On turning 45: A middle-age check-in

Today is my 45th birthday. Today I got laid off from my job. Today I am in love, and strong, and healthy, and feeling at my creative best. I am feeling extraordinarily grateful for the gifts I’ve been given over the years that enable me to receive news of losing my amazing job with a smile and a shrug.

45 means glowing up

By the many friends I shared the layoff news with, I was met with the same few words: Oh no! I’m so sorry! Are you okay? What will you do? I understand why people say these words, and I understand why people might think I’m devastated or heartbroken or terrified or angry. Everyone knows how much I loved the company I worked for (insofar as I can “love” any corporate entity). It has always been, by far, the most supportive, progressive, and empathy-driven organization I’ve ever worked for. But as I told my dad today, at the end of the day, we’re just laborers. It’s always the inevitable song and dance of late-stage capitalism. We’re expendable.

Celebrating my layoff with Nicole, getting burgers at Brayz

That is not what this story is about. This story is about where I stand, today, on my 45th birthday.

  • I start my 45th year jobless, but I also start my 45th year on fire with creative energy.
  • I start my 45th year overweight, but on a ferocious fitness journey.
  • I start my 45th year with far less financial security, but with intense confidence in my professional and creative skills.
  • I start my 45th year without my son Kyle, but with wild pride for my son Percival.
  • I start my 45th year today, and today was fucking awesome.

Fitness Check-in

I went to a cardiologist recently, since my primary doc felt “men of a certain age with a certain family history should probably do that”. I had an earnest talk with the new doctor, and he was quite pleased with my overall outlook. He mentioned that my egregiously high dose of thyroid medication was very unusual and asked how long I’ve been struggling with hypothyroidism. I said “I don’t even know. 20 years? More?”. He said, “Wow, that is really remarkable that you’re losing weight. I know it is twice as hard for you, maybe harder. That’s incredible. Keep up the great work.”

I’ve lost over 60 pounds since October of 2021. That month, I was 350 pounds. My decision to lose weight this time around was a culmination of many factors: Realization that I was turning 45 next year and that the inevitable march to 400 pounds would be the death of me, and that I love life and the people in it so much that I couldn’t fathom leaving this wonderous existence behind prematurely. I wanted to go on adventures with my loved ones. I wanted to never be left behind. I wanted to hike, to swim, to ride things, to sit in places and to wear clothes that actually reflected my style rather than “whatever fits”. I wanted to fit in this world. I wanted to have great sex and wanted to be desired by people. I wanted to be alive for my son and my nephews, to see them grow and live and love.

This is the first time my weight loss came from a mental health journey rather than any major habit changes, dietary restrictions, or miserable exercise routines. I started to change my relationship with food and stopped trying to punish myself and stopped trying to figure out which way to restrict myself. My new approach is loving, and kind to myself: one of my very biggest struggles. I am learning to listen to my body. I stop eating when I am full. I don’t eat late. I don’t eat when I’m bored. I don’t eat when I’m sad. I eat more thoughtfully: far less meat, far more vegetables. I have stopped restricting myself and beating myself up about food. I still snack on candy, but I also love fruit. I still snack on chips, but I also love tomatoes and pickles. I keep mixed nuts at my desk to munch on when I’m being thoughtless.

I started taking longer walks but no matter how much I try, I just hate walking for the sake of walking. It bores me to death. But I stopped framing it that way, and instead started to see walking as a journey rather than a task. I fell in love with the idea of hiking with Nicole, and I needed to get fitter to do that.

That question struck to the very heart of decades of trauma. Visions of being asked to leave lines on roller coasters, visions of breaking chairs, visions of leaving restaurants because I couldn’t fit in any seats.

I went through a tough break-up in February and then got extremely sick in March, so things slowed down a bit but never stopped.

In April, an old friend struck up a conversation with me that I later realized was flirting, and a new relationship was born. My new partner Sprout is boundlessly energetic, contagiously joyful, and indescribably athletic and dynamic. She never stops moving. She’s also a lot younger than me. How would a fat 44-year-old guy be able to keep up with this fireball? She made it easy to believe I could. She never once saw me as a man with limitations. She simply believes that things I can’t do are things I can’t do yet. The first time she came over, she tried to get me to do acro-yoga with her; if you know me, you will say that me trying acro-yoga is ridiculous and would probably laugh at the idea. But she didn’t even once hesitate or see anything wrong with that. She said things like “Your legs are strong, you could probably base me so well” or “wow, you seem like you have great stability”. She does not see limits with me.

She is absolutely addicted to climbing, and I mean that in the most direct way possible: she loves climbing pretty much more than anything and she won’t stop, and I love that about her. It’s healthy and interesting and fun. She just barreled ahead with the idea that she wanted me to visit a climbing gym with her, and that was that. So finally, I agreed to go, but I wanted Nicole to go too. Nicole was also interested in climbing, and Sprout being experienced was a great reason to get to it.

