I was down and out, or at least that’s how it felt for a while, for a good long while too. Coming out on the other end meant tackling the demon in my life, but what I found was that demon to be me all along.
Well if that’s the case, then we are also capable of becoming our own Gods.
In Continuation From– Testing The Faith: A Desperate Scramble, Without Balls.
As I furthered this lifestyle in reframing who I was, I kept at my personal practices to overcome my general fears and discomforts.
In these attempts, I continuously tried to expose myself to uncomfortable situations to build resilience to them. As a result, my experience and my outlook progressed.
As a result, I began to find a new handle on my being. One of self control, and personal empowerment.
It took a long time, but I was starting to feel rooted again.G. Kourtesiotis, Testing The Faith: A Desperate Scramble, Without Balls.
Duking The Demon, Emotional Mover
I reorganized my personal fitness regiments, shying away from the endless weightlifting I was accustomed to. I started looking into alternative routines centered around my bodyweight for resistance, and supplemented that with a steady dose of running and biking between it all.
Truthfully, I was always a fitness freak, but my personal problems moulded me into a different kind of fitness freak. It was a necessary evolution the face the demon in me.
With the former, I used to find sheer joy through the physical progression in the gym as it carried over into the competition on the football field. Likewise, being gym-obsessed encouraged a healthy competition between teammates.
The defensive linemen quarreled the offensive linemen, but all linemen quarreled with everybody else. We were the big dogs, and it was all in good fun. But, it was fun to form a cohesive bond to better ourselves as a group when taking on outsiders.
In the latter experience, I was put off by the competition entirely. Though I still found great joy with the activity and movement of it, fitness evolved into a personal fight against my own mind. Therefore, pushing my body in healthier ways felt like I was mentally fighting the demon inside physically. — Err, ugh… If that makes sense.
During this time, physical activity tied into a deeper sense of emotion. Weightlifting fueled my anger, bicycle rides were spent chasing broken dreams, and trails were run in the dirt on the brink of tears.
In short, fitness was a physical outlet for my mental, emotional, and spiritual well being. This was something foreign and new, as it was a complete submersion into the self, as I’ve never looked at fitness in that light prior.
It is truly remarkable to sit here in reflection still being able to feel the experienced power in those moments. What I can feel is the source of will through the memory of my own words. At the time, it wasn’t a will to impress the ego, but the will to survive my own mind.
“At the time, it wasn’t a will to impress the ego, but the will to survive my own mind.”
I always enjoyed fitness, but that’s where it moved away from the shallow meatstick culture, to one of deep personal growth, better emotional processing, and direct communication with the inner self.
Over the next few years, I steadily dropped weight from 290lbs to 240bs. At the same time, I was able to progress through both dark times, and the dark sides of my personality.
My body and mind dysfunctionaly restored itself back to normal levels of dysfunctionality.
On The Right Track
Within this short time period— say 3 years, I had managed to land a career with the railroad as a Rail Car Mechanic. It was great, really, because it gave me an opportunity to potentially stay there for the rest of my life.
In terms of the weight loss, it was fairly easy to drop that weight considering the labor and endless walking as a railroad employee, alongside all of the recreational activity I was already doing.
All in all, I wasn’t trying to lose weight, but rather, I was trying to feel better. That is a crucial key to realize in reshaping your own body composition. Ultimately, the look of it is always secondary to what it provides you on an internally physical, mental, and emotional level.
Those are the reasons to anchor down on if looking to make great changes for yourself.
Working for the railway was great, both physically and financially. A unionized job with great benefits, a 401k/pension plan, and potential to climb up the ladder.
As a career, you might lose a few people with no appeal considering how labor intensive it can be. But in terms of the security and benefits, it’s the kind of job people dream about landing.
The role meant braving the Canadian elements year round, on top of all the other things in the yard that can potentially roll over you, or give you cancer. But perhaps most challenging, was the incessant micromanagement and political bullshit trickling its way down from the top. It depended on where you were, but the biggest yards pushed productivity and safety standards too far in ways that ultimately diluted productivity entirely.
