When I was in high school, I was a skinny, skinny kid. You could see my ribs. I had chicken legs, and I could eat anything I wanted whenever I wanted, then puberty hit me like the prodigal piano falling from the sky. I gained a lot of weight. When I was 18, I was working at the movie theater, living on a diet of buttered popcorn and raspberry Italian sodas. I had never learned how to regulate what I ate. It was irrelevant to me. I kind of had a hard time in my early twenties and just kind of lived carelessly, day-to-day, and it reflected in my weight.

Then I decided to try to change that. A couple years ago, I was proud of myself for losing thirty pounds through a summer of tennis, good eating habits and Power 90, but alas somewhere along the way I learned when you’re working out, you need protein; all I heard was I can eat hamburgers, and next thing I knew I was back to my old habits.

I wanted to be skinny again. I wanted to be my old self again. I missed how I looked. I knew myself as skinny Brice, and I thought I’ve myself as the artist formerly known as skinny Brice, but something happened to me a few months ago.

I looked in the mirror and I noticed that I am a wide person. I have very broad shoulders and hips and I basically have the body structure of a dictionary, and I realized, I don’t want to be skinny – I want to be strong.

SInce then, I’ve started focusing more on lifting weights, building muscle, and God, it’s a beautiful thing that fat turns into muscle. I can see myself getting stronger, and it makes me feel so much better. I can see what I’ve been through in my arms, in my chest, in my legs.

But this post isn’t a fitness post. This is not a health blog.

What I’ve realized is what this really means to me.

Before, all I wanted to do was get rid of every ounce of fat on my body, and it never worked. I’d always lose momentum along the way. What I know now is that I want to take what I’ve been, and become something I never thought I could be. I want to become stronger.

Tragedy is tragic. The news is dripping with it, it feels like. Bombings. Shootings. War. I feel like the aisle of our country is parting like evaporating ocean, and today it became the most overwhelming it’s become. I just wanted to separate from it. To remove this toxic fat off my body. Take a knife and tear it off from the fibers, but I can’t do that. We can’t do that.

You cannot remove something from who you are, as much as plastic surgery would have you believe you can. You have to do something with it. Race has come up lately. Trayvon Martin died, and it has changed things. There’s those hairs that raise on the back of your neck after a storm passes.

I was walking to the gym the day after the passing of the final verdict of the Trayvon Martin case, when I came upon a twentysomething black kid walking down the street, and I could tell there was something there. Indescribable almost. To be following him down the road the day after that case was plastered on every lit up screen was bizarre. That’s the only word I can say for it. It was almost surreal. I wanted to say something, but what would I say? How do you act like nothing has happened?

I didn’t say anything. I just walked by. I should have said something. I’m shy, yes, but I should have said something. Just said hey how’s it going. Anything, but there I was, trying to cut off that fat instead of turning it into muscle. Choosing complacency over courage. Ignoring what was there instead of grabbing it and ringing it out like a towel.

Today I was driving home from the store when the car in front of me broke down. I drove around this elderly woman, bewildered behind the wheel and thought to myself

I should help her.

I don’t know what I could do for her though.

She probably has a phone.

It couldn’t hurt to offer to help her.

But my light turned green and I drove off. Coward, I thought. I circled the block, and came back behind her. I got out of my car and went to help her, but she was gone. I wish my impulse would have been to help. I wish I knew what to do right away.

The fact of the matter is our gut isn’t always right. Trust me. This was a hard lesson for me to learn. Your instinct is often wrong. That’s why when you approach that good-looking person, you think of what to say afterwards. That’s why you think of the perfect witty retort as soon as your competitive coworker walks away. Your gut is not always right. In fact, it is often wrong.

That is why we have to build muscle. We have to train ourselves to do what is best for ourselves. Pain, pain, pain, pain, then pleasure. We have to reach further then we think we can. You have to stretch your muscle to the point of discomfort so it will grow, and after you do, you will feel so good. So good. The best high there is is the way you feel after you do the right thing, but there’s a hangover. You will be sore the next day. We question even the hero in ourselves.

Hero, admittedly, is the wrong word. This all is about being a good fucking human being. For yourself, if for no one else. Do it for the feeling that you did the right thing. You might even find that the smile on the person’s face who you talk to, who you invite into your life, who you help change the busted tired of – that smile may be what you remember, not how awesome you are. I bet you quickly forget about yourself as soon as you realize how they feel. When you recognize them as someone outside of you that you have affected for the better.

We have to build muscle. To rearrange the old cliche a bit, buy someone a fishing pole, not a fish dinner. Buy seeds, not tomatoes. Invest in your future happiness. Don’t throw makeup on the ugly parts of the world. Show them how they can be beautiful.

Don’t burn bridges. Create scenic routes. Get in your car. Drive aimlessly. Meet someone new. Spend some time alone. Do something. Do anything. Don’t sit around starving yourself. Turn what’s in your stomach into energy and turn that energy into force and force blood to your arms, your legs, your heart. Never forget your heart. Don’t lose weight. You should carry that with you always. Don’t lose weight. Don’t cut off your fat. Build muscle.