She just climbs everywhere. All the time.

And then we went. I watched. I took photos, and I absorbed the sounds and sights and feelings that overwhelmed me. I will write about this elsewhere, but gyms are places of deep anxiety for me. This gym, however, was different. Having Sprout just bound up walls and laugh and grin and bounce with excitement about the idea of me climbing, and watching Nicole conquer her trepidation around heights was an enlightening experience. I had a thought on that very first visit: I want to do this too. They are making it look so fun. But was it possible for a fat guy to climb?

The Imp and the Goblin at the gym

Sprout went back home for a month, but then returned in June, and this time I told her I’d go climbing with her. How could I not?

At this point, I had crossed a significant weight-loss goal. For the first time in many years, I was back under 300 pounds, and in fact recently hit 290.

We arrived at the climbing gym, signed in, and I began the mandatory intro orientation. When we got to the part where we needed to just try things out, the instructor pointed to me and said, “Okay, you’re going first. Clip in and get up there!”

This was it. I was standing there surrounded by a big group of people, and the pressure was on. I had no choice. I stepped up to the ropes and he stopped me and said, “I’m so sorry. For safety reasons, I need to ask. Can I ask how much you weigh?”

That question struck to the very heart of decades of trauma. Visions of being asked to leave lines on roller coasters, visions of breaking chairs, visions of leaving restaurants because I couldn’t fit in any seats.

I said, “290” and he said “okay, great! Get up there!”

It took everything I had to choke off the burst of emotion and the sob that wanted to shriek out of me. I clipped in. I put my hands on the holds and took my first step onto a 40-foot vertical wall. I pulled myself up, and I moved my other foot to another hold. I grabbed another one. I climbed. I looked down at Sprout and Nicole, my beautiful, supportive, wonderful partners, and I saw the ferocious pride and love shining in their eyes. I was climbing.

Can you believe it? I can’t

This past winter, I decided to plan a surprise trip for Nicole’s 40th birthday in July. I wanted it to be a grand adventure, because that is what she loves, and because that is what she deserves. I spent months planning a trip that involved things I never thought I would do again: hiking, camping, and climbing. I knew I had to get fitter to go on this trip with her, so that is what I am doing. We leave this week, and I am 60 pounds lighter, more capable, stronger, and more confident than I’ve been in decades.

I can’t talk about fitness without mentioning my son Kyle. For years, he begged me to lose weight and get fit. He wanted to go on bike rides with me and wanted me to get out of my chair more. He wanted to travel with me. He was killed in 2019 and I never got to go on a bike ride with him. This is one of my biggest regrets in life, and I will not let something like this happen again. I am doing this to honor my son. I know he would have been freaking out to see me climbing and hiking, and he would have been my biggest cheerleader.

Today I got to climb with my other son, Percival. This is a dream come true for me. Tonight, Nicole told me, “I wish there was a word better than ‘proud’ to describe how I feel about this”. I understand. It’s the same way I feel. It’s almost like coming back to life. Resurrection. Despair had set in, and I had gotten to a point where a certain path in life seemed to be set: I would be fat for my whole adult life, and that is how I would die. I no longer feel that way. How do you describe that?

Climbing with my son. A dream come true.

Relationship Check-in

I am in two incredible romantic relationships.

I have been with Nicole for 12 years now, married almost 9, and we are more in love than we’ve ever been. Our relationship has been forged in fire, tempered with life experiences ranging from the most egregious love imaginable to the very limits of despair when we lost Kyle. Yesterday she looked at me and said, “How did I get so lucky to find you?” and I said no—this is not luck. We fucking fought for this. We earned this. Despite being absolutely completely different people today than we were when we met, we have always done the work to grow together, to accommodate each other’s needs, and to use our love to always meet in the middle. Our love has grown ten million times over these twelve years, and it’s because we both put in endless effort to make it work.

Having birthday dinner with Nicole

Sprout is someone I met almost two years ago within my friend group. She and I often talked about silly things like my attempts to capture a feral cat, or video games, but eventually our conversations grew more intimate. She knew I was in a polyamorous relationship, and she was also polyamorous—though in her words, she was new to it. She asked me if I could be available for advice on relationship matters or general life issues that young adults go through, and I was. I was her “poly consultant” and she bounced relationship questions off of me. She eventually developed feelings for me and let me know—something I wasn’t expecting it at all. I stopped to check in with Nicole and with my therapist, both of whom reassured me that everything about this seemed healthy and good. And so it was. We started shifting our dynamic from friendship to something more, and eventually we met up, and the chemistry was very real, and here we are.

