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What Escapes Us All
Gazing into the mirror, my piercing green eyes stared back at me, soft yet somehow intense. My golden brown hair reached mid chest, not merely touching my chest, but lightly laying on my candy apple red sweater. My delicate face somehow portrayed intelligence, not outstandingly gorgeous, yet somehow beautiful when taking the time to notice. My red sweater perfectly complimented my dark wash jeans, both seeming to fit me perfectly. I was generally content with the way that I looked and didn’t want to change much about myself. Happy and confident, I turned away from the mirror, ready to begin my day.
Entering the doors to the high school, I saw my friend Alexis and walked toward her, just like every other day of my freshman year.
All too soon the bell rang, and I slowly sauntered to Biology, not ready for the day to begin. Biology drug on, as it tends to, followed slowly by choir, computer applications, and lastly, English.
In English, I sat behind Alexis. Each day she, along with nearly every student in our class, would lay their head down on their desk while Mrs. Worden would teach. Today she was talking about iambic pentameter. My head upright, I stayed alert. School didn’t bore me; unlike most of my classmates, I enjoyed learning, especially English. It intrigued me how an author had such power over his work that he could make the reader feel anyway he wanted; authors are somewhat like puppeteers in that since. The beauty in words fascinated me and I enjoyed learning about them. Nearly everyday, I would go home and write something—weather I was adding to one of my many short stories, writing a poem, or simply writing random thoughts down. I was passionate about writing; I loved it.
After Mrs. Worden was finished talking, we had time to work on our research paper. The first ten note cards were due the next day, and I was, of course, already on my twentieth. Work time means play time, as all high school kids know. Grouping ourselves up, Alexis, Brittany, Megan and I turned our desks toward each other. Giggling and gossiping about winter formal, which was just around the corner, the boy next to us, whom I didn’t even know the name of, intruded in our conversation.
“Are you going to winter formal?” he asked Megan, trying to hide his nerves underneath a nonchalant tone.
“Yeah I am,” she said, his eyes automatically brightening, “with my boyfriend.”
“Oh,” is all he said before turning around again, clearly disappointed.
“Aw I think you crushed his dreams,” Brittany teased. Just then a weight in my chest dropped. I hated talking about that kind of stuff because no matter how happy of a face I wore, deep inside my heart felt as if it was constantly at gun point, okay for the moment but always on the brink of torment. Brittany, Megan, and Alexis all had boyfriends. Why? What was wrong with me? Subconsciously I thought I knew why, but I didn’t want to admit it.
Before I finished my thought, the bell rang, its song filling the entire room. I quickly gathered my books, randomly throwing anything I could find in my bag, and left.
Besides two other boys, I was the first in the hallway where my locker was. I automatically glanced at them, awkwardly and unfamiliarly at them before looking away.
“Fatso,” I heard him say, as clear as day, under his breath.
I looked, disapprovingly at him.
“You’re fat,” he repeated, this time louder and even clearer.
A flood of students poured in through the main hallway, and I was then surrounded by a multitude of people, all eager and ready for the day to end.
My soul seemed to sink to my feet as his words repeated in my head, clearly and harshly.
This wasn’t the first time that this had happened, of course. Acting childish and cruel, many people had called me names before, and each time, I would do my best to forget; after all, time heals all wounds.
On the ride home I was quiet. Somehow the stranger’s comments hurt me. I knew that I shouldn’t let them. I knew that I shouldn’t be sad. I knew that I should just forget about what the boy said, but I couldn’t. It had happened too many times before, and I was quickly growing sick of the harassment.
That night I decided to do something that I had always refused to do. Nervous yet eager, I stepped on my parents bathroom scale. Somehow I imagined that when I stepped on that scale a forgiving number would appear. I thought that God would magically take care of me, giving me what I wanted just because I was a good person.
