Before and After
For as long as I can remember, there has existed a “Before” and “After” timeline in my mind. The “before” was me being fat, uneducated, unloved, unfunny, poor and just generally physically uncomfortable. The “after” would be the complete opposite of that! I LOVED letting my mind wander into the “after”. I would be 25 always. I would get older, of course, but pretty much just stay looking and feeling 25. I would be thin but not too thin. I would have a cute apartment in a cute red brick city like Pittsburgh. I would have a cute little animal friend, maybe two. I would have a real life, serious boyfriend who I may or may not have known in my “before” days but that wouldn’t matter because this is “after” and I would be perfect. In the after I would be famous and my job would be to inspire people with my bright cheerfulness.
I do not remember the exact thing that caused me to start thinking of my life in terms of before and after I lost a significant amount of weight, but I remember exactly when that concept began to be challenged. For my senior year of high school, August 2008- May 2009, I found myself attending a Minnesotan boarding school. It was tucked away up a cold hill in a city no one had ever heard of. It was here that I first began making legitimate friends. Not people that were in my life because I saw them every day, or children of my parents’ friends. These were friends who liked ME. They laughed with me and barged into my room to sit on my bed and vent. We shared snacks and watched scary movies, and they corrected boys who pronounced my name wrong. In class we copied off each other’s worksheets and discussed every nuance of the conversations we had with the boys we liked. After hours we snuck in each other’s rooms and whispered all night into the dark, and then joyously complained about everything the next early morning at breakfast.
It was unbelievable to me. I was still fat so what business did I have making friends? I couldn’t even begin to fathom what they saw me. How they could stand near me and smile into my face like I wasn’t a gross blob?? Like I wasn’t the lowest possible form of life. I didn’t have the capacity or the right words to explain this, so I just had to have mental breakdowns every few days or so. Some tiny crying fits in the bathroom or privately in my bed, and some storm-out-of-the-room big ones. This life where people interacted with me positively and acted like I mattered to them was weird and strange and I felt that at any moment now I would wake up out of this dream and go back to my regular life. The one where I was perpetually stuck in the “before”.
I am still learning to truly believe that I don’t have to box myself into that thought pattern. Sometimes even now I’ll have a thought about the future and if it’s a positive and happy situation I’ll immediately see myself smaller in that vision. It is still deeply ingrained in my psyche to see my worth as my weight, even though I have accomplished and experienced so much while living fatly that I should be able to just logically cure myself! I’ve hiked uphill nearly a MILE in a rain forest in Puerto Rico. Later on that day I swam in a river with a waterfall like a mermaid and took some amazing pictures. I took some unofficial kickboxing classes for a few weeks and I regularly surprised my teacher with how hard I was kicking and punching. I have worked 18 hour shifts on my feet, walked miles, danced for hours at parties. One time at Ball State I participated in a charity event Zumba-thon where I stayed on my feet the ENTIRE time. I may not have been dancing vigorously all 4 hours, but I never sat down and mostly because I didn’t think I would get back up if I did.
And I have LIVED. I have had the best times, the worst times, moments where I was screaming for joy and times when I was panicked and high on adrenaline. There was the time I thought I heard a dog growl at me from a dark bush as I walked home at night and let me tell you that the way I RAN felt I was actually flying, my feet just barely touching the pavement. I once sang in a gospel choir as part of a church service that was televised on a public access channel. I got to direct a flash mob of about 60 people one summer.
Every single day that I get up I prove to myself that I am okay, I am human and I deserve to have a normal human life. No matter how much I weigh.
**** PLEASE do yourself a favor and click here to see that flashmob. Don't expect expert dancing, just a bunch of excited Christians and the Pastor we were commemorating. He only has one dance move and trust me, he brings it.