Sprout and Nicole care for each other and get along so well. I cannot describe the level of happiness I have experienced lately, seeing these two interacting, enjoying each other’s company, making jokes with each other, and conspiring to take care of me, tease me, and love me. There is a theme to our relationship, and we have all sort of settled on the idea that I am surrounded by fae creatures. Troublemakers.

Team Fae

Nicole is a goblin. She grunts. She is often dirty and grungy. She collects random objects. She loves bones and rocks and mushrooms and sticks. She forages. She mumbles. It is utterly unsurprising when she shows up with an animal skull that still has bits of meat on it. “I found this” she will say.

Sprout is an imp. She giggles relentlessly. She never stops moving. She scampers around and skitters everywhere. Underfoot, overhead, pinging back and forth. She is there at your side and then gone. Did she go up the stairs? Down the hall? Outside? One never knows. She perches. She hangs upside down. She hunches and scrunches her face and sticks her tongue out often. She’s a complete and utter troublemaker.

They have determined that I am a dwarf: I’d rather be underground. I prefer the dark to the sunlight. I’m stoic and solid and reliable. I’m rowdy when it is called for and silent when it is not.

I also have another partner on the periphery. Haven is a fairy. Ethereal, electric, magical—a shapeshifter and a divine creature who may have wings and glitter one day and the next be adorned in black and steel and leather and spikes. They are a spirit creature that flits and darts around the edges of my circle, and it would be easy to believe that fairies aren’t real—but then I catch a glimpse, my heart races, and they wink and remind me that they love me. They watch out for me from a distance and check in on me and know me so well, and I remember: they are very real.

Fairies are real

Nicole has a goblin boyfriend—similarly devious and cackling. Sprout has a gremlin partner who is strong and stoic and who stomps around and barks out in laughter and causes chaos. We call this aggregation of magical creatures “Team Fae”. We are a fae polycule. What a life. Certainly not the life my grandmother envisioned for me, but something beyond the comprehension of my ancestors and something that will be legendary to my descendants.

One of the primary joys of polyamory is that we are free to explore a wide spectrum of relationships with anybody we connect with. I have queerplatonic relationships that are very loving and fulfilling. Another one of my relationships is blurry and fascinating. We are definitely more than friends, and have even referred to each other as partners, but for a variety of reasons we cannot escalate our relationship to anything beyond being close friends who love each other maybe just a bit more than friends normally would. I also have another person I’ve called my partner, and we love each other deeply, and that’s where it stays. These relationships are platonic in the sense that they are not physical (other than the normal hugging and any other affection that close friends would share), but the feelings are real. I am also currently enraptured by yet another fae creature, a forest nymph who keeps a cadre of wild things like crows and racoons and foxes around her and who seems to have command over animals beyond what a reasonable normal human could ever achieve. She’s also exceedingly creative and I am just fascinated with everything she does.

Because of polyamory, I am free to have and to pursue all of these rich and textural relationships—not only without fear or shame or guilt, but rather with the full support and encouragement of my other partners. It’s truly a beautiful way to live. It’s so fucking real. It feels radical in a world that needs it, and it feels right.

I went through a very hard breakup this past winter, and while I was nursing my wounds, I realized that the problem was that I had tried forming a relationship with a wonderful but “normal” woman. Deeply loving, charming, and wildly intelligent though she was, she was not a fae creature and she was not polyamorous, and we broke each other’s hearts in the way that a Disney movie never could. No love story has ever had a plot like this one. She once told me scornfully, “You like goth girls”, and I wanted to say “No! I like fae creatures”, but I didn’t have the heart to explain the difference. She wanted so badly for me to be a normal human person, but I’m just not. It’s not her fault. It’s not my fault. It’s just the way it is.

Career Check-in

I almost made it three years at my job. It was a good run but for most of 2021 and 2022, there was a downward slide into malaise and apathy as I was continually failed by people who were supposed to be my leaders. Inept re-organizations, ego races that I wanted nothing to do with, empire-builders, social climbers, and people who repeatedly lied to my face caused me to understand that my place at this company was quickly fading. I hadn’t had a raise or a performance review in over a year—something that is not supposed to be able to happen. I found myself always slipping through the cracks. For a time, the company had no idea who my manager even was. I would try to re-engage but be rebuffed by cancelled meetings, an utter lack of checking in with me, and a complete and total disregard for my opinion on many things. “What’s my budget for 2021?” I would ask in December of 2020. “We’re working on it!” was the reply. When did I find out what my budget was? July of 2021, over half-way through the year.

It also is quite telling that I was heavily compensated in company stock and while that led me to a level of wealth I never thought I would achieve in my life, it also proved that my “wealth” was tied to the whims of forces far beyond my control. When the company stock viciously plummeted this year, so too did my luck. That certainly didn’t help my mood.

