Elementary & High School
I’ve been through my fair share of ups and downs. I started grade school not knowing how to speak English as I always spoke Arabic at home. Throughout elementary school and high school I struggled to fit in. The worst of it all started in Grade 5 when friends started to gather and hang out outside of school. I was raised in a Lebanese household which caused me to grow up with different values and different interests. I would always try to hang out with the ‘popular’ group in my class but was always rejected because I was different. The group would always try to avoid me. I wasn’t up with the type of pop culture that they were. For example, as soon as a new movie would come out, everyone would have a dirty new catch phrase that I wouldn’t understand because I wasn’t ever allowed to watch anything over PG. This is one of many example of how I struggled to fit in. This caused me to be on the receiving end of a lot of teasing. It really left me beaten down. In high school alcohol and partying started to crawl into the norm but I didn’t feel like I wanted to be a part of that culture. I would get invited out to parties but most of the time I would decline the offers. This contributed to the dark loneliness that I was living in.
Grade 5 was one of my darkest years. I was a young kid that was very depressed. I always had good grades but that didn’t change the fact that I struggled to fit in wherever I went. I feel sorry for my parents because they didn’t know how to deal with me. They wanted to help but were in a position where they were pretty much helpless. Later on I started junior high where many things happened. In Grade 8 I decided to pick up guitar. This was the perfect release for all of my frustrations. I practiced a lot in order to keep my mind off of reality for a while. Music started to become a big part of my life. Rock and heavy metal were my music of choice. My headphones never came out. Whether in school or outside of school they stayed in as a way to tune out all of the BS that happened in school. The next year (Grade 9) is when I fell into a dark hole. I had heard from my brother that there was an older kid teasing him at school. In my head I felt like the only way to solve this was to fight the kid. I would envision the encounter in my head. It would usually consist of me effortlessly beating the crap out of this kid. The day had finally came where I would confront this kid and I was mentally preparing myself all day. When lunch hour came, I found the kid and confronted him. When he realized I wasn’t happy he offered to fight and I accepted. At that moment, I had realized I got myself into a situation that I never intended to. My ego had led me into the fight and left me as soon as the fight was about to start. I pretty much chickened out, got thrown to the ground and took a few good shots to the face. This experience left an impact on me that I would continue to feel all the way through high school. My head was always down and just when I thought my confidence couldn’t get any lower, I was thrown into an even darker hole.
I remember the day that my brother bought a drum set when I was in Grade 10. I was so excited to have the possibility of one day jamming out with my brother on drums and me on guitar. It didn’t work out this way. After 2 months of play my brother started to give up the drums. I then came in and tried them out. I picked up on drums very quickly. I attribute it to always drumming along to songs I was listening to on my school desk and having people tell me things like: “Do you wanna stop Allen!? That’s super annoying.”. The drums became my main musical instrument over guitar as it was a good stress reliever. I had a few friends who also played other instruments and we would jam occasionally which I loved!
I always had good grades throughout grade school but they started to get even better from grade 10 to 12. This was because I knew that I wanted to go into engineering in university and I wasn’t going to be denied of my goal. In Grade 12 however, I was still in that very dark place. I felt like I had nothing to look forward to. I would have thoughts like: “What’s the point of all of this. Everyday is in black and white right now and it’s only going to get worse. I’m going to go to University and have to study even more and then I’ll get a job and be chained to a desk for the rest of my life.”. I was in deep depression but somehow still managing to achieve good marks in school. I think I did well because my mentality was “If i’m not good at this than what am I going to do with my life?”.
