Let me start off by saying that everything you are about to read is unfortunately the perspective of a great majority of people rather than the minority of a few. SOMEWHERE in this brief synopsis of how I’ve come about to the person I am today you will be able to affiliate yourself with a nugget or two of moments that make you say “I feel that way…” That is why, as a representative of the majority, I’ve yelled about change to the point where I have literally scarred my vocal chords and changed the pattern of my voice forever. Here is why…
I grew up in a household where money wasn’t abundant and there wasn’t enough hours in the day for the amount of hours my parents needed to work to raise 2 boys. Week days were “mom time” and weekends were “dad time.” While this worked out when I was younger, it turned a little tumultuous as my years started to advance. I started to crave television and cheap junk food rather than playing outside and coming inside when the sun went down. My parents were concerned, and definitely tried to coax me off the couch, but my brain always overrode their efforts. Kids are cruel, this is not a mystery, but for some reason they seemed to pay extra special attention to me. My triple chins, thick afro-esque hair, and shy demeanor made me an easy target. It didn’t help with each passing grade I seemed to gain about double the weight that is average for a kid to accumulate as he matures.
To handle this, I developed several coping mechanisms. The first was to cut myself. In the thigh. With pens. In my room. By myself… I grew to crave it. There was something liberating and exhilarating about being able to CONTROL the pain I was in since I was going to be in pain all the time anyway… At least, that’s how my brain viewed it. My “pilot” (the area of my brain where I get to make conscious decisions) was on a psychotic break and wasn’t very good behind the wheel. My brain turned into a dark haven of self loathing and worthlessness. If I was Batman, my brain was Gotham City. The criminals, indeed, were winning.
Enter Freshmen year of High School… Even though I was coming in at a tiny 5’3″ and a not-so-tiny 265 lbs I thought “ok, kids are more mature now, maybe I can get a break!” To summarize how well this worked out for me, the INSTANT I stepped foot on campus I got greeted with “hey, nice shirt!” from a senior who earned points with everyone around him because everyone LOVED it. Literally the SECOND High School started, I figured out that older kids aren’t mature… They’re meaner.
After a traumatic event of bullying that I’m not quite ready to share with the world on a national scale quite yet (but soon. Let’s just say it involved bleachers, duct tape, and a secluded park corner) I decided to make a change. It was 2 weeks in to Freshmen year that this event occurred and I thank everything considered holy that it did. Not everybody is lucky enough to have a life changing event such as mine. Trust me, at the time I felt it was the extreme opposite of luck and fortune, but hindsight is 20/20… After all, you’re reading this now, aren’t you?
I was sick of being scared all the time. I was tired of feeling worthless. I couldn’t stand my own mind, body, or soul anymore and SOMETHING had to change. So, I marched home that fateful day on a mission. That mission was to join a gym. That’s when my mom saved my life… She not only got me a gym membership, but promised to drive me there every day. She made good on that promise. There came a time when I started to ride my bike to the gym, but at the realization that it was a great warm up not because she got sick of it. Again, my mom saved my life.
So, I started to throw up all my food. In bags. In my room. By myself… Not only did this hurt my throat, give me horrible teeth I still pay for to this day, and cast doubts on my health by my peers, but I didn’t tell a SOUL about it and battled this new demon all by myself. I learned to hide it better and better as I went, and the more I put up a fake smile to assure everyone everything was alright when it was far from, the more the miserable the heavy feeling in my chest became. The more worthless I felt. The more I believed everyone who made fun of. I thought “so many people can’t be wrong… I mean, am I the only one who doesn’t realize I’m a loser?”
Then an epiphany hit. A “moment.” A strike of teal lightning. If you’ve seen the movie “Phenomenon” starring John Travolta, then the moment when he looks into the blue light in the sky… Well, it was kind of like that…
I had a realization that I didn’t want to settle for misery anymore. I was tired of being tired. Sick of being sick. I was worthWHILE, not worthLESS damnit. See, all this time I was trying to prove this to all the wrong people. I wanted my parents to be proud. I wanted love and admiration from my peers. I wanted girls to like me. I want to have nice abs like the jocks thought “I need the perfect body so that everyone will like me! Then, I can buy the clothes I want to buy! I’ll get a girlfriend! I’ll stop getting made fun of!” All this time… I was doing this for all the wrong people. It took years of mental warfare that manifested itself into physical torture on every level (cutting myself, obsession with exercise, and bulimia… The big 3!) for me to come to a conclusion that too many people never get the gift of realizing. A gift that has caused me to scream about this realization so passionately that my aforementioned permanently scarred vocal chords are worth ten times that if only one person makes the same “Phenomenon” style conclusion I was able to make at the very young age of 17.
Instead of “proving myself” to my parents, my peers, and family… I needed to be healthy for ME. I tell you… That day the clouds parted. I stopped everything cold turkey. I stopped throwing up everything I ate. I stopped cutting myself. I stopped LISTEN to the negativity that seemed to be the only thing swirling around me and realized that there was positivity everywhere! I just had to open my eyes to it! It was a scene straight out of the Wizard of Oz only I had made it to the destination. My yellow brick road was lined with Reebok cyclers, pens, vomit filled grocery bags, tear stained pillows, fake smiles, more hours spent at the gym than at home, and many more character building side stops along the way. The pain and sorrow was necessary though. For me at least. It showed me there IS sunshine after the storm! You just have to find out… All that glitters ISN’T gold! Sometimes though, gold isn’t what you need… The grass ISN’T always greener on the other side because if you take care of the grass you DO have, then who cares about everyone else’s grass! You’ve got your own to worry about!
Once I realized that the goal wasn’t the light at the end of the tunnel, but rather making my own LIGHT in the tunnel and ENJOYING the journey… Life has been the best roller coaster any amusement park has to offer. I’ve competed in several body building competitions, I’ve run (and led) 2 Tough Mudder teams, I’ve completed an 8k (a fat kids marathon), and more importantly… I enjoy the sunshine every day has to offer. I wake up with a vigor for the day, rather than a resentment that I woke up again… I’ve learned to ENJOY eating right and staying active for the sheer reason that I’ve never smiled so much in my life! I used to look at it like a chore, but now I remind myself that I do this for the friendships I’ve formed with everyone I’ve come to find who thinks like I do! Who have been down similar roads! Now, I can go to the river and take my shirt off regardless of whether I have a pudgy tummy or not. I can enjoy it! Why? Because I no longer huff and puff climbing down the sand hills to get there!
To conclude, I’ve been on both sides of the fence. They say misery loves company, but I find the exact opposite to be true… Misery loves to keep you to itself, where as euphoric bliss is TRULY the gregarious social butterfly…
The second you BELIEVE you can is the second your life is yours.