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Root & Rise | Sustainable Fitness

You, Me, and the Roman Empire

Published 7 months ago • 5 min read

My TikTok feed was an avalanche of idealistic morning routines, seasonal salad recipes, know-your-worth manifestos and sparkling footage from the corners of the earth. The algorithm knew me well.

Until the end of this summer when the Roman Empire first appeared.

I don’t remember where I was but I do remember the words “Roman Empire” flashing by as my little thumb raced to find something more worth my time.

Ten “Roman Empire” videos later, I gave in. I even unmuted my phone.

I landed on a video with over 3 million views from a former contestant of The Bachelor, Hannah Brown. Following the trend, she recorded a video as she asked her fiancé how frequently he thought about the Roman Empire.

Without hesitation, he replied “Pretty consistently,” and went on to defend that 1. He thinks about it weekly, and 2. He’s really into martial arts, so he imagines himself walking into the Colosseum to fight to the death. With an audience.

My jaw hung open and I cracked a laugh out of disbelief.

Pretty consistently?! For a guy that looked too pretty to keep up with ancient times, I was shocked. He thinks about walking into the Colosseum to fight to the death? You’re kidding.

It was the first I heard of it since social studies, junior year.

The further the trend carried me downstream, the more I understood that men marvel at the Roman Empire for all sorts of reasons. From fighting in the Colosseum, to developments made in politics, government and architecture, to the philosophies and values it was built upon - the Roman Empire was a symbol of masculinity, power, competition, and legacy. I think I get it, I eventually confessed, but I just can’t relate.

Or so I thought.

***

Five or six years ago, as I navigated my yo-yo dieting, binge and restricting, all-or-nothing tendencies toward fitness and nutrition, I stumbled across Ryan Holiday’s The Daily Stoic on some influencer’s Instagram. The daily passages and meditations they shared on their story always pulled me out of the scrolling void.

The pages were built upon thoughts and insights from philosophers that lived during (gasp) the Roman Empire, and over time, they became a central part of my morning routine. As I sat up in my puddle of pillows, I’d pull The Daily Stoic from my bedside table and read the lines through my blurry morning eyes.

With every rising sun, the words and themes from those pages settled into my soul. They rattled the scarcity mindset that drove my unhealthy behaviors. They challenged me as I questioned my own self-deception. They pushed me to take responsibility for my thoughts and actions, and ultimately, to master my mind.

Memento Mori (literally translated to “remember you must die”) was a guiding practice of ancient stoicism where they meditated on their fate, their mortality and their impermanence. To The Stoics, Death was their very own “Roman Empire.”

Seneca once said: “Let us prepare our minds as if we’d come to the very end of life. Let us postpone nothing. Let us balance life’s books each day. … The one who puts the finishing touches on their life each day is never short of time.”

In Meditations, Marcus Aurelius wrote that “You could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do and say and think.”

Neither of these quotes were about death. They were about life in the shadow of death. They were about their reality. Their fate. The same one that you and I are living in right this second.

***

In September of 2022, I held my Dad’s weathered hands as I watched the sunset over and over and over again from the third floor window of the ICU in what felt like the middle of nowhere, Oregon. Most nights, a tangerine haze drenched the sky as the sun dipped below the grainy horizon. I felt the pull of time like gravity - constant, ruthless, always there.

On the tenth night, after the tenth sunset and my tenth hospital dinner and ten sleeps in that unforgiving room, the clouds rolled in, the world outside became dark and damp, and we finally said goodbye. Like the sun, he was here one moment, gone the next. But he wasn’t coming back.

Standing at the feet of fate, I came eye to eye with his end of time, and it reminded me of mine.

From that point forward, I vowed to live a life full of purpose, action, courage and responsibility for him.

I vowed to do it now.

***

When I think about death, or when I feel its vibration from a loss so close that it swallows me, I confront the dissolving time we are all sentenced to. I see that all I have, that all we have, is now.

As I meditate on this and visit it daily, I find the urgency to live today. To pick up the pieces. To face my fears. To be intentional. To be mindful. To have courage. To prioritize the things that give life meaning. To live out my dreams and work toward my goals. Right now.

As you look to the end, I want you to do the same.

Reflect on your life, your body, your habits, your routines, your mindset and your goals. Ask yourself –

Where do I need to take action? What do I need to improve? How do my priorities need to change? Do I want a sharp mind and a strong body? Do I want to feel confident? More focused and productive? Pleased by the choices I made and the things I accomplished? Do I want to be proud of the way I lived for the time I was allotted?

When describing Memento Mori, Ryan Holiday says “Use those reminders and meditate on them daily—let them be the building blocks of living your life to the fullest and not wasting a second.”

Think about this (and the Roman Empire) every single day.

I do.

your daily pick me up

Take a few minutes to journal through the questions I listed above. Then take a few more minutes to list one thing you can do today for each one of your responses that helps you live in urgency. What is one tiny step you can take right now that will help you act, feel, or be any of the ways you listed? What will help you reach your goals?

Repeat after me...

I am not guaranteed tomorrow so I take action today. I have the power and agency to be, look, feel and do whatever I truly want. I prioritize the time I'm given now.

Say this affirmation out loud in the mirror 10 times every day. Write it in your journal over and over. Visualize it before bed. Feel it. Believe it.

What I’m loving

Last night I had my final live session of the writing course that's been ruling my life that I've been taking, Write of Passage. If you're a writer or have any interests in improving your writing online, get on the waitlist for the next cohort in April.

If you're not a writer but have made it this far, check out this article, The Brain Believes in Second Chances, from a fellow WOP alumni, Maymie Chan. I read this piece a couple of weeks ago after her first draft and then again yesterday after she hit publish, and she made so much progress and so many improvements. She beautifully infuses her world and her voice with more scientific and practical explanations, a perfect balance. Give it a read and give her a subscribe!

Have a great rest of your week! Be sure to soak up the fall weathers and colors while you still can.

💕 Morgan

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Root & Rise | Sustainable Fitness

by Morgan Kitzmiller

✨Find your light, your strength & your power 🌱Grow into your most confident self 💪🏻Build a healthy lifestyle you can actually keep

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