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Afterthoughts

Shift in Focus

Home has always been a kind of fluid word for me. I moved out of my mom’s upstairs apartment when I was 17. It was summer. I went to Ohio to work with my Uncle. From that temporary stepping stone, I  stumbled my way through dozens of countries, countless uncomfortable mattresses and a wide array of colors to the various roofs over my head.

Home was an idea. Not a thing. Since I left Pennsylvania in 2006, my mom has moved twice, my brother went to college, got engaged and is now expecting. My sister, much to my chagrin, moved in with her boyfriend and is now living the idyllic northeast lifestyle. I saw my family in short bursts separated by sickening lengths of time. A two year overseas assignment here, a deployment there and before I knew it, I was on the phone apologizing to my mother because, “It’s been way too long since I’ve been home.”

Visits in my younger years were negligent. I was more concerned about…well, everything young men are concerned with. Sex, drugs and rock and roll. Late nights or early mornings, it didn’t matter the time, I’d dash in, grab a shower and a change of clothes, hug my mom and then disappear, only to return again the next day, slightly more hungover. She accepted it and I’m sure it stung, but I was selfish and therefore, inherently oblivious.

So,  I clicked the “are you sure?” button when purchasing my tickets home and I vowed to myself to make this visit more about family. It has been about 3 years since I have been home and I feel that in my 20’s, I had missed a huge part of existing. Family. Bonds. Struggle. Triumph. All that. You see, distance creates, for me anyway, a veil. A desire to portray everything in a positive light. “Oh yeah, mom. Everything is good.” Everything wasn’t good at times but I was supposed to be the strong one. I’m the oldest, I’m the military man, living a life on the run. Emotions couldn’t keep up with me and if they got close, I’d just duck and dodge until they relented.

I flew the 20+ hour journey with a small stop in Japan and eventually came to rest at JFK international airport. In a rental car, the only thing that separated me from home was now a daunting 4 and half hour drive. I’m a ferociously patient dude but traveling gets old fast. I’ve found ways to make it bearable and they all involve talking to myself like a lunatic. It keeps me awake and ultimately, I discover a lot about me. I just have to ask myself the right questions.

My journey finally ended in a snowy driveway on hillside in Milan, Pa. It was about 1:00am, freezing cold and I get out of my tiny doll-sized car wearing lululemon shorts. I took in a deep breath like an under-dressed inmate tasting freedom for the first time. I can’t really put into words the harsh difference between the chaos in Hong Kong and the solitude of my mom’s new home. It was silent but alive. Electric. A faint pulse radiated around me. A quiet, dull hum of underlying energy. Almost overwhelming.

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My mother and I stayed up for an hour or so, chatting and catching up. That’s the great thing about family for me. I can disappear, live a life so much the antithesis of what they’re living and come back only to dive right into a loving and compassionate conversation. It was warming but it was also late. My bed was beckoning me. Soft light and softer sheets had been prepared lovingly by my mother. I set my suitcases down and collapsed into the mattress allowing all the stress of travel to slowly melt away.

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The two weeks during my visit were, from an outsiders point of view, were boring. The thing you have to understand is this; I wanted it that way. I went into this trip not with an itinerary loaded with line by line items that I must accomplish. I took each day as it came and found myself using the phrase, “Yeah, I’m ok with anything” religiously. I don’t get the chance to really shut off in Hong Kong. I wanted to be bored, if that makes any sense. Trips home in the past were always a mad rush to get out of the house. This time, I just wanted to stay in. There was also an intense fascination with Wal-Mart. I went about 8 times in two weeks. I would wander up and down the aisles, gazing at the obscene amount of products, lotions, potions, foods, beverages, clothing and everything in-between. On several occasions, I had to stop myself as I blindly placed nonsensical impulse buys on the moving check-out table.

Looking back on my trip now, a few events really stand out in my mind. There was the ultimate display of patriotism that came in the form of shooting handguns with my step-dad, Tim. I wasn’t able to go through a bonding phase with him. I left the house as he and my mom started dating. I think I was 17 or 18 and with those years came a very poor mindset, maybe indifference. I was living my life selfishly and as long as my mom was happy, I was happy. Standing over a makeshift table, loading rounds with cold fingers into the greased grooves of the magazines, I could tell that if I had made the effort to connect and bond years ago, we would have an even stronger relationship. As a son, I am proud to see what he and my mom have done together, entering some trying times, only to emerge stronger than when they went in. img_7897

Then there are the special moments that siblings have. The moments that are so special to you personally that to transcribe them for others to see would sully up the significance. Caitlin and Tyler, just know that those special moments will always be something I hold onto.

img_7784There was also the night at home where we gathered around the TV (which is perched up a little too high mom, you’ll hurt your neck!) and watched home movies. It was already an awkward predicament to be in but two of my good friends showed up just to make sure the point was driven home. I looked on, red-faced, as they watched me on the screen, dressed awkwardly and still sporting a healthy layer of baby fat. What really got me though was when everyone left. My mom and I stayed up and kept watching. I changed tapes and refilled glasses of wine as I watched a family trip to Gettysburg, Washington DC, Thanksgiving in Ohio and Christmas’s I don’t even remember. I cried in the glow of the TV screen looking on at simpler times when we were always together, something I treasure dearly,  but I hid the tears from my mom. I’m the oldest, after all.

