“‘Cause sometimes you just feel tired, feel weak, and when you feel weak, you feel like you wanna just give up,” so starts Eminem’s song featuring Nate Dogg, “Till I Collapse.”
Giving up is easy and intoxicating and it’s even easier to rationalize it to yourself. I give up a lot day in and day out that sometimes it settles in like an old T-shirt.
For instance, staying in bed scrolling endlessly through my Facebook feed or watching the next episode of South Park (I’m currently making my way through the series as a first-time viewer), even though I have free access to a YMCA two minutes from my house. In this way, I give up on getting necessary exercise.
One day a few weeks ago, however, after an early morning Saturday work shift, a whimsical notion planted itself in my mind: I was going to run a mile. It was an absurd notion since I’m not a runner and I hadn’t seen the inside of a gym in over a year.
I was operating on two hours of sleep and no breakfast, but I was convinced: I was going to run a mile.
On that morning, as opposed to all the other Saturday mornings where I get off work and fall into the one-two punch of coffee and the Internet, I wanted to prove to myself I could do it.
Sure, I wanted to run a respectable time; but more than anything, I wanted to do it. I didn’t want to be predictable and give up.
When I got home, I stayed on my feet. I knew if I sat down, then I’d succumb to the comforts of that old T-shirt. I put on my running shoes, which is a peculiar type of shoe for me to have, and grabbed my headphones.
Eminem was the artist of choice, of course, with a Spotify playlist of my favorite songs randomized. There’s always been something about the way Eminem spits his rhymes that I’ve gravitated toward.
He’s vicious, bitter and angry with something to prove. He raps like he has his back to the wall and the world is his enemy. There’s something about that “me against the world” vibe that I dig, that never-give-up attitude.
From growing up in a low-class Detroit neighborhood with an absent father and often squabbling with his mother, to becoming not just the biggest rapper of all time, but one of the biggest artists ever with 155 million albums sold worldwide — that’s a story I can sink my teeth into. Gritty beginnings to great endings.
Admittedly, I’m not that knowledgeable on rap so I’m sure someone reading this will scoff at me and toss out names like Tech N9ne, Nas, Kendrick Lamar, Lupe Fiasco, Tupac, The Notorious B.I.G and Kanye West, all of whom I’ve heard bits and pieces of, but they don’t dig into my bone marrow like Eminem’s verses and biting delivery.
It also doesn’t hurt that some of Eminem’s songs, like “Till I Collapse,” or “Lose Yourself,” make for great pump up songs.
With MapMyRun turned on, I do something that would seem absurd to an onlooker: I slapped myself a few times. It’s one of those things I do to get in that “zone” and stay focused.
Teeth gritted, I set out from my porch steps. It was a crisp, mildly warm morning and the air felt good in my lungs. Well, at the moment, it felt good.
Almost immediately, the brain starts firing those synapses telling you, “Okay, this was a fun idea 20 minutes ago, but now that you’re actually doing it, this sucks. No, this really sucks. Turn back, give up. Now. Go back.”
I was only a street away from mine, turning back would be easy. But I kept going down Chateauguay Drive, a street I’ve lived by for 16 years and still don’t know how to pronounce. Then when I rounded the corner of the street, one of those rare perfectly timed moments occurred.
In a playlist of 28 songs randomized, the ultimate Eminem pump up song, “Lose Yourself,” hits. The subtle, but simmering piano starts and the street I’m running on slopes downward so that at the bottom, you get an expansive view of the horizon.
Just coming up over the horizon was the sunrise with its beautiful palette of oranges, yellows and reds. Even though a sunrise happens every day, it still manages to wow me every time, and this one especially wowed me.
Then the electric guitar kicks in and Eminem’s voice, “Look, if you had one shot, or one opportunity to seize everything you ever wanted, one moment, would you capture it or just let it slip?”
It was the most empowering, almost spiritual moment I’ve experienced. The syncing of that chest-thumping song with the breathtaking enormity and brilliance of the sunrise made me feel like I was floating.
Most importantly, it made me ignore the usual synapses that tell me to give it up, to go back.
Instead, I went forward.
Sure, after I finished the mile, I was tired with spit hanging off my leg because I inexplicably missed the street and I just wanted to collapse into a cheeseburger, but I had turned a whimsical notion floating in my head into a reality measured by analytics on MapMyRun.
Ridiculous, right? One moment of not giving up sandwiched between many moments of giving up.
I’m not going to lie and say my whole mentality changed right there on that street corner. I didn’t run a mile the day after that or the next week, and I still eat Chipotle on a regular basis.
But, it’s nice to rage against the status quo of your existence sometimes.
It’s like the Dylan Thomas poem, “Do not go gently into that good night.” He says, “Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
That’s what Eminem’s music represents to me, the feeling that coalesced into the moment before the sunrise.
I’m not always successful. I fail and give up a lot, but every now and then, I push back against the “dying of the light.”