When I graduated from college, I had absolutely no job prospects. At the time, my university had career days when recruiters from fortune 500 companies would visit the campus and pluck the best and brightest for entry level positions at their big corporations. But not for me. I was a television and film production major, and no one came to campus to recruit us. The ones who got those interviews were the advertising majors, the business majors, the science majors, the economics majors. But for production? Well, at that time, we were pretty much left to our own devices.
Here’s what I knew: I didn’t want to return to my hometown because I didn’t want a career doing the news or the local morning show. I decided New York would be my destination. Within two weeks of graduation, I, along with two of my scrappy college friends, rented a U-Haul with a stick shift, prayed we’d get up the big Syracuse University hills with it, and headed to our various hometowns to pick up basic furnishings and necessities. None of us had jobs or a place to live. We knew exactly two people in New York willing to put us up for a couple of nights. There was no safety net. We were all in.
We arrived in the Big Apple at around 10pm. I had only been to New York once before, and driving through midtown that evening was a mix of utter excitement and mind numbing fear. I had $500 to my name, no job, no place to live and a rented U-haul. I was naive, with some sort of crazy blind faith. I didn’t know anyone in the entertainment industry, and the internet hadn’t been born yet, so I literally pounded pavement with my one business suit, trolling for jobs. By the end of those two weeks, I had scored a job working on a new television series, and while it barely paid enough to cover rent and food, I had officially arrived.
It wasn’t until years later I realized I had something else riding along with me: Commitment. I had fully committed to a life in New York, to finding a job that could sustain me and perhaps even be something close to resembling a gig in the entertainment industry. I was bound and determined to thrive. I would not be slinking back home to my parents’ house. I would not admit defeat. I wasn’t particularly enlightened. In fact, like I said, I was pretty damn naive to think I could survive with $500 and a dream. But once I fully committed, things began to happen. The wind was at my back. It was scary and it was magical and it was tough. Most of the time I felt I didn’t have a clue. I just kept moving forward, and I gave myself no choice but to make it work.
There are times when I lost track of that naive 22-year old. I have to work hard to call her back into being, because as I moved through life, there appeared to be more at stake, more to risk, more to lose. More fear. Perhaps it’s simply what happens when you grow up and take on more things, more adult responsibilities, and ultimately more burdens. One of those burdens was the 100 pound weight gain that occurred during this past decade.
Even at 22, I struggled with my weight, but more in the 20 pounds to lose range, never obesity. But then, time, life challenges, hardships, hormones, an autoimmune condition and depression led to the rise in weight and the depletion of my courage and confidence to effect change. I had gone into a coma of sorts, giving up the will to make a difference, distracted by the disappointments and the challenges. I told myself it was just too hard and I couldn’t imagine success. So why the hell bother?
What woke me up was the high school reunion followed by a college reunion. Looking at photographs and seeing that 22 year old again staring back at me, woke me up to the present and to the awareness that this was NOT who I set out to be. This physical body wasn’t the ME that still lived inside me. I had to awaken that determination, and find a way to HER again. That naive, fully committed girl who didn’t let a hill, or a big city, or a tiny bank account, or mean people, or the unknown scare her off. I had to fully commit once again with a determination that nothing would stop me. I would stay in it and get to my goal. I tossed off all of my reasons, and I began to change my behavior. It was an all or nothing proposal. I embraced the C word: Commitment. I fully surrendered to a new way of tackling the mountain of weight, and I was determined to prove with every action that this time would be different.
We all have our reasons for doing or not doing something. We can convince ourselves with a litany of why’s: Why bother, why it will be too hard, or why it’s not the right time, why we don’t have enough time, or why we can’t be consistent. We layer piles of stuff on top of that tiny voice that fights to be heard. When I vowed to go the distance with my 100 pounds, I knew this time HAD to be different. I knew that I could no longer just weave in and out of a plan, skirt my promise or let myself off the hook to get there. I knew I had to COMMIT. Fully COMMIT. This meant a hardcore plan, one that I could sustain. This meant doing things VERY differently than I’d done in the past. And this meant that even when it was hard (and it was), I had to be relentless. I had to get up over the mountain, and I couldn’t let my reasons get in the way. If I wanted a different outcome, I had to do this differently. Very differently.
There was some mourning. I mourned the very real possibility that I could not eat the way most of the rest of the world ate and be thin. I mourned the very real possibility that me and sugar might have to part ways permanently. But there was a resolve in me that was finally gathering strength. Some of that came from pure anger. I had let myself go. I had let circumstance beat my ass. I had gone to sleep. And I was pissed. That 22 year old had not envisioned the ME that now stood before the mirror. That 22 year old expected much more of me. And once I made the very tough decision to let go and begin in earnest with no BS, with no more excuses, the clouds parted. I woke up and I began to feel her again, a little bit more each day. That scrappy 22 year old who didn’t take no for an answer. That scrappy 22 year old who believed she would find a way, and who focused on the goal rather than how awkward she was or how many mistakes she made along the way. The determination that some might call naive, was actually the magic I needed to head in a new direction.
Giving myself a black and white template was the key. Hard and fast rules eliminated the need for me to process more than, “here are the rules, make the meal, eat the meal. And you’re done.” I focused on the present. One meal at a time. If I mess up, I get back up and keep going. When it slowed down (and it did), I felt the underpinnings get a little weak. But I keep going. And now, with my goal appearing on the horizon, I’ve had to renew my determination. I’m in this. Sometimes it’s not fast enough. Sometimes it’s not fun. But the pay off is there each time I see that 22 year old coming forward in the mirror. She’s still there, still the dreamer, still awake and alert and ready to take on whatever life will bring. She’s learned to be kinder to me. She’s learning to let things go more easily. She’s got her sights set on a life unbridled. Today, I am a size 10, down from a size 20, with the determination to arrive at a single digit size. And I’m all in.
Wherever you are on this journey, whether you’re just beginning the climb, or you fell off the ledge, or you’re half way there looking at how much farther you have yet to go….don’t give up on that voice inside cheering you on. Stop giving attention to the reasons and the difficulties. Focus your attention on this moment. Get pissed if you have to. But don’t give up. It’s never too late to surrender, to fully commit again and allow providence, the universe, or your ultimate higher power catch the wind and push you forward.