I remember three distinct moments in my life when the number 77 was more than just a number.
The first time, I had found an old journal of mine from grade 7 or even earlier. I was in highschool at the time. I found one entry that burst with determination. I wrote about how I wanted to reach my “goal weight”, 77 kg, before my friend’s birthday. She was planning on throwing a pool party. 14 year old me was reminded of the ambitions of 12 year old me and it broke me. I felt shock and shame, knowing that in all the time since I first wrote that journal entry, all I had done was swell up in size and become uglier.
Fast forward to 2012 or 2013 when I was trying to exercise regularly, and dabbled in bulimia. I stepped on the scale and it read 76 kg. I was elated. I now weighed less than my 12 year old self and she could finally be proud of me, standing naked on that bathroom scale, hating myself into oblivion. Almost literally, or at least trying to.
Third. This week Monday, when I stepped on the scale at the gym. 76.7 kg. I felt hollow. As though the eight years since I wrote about wanting so badly to lose weight and be skinny had all amounted to nothing. Look at me only just now reaching my “goal weight”. What an utter shame.
Have I just been stalling all this time? Was the pain I felt cycling through phases of binge eating and dieting all for nought? I thought I was capable of more. I was supposed to be living my dream life by now. I was supposed to get skinny and fall in love and finally stop hating myself and wanting to die.
I don’t really hate myself anymore. And I want to die less literally nowadays. 12 year old me and 14 year old me would probably be disappointed in 21 year old me. But age has brought with it some wisdom, learning to love myself and my body is the progress I wouldn’t trade for anything. I am worlds apart from who I used to be. And I’m not planning to slow down. Thank goodness for that.
Last night, I had a revelation.
I find myself craving to go to the gym, to train. It comes in waves, because I know I’m taking some time to study–priorities, etc. But I feel so drained whenever I have to address the amount of study material I have to face in the next 24 hours. I’ve been diligent at procrastinating and I hate myself for it.
Then, while running through the reasons I love training, and planning how I’m going to start lifting heavier, it hit me like a freight train. Starting to lift heavy is, slowly, teaching me discipline. It’s a foreign idea to me, but I’ve started to shape my life around my training because I know that this will make me better. Training consistently, eating well, and sleeping enough helps me stack more weight onto that bar. And it’s taken time, but I’ve been surprisingly understanding, patient even.
And then I thought about applying this to other parts of my life, like schoolwork. This is me training to get better, and to perform better. Being consistent, studying regularly, eating right and sleeping well is what will help me stack more points on that GPA. I didn’t know a slight shift in mindset would revolutionize the way I feel about studying.
A while ago, I found out why I feel like I should be doing well, proving myself. And now I know how to go about that, albeit a little late.
There is something to be said about the pursuit of independence. It is endearing and admirable, but sometimes, that is all it is. It is a futile attempt at convincing yourself that you are an autonomous being, with full control over your circumstances. More often than not, you succumb to things greater than yourself, shrink because you have no energy left.
Some days, I am arrested with the thought that I could give up this whole life and not miss it. So unattached and uninspired, there are very few things that I would fight to hold on to. This scares me a little. But I’m also just waiting to welcome the day that I will wake up, and the days would have blurred into years, and the years won’t feel so bad anymore, and the regret won’t look like regret, and I can just let it go.
Loneliness is no longer something to regret. It is how I have saved myself, time and time again, and it is how I know that I’ll be safe. Until someone can convince me otherwise, I want to stay that way. Alone is how I stay safe, how I’ve become strong, how I choose to stay. What’s the alternative?
It’s been two months since I started training with a personal trainer. And this past week was the first time I doubted whether it was worth it.
I left last week’s training session not feeling like myself. I was inhabiting a body that no longer belonged to me, and I lost all motivation to keep it alive. I’ve trained and trained and I’ve grown more and more fixated on the image looking back at me from the mirror. It’s sad to admit it but it’s true; I’ve been late to school because I was obsessing over the darkness of my skin and the wobble of my thighs.
I see myself and I remember the dark nights of binge eating and the early morning runs and the protein shakes–I see myself and promise not to go back to that. But it’s difficult to run from vanity. So when I found myself slipping into that hole again, forgetting everything else but how much I’ve eaten and how much I’ve exercised, planning my next run but then hating myself for skipping it, and imagining my body bloat as a result–it became a battle that I didn’t want to fight anymore. So I considered giving up.
But last year, I fought a similar battle and won–kind of. When my mother threatened to send me to a dietitian, I broke down and rebuilt myself stronger than ever. I had stopped hating this body of mine and I wouldn’t let anyone turn me against it ever again. Now, I have to keep myself from turning against me. My body is a battlefield but I am my own army.
One day, you will want someone
just as I have wanted you.
You will see her with another man,
and will feel the urge to kill something–
it won’t matter if it’s him or you.
I am still avoiding who I used to be. And I am in denial of who I have become.
I’m currently reading Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I started reading it almost three months ago, and I’ve had to put it down so many times because it reminds me so much of myself and how I used to be when I first left home, how I am. For the longest time, before this novel, before I found that the words that I used to describe myself had already been strung together by someone else, I have felt a little empty. It’s not a gaping hole, like I’m used to. I would have wished for someone to arrive and fill up. It is a hollowness that I could not get identify.
There are whole parts of myself, of who I am, that people here will never recognize. And sometimes, I fantasize about going home and feeling whole again. But even then, home has grown just as much as I have, we may no longer fit together.
I am a Burmese South African living in Canada and there will always be parts of me that are unsatisfied–hungry. I’m waiting for my Africa to return to me, but it’s different here. You cannot be African if you are not black. But even then, the South Africa I grew up in was delicate and golden, I experienced something entirely unique and inexplainable. One of those “you need to have been there to get it” things.
I feel less like myself and less of myself every day. I want to fight losing these parts of who I am but I’m not sure I can. I’m not sure if I’m really worth it.
You are all the bad decisions I have ever made returned to haunt me.
It’s hard to acknowledge pain when you can’t talk about it in past tense.
I still miss you but I have sense enough now not to say so out loud.
There is something about growing older that makes me long for things of the past. And I can’t help but wonder what it would be like to have kept the things I have long since lost. Would I not be richer now, in the ways that I have always longed to be?
I am turning 21 next week. I have thought about this with a sober mind and feel that there are some things that are worth addressing at this age of my life.
I’m not surprised to find that I haven’t come very close to living the life that I had imagined for myself five years ago, when I had dreamed about being at the golden age of 21. I thought that life would have fallen into place by now. But that isn’t the case.
I am, however, pleasantly surprised to find that I don’t hold these failures against myself. I am not angry at myself or sad that my life is in shambles, even at twenty one. Learning that this future me that the past me had dreamt up turned out to be a kinder me than I could have imagined is something to be grateful for all on its own.
This, of course, doesn’t mean that there isn’t something left to be desired.
I have tried this many times before and, although the endeavour is something to be admired, the results have always fallen short. I want to just live better and be better to others, I already learnt how to be kind to myself but I still need to learn how to be good for myself.