The last 12 months have truly been a year to remember. One year a go this week I quit my job of almost 26 years and started a journey. I quit with a desire to improve my health, both mental and physical, be more present with my family, travel and learn some things that I have always just pushed out or stuffed away.
It all started at the beginning of twenty twenty one. I was on Interstate 35 driving to Kansas City to see a couple of close friends. It had been a particularly tough week at work. I was tired. Alone. Unhealthy. It was somewhere between Des Moines, Iowa and Kansas City, Missouri I vowed to myself that this was the year that I would make the needed changes to find myself again. My intent wasn’t to make life changes, but to prioritize my health and relentlessly pursue the needed changes and see where they lead me. I made a plan focused on well being and eventually that led me to the decision to leave my job.
What has ensued since that decision has been rather remarkable. Parts of plan have come to fruition. Other parts have been delayed. There have been both set backs and surprises. But you know what, I am happier. I am healthier. I am more present with my family. I have learned a lot of new things that I would not have had the time to do. I am also deeply in love, again, with my two passions of cycling and photography. To say it has been an amazing year is an understatement. It has been life changing and life giving.
Now that I am one year in, I wanted to share a few things as well as a few lessons. Maybe you are where I was and just starting a journey for yourself. Maybe you are a bit further along and after reading can share some wisdom in comments or by contacting me directly. Maybe you just need to hear that where ever you are is OK. I simply am sharing in hope to help someone else. Aside from creating a plan with real truths, there are a number of quotes that either got me through this past year or describe what I am going through. I am going to share some of those things over the month of July as a back bone of this series. So let’s go!
One of my goals and a big part of my plan was to work on my both my physical and mental health. I will address the physical part first as it is the easier component to address.
Getting older is weird because you’re still that same enthusiastic kid trapped in a shit show of a bodyFuckology
Yeah, that pretty much sums it up. When I quit work I immediately started riding again. It was glorious but you know what, it freaking hurt. Getting your health back after 50 isn’t that easy it turns out. While my mind is young and I made a lot of plans, it turns out the body had a mind of its own. Getting my health back with how far I had let it go as well as my age took a lot longer than I expected. There were days I simply hurt and/or was exhausted. My encouragement is to not give up and listen to your body.
Over the course of the last year I have lost up to 30lbs. I say up to as I am now sitting at about -25lbs because at this weight, I am less tired and it is more in line with the lifestyle I want to live. I also think I am again putting some muscle back on. Many folks ask me how I lost the weight? I tell them the truth. Exercise. Eating better. Drinking less. That’s the formula that is working for me but there is more to it than that. Historically when I lost weight, I simply focused on riding enough to justify what I wanted to eat. This time that didn’t work. I tried that for the first 6 months. Then in December my wife and I decided to deal with winter by joining a cross fit style gym, in our case we joined Orange Theory. There are a number of cross fit style gyms out there and you can find something that suits your style and budget. We also joined Weight Watchers and started tracking our food. I also supplemented those things with walking, biking, hiking, etc. The combination of those things is what accelerated my weight loss and opened my eyes to food portions, what was really in the foods I was eating and overall body fitness vs just cycling fitness.
But back to the quote. I’ll be honest that when I started the cross fit style training, I pretty much hurt my body every single week. New movements. New muscles. I was sore every darn day. Yeah, my mind is young but my body was/is a shit show. So much so that I am having a fairly minor surgery repairing a 30+ year old injury this week! Yep, the body is a shit show. Again, perseverance, trust and patience. The surgery is simply a stepping stone in my progress.
So let’s talk mental fitness. This one is a bit more nebulous. There are not simple markers like weight, speed, heart rate, time, etc. While Covid has brought mental health a bit more to the forefront, its still uncomfortable in our society and saying you are dealing with mental health often makes folks ask what is wrong?
So this is my first learning, change the conversation. I started thinking about mental health as mental fitness. Changing the word to fitness implies, at least for me, that it is a daily, weekly and monthly activity. Fitness also often implies to make something stronger. Fitness is far more constructive, again, at least for me.
My daily, weekly, monthly routines involve many things. Often it is learning focused such as a skill I want to learn. It also meant reaching out to old friends through phone or email, coffee meet ups and bike rides. That reconnection was life giving to me. It also meant delving into some things that I wanted to improve about myself. But again, simply approaching it as fitness was really helpful.
The other thing I want to share with you about my situation and working on mental fitness is that it is never done! Additionally, if you create as much space as I did in my brain by quitting work and leaving that giant stress behind, is that you create a lot of space in your brain. Like entropy, the space does get filled. Many fill it with tasks, a new job, fitness, etc. If you leave that space there long enough and keep working at it, it may surprise you what comes out. For me personally, this space has brought out some really old memories that I stuffed away over the 50+ years of my life. It isn’t important to share what those are with you all, I simply wanted to share that this may occur so be prepared for it and expect it.
While it isn’t always evident what the measurements of success are in this space, here are some of the markers or measurements I use.
- Others say I am happier. Just yesterday I ran into an old friend that I have not spoken to in years. He told me I looked like I was in a lot better place than the last time he saw me (which was pre covid). My wife and close friends also tell me this.
- I simply feel better and I am more positive. I say yes more. I am just a bit less of an introvert.
- I keep checking boxes off my list/plan. I am pursuing the things I wanted to learn and work on. I have learned so much. I am writing. I am reading.
- My creativity is back. I am an artist and a creative. I stuffed that away for too long. It brings me so much joy.
So this brings me to the closing quote that gets me through self analysis, negativity related to not being far enough along and any kind of set back. I picked this quote up from Crystal Kovacs on one of her social networks. I apologize that I do not have a quote source listed. I also may have shortened or adapted it a bit.
Wherever you are is someone’s dream or goal!
This has been an incredibly powerful quote and statement. It’s also true. When there are setbacks, it is always great to truly realize that you are not along on a journey and that others are wanting to be as far along as you are today or in that moment.
I have thousands and thousands of images from the past 12 months. Here are just a few highlighting the changes in my life. Click on any to go to slideshow mode.
I want to thank my incredibly kind and loving wife for the both the support and the space & freedom to make the changes this past year. Shout out to my incredible kids that I love and am so proud of. You both bring me so much joy.
Stay tuned for part two….travel?
4 thoughts on “Taking my life back – Part 1”
Congratulations on your transformative year, and amazing photos as always. Look forward to your next post.
Thank you friend. Hope to see ya sometime soon.
Jason, thank you for sharing. I am inspired by your journey. I feel in a very similar situation in my own life. I too am in my early 50’s and have found myself in a real rut, one I’ve been trying to get out of for a couple of years (let’s be honest, it’s been longer than that 😉 ).53 with no qualifications is a scary place to find oneself. I hope to find the strength to embark on a journey of self (re)discovery like yours. Keep sharing, it truely does help, even someone on the other side of the world, cheers, S