Adam (24) lives in Chicago Heights, and is originally from the nearby Sauk Village. He is studying for his Associate’s degree in fitness and exercise, and is a proud vegan and Cross-Fitter. I met him at the vegan restaurant “Kalish” on Wilson for lunch and an interview.
What is philosophy for you?
Philosophy to me is a way of living. So, when people talk about being spiritual, I tend to say that philosophy is my gateway to whatever spirituality is to me. I use the ideas, I use the lessons, the behaviors and models within philosophy as a guidepost to how to live. Some people use religion, some people use yoga or Buddha or things like that, I think all that falls within philosophy in some shape or form.
So, for example, what kind of principles guide your way of life?
For me, Integrity is a strong principle, so I try to do as I say or at least be as I say I am or expect to be. That’s why I follow a vegan diet, that’s why I do CrossFit. I say I want to try to be healthy so I do things that acquire those things, I say I want to be smart, so I try to go school and try to do well, not just to get A’s but to actually know what I’m talking about, so I study.
As a young person, living in today’s society, how do you see the future, as an individual and as a society?
It’s harder for me to think of the future in broad terms as I used to. I’ll be 25 in a month or so. When I was a kid it was much easier for me to think about the future, in the sense of society is going to have this or that advancement when I’ll be an adult, or in 10 years. Now when I’m an adult it’s harder for me to think like that, because I don’t really know. But when I think of my own future, it’s hard for me to think of anything special. Maybe if I’m lucky I’ll do something respectable in my life, something influential in my community.
What do you mean by respectable?
Something that I and other people can admire that I do. So like my coaches at Cross Fit, they’re just firefighters, who the head coach just runs the gym and they work at his gym. It’s not like you took them, put them on a piece of paper, it’s not like “put them in the history books. But they do something that people who know them, admire them for, they’re admirable people in that right. So something like that, I don’t see like super success, or big fame, or big family or something like that.
What kind of thing do you need to do to be admired by your fellow human beings?
Honestly, all I think you need to do is have quality relationships with people, be dependable, be someone who is respectable in their job. Just take serious responsibilities that other people aren’t willing to take, that don’t harm the other too...
What I mean is… let’s say I know vegan rights activists, they feel like they’re taking a huge responsibility that no one cares about and they are in a sense, but when they’re doing that they may ignore maybe more subtle relationships with their family and friends, they can hurt other people or shame other people and things like that, which is harming their reputation, it’s harming the cohesion in the group, or in society at large, between them and other people. So taking responsibilities that other people don’t want to take but doing it in the best way possible, not doing it in a way that takes away from the more little things. So, if I can somehow manage to do that, then I’ll be Ok.
Could there be something that prevents you from doing that?
One wound that some people may have is that they feel they’re not good enough in a sense, and sometimes they feel they won’t measure up to people who they admire and want to be like, and when they feel that way, they may choose another direction or not to do anything at all, and hopefully I will just keep having the courage or the ability to keep doing things. I’m trying to go back to school and embody what I expect from myself, but at some point maybe my funds from the army will run out, and then even if I had the desire, maybe practically I won’t be able to do that. If that happens, what will I do then? Will I simply stop and give up?
Some people were on the right path, and then something happened in their lives, it blocked them or slowed them down and they just decided “it’s just not for me”.
So you’re saying these desires are from the inside, but some external circumstances can block you?
I believe that it’s ultimately from the inside, but I think that even if there are external barriers, people tend to dim it. If it’s an external barrier, then they forget that’s actually where it came from and they just let whatever the circumstances dictate what they do afterwards, so I just want to try find ways to avoid that happening to me.
In what way?
For example, really simple thing, try to eat healthy all the time, that’s one way I do it, cause that’s important for me, that’s one reason why I went vegan, I thought it was an easy way to protect myself from my bad habits of doing whatever, eating whatever.
You mentioned quality relationships, what did you mean by that?
Quality relationship to me will be one where the two people have a symbiotic relationship, their relationship is to the advantage of both of them. They can respect each other, they can rely on each other for things, they can both be vulnerable with each other, and feel safe, not feeling that the other person will use what they say against them. It’s trying to be win-win as much as possible.
I think the simplest way to put it is win-win. In most regards. It can’t always be that way, but in the most part. Do you want to be someone that people are glad that they knew? Or just someone like “I remember him” and that’s it. Or even not remember him, just a person I passed by.
What would you wish to see more in the world?
I think it goes back to what I said before. Sometimes when I look at things, people outside of my world, in interviews and talk-shows or whatever. Maybe what I would like to see more of is like I said before, a certain integrity, in what’s branded, or what’s represented to be in the world. Let’s say you look at politics, or you look at the news, it’s always talking about corruption, about how people are not how they’re supposed to act. You know, presidents who are not admirable, politicians who don’t really speak for the people, jobs where people are simply going through the motion, they don’t really do their jobs, right? I would like to see a world where they were what they said they were or what they claim to be. The world would be better, maybe it would be harder, school won’t be as easy maybe, but people who pass school you could actually trust them, it won’t be just a degree, it would actually mean something.
You’re approaching 25, what advice would you give your younger self?
I would say just commit. When I was younger I was unsure about a lot of things. As you get older a lot of times you assume all kinds of responsibilities people expect you to take. So let’s say you have a job, so now you start working that job everyday, you clock in, do what you need to do, and you go home, and you’re just doing it because that’s what other people expect you to do. Maybe there are things you wanted to do but you were never sure if that’s the right choice or not, because all these other people are telling you different things about how to get there, what you ought to be doing and things like that. You weren’t even sure if you believe in yourself enough to do those things and so if I was younger had I just said I will just do it and see what happens. If I just committed more, a lot of things would work out, and I’ll have a richer life.
Committing in what sense?
Committing means just giving yourself to it, putting all your effort into doing that. Let’s say I want to be a police officer, I’m going to put the effort to become a police officer and try to do that. And let’s say down the road I change my mind, there are going to be some consequences, but you gained something from committing to that experience. If you put your efforts into learning to play piano but you say at a certain point I’m not going to be a pianist, you still know how to play the piano and that’s beneficial to you.
You don’t know where life is going to take you, so you just commit to things and you get the most out of it, versus wasting away, wasting all your time, being lost. I feel it actually works even more in relationships. A lot of people don’t go into a relationship because they are not sure if they should commit to this person or not, if this is the right person. And maybe if I had just committed more often, commit like this is the one, then maybe I would have gained some things, some experiences, for that area of my life, but I haven’t done that so I don’t get these experiences.
Last question: one experience in your life that has made you a better person?
Honestly, I think it was when I had to break up with my ex in college. I think it made me a better person. I also dropped out of college right after that too. I felt that I kind of had everything I wanted in that age, and then everything was gone. Not because people were bad, but because I hadn’t done the things that were necessary to keep it in place in the first place. I was on a shaky ground from the beginning. Winging it. Had I done more things to build an actual solid foundation for what I’m doing and why I’m doing things then maybe I would’ve found ways to sustain that.
It just made me take things I do more seriously. I’m building a solid foundation that won’t easily be rocked. I’m actually learning to face things more often, but I’m not going to battle without armor. I actually have good equipment now.