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I Saw Home

Every year around this time, people generally lose focus. They’re lost in the aisles of gigantic and impersonal shopping centers, milling amongst the minutiae that seems to appear out of nowhere just in time for the seasonal rush or ensnared by the electronic glow of a computer monitor trying to score a few last minute deals.

People say, “we have to remember what the Holidays are all about”, and thats all well and good but I’m of the belief that the meaning of  Holidays hold is a strictly personal one. I was reminded of that when Bobbie and I finished a workout that I had done WAY back in 2012. (Go figure, another part in my life that can be traced back to a workout.) Halfway through, I thought back. It was exactly 3 years ago to the day. I was in Afghanistan and I was literally hours away from flying home for my 2 weeks rest and relaxation. It was the time of year that all other Christmas seasons have been compared to since, and in a lot of ways it remains the best holiday ever.

Id like to share with you a journal entry from that time and hopefully, something within my pages resonates with you and makes your holiday a little brighter:

“24 December 2012

Afghanistan->Kuwait->Iceland->New Hampshire

I’ll never forget the wonderful people of Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

We arrived at about 9:30am on Christmas Eve. Weary, hungry and beat down from long hours sitting. We were herded off the plane like we have been throughout this entire journey. My main purpose for getting off was to use my cell phone so I could get in touch with friends (family didn’t know I was coming). That plan soon changed.

We rounded several corners and made our way through the labyrinth that is usually common in airports. Passing through security we dropped our customs slips off and continued on.

Then I heard it. The applause. The “thank you’s” and “Merry Christmas'”

Then I saw it. Hundreds of faces, young and old. Boy scouts, retired soldiers, sailors airmen and marines. Housewives, grandkids, moms and dads, aunts and uncles. I saw family, I saw home, I saw America through the eyes of everyone there. Handshake after handshake reaffirmed my strong belief that America is the greatest country on Earth. I am biased but through my biased eyes I saw people come together to welcome people they didn’t even know back from a land that most had not been to. It is a vested interest that brought them there. The interest in seeing America return to and keep her former glory.

Our arrival was not only greeted with smiling faces but also coffee, doughnuts, cakes and candy, Ice Cream, stuffed animals and lots of photos opportunities. They would have to wait, as I quickly disappeared outside in the cold to dry my eyes. My emotions were frayed from little sleep and cramped quarters. As soon as I got back inside, a freelance videographer interviewed me, ironic considering my job in the military. Pretty cool to be on the other side of the camera.

I chatted with Mike, a retired airman who got out in the year I was born. I spoke with a family who had been doing this for years, a college girl who did it with her sorority. It felt good to have such an open society, by that, I mean a society that really isn’t hindered by endless rules and regulations. Being in the military has dampened my emotions considerably and the emotions of others around me. Everyone was just a little more bummed out in Afghanistan.

We left New Hampshire about 45 minutes ago. The group had braved the cold and followed us outside and waved goodbye as we set out towards Atlanta, the American flag waving right alongside them”

I went on to surprise my family with my visit and shared many experiences with friends and family that I still cherish to this day.

I can’t wait to make it back to the USA.

Merry Christmas to all!

-Cameron

The Story Continues

In my instagram biography it says, “Sometimes, I write.” When people ask what hobbies I dabble in, I reply confidently, “I write.” Unfortunately, life can alter your plans and change your hobbies. “Sometimes” becomes “occasionally”. Then occasionally turns to rarely. After that, a hobby that once worked its way into daily life now slides out of existence then you find yourself 6 months later wondering, “What the fuck happened?”

I love writing. I love the way when I read a book I can be whisked away to a distant time or place. Or how sometimes I read a sentence that is so strikingly beautiful I glance over it again and again like a beautiful woman in a room full of people. The idea that I can take what is in my head, transcribe in to paper and then years down the road, revisit my struggles, misfortune and jubilant times is comforting.

I’ve missed it.

This post will be a bit of catching up. Six months have elapsed and a lot of things have changed. To be quite honest, I spent the time from March to May stressing out about CrossFit regionals. That was my life. Everything I ate, the hours I slept, the training I took part in. Trying to juggle all that with a full-time job was an absolute disaster for me mentally and I took a beating, finding myself in the occasional “dark” spot. To run you through a typical training day:

4:00am-wake up
5:30-8:30-coach classes
8:30-11:00-Training session #1
11:30-1:30- Coach Classes
1:30-3:30-Training Session #2
Occasionally, some evenings and middays had to be shuffled around to get some of my PT clients in.
7:30-Get ready for bed.

If you’ve seen the movie “Groundhogs Day”, you can easily see where this is going. By late April, I felt like I was just going through the motions. If you know me, you may understand how I try my best to keep things in and hold back any signs of weakness, but inside I was bubbling over slowly. Several times, that led to some emotional outbursts of frustration or sadness.

Luckily, a really great person from a local small business, Float on Hong Kong, stepped in and truly saved the day. Leading up to regionals, she provided a few free sensory deprivation floats to help me calm the nerves (or in my case, prevent emotional burnout). I don’t want to turn this into a sales pitch, but Dee is an amazing spirit and hopefully this post let’s her know how much her assistance meant to me. The first float was the hardest, as I couldn’t find it in me to really “let go”. Work, programming, deadlines et cetera all kept me from emptying my thoughts. As my sessions went on, it became easier and easier to slip into a tranquility I haven’t found anywhere else. Floating truly helped me alleviate a lot of the stress of work and training.

