Yesterday, my Dad must have been taking a trip down memory lane as I received a few consecutive pictures in my Facebook inbox. There I was. A beautiful, dark haired little girl with her bangs cut straight across, wearing my early 90’s finest and blowing out the candles on my birthday cake. What was I thinking in that moment? I bet I was excited it was my birthday, and even more excited for cake.
The picture made me sad, almost instantly. I’ve never seen it before and I feel like I have no idea who that little girl is. I can see my round little nose and my big brown eyes and my dark hair..I can see it all. That’s me. That’s where I started. It made me wonder where things changed. When did I stop being this innocent, happy little girl? When did I become this person who is so critical of herself? This girl who spent years crying when she looked in the mirror, wishing she could have a different nose and a skinnier body, and no stretch marks, and even longer agnoizing over her future and what it would be like. What changed?
I wasn’t born fat, but I got there pretty quickly. I was a chubby kid (not quite unhealthy, but plump). When I started kindergarten I was bigger than the other kids, but I was always tall and had a large structure (I won’t say big boned, because we won’t go there…haha). I didn’t feel weird or out of place then.
My Dad left when I was 3. I have no memories of my family as a perfect little “unit”. My mom went to school and worked a night job–I spent most of my younger years at my Grandma’s. She fed me whatever I wanted—food is love, you know. It is abnormal for a 7-year old child to feel like I felt. I developed OCD and ate like crazy. Food made me feel safe. Hiding in my room made me feel safe. My Mom was stressed and she was busy.. She had so much going on, but she still did everything she could have done. She yelled sometimes like any normal parent, but I don’t think it ever crossed the line of ‘normal’. I hope one day I will be as amazing of a parent as she was. I don’t know what distinguished me from the other kids, or what made me have these feelings, but I don’t believe anything my family could have said or done would have changed it.. It was something deep inside of me. It’s who I was. By the time I was in my first year at University, I was 220lbs and miserable. I was just existing.
There are several, defining moments that stick out when I think about when everything changed. When did I loose that happiness, and that innocence? When did I stop feeling like that happy little girl in the picture and star feeling like the fat, unhappy girl (the one that still lives in a big part of my heart and soul). Now of course, my life isn’t defined by these moments but they definitely made an impact. They are so small and so seemingly insignificant, but I think they’ll always be etched in my memories.
I remember in Second Grade, measuring the school field with a partner–we had one of those wheels on a stick that clicks for every meter travelled? I was pushing it around and he was walking slightly behind me. He said he was cold and I said I wasn’t.
“It’s because of all your whale blubber.”
It’s funny now, I guess. It was a witty comment for a second grader, but man it hurt.. I remember waiting until I got home after school, locking myself in my room and crying. I’m sure that little boy doesn’t remember that. I’m sure he said it, and that was that. Funny how that works.
I vividly remember standing outside my fourth grade classroom in my purple leggings and having kids tease me as they walked by. I remember leaning up against the hard, brick wall with my backpack in front me, feeling so alone and trying to hide my pants from the kids as they walked by. All the other girls could wear leggings..but I was different. I was fat. I remember trying to hide the fact that I got teased. I didn’t want my Mom to think less of me or to be embarassed of me. From such an early age I was so worried about disapointing her..I didn’t want her to know she had the fat daughter that no one liked–she deserved more.
And then there was back-to-school shopping. The one, dreadful year that I transitioned into adult clothes. I hated them. I didn’t want to wear old lady clothes..but I didn’t fit into kids clothes anymore. This was probably around Grade 5. I remember my Mom standing outside the change room while I tried to hold back my tears, telling me it wasn’t her fault I didn’t fit in kids clothes–I was just too big. I remember this day so vividly. I remember the feeling I had, and being so hurt by my Mom. I’ve never told her this, and I’m sure I never will.
I wish I could go back to that happy little girl blowing out her candles and tell her she was beautiful. I wish I could help her become a confident, happy young lady. I wish I could go back to that 14-year old who quit basketball because she didn’t want to wear shorts and tell her she was GORGEOUS. I wish I could run back and tell her everything would be okay, and she’d be getting married to the man of her dreams (who is SO, so, so, SO, SO, SO handsome), and that she’d have a beautiful home, and beautiful puppies, and a happy, happy life. But I can’t go back, all I can do is go forward…and going forward, my outlook is going to change.
I can’t explain how this strange, random sequence of thoughts has occured in the past few days since receiving those pictures…but this is one of those moments. All I’ve been thinking about is how I wish I could go back and change so many things, but I can’t. All of them are just thoughts, and feelings, too: I wish I had more confidence, I wish I was happier and that I’d made different choices. But maybe I don’t need to go back, maybe all those things made me the woman I am today. I am learning to love her. She is a beautiful, compassionate person. She has more empathy than a lot of people, and loves deeper than anyone I’ve met. From this day forward, I am going to start loving that girl. I’m going to eat chocolate when I want and not feel guilty, and I’m going to run like the wind. I’m going to wear a bikini on my honeymoon and rock it, stretch marks and all. Everything is going to be okay. I’m going to make that little girl proud.