Once Upon a Time, everything was actually always great. Conflict was non-existent. People greeted one another as friends, and dinner was never burnt. The end.
Haha jkjk lol. Happiness is such a great goal, guys. But it’s not realistic, and it doesn’t sell. The good might be great, but the bad is necessary. The conflict, and the pain, and the setbacks, and the tears…it’s all the story. But if you know me at all, you know that I’m not just gonna pop it and drop it. Let’s dig a little deeper into the why behind it.
I’ve discussed my struggles with compulsive overeating and addictive patterns. But I haven’t talked much about my life beyond fitness and health. I have a niche, right? It’s what we’re all supposed to have. We’re supposed to pick a lane, stay in the lane, hashtag the shit out of the lane, and for god’s sake, don’t deviate from the lane.
But my fitness and nutrition journey? It’s only a tiny part of my story. My struggles with addiction lie far deeper than my own. And if it’s all the story, let’s talk about all the lanes.
It’s All The Story: The Early Years
I wanted to be a tennis star when I was in high school. I loved tennis. I still love tennis, even though I’ve played it about once in the past five years. I played all the time, then. I drove three hours round-trip to take lessons in the summer. I went to camps. I practiced by myself for hours. I was the top player on my small high school team my junior and senior years. I won, or got second, in all the summer tournaments. I missed state, barely, my senior year, but that just made me hungrier. I got a scholarship to a small church-related college, and another one to a state school in New Mexico. I chose the small school because it was closer, and because I was so scared to leave.
And I hated it. I hated everything about it. I was already struggling with religion then, and what it meant for me. On top of that, my parents had both gotten remarried the spring and summer before I left. My stepmother announced her pregnancy that Christmas, at the end of my first semester.
None of that had anything to do with me. But I pretended that it did. I let all of it be my excuse. I quit school, walked away from tennis, and spent the next six months lying on or near my mom’s couch, mostly eating leftover rigatoni out of a huge Tupperware bowl. I only emerged to promptly find my first adult relationship, which happened to be with someone who had a whole family, but assured me that they definitely broke up (Spoiler: they didn’t. At any point.)
All of that happened before I was 20. Almost nothing in it was the stuff of fairy tales. But it’s all the story. And the dubious beginning of my adulthood would prove to help me in future chapters, though that was definitely unclear for a long time.
The Plot Thickens, and Then Doesn’t.
I started my twenties with my first husband, my son’s father. We were both struggling with being adults, and tried real hard to grow up together for 13 years. I became pregnant about two weeks after our first date, and damned if he didn’t handle that incredibly well. Better than me, for sure.
When we found out that the pregnancy was ectopic, I found out what it meant to be pro-choice. As much as I wanted that baby (maybe not for the right reasons, but they felt right to 20-year-old me), trying to have it was impossible. It had to be terminated, or we both would have died. I’m not saying that to be dramatic.
Having to go back to the doctor to slowly terminate that pregnancy over a period of time and hearing him (not the most sensitive guy) say “Well, not dead yet, but almost!” every time like it was a victory was one of the most painful experiences of my life. Naturally, I became pregnant again as soon as I possibly could, because I couldn’t bear the idea of that loss. And because I was 20 and poor and completely in the wrong headspace, and because I didn’t allow myself to mourn at all, of course we got pregnant again just a few months later.
But it’s all my story, and without a single doubt, the highlight of my story is my son. Hunter was born in September of 1996, about six weeks after I turned 21 and three months after I married his father. Every chapter of my story since has been richer for knowing him.
But it doesn’t mean that story became happily ever after. I had a whole lot more fuck-ups to get out of the way.
Jesus, My Thirties.
I barely made it into my thirties before I tried to set them on fire. I started that decade of life super bored, and ended it shell-shocked and barely conscious.
There was a lot of bad in my thirties. In the interest of time, I’ll consolidate: an arrest, a restraining order, a divorce, getting fired from a job I absolutely hated because I absolutely deserved it, cancer, infidelity, addiction, another divorce, and a death.
But there was also a lot of good in my thirties. I went back to school, finished my bachelor’s, got my master’s, met some of the coolest people in my life, recovered from cancer, learned what I looked like bald and didn’t hate it, got out of an abusive relationship, and grew up a lot.
All of the good from my thirties came as a direct result of the bad. I went back to school because I got fired. I stayed in school and got my master’s because cancer was my lesson in how short life really was. And I saw my son graduate from high school, which was something I spent some months of my life uncertain I would get to witness.
It’s all the story.
It’s All The Story: How It’s Going
While 40 started off pretty bad, it has also been my decade of introspection and attempted growth. My son left for college shortly after my 40th birthday, and I met my husband a few weeks later (six years ago today!). While the timing of that meeting was just awful (we were both freshly-divorced, and both definitely due for some time being single first), we worked through it carefully together. After six years in a healthy, adult relationship, I understand how it feels to be honest with each other, talk through our difficulties, own our struggles, and celebrate our individual successes without jealousy. And we both recognize that our age and place in life has very much been the reason things are going as well as they are. Had we met at 20, we almost certainly would’ve screwed it right up.
I found my dream job at 42, and while the pandemic eventually stole it from me, I still had four amazing years working with amazing people in a place that taught me professional growth and confidence beyond anything I imagined.
I’ve kind of been forced to learn a lot more than I really wanted to at this point of my life, and while it feels a lot like I’m taking a lot of steps backward, I can also appreciate that I can look within in a more level-headed way. I can accept criticism without thinking my life is over (though I definitely still get randomly super-defensive over the way I do laundry, for example).
Most of all, I’ve learned that sometimes things are different, and it is better that way. Had I remained at that first school and stayed on the tennis team, my life would have been different, and I would have missed out on so much good. I wouldn’t have my son. I wouldn’t have worked at my dad’s movie theater and learned how much I love the industry, I wouldn’t have ended up at the colleges I really loved (shout-out to Cottey College and PSU!), and, god, so much more.
Would I have had other triumphs and setbacks? Well, duh. But the ones I have had are mine, and they’ve made me who I am. While I still struggle so much with self-image and with disordered eating, I speak kindly to myself and see my place in the world in a far more down-to-earth and logical way. I’ve met incredible people, and the ones that were less so all taught me something. I credit Rumi and Alanis Morissette for teaching me to thank the bad days for the lessons contained within them.
While life is still full of stressors, I’m grateful to be here to learn through them. And man, am I excited for what’s next.