We all experience moments of growth or maturity. We all wake up, stretch out our limbs, find clarity in the dust particles and whisper to ourselves: the KAC isn’t even that far away. Maybe, just maybe, we could exercise two or three times a week. We could speed walk for twenty minutes at a low incline instead of eating wheat thins by the box. Just as we start to believe that we could make a habit of moderate and healthy exercise, the abominable happens. We step on our stationary machine of choice, look up, and realize: one of our professors is right there. The stages of acceptance that you are about to experience are not for the weak of heart. Below are five stages of this process, loosely based off the five stages of grief. Except this experience isn’t sad, because what’s better than getting swole with your professor? Nothing. I hope you find clarity in navigating the sweaty weirdness to follow.
1. The denial of reality. You’re going to be thinking a lot of “no no no no no no no no no no no no no” in your head. Let it out. Refuse to admit reality. Trying to convince yourself that what you’re seeing is only a figment of your imagination is ultimately useless. This is only just the beginning.
2. Pure anger. The question of, “how could this even happen?” is going to consume you. Use the anger you feel as momentum to push you. Turn up the resistance. Increase the incline. Best work out ever.
3. Fight or flight. All of a sudden, thousands of possible escape plans are going to appear in your brain. Fight the urge to leave the KAC immediately after spotting your professor. Maintain your cool, collected, and sweaty demeanor. Do not get off the machine. Keep walking up the continuously moving yet stationary flight of stairs.
4. You’re going to get kind of sad. There is a moment when you think to yourself: how did I get to a point in my life where I work out next to my professor? You’re going to rethink a lot of your choices, and spiral down a deep, dark hole of paranoia. You’ll hallucinate and see your professor everywhere. The hum of your mini fridge will sound a lot like their cough. The hard boiled egg you were about to eat will start to look way too much like their head. It’s okay. This is all a part of the healing process.
5. Tacit acceptance. Make eye contact and smile at them. Throw up your hand in a wave if the adrenaline is especially powerful. Maybe if you’re lucky, some of your professor’s sweat will flick into your eye, especially if you strategically place yourself on the stationary bike right behind their treadmill. College is amazing.
It’s fear of wreaking this kind of emotional havoc on my students (or any students, maybe?) that makes me reluctant, as a professor, to go to the KAC. Alas. I guess be glad that there’s a separate locker room for faculty, or else things would be much tougher for you and for us alike.
I love sharing the track with students, especially baseball and track runners. Someday you’ll be glad to remember, life doesn’t end at forty.