A Different Way Home

The first night of the first summer I returned home from college after my freshman year I met up with friends at a party on campus. I remember my entire time at this gathering, we didn’t stay there long. Both of these facts were undoubtedly a consequence of an insufficient supply of alcohol. Although there appeared to be enough there for some.

A girl I knew from high school, not a friend, but a friendly enough acquaintance, approached me drunkenly. She shouted my name and then ran up to me and gave me a hug. Her approach would have been far less convivial if not aided by the three games of beer pong she had participated in earlier. As she loosened her tug around my shoulders she lowered her hands towards my waist and swung me around. I have to see your ASS, I hear it’s GINORMOUS!” Our mutual friend who had probably relayed that information to her tried to laugh it off, “Yes, isn’t it amazing!?” I laughed too and pretended to take the comment lightly. After all, everyone had always talked about my ass–it was always big, but you know…in a “good way”. Unfortunately, facing the reality of the Freshman 15 X 2, I knew her inebriated comment sprang from critical gossip. I was not the skinny mixed girl with the bubble butt anymore, I had grown hips and thighs; I was thick. After forcing myself through a bit more small talk I finally managed to grab my girlfriend and slink out of the party. I’m sure we found booze somewhere, I had to forget what that girl said.

But I’ve never forgotten what that girl said.

The fact that I still remember that comment has nothing to do with how I feel about my body now; that’s been a long journey and the difference in my self confidence is night and day, thank God for therapy and also my thirties! Still, I’ll always recall that night because the embarrassment and hurt I felt at 19 ushered in a precedent–I would always try to lose weight, or tone up, or “look better” before returning home for a visit.

So many of us try to get into routines all the time. We work to discipline ourselves to regularly wake up early and go for a run, or we order a salad everyday at lunch to try and stay on a healthy track. But what about the patterns we don’t mean to fall into? The ones that we suddenly look back on and realize we have been following to our detriment for years? With a trip to Michigan scheduled for the end of this week, I realized about a month ago that my “tone to go home” routine was one that needed to be broken.

What I find most amusing about this pattern sticking in my head is that I barely see anyone when I go home anymore. I have three close friends that I visit and none of them are from my high school class. I pretty much hole up at home with my family the entire time and snuggle my nieces, that’s really what it’s all about. I know that everyone there that I spend time with loves me and could care less about whether I have gained a few pounds. I know the furthest thing from my mind when I first greet them is whether their asses have gotten bigger; it’s just not remotely circling the realm of importance. So, when I got on the treadmill last month, I wondered why I felt compelled to push a little harder for my impending homecoming.

The only answer I could come up with was simple: repetition. While I let go of the starving and the purging a long time ago, I’ve kept the “who you are right now is not good enough” gig going for almost fifteen years. As a few self-deprecating thoughts crept in yesterday I realized that in order to break this pattern once and for all, I would have to take action and do something different. I would have to create a new routine.

In order to do this I’ve decided that every time an old thought comes up between now and when I am home, I’ll make myself consciously replace it with a new, more positive, more true, sentiment. That means not just letting thoughts roll through my head as they may; I am responsible for stopping them and not allowing them to colonize my brain and influence my actions. So when my old mind thinks, dinner with friends would be more fun if you were a bit thinner–I will challenge that thought with, I always have so much fun going to dinner with my friends, I can’t wait to see them. Seems basic, but I think turning over the dialogue in my head is vital to retraining my brain; if I want different thoughts to come out, I’ve got to start putting different thoughts in. My hometown is full of body shaming, self-critical ghosts; I need to clear them out so I can move freely and joyfully. It will take some practice; something tells me this first trip back won’t be perfect. But if I know anything about myself, it’s that I have the discipline to change my habits, and I’ve gotten pretty good at creating new patterns that support and contribute to a healthier and happier me.

What about you? What’s it like when you go home? Any old insecurities start to pop up? I’d love to hear what they are and how you battle them! x

 

 

 

29 thoughts on “A Different Way Home

  1. I don’t really have a home town. I’ve always been nomadic, sometimes through my own choice and sometimes at the will of my family or the Armed Forces.

    However, I occasionally meet old school friends and I think of the cruel nicknames that we called each other back then and how they, mostly, in no way, relate to our current lives all these years later.

    They used to call me “Dithers.” Today, I am a VP in a fairly large IT company and I make decisions every day with confidence. I don’t think that anybody who never knew me as a teen would ever say that I dither.

