I always had a tumultuous relationship with my gym membership. It was more “on again, off again” than an annoying high school couple. It was always one of those things I knew I needed to do but never truly had the motivation to follow through on. I would get into a routine for a few weeks, eventually get lazy with it, stop going, feel guilty for not going, contemplate the meaning of life, and repeat.
Around two years ago, I had a membership to a relatively low key gym. It was an inexpensive monthly membership that had your run of the mill basic equipment. Over time, the monthly rate increased. I got to a point where I could not justify the price and cancelled my membership as a result.
A few months passed by. I caught wind of another major franchise opening up a new location in town. The new location had all the amenities of my previous membership (i.e. standard gym equipment) and much more. It included a basketball court, Olympic-sized swimming pool, and racquetball. Plus, for the first week it was open, they had 50% off special, and it was the same exact price as my last membership! As long as I went to that gym, my monthly rate would not go up. I figured this was definitely at least worth checking out.
A couple days after opening, I drove over. A salesman of sorts met me at the door. “Good morning! What can we do for you?” He was on the younger side and in good shape. He was the kind of guy you expect to meet at a gym’s grand opening. This dude gave me the grand tour, showing me every notable nook and cranny. It was then he mentioned their personal training program. My ears perked up. I could use the extra nudge to get into shape.
The salesman dude signed me up for a monthly membership. He then sat me down in the waiting area until he could grab a personal trainer to meet with me. The good feeling about signing up for the gym quickly disappeared. This towering, buff guy walks out. He is easily six to eight inches taller than me. His muscles defined themselves through his black polo. He smiles and in a gentle, raspy growl, “Good morning. My name is K—–. How can I help you?”
We will call him “K” to protect his identity.
When he smiled, the intimidating aura softened. I felt welcomed. I introduced myself. You know those people who just make you feel comfortable instantly? Yeah, that was this guy. He walked me through the personal training portion of the gym and conducted a baseline assessment. He answered all of my questions and appeared knowledgeable. He even addressed my biggest question, “What could personal training do that I could not do by myself?” He explained that personal training would help me to develop a routine to eventually become independent, which made sense. I knew I was not in a place to do it on my own. I signed up.
Over the next year and a half, I often attended my training sessions during the morning hours and went to the gym at night. I was not always the most consistent, but I always looked for K. Even though he was not my trainer per se, his welcoming presence took away some of the reluctance. He always cracked a joke and even helped me adjust my personal training membership a few times when I hit financial hardship.
Earlier this year, I unfortunately took a break from the gym due to health reasons. I never cancelled my membership though because I always had intentions of going back. Once I started feeling better, I spoke with my doctors about a more appropriate workout routine. With a stronger sense of what I could realistically do, I reached out to my personal trainer and got back to the gym.
After being back for several weeks, something felt like it was missing. I noticed that I had not seen K since being back. As I was walking out, it was around the time he usually came in to start his day. I asked the young lady at the front desk where K had been.
“K passed away about three months ago.” I was in absolute shock. This healthy buff guy in his early fifties was….gone.
She went on. It turned out that he passed away in his sleep and that she had no further details about what happened. I thanked her for informing me.
It definitely put a damper on my day. I figured I would go to my favorite coffee shop to knock out some paperwork and bring up my spirits. It is a truly uplifting environment. The coffee shop has an affiliation with the Zefer Foundation, a non-profit that assists those with developmental disabilities. The shop also hires individuals with developmental disabilities and possesses strong community ties to the downtown where it is located. I am a regular there and often joke around with the staff. Some staff members even hangout in the cafe when off the clock.
On this particular day, barista “F” happened to be chilling in the cafe area. She looked up and smiled, saying hello. I sat down nearby and pulled out my laptop. “What are you working on?” It looked like some sort of editing software, which got us talking about mutual interests like music, what we worked on, and even Pokemon.
I usually saw F in a wheelchair even while she was working. I never really paid much attention to it. The last couple times I saw her there was no wheelchair to be found. Out of curiosity, I asked, “What happened to the wheelchair?”
“Oh, it’s in the shop. I can walk without it, but it really helps. With cancer in my spinal fluid, I get pins and needles in my legs, which hurt.”
“I had no idea.” I frequented this coffee shop two to three times a week and had no clue whatsoever.
She willingly described the radiation treatment she underwent, which would have given her an eighteen months or so. It sadly did not work. There were supposedly other experimental treatments that she wanted nothing to do with.
“So how long do you have?”
She shrugged. “I would rather not know.”
Life works in truly mysterious ways. Literally, all of this happened within two hours. It felt like life took its pimp hand and backhanded me like, “You’re my bitch now.” Both instances served as grim reminders however. We never know when all of it could be over. Now, I am not the type to say, “Live every day like it is your last.” What I will emphasize is living in the moment and feeling fulfilled as an individual. K and F are prime examples. Both of them go out of their way for others and do not let life’s obstacles hold them back. They enjoy what life has to offer and take life one day at a time.
I dare you to take a moment and reflect. If something were to happen to you, would you be satisfied with the life you lived? You never know what could happen next.
-The Caring Counselor