A safe working place is important, hands down, but safety was often trivialized for the higher ups to meet their own standards and quotas. Come end of the month, it meant they were looking to nail somebody for doing something wrong, or being unsafe in some way.
If you know, you know, and it gets stupid pretty quick. With someone breathing down their neck, they start breathing down yours.
I digress, nothing is perfect. The positives do outweigh the politics as long as you are an honest worker with a strong work ethic. Again, it’s a lifer’s career, and if you get in, you’re sure stupid as hell to leave.
Perhaps the railroad’s greatest gift to me was a shifted perspective in terms of possibilities. It redefined my outlook into what was possible, as I gained many valuable skills that I can and still use.
To this day the carryover is endless, whether it’s for home improvement, automotive work, or something totally artistic.
Truly, it has shaped my life skills for the better.
Heck, many of my current– and future– exploits with Littermature.com can in some way be traced back to the railroad. It allowed me to look at things more creatively, also chipping away at some of the preconceived societal structures that I held in belief.
Likewise, I met a lot of talented people working there. Some of them barely held a high school diploma under their name, while others were rough around the edges with hidden talents of their own.
All in all, it was a place that gave me room to grow personally, to which I am truly, and forever grateful.
You Can Literally Do Anything
Steve was an older carman who had worked there for about 35 years, who had made the point early on that you can literally do anything. And though he was directly referring to maintaining or repairing rail cars, he made the creative process quite clear. Any repair was possible, because we could simply forge, fuse, and shape metals using oxy-acetylene, welding, or other crafty means.
Prior to working for the railway, steel was something that was more or less indestructible in my mind. Upon first seeing a torch cut through a steel plate like a hot knife through butter, my perspective had been forever altered.
A new employee can be easily overwhelmed trying to self-solve any problems or repairs that needed to be solved. I was no exception, if I needed to make any repairs work, I was dumbstruck and eager to pass off the work to anyone who actually knew what they were doing.
It’s okay to feel that way, but what matters most is what you do in spite of those feelings. It’s crucial then to take initiative, to get in there, to try to practice what you can regardless of how daunting it may seem.
Embrace the risk, hurt, humiliation, or failure.
Throwing yourself in the frying pan is one of the best ways to learn, to increase your capabilities, and increase your confidence.
General advice, for whatever you plan to tackle for yourself.
Steve was relatively young for someone close to his own retirement, but he was a guy who was closing in on his 35 years of service. In that timeframe he had seen it all, through the complete internal restructuring of the company, to the intricate details of the work, he knew the game and played it well.
I was fortunate enough to pick up on his expertise, which opened my eyes in applying his railroading experience to something bigger. It showed me the human potential to create without limit.
If you can conceive it, you can create it.
The Demon: The Canadian
Apart from the creative knowledge and reorganized outlook, perhaps the most valuable experience coming out from this place was the ability to fully express myself. It was a place to come face-to-face face with the demon, a personal catharsis to reconnect myself on an emotional level.
The rail yard was roughly 4 square miles large, with an endless amount of rail and vehicular traffic. The job provided lots of time for solitude, with enough space and background noise for any screams, hoots, and hollers to drown themselves out.
Again, the employee-employer relations were often terrible from ongoing tensions between company men and the union. However, this dynamic proved to further the ability to express myself in seeking to break past my own barriers. This isn’t to say I was difficult with my superiors, but it dissolved the sense of authority associated with those in positions of power. This challenge proved to be very meaningful, considering the decade-long obedience as a student-athlete that was mindless.
All in all, Just because they are higher-ups, or in a position of power, does not mean that they know any better.
Certification does not warrant qualification.
Being qualified does not warrant success.
Qualifications are a standard set for performance. There are many unqualified individuals who are more than capable of performing past the set standard for qualification, but, are bound by the label of being ‘unqualified’.G. Kourtesiotis, 2016. The Ugly Face Of The Mind.
The railroad was a place to dissolve many nooses as I was better able to emotionally process my internal world. I could express anger, sadness, happiness, and silliness, without judgment or the pressure of social ridicule. And if I’m honest, some of the guys in there were worse off than I was.
