Sorry it’s been a while since I’ve posted. These past few weeks have been a whirlwind, but I made it out alive and I’m stronger than ever. I also gained a new perspective on the world that I can’t believe I have been missing out on for so long. I thought I’d share…
All of my life I have struggled with image issues. Body image, mostly. In my mind, I wasn’t going to be happy until I looked like Heidi Klum and JLO’s lovechild, and I was willing to go to any and all extremes to get there—and BOY, did I reach some crazy extremes. I dieted, I exercised, I starved myself, I binged, I purged, I cried, I took measurements and percentages and spent my nights creating meal plans that were going to help me find my happiness. I told myself that ‘nothing tastes as good as skinny feels’, pushed myself to roll out of bed at the butt-crack of dawn to run sprints while my friends dreamt of bonbons and lollipops in their peaceful slumber. I ran 4 half marathons in 4 weeks, counted calories as if my life depended on it, and missed out on more events than I can even account for simply because food would be present and I didn’t want to have to come up with another excuse as to why I wouldn’t be joining them for dinner.
This was my life, and let me tell you–it was exhausting. For any of you that may be sitting on the edge of your seat wondering anxiously how the story ends, I will save you the wait and tell you that I never did find my happiness. Not in the selfish, pathetic, controlling, absurd, vain, sometimes borderline disordered way I had been going about life previously, at least.
……but then it happened.
I don’t really even know how to explain what happened to me, but all I can tell you is that it saved my life. Not literally, of course, but this “lightbulb” that occurred within my mind absolutely saved me from living the pathetic and unsatisfied life that I was on the road to living. I woke up one morning, 8 weeks out from a competition I was preparing for, feeling as though I was never going to get lean enough, buff enough, sculpted enough, and to be completely honest, I had HAD ENOUGH.
I stopped. I looked at myself in the mirror.
and suddenly, I saw myself completely different than I had ever seen myself before…
Right then and there in that exact moment, I loved myself.
I loved every curve, every line, every imperfection.
I loved every flaw, every sun-kissed freckle, every unsymmetrical feature.
I loved my tiny waist and my huge booty and my sleepy eyes and hair that refuses to stay in place.
I loved my thunder thighs and my small shoulders and the dimples in my lower back.
I loved every single thing that the judge at a competition would tell me I needed to change.
This person who knew nothing about me except the number on my suit. This person that didn’t know my struggles, my past, my failures and accomplishments–this person who probably didn’t even know my name.
Now don’t get me wrong, I respect and admire many fitness competitors and their hard work and dedication to a hobby that they love. But I also think that it is so easy to get completely consumed in one specific part of your life that you lose yourself in the process.
You become your hobby.It is your sole identifier. Without it, you feel as though you have nothing left.
If you were to become famous tomorrow, what would it be for? Where is the majority of your time, effort, and energy going? Are you proud of those efforts, or does your time and energy yearn to be given to something more deserving?
Now, let me ask you something else…if this part of your life was completely erased tomorrow, would you still exist?
Would there be anything left?
The scary part about this question is that only a few months ago, I truly would have said that there would be nothing left. This was my life. My purpose. My passion. My everything. But as my head finally crept above the water and I so eagerly gasped for air, I realized that this is FAR from everything. In fact, this is nothing.
It’s moments like these that we really get a chance to find out who we are. More importantly, it’s in these moments that we find out where we are going and who we will become. Ripped out of our comfort zones, often kicking and screaming and fighting the change with all our might, we learn that we can continue to fight, or we can surrender. We can be demolished by the chaos around us or we can search within ourselves for a source of strength so powerful that nothing could destroy our peace of mind.
Sometimes we find ourselves caught in the middle of a storm. And sometimes, caught in the middle of a storm, we find ourselves.
It was by entering this storm that I realized how long I had been chasing happiness, and it was in enduring this storm that I realized just how happy I truly am. How happy I am with my life and all of the amazing people that are in it. How negligent I have been of so many wonderful people simply because of my vain habits. How many opportunities I’ve missed, chances I have passed up, and memories that haven’t been created because I was too wrapped up in my own world.
It wasn’t until I stepped out of MY world that I realized just how big and beautiful OUR world really is.
Being healthy is wonderful, working out out and staying active is a must. I love the feeling of pushing myself to new limits, accomplishing new goals, and releasing pent up stress and frustration while working up a good sweat.
But, more than this, I love living my life. I love having a beer with my dad or a glass of wine with my sister. I love taking my niece and nephew to TCBY for Waffle Cone Wednesdays and going to a family BBQ on time even(especially) if that means eating a hamburger with my family. I love skipping a workout to have a coffee date with a girlfriend, I love planning a vacation without worrying about hotel gyms and packing exercise bands.
I love exercising my mind, emotions, and intellect just as much (if not more) than exercising my body.
The crazy thing about this is that the minute I stopped caring so much about my physical appearance and began focusing on other aspects of my life, the happier I became with the way I looked. The minute I ate a cookie and didn’t immediately keel over and die, skipped a workout without creating the apocalypse, and began striving to create a balance in the areas of my life not involving anything physical, the more I began accepting and loving myself for who I am right at this very second–not who I was hoping to become. The minute I stopped focusing on the things that didn’t matter, I gave all the things that DO matter a chance to catch up.
My wishes and hopes and fears. My plans and my bucket list and my fairytale. My happily ever after.
To be completely honest, a few months ago my “fairytale” would have been to meet a sponsored athlete at a fitness expo, fall in love instantly when we realize we both use the same kind of pre-lift, and do HIIT intervals into the sunset as we live happily ever after. But now, the thought of this makes me shudder.
I want so much more.
I want to travel and explore and learn something new every single day. I want to be challenged and tested and placed against all odds. I want to try and fail and try even harder.
I want to chase my dreams and catch them, I want to find my fairytale and live it, I want to look back on my life and be proud of it.
All too often we get so consumed with one tiny portion of our lives that we forget to remember how many beautiful and amazing qualities we possess. We get so wrapped up in chasing one dream that we put all of the rest of them to sleep.
I challenge you, right this very second, to wake up.
Wake up to your dreams and passions and aspirations. Wake up to all of the beauty that surrounds you and consumes you and lives within you. Wake up to every emotion and experience and opportunity. Take risks, allow yourself to do something you’ve never done before, and try to find security in letting go of all the things that you will never be able to control.
Now that I am “awake,” I am finding myself falling in love with this life over and over and over again. Every moment, every memory, every smile. I fall in love with people and their passions and their goals and their fears. I fall in love with children and their innocence and wide-eyed exploration. I fall in love with sinners and daredevils and chaos and failures. I fall in love with mystery and desire and confidence and knowledge.
I fall in love with everyone I meet and see and encounter.
I fall in love with this life. Over. and Over. And over again.
I fall in love with my friends and their loyalty and our memories. I fall in love with them even though their thighs touch and their quad sweep isn’t visible and they like extra parmesan on their pizza. I fall in love with the sweet boy that holds the door open for an elderly woman even though he probably doesn’t know how to bench press with proper form. I fall in love with my sister, reading her children a story before bedtime and softly kissing them goodnight, even though she didn’t make it to the gym this week.I fall in love with the boy who approaches me because he wants to know more about the girl behind the mask and tough exterior.
I am in tears as I think about how much I’ve missed out on. My heart breaks as I think about how hard I have been on myself and how many petty things I used to worry so much about. But I smile as I think about the future, and how many times I am going to be able to fall in love with this life all over again.
Thanks to the moment the stars aligned, my soul was awakened, and the lights came on.