When I was in my early 20s, I was an asshole. First class. To this day, I’m deeply impressed by any person younger than 28 who’s employed, independent, not in massive amounts of debt, and who behaves decently more than 75% of the time. That points to tremendous drive, self discipline, a little luck, and probably the right set of parents.

I marvel at this because in my own misspent youth, I’d managed to accumulate an impressive amount of debt, placed extraordinary emphasis on material things, and was generally more concerned with how I looked than with how I truly felt. Over the last decade, I’ve worked hard to exterminate that girl, and for the most part she’s dead and buried. But like one of those crazy fungus-possessed zombie ants, she reared her head just the other day.

On one of my rare afternoons off, I decided to take a jaunt through the mall so I could remember what it was like to commune with other people in public who were too busy burying their faces in their smartphones to be bothered with stuff like looking forward. On my way out, I stopped into a department store that was a former favorite of mine, noted for its high-end wares and cutting edge style. My eye wandered over to a mannequin, clad in the sweetest mint green cigarette pants ever. Adoraballs, I thought, picking up a few sizes. These will go perfectly with ham and booze on secular Easter.

Moments later, I’m alone in the dressing room, debating between topping these babies off with a sweater set (to make Mom happy) or my Siouxie and the Banshees concert tee (to make Mom mad). The first size I tried was too small, but probably a little ambitious anyway. Second size, same thing – I was unable to fit my calf more than a few inches into the area meant for the thigh of someone smaller than me. Hmm. Maybe it’s the stitching. The final size, the one I’d grabbed purely for the sake of an insurance policy, yielded the same disappointing result. Visions of showing up in spring pastels to Easter, topped by a punk rock tee or not, were suddenly dashed. “Damn man calves,” said the voice in my head.

Undeterred, I thought perhaps I’d have better luck with a top. If I could find something to layer over lulus and boots, maybe Easter’s outfit could be pulled out of the fire. I grabbed a few things from the same department as the impossibly small pants and headed back to the dressing room for a second try.

I fared no better with my shirt selection– when it fit at the waist, it pulled unmercifully across the shoulders. “Why’d you bother putting the banner on the side of the building when you could’ve used your back instead?” One that lacked a zipper almost imprisoned me permanently, (“stupid lats”), and the last one wouldn’t even accommodate my arms past the elbow. “I’m a lumberjack and I’m okaaaay…” Eff this, I thought, and headed for accessories.

In the independent designers section, I found a ring I liked with a cameo that reminded me of a piece my Dad had found for me years ago. As I slipped it onto my middle finger, all I could feel were my nails, filed to the quick, my out of control cuticles, and my bumpy callouses. “Ugh, gross. Only place that’s gonna look good is inside a mitten.” I stopped, looked up from my hand. “Jesus Christ!” I said aloud. I turned around and started walking, fast, to the door. Now I was pissed, and I had a destination. I was going to the gym.

“What could you even do when you had nice nails?” I asked my asshole former self, pedal of the TT pressed to the floor on route 3. “What did that soft, feminine body get you under the weights? Oh, you looked adorable in clothes? Awesome. You were also drinking your face off and eating shit like it was your job. Idiot.” Gina of Olde had seen her last rodeo. I’d listened to her curse out my thick legs, bubble ass, bat-wing lats and giant traps one too many times. Those 17” calves can rebound 30 inch box jumps. That bubble ass pushes a 270# back squat. Those ridiculous lats can support a static handstand hold for 2 minutes. And shut up, because I’m about to show you what those shoulders can do. It was time for me to put this bitch to bed once and for all.

When I got to the gym that day, I put on some loud, foul rap and hit a 155# overhead squat PR. “Good,” said rational Gina. “Still gotta nail that midline stability. Keep working it.” I smiled, happy with the voice that expected more of me and respected my accomplishments rather than the number on the inside of my waistband.