After I wrote my last travel review, I tried to write about my journey from Copenhagen to Brussels to London. But I couldn’t get past the first few sentences. I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while now, but I could never muster the words until yet.

I hate being the cliché, but I’ve learned quite a bit about myself throughout traveling. It allows me to break free from the routine, to explore new areas that I’ve never had the chance to experience. Immersing myself in a new country, with languages that I barely speak and cultural mannerisms that I barely understand, has been an absolute thrill. I can’t even begin to count my blessings.

And I’ve realized that I’ve been growing. In February 14, 2018, I endured someone I cared about saying terrible things about me. I had just started seeing this girl and fell head-over-heels for her. After she was finished, I went home in shock. Followed by the next few weeks spent analyzing what I could’ve done differently. Thankfully, post-Valentine’s Day chocolate is always discounted. And my Barcelona trip was coming up.

I had an amazing time in Barcelona. It forced me to be alone and gather my thoughts on where my life was going. I had distance from my life and social circle in America, to better understand the kind of man I wanted to be. And so I began with some promises to myself.

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Promise #1: Write more.

I created this blog, to develop my writing skills. It’s been an extraordinary experience, writing about things that have interested me and sharing the writings of my good friends. I’ve been able to learn their stories, imbibing whatever lessons they decided to share. Family members have read my blogs and applauded me. It has sparked discussion in my personal life. My blog isn’t a famous blog, but people have still shown appreciation.

Through this blog, I have improved my own writing. It’s even made it easier to articulate my thoughts better when speaking. While writing, ideas sparked for a novel that I had shelved. I’ve made some substantial progress on the novel, and I’m proud of the direction in which it’s going.

Promise #2: Take better care of my body.

Every now and then, I pull out pictures of myself from when I was a kid. I was a chubby-ish kid throughout elementary school, middle school, and even a good part of high school. I was raised within the hood. I grew up surrounded by gang violence, and it was largely assumed that I’d follow suit. But my mother dragged me to the library nearly every day. I could recite the lives of Galileo and Copernicus, and tell you about the Mahabharata by the age of 8. (I was that nerdy kid you probably didn’t like, maybe still.) I saw a fair share of violence, but I never took part. After all, I had Harry Potter to read.

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You’re shocked. I know.

Still, the sedentary childhood of staying in one place and reading led to never having been in decent shape. Which explains why I never really played sports (except fencing). So my first time in a gym was an awkward experience, to say the least, because I had no clue what to do. After I joined the Army, I developed a better understanding and started lifting weights.

But in the past few months, I noticed that my workouts had become stagnant. I wasn’t enjoying the same thrill as when I started, nor was I seeing the growth in my body that I had hoped for. It’s easy to compare yourself to other people on social media and measure your progress with their’s.

After constant deliberation, I decided it was time for a change. I needed to find a trainer. It was hard to admit that I needed help in taking care of my own body, but I decided that this could be worth it. I contacted a few different online trainers, but something seemed off. It sounded as if they were giving me rehearsed responses that I would want to hear: “Yeah, man, I got the perfect training plan for you”. It sounded too easy, even after I told them that I was a vegetarian.

If you’re unfamiliar with vegetarians, understand that a vegetarian diet is usually carbohydrate-heavy. In order to aid muscle recovery, I needed larger amounts of protein than I was currently consuming. I almost gave up on my search, until I noticed that a friend of mine had started working with a trainer as well. His physique certainly showed improvement, which resulted in my texting him.

I contacted his trainer. I spoke about training and what I wanted to achieve. Further into the conversation, I told him that I was a vegetarian. He told me that he had absolutely no idea about a vegetarian diet: “I just don’t know about your diet to be comfortable giving food recommendations”. His honesty disarmed me, and it was the ultimate reason why I ended up choosing him. It’s been a learning process; I’ve been following his training/nutrition plan for a few days now. I’ve badgered him with numerous questions. As I’m writing this post, I’ve completed two workouts that pushed me to the brink and humbled me. I’ve had to eat constantly in order to reach the macros that he has set within the nutrition plan, which involved me experimenting in my cooking.

Warren Buffet had solid advice about this within the first 3 minutes of this video. If you’d like the summarized version, imagine you had your dream car. It’s given to you in perfect condition. But the condition is that you have to keep that as your only car for your life. You’d take damn good care of that car with regular maintenance, right? You’d show an immense amount of love to that car. (I know dudes that love their cars more than their girlfriends.) But replace the idea of a car with your body. You only have one body given to you, and science hasn’t excelled to the point of a brain transplant in the foreseeable future. You may as well take good care of yourself, because your body has to last you for a while.

Promise #3: Create unique friendships.

Bear with me here, if it sounds familiar. I went out to eat with some friends. We arrived at the chosen venue, and took our seats. As soon as our butts hit the seats, phones came out. It didn’t really shock me, since I had become so used to it. But something had clicked this time.

I realized that I hung out with these guys, but there was nothing intrinsically inspiring about them, They didn’t motivate me in any way. One of them, ‘S’, had once mocked me for following a diet plan. (Also mocked me when I didn’t fit a certain cultural stereotype by choosing not to drink. Talk about peer pressure.) I didn’t feel like a better person around them. I was with them simply because they were fun to hang out with. However, that was when they weren’t on their phones (which was exceedingly rare).

It’s not a bad thing to hang out with people that are only fun to be around briefly, but I realized that I craved more. Our conversations were pretty basic. I didn’t enjoy fancy cars as much as they did. The guys would comment on some girl’s Instagram, or talk about going out over the weekend. It was fun for a while, but these conversations became repetitive. Almost stale. I wasn’t learning anything, nor was I improving in anyway.

I decided to take a break and disconnect. Not just from them, but social media as a whole. I’ve put timers on my phone so that I don’t waste time on certain apps. I carry a book around everywhere so that I can devote time to reading. Even when I workout, I listen to podcasts or motivational speeches. Opportunities to learn and become better.

I still have that friend group, and I love seeing them. But I’ve also developed a few friends that challenge me to think critically, and we enjoy conversations about philosophy. It’s nice to branch out, and have some common interests shared. I don’t really care for any romance, or desire to have a significant other. If it happens, great. But I’m not really intent on looking for it. I just want a life I can be proud on, so that I can share experiences with a younger generation.

I don’t want to be the person who complains about a daily problem on social media. That person who posts memes about mental health, but does nothing resolve one’s own issues. I want to take baby steps to improve myself.

Finally, I’ll leave you with this video. It’s helped me realize that there are way too many things in this world that can be upsetting. But they’re also out of my control. I can focus on improving myself and my own actions, rather than trying to save the world.

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