I remember the day that I was accepted to the University of Alberta. It showed me that all of my hard work had paid off. Although I was excited, I was still venturing into the unknown. I remember my first day of University. I almost collapsed from being so nervous. I was going from a junior high + high school of 170 people to classes of upwards of 200 people! It was a major change to say the least. Making friends came slowly in year 1 but the weight gain sure didn’t. I was so obsessed with achieving good grades that the stress reached an all time high. I put on 25 pounds of pure fat in 4 months! The picture shown above (on the right) was taken on the first new years after starting University (4 months after starting). The crazy part was I wasn’t drinking because I didn’t turn legal drinking age until midway through the second semester of year 1. I was around 160 lbs from the lack of nutritional knowledge and the stress eating that came from a heavy workload. In year 2 more friends started to crawl in and my confidence was starting to grow. I was now legal drinking age and I didn’t hold back! I went all out on wing Wednesdays and nights out at the club. Things just kept getting worse. Alcohol was only a temporary fix in which I would feel terrible the next few days but I didn’t see that at the time. I reached an alcohol and unhealthy eating peak in the summer after year 2. It got to the point where my family was encouraging me to go to the gym and I would just laugh it off. After a while I gave in and decided to start. Every time my family would tell me to start going I would tell them things like “Sure i’ll go now but do you not understand that i’m in engineering? When the semester starts i’m not going to have time.”. After consistently going for 2 weeks and seeing results, I was addicted! The 1st semester of year 3 began and I decided to continue going to see how I would manage my time. I found that after coming out of the gym, my problems didn’t matter anymore. It’s as if there was suddenly more time in a day. I achieved better grades in year 3 than in year 2 and year 3 was supposedly the hardest and busiest year of the 4 year degree.
This caused my mentality to shift. Throughout my youth, I was raised on religious beliefs and rules. I was believing in a basic religious dogma that I didn’t agree with but I went along with it. In year 1 and 2 I was extremely anti-religious but after starting at the gym and getting over my depression slowly. I began to see things in a different light. I began to realize that the religious/spiritual ideas I was taught through my youth were taught wrong. I started to dig around and find out more about the spiritual journey. I now see life in a COMPLETELY different light. I realize that everything happens for a reason and that there is a lesson to learn in every life situation. This is what is known in the spiritual world as becoming ‘self-aware’. I began to observe my thoughts as if I were a separate being. My depression became clear at that point. One example of how depressed I was is that I would judge people I didn’t know based on how they looked and start swearing in my head about them. All of this was happening unconsciously. Ridiculous I know. Although I was in this situation, I was now able to observe it and control it. I began trying to act out of love rather than hate.
I had some friends in the health and fitness game that I tried to take advice from. I also began to follow lots of different programs on bodybuilding.com in order to learn the approaches that all of these different trainers take and why. Through this I began to develop my own take. My consistency at the gym and the weekly meal prep was noticed by my peers and I began to be known as ‘the gym guy’.
I now see nontraditional health/wellness as my life’s calling. I want to help people reach the best version of themselves in body, mind and soul. An unhealthy body and mind is a vehicle unfit to express a beautiful soul. Everyone has something to give to this world and realizing that comes with taking proper care of your body and mind. Becoming self aware and finding your inner happiness first starts with getting healthy and staying healthy. Unhealthy comes in many forms: Little muscle mass, too much muscle mass, obesity, etc.
- No matter how much you don’t fit in, do not put aside who you are to somehow make it work. Looking back at my youth, I realize that not falling into the culture that was popular made me who I am. Although it was hard, I was able to learn from it and become the person I am today.
- EAT HEALTHY! This is important because it literally helps you think more clearly. Unknowingly to most people, junk food actually causes inflammation in the gut which contributes to a lack of energy and some inflammation in the brain. This ultimately causes most of the health complications that are most prevalent in today’s society. You also must cut down on sugar. Sugar is the devil! It’s in everything without being reported clearly in most foods and slowly contributes to type 2 diabetes through consistent insulin spikes in the blood.
- Go after what you are passionate about regardless of whether people think you’re crazy. Everyone has a purpose and something important to give to this world. It’s up to you to have the courage to find out what that is.
- Help people and act through love rather than hate. Giving is important. Giving doesn’t necessarily mean money or material items. Give YOURSELF. Someone out there needs YOU! Put money on the back burner and find pleasure in helping others.
- Confront what you fear. That can mean confronting inner thoughts that you keep ignoring or certain events that you continually put aside. Confronting what you fear will reduce anxiety and help your mind to relax.