Wherever I went, it was always with me. I could neither see it nor touch and yet my whole presence was subject to it. I wasn’t free. I had a master, an oppressor.
At first, I tried to live with it.
“At least, others can’t see it. That’s good enough,” I thought.
But as time passed by, people started asking questions.
“What’s that thing on your back, boy,” said a guy eating potato chips.
‘’Oh, no! They can see it!? How is it possible,” I asked myself and started running away from the interrogators.
I wanted to get as far away as possible. I wanted to find a hideout protecting me from the questions. I wanted to be free from my intrusive companion and the demanding crowd. But most of all, I wanted to kill the thing on my back.
I ran for hours, days, even years until I finally reached a deserted area where I was alone with the atmosphere. There was nothing there. No looks from strangers, no car sounds, no beeping cell phones, no wi-fi…The realm was seemingly empty.
I sat on the ground and right when I was about to relax I heard a voice say:
“Bro, I am still here. Thanks for the ride. I enjoyed the landscape very much.”
I stood up and looked around.
“How is it possible? I escaped..or so I thought. Where is this coming from? Where’s the source? Where’s the sniper? How can it see me?”
Before I knew it, the sun started fading, and I had to go back home. I had to return to the people and answer their questions. I didn’t want to, but I wasn’t free enough to see another option. Thus, I went back to Level 1.
While I was passing by the buildings, carrying a heavy burden on my shoulders, I felt like every window was asking me the same question: “What’s that thing on your back?”
There was something really strange about that question. Actually, it wasn’t really a question. It was a statement. In all truth, they knew the answer better than me, but they were still asking in order to feed off my pain and weakness.
Finally, I reached the elevator. “At last, some piece,” I thought. But, no. The elevator stopped a few seconds later. Mr. Money entered. He was going up just like me. He gave me the I-am-so-much-more-than-you-look and started talking:
“How are you, you little brah?”
“Fine,” I said.
Then, the elevator opened, and he got out. He stopped and said: “What’s that thing on your back, little brah?’’ right when the doors were closing. I had no time to react.
A moment later, I was home. “At last, some piece,” I thought.
I made myself something to eat and went to the balcony. This time, I wanted to be the guy with the sniper rifle. I wanted to be the killer destroying others. I wanted to be the hunter. I wanted to be the predator. I want to the be the one asking the questions. I wanted to the executor.
It didn’t work.
I analyzed intensely the people passing by, but I couldn’t see anything on their backs. They looked so happy, so free. Suddenly, they all began turning away and pointing at me. The sniper boy became the victim. The strangers on the street got out their sniper rifles, and red dots covered my chest in an instant. “What’s that thing on your back,” asked the bullets.
I immediately went inside, closed all windows, turned off the lights and hid in a corner.
“I am still here. Thanks for closing the windows. It was cold outside,” said the voice.
“How can I escape? There’s no place to hide. That stealthy daemon is always with me,” I asked those who were able to hear.
Then I remembered what the wise men say: ‘’Whenever you are tortured by intrusive OCD thoughts, just kill your brain with fatigue. Get so tired that the OCD leaves you like a worker leaves a bankrupt company. Take its oxygen out. Suffocate it’’.
“I’m in,” I said and started doing push-ups.
I don’t have them on video, but something tells me they looked like bananas from the side. It didn’t matter. They were not supposed to build my chest! They had to fatigue me and save me from myself!
That evening I did more push-ups than I had done in the last year. At the end, my shoulders were shut down. I felt like there were rivers of pain in my muscles. I sat on the couch as if I had just conquered the world.
“I am still here,” said the voice. “Banana form by the way…”
That remark catapulted me into doing squats. The goal was to kill my lower body too.
After 20 minutes of squatting on and off, my legs starting burning. I had to lay down. Finally, I was able to fall asleep. The plan worked…. until I started dreaming.
The next day I couldn’t recall much of my dreams. I only remembered that in one of them a voice had said: “I am still here.’’
“This is it. I will kill you. I will make my back so strong that your only option will be death, you little piece of daemon trash,’’ I said.
The next few weeks were hell for my back. I did more pull-ups and posture corrective exercises than the humanoids in the neighborhood had done in their entire lives. I wasn’t afraid to overtrain. If anything, I loved the pain. Little by little, the fatigue accumulated to the point where I almost passed out after a set of rear delt flies done on the floor.
Once I got to my senses, the voice said: “I am still here.’’
‘’This is not enough. I have to go all in,” I said to myself.
In a few years, I started climbing another mountain – the deadlift. I thought that she will be my savior. I thought that the heavy barbell will finally headshot the daemon on my back and mute my interrogators.
I decided to commit to deadlift (and squat) excellence.
I got incredibly strong. Compared to my previous insect like state I had turned into an iron house. My small success made me believe that I was ready to pass through the street with my head up. I thought I had earned it. I thought I had murdered the thing on my back. I thought I was free.
“My deadlift is over 2 BW. Let’s do this,” I said to myself.
The first few steps felt fine and promising. The deadlift had taught me that a good posture is mostly dependent on the upper portion of your spinal erectors. You can do all the rear delt flies and face pulls in the world, but they are of little value when you cannot control you upper back directly and push your chest out.
I began to feel free for the first time in a long time. But in the middle of the street something changed. People started opening the windows again. They were smiling because they were still able to see the thing on my back.
“The daemon is still there,” I said to myself and started looking down out of shame.
My enemies were happy. I had failed one more time to stay straight and cut through the sea of expectations, judgment, disapproval, hatred and mean societal satisfaction feeding off my inner misery.
I hid again even though I had comprehended the pointlessness of this act.
I spent many more years in a similar state. I was somewhat strong but weak. The thing on my back was not talking to me every day, but I always knew it was there. I knew I hadn’t fixed it. I knew I hadn’t killed it. I knew it was still stealing my oxygen.
“What do I have to do in order to break free,’’ I asked myself.
Little did I know that the only way to fix my problem was to initiate an ego-seppuku and cut the supply of nutrients going to thing on my back.
I had to bleed and die in order to go back to the basics and resurrect again.
I had to finish the book and understand that maybe I was worth something.
I had to pass through eight years of turbulence in order to realize that by glorifying other people’s perspective you increase others’ stocks and decrease yours. You let strangers into your head, your control room.
And why do we do that? Because we are convinced that protecting the ego 24/7 is really important. Some people do it by projecting a fake steroid based overconfidence, whereas others create a shelf to hide. Sooner or later, those methods fail because they are both an ego based approach. You can’t fight ego with just ego because the only thing you get is more ego. You need a real strategy. Fire can end fire only in the right context.
Once I understood that simple fact, I was able to pass through the street with my head up. People were still opening their windows and looking at me, but the grimaces were not as scary as before. My interrogators were sensing my bleeding wound from far away. My blood was pushing them back into their own emotional massacre.
This is when I finally got it, and my posture fixed itself.
However, the thing on my back is still there. I know because I can hear the heartbeat of my ego. I would be a liar if I tell that it’s dead. It’s not. It never dies while we’re here. It simply gets quieter.
Wait, someone is talking to me:
“What’s that thing on your back?”