My name is Arun Nair, and I’m pretty unremarkable to look at as a student here. I’m Indian, and I have a mustache (which is typical, especially for South Indians like me) and glasses. If you talk to me, you’ll hear that I have a bit of a speech impediment.

No surprises so far. What you probably won’t guess is that I’m a 35-year-old veteran of the US Army who served in Iraq from 2007 to 2009.

I stay active because I have to. I feel dead if I don’t. I had to go one day without working out in the past few years: when I first came back to school and the gym hadn’t opened yet, I was out of luck because it was too late to do yoga. I felt lost, as though I were moving through molasses. The sun rises every morning, and I do yoga every morning so I don’t repeat this experience. 

I also know it’s not just discipline, but I’m also incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to exercise every day — from the good people who drive my bus to the people who work at the gym to keep it running in good order for me to use. Then, of course, there are my parents, who had me and raised me here in New York, where I attend one of the best public universities in the world, and I can write a bit about some of the things I’m grateful for.

I was the smartest kid I knew, with a 1590 SAT — because I got impatient on a math question and didn’t show the work — but now I’m brain-damaged. This motivates me to work out every day in the hopes of improving.

I saw videos on YouTube by the good people at “What I’ve Learned” (and others) that told me aerobic exercise helps neuroplasticity (our brains’ ability to grow new neurons, new cells; not just synapses, connections between those cells), so I try to run and do yoga every day.

I go to the gym every day while I’m here at Stony Brook because it’s available for everybody to use. Right now, I’m training for the Murph challenge, which involves a one-mile run followed by 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 300 squats and another one-mile run, all in a 20-lb vest or body armor. I think I need to focus on pull-ups, so I plan on running every day along with a set of 100 pull-ups (broken up by a set of 100 crunches) every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

My speech is mangled now just like my body was, after a car accident I was in (the details of that aren’t important, but I wasn’t driving, and I’m trying to make my life now moving forward), in 2012.

I don’t have kids, so this is the main focus of my life now — speech therapy once a week, yoga, meditation and exercise every day, and of course, doing well in my classes here at Stony Brook University.

Gratitude is the best thing I can possibly have that money can’t buy. It informs everything I do. For example, right now, my vision is blurry because my optometrist is trying a new lens on my glasses. But rather than be upset about this, I’m grateful that I have an optometrist, that I was able to travel to go see him, and really, that I can see at all.

I’m grateful to have access to clean water and healthy food options, the types of which are specific to the university town of Stony Brook, N.Y. Most people throughout history have not had access to these provisions.

I think it is important to be grateful for all these things that we have been given, because we really do have a whole lot.

Thank you for reading so far.


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