It was 1:15 on a Monday afternoon. I was sitting in my closet sized, windowless office staring at a 6″ stack of financial documents I had to sort through and then prepare yet another 80 page financial plan.
I was miserable.
The sun was shining on that glorious April day and the only thing on my mind was being outside, breathing that cool, fresh air and feeling those warm rays on my skin.
I was lost in that thought when my boss started barking orders from his office and I was immediately thrown back into my reality. I forgot all about my daydream, put my head down, and got back to work.
Another day lost with nothing to show for it but a paycheck. Not nearly enough for the sacrifice I made in exchange for my valuable time for 8 hours in a 8X8 room.
A Recipe For Disaster
After more than a decade in the financial services industry, I knew for certain that it was not the career for me. Shit, I knew it after three months, but stuck it out because that’s what “responsible” people do.
And then after getting married and having a baby shortly thereafter, I came to realize that I couldn’t leave.
Like many of you, I did all the things I was supposed to do. I got married. I had kids. I bought a home. I bought a SUV. I had a career. I had credit card debt. I mowed the lawn. I made friends with the neighbors. I hosted BBQ’s.
This was my life and accepted it.
Except for one small thing.
I was completely and utterly fucking miserable.
To understand why, we have to go back a few years.
Unlike many of you who got a good job after college, I spent my twenties traveling the country, living in dozens of apartments and rooms and finding whatever personal training and/or bartending jobs I could.
And it was awesome.
I never had any money in the bank, nor did I need it. I lived day to day but I lived every day. It was a great period in my life and I made many friends and had many life changing experiences.
And when I turned 30, I figured it was time to grow up and traded my track pants in for a suit and tie. I thought I needed to get on with my life and start becoming a responsible adult.
And a few short years later, I found myself married with children and my life planned out for me. It was the beginning of a very long period in my life.
Enter The Grind
What looked to be the perfect life on paper proved to be a series of difficulties, one after another. My marriage was rocky from the start and coupled with a terrible pregnancy (and then another one), a job I loathed, and mounting debt, life became a grind.
All the joy I once possessed was replaced with frustrations, anxiety, and resentment. I went to work at a job I hated only to come home to a distant and disinterested wife. It wasn’t a good situation for any of us.
My job was a major source of frustration for me. I absolutely detested the work I did and who I did it for. I didn’t find one single thing appealing about it other than the fact I got to pretend I was important because I wore a nice suit and tie.
And to make matters worse, my days were brutally long and had virtually no point other than bringing in a paycheck. My daughters were my saving grace and I lived to see them each night.
A typical day went something like this:
- Wake up at 4:45 am to drive an hour to train my pt clients
- Drive an hour back
- Sit at a desk for 8 hours staring at spreadsheets
- Home for dinner, which I often cooked
- Take the kids out to play
- Give them baths
- Put them to bed
- Spend last few hours alone watching tv or working on the computer
- Repeat every day for years
You may be saying “that’s what dads are supposed to do” and you’re right. Except for the fact that there was (aside from my girls), very little happiness in my life. And although these are the things that we’re told are part of life, does it have to suck?
I knew life could be better but didn’t know how to make it better. So instead I chose to withdraw and be miserable. And everyone knew it, including my girls. I didn’t want to get divorced and for many years, never even considered it an option.
My parents got divorced when I was 6 and it was awful for me and my brother. A bitter custody battle, terrible things being said, and two parents fighting over their young sons.
I told myself that I would never do that to my girls and for 8.5 years, I stuck to my word. It was probably quite a few years too many to drag out the inevitable, and it wasn’t until I started fearing for my health (emotional and physical), that I decided that I had to change my life drastically or I just might drop dead. Literally.
Ending The Grind
It was during this time that I started a blog called EndingTheGrind.com. I wasn’t a writer and had zero experience with blogging, but I had one thing; anger, frustration, and a near hopeless sense of a life resigned to unspoken resentment and apathy towards my marriage and career.
