WHAT ABOUT BOB?
By: Lauren Anderson
I think one of the best things in life is friendship that endures. And friends that endure with you. And more recently… friends who go with me to endurance class.
You’ve heard me talk about endurance class with Mike before (see blog post “The Buddy System”). And I’ve mentioned Maureen countless times. She’s my accountabili-buddy champion, who single-handedly gets me to attend more classes –by checking and showing up for me– than anyone else.
But what about Bob?
Last night I dragged my butt to the gym, to meet up with Maureen. Feeling excited to workout with Coach Adam again after our schedules sadly broke up the Wednesday crew. I was also feeling tentative to be back since it’s been a little while since I showed my face or rocked my bod– my holiday show calendar was a total B.
And who do I see sitting in the welcome area? The one and only Bobby Gardner.
Bobby bobby bobby. Where do I even start?
Well first of all, you may know him around Solcana as Coach Bobby. It’s good to see his smiling face. That’s one thing I’ve always loved about Bobby. No matter what mood he’s in, he always has a smile for you. We say hello and give a hug.
It’s been awhile since I’ve seen him. But that’s how it goes with Bobby. It doesn’t take long to figure out we’re both taking Adam’s endurance class tonight.
“NO WAY!!! Are we really finally doing a class together?” I exclaim.
“Finally!” Bobby offers.
“And it only took us two years…” We laugh and gather our things to head into class.
So what’s so special about working out with Bob you may ask? Well I’ll tell you. Bobby is one of those people in my life that keeps rotating around the same axis as me. Like dual moons around a star. Like two concentric circles more over-lapping than diverting, no matter how far-flung our orbits may get, they always align sooner or later. And I couldn’t be happier for it.
I first met Bobby in college.
He came to the theatre department in Mankato as a fresh-faced freshmen when I was a sophomore. We were instant friends. Not necessarily close at first, but definitely happy friends, and what I would call excellent drinking buddies. We knew how to party, and boy howdy did we party. Bobby was the same type of drinker I was. Boisterous, joyful, a bit wild, and definitely out for a good time.
We were both theatre majors, and when we weren’t partying together we were doing shows together. Sometimes we would do a show and then go party. On and on we went. We’ve done it all from Shakespeare to musicals and everything in between.
But Bobby transferred to the U of M shortly later, and I stayed on to finish up my degree. Years went by and we didn’t see each other. Until I finally moved back to Minneapolis, and we drunkenly picked right back up where we left off at an epic Halloween party.
And as happily as we came together, after that, I didn’t see him again for another couple of years.
And then I walked into rehearsal at the Brave New Workshop one day after being a main stage actor there for a few years, and guess who I saw sitting in the lobby? That’s right. Bobby!
Sober-this-time, smiling, and dressed to a ‘T’, about to go in for an audition. Well, it didn’t take long for the powers-that-be to recognize the talent and capacity of a performer like Bobby, and he was hired.
We went from College to Colleagues in no time flat. Neither one of us drank that hard anymore, but turns out we didn’t need to to still have the time of our lives. And for the next 6 years we spent almost every day together. Acting, writing, improvising, and making audiences laugh, as well as each other.
Somewhere in there, we also decided to live together as roommates. That’s when we got to see a different side of each other. Looking back, I think that was one of the hardest times in my life. If not for Bobby, it would’ve been unbearable.
I was so lost and rudderless, for the first time in my life I didn’t know what was “next”. All of my friends were “leveling up” and I was not. That inability to see the next step made me so angry. All the hurt I was feeling turned into white hot fire.
I was in what I now call “My Angry Rhino Phase”. I call it that because my mom said during those years I was kinda frightening to be around. Like the rhino cloud with the red eyes from James and the Giant Peach. Yikes right?
On top of that, my body was changing and I was rapidly gaining weight. I think I was binging because I was trying to put out the fire in my stomach. I was trying to stuff the anger down.
Meanwhile, Bobby was also at a place with his body he had never been before. His whole life he was a natural athlete, with a healthy appetite. But the older he got, I think his natural metabolism started to betray him a bit, and he could see the effects. Even though he had the joy of a new girlfriend and a new dog who loved him, we still spent many a night commiserating about food.
We went from college to co-workers to commiserators. And it’s during this time our friendship really deepened. He was there for me, and I am so grateful. But we weren’t exactly the best influences for each other when it came to food.
If this sheds any light on how low it got–after a corporate gig we did, Bobby and I were given a box of over 100 novelty solid milk chocolate bars in the shape of Blackberry cellphones.
100 SOLID CHOCOLATE BARS.
We brought them home feeling rich with our spoils, fully intending to bring them into work to share. But we never did. We hid them all over the house, in the freezer and everywhere. Most nights were “Half a cellphone” nights. But there were plenty of times we went FULL cellphone.
Full cellphone nights were the lowest nights. And you can imagine our collective horror and dismay when we went to snack on our nightly ‘phone, and they WERE GONE.
* * *
That next year, Bobby discovered CrossFit. I have to give him major props for trying to better his life while being surrounded by a bunch of jaded comedians. Artists that aren’t exactly known for taking impeccable care of themselves.
As anyone does when they’re immersing themselves into something new, soon CrossFit was all Bobby could talk about. And we teased him mercilessly for it too. But that didn’t deter him. He was on a new path, and it was inspiring. Before we knew it, he was back to his college body. But like, even stronger.
I liked talking to him about his journey too. Because I know it wasn’t/isn’t easy. It was a process. It still is. I love talking to Bobby about food, because I feel like we’re kindred spirits. We both enjoy food. We both emotionally eat. And of course, we share a serious chocolate cellphone history… he’s like my war buddy. No one quite understands unless they were there.
When I joined CrossFit a few years later, Bobby was already Coach Bobby at Solcana. He was, as always, so supportive. For years he would tell me how stupid strong I was, now I had the actual visible muscles to back it up.
In the beginning, I talked his ear off, and enjoyed sharing my new PR’s with him, and getting his off-the-clock advice on how to improve my technique. It was fun to relate to Bobby yet again, in this new way. Soon I was the cast member that could only talk about CrossFit. To his credit, Bobby NEVER ONCE teased me for it.
* * *
So here we are, on a Monday night, finally doing our first CrossFit class together. Even though we still both work at the Brave New Workshop, we’re in different divisions now, so our hours are different.
Just like the parties in college, countless shows and improv sets, or hanging out in our living room, it doesn’t take long before Bobby and I are laughing and having fun. We’ve done dance choreography together, but CrossFit is a totally different thing. And yet, somehow the two of us can come together and find the fun.
I am downright delighted that our orbits have aligned yet again at the gym.
It makes me think about the advice I’ve heard a lot while on my journey to fitness. I’ve read it and heard it over and over. They say to “surround yourself with people that will support you”. Or even, “cut out the people that put you down, that can’t/ won’t support you”.
I wish everyone who doesn’t have a supportive friend could come workout with Bobby.
Because “the what” about Bob is— even though I haven’t seen Bobby in a long time, here he is, in this whole new space, doing a whole different thing, as constant as he ever was. Giving me high fives and complimenting me on my excellent shoulder rotations.
And never without a smile to spare.
I am grateful for Bobby, and all the other friends in my life who continue to endure and grow with me. I hope I can do the same for them. Whatever that next great journey may be.
And nowadays, I’m especially grateful for friends at endurance class too.