January first brings many things: a brand new year, different promises and possibilities, and probably the world’s worst hangover ever. I experienced only one of these on the first of January. Can you guess which one?
It wasn’t until the 8th, a full week later, when I realized I needed to make some life adjustments and improvements. I am not one for making a list of New Year’s Resolutions, because it just sets me up to fail. Every year I say I am going to quit smoking. I refuse to buy a pack, I get mentally prepared, and I try to focus on something else. But, thirty minutes after the ball drops you can find me bumming a cigarette from someone outside.
Which is exactly what happened this year.
I also don’t like the word “resolution” because it means the act of resolving, settling, and completing. It’s basically saying “I will stop eating chocolate this year”. If you have been eating chocolate your whole life, you cannot just quit eating chocolate. When we make these resolutions, or promises, to ourselves, we are trying to eliminate an act or interest we have been doing for some time (AKA, the smoking).
I prefer the word ‘revolution’ because to revolve is to change, to enhance, and to adjust. These are much better actions than to just diminish and end completely.
So, a week after the beginning of a new year, I woke up, looked in the mirror and said, “James, what the hell are you doing with your life?” This wasn’t the first time I have asked myself that question. It usually follows a one-night stand. But this time it was different. I didn’t have a stranger in my bed. And I wasn’t covered with semen. Well, one out of the two. But I asked myself this question because I was in desperate need of a life change.
I have been living in the New York City area (I am required to say that by New Jersey Law) for over a year and a half now, and while my Facebook posts, Twitter tweets, and drunken texting show that I am having the time of my life, the reality is that I was in a slump of depression. I know, I know. Me?! James Archibald Lane, depressed? Crazy. But I was. I would spend hours watching television in bed while eating macaroni and cheese out of the pot. The first day it was great. The seventy-fifth day, it was a problem.
Many people would never have guessed I was having issues with my happiness. I’m kind of like Katie Holmes in that way. So, that morning of January eighth, I vowed to myself I would make a change. I would revolve.
I had to start out with my career. I have been happily unemployed for the past seven months. I work part time for a start-up website from home where I write posts, edit posts, and post things to Facebook.
Since I had that crutch, or “post”, I never really cared to get back out there and find a job. I was comfortable with waking up at one in the afternoon, just in time to catch the two hours of Sex and the City on the E! network, and then tune into Ellen, and then make my macaroni and cheese, and then take a nap. It was a beautiful cycle. But, like I said, this cycle had its negative side effects.
One being I gained seventeen pounds since my unemployment began. I know seventeen pounds doesn’t sound like much, but I’ll show you a picture of me shirtless and you can be the judge.
So, after I applied to three jobs on Craigslist (What? It was my first day of productivity. I need to take baby steps) I decided that I needed to get “back” into shape. I use back in quotation marks because I have never been in shape, but saying “I need to get in shape” as a 26 year old makes one sound pathetic.
Omg, I’m 26. Ugh.
I went outside to go for a run, but then remembered I live in hilly New Jersey with a temperature of 31 degrees. Who can run in that type of weather? I’m no Kenyan. So I went onto Google and typed in “Gyms in Weehawken, NJ.” And to my surprise, there is a gym located ten minutes away from me in the same shopping mall as the movie theater and Pizza Hut. I don’t know how I missed it.
So, I put on my best walking sneakers and headed on over to the L.A. Fitness. Well, after I went to the Pizza Hut. And saw Monsters Inc. in 3D.
I was greeted by two amazingly fit workers at the front desk who looked at me like I had pizza sauce on my face. I walked up to the counter and said, “Hi. I would like to join this gym.” Easy enough, I thought. I would sign a piece of paper, hand over my credit card, and that would be it.
Well, yes, I did have to sign a few pieces of paper (some liability crap that says if a machine falls on me, I cannot sue) and yes, I did hand over my credit card (twice, for some reason) but I was not close to being finished.
The guy wearing spandex shorts and a tank top, let’s call him Jim (get it? Ok) went over eleven of the best plans for me. “If you sign up today and put $40 dollars down, your monthly payment will only be 30$, but if you don’t put any money down today, your monthly payment will be $42, but if you put half the money down, and want to buy this water bottle, your monthly payment will be $55.”
I just shook my head in confusion and said, “Look, I just want to join the gym and pay a flat fee right now. I probably won’t be living in New Jersey for that much longer (fingers crossed) so, can I please just sign up for the three month program for $100 please?”
He nodded his head in a disappointed way and started typing in my information. “You know, you won’t get the water bottle with this plan. Is that okay?”
