Right before my senior year of high school my family moved across town. Not long after I soon met Toby, a big orange tabby that was the neighborhood cat. Toby was really owned by a sweet elderly couple that lived adjacent to us although he stayed at multiple homes where he slept and was fed well.
I first met Toby’s acquaintance one night while watching TV. I heard him meowing on our back steps and as it was winter I let him in. He made himself right at home as he jumped in my lap and went to sleep. This went on for some years. Although he was a big cat that weighed about 20 pounds he was a killing machine. He often brought me dead lizards, birds, mice and squirrels.
One morning during my sophomore year of college (I took a couple of years off after high school) I was leaving for my dreaded 8 o’clock class. While driving down the main road that led out of our neighborhood and onto the interstate, I saw Toby chasing a mouse. He would momentarily catch it, then the mouse would escape, then he would catch it again toying with the mouse before he decided to kill it. What Toby didn’t realize in the midst of his fun was the mouse was running straight for the busy road I was waiting to turn on.
I rolled my window down and yelled, “Toby! Toby stop!” like he would be an obedient dog but there was no hearing me. Toby’s entire reality at that moment was the mouse. With such focus he was unaware of the danger in front of him. Seconds after I yelled to try and get his attention he ran into the road after the mouse and was instantly killed by a car. I pulled over and took my books out of my bookbag. When I could I walked into the street and picked up what was left of Toby and put him in my bookbag. I drove home and buried him on our back yard, perplexed at this juxtaposition.
The very instincts that helped him survive betrayed him. His sole focus, his entire reality was catching that mouse and it killed him. After some reflection I made my peace with it knowing Toby would rather die hunting than live to a decrepit old age. Looking back I see how I was like him in pursuit of weightlifting greatness.
Of course smart reader, there was no weightlifting greatness waiting for me. When a young teen I had potential. I remember the first day I completed a series of full snatch reps without falling over. One of the greatest days of my life. As the years passed it was clear to my coach and other lifters all I was ever going to be was mediocre at best. As my late teens turned into my early 20’s people tried to tell me if I hadn’t of made it by then I wasn’t going to make it at all. They were right of course but I had a goal and it was only a matter of a few more years.
Weightlifting was my limited and intense focus. It was my only reality. I was proud the day I snatched 300 pounds. Only for my ego to be bruised when it was pointed out to me that it was my bodyweight. Asshole. I worked 6 long hard years for that.
Truth was he was right. I missed out on a lot of fun things teenagers of any physical ability should do. Like socialize and go out on dates. People who know me are aware of my misanthropy but it would have been nice to have gone on a few more dates. I didn’t know then teenage girls like to talk about themselves and not listen to me drone on about weightlifting. If I could go back and do it all over again yes I would have changed a lot. I would have enjoyed training a lot more knowing there is joy in the journey. I would have accepted far sooner I wasn’t cut out to be a weightlifter. I would have had a broader focus. I would have had played the piano more. I would have had a plan B.
Like Toby the tabby I was so limited and singular in my focus I was ignoring a lot of danger. Years of my life were passing and I didn’t care. Until one day I woke up and realized I was way behind in life and I had better start catching up.
Every weightlifter should dream big and have goals. Yet, no weightlifter should be so focused on them they miss out on the watermarks of life. Or even worse you're headed right into the mouth of danger and don’t know it. It took a far more devastating death than Toby’s to wake me up. At 23 I lost someone I thought to be the love of my life. A woman who didn’t mind me droning on about weightlifting. It’s far too painful to write about now. All I can tell you is don’t repeat my mistakes. The reality of life is there is far more to it than weightlifting. At the end of a hard training week go out with friends have a couple of burgers and a milkshake. “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may.” None of us are guaranteed tomorrow. That is reality. My hope for my lifters is they find this out the easy way.