So I wrote. A lot.
My anger drove me to write emotionally charged posts week after week and as it turned out, a lot of people resonated with my message.
I spent work days writing about my frustrations with the 9-5 death trap. I vetted my anger any chance I could get and people started listening. And within a few months, I had tens of thousands of people reading my stuff.
And I loved it.
It was my escape from reality and I dreamed of becoming an Internet entrepreneur and making 6-figures while working quietly from my laptop (hopefully from a white, sandy beach).
I could only imagine such a life…
The Life Of A Wannabe Blogger
Things were going great and I felt a renewed sense of purpose. I was finally working towards ending my grind and quitting my job. I was no longer going to have to spend the next 30 years working in a cubicle and taking orders from nine different bosses.
Yes, my life was going to be remarkable after all!
That is until I chose to interview writer and entrepreneur Penelope Trunk. In our 36 minute conversation, she proceeded to rip my goals apart (or lack thereof), called me an idiot, and left me questioning why I was blogging in the first place.
It was an eye opening experience to say the least and she taught me some invaluable lessons. It also caused quite a stir and ended up getting almost 400 comments from people going through what I had been going through.
It forced me to take a hard look at the reason I was writing and what my end goal was. Did I even have one? As it turned out, I really had no idea what I was doing or where I was headed and a few months later, I decided to stop blogging and focus on something more important; my failing marriage.
The Hardest Thing
Marriage is a tough thing. If both parties aren’t 100% behind making it work, it won’t. And in my case, so much emotional damage had been done over the years, that it was unsalvageable. It was just dead.
In December 2012, after 8+ years of marriage, I decided that it had to end. In a conversation that lasted 20 minutes and without any tears or sadness, we decided to separate and start our lives over.
The hardest thing I’ve ever done (and maybe ever will do) was leaving my two young daughters, Georgia and Lily. They were (and are) my entire world and not being able to see them every day for the first time in my life, was heartbreaking.
I spent months crying myself to sleep and missed them so much it hurt. But I knew it was the best thing for everyone long-term and stuck by my decision to create a new and happier life for us.
So I rode out the pain and the crushing sadness I lived with until it started getting easier. And then a little easier..
If you met me 5 or 6 years ago, you would have seen a withdrawn, bitter, and miserable man. I had almost given up on ever finding happiness or having a partner that had even a little bit of interest in me.
My confidence was lost, my desire to be fit was all but gone, and I just didn’t give a shit about too many things. And it was when I was at my lowest that I had a chance encounter with an old friend.
We sat at a bar one Tuesday evening and after listening patiently to me whining about how bad my life was, she stopped me, looked me square in the eyes, and told me to get my fucking shit together. Like now.
It hit me hard and I made a decision in that moment to change. After all, I had all the tools to become happy, healthy, and successful but just wasn’t using them.
So I changed. From the moment I left that bar, I started making better decisions. I started exercising again. I stopped eating fast food. I stopped drinking. I started going out. I started eating healthy.
And before long, I felt better. A lot better. I also started looking better and my confidence started coming back.
It was then I decided to quit my job and start anther new chapter in my life. I weighed the pros and cons for weeks leading up to my decision, but in the end, I knew it had to be done.
So on a Friday at 5 pm, I calmly walked into my boss’ office and told him I was leaving. And as I walked out that door, I had a huge grin on my face and I felt alive.
What It Really Takes To Change Your Life
Throwing away my marriage, my home, our neighborhood and friends, and my career might seem like an incredibly selfish thing to do, but I felt I had no choice.
I refused to waste any more of my precious time being unhappy. My choice was not one of selfishness but rather self preservation. It was so that my girls could come home to a happy home and a happy dad; one filled with life and energy. That was a dad they never knew.
But they do now.
It’s been 2.5 years since my separation and although the first year was brutal, I am the happiest and healthiest I’ve been in a very long time.