    This is a very well written, personal piece, Cat. It drew me into your emotions and the huge effect that a single, thoughtless comment could have on triggering long-term behaviours. And I like a happy ending. You are now in control of your own destiny. Well done for getting to that point!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your comments Lance, they mean a lot to me. When you say what you got from it is the understanding of the huge effect that one thoughtless comment could have on triggering long-term behaviors-well, that’s pretty thrilling to me, cause it was exactly what I was trying to show. Not sure I am always successful in that way–people hear what I am trying to say. Thank you so much for reaching out and expressing what you did so I could get that satisfaction–it feels really good.
      Thanks for reading and stopping by–please do again!

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  2. I love the way you write Cat, you’re a natural storyteller. I can totally relate to this. I was never a truly ‘happy’ kid, never part of the ‘in’ crowd, and spent much of my childhood overweight. When I left home and went out into the world it was like a new beginning, a release. We lived away from home for a long time, and moved back, about 20 miles away, 4 years ago. We don’t visit the town I grew up in often, but when we do it brings back all the old memories. Good and bad. I’m not friends on FB with anyone I went to school with – that part of my life is long gone. Every now and then, however, I will spot someone I recognise from my childhood and the old insecurities come flooding back. I’ve learned to deal with it and try to be happy with the person I am today at nearly 50 years of age.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Ali–I’d say calling me a storyteller is the biggest compliment you could give me, I really appreciate it.
      I really enjoyed writing this and the responses have been so fulfilling–it seems so many people can relate to how no matter what a good place we are in in life, certain people and places can bring up old insecurities. I even had some girls from high school fb message me to talk about how much they related to this and some of them were girls that I was so insecure around back then! So eye opening. Thanks again Ali! x

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: This is 34 – cat h. bradley

  4. I was bullied for most of my childhood so I have trouble going back to my hometown. My 20-yr high school reunion came up and although I was very curious to see where people ended up, I had that feeling that all those old insecurities would come creeping back and I would go back to being the shell of a person I was in high school. Great post, you really captured all the emotions perfectly. I’m very critical of myself too, it takes constant work to get my head in the right place to remind me that I am good enough. Sometimes I fail, but as I’ve gotten older, I feel a little more aware of it. I hope you have a great visit.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so sorry you were bullied, hearing that always hurts my heart a little bit. I haven’t had any desire to go to any of my reunions yet, I have to admit it doesn’t even cross my mind, I just feel so far from that scene. I agree that it takes constant work to keep our heads in the right place, it’s important work though! Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts, please do it again sometime, happy to have you here!

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  5. When I left for the military at 22, I promised my parents that I would make it home at least ONCE a year. I have pretty much kept this promise, but there have been a few years that my parents opt to come visit me.

    Over the years the friends and relatives that I see when I visit has greatly dwindled. This past Thanksgiving, it was just my parents, brother and I did see one of my Aunts. It seems impossible to coordinate visits with friends these days, everyone has plans!! There are only two friends that I would actually care to get together with and catch up and they seem to never be available when I visit.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah it can definitely be hard coordinating things, i got pretty lucky this time I think and I’ll be able to see the couple friends I have there.

      On a different note, didn’t know you were in the military, very cool!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. It’s pretty awesome that what was once a “Who you are right now is not good enough,” thought has been turned into a mentality that actually does make you a better person! You’re going to be who you are and the people that matter are going to be your fans no matter what. That’s been my experience, anyway.

    When I go home I’m constantly on the lookout for people I know. I tell my folks that if I do see someone, my name isn’t Justin — it’s Rick. Fortunately, I’ve lost a lot of weight, toned up considerably and grew a beard so it’s not hard to be “incognito” around them. I’ve had too many awkward “How’ve you been?” conversations that quickly turn into a battle to see who’s doing better in life. I hate that and I’d rather just avoid it. I also figure my old friends that actually DO care how I’m doing are still connected with me in some way and wouldn’t have to ask.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Alright Rick I am at the nail salon getting a pedicure on my ugly runner feet and you just made me laid out loud. I unfortunately have a look that makes it a little more difficult to blend in (BIG hair!!). I know what you mean though. It’s why I canceled my IG and pretty much only posts my blog posts on Facebook–I can’t deal with the “look how I’m doing stuff”. Life is hard enough without having to prop it up for everyone to look at. It’s such a ridiculous thing too, who’s doing “better”, what does that even mean?!
      Thanks for your comments Justin. Good stuff.

