About 7 years ago, I was training to be a personal fitness trainer. My gym assigned prospective trainers like me to “floor shifts.” If you belong to a gym you see floor-shifters shifting around the gym floor. They are supposed to help out, get towels and schmooze with customers. These workers are paid peanuts, have little to do during their shifts and usually open the gym at ungodly hours until they get their training certificates and can take on clients. The crappy pay, work and hours is meant to separate the wheat from the chaff—the people who really want to train and people who just want a job. I was chaff.
I had good reasons why I quit the gym: I made much more money at my other job (I did); their training method was stupid (it kind of was); gyms promote superficial fitness, not health (they do). But another reason for quitting revealed itself. It didn’t matter what I was doing. I always found reasons why something sucked. Personal training, acting, modeling, cooking, school, girlfriends, friends—I quit all of them for good reasons. It wasn’t an episodic issue, it was a systemic one. I was a quitter.
I realized that I wanted to be more than a quitter and a dabbler. After the gym episode, I started a program of recovery from quitting, carried out in a pretty straightforward way: I stopped quitting things and finished many things I had started (I got geeked out on transformational workshops for a while too).
But that recovery took time. It took a while before the old evidence was displaced by the new. I had to show up to relationships, jobs and other commitments for a while before I was able to fully experience myself as a committed person. With any major change, there is a period between letting go of what you don’t want and creating what you do. Which brings me to the present.
Most of my “adult” life has been spent primarily living for myself. Sure, I’ve shown up and committed to relationships and institutions, but I always made sure I had enough emotional or physical distance that our needs weren’t completely intertwined. I wasn’t going to let anyone or anything drag me down with them.
I’ve had great times living this way. I’ve been mobile and flexible. I’ve slept well and gotten plenty of exercise because no one impinges on my schedule. Since I have minimal material needs, I haven’t needed to make much money or work too hard. I’ve been able to change my life instantly without all that messy explaining one must do in close relationships. For example, I can go vegan overnight because no one else is eating from my fridge.
But something happened 9 months ago. I met a girl. I like the girl. The girl wants a family. In order to be with her for a while, I had to be on board. Continue reading “Man-Child Manifesto”