In my opinion, every man has a breaking point. Unfortunately many of you will never reach it. You will wallow in misery, eeking out an average existence and never truly find happiness. I see it all the time and it’s incredibly sad.
Life is just so damned short and spending it following the wrong path is not the way to live it.
I don’t care what your situation is, how stuck you think you are, or how hopeless you think it all is. It’s not. Believe me, if I can turn my life around, so can you.
Today I get to do what I love most; help people get fit and inspire them to live healthier lives. For them and for their children.
I get paid to exercise with clients. I get paid to write. I get paid to teach people how to choose healthy over unhealthy. And I get paid to coach people from all over the country.
I work with whom I want and on my schedule. I work outdoors most days and get to exercise whenever I want. My clients are my friends and I think I have the best job in the world.
I also have an amazing and loving girlfriend who had been by biggest supporter through my transition and I am so grateful for her.
And none of this would have happened if I hadn’t made the decision to become a different person; a better man and father. I am thankful for every day that I’m able to live this life and I can only hope that you find your happiness as well, whatever that looks like.
Maybe you don’t need a complete life change like I did. Maybe you just need to break out of a bad habit or two, kick an addiction, or start taking care of your body.
Maybe you need to recommit to your spouse, your children, or your goals. Or maybe, just maybe, you need to turn your life into something amazing; something that will leave you with no regrets because you know you lived your life to the fullest.
Wouldn’t that be something?
Steve says: “You will wallow in misery, eeking out an average existence and never truly find happiness.”
Thoreau said: “The mass of men live lives of quiet desperation.”
It seems you’re in good literary company!
This is one of the best-written posts I have seen on either of your blogs. I especially like your acknowledgement that, “Maybe you don’t need a complete life change like I did. Maybe you just need to….” So often the emphasis is on dramatic, total lifestyle changes, when that might not be necessary, or even the best course of action.
Great photo there at the end. I’m glad things are working out well for you, and I know they’ll keep getting better. And with your help through your sites, things’ll keep getting better for a lot of other people, too.
I appreciate you reading this and taking the time to respond here, David. I wanted to share part of my life than most of my SDFD readers do not know. If you read my Facebook wall, you’ll see it’s very active and also that there are so many guys that are in a bad spot like I was. I hope my story hits people hard and makes them realize how short life is and that now is the time to start making changes.
Same goes for you, my friend..
I’m glad you still maintain a “real” web site and haven’t moved everything to Facebook, even though that’s where most of the interaction takes place.
Yea, it’s weird how much action FB gets and the blog, YouTube and Instagram are really quite. This blog gets around 6,500 visits each month yet other than you, there is almost no interaction.
Is there something about my comments that stifles discussion? Or are people just more accustomed these days to leaving comments on Facebook rather than directly on blog sites?
I’ve noticed that some of the HUGE blogs, like Nerd Fitness, generate a lot of comments, but otherwise, I often see interesting posts on individual blogs, some of them years old, with zero comments.
Do you repost the articles from this site to Facebook? I’m not sure how the format for “blogging” on Facebook works, as, being either a maverick or a weirdo, I don’t have a presence there and I’ve only glanced at a few public pages a couple of times.
LOL David. It seems that my community much prefers to interact on Facebook than here. On my other blog it as the opposite. Steve from NerdFitness has a huge audience and most of his action is on the blog/forum. If you check his FB/Twitter, you’ll see much smaller numbers there.
I have a friend who runs a 7 figure fitness business and gets zero comments on his blog posts. They are all on Instagram and YouTube. It’s just about where your people are, that’s it.
At first, I was bummed that few people commented here, but now I understand that single dads spend much of their online time on FB (and at night). As far as your comments, I still love to get them here. If you spend any time on FB, I’d like to have you part of that conversation too..
And yes, I post current/past articles on FB since few of my fans/likes visit the blog frequently.