I responded yes, that I have my very own water bottle. After receiving my L.A. Fitness key chain card, and taking my picture, I was a gym member!
“Just one more thing before you go,” Jim said. “We need to set you up for a personal training consultation.”
“Ohhhhhh, that’s okay. I am not looking for a personal trainer. I just need somewhere I can run indoors with a television so I can watch Kathie Lee and Hoda. But thanks!”
“It’s just a free meeting with one of our personal trainers so they can show you around, teach you how to use our machines, and measure your body fat.”
“I already know how to use the elliptical machine, and I already feel pretty bad about myself, I don’t need someone telling me in a percentage just how overweight I am.”
“We have an open spot on Thursday at 4pm.”
“Fine. That’s fine.”
On my walk home from the gym (I was too exhausted to stay and work out after that ordeal), I realized that I needed to get some clothes to work out in. The only pants I have that aren’t jeans are green corduroy pants I wear every St. Patrick’s Day. I don’t even have t-shirts that don’t have 30Rock quotes written on them.
I spotted an Old Navy store down the street and figured they would have some sort of an exercise wardrobe collection. I personally haven’t been in side of an Old Navy store since I was eleven and tech-vests were not in style.
I walked in and realized that in fifteen years, the store hadn’t changed a bit. There were still clothes piled in bins and signs that read “Clearance” everywhere. Literally, every item on the store had a “Sale” sign above it. As mentioned before, I don’t have any money, so “clearance” and “sale” have become my two favorite words. Well, besides “free” and “into?”
I ambled an over to the Men’s section and spotted an outfit that resembled a track suit. It was 100% nylon and 50% off. Now that I had clothes, I needed to find better running shoes. And a damn water bottle since I lied earlier.
I spent the rest of the week waking up at a decent time, going to the gym for an hour, and then going to the public library to search for jobs online. Yes, if you read my previous story, I was allowed back into the Weehawken Public Library on a temporary basis. I am actually writing this story from the library. Isn’t it funny how things can change? Or revolve? See, I just went full circle.
Oh, sorry. This story isn’t finished yet.
After two days of applying for jobs, I was called in for an interview for Wednesday evening for an entertainment writing position. It was just the kind of job I was looking for, since I do spend a lot of time watching Access Hollywood, E! News, E! News Weekend, and stalking Mario Lopez.
Instead of meeting at an office, we met at a Starbucks. It made me feel less intimidated because I am usually more comfortable around coffee beans, foaming milk, and Michael Buble CD’s.
My interviewer, who asked to remain nameless for all blogging purposes, told me about the job, about what my tasks and requirements would be, and basically what a typical day is like. Everything Benjam…everything he said sounded great and I felt that I would fit in perfectly. We shook hands and left the Starbucks, with him promising to contact me later on that week – We’ve all heard this one before, am I right ladies?!
It was now 2:30pm and I had plans to meet up with my friend Laura for dinner and drinks at 6. Instead of spending the six dollars to go back to my apartment in New Jersey, I decided to take myself to a movie and celebrate an interview well done.
The only movie playing at the time I was free was Les Miserables. I have heard nothing but great things about the film, and decided I should give it a watch. I walked into the dark theater not knowing anything about the movie plot. I sat down in my seat and put my bag and jacket on the chair next to me so people would think my date was in the bathroom, or buying me popcorn, or, I don’t know, writing me poetry.
It was now 5:45pm. The movie had just ended. I was more confused now than I was in the boys locker room in fifth grade. I am sure some people who are reading this post have yet to see the movie, so I won’t spoil anything for you. But, damn. Did you know they sang the entire movie?! Not one word was spoken! And Anne Hathaway! She was in the movie for eleven minutes. She won a Golden Globe award, and is nominated for an Oscar for being in a movie for eleven minutes?! I don’t get it. And the story line! What the hell was that about?! All of that for stealing a loaf of bread? Seriously? I have stolen way more than that and you don’t see me singing about it. Ugh.
It was now 6:00pm and I was meeting Laura outside of her fancy new office to go out and celebrate her new job. When Laura and I first moved to New York, we didn’t really know that many people, and we didn’t really know the cool places in the city. On our very first outing, in 2011, we stumbled into this tiny little bar in the West Village that has a wing night every Wednesday and you can drink beer out of a boot. We were sold.
So, for tradition, we went back to our hole in the wall and guzzled Bud Light and as many 25 cent wings we could eat. Laura ordered six, and I, twenty-eight.