In March, I was recruited pretty relentlessly by another company. Even though I rebuffed several attempts at meeting with them, I finally agreed to meet with the co-founder for a short chat so he could sell me the vision of his company. And he did. I bought in. I indicated my interest in the opportunity. It was a higher-level role than my current job, and you know the old saying: The best way to get a promotion is to leave. Over the next several months, I met with a whole slew of executives and leaders at this company, and each time along the way the recruiters told me things were going extremely well, that they were all impressed with my passion, my expertise, and my vision. Then, mid-way through the interview process (mind you, this was weeks and weeks in), they moved the goalposts and re-wrote the job description and the title, even while assuring me that the pay scale was the same and not much would be different. I should have bailed then and saved myself hours of my life, but I kept going on through the process, getting more hopeful every week.

Finally, just a week ago, the recruiter phoned me and said that she was extremely disappointed to report that I did not get the job. She had worked on my account for months and had high hopes that I was the right fit. I gave her my feedback about the interview process, and she agreed to pass it on.

That door closed very quickly, and now here we are a week later, and I’ve lost my actual job too, but my life has taught me some very hard lessons, and I find myself going back to my Buddhist roots and reciting the four noble truths, which continue to prove time and time again to be genuinely true.

Now this, bhikkhus, is the noble truth of suffering: birth is suffering, aging is suffering, illness is suffering, death is suffering; union with what is displeasing is suffering; separation from what is pleasing is suffering; not to get what one wants is suffering

— from the first teachings of the Buddha, the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta

The four noble truths that form the core of my philosophy are as follows:

  • Existence means suffering. To live is to suffer
  • Suffering happens because of attachments and desires
  • The way to end suffering is to learn how to let go of attachments and desires
  • There is a way to learn how to let go. It is possible to achieve this

Without getting too into the weeds (you can always read more or ask me about my path if you’re interested), essentially, I strive to live my life like the Buddha. I understand impermanence. I understand suffering and the cessation of such. I understand attachments, and I understand how to let go. I may not have mastered the art of not giving a fuck, but I’m getting pretty close to it. And losing my job is not something I give a fuck about these days.

I’ll find something new, better, and more fulfilling than before. Another lesson I’ve learned along the way, here in the middle of my life, is that I am capable, skilled, and an excellent communicator. I have learned to love my brain and I trust myself completely when it comes to being able to recognize and latch onto the correct kind of opportunities. I’m not afraid to say no to things that don’t meet my exacting standards. I love myself enough to do that.

Family Check-in

I miss my family. The pandemic put an end to our regular holiday gatherings; the Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings that had been a staple for my entire life simply ended and haven’t yet recovered. It is now exceedingly obvious that these were the only times I saw my extended family: my aunts and uncles, my cousins, their kids, and so on. Both sides of my family were always very close when I was growing up, so this feels very strange. I was just telling my dad that I want to see my aunts and uncles again and so hopefully that will happen this fall and this winter.

This is my nephew Aiden. I need to be a bigger part of his life.

I have barely seen my sister or my nephews either. My nephews are growing up without knowing me that well, and it bothers me. This also applies to my friends who are like my siblings, and their kids too. This is one of the few areas of my life that I’m not content with, and that I need to act on.

Final thoughts

My life is rich. I am an extremely wealthy man in all the things that matter. I am loved by so many, and I experience joy every single day. There will always be the undercurrent of the unfathomable loss I live with, but I recently told Sprout that the grief was a gift. I understand what’s important now, and I also understand what is not. That is a lesson my son has given me, and it is one that has helped me create a beautiful life.

I am now in the second half of my life. Everything that has come before feels as if it was preparing me for this. I am calm, I am confident, and I know who I am and what I need. I know how to communicate, I know how to care for others, and I know how to understand people’s true intentions. I have learned over and over again to trust my gut instincts. I feel that I am getting less intelligent but gaining wisdom, and I love that.

I love my life, and the people in it. If I were to die tonight, I would die a happy and fulfilled person. To life this way every day until that moment is all that I strive for.


  1. Appreciate you sharing, Brian. I missed your birthday! Happy 45!

    I certainly can relate to your fitness journey. Recently I saw “Everything Everywhere All at Once”, and as a visual person, I’ve begun visualizing decisions I make through a multiverse lens. Whenever I don’t feel like being active, or going to the gym, or eating better, I view myself splitting in two and going opposite directions. One me makes better choices and progress and the other doesn’t. I get to then choose to be the me that makes progress, bit by bit, leaving parts of me I don’t like to take a different path in a universe I choose not to live in. So far it’s helping, especially since I struggle with eating tied to mental health. I’m glad to hear about some of your approaches as well.

    As someone who’s name means “resurrection” I’m more than proud of you too. And Nicole is right. There needs to be a better word than just “proud”.

    Sending more joy and light your way!


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