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  7. I think one of the main issues that I have when I go home (Virginia) is the whole marriage and kids thing. I was one of the few students who left the state to go to college (and eventually graduate school). Of course, many of my classmates (and family members) pretty much got married after college and started popping out kids around 25-28 years of age. Usually, with some of them, they feel like my life is unfulfilled in sort of way without settling down. For the most part, I love my life (maybe but professional side could be better) – I can travel when and where I want and I can spend all of my disposable income on myself (aside from student loans). Don’t get me wrong, I do not have problem with people who decide to go the family route but having kids and living in the burbs is not the life style that everyone wants, Just sayin’.

    Man, I kind of went off on a rant. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I totally get you Kwame! I am married but my husband and I don’t want kids–you should see the looks we get!! We are all fulfilled in different ways. It’s nice when people get that, s little frustrating when they don’t, especially when they think you not wanting what they have is a comment on their life choices. Ahh man, people, we are tough aren’t we!?

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I needed to read something like this right now! Everything is so negative and I could (and have) rant and rave but I also need to take a bit of responsibility and do something to change it myself. Great post, thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh man I’m so glad you got something out of it Ella. Yeah I have to remind myself all the time that I have a part in things–when I’m thinking in a healthy way I realize that it’s actually quite empowering–if I have some responsibility in something it means I have the power to change it! Thanks so much for stopping by, I really appreciate your comment!

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  9. This is such an awesome post – no-one who loves you cares what you look like and everyone is probably harboring exactly the same doubts about themselves anyway!

    And Allie you definitely look like a runner ’cause you are a runner! It’s amazing that you started running, that’s brilliant. They should be impressed by your skills, not thinking about what you look like. Enjoy your trip but also enjoy your running!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. When I go home, we all realize none of us are as we were in high school or college. We’ve gotten bigger, more wrinkled, and more gray… but we’ve also gotten older and wiser. No one cares what others look like anymore… we’re just happy to see each other. 😁

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Christina Meadowcroft

    With my 30 year reunion coming up, I have been very conscious of what I’m “bringing to the table.” I’ve lost a good deal of weight that was added during some extreme conditions, my head is in a good place and I’m happy with me. I’ve been practicing yoga and learning to let go of what no longer serves me and, in some cases, it’s my own body image. In others, it’s letting go of what other people think – even when I had the extra weight. With the addition of yoga, though, my head stays in a good place and that positive energy helps keep me on track. Also going to the Mitten at the end of the week! Have a great time with your family. You are beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “Letting go of what no longer serves me.” This is my work EVERY SINGLE DAY. What’s been really helpful the past few years has been realizing that these things that don’t serve me are blocking light in my life, they are literally dimmers. Visualizing clearing them out and letting in the gifts/the light has really worked for me. I’m just thinking in terms of your reunion, what if there is an old friend there that you could have this totally amazing later in life connection with? Your reunion is full of potential and possibility, but that possibility gets blocked if you’re lost in the sea of everyone else’s thoughts and your insecurities. I hope you are able to continue keeping yourself in a good headspace and go there able to fully appreciate and enjoy everything that is there for you. You’re so right, yoga is SO helpful in letting this stuff go. Breathe it all out!
      So crazy all of us are going to the Mitten this weekend!! Allie makes three! Enjoy! And thanks so much for reading and for sharing, please come back 😍.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Replacing negative beliefs with positive truths is a great coping technique! I am also going to Michigan at the end of the week and have been worried about if I will look larger to smaller to my husband’s family. I haven’t seen some of them in a few years and I have been preoccupied by what they will think of my looks. I’m especially worried that they know I started running, but then they will see me and think I don’t look like a runner. Thank you for this post. It really made me think about how I need to change my thinking and challenge my negative thoughts.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Oh Allie–“looking like a runner”, that ones the worst isn’t it? It’s crazy how much pressure we put on ourselves. One thing that actually helps me is checking my own thoughts about other people. I rarely think about how my friends or family look when I see them, I’m more anxious to LISTEN to them. If someone has seriously gained some weight or just doesn’t look well, I never think “Oh God, look at how fat they are!” I think, “I hope everything is ok.” My first thought is always care–not judge. I’m not sure why I go home acting like I’m the only person with this type of love and compassion. I’ve only known you for a short time, but I felt right away that you are a caring person, you make other people feel good. Remember that, lead with it. Your outside assets are blooming and that’s great, but don’t forget your insides are fully matured and strong and beautiful. People will see it. And honestly, people who don’t look inside kinda aren’t worth it. Have fun in the Mitten!

      Liked by 3 people

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