With anything in life, it’s difficult to know where to begin when embarking down a new path. How do you know if you’re taking the “right” first step, heading in the “right” direction, doing what is “right” for you? How do you ignore that constant, unsettling feeling of uncertainty that comes from wondering what if?
What if this is a mistake?
What if this isn’t really want I want?
What if I don’t do this and regret it later?
We spend countless hours on that what if notion, wondering whether or not the choices in front of us are going to be the ones that bring us to our greatest happiness, all the while remaining stationary as we wonder. We put so much effort into that fear and that uncertainty that we waste copious amounts of time we could be spending on doing what it is that we’re worried about doing.
At some point, we need to stop wondering; we need to stop thinking so much and instead focus more on doing. In order to move forward and begin something new, we need to actually move forward. We need to stand up, make a decision, and take that first step.
We need to simply begin.
Last year, I did just that. I began something. I began the next chapter in my life: the long and arduous journey of self-discovery and continuous self-improvement that I desperately needed. I quit my long-time job, uprooted my life, and started over in a new zip code. I dropped myself into a world I knew nothing about and found myself considerably outside of my comfort zone.
I thought that these major life changes would free me from the perpetual funk I was in. In a way, they did; Boston gave me so much of what I needed. It gave me hope, perspective, and boundless promise. I didn’t realize, though, that these major life changes were only small parts of the bigger equation.
I woke up each day in a new city with new obstacles to face: learning a new job, embracing the multitudes of people around me, adapting to the geography of the area, meeting the financial needs of a city life, etc. I had thought that I could meet those obstacles head on, but found that despite the courage to uproot my life and make those major life changes, I often lacked the courage to expand my day-to-day horizons. I developed social anxiety, became a stickler for routine, and became far too comfortable behind closed doors. The world around me continued to move forward while I remained still, frozen in this state of uncertainty and fear.
Instead of my comfort zone expanding to meet the demands of my situation, it remained small, but solidified its defenses. My bathrobe became my best friend and my anxiety became a crutch, one that I could lean on whenever I came far too close to the edge of my comfort zone. I had so drastically altered my external world with the move and career change, but I had never taken the time to allow my internal world to catch up.
My anxieties gave way to inactivity and inactivity gave way to mindless eating, resulting in a tremendous weight gain. My first year in Boston added sixty pounds to my frame and several sizes to my wardrobe. As a result, I lost a large chunk of my confidence, the majority of my sense of self-worth, and all of what I consider to be my greatest gift: my voice. I stopped writing, stopped braving the world beyond the necessity of my work life, and stopped sharing myself with the world. My romantic relationship suffered, my friendships stalled, and my world more or less came to a halting stop. Somewhere along the way I stopped fighting for myself. I stopped wanting things out of life and stopped fighting for the things that I had initially wanted. I became a casual observer of life instead of an active participant.
As is often the case, we can’t always see how bad it’s gotten until we reach a point at which something or someone gives us the swift kick in the ass we need. For me it was several things: My father had just had another heart attack, my scale refused to lie to me, and I saw the beginning signs of diabetes; the very same ones I saw my father experience as I was growing up. I had to make a decision to either continue down a reckless path or to take back my life one step at a time. It didn’t matter what the first step was going to be or whether or not it was the right first step; all that mattered was that I actually take a step. And I did. I took the most logical step possible: stop the what-ifs and resolve to make my health and everything that encompasses the number one priority.
How I feel about myself matters not only because it connects to all other aspects of my life, but also because I can’t give my best to others when I’m not even giving my best to myself. No matter how I look at things, no matter what scope I use, it all comes down to my health. As soon as that realization came, the rest began to follow.
I talked to my boyfriend about everything, made a list of foods I was no longer allowed to bring into the house, and stopped the primary source of the problem right in its tracks. I joined an online community of like minded people going through the same struggles and I started using the site to track my food, exercise, weight, mood, and overall nutrition.
It’s been a little over five weeks now and it’s amazing to me how dramatically my quality of life has already improved. I’m physically stronger, mentally sharper, and emotionally light. I’m still considerably flabby and I have a long way to go before I’m content with my body and overall health, but I’m certain – probably more certain than I’ve ever been – that these changes are going to help me reclaim what I’ve lost.
Some days I think about my goals and I feel overwhelmed and intimidated, but then I remind myself why I am doing this: I want to be around to see my nieces and nephews grow up. I want to be unburdened by the physical limitations of my body. I want to be the best possible version of myself. I can’t do that in the state I’m in. It’s time to move forward. It’s time to not only push the boundaries of my comfort zone, but to move beyond them entirely.
If I don’t push myself, who else will?
If I don’t save myself, who else will?
If I don’t fight for myself, who else will?
Until next time…stay classy.
– C.M. Berry