Some of you may be thinking, “Cameron, you workout for a living, what could you possibly be stressed about?”

Fair point, except that’s not the case at all. I won’t step up to the defense of coaches/athletes everywhere as some may tout that they manage to coach and train for the games at the same time when in actuality, the only see about 6-8 coaching hours per week. Maybe my job is easy, maybe I do spend more time working out than 90% of the population, but I take it deadly serious. In my head, I put pressure on myself. I put pressure on myself to perform at a high level and when I had a shit workout, I took it personally. I strive to make the classes I coach fun and the highlight of our member’s day. When I feel like that didn’t happen, I get a little down on myself. For me, my job isn’t a hobby or something to just pay the bills. It is my passion and I’ve worked hard over the past 8 years to get where I am today. I pride myself on that.

Regionals, done! Stress free. Bobbie and I spent an amazing few days in Australia, basking in its beautiful sun, surrounding ourselves with the positivity that oozes from its inhabitants and trying our best to forget about going back to work. It was a brief moment, but it felt so good to let loose, have some drinks and have no agenda or to-do list.
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My life is a brief periods of excitement followed by slightly longer periods of normalcy. One of the brief periods of excitement came in the form of a 3-kilogram mass of flesh and fur that goes by the name of Chipper. We bought him on a whim. One of those situations where both parties involved in a major decision just look at each other, at the object in question, then back at each other and knowingly nod in unison as if to admit defeat under the crushing weight of consumerism.

After all, how could you say no to a face like this? Raising this little monster has been an additional stress. I have never cleaned up so much piss and shit than I do now. I say that like its a bad thing because…it is. Here’s the catch though: the good of owning a dog far outweigh the negatives. Coming home to this loving and adorable furball has really made the end of a day a lot easier. Sometimes, when home alone, I just watch him like I imagine a loving mother watches her newborn. He is captivating and a real joy in our life. It also made me push having a real kid further away on my life’s timeline because after a few months with a dog, I know my irresponsible ass isn’t ready to bring another human being into existence.

July brought about an unusually eventful month as Bobbie and I found ourselves jetting off to Korea for the Asia Champs. This 3 day event is the highlight of competitive CrossFit in Asia and really does a great job of representing the community. The training leading up to to the event was, for me, lacking a lot of the usual joy I find underneath a heavy barbell or in the middle of some brutal AMRAP. I went into it with one goal in mind: Have fun. Every little leaguer around the globe knows that phrase. It’s uttered by coaches who know that the chances of victory are slim to none and after a few rough weeks of training, I felt like that little league coach. I just wanted to “play”. That was something that had been lost for me lately. The ability to let loose and not take myself too seriously. At the end of the weekend, my goal was accomplished, as I had an absolute blast at the competition!
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The end of July saw another first for me in Hong Kong. The obligatory “first junk trip”. I would have a lot more to tell you about it but I can’t remember much of it. A combination of free flowing sangria and champagne did a fantastic job of making sure the only highlights I have are the ones that were captured on camera.
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In all seriousness, it was an amazing time. One that I hope to relive again soon…at least a year from now. I can’t recover from hangovers like I used to.

Lost in the Dark

I am not typically the type of person to get lost in the rigamarole of Valentines Day. It’s not that I am disenfranchised to the point where I think its a “fake holiday” (it is) created by the getting card companies (it was) and it’s meaning is purely financially (totally). It’s just that I feel love is an emotion best dished out 365 days a year in small gestures that may not seem like much at the time but when you sit with your significant other you reminisce with stories that usually start with “remember that one time…”

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However, one thing I do get excited about is food. So it made perfect sense to book a table, unbeknownst to my girlfriend, at a local hotspot called “Alchemy”. The concept is simple, yet wildly intriguing. You eat in total darkness and it forces you to truly rely on your senses other than sight to taste and evaluate your meal. When I say “total darkness” I mean total darkness. With no phones, exit signs or candles to taint the ink-black room you are left feeling truly helpless. Luckily, a staff member guides you through curtains, around your table and towards your cutlery and you sit down as safely as you would have in a well lit room.

We had our reservations at an early 6:45, as sleep tends to be a high priority for us both and we walked through the unassuming entranceway and were seated in the lounge as we waited for Michael, our server, to prepare the table. In the lounge area, you can sit and talk, grab a drink or admire the charming interior with dark woods and an intricate inlaid ceiling. After a red wine and gin and tonic, Michael was ready and so were we. The hostess led us down a dark staircase and made us count with her as we descending the 14 steps into the shadows.
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The darkness is very uncomfortable at first. There we were, having a conversation. Talking about things that are very important to us. Things that would typically illicit a string of facial gestures, eye movement, subtle body language and other various “tells” that we use in everyday life to dictate how others are feeling, yet we had none of that. I could only guess the physical response my partner was having across the table from me. Always being a fan of puns, this was truly a blind date. 
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Bad jokes aside, the food was delicious and according to the staff, the menu changes every week to keep people coming back for more. I never truly got used to the darkness during out 2 hour meal, which included a glass of champagne, appetizer, main and dessert. There were moments where I would close my eyes for a few minutes then open them, only to reveal more pitch black darkness. I tried my best to eat with the forks and spoons provided but quickly grew impatient and just dug in with my hands, covering them in whatever concoctions happened to be on my plate. I felt like I was reverting back to a toddler. I was well dressed, paid for the meal and set up the reservation yet, there I was with my fingers grubbily wrapped around a slice of duck meat and covered in the remnants of  beetroot from the starter. It obviously didn’t matter though, no one could see, so I carried on unfazed.

