Dear 22 year old

thI have been where you are. I know what is going through your head. I am still there most days, but I have got some age on me now. I know things you do not know at 22, or do not believe yet anyway. It is hard to believe them, when all around you everything goes against it. But, I am writing this because at 22 there is still time. Time for you to change your thought process . Time for you to become head strong. Stronger than you already are so that when you do have years on you too, like me, you will be able to look back and think, “I’m so happy I was able to change my way of thinking.” The reason is this, your mind is one of the most powerful tools you have. It can help you, it can hurt you. It had done both over time to me. It continues to do it daily. I wish I had someone to say this to me at 22, really at 15.

My story begins at 15, really younger, but for the sake of this we will say 15. I looked around, I noticed what was going on. The girls getting the attention from the boys. Meeting them at the movies. I could not figure it out. I was outgoing, friendly, had plenty of friends but I was not one the one the boys noticed outside of the “friend zone”. I realized what they did notice. I became obsessed with it. Exercising like crazy, becoming “healthy” is what I said. But at one time my parents considered sending me off to treatment because my “healthy” behavior had gotten out of control and on my large boned frame, the weight I had lost down to was skeletal thin. However it paid off where I wanted it to at the time. According to what the “norm” was anyway.

At age 16 the first boy notice me and asked me out. We hit it off. blah, blah, blah, fell in love, married when we finished college at 21 and the rest is divorce history. I could not keep up the charade. I am not born to be a naturally thin person. I am not a skinny girl by birth. I began to gain the weight back when I began to eat again. Just eating healthy, minding my own business, still exercising like normal and eating like normal, but gaining weight above Skeleton’s level. After gaining the weight, this person who promised me forever, better and worse, realized he only like the size I was at 16, not the size I had become 12 years later. Immediately my mind went to the place , “no one will ever want me, love me, if I am not small”, really there was evidence of that right?

Time passes. My soul was searched. Prayers were prayed. I cannot tell you all scars heal, but now I know that body shaming is a real thing and a real problem. I actually lived it the entire time I was married not only by my ex-husband but his family also. The people out there that talk, whisper, stare. They are not secure with something they have, something they are dealing with. Yes, I said I struggle now. Because I did not change my thought process early enough.

That’s what I want for you. Change your mind now. You are good enough RIGHT NOW! RIGHT THIS SECOND you are GREAT, exactly how you were meant to be. Whoever does not see that, whoever comments to the contrary does not deserve a second thought. I know it is not easy. I KNOW it is not easy. But you can do it. You HAVE to do it. Now. Change your thought process now and stop body shaming yourself. NOW.


I remember what cheerleading taught me….

(photo credit)

Some of you may wonder what cheerleading and the main photo of this post have in common. Believe me when I say, A LOT!!! After the last month or so of anxiety ridden day and nights wondering what to do, I finally took a breath, prayed, had others prayed, and the memory of what happened during 9th and 10th grade reminded me to slow down and take a step back. I remember the last time I did something hastily and without really thinking it through and what the results were. Enter the cheerleading reference.

I never have been an alpha girl. A mean girl. None of the cliques found me interesting enough or fitting enough to really “fit” in. But, I was a dancer! I loved to dance and learned to do basic gymnastics also. I remember sitting in the gym one day during the football season of 9th grade watching the cheerleaders lead the Pep Rally. All my friends who also did not have an identity but longed to be a part of that “cool kid club” went on and on about how they were going to be a cheerleader. It was the topic of so many lunch room table conversations, locker meetings, and standing around trying to be noticed that I got sick and tired of hearing about it. Why you ask? Not once did these conversations ever actually involve me. These friends talked around me about trying out for cheerleading like it was not even a possibility that I would want to or even could try out. Now, in their defense I could understand how I may have given off the impression that I was defiantly not interested in being a part of “that” group, but what really made my red hair turn fiery was the attitude that I couldn’t do it. The fact that I could dance circles around these girls and I could do gymnastics just seemed to fall by the way side.

So, what does a young, red-head with a temper and full of pride do? Well of course the first thing I thought is, “well I’ll show them”. That’s right, the dark horse signed up for cheerleading tryout for the Varsity squad. Gasps could be heard throughout the halls for days. Not only was I a nobody, but I was a nobody that used to be an overweight nobody and that is how EVERYONE still saw me even if I had bones sticking out of my neck. Yes, the pride in me of knowing that I COULD dance, and that I COULD do gymnastics, and yes, I COULD be a cheerleader put my name on that sign up sheet.  I showed up, rocked it, did a back hand spring, (the only one I might add) and sat back and waited for the results to be posted after school got out for the summer.

I can remember my mama driving to the front of the school where you could see the flyer taped to the front doors flapping in the wind. I casually got out, because I really could care less either way. Of course I wanted to do it to say I could, but if I didn’t make it my life wasn’t going to be crushed. This wasn’t a Lifetime movie moment. A few other girls who had devoted their lives to the Junior Varsity squad were pulling up at the same time. They of course spoke in a “why are you here, you know you didn’t make it” kind of tone as we walked up the steps to view the list. There it was, about 2 names down, MY name. “Uh”, was really my first thought. Then it was replaced with a little giddiness and I can still remember the faces of those other girls as they had to say, “you made it”. Not sure if they were congratulating me or questioning me. And so it started.

Endless fundraisers, nightly practices, weekend practices, poster making, ribbon making, the list goes on and on and this was just the summer BEFORE school started again. Then it was decorating the gym, gifts for the football players, and of course the Pep Rally. Every Friday night!!!! And we had to wear I hair all the same with the same ribbon. Really? What had I done? Was proving that I was a good dancer worth all this? My saving grace, so I thought, was that we had a TERRIBLE football team and our season would be over soon. Then someone broke the news to me that we also cheered during basketball games too. I could have died!

Finally the end of basketball season! It was over. I do have the “I used to be a cheerleader” comment in my back pocket for those conversations when you need to blurt out useless information. And, I did get a chance to cheer where High School playoffs are played because our squad was the first squad from our school to win Regional Championship and advance to State Championship (no such luck there). But, the most important thing I learned is that pride will get you into trouble. I should not have been so prideful about being able to dance and having the “I’ll show everybody” attitude. That prideful thought led to a year of misery!

While I rushed around trying to figure out my mid-life crisis degree, registering for those classes, and figuring out what I would do about work I was reminded of this. I thought about why I wanted to go back to school. The answer is, I do want to go back to school, and it has nothing to do with pride. But, I was rushing to do it in such a short period just to prove that I could. That has everything to do with pride. I’m not exactly sure who I was trying to prove it to. Probably the same people I proved to that I could cheer-people who really don’t care in the first place. So, after thinking about this lesson and reflecting on my urgency to get school done in two semesters I’ve decided to just slow down. I will still go back to school. I will still get out of the jar. But, I’ve learned that the view in the jar isn’t too bad and it’s not as bad as my view on the outside would be if I only escaped using my pride.