Befriended adversity for a prosperous life – Anthony K. UllomJanuary 10, 2018
When I first read the prompt I thought I would write about that 6 letter f word; family. Saying I do everything for my family isn’t a stretch of my imagination. They are the reason I get out of bed in the morning, heck they are the reason I began to change my life. But nope I’m going to save you two pages of sappiness, and instead jump head on into what got me here, not what got me here in the physical sense but from a more cerebral view-point.
I owe all of my fearless warrior mentality to a little friend I like to call ADVERSITY.
I was 10 years old when I received my first bittersweet visit from adversity. Sitting at the lunch table at Spafford Elementary School with all my cronies, I can picture it now like it was yesterday. Just your average every-other-run-of-the-mill-day or at least so I thought. Out of nowhere, I felt a searing sharp pain in my mid-section, like someone had shoved a bowie-knife through my kidney. I quickly excused myself from the table, to save those guys from having to view my lunch for the second time that day, and went to the bathroom. The bathroom visit turned into a visit to the principal’s office, which lead to a 3 day vacation of the worst stomach pain combined with the inability to hold down any food. This all culminated into a doctor visit and an eventual trip down to Avera McKenna hospital to go under the knife and have my appendix removed.
I don’t know if you know anything about an Appendectomy, but they are extremely low risk and pretty routine as far as surgeries go. Well that may have been the case for most people, but then again most people didn’t have a perforated appendix inside of their bodies for three days! A routine surgery turned into an emergency surgery, and the gangrene infection that set in after? That turned into a fight where my life hung in the balance. I laid in that hospital bed for 11 days.
11 days of excruciating, unbearable pain paired with a constant 101 degree fever. 11 days of not being able to walk, eat, or even sleep. 11 days where nurses and doctors told my parents to, “hope for the best, but expect the worse.”
On day number 5 the doctors were worried about muscle atrophy in my legs, so they ordered the nurses to start making me try to walk again. I’ll never forget the amount of sweltering pain and ache I felt when I took my first steps. It was like my legs were full of super-heated concrete; they were so heavy and burned. I couldn’t take it. I took two steps and couldn’t go anymore, I broke down and I cried harder than I’ve ever cried before. After I got back into my bed I remember a conversation I had with my mom and dad. It was about being embarrassed that I couldn’t walk anymore and about how I had cried in front of the good-looking nurse. I just remember thinking, “that cannot happen tomorrow”.
The next day came and I remembered the thought from the night before. I took a step and it burned, the second step burned even worse, but I kept going and kept fighting. After about 10 steps the nurse stopped me and said that I had done a great job from yesterday and that she had never seen a 10-year-old boy fight through pain that well. Two days later I was walking without the help of a walker, and on the 11th night of my hospital stay I was finally able to eat a grilled cheese and keep it down so I could leave the hospital the next day. Grilled cheese is life!
The next 11 years of my life were full of various run-ins with my good old pal adversity, but I want to skip right to the one that cut me to the bone the most, and honestly changed my life forever. If the hospital stay at age 10 can be chalked up to physical adversity, then this next chapter of my life is certainly the mental adversity, and she went by the name of Jessica Eng.
I fell in love with 2 things in my mid to late teens and early twenties, a lovely girl from my home town named Jessica and the unrequited love for fitness. In high school it was easy; I was the proverbial jock, excelled in sports and in school. And Jessica was there every step of the way, your typical high school sweetheart relationship. In college it wasn’t so easy, we attended different schools and even when I dropped out and moved back home to be closer to her, things still didn’t work. After 9 years we simply grew apart and I become something that she didn’t need anymore.
I was still madly in love with her and it absolutely destroyed me when I learned that she was seeing someone new after just a week of us being separated. So much so that it drove me into a state of depression, I felt like I wasn’t good enough for anything. I know what you’re thinking, “Tony, what the heck does this have to do with being inspirational, and why are you getting all depressing!?” just wait! This is where it gets good!
I was in the darkest spot of my life, nothing made sense anymore. This was a type of adversity I had never faced before, and it had seemed like it had gotten the best of me. But every day no matter how empty and gray the world felt I kept up my daily routine of going to the gym and busting my butt. It was exhausting, every day I wanted to give up, and every day I had to tell myself, “If you give up today, you give up on the rest of your life.” Self-doubt can swallow a person whole if you allow it to, and to be quite honest I was on the fringe frequently. Every time I felt worthless I went to the gym and found my mental fortitude.
The gym became my escape, and fitness became the catalyst for my heart and mind to heal. Every day I healed a little more and every day the negative thoughts in my mind grew a little quieter. Fitness gave my life meaning again, and with it struck passion that grew like a wildfire. It extinguished the darkness in my thoughts and gave me the mindset that I can overcome any adversity that I am faced with.
I now realize that adversity is your greatest friend, because life only gives you it when it’s time to change and grow. It makes you stronger when you meet it head on with unrelenting force! And that’s what I want to show people, that fitness not only strengthens your body, but also your mental resolve in times of adversity. It can equip you with all the right tools to succeed in life and overcome anything! I truly believe that fitness can change anyone’s life for the better!