After our dessert, we chatted for a bit more and then agreed that the exchange of words was best continued in some sort of well-lit room. We settled the bill and made our way back to our apartment to enjoy a bottle of cheap wine and watch HBO’s “The Jinx” which, like “Alchemy”, I highly recommend.
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Now this is the time that could take the low road in comedy and post pictures of pure blackness and say something cute like “this was our main course” but I’ll spare you and just suggest that if you want a “dining in the dark experience” just don’t pay the electricity bill for a few months and you’ll have it. Or just google it. Less stressful and doesn’t affect your credit score.

Room For Error

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*Note: I have been using various writing prompts to inspire some creativity. This one was simply “Describe your surroundings.” I chose my room in Hong Kong, however, I recently moved in with my girlfriend and enjoy more square footage, better living and a pretty badass companion to share it with.

I keep my air conditioner on so the silence doesn’t have total control. The candles are the only thing moving in the room, their light dancing in the reflection of the shiny table top. It’s cold so I wear a sweater, only to remove it later because I’m too hot.

It’s small, my room, but not in the way that would make someone say, “Oh, this is charming!”

My kitchen is my bedroom, which is my office, which is my bathroom, which is my shower. It all bleeds together, blurring any boundaries and ultimately causing territorial disputes between regions. A errant towel may find itself on my kitchen floor or a wayward mug might make it’s way to the bedroom all with little more than two steps and a forgetful demeanor. It’s a box. A box with thin walls. I hear my neighbors coughing, talking, laughing and experiencing a wide array of emotions as the nights pass. It’s like hearing a sitcom on the TV in the other room. You know what is happening but you can’t see it. I can smell the food sometimes. Spices and smells seep their way into the space underneath my door and linger like a blanket in the air and it always seems to happen on the  nights that I am starving.

I do enjoy my room. In a city full of lights, I find some relief behind the thick burlap curtains that hang in front of the windows. Light still bleeds though but my eyelids keep that out as I sleep, like some nocturnal bouncer at an up-and-coming club.

I have a television but I think it’s in my room as an antique and purely decorative. It’s 14-inches and emblazoned with the branding “Konka”. Behind it, poorly hidden cables bend and twist their way around  the support arm like slick black snakes and insert themselves into a DVD player and a cable box, both as ancient as the television.

My bed is my luxury item. It has room for me to spread out when the day has spread me too thin or room to curl up and hide when the day beats me up. It’s comfortable but you wouldn’t be amazed. The pillows are flattened with age and time, weary heads compressed what vigor the filling once had, now they sit sad and askew.

My sheets get changed every Thursday. Helpers come in and tidy up, our paths rarely cross. Every Thursday I leave my place one way and come back to a tidier version. I like Thursdays.

A wooden desk holds various accessories and trinkets gathered throughout the day. Lose change, receipts of food long forgotten, laundry slips for clothes I haven’t yet folded, and keys all reside on the dark wood surface. With them, a laptop, lamp and books about places I may never see.

My closet holds a merry-go-round of outfits that I find myself in throughout the week. Most of them gym-clothes. They are lazily hung on hangers that don’t match. The lamp on my desk acts as a spotlight, casting shadows of my hats on the soft white wall and it’s hairline cracks. Socks and t-shirts hang out of the drawers as if desperate for attention. There isn’t much order here, just a simple confusion. I spend about 10 hours a day here, 8 of which are spent sleeping and dreaming of other places.

26 Things I learned in 2015

As I type this, I am sipping a good cup of coffee and thinking back to all those life lessons that sprouted up in 2015. Some of these may seem very much common sense or obvious, but 2015 was a year where they were satisfyingly re-affirmed.

This is simply  a sampling of the lessons I learned over the last 365 days, some obvious, some insightful and some just off the wall. Hope you enjoy.

1. Life is hard-I battled booze, mild-depression, poverty, briefly living in a gym, a string of couch surfing and severe stress in 2015. All of which sucked. Too bad. That’s life. Don’t look for pity from others, look for a way past it. I guarantee that the mere fact you are able to sit down and read this blog from your cell phone or at home internet tells me that there are people dealing with far worse shit than you could ever imagine. Take a breath and handle life. You’ll be stronger once you made it past the tough stuff.

2. Don’t be an asshole-Basic manners. I’ve dealt with a lot of rudeness throughout my entire life and it’s especially true in Hong Kong. Nothing against the people it’s just entirely different customs and courtesies here. Do basic stuff. Hold open doors, say “please” and “Thank you”. Act like your mom is over your shoulder everywhere you go. How do you want her to see you? And for the love of god, cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough.

3. Say Yes More- We are a society full of “we’ll sees” and “Maybes”. Because of that, we miss out on the beautiful things. Live on the edge. When someone asks you to do something you have never done, say yes and say it with enthusiasm. The opportunity may never present itself again.

