My hands lay locked together inside the front pocket of my sweatshirt. Fingers passing one another as if pointing to a new path that leads to uncharted territories. An orange sky covers my morning walk, as the cold air creates a cloud of memories that start from my gut, passing my stinging heart, touching my soul, and then escaping out of my mouth for my eyes and ears to watch and hear replays of joy and cheers. A slide show of tears and hugs. A highlight reel of raised hands, high fives and goals reached. My lips tingle from the taste of the weights I have kissed, and the kilos that have kissed back. The bar that I have hugged a million times plays over and over in the early morning fog, as the blood from my callused hands welcome my face from disbelief, as I sit kneeled in a pond of my own hard work, embracing the pain that has brought me so much love, so much life. My knees against the wood, and my chest facing the ceiling makes my arms swing back with great flexibility. My grip fully released, from years of being hooked. Time stopped, while my fast paced breathing calmly slowed, and the feeling of life laid upon my body, as I dipped my head into a memory filled lake that I once swam in as a little kid. A cold but awakening rush opened my eyes full of tears, while a reflection of my life passed throughout the cheering and overwhelming feeling of achieving a goal, that was staked back when my legs were skinny, and my hands were soft. A time when Arnold ran down my arm, and the bodybuilding world swirled in dust behind me. A time where innocence ran throughout me, and dreams of weightlifting took complete control of me. My eyes opened, as the blurry vision and the alien planet looked back at me. On top was heaven, but the climb up was life changing.
A quiet walk with loud memories filled with cheering crowds and Shankle yells. Steiner slams, and get off me bro chest slaps. LeBron James chalk throws as USA pumps proudly against my chest, while bleachers bang with stomping feet, as three story stadiums chant... "USA". I walk under the orange glow of the rising sun, as thoughts circle my mind full of number one fingers raised high for everyone to see. Teachers who doubted me, and society who forgot about me. Family members who were once worried about me, and friends that didn't understand me. I raised my finger high in the air to let the world know I was number one, coming from a place where alcohol reigned king, while dreams were once drunk with gulps of constant regret. My eyes open wide, while many doors I closed shut, leaving drugs buried low under my feet, as many podiums took me higher than any crystal could have ever achieved. My love will never die, and the feelings will never leave. Locked away forever, in a place where only I can go. One day this vault will create dust, while my old hands will wipe away the years with one smooth swoosh. Unlocking thousands of memories to share with others, to share with my kids, and my kid's kids. I will one day re-open this vault, and the memories alone will take me back to the cocky in your face, Jon North, that once lived proudly in the jungle of bars and plates, platforms and chalk, judges and critics, fans and haters, coaches and competitors, bomb outs and victories, goals reached, and goals lost. Tears of joy, and tears of sadness. The path I was on will never be forgotten.
I fought for more than me, and I achieved much more than 100 Gold medals. I achieved life, happiness, and a meaning. I achieved hard work, and the opportunity to meet thousands of great people. I have built great relationships, and built new friendships. I have found myself, something I have been looking for my whole life. I have achieved confidence, and an understanding on what it means to be a man. Weightlifting has made me a better husband, son, brother, friend, and person. I have learned so much from being an athlete in the sport of weightlifting. The greatest joy that weightlifting has brought me is the platform to help others. I fight for the "room 2" kids that stare out the windows while being horse fed ridalin. I lifted for the forgotten college graduate that was once praised for attending, but now lost and forgotten in the world beyond. I lifted for the society prisoners that I was once a part of, the ones who slave a dead end job. The unhappy. The misunderstood. The garage lifter who trains on their own. The black sheep everywhere...... I lifted for them. I lifted weights to tell parents ADD is good, not bad. Being yourself is better than any gold medal. Finding yourself is the Olympics of life, and achievement of a lifetime. I have won the Olympics twenty times and broke every world record there is to break. I have a golden outlook, coming from a dark narrow viewpoint I once looked through. I once lived under a rock, and now I stand tall on a boulder.
You the reader are everything to me. Out of everything, my biggest achievement is you. I have found my home, found my family, found a shoulder to lean on and an audience to relate to. I have found a keyboard to cry upon. Because of you, I have accepted my skeletons and bettered my life. Accepting the past is what you have given me, and I am forever grateful to you. I am forever grateful to weightlifting for giving me the opportunity to meet you. This blog is what made me a better athlete, by not hiding my skeletons...but getting to know them. Your support has given me the confidence I needed in everyday life. Your kind words have helped me become kinder to others and myself. By you reading this blog gave me a voice, a voice that I didn't even know I had. So thank you. Thank you skeleton, thank you for everything. Thank you Weightlifting for introducing me to my Dark Orchestra family.
My coaches....... what can I say. I love you all. Without you I am not me. Without your guiding light I am still in the dark. Without you I am still addicted to drugs and alcohol. Without you coach..... I am just a college drop out with empty dreams and a path full of thorns. You gave me air to my lungs and a beating heart to defeat the demons that pulled me down. I walk down this orange world thinking about every coach I have ever had. The cold breeze makes my hot forehead cold, as my tears dry like the chalk on my hands. My steps are heavy as my emotions way me down. I look up to see the future, only reminded of the past. The past that has created a small smile of fun and out of control times we have shared together. I hope coach.... you are smiling too. For the memories are with you. My shoulders sway, as my eyes lay closed, in memory of all those who have taken time out of their life to help with mine. I thank you, from the bottom of my heart. My heart bleeds to only give back for the blood you have drawn for me. I will be forever thankful to my ever-dying day.
I finally arrived from my morning reflection. I watery walk on a clear crisp morning..... what a perfect morning it was. I grabbed my back from the pain. My knees screamed to stop moving. My right elbow clicking from bad lockouts and rusty joints. My left hip higher than the other as my walk stings my right calf from the lean my hip has given me. I walk into my house while my wife lies still asleep, looking more beautiful than ever. I pass my long hallway where my medals hang in their glass case, protected from harm's way, and proudly in sight for all to see. They look beautiful and bright, happy as if the moment we met each other was happening this very second. These medals have no emotion but happy.... I could swear they are smiling. Only if they knew how many medals I let die throughout my journey. I don't tell them or show them that though, I smile and tell them I am proud of them and that I love them. They of course smile back..... nestled comfortably in their glass beds. I knew as I walked away the next part would be the hardest. My head sunk low once I left sight of the medals. My heart rang heavy. I must retire my shoes and singlet........ the pump to any weightlifter's heart.
My shoes and my singlets stared back at me on the bed, as if to say they didn't want to go to summer camp. They looked defeated and let down, sad and lost. They looked as if their identity had just been striped. Crusted chalk, crumpled numbers still pinned to the singlets laid lifeless amongst bloodstains and coffee spills. Once on top of the world, now dead. Once the fastest feet in the world, now slow and old, dusty and forgotten. The USA slightly faded, as the rips down the legs of the singlets spoke many stories, and told awesome adventures. Each singlet told wise stories, different adventures, and not yet talked about experiences. Each singlet has a life of its own, while each shoe lifted miles and miles of platforms. I will hang you up high to never be forgotten, I told them as I started to place them in their glass case. So high that no one will forget about you. Your stories will live on forever every time someone looks at you. Your impact could change a life. Your view alone can spark a conversation that could lead a young kid down the great path of weightlifting. You could one day change a life......like the life you changed with me. And who knows, one day when I have kids, I will take you out of your glass home.
I am officially retiring as a proud athlete of this great sport. Go USA.
Most importantly Special thanks to my lovely Wife Jessica North. You were there the very first time I touched the bar, and you are here for the very last time I touch the bar. Thank you for all your support over the many years. I love you.