I am haunted and, as January creeps closer, I find myself on the verge of anniversary. By the middle of the month, it will have been one year since I started running: running from my ghosts, that is.
See, my past plagues me. For virtually all of my first eighteen years, I remember one thing always lurking in the shadows, just waiting to leap into conversation.
I took up too much space.
As a child, yes, I was too loud or commanding or assertive for the likeness of many adults I came in contact with. I was never the perfectly demure and quiet daughter that far too many people still believe little girls should be.
But, I’m talking literally.
My body literally took up too much space. As far back as I can remember, the consensus has always been that I was chubby and I needed to slim down before it was “too late,” whatever that is supposed to mean.
“No one will hire you until you lose the weight, kid.”
“Don’t you want to be good at sports? Drop a few pounds.”
“You’re hot, you know, for a curvy girl.”
I am haunted by these words, but more than anything, I am harassed with memories. Before I turned eighteen, I’d probably been on more diets and extreme exercise regimens than Jenny Craig herself. I remember Weight Watchers, the personal trainers, and being forced to stay in sports I hated, just so I was obligated to exercise. For essentially all of my childhood, I was made to feel like my body was wrong and, worse yet, I was taught that my body was not my own, rather it was something to be managed and monitored.
My appearance had consumed my every waking thought for eighteen years, but last winter, I decided it would not control the next eighteen. That was when I took up running and weightlifting. Unlike every other workout routine I’d attempted in the past, I was determined to make this one stick.
Now, I have been running miles and miles at least four days a week for almost a year, but only as of recently have I begun to question it. Was I running towards a better physique and therefore, better opportunities? Or, was I running away from everyone who’d told me I was just too much?
I guess, the answer is a little bit of both.
In the end, it turned into a new passion for me and while I will never have the body a great portion of society wants me to have, I am finally in love with this body I’ve created. Maybe I owe some of it to every negative remark or god-awful diet. Maybe I owe some of it to this messed up system that sets certain people up for failure based on the size of their clothes. But I owe most of it to myself. I wanted to get active and start eating right for me, above all else.
The greatest thing I’ve learned this past year is we’re all fighting a body battle. I can’t think of anyone who is entirely happy with the way they look. So, maybe that’s why we bother sweating it out at the gym or disappointedly staring into salad bowls. Maybe we are all trying to find a shred of contentment with these bodies we’ve built.
Maybe we’re all a little bit haunted.