I never have been, and never claim to be anything other than a kid from a white middle class family. So, I can't talk about being in poverty or having systemic racism levied towards me. However, there are some hardships that I can attest to, that are experience based and come from spending hours on end working until you can't work anymore.
Many, many people in my generation simply do not understand the concept of working hard for your money and coming home tired and beat with more work to be done at home. This summer was especially the kick in the teeth for me. This season, it really hit home how physically tough life can be. Last summer, I worked in construction. It was tough, but not crazy. Sometimes we were even inside in air conditioning. How beautiful.
But this summer, I worked for a landscaping company, carrying buckets of mulch, wheel barrows of stone, digging holes and laying brick. Talk about hard work. Monday through Saturday, usually 9.5 hour days from 6:30 a.m. — 4 p.m. Definitely a tough job. But, to make it even harder on myself, I decided to prepare for a bodybuilding contest at the same time.
For those of you who don't know what that entails, it requires daily sessions in the gym, long bouts of cardio 4-5 days a week and, most importantly, an extremely strict, calorie-reduced diet. For 99 percent of my summer, I was eating less than 2,800 calories a day, working 45 hours a week, with 10 hours in the gym — five hours doing cardio, 7-10 hours preparing my meals for the week (everything I ate was measured and precooked) and 5-6 hours doing yardwork at my own house. Add in sleep and that doesn't leave me a whole lot of down time.
Something I learned about three weeks into this, was that if I really wanted this, to compete in a contest that I had been dreaming about for years, I would have to work harder than I ever had. This was my longest contest prep by far, and my most stringent, with the hardest workouts and the most physically demanding job I had ever done. And you know what? I am extremely proud to say that I stuck to it. I had a few slips with my diet, but I will log that to lack of experience with the strict nutrition requirements of my food. I went to every workout, never skipped work from being too tired, and always gave my all in the gym. The end result was me being in possession of my best physique ever, and taking third at my first bodybuilding show, in front of my best friend and 400 other people. An absolutely incredible experience.
It also showed me something that my generation is sorely oblivious to. If you want something bad enough, you have to be willing to work until you cannot move anymore to achieve your goal. That goal has to be all-consuming and what you think about before bed, when you're eating breakfast, on your way to work, all the time.
Many times I was asked "Want to go out to eat? Want to get drunk tonight?" I had to make a choice between a night of fun or being in competition. It was emotionally draining on my family as well, because of my diet and my training, I didn't eat meals with my family more than once a month, which was especially hard on my mom because I was home from school and wanted me to spend time with the family. But, she understood my drive and let me go on my way.
These are the sacrifices it takes to achieve what you want, and my peers have yet to discover this fact about life and learn how difficult it can be to reach the heights they all talk about. Find your goal and when you want to succeed as bad as you want to breath, you'll achieve it.