Things I wish I had known 20 years ago

So part of the reason for my trip home was a 20thhigh school reunion.  To me this was a big opportunity to do something (I think) a lot of formerly fat people dream of, show up as the “new” me.  When I last lived in my hometown I was 225 lbs; many of the people at this gathering hadn’t seen me since high school when I was hovering around 170-180 lbs easily.  So needless to say they all knew me as being fat, yes I use the “f” word a lot I know, but it was a part of my identity.
I planned it out; I got two different little black dresses, had a tasteful small sweater in case I got cold (and to hide what is left of the arm wings) and planned on showing off.  I know this was very shallow thinking, but I figured I have worked hard and I felt I deserved it.  Again there is a kernel of truth in there so I ran with it, as I am good at rationalizing (seriously if you need help let me know I can help you rationalize a lot it might be ethically wrong, but hey we all need a talent).  Well…Mother Nature had other plans and she threw in rain all weekend with a bit of a chill (especially for us thin blood people that live in a desert).  I ended up in a different outfit, but still a flattering one so I felt like it was okay.
I had seen some classmates already at other activities that day and knew that there would no doubt be more at the bar scene, well because it’s a bar scene.  I walked in and shortly after being there and talking to people my whole attitude changed…I am not sure what I expected to be honest, I hoped that I would get a few “wow’s” and a second look or two from people that never gave me a first look back in the day.  Sure I got a bit of that, but it’s the rest that really floored me and I wish that I could have heard these things back when I was a teenager.  In fact I wish my classmates and friends could have said these things out loud back then too, but being self-conscious teens we couldn’t.
As people came up and we talked I had several share that they were proud of me, “of me?” was all I could honestly think.  Some had known me since the first grade, 30 years (thank you Dax for adding it up and yes that is sarcasm).  They knew that I had struggled with my weight all of my life because, they saw me gradually get heavier and heavier.  I got acknowledgement for the hard work and heard from them a desire to make a change in their lives so they too could be healthier. 
The thing that struck me the most was this; many of them felt insecure and had horrible self-image back then.  I mean we are talking the “popular” kids, not just the “nerds” “band geeks”, etc. but the ones that everyone knew who they were.  In fact I was honestly a bit surprised that “they” knew who I was.  Several shared they were following my running exploits on Facebook.  One person shared with me how she struggled horribly through her childhood with believing she was fat, getting told this by meaningful people in her life only solidified it for her, I could relate.  What got me is I had no idea she was able to relate to me.  If you saw her you would be shocked to hear this like I was.  We discussed how getting older allowed the wisdom to look back and realize how little it all meant. 
I realized that time is a great equalizer; it allows us to grow up and find out who we really are.  Those identities that we had as kids really didn’t mean anything; it’s who we are now that matters.  So many of us were secretly (or not so secretly) insecure and had those inner demons telling us that we needed this or that to be better.  I would venture to say that most people had low self esteem as a kid and strived to get or keep friends and popularity. 
I wish I had realized that how I felt about myself was so similar to how they felt.  I think of all the time that I felt alone in this and wondered if they felt alone too.  If only as a teen we could have the courage to stand up and say these things.  I wish we could have admitted that we were insecure and trying to find ourselves and make some kind of meaning in life.  Several people said they were proud of me, for losing weight, moving to a big city, and doing the job I do to help others.  I can truly say that I am proud of them; they grew up and recognized what was really important in life.  Whether they are teachers, supervisors, accountants, or stay at home moms/dads they all work hard and take care of their families.  Many of them took on the responsibility of parenthood earlier than someone our age should have had to; I know that couldn’t have been easy. 
Underneath it all we are humans, striving for better, wanting to improve our lives.  Those that have kids want to make their lives better.  I hope this insight is helpful, encourage your kids whether they hear you or not to know it’s all temporary and that no matter how “cool” people act they are the same.  We aren’t alone in our thoughts and feelings for some of us (me) it just took 20 years to feel confident in who we are and figure it all out.

*Totally unrelated note, hadn’t really run this last week, but I pushed myself and got 4.5 miles in today, it felt great!


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