to find more peace and health. Only recently have I truly started to understand that the polar opposite is true for me: peace and health will live as byproducts of my commitment to developing my own expectations for my existence among the world around me and that which I create.
“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”
-George Bernard Shaw