All growing up, I was extremely sick—undiagnosed with Celiac Disease.
At school, I think the worst insult I ever heard was, “Hey Cole, the holocaust called and they want one of their bodies back.” That’s how skinny I was.
I lacked any and all confidence, and had no peer group to call my own—my group of friends lived on the Internet in the World of Warcraft.
I didn’t attend a single dance or high school event until my senior year prom, and I took a girl from another school—a girl who I tried very hard to keep from realizing that my social capital was next to nothing.
I think the above photo on the left sort of speaks for itself. I was not quite what many would deem “attractive.”
Fast forward 7 years…
I now resemble society’s definition of “attractive.” Horrah. I finally did it.
The girls that never paid any attention to me suddenly crawl from the woodwork.
The guys who made fun of me now ask for my help, wanting to know how they can get bigger, praising me and my achievements.
Teachers, family friends, work associates place value on my physique, many of them assuming life for me has always been this way—I grew up that star athlete who could get any girl he wanted.
And now more than ever I realize just how few people really know me.
This transformation taught me a lot about who we are as humans and as a society. I think there is absolutely something to be said for presenting your best self—that’s why we’re told to dress well for job interviews, to “look the part.” It makes sense why people would endear the fact that I have achieved something physically for myself.
The hard part (and this is more of an internal thing within myself) is coming to terms with the fact that a lot of the pain I felt growing up was the result of something as trivial as my body. It’s sad that as a scrawny kid, playing World of Warcraft made me a nerd, but as a shredded bodybuilder, playing World of Warcraft makes me “sort of kinky/a hot nerd” (direct quote from females).
It’s sad that we high-five and praise the football players and the athletes, but condemn the chess players or the artists.
It’s sad that nobody recognized my intelligence until I gained something that had very little to do with my intelligence.
And it’s sad how many people think that this is what defines me. They talk about my biceps as if they’re detached from my body, someone else—an entity we can discuss objectively. They taunt me to take my shirt off and entertain the crowd. They ask me why I’m out right now, shouldn’t I be in the gym, aren’t I obsessed, lololol. They ridicule my work ethic and at the same time ask for my help.
So I embraced it. And decided I wanted to do something positive with it.
I want to support the kid who wants to become a professional gamer, or an artist. I want to help others improve their bodies so that people will take them seriously. I want to do something positive with the knowledge I’ve gained, instead of parroting the same script society tells us is the end goal: “get shredded, fuck bitches.”
As Nas said: “By the time you can afford it / the car ain’t important.”
By the time you’ve changed into the person you want to become, you’ll realize that it’s no longer for other people’s benefit.
I can’t knock the rewards I’ve gained with such a drastic transformation, but I also want it to be known that I think it’s absurd what we truly value in life. But if it takes being 170lbs and “shredded” for people to hear what you have to say, then I would like to be that voice for all the outcasts and misfits out there, quiet and shy, in love with their own unique crafts, scrawny or fat, made fun of for whatever reason.
Instead of putting them down, I would like to give them a high-five.
Because I was one of them.