A couple of weeks ago I was driving to my 9-5 job, different from Hi De Ho Comics when I realized that part of my head and face were numb. It was peculiar that I didn’t think more of it at the time. Considering that I was also tingling along the right side of my body, it could have easily been a stroke, but I brushed it off and continued on to work. After a few hours of hoping that the feeling would get better, it in fact got worse. I knew I had to get myself to a doctor.

It’s not a coincidence that that week was when we were making the single biggest decision since we took over the comic book store in November of 2014. It was an unlikely store model. We became the proprietors of the comic book side, while the prior owner continued his gaming business across the store from us.

The store brain trust had all discussed what would happen if at some point the opportunity to buy the other half of the store presented itself to us. It seemed like an unlikelihood at best. However, surprisingly, the decision would have to be made sooner than any of us could anticipate. We were given notice that if we wanted to buy out the gaming side, the time would be now.

It’s not a small thing to take on ANOTHER 2,000 square feet. It immediately means double the rent, which waits for no man, extra employees, extra work and a new table of bills. Eventually, we decided to do it. Better to be in charge of the fate of the entire store than to sit by and watch someone else try and possibly fail – where would that put us? On the street, most likely.

As our responsibilities went up, so did my blood pressure, which (as it turns out) was the cause of my numbness. High stress and lots of it, coupled with a physique not unlike what you would expect from a comic shop owner, put me in the hospital.

Before I knew it I was hooked up to an EKG, was getting my blood drawn, had my blood pressure taken about 15 separate times. The doctor came back with the news for me and started it with a line worthy of a comic book. “Mr. Machuca – What good is this comic book empire that you are seeking to build if you won’t be alive to see it?”

Even now, writing the words out, hits like a dagger in the heart. Here I am, not even 30 years old yet. My first real acknowledgement of my mortality.

It is often said that the key to success it to find what it is you’re good at, what it is you love doing and combining the two. It’s not as simple as that. I love what I do, but it was clear that I was loving it more than I was loving myself. With lifestyle changes, I’ll be the muscle-bound superhero I know I can be. But for now, I’m just the dumpy reporter who can’t seem to get out of his way.

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