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Quarantine Chronicles: Warren Arbury 

WARREN ARBURY is passionate about being healthy, both physically and mentally. From his job at Brighter Day to his runs around the city to his conscious choice to be positive, Warren tries his best to be a beacon of light.

This is his Quarantine Chronicle.

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How are you doing?

I have a joke with my ex, because he asked me the other day in a very Oprah way, “So how are you?” I was like, it’s me you’re talking to! We both know I was fucking crazy before this started, so maybe in a weird way I’m actually normal!

The thing is, I was in the military for seven years, I was deployed three times, and on top of that I am a very active, reactionary. I’m a solider to my core and my heart. This isn’t really that much of a stretch for me. I always try to be careful when I say that, because I never want to come off as saying, “Oh, I’m Mr. Veteran, I can handle anything.” Believe me, I have plenty of fears.

But I’ve got to admit, I’m wired pretty well for this. My deployment was where I starting honing this stuff in the first place. During my deployment to Iraq, I was dealing with a horrible breakup. That was when I figured out, “Oh, I can put all of this emotional turmoil into working out and get it out through that.” That was really groundbreaking for me, especially because I was very young, early 20s, no one to really talk to in the military about stuff.

Day to day, that probably doesn’t make a lot of sense to people that I’m running around singing and screaming and being crazy, but now I think it actually makes sense to a couple of people.

I am actually very, very good. I’m like 80-20. I’m very healthy, and I’m wired that way. I also believe that part of being who I am and being healthy is I also have to stay positive, and I have to spread that. I have to be a beacon of light.

Before we open Brighter Day, I always gather the people around me—I’m sure they think it’s woo-woo or whatever—but I go, “ Are we ready to send positivity into the void?” Because I think that’s really important. If we’re going to present ourselves as a health food store, this is what we do, this is what we provide, obviously part of it is the physical component. I have to look healthy, I have to be healthy, but the other part is mental.

I might be a person’s only human interaction for the entire week, month, whatever. I might be only person that person actually talks to the entire time. When we talk about being essential—and I’m not comparing myself to a medical worker, but I am saying that that component of human connection, that is essential and I do fulfill that.

That’s such a good way to look at it, especially for a customer service position.

You have to have empathy for what that person’s situation is. When you’re in the moment, anybody yelling at you or overreacting, it’s hard to deal with. But also, you don’t know what their background is either. They could be dealing with something that has absolutely nothing to do with you. I always go back to that RuPaul quote: “If they aren’t paying your bills, don’t pay ‘em no mind.” So I just put my smile on automatically and set it right aside.

That is a wonderful quote for right now.

RuPaul is such a good mentor to have in these times. If you look at it, I was raised by aggressive military people and drag queens.

How would you encourage somebody else to get motivated to be active?

I always try to gauge first where they’re coming from. This could be somebody that literally has never been physical ever before in their life. It could be somebody that was an athlete and then they had an injury. You just have to figure out where they’re at.

I haven’t done this yet since COVID started, because I wouldn’t want to do it in the store, but what I’ve done is I’ll get on the floor and show them how to do a very basic plank: holding your back and your butt really rigid on your forearms, and holding that as long as you can.

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I tell them it’s better to do the exercise properly than to do it incorrectly, so don’t worry about the number, don’t worry about looking like a supermodel tomorrow. Worry about doing it correctly.

When I joined the military, I’ll be honest: I was awful at physical stuff. I was a teenage pothead punk idiot, no respect, no discipline, nothing. I was the prototypical kid that had been really smart but didn’t like being unpopular. I went into the military with no experience with discipline or exercise, and it wasn’t until I connected those dots that I was able to get the emotional pain out.

But even when I started getting the emotional stuff out in a little tent gym in Iraq, after I started learning stuff and connecting the dots, what happens when you get all the emotions out? So I had to find another way to keep me motivated.

I always tell people, especially when it comes to running, is find what you actually think is fun. For me, I had a really hard time being elliptical, running in circles, doing the same kind of track run over and over again. I get bored very quickly. What I’l tell them is, go find a trail. And especially now—there’s no reason that you can’t.

What's it like not going to the gym?

I’ll tell you something really personal to me. People always ask me, “Why do you go to the gym? What do you do at the gym?” For me, it’s a friendly competition thing. I want to see the biggest dude at the gym and go, “Well, I’ll never be as big as you, I’ll never be as good looking, but I’m fucking crazier than you, and I’m going to blow you off the stage! You think you’re Arnold Schwarzenegger, well, I’m Iggy Pop and I’m about to rock the fuck out.”

It was hard rewiring that because again, I know this is happening to everybody, we’re all experiencing life changes, and this is a very first world problem. But it was weird for me to recalibrate that whole mentality, and it never hit me until yesterday as I was running around that for the first time in forever, my body is at the right tightness I wanted. I was like, I’m in better shape not being in the gym!

What if this entire time, I was my own competition? I had always done this, wanted the hot dudes’ attention, and what if I was the one that needed attention for myself?

Do you think you’d ever give up the gym?

I could never do that. The gym is my family, especially Fitness on Broughton. I have considered it, but I would still just pay the money and do it anyway. That group of people, especially Nikki who works at the desk there, in the Army we call them battle buddies. Nikki’s my battle buddy; she’s been there for me through thick and thin.

What would you want people to know?

I think it’s very important to stay mentally positive through all of this. If you’re a healthy person, then it’s part of, I consider us all essential workers in that sense. If you are a healthy and positive and good-natured person, it is your responsibility to spread that now. Put your money where your mouth is. This is the time. We don’t need it when everything’s fine and the economy is on an up. We need it now.

At some point, this is all going to restart, and when we do, we need those people to rebuild society. The money, yes, but we’re also going to need good people to repopulate it. I think if this can teach us anything, now we're at an advantage point where we can put those people in place that we need there.

I’d also add that if you’re looking for anything, come and visit our store. Really, Brighter Day and [the Sentient] Bean both, I’ve been blown away by our staff through all of this. Everybody from my boss to the brand newest employee that we hired the day before they announced a pandemic, everyone mentally has been lockstep.

I almost want to cry talking about it, because as someone that was in the military and how important that is to me, the camaraderie, I haven’t experienced it to this level until this. It means so much to me.

My boss said something really nice to me the other day, and I had to turn around to her and say, “It’s not a cliche. We really are in this together.” Before it started, I made a pledge to her that this was going to be my priority, and I’ve kept it there.

If I get to give you even a percentage of that positivity and the upbeatness during this entire conversation, those people are the ones that deserve all the praise. For that millisecond that I have a dip, they’re the ones that have to deal with it!
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