After my second plate was filled with chicken bones and bits of bleu cheese, I stopped ignoring Laura and continued in on conversation.
“Sorry, I missed half that story. I cant concentrate on the t.v., the chicken, the beer, and your story about the M train all at the same time. So, start over from the spot where you got on at Herald Square and saw Carson Daily.”
Laura rolled her eyes and said, “my story is about my first day of work and I was trapped in an elevator for thirty minutes.”
“With Carson Daily?!”
“No. Carson Daily is not in this story. I haven’t mentioned his name since 1999. Where the hell are you getting Carson Daily from?!”
“Aw, I miss TRL.”
Laura ordered another white sangria, exhaled a little too loudly for my taste, and asked me if I would like to come to Queens for dinner the next night.
Is it just me, or does everyone else just get squeamish when they are invited to Queens? I know, I live in New Jersey. But I don’t go around inviting people to come over. And whenever I roll my eyes or pretend to vomit when I hear the words “Astoria” or “the NQR”, the person who resides in Queens goes on a huge tangent about how great it is. We get it. There is a beer garden. Enough.
“I wish I could! I love Astoria! But, I have my consultation with a personal trainer tomorrow at my gym, so I cant.”
“You have a what? Since when do you work out?” She asked in between spurts of laughter.
“Since Sunday, thank you very much. I am trying to get ‘back’ into shape this year, so I joined a gym over the weekend and have gone twice since. So, that’s almost every day.”
“Ah! I am so proud of you. Look at you working out, and only ordering 28 wings on wing night. You are a whole different person!”
“I know, I am really excited about it. So, I can’t go crazy tonight because I want to be well rested and not hung-over when I go in tomorrow.”
It was now 2:45am and I was just leaving the bar trying to hail a subway to get hack bome to Nersey.
I woke up the next afternoon with an awful hangover and an empty bag of McDonalds lying on the pillow next to me. Talk about a ‘Nappy Meal’, huh? Okay, taking that joke out once this book goes to print.
I had a few hours before my training session began so I hopped in the shower to wake myself up and then sat on the couch to mentally prepare.
My alarm woke me up at 3:30pm, so I threw on my brand new Nike Air Jordan Max 3000’s and headed out to the gym.
I walked up to the counter where a twenty-something was sitting behind reading last months UsWeekly. Last months! I scanned my ID card and told her I had a meeting with a personal trainer.
“Yes, Gustavo is upstairs, first office on your left. He is expecting you.”
“Okay, great.” I turned to walk away, but quickly turned back around. “I’m sorry, his name again?”
She replied, “Gustavo” like she was saying John, or Robert, or another common white person’s name.
I walked up the stairs to the offices and my legs were already starting to hurt and cramp. Gosh, I hope he doesn’t have me doing anything physical today, I thought to myself. I found the first office on the left, and the door was ajar, so I lightly knocked to get his attention.
He spun around on his chair so quickly it scared me and said, “Yes?”
“Hi, I am looking for, uh, Gustavo?” I asked.
He stood up, outstretched his hand and answered, “That is myself.”
I waited until he turned around to give one, big eye roll and mouthed ‘Oh, brother!’
I am sure I have mentioned this in many of my articles, stories, blog posts and bathroom wall writings that I live in a predominately Hispanic neighborhood. And by predominately, I mean I am one of the only white people in a 2 mile radius. I saw a fellow Caucasian at the Dunkin’ Donuts the other day and I just sat down across from him and formed an alliance.
After Gustavo told me to have a seat, we started going over my ‘fitness goals’ that I wished to achieve. Frankly, I don’t have any fitness goals. I want to look okay naked. That’s it.
“Why did you join a gym? Do you have anything special coming up that you want to look good for?” he asked. (Oh, by the way, I am writing everything in Gustavo’s voice in proper English so my readers will understand. He was not that eloquent.)
“Well, I don’t know. I have a wedding in April I’d like to look okay for. So, yeah. I guess that’s a special occasion.” I answered while staring at the piece of paper he was writing on. He literally wrote down the word “wedding”.
“Ah, a wedding. Congrats!”
I was confused, but then understood what he meant. “No, no, no. It’s not my wedding. It’s a friends wedding.”
“Oh, a friends wedding. So, you’re not getting married?”
“Nope. I’m single, can you believe it?” I asked to lighten the mood.
“Well, you said you have never been to a gym before, so yes, I believe it. Are there any areas you want to work on specifically? (This was a fun word for him to pronounce).