4. Eat good fucking food-Life is too short to big through a bowl of salad greens hoping to find a stray piece of dry chicken breast you might of missed on the last pass through. It’s also too short to sit in line at a fast food restaurant hoping to stuff that big mac down your throat. Man  up, foot the bill for a nice meal every now and then. I’m talking steaks, lambs, duck and other gamey stuff. Take your taste buds for a test drive. The more words you don’t recognise on the menu, the better. Fondant, Foams, Celeriac and Bain-Marie all translate to “eat me”. When you finish eating, tip at least 15% or go home and revaluate your life choices.

5. Food Delivery is Amazing: Everyone is busy with work, life, blogging et cetera. Having wholesome fallbacks delivered daily dramatically decreases your risk of falling victim to some slimy, gooey, nutrient-void, prepackaged fallacy labeled food.

6. If you’re on time, you’re late: I’ve seen a lot of articles on this one lately. Maybe its my military upbringing that makes me so repulsed by chronic lateness but if you tell someone you’ll be there at 2, you damn sure better be there at 1:55. The necessity of this goes up the more important the occasion is. Friends understand a few minutes late, CEO’s and high level executives don’t. Set your watch ahead 5-10 minutes and punctuality your religion. People will see you in a better light.

7. Have an Identity: I can spot people who stuffed themselves in a starched shirt and new dress shoes. I can smell when someone is uncomfortable. That makes me uncomfortable. If you aren’t yourself in a suit and tie, wear a cardigan. Don’t feel normal in yoga pants? Wear sweats. Be yourself and screw the haters.

8. Stay young: Two or 3 times a week I will slide a 2 dollar coin in the drop-claw game around the corner from my apartment. The reasons for this are 1) I want to have the mind of a child and 2) I want to win that stuffed pokemon figure. Staying young doesn’t mean you act like an unruly toddler that loses his shit when he doesn’t get his way. It means being open to the world, thinking outside the box. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard “He’s just like a sponge” when a parent refers to a kid. Have an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. Be a sponge.

9. Train hard, Rest Harder: I don’t want to beat a dead horse here, but rest days are more important than training days in a lot of ways. A 10k row isn’t a rest day. That’s an Active rest day, learn the difference and take REST days. Get out of the gym and into the world.

1o. Friends are the wind in your sails: Treat them well. I have neglected a lot of important people in my life over the past year, and the reasons are too many to list. I intend on correcting the course and valuing those people in my life more. (You know who you are) Without friends, I’d be a totally different person. Call a friend or two a week, send a quick “Hello” message. Ask how their kids are. Show genuine interest.

11: Family is the ship that carries you: I have been away from home a lot (ALL) of 2015. That saddens me. My family has been so important in all my decision making and planning. They have carried and guided me forward whether they realise it or not. In 2016, I have my sights set on visiting the states, and most certainly Pennsylvania.

12: Read more. Go to a bookstore, find something with real pages of real paper in it. If it is on a topic that interests you, that’s even better. Sit in a quiet corner and read. Turn the phone off and get lost in the pages. If you like it after 10-15 minutes, buy it with your hard earned money and continue the process at home. Do it again once or twice a month.

13. Have good sex.

14. Find one thing in your life that is making you a human of lesser quality and quit that thing: Smoking, internet addiction, drinking to excess, showing up late, judging, close-mindedness, shyness. Target a specific weakness and then punish it without relenting until you feel comfortable with your newfound sense of improvement. Once that happens, choose another and start the process over again. Repeat and chase perfection. You’ll never get there, but you’re moving in the right direction.

15. Make lists, they help: Most mornings, I write a list of things I want to accomplish. I get through 75-90% of those things done every day. Mathematically speaking, I have increased my productivity by 75-90% because I wouldn’t have done shit without a detailed list of daily objectives. Draw it out and make it happen. Sort by priority.

16. Get a massage when you can afford it: I already know how little time you have for stretching, foam rolling and recovery, but if I handed you a gift certificate for a massage, I know damn well you would be on the phone scheduling one in. Treat it like a gift for yourself after a productive week. Deep tissue or just relaxing. Doesn’t matter, both will improve your quality of life in one way or another.

17. Put your phones away. Hong Kong has a sickening attachment to cell phones. 7 out of 10 people are transfixed and enthralled with the pale glow of a phones display. I get soft-shouldered at least 3 times a day by people who are in the middle of an epic candy crush game. It is almost enough to make you want to stop, throw your hands up and yell “Look around you!” It wouldn’t do much, as they would probably continue to play. Put your phone on silent and have a good conversation at least 2-3 times a day.

18. Learn how to socialise: People who are socially awkward make me awkward. Go out more, socialising is like a sport. It takes practice. If you sit in your dark bedroom complaining about how much you hate going out, you’ll never get better at going out.  Oh, and conversations don’t usually involve a string of obscure movie quotes or inappropriate compliments. Eliminate that from your repertoire. Grab a paper, get online and educate yourself on current events.

19. Get some sleep: Real sleep. Not “I’m so drunk” sleep. Not the “I’ll keep my phone by my head so I still get my Facebook notifications” sleep. Real fucking sleep. REM. That’s the treasure. Be a sleep pirate. Scour the 7 z’s until you get it. Wake up without an alarm whenever possible.

