Monday, November 21, 2016

Tales from the front - how did we get here part 2

"Sticking feathers up your butt does not make you a chicken".

Tyler Durden, Fight Club

Let me start with this - I posted on Facebook 2 weeks ago that I was not going to talk politics via social media. And I am keeping my word. If you want to talk politics, great, but not on my posts; do so on your own time and on your own social media outlets.

Now, the main topic. The most over used and abused term currently circulating social media - Badass. I don't like handing out that moniker, and I will not use it to refer to myself. Actually, I don't think anyone should; its like the rule of not giving yourself your own nickname. Its just poor form. A good friend, knowing my distaste for the term, told me to look at a FB page of a gym/endurance team, who apparently believes everything they do is badass. There is no distinction between the person who simply shows up for class to the athlete who won a race. Everyone is the same. Really? Everything, from drinking coffee to riding a bike is badass. Its beyond comprehension. Social media is no longer the greatest self congratulatory festival; its now the place where people seek self worth. We've been reduced to waiting impatiently by our phones for someone to "like" or "heart" or posts. But what we really want is to be called badass.

But this group isn't alone. Every where I look, the term is thrown around without care, and in the process, diluting the term to the point that the mundane is now worthy of a parade. Just check your friends' FB page or Instagram posts, guarantee you will find something they deem "badass!!" even though its really not. How did this happen? Where did it start? Well, let's think about the "every kid gets a medal" and "there are no MVP's" in kids sports. We allowed that to spill into the world of adults, where anyone with a smart phone can take a selfie walking into the gym at 5 am and say "5 am workout, time to unleash my badass self!", or a selfie eating a salad with the caption, "3rd day of eating clean, badass fuel!", or, the inevitable workout results posted, be it a ride, run, lift selfie, which is taken simply to get someone to react with one of the 2 responses, "badass!" or the other most overused word "Beast!". Here's the deal though, none of those things make you badass. Let me explain.

If you have made the conscious decision to get up at 5 am and workout, that's not badass, that's your choice. You are bettering yourself, for yourself and perhaps your family. If you decide to take control of your health by starting to eat healthy and exercise, that's not badass, you owe that to your body. You're only given one of them, so you should treat it right. Its not laudable to do what is necessary to live a long life without pain or illness. I'm personally not going to get out the confetti because someone who has recently been diagnosed as pre-diabetic decided to eat clean. I will be supportive, help educate them as much as possible, direct them towards healthy options, be there for whatever they need. Call them badass? Nope.

This applies even more so to athletes, or weekend warriors because those are the groups who are notorious for looking to be called a badass. Here's why you aren't - if you decide to run a marathon, and followed a plan from start to finish, showed up at the race, executed your plan, and finished, that's not badass, that's you living up to your end of the deal. Athletes may do some pretty amazing things, have crazy talent, high pain thresholds, undeterred focus, maintain a healthy overall lifestyle, but that's what they signed up for. I'm an athlete, I train everyday, I follow my training plan, I eat clean, I get rest, I do what is asked of me. I look to exceed my and my coach's expectations. Is that badass? Hell no. Do I have a very high pain threshold? Yes. Do I have a big engine, with several gears? Check. Do I constantly look to improve? You betcha. And yet none of those things are badass. Its my end of the deal. No matter the level of athlete, you doing your part is what is expected. Its not extraordinary. Its part of the deal. If you ran a marathon, without preparation, in order to save yourself, family or community, that's badass. But prepping for something then doing it doesn't make you worthy of the term.

Let me take it one step further. When I posted all this on FB, someone responded that the use of the term is relative. Umm, no it isn't. You are or you aren't. If you are rehabbing from an injury, going to PT, getting off your ass to take back your health, that's not badass, that's you taking care of you. .Would you really say that someone who has battled, or is battling cancer, fighting every single day to beat that animal, going through chemo, radiation, pills, etc, is on the same level as the man/woman who is lifting in their garage? If you think you are, feel free to visit the cancer ward at any major hospital. Sit with the patients and listen to their stories. Then, when they have finished talking, tell them that you hitting your Deadlift PR is basically the same kind of struggle, so that makes you even. See how they respond. I've had several relatives fight that beast; my uncles, one who lived for years with half a lung, working his ass off every day to support his family. I have a cousin, who at the age of 4, was diagnosed with Luekemia. He and his family were staring down a 3 year protocol of treatment, with no promises that it would clear up. 4 years old. And that kid, he handled that treatment like a warrior. His parents remained upbeat and positive, sleepless nights, long days, all with the hope that it would clear up. That's badass my friends. What they have endured, like so many others with the disease, came upon them without warning. They didn't sign up for it. No one plans on getting cancer.

In my recent photo shoot, I was able to revisit my old neighborhood on the Southside of Chicago, as well as places I used to hang out, play, visit family. The area that is now unfortunately known as "Chi-raq". I hate that term. The fact that in a first world country, in one of the greatest cities in the world, an area is compared to one of the most violent areas in the world is sickening. Yet I was reminded of the strong, proud people who still live there, going to work everyday, always wondering if bullets will start flying. Kids who have to fear stray bullets while walking to school, playing in their yard, hell, playing in their house, behind a closed door, while trying to maintain some semblance of normalcy, that is badass. To see children in this area smile in the face of all that violence, what right do I have to compare my racing to their daily life? We aren't even on the same stratosphere. I never worry about stray bullets when I'm running or riding outside. Nor do I fear gunfire while driving to the gym. Those thoughts never even cross my mind. That goes for 99% of the posts on social media. So no, its not relative. Even the thought is a slap in the face to those who have real battles to fight. Battles they never signed up for, but take on daily, without complaint.

Understand, I salute and support athletes, in particular, my athletes. I will give all of myself to help them. When it comes to people who are looking to regain health, like those in our New You program, I am supportive, encouraging, always available for questions. Always ready to help. I want them to get back the health they've given away. But to call them badass, I just can't. We aren't all the same. We aren't all equal. There are MVP's in life, just like in sport. And that's ok. Understanding we aren't all the same can be a great step at learning more about one another. Gaining an appreciation for another's life, struggles, joys, that is how we connect. So maybe don't write #badass every time you post your pic of you running. Or lifting, or riding, or finishing a particularly hard met-con. You get the idea.

Look, if you really need the social media world to get your sense of self-worth, go nuts. However, it might be a good idea to do some reflecting on why you need that. Why it even matters. Why you need others to tell you that you doing your part is somehow worthy of balloons and streamers. It might wake you up to what is really important in this world, and your first world accomplishments/problems in a champagne world aren't worthy of much more than a pat on the back and support from those closest to you. Or not. Just know that riding the roller coaster of social media can turn on you on a dime. And with it, your sense of worth experiences unnecessary peaks and valleys. The choice is, and always has been, yours and yours alone.

Stay strong,