“Well, I definitely want to lose weight, I wouldn’t mind having a flatter stomach. And arms. I want to have bigger arms. My eleven year old niece can beat me up. Pretty much, I want to take off my shirt and not have people scream.”
“I see, I see. Well, we can definitely work on that. But anyways Yames, first things first, we are going to weigh you and then check your body fat percentage.”
“Can we just skip that part? I clearly know there is a problem. That is why I am spending over a hundred dollars to come to this facility.”
“Ah, Yames, Yames. It is the procedure. Come. “ Gustavo then walked me over to the scale and weighed me. It wasn’t an accurate number because I was clothed and had my keys in my pockets. So, I just told him to deduct five or ten pounds to the number given. He didn’t. Next, we went back into his officina where he handed me a strange device that reminded me of a video game controller and told me to hold it out straight and squeeze tightly. We’ve all heard that before, am I right ladies?
I did this for twenty seconds until a percentage popped up on screen. A number I was actually happy about. “Well, that isn’t bad!” I said with excitement in my voice.
“I was expecting it to be 50% Ha!”
He gave me a sideways glance and took the device out of my hands and opened up a book. “No, it’s not bad, but it’s also not good, either. You are two percent above the average body fat percentage for your age group.”
“Oh.” I was now realizing Gustavo was a dream crusher.
He filled out the rest of the form and in the box labeled “Physical Ability” he just put a question mark. “Okay, now that the form is filled out, let’s go out and I’ll show you some workouts.”
I got up out of the chair just when I was getting comfortable and we headed out to this restricted area in the gym that had a sign “Training Sessions Only”. Me, at the height of my naivety, thought good ole Gus was going to demonstrate a few exercises that would help me reach my goal and then I would be free to go about my workout as planned. (Elliptical, Elliptical, Elliptical).
The first thing Gustavo had me do was jumping jacks for one minute. For a normal person, this would seem like not a big deal. But, I am not a normal person. I haven’t done a jumping jack since my sixth grade physical fitness test.
After the most grueling 60 seconds I have ever endured in my life, I was then made to hold a 15-pound ball, lifting it above my head while doing lunges simultaneously.
The crazy exercises continued for thirty minutes, from one-handed push-ups to jumping rope. I was exhausted. I had to stop for water nineteen times and I swear I felt my heart stop at least twice.
We then went back into the office where I was bombarded with pamphlets and brochures trying to recommend different plans for me to choose. “If you pay the $50 initiation fee, your weekly price will be $40 a week for one session, $60 for two sessions, and so on.”
I knew by my third push up that Gustavo was a salesman, trying to sell me on the joy and thrill of personal training sessions, and the whole time I was trying to conjure a great excuse as to why I cannot buy into it.
But, now that all of these facts, figures, and body fat percentages were lying in front of me, I could feel myself about to give in. I was sitting in the chair contemplating all of the different options. I thought to myself, “Well, maybe I could afford two sessions a week…The workouts weren’t that bad…This is probably the best option for me to get ‘back’ in shape…”
Luckily for my credit card (and my body) I politely declined Gustavo’s proposition. “I just really don’t think this is the type of workout I want to do. I am sorry. Plus, I am an out of work writer. I have eleven dollars in my wallet. And that eleven dollars is probably going to buy me a pizza for dinner. So, thanks, but no thanks.”
I stood up and walked out of his office, and didn’t look back. I went to the locker room to collect my belongings and call Pizza Hut for a carry out order. I could barely pick my choice of toppings, I was so out of breath.
I got home, turned on a rerun of “The Office” and started digging into my large supreme pizza with extra cheese and pepperoni and thought to myself, “Ah, this is the life.”
Halfway through my first slice, I was interrupted by my phone ringing. It was the guy I interviewed with the previous day and he offered me a position writing for a website. I was beyond excited. At the interview, I really felt that I could excel in the position, and couldn’t have accepted the job offer any faster.
I woke up the next morning with a pain in every muscle, joint, and tooth in my body. Gus told me I would be sore the next morning, but this was a little crazy. I couldn’t raise my arms above my head, so there go my high-five rituals. I could barely walk to the bathroom and it hurt so badly when I sat down to pee.
But, after all the pain and all the struggle, this time when I looked in the mirror I saw a different person. Sure, the hairline had receded a tad bit more. And sure, I was still covered in semen, but I looked at a man who was doing something to fulfill his goals. A man who had joined a gym, and tested himself. A man who had applied for a job, and was offered a position. A man who sits down when he pees.
So, I may not have the best body, and I may not have the best job, but all I know is that everything, soon, will all work out.