20. Travel More: Achieve a broader world view. I’ve been to over 20 countries and introduced to a staggering array of cultures, customs and traditions. If you are of a simple mind, you might start to realise that at our core, we are all humans and maybe it can help those who are stuck on their ivory tower of righteousness to stop with the bigotry and harsh words. Cultural insensitivity is antiquated. Grow up and grow together.

21. Keep a journal: I’ve been at it for about 4 years. Every year I grow more of an appreciation for the past entries. Its reflection, its growth and its enlightening. Keep a journal, write often.
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22. Have a signature dish: Make it good, make it often. Surprise people.

23. Drink good coffee: $4.99 for a 12 pound bag may sound like an amazing deal, but someone is getting screwed and it’s definitely the person drinking it. Sure, if you drink 2 pots of joe a day its probably best for your kid’s college fund to drink the cheap stuff but every now and then, treat yourself to a $12 single origin, single farm, fair trade cup of heaven.
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24. Be an amazing partner: Support the one you’re with, don’t inhibit them. I was in a relationship where I was stifling my partner’s growth. I was miserable for that reason. We are friends and we’ve moved past that. Be with someone you can lift up and vice-versa. Share experiences and be fulfilled together.
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25. Stop Bashing fitness regimens that aren’t yours. Ok, so you think CrossFit is dangerous, zumba is only for chicks, TRX is gimmicky and bodybuilding is too boring. I get it. Did anyone ask for your 2 cents? All those arguments are old and tired. In my mind, if someone is off the couch, then they are on the path away from mediocrity. You know who isn’t on the path with them? You, because mediocre people judge and chastise people for trying. It’s assholes like you that intimidate people and keep them away from the gym. Another thing: If you claim that the fitness regimen you’re on is the magic sprinkled, be-all-end-all, one way ticket to GAINZ-ville, you’re an asshat.

26. Glance in the rearview mirror, but don’t turn the car around:  This whole post comes from sitting in front of a computer for 20 minutes and thinking back over the past year. Look back, find your happy times, find your flaws. What can you do to make yourself better? Make life better? Do those things. Don’t dwell on the bad too long, though. Keep it in your rearview mirror, only glancing at it when it comes time to make decisions.
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I’m sure there are a lot of things I probably missed and I still have about a week or so until the year is over, so there might be some updates. Thanks to everyone who made 2015 what it was.

Sunday Funday

Even though I almost give myself a full panic attack typing the title, that is what Sundays truly are for me. A fun day to head out and explore things that I usually wouldn’t have the time for. From Monday to Saturday I log on average 27 hours coaching classes, 5 hours with personal training clients and good 10 or so handling programming, social media content and other general tasks like cleaning and marketing. And I love it. I came here to do this job and the work load has been manageable and I hesitate to even call it a “workload”. I don’t feel burdened by it at all.

I have listened to a few “Ted Talks” on the subject lately. “Do what you love!”  “Balance work and life!” These are statements I have heard over and over again. Sunday is my day to get away from the gym and find that balance. As much as I love working, I don’t want to look back at my time in Hong Kong and shake my head in disgust knowing that the only cuisine I’ve experienced was the pizza shop at the corner of my building or that the only tourism I accomplished was touring other gyms in the city.

This week, I met up with a friend in the morning at a very comfortable 10:30. My usual wake up time is between 4:30 and 6:00, depending on the day. From there, we set out on foot, then by tram and back on foot again as we were whisked away to the local markets.

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Dried Squid
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Vibrant Textiles

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I hit the streets not really intending to purchase anything, but mainly looking for the rich cultural experience of it all. I put on my tourist hat and immediately began snapping pictures of everything that appealed to my eyes. A row of knock-off purses to my right or the tiny green turtles at my feet, anything was fair game and I wanted to catch it all. There is an energy on the streets. Vendors yell at passing tourists, wallets fat with vacation money. Rusty hangers slide across rusty racks, a cleaver hacks away at pork as it sits on a slab of wood waiting for the next gluttonous mouth and outstretched hand. A whirlwind of colors one minute and the next we were dumped back out onto the relatively peaceful streets.

We continued our journey towards Hong Kong Park. Completed in 1991 at a cost of $51.3 million this park blends modern design with natural landscape. It’s lush greenery served as a shelter from the busy streets that sat just outside the many exits.

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On Sundays, the local helpers all get the day off and make their way to parks, underpasses, overpasses and just about anywhere else you can imagine to socialize and relax. My friend and I set up shop in the middle of it all and made my first attempt at Acrobatic Yoga. Being someone who rarely steps out of my comfort zone when failure is staring me in the face, I had a surprising amount of fun practicing this new hobby. It balances strength, trust, confidence and skill and the fluid nature of it all looks breathtaking. At least that is what I saw on YouTube. My first try was shaky and unsteady as I muscled my flyer into each delicate position.

I walked away from that experience with my dignity intact and my hamstrings on fire. I hope to continue getting better as the time goes on. As the clock ticked away on our “Sunday Funday” we made our way underground to the subway and parted ways back to our homes trying to milk what little time we had left of this 24 hours.

This is where the end of the day finds me now. Hunched over the computer screen trying desperately but failing to truly capture how precious each and every day has been since I have set foot on the island of Hong Kong. Whether I am coaching classes, posting workouts or exploring my new life, I truly find a way to enjoy it and feel that is a necessity if I want to keep my sanity and just live in the moment.

