I leave for my Goddard College residency on April 7.
I have to buy my tickets this Friday when I get paid. I’m flying into New York City and then taking an Amtrak train, the Vermonter, to Montpelier which is five miles from the school. (I love the train. A lot. I took one to Washington DC last summer and had an absolute blast. There is no train route that will get me from Nevada to Vermont, or I would so be there.)
I’m incredibly excited to spend an extra night in New York City. To explore.
I have financial aide that will just cover the tuition. A fistful of handbooks and packing lists from the school. And a heart that thump-thumps every time I think about doing this.
I want to be a writer. Does that make me a wanna-be?
Am I going to be surrounded by super-cool-future-best-seller-Pulitzer-Prize-winners?
I will have to read out loud. Read words that I wrote myself, out loud to people who are serious writers. Can I do that?
And then my next question puts it all into a different light. I hate it, but I can’t stop it from coming.
Will I be the fattest?
I’m a good writer. It’s the only thing that I know deep down that I can do well. My heart believes that with work I can be a successful writer. That this is the work. This is paying my dues, and I’m ready and willing and excited to do it.
So why am I even thinking about my weight? I don’t even know how much I weigh. It will be four months since I’ve weighed myself when I leave. Almost five.
Why does weight have to seep into everything?
Once upon a time all I wanted in the whole world was Olympic gold. Every one of the millions of 50 meter laps I swam from age 6 to 16, I imagined the weight of a medal against my damp chest and hearing the American anthem play. It drove me.
I was on the right track. I was fast. I was strong. I was on a good state team and I was working toward qualifying