This last observation helped me realize that we all come to face the demon inside for ourselves, as we are all burdened with something.
I was totally unfiltered. The repetition of these expressions rooted itself into a growing personality. It was always the real me to begin with, but it wasn’t washed into the sociopolitical pressure to save face.
Before jumping off track to derail the conversation, I want to re-emphasize how the railroad really helped heal me of many personal problems. And though my time there was short-lived after 3 years, I am very grateful for it.
Again, I met some great characters, and walked away with a lot of useful trades skills that I will always use in some way. Most importantly, it gave me the space to blow off some steam in coming to terms with the demon.
Starry Skies and Open Eyes
After the company overhaul in the early 2000’s sometime, CN trimmed the fat and supposedly under-hired for some time until they were faced with the influx of retiring babyboomer’s. They then opened up the doors to train swathes of people, and in a place where seniority rules, it’s a case of first come, first serve.
For the most part, once you bid a job it was yours to have. But, that was for the Carmen to worry about.
Most of us were still in a 4-year apprenticeship, meaning we couldn’t bid for jobs until that time elapsed. Likewise, apprentices were at managements disposal, factoring in a 3-month rotation. As a result, I found myself working into the night, if not overnight, often.
Day shift was considered to be the money shift; everybody wanted days. And those who put in their time for 35 years to get their bid day shift were so stubborn to change the working schedule to accommodate the surge of young workers. As a result, many of the later apprentices were burdened with no social life as they were stuck working afternoons/overnight with Tuesday/Wednesday off.
Overnight was even more confusing considering the 12:00am start time. Friday-Saturday off looked good on paper, but it was more like having Thursday-Friday off. Your weekend starts at 8:00am Thursday morning, and ends sometime on Saturday afternoon, because you’d aim to be back to work on Saturday night around 11:45pm to start your shift 15minutes later at 12:00am, which was now Sunday.
Technicalities can be brutal, but it’s all relative of course, as everybody has different wants and needs. With that said, I did find myself enjoying a pint at the bar alone with the locals on a slow Tuesday night more often that I’d like to admit.
It didn’t take long, but working there for the short time I did disrupted my sleeping patterns. Although there could be any number of other factors in my life that have affected this, the truth is that I haven’t slept the same since.
Regardless of that, I much preferred to be dwelling in the shadows working overnight, as it gave me an opportunity to keep dancing with the demon. Doing so furthered my reflections, and kept me in contemplation about our origins.
Re-evaluating myself collectively, was only complimented by finding great solace in connection to the beauty of the starry night sky.
This was especially true of the overnight shifts during the winters:
There is nothing like the clarity of a cold winter’s night. Alone in the shadows, as the stars emanate through the darkness, the cold is perceived as its dryness dampens clothing, and penetrates bone. And as a shiver exhales through quivering lips, the tilted mind that peers into the vast emptiness clearly observes that nothing has ever felt more alive.G. Kourtesiotis, 2012. The Ugly Face Of The Mind.
During this time, I began an active participation into my own meditative practice. Withdrawing from my day where I could to practice anchoring down on my breath more often. Whether it be at home, in my Jeep, at the park, or during my shift, I purposely withdrew to check on my body, and thoughts. There would be no hesitation to pursue any moment into myself to better understand my being.
As this became a comfortable routine in self-study, I finally began to look outwards with less emotional turmoil once again.
The Demon & God: gOD, Where are You?
There were many vulnerable moments fitting enough to streamline directly to the source. But in all that solitude and inner reflection– alongside the creepy dark corners that my job took me to, I was left encounterless with God.
The demon was still there, but as much as I’d like to say that God revealed itself to me in some miraculous epiphany, wouldn’t be true— It never happened.
The only blinding bright lights to chase me down the tracks were those coming from locomotives.
The fact that I was looking for this connection without reciprocation further reconciliated the thought to empower myself further. Walking away from the railroad with an enlightened concept of human creativity, then I was to take the same approach in creating that source inside me for my self.
WE ARE OUR OWN GODS.