I hope you get the chance to do the same today.

Choose Your Own Adventure and Rainy Days Make Me Homesick

Three weeks. Twenty one days. Five hundred and four hours.

It seems like yesterday I was in my then sanctuary, Cat 5 CrossFit in Jupiter, Florida. Surrounded by people I respect and admire. People that I have spent close to two years working with and getting to know in just about all aspects of life. Yet after about 18 months, I packed up and left with a heavy heart.

There really isn’t much stability in my life. It has been that way through my adulthood. In fact, the thought of stability scares me.

The one constant in the past 8 years has been adventure. I think a lot of people have this false interpretation of what adventure actually is. Simply doing a google image search turns up pictures of motocross, skydiving, hang gliding, surfing, whitewater rafting and a whole lot of pictures of people standing on a mountain with their hands in the air. Seriously.

“I’m adventurous!”

I don’t do any of that shit.

Sure, I hike. Oh, and sometimes I’ll eat a piece of food that has been on the floor for more than 5 seconds, but outside of that I don’t think I would be considered that adventurous. That is according to the social stigma and definition of what adventure is.

In my mind, you don’t really need to be shredding some gnarly waves in Indonesia. Adventure isn’t always hanging by your fingertips from a sheer cliff and it certainly doesn’t have to be gliding through the air on a 450cc power house of a dirt bike.

Adventure can be anything that takes you out of your comfort zone. Something as simple as eating a piece of meat you can’t quite tell of the origin, taking a turn down a dark alley to explore a hidden shop, walking around a foreign and overwhelming city with no direction at all.

By definition, adventure is an unusual and exciting, typically hazardous experience or activity. Trust me, this bathroom (found a few blocks from where I am living) is hazardous on so many health and safety levels. Take a look for yourself.
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So yea, I’m basically a regular Rolf Potts* over here.

I’ve honestly been feeling a bit of pressure writing this blog lately. Here I am, all the way in Hong Kong, half a world away and I have this intense urge to not disappoint. An impulse to impress and do all these wonderful and worldly activities when I should realize that adventure is literally all around me. This weeks post is about me finding my own adventure.

Monday:
Public holiday here in Hong Kong and I was fortunate enough to have the day off. A friend and I decided to take a little day tip to Shek O, a beach side village in the south-eastern part of Hong Kong. This truly allowed me to explore the natural diversity in the area. One minute we are in the bustling “Times Square”, bumping elbows with the locals and the next we are surrounded by open forests and pristine ridge lines.
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It felt surreal to go from the chaotic and cramped city streets to the sprawling hills of green in a matter of 20-30 minutes. The narrow and winding roads felt even more harrowing in our double-decker bus. (I found another sense of adventure when entering the second level of the bus as I promptly smashed my head into the ceiling. Everything in Asia is made for smaller people and for the first time in my 5 foot, 9 inch life, I felt tall.)

The day at the beach was..well, a day at the beach. Easy and stress free. I had my sights set on ordering some fantastic local cuisine but, in the end, the hamburger won. (You really can’t screw a hamburger up.)

After lunch, a temple was next on the menu and we scoured the hillside for about 30 minutes searching for this hidden gem only to discover that we had walked right past in our search for lunch.

This is the door. I don't know why I didn't take more photos.
This is the door. I don’t know why I didn’t take more photos.

After a sunburned and saltwater soaked day, I made the journey back to the skyscrapers and called it a day.

Wednesday:
After coaching Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning, I was ready for another little excursion and this time it was to Lamma Island.
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Notorious for its seafood, Lamma Island is the third largest island in Hong Kong and it’s accessible by a 20 minute ferry ride. I went after work and the stress of traveling on the metro was immediately put at ease when I made it to the ferry and began gracefully bobbing up and down on the water while to city lights slowly disappeared.

This place was amazing! The first thing I noticed was the distinct absence of any traffic. The island had no cars which was obvious after stepping foot off of the ferry. Rows and rows of bicycles greet you.

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After an amazing dinner, I made my way back to the odd comfort of my pace in Happy Valley and watched as the remnants of last weeks “Blood Moon” danced on the black water but were replaced by the vivid lights of the skyscrapers as I drew near the city.

The rest of the week brought rain. Lots of it. The kind of rain that I would often times see in Florida. The kind of rain the makes me miss a familiar place. The kind of rain that soaks me to the bone but I can’t be mad, as it reminds me of my past. It reminds me of my friends and family in the old gym. It reminds me that no matter how far you travel away from what you once knew, there will always be a vivid remember, gently tapping you on the shoulder.

*Rolf Potts

A Step Towards Social Depravity

It was only a matter of time. It’s right outside my window after all. When I am awake I can hear the bass-rich “thump, thump, thump” as if some distant tribal drumbeat is beckoning me.

It was only a matter of time before the flashing lights and loud music drew me from the comfortable constraints and safety of my apartment.

In just about every social interaction I’ve had up until now I am usually asked, “So have you gone out yet?” as  if hitting the nightlife is some right-of-passage. As I soon found out, it is.

People work hard here. The standard 9-to-5 is a bit of an urban legend for most businessmen and women. A government report last year put the average hours worked per week at 49, placing it 5th out of 72 countries with the longest working hours per year. With all the hustling and bustling comes some pretty hard partying. The past two weeks for me have been spent working pretty hard to establish myself as a great asset to this new organization so I put in some decent hours and figured now was as good a time as any to take a deep breath, lace up my Chuck Taylors and tackle the giant beast that is the Hong Kong nightlife.

