It’s New Year’s Eve 2014 and I’m with family and their friends in Singapore.
“Smile” they said.
I was suicidal.
“Brendan, are you going to call your girlfriend before the count down?”
I didn’t have one. We broke up a few weeks ago, just like the previous girlfriend about the same time in 2013.
Often labelled by friends as a tough bastard, I wasn’t feeling like one. All my strength went into holding back tears.
I had a lot of trouble letting go of those relationships. The recoveries were a long, slow process that took quite a while.
Eventually I started dating again but I didn’t let anyone close enough to get past my guard.
That was until I met the one. Well, I thought she was anyway. She made me happy for the first time in ages. Notice how I said she made me happy? That’s right, my emotional state depended on her. I had never felt this way about anyone before. It was weird. Unlike previous relationships, I fell fast for this one. But was it love, or attachment? Who knows, but it was good at the time. She told me she loved me and we had the best physical connection ever. I think that’s what made my heart hijack my brain. While I was with her, everything was amazing, but when I wasn’t, I was in constant fear of losing her.
And then came the text, just a week before New Year’s Eve. I was single again. At least this time I was not suicidal, I was lost in depression, despair and anxiety, but I wanted to live. Not like the year before.
New Year’s Day 2016: I decided I was not going to repeat this annual cycle again. I decided that I would use this pain as fuel to be more productive than ever. Writing a book about nutrition, exercise and mindfulness had been on the back of my mind for a couple years. It was a good idea, but that’s all it was, an idea. I chose to take action. I put pen to paper and that day and wrote the title, table of contents, and even the introduction. I set myself the goal of writing the book by the end of the year.
I was told it was an impossible task because I worked 12-hour days as a Wellness Advisor and lived in a party house with 3 other motorcycle enthusiasts.
I had other goals too, such as buying my first home, and I wanted to do my Yoga teacher’s certificate. I thought that was probably impossible as I had torn off the anterior cruciate ligament the year before but couldn’t afford the time off work to get a knee reconstruction. I wanted to have a ring fight too but knew that couldn’t happen either for the same reason. I also wanted to do something “for myself”. I wanted to finish the tattoo on my arm. All these things would cost a lot of money for someone who didn’t really have any so I decided to use my qualifications to work as a PT, masseur and naturopath on my week off from working up North.
I emailed the best Yoga school I could find and a Yoga Centre got back to me saying that they’d accept me despite my knee injury, so I locked it in.
Needless to say I was pretty busy. Every day I would get up at 5am and go to the office and work on my book before starting my job about 7.30am. Then I’d work until lunchtime and listen to entrepreneurs on podcasts while lifting weights in the gym. I’d then get back to work until about 8pm, at which point I’d once again get stuck into my book until about midnight. While I was busy, I didn’t have time for heartbreak. The only time I’d relapse was when we’d cross paths, because she worked on the same island, which made things challenging for me.
One day while researching the science of meditation for one of the chapters of my book, I stumbled across a Mindfulness course for health practitioners that was run by a Professor of the Monash University and facilitated in the Yarra Valley. It sounded perfect. I could add another skill to my toolbox but also use the techniques learned to heal myself. I emailed them and a few days later I was accepted.
By September I had finished my full sleeve tattoo, paid off my credit card and personal loan, bought my first home, completed the Mindfulness course in the Yarra Valley and finished my Yoga teacher’s training in Byron Bay. The Yoga certificate was the most challenging due to my knee injury but I got through it, but now my knee was worse than ever because I forced myself into positions that I probably shouldn’t have. The Yoga course was also the most rewarding as I met some amazing souls and grew internally. I learned that Yoga is more than just the positions you put yourself into. I learned about Pranayama, Yogic nutrition and Ahimsa (non-violence). Ironic really…
Fast forward a few weeks and it’s about midnight, I’m on a date, and we’re just about finish the second bottle of wine. You probably think that’s a lot to drink for a Naturopath who’s writing about a book about health and wellness, but after researching and writing about the science of anti-aging and longevity all day, sometimes it’s good to have a bit of balance.
Then, just as I was pouring myself the last glass of red, I got the call. “Brenno, the odds are 5 to 1 and you’re the underdog, how you feeling? We’ve got a lot of money on this”
“What the hell are you talking about?” I asked.
“Ol’ mate wants to fight you in the ring tomorrow, boxing rules, gloves on, no mouth guards or head gear” said one of the boys. I told him I’d better make it early as I had planned lunch with my Mum.
So I finished my drink and went home to bed, trying not to think about the fact I hadn’t done cardio of any kind in years, and in a few hours I was going to have to fight a guy 50kg bigger than me… with my bung knee. I guess I was going to achieve the goal of a ring fight that year after all.
Next morning I got up early, went to the physio and had my knee strapped so that it would be less likely to pop out during the fight.
10:59am There was a crowd of about 20 guys around the ring but the gym was closed to the general public. The tension was thick. “Ding Ding!” Ol’ mate is coming in hard with some big bombs. I couldn’t afford to let a guy nearly twice my size land one on me so I had to focus. By the end of the first round I had split his head open on one side. By the end of the second round the other side and his mouth was bleeding too, but I was unscathed. Then he threw in the towel of his own fight. To be honest, I was a bit relieved as I was completely buggered, but at least I won the fight. The boys called me the “People’s Champion”. The name had a nice ring to it. At lunch, Mum called me a Silly boy. I preferred the former title.
December 31st 2016: I was at work in the Pilbara on my lunch break having just typed the last of 53,000 words. I pressed the send button and watched the manuscript head off to my publisher in America. I had achieved my first goal of the year, to write my book, The Wellness Bible, before 2017.
For the first time in my life I feel like its okay to be single. A lot can happen in one year and you’re never the same person as the previous year. Putting all your energy into one person can be overwhelming and when you put that energy into other things instead you can get a lot done! I never thought I would have been able to load that much activity into 12 months, but I did.
I was interviewed for a podcast and I realized that I had become one of those guys that I had been listening to at the gym trying to get over heartbreak. That felt good.
Every day you have the opportunity to create a new path. The braver you are at giving things a go, the more you can say yes and not limit yourself, the more you can get done. You’ve got to keep moving forward or you’ll perish.
I don’t know what the future holds, but I’ve never been happier.