I’d like to share a journey with you. It’s a journey that I’ve been on for three years. One that has transformed my life, touched the people I interact with, altered my perception of the world and most importantly, made me realize my dreams and what it takes to accomplish them.
I’d like to share the journey of losing weight and discovering myself.
The story starts out with a cliché: I was an active kid: Thin and active, until I discovered computers, at which point my weight began its steady climb throughout my teens and my early twenties. I had never been in denial about it, but I never decided to do anything about it. Sure, I had my resolutions: I lost 20 pounds at one point, had sputters of gym attendance, but nothing stuck.
See, a funny thing happens when you’re overweight: You morph your life around it. I didn’t have any active friends, and even if they were, I didn’t partake in that part of their life. The activities I was a part of didn’t require physical fitness, so my weight was never an issue. Plus, it was Michigan – Who wants to go run in the blistering winter cold?
My internship at Apple the summer of my Senior year of college was a wake up call for me. People in the Bay Area if you’re not aware, are all fit and beautiful. They run marathons, ride centuries, swim from Alcatraz on a weekend in the winter. That summer made me realize that I had been missing out on something basic and fundamental in the shared experience of life.
Fast forward a few months, I’m on the couch in Michigan, all packed up from my college apartment, looking for a place in the city to move to start my career. I think the first decision to lose weight came when I decided to rent an apartment on the hill before I even moved to the city. I thought the walk up the hill would help me get started.
May 18th came, I arrived at SFO, and my journey started.
My coworker at the time convinced me to take on a challenge of running 2 miles a day for a month. I thought he was crazy. Not only could I not run for 1 mile a couple of months ago, the simple act of walking to lunch gave me very painful shin splints. I couldn’t hold a run for more than 2-3 blocks, the cramps would be too painful.
Many sweaty mornings later, I successfully hit my goal. I started finding that waking up earlier is refreshing. My legs began feeling stronger, my heart and lungs were working better. Nike+ became my best friend, the atta-boys they play when I performed well became my endorphin hit of the day. Shortly thereafter, I signed up for my first 10K. The weight starts melting off. I lost 20 pounds easily, saw progress, and bought new, smaller clothes. Things began looking up.
My goals got loftier after that. I signed up for a half-marathon and a 10-mile run. I manage to up my distance enough to participate for the 10-mile run, but since I had not built up a strong foundation, IT-band pain kicked in and freaked me out. I sat out the marathon and stopped running.
Meanwhile, Cycling entered my life I discovered the joys of climbing mountains, descending, fooling around with my friends, tracking my progress, and bonding with all my cycling friends.
You have to remember that I grew up in the Middle East. People aren’t “outdoorsy”, spending time in nature isn’t a common thing to do; it certainly wasn’t something my family did. I moved to Michigan after Syria, where it was completely flat and uninteresting. The most average Suburban landscapes surrounded me. When I came to the Bay Area, I was lost in the mountains, the Ocean, the Bay, the Big Trees, The Golden Gate, the Hills. I discovered that I enjoyed, craved to be outside. To smell the trees, feel the wind, watch the rolling fog. Running and cycling for new, foreign activities to me.
I had found Paradise.
How can I not spend my weekends up in Marin? Down by Skyline? Around the city, absorbing the scenery that surrounded me. 12 mile bike rides became 20 miles, 30, 40. I began doing 50 mile bike rides on the weekends. My legs were stronger and stronger, my bike became my best friend, my cycling friends my family.
Fast forward to today, I just shaved my legs. I didn’t really do it because of any of the admittedly unfounded reasons. I did it because it represented something else to me. I did it because to me, it represented something. It represented a buy-in into the life, a sort of ritualistic mental leap. Cycling was no longer something I did on the weekends, cycling was something that defined me, and this was my way of showing it.
I’m thankful for the journey. It’s far from over, but it has already helped me rediscover life. Every day is a gift, every experience is a joy. Our life before adulthood is an accident, a byproduct of our parent’s decisions. Why should I not experience the thrill of skiing, the joy of running, the rush of surfing? I’m incredibly lucky to have the time, money, and physical ability to do all these things, to squander it would be shameful.
I’m thankful for my friends who have expanded my horizon. My friends at Apple who introduced me to running and cycling. My friends at Facebook who turned it into an addiction, who introduced me to Skiing, and all the friends I’m going to meet who will continue to enrich my life.
I was on a ride 2 weeks ago with the Rapha Cycling Club. Three years I have been in San Francisco, and I still stopped, took off my cycling glasses, took a breath of fresh air, and got goosebumps. I live here, this is my home. This is where I belong.