Saturday, September 26th, 7:00pm
I arrive promptly to our gym’s year anniversary party. It is an amazing little rooftop terrace that is beautiful in its simplicity. No frills or fluff. Just a BBQ grill, some patio furniture and good people.

CrossFit Cavaliers
CrossFit Cavaliers

It got off to a slow start, as the culture here seems to lean on “fashionably late” and it really didn’t get crowded until about 8:30. The food was amazing and diverse. Cupcakes, hamburgers, a spicy sardine sandwich (amazing!), salami, chips and dip, brownies and plenty of libations that acted as a lubricant in the cogs of social interaction.

It was the perfect opportunity for me to converse and get to know a lot of the members of the gym outside of the sometimes hurried class setting. I am eager to learn more about each and every person. The transient style of living here seems to bring quite a comprehensive and multifaceted group of people with varying lifestyles and backgrounds.

We continued drinking and socializing for the better part of 3 hours and I was growing more and more curious as to what was happening on the streets 6 floors below us, far removed from the rooftop.

The streets are alive.
The streets are alive.

At 11:00 we finally started to set the wheels in motion. I left the rooftop with a wine bottle in hand, swilling greedily like a drunken sailor. Certainly not my proudest moment and makes the top 10 list as far as white trash things I’ve done, but it’s Vegas rules here so I figured one time won’t hurt. It was a delicious red wine from the Rioja region in Spain, if that helps class it up at all.

Our first stop on the tour of turpitude was a little bar in an alley, blanketed in darkness. I think it was a mexican place, but I can’t be 100% sure as everything happened so fast. I know that my drink had a jalapeno slice in it. It was delicious. All 4 of them were. After socializing and waiting for some of the others to come out, we moved out into the heart of LKF (Lan Kwai Fong) to a place called “Stormies”, famous for their syringe shots. Trust me, there is nothing medicinal about these shots unless you consider a prescription of vodka jello medicine. After ingesting 3 of these, we spilled out into the churning current and flow of people, typical for a Saturday night.
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2:00am-ish
This is where the night takes an ugly turn. (Mom, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry.)
I was getting a little bit tired and wanted to wrap my night up, but never one to do something half-assed, I rallied. I gracefully exited the group that I was with and took a taxi to Wan Chai.

In the daytime, this busy commercial area offers lots to do and see in the way of parks, office towers, restaurants and an international conference and exhibition center. That’s not the part I was curious about. I have seen buildings, been to parks and eaten at plenty of restaurants. You see, when the sun disappears, so do the morals.  When darkness envelops the streets, the lewdness creeps out of the shadows. The vices come in many forms.

Prostitution is loosely regulated here and on a 3 block stretch of Lockhart road in Wan Chai the streets are lined with nightclubs, outside of each sits an older women who aggressively grabs any young gentleman who helplessly pass within her reach, eager to pull them behind the big velvet curtain that hides the not-so-touristy, seedy inner workings of the Hong Kong sex trade.  This is the stuff you won’t see in guidebooks. Most of the girls on the streets are Filipinas but there is quite a melting pot with a bevy of nations being represented. It’s a laundry list that reads like a gathering at the Olympic Games. Vietnamese, Laotians, Mongolians, Mainland Chinese, Columbians, Latvians, Estonians and Venezuelans are all represented.  Want a massage at 3:30 in the morning? It’s open 24 hours a day for anyone who wants to “take the long way home” after a hard day in the office.

I walked up and down these streets, never venturing off the main road, only catching glimpses of young ex pats wandering into clubs and disappearing into the depths, a short asian woman escorting a tall jock to an ATM so he can continue his night out and older caucasian gentlemen seemingly just lonely enjoying the companionship of these “girlfriends for hire”. It’s very depressing and exhausting. I had a couple of run ins worth mentioning. A woman saw me walking alone and signaled for me to wait, when she got close she asked in a think accent, “What are you looking for? Cocaine? Sex?”

“Nothing” was the reply. But this reinforced the sentiment I had heard a few times before about living in Hong Kong. If you want it, you can find it here.

Further up the street, I crossed paths with a self-confessed ladyboy who offered his services for $1000 Hong Kong dollars  (about $130 USD). After I politely turned him down he said it was my loss, as he would only be in town for the weekend. What a shame.

5:15am
Sitting in a cab now on my way back to my room, I watch the street lights buzz by, Wan Chai moving away behind me. My taxi driver turns and maneuvers effortlessly on the empty streets. I set out in hopes to discover the different dimensions of the nightlife here in Hong Kong and I wasn’t disappointed. From the wholesome rooftop terrace party with friends and coworkers to wandering the streets of impurity alone, I saw a lot. I don’t regret a single minute of that 10 hour excursion.

Sunday September 27th, 2:00pm
This day is a wash, I slept well into the afternoon, but the day wasn’t a total loss. In the US, I would cure my hangovers with a good old-fashioned hamburger and there are some rituals that don’t recognize international borders.

If scientists made a cure for hangovers, this is what it would look like.
If scientists made a cure for hangovers, this is what it would look like.

Oh, and this happened as well. IMG_2562

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