Eric Earling - What The Hell Happened To Me?

by GEM Magazine / Jul 20, 2015 / Comments

A former colleague wrote to me recently, to ask what the inspiration was to completely change my life. On reflection, I found myself asking;

What the hell did actually happen to me?

A lot, really.

I was broken. To the core.

My life was miserable. I was unhappy, overweight and depressed. My marriage was dead. And I wasn’t the father I wanted to be.

My marriage wasn’t just dead, our relationship was in tatters after years of us both struggling against; our own flaws, the expectations of others, the damage of our past, and the grind of parenthood and life. There was more pain and anger there than either of us can put in words today. We were on the cusp of a divorce; living in the same home only because we couldn’t financially manage the physical split.

I was also at a crossroads in other relationships in my life that were (and are) the cause of great pain. I was avoiding those issue, for a lot of reasons, which only made the wound fester more.

I was on anti-depressants and in counseling. And my God did I need it.

Then I decided to make a change. Not a consciously comprehensive one either. Just something different, that ended up having more of an impact than I expected.

A friend posted a question on Facebook, asking if any of his friends would be interested in doing a Tough Mudder. I had never done anything like in my life, yet I said yes.

I quickly realized I had some serious training to do if I was to avoid being the guy who drags everyone behind. I went from working out moderately, to 7–10 times a week. Training hard and eating right too… because sustaining that regimen requires the right fuel, or you’re wasting your time.

After completing Tough Mudder, I'd built a deeper friendship, and found the infusion of working out and eating right changed me physically, mentally, and emotionally. I emerged thinner (size 30 pants today, down from a size 36), fitter (yep, I look pretty good naked), healthier (anti-depressants and blood pressure meds are gone), and more confident.

Then something happened that I have no control over. Something I have trouble putting into words.

I was really close to my wife’s grandfather, as were my lovely bride and our children. His health was declining over time, eventually spiraling rapidly over the course of several weeks before he passed away.

It was a brutal, emotional experience for all of us. We were there all day at the nursing home when he died. I was very young when my own grandparents passed. I had never experienced death up close, let alone of a love one. It was not pleasant.

And within 24 hours of his death, everything had changed.

My wife and I didn’t know it immediately. But the burdens of pain and anger that had become an insurmountable barrier in our relationship faded away. I don’t know what exactly Jim did when he left this earth, but he took some of our shit with him. Call it a final gift from a truly generous man. It was more spiritually and emotionally freeing than I can describe. And my God was it meaningful.

The following weekend Stephani and I reconciled, and we married again. In a Las Vegas wedding chapel, with just us and the officiant, straight of the Goo Goo Dolls song, “Come to Me”:

Today’s the day I’ll make you mine
So get me to the church on time
Take my hand in this empty room
You’re my girl, and I’m your groom.

And yes, holy shit do I love that girl.

We kept at it.

She quit a job she hated and started a new career she loves. We moved out a neighbourhood we detested and a home full of horrible memories, to somewhere we call home for now.

I joined her doing yoga, and fell in love with it, leading us to become certified yoga instructors.

I got back in the water last year, 19 years after swimming in college, then competed (pretty damn well) in a 2 mile open water race.

My wife and I continue to put intentional effort into growing continuously, as our journeys as individuals and as a couple evolve. It’s not easy. It has involved getting painfully real about some of our faults as human beings.

There are bumps in the road. But, we keep moving forward.

That is by no means all of my story, and as I progress on my journey, I hope to connect further with my thoughts and feelings through my writing.

To those who may be struggling like I was, I'd like you to know that there really is hope left when the days seem darkest. You too can do your own version of a Tough Mudder and hopefully that will inspire you to find the courage needed to live a life you’re passionate about.

I spent too many years not doing those things and I hope you don’t ever have to.

By Eric Earling

Eric is a health insurance executive with half-a-dozen tattoos and a certification to teach yoga. He believes in being more authentic, more intentional, happier, healthier, and having more of an impact.


Website -
Twitter - @ericearling
Instagram - @ericearling

gem's picture
The Contributor

GEM Magazine


GEM is pushing for Gender Equality, and encouraging people to share their message through free speech. It aims to create more positive ways to utilize the internet.

This publication is an open platform raising awareness and resonating with readers through truth, honesty and vulnerability on subjects affecting our daily lives.

GEM contains articles that educate, inspire and provoke thought around aspects that are of concern in our current society.

"We all have the ability to make a difference. Inside each and everyone of us, we have the power. We are the people."