The number I saw on the scale was not only unforgiving, but much worse than I thought. Small and fuzzy, a pitiless 191 appeared on the screen. It was just a number, that I knew, but I also knew that it signified something far greater. That number was the key to happiness. I was determined then more than ever to unlock my happiness. I promised myself that night that I would never have to endure anything unpleasant due to weight again. I was going to change.
Of course at that point in my life, my idea of weight loss and a healthy weight was somewhat obscure. I decided that I would lose 10 pounds. 10 pounds was a lot of weight on my five foot two inch body, right?
That night was one of the first that I spent on my treadmill. I took a book and read it while I was walking. No matter how big my goals of weight loss were, I hated exercise; walking was about as much as I could handle.
Dedicated, excited, happy, I walked on my tread mill every night that first week. One night, gutsy and empowered, I started jogging—and never stopped.
I have, since then, ran hundreds of miles.
The desire to loose weight, although strong, did not prompt me to push through hundreds of miles. When I began running, I started to realize that I had a passion, greater than anything I had ever experience, for running. Heart pounding, adrenaline pumping, I enjoyed every minute of my cardio workouts. Running became a time of pleasure for me. While doing it, I became whoever I wanted to be. I could go anywhere I wanted. I could see and experience anything imaginable. It was like if I ran a little farther, pushed a little harder, everything would be okay. When I was happy, I ran. When I was sad, I ran. When I was angry, I ran. Running became an outlet for me. An outlet with some very extensive side effects.
From the very first day that I stepped on the scale, I have lost nearly 50 pounds. I have reduced my risk of many different diseases, including high blood pressure and diabetes. My pulse has plummeted from a dangerous 100 beats per minute, to a very athletic 60 beats per minute. At the end of my freshman year, I won the presidential physical fitness award, and Mrs. Snyder also awarded me “most improved in gym,” for nearly cutting my mile time in half. Unfortunately, these are—of course—not the things that I cared about.
Head raised high, spirits souring, I walked into Norwell High School—just like every other year. Only this time was going to be different; I was an upperclassman. After completing what I thought was my transformation, I was looking forward to the upcoming year. I practically skipped to the hallway where I found my friends.
Not surprisingly, they looked different. Some aged with wisdom, some sporting longer hair, while others having only minor changes. Never the less, they were the same friends that I remembered, their changes only seeming to be tangible. I, on the other hand, was different person. I was no longer a shy, easily teased girl. I knew that I was thin, and that was all I needed.
From an on looker’s perspective, no changes in my daily life were evident, but through my eyes everything was distorted. Truthfully, I did receive more attention from the opposite sex, but looking back on it now, I’m not sure if that was because I actually looked any better or because I thought I did. What they say is true; sometimes the road to happiness starts in your own head.
Unfortunately, I was not yet on the road to happiness. Everywhere I looked, everything I saw had changed. Those girls—the ones that I would have died to look like before—were now somehow fat. My paradigm had changed, trapping me in my own, distorted reality. Before I lost weight, I viewed people as simply either fat or skinny. After loosing weight, everyone I looked at had something that I thought should be changed.
I no longer spent my time writing and thinking, because I was too busy worrying about what I could wear to make myself look the thinnest. Before school every morning I would walk away from the mirror, frazzled and stressed that I did not look good enough. I looked in the mirror and saw fat thighs, a big stomach, and plump checks. I had somehow even lost that look of intelligence that I loved about myself. At my sunken level, thoughts of self doubt consumed me.
I had made weight a priority in my life, and rightly fully so, but my mistake was when I made it the only priority in my life. By my own self admission, I became shallow, unintentionally judging others for their outer appearance. Weight and numbers began to ruin my life.
Unbeknownst to my internal conflict, my family and friends congratulated me on my achievements, and I often saw many girls look up to me as an example of what they wish they could do. They looked at me with those same jealous, yearning eyes that I once had. What they fail to realize is what the experience has cost me. They never saw my unhappiness or my tears. They never felt my pain or sorrow. They’ll never know how the experience can changed me in many unwanted ways.
They may not have the body they want, but after loosing nearly 50 pounds neither do I.