Why I Gave My Gym Away.
The answer might surprise you.
“Why are you doing this?” My protege—let’s call him, Bill—asked. His brows knit together, and his blue eyes turned several shades darker and gem-like with each blink.
I licked my lips and opened my mouth with intent to answer—
“And don’t tell me you’re ‘just paying it forward.’” He said.
Fucker knows me too well, my mind quipped.
He began rapping his fingers over the letter I had an attorney prepare which, in layman’s terms, said: sign on the line which is dotted and I, Hunter Michael Charneski, shall relinquish one-hundred percent of my shares to you, Bill So and So, making you the new sole-owner of Freak Faktory Barbell & Sports Performance effective immediately.
I perched my elbows on the table between us and wrung my hands together, bringing them to my mouth as eyes wandered, seemingly searching for the right answer…
An orange disc with seventy-six written in blue letters hung on the wall to my right with the words Official Fuel of NASCAR stamped and faded on its edge. My eyes arched left, taking in other antiques Famous Dave’s had on display: an oil can with enough rust on it to make it look cancerous, an aged photo of Richard Petty with a gold plate underneath that read, “The King” and enough other useless memorobilia to give any avid garagesaler a raging hard on, (no offense, Gary Vee).
After my search had ended, I pursed my lips, took a deep breath and said: “Because you’re worth it,” I nodded. “Because you’re worth it.”
What a crock of shit.
Not the worth part, no—he was most definitely worth it. The kid busted his ass for me, our clients, and that damn gym for two-and-a-half years. Make no mistake, he earned every single share I “gave” him.
Having said that, just because the kid was worth his weight in gold doesn’t make what I said any less of a lie—that was not why I gave my gym away.
Here’s the real reason…
I could hear bass.
The kind of bass that gets your blood moving. The kind of bass that gets your heart thumping. The kind of bass that makes you see sound when you’re up to your eyes in acid, cocaine, and God knows what else.
It was the winter of 2018. I was on the top floor of the Big Old Building, (aka “the BOB”) in Grand Rapids at the only nightclub in town.
I remember sitting on a white sofa in a VIP corner. My sweat-soaked shirt clung to my chest, feeling like a second skin with each breath I took.
I remember staring at a RESERVED FOR HUNTER CHARNESKI sign on the drinks table in front of me with a chrome bowl big enough to bathe a toddler. It was filled bottles of only the finest liquor and ice that looked like crushed diamonds.
I remember watching my friends out on the dimly-lit dancefloor, blending in with the crowd and swaying like one single impassive giant.
I remember keeling over as if life itself had struck me with an awful and sudden blow. It felt like my organs stopped working.
I fished my phone out of my pocket and dialed my ex-girlfriend.
“Hello?” She said, (the concern in her voice had become all too familiar at this point).
At first I didn’t answer. My mind’s eye revealed a satanic image of a little boy trapped in a square cell deep in the depths of my soul, rattling the bars and crying, begging to be let out.
“Hello?” She said again, “Hunter?”
Torrents of tears streamed down my face as my mouth drew down and back as I said: “This isn’t fun anymore.”
Whaddya mean, player? The haters who read this will probably think. Bitches, ballin’, and booze ain’t all it’s cracked up to be?
On the contrary. It is, in fact, all it’s cracked up to be, and then some. As someone who lived that lifestyle for three-years, let me tell you, “cracked up” is just the beginning.
First to crack was my character. A white lie here, another there.
Then, those little cracks became yawning chasms as manipulation became synonymous with masturbation. Seeing—and using—people as pawns in order to get me closer to whatever the hell I wanted: money, sex, the next retarded reward or recognition, you name it.
But the worst part was when those miniscule cracks became monstrous canyons, seemingly spanning into invitations for all-things insidious to pour into me until I was filled with another person entirely—a person I couldn’t recognize when I looked in the mirror minutes after calling my ex-girlfriend…
My eyes were as black as fish eggs. It was like I was staring into an Abyss.
“If you stare into the Abyss long enough the Abyss stares back at you”—Friedrich Nietzche
Nietzche was right. As I stared into the depths of despair that were my pupils, that little boy stared right back at me, drowning in gothic seas in either eye, each its own separate and particular hell.
That moment felt like something straight out of a horror movie, and it was then and there I made the decision.
I had to go.
I was so disgusted with the person I had become, I had to rid myself of everything I owned and run—including the gym.
I tried to sell it, but the appraiser—a wily old fart with wiry eyebrows that wouldn’t quit and silver tufts of hair above his ears that needed a double-dose of shampoo—shook his head, sighed and said: “The business isn’t worth much without you, (me),” he said. “I don’t think you can sell it.”
Trapped wasn’t the word.
Ball-and-chain didn’t cut it either.
It felt like I was in charge of an infant who’d never grow up and always needed to be fed—always.
So, I did the most logical thing I could think of made the executive decision to give the fucking thing away.
Not because I was “paying it forward,” (I was doing anything but, believe me).
Not because I was being noble. Tah! Noble. That’s a good one. Nefarious is more like it.
And certainly not because I was being selfless. Hell no. Giving that gym away was the most selfish thing I’ve ever done. It freed me from the burden of owning a business.
“Giving that gym away was the most selfish thing I’ve ever done. It freed me from the burden of owning a business.”
But as I’d soon come to realize, there’s no such thing as “something for nothing,” I’d get mine sooner or later.
“I’m going to Phoenix next week,” I said, pushing a white piece of paper across the table towards Bill. “And when I do, Freak Faktory will have a new owner.”
Bill’s lips flattened like a stress line. “You’re giving me the gym?”
“Why are you doing this?” He asked. “And don’t tell me you’re ‘just paying it forward.’”
“Because you’re worth it,” I said. “Because you’re worth it.”
He signed the document, and I left for Phoenix the next week, thinking that running away from my problems and isolating myself in a new world would fix everything.
Now that was a crock of shit.
You see, unfortunately for me, when I arrived in Phoenix just a day-and-a-half later, I had a sobering realization: an 1,800 mile drive didn’t do as much “fixing” as I had hoped.
Because wherever you go, there you are.