Stranger 77, Day 77 – Meet John, the “Strong Christian”

Stranger 77, Day 77 - Meet John

Today, I got the chance to meet another gym staple. I knew of his name and sometimes his workout routines. However, I knew so little about him. I just always remember his Mad Men-esque hair cleanly kept even in the gym. Meanwhile, he’s deadlifting 4, 5, sometimes 6 plates. He breaks a sweat, and I break a sweat just watching him. So as I wrapped up my sets, and he wrapped up his, I asked him if I could get to know him a bit better, and if he’d be today’s Stranger. He happily accepted. Meet the Strong Man.

Meet John, 26

John just dove right into it.

“Grew up in Tucker. Was born in Pennsylvania, and moved down here when I was 3. So I grew up in Georgia. I was home-schooled starting out. 6th grade, I went to a small private school. Then for high school, 9th through 11th — or 8th through 11 — I did like a co-op. It’s like a college set-up but for home-schoolers. So you go to your classes once or twice a week. Do your homework. Manage your own schedule. And then for my senior year, I went to Tucker High School to play football, specifically. We won the state championship.”

Because you joined.(?)

He laughs, “yes, of course!”

“And then, that…” he pauses and thinks for a moment.

“Went to the gym. I’ve always been kind of active. And then, I started going to the gym when I was around 15-16 — just me and a buddy. That kind of led towards football. The gym I was going to, a lot of kids from Tucker were training there. That kind of got it in my head. Growing up as a young adult, a lot of the older guys I looked up to were strong. So that helped motivate me to lift heavy, or do good at the gym and stuff. Training for football was what really built my gym kind of workout. And then, I tried out to play football at Georgia State, but I didn’t make the team. So I just focused on my school. I worked two jobs on campus. I double-majored in finance and computer information systems. Then, coming out of college, I got a job at Key Property Services being a financial analyst. That company had big lay-offs. Funding dropped a lot. I got laid off, and then I got a job with CSRA doing IT — which also fits my major. I like IT better, so that’s what I have there.”

“I’m staying up in Alpharetta, so it’s kind of a drive. Coming here at 5 in the morning beats all the traffic, so the drive isn’t that bad.”

“I’m the oldest of five children. There’s a 10-year difference between the oldest and the youngest. What other questions?” Haha. He really ran with that without me asking anything. That was great.

What are some of your passions?

He thinks for a moment. “Strong Christian. So, trying to live for God, I guess. It’s one of the main things. It can be difficult to, I guess, when you read the Bible stuff, it tells you a lot of things, but how do you actually apply that to everyday life because a lot of people struggle with that. So that’s also what you work with with other people.”

What’s a key way that you live like that?

“One example that really comes to mind is one of my friends started a moving company. I’ve been working with them on Saturdays. Because I don’t cuss or anything, a lot of the guys like, it’ll stick out to them pretty quickly, and they’ll start asking questions.”

He wants to clarify, “That just kind of came to mind.”

What’s your favorite exercise?

“Well, my actual favorite thing is bench press. When I was 18, I got 315, and I’ve had injuries. I dislocated my elbow playing football. In college, I ripped my shoulder up — and this is both on my right side doing jiu-jitsu. So, I had to start over a couple times. That’s been kind of a nagging thing that I’ve been struggling with, but it is the way it is.”

“Deadlifts are probably my strongest point.”

What would you say is a fascinating thing about you that most nobody knows?

“I guess if you first met me, you probably wouldn’t know that I am probably more what people would call a nerd. So like, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, stuff like that. Computer games…”

What do you love about that stuff?

“Umm,” he thinks. “I don’t know! I guess they’re just interesting. Like I didn’t ever like reading at all until I read The Hobbit — the first Lord of the Rings book. I guess that fantasy kind of world is interesting.”

If you could go back in time, not forward, but back in time, any time period in history, what would it be and why? (Thanks to Kira, Stranger 76)

“Well, would I be able to keep the knowledge that I have now?” Sure.

“Then, I would probably go back to the beginning of college, so that I could… I mean, the way technology is now, if you go back to any point in time, there will be a lot of other challenges and difficulties. But if you could keep the knowledge that you have, you know that you’ve developed over time, and apply it to being a younger you, you could probably focus your time and energy a lot more effectively to develop yourself.”

“… Not necessarily undo mistakes because you learn things.”

I make the comment that you’d create some multiple timelines. (Yes, I love the nerdy stuff, too!) We laugh about it.

So what is something you would like to do with all this knowledge? Would it be to invent the iPhone?!

“In college, I kind of saw the opportunity in the housing market where I was living. I was watching the prices after 2008 when I went into college. And I was living right near Turner Field. But I didn’t have money at that time. So, I mean there’s a lot of opportunity there but how to execute on that would be something I now have the knowledge to do. So stuff like that.” He thinks some more.

“Maybe try to get a… instead of working on campus, try to get an internship in IT or finance-type of place.”

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“If there’s something that you want in your life that you don’t have, what are you going to do starting today to get that?”

“Because if there’s something that you want, you can’t keep doing the same thing you’re doing. You are where you are because of what you’ve been doing.”

After the handshake.

To John’s point at the end explaining his question for tomorrow’s Stranger, I wanted to point out one of Albert Einstein’s famous quotes (at least, he’s credited with):

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

The beauty of meeting Strangers is the little nuggets people share that strike a chord with readers for whatever reason. When John asked his question for tomorrow’s Stranger (and indeed, thinking about Einstein’s quote), I thought about something real near and dear to me. There are things we do and things that occupy our minds. Or at least, there’s one thing that has been occupying my mind for so long. I tell myself that I’ve been changing my approach and even how I feel about it. However, I still get largely the same result. That’s me thinking about this one thing every single day. So I wonder if I’m really making a marked difference while expecting (hoping) for a different result. I’ll share this one day, but not today.

Like I said earlier, I’ve seen John in the gym. He’s a regular much like some of the others I’ve met on this journey. This has been so great for me to connect and get to know people I see at least twice in the gym — a place that I call my safe haven and my meditation spot. It’s great to know (in a hey-there-are-mini-connections-everywhere-kind-of-way) that John is similar to a previous Stranger Bruce (#70) who also loves the fantasy world and video games, and both are very strong guys. John made the comment about how most people wouldn’t peg him as a “nerd”. That’s great to hear, though, in some respects because this journey continues to highlight how people are so much more than what we see.

Also, I was wondering what John’s “alias” was going to be. I really wanted the strength side to be a part of his alias while I was thinking about the nerdy side as well as the religious side. So how great was it that John pretty much gave me his alias that really has two meanings — “Strong Christian”. Ah, that works so well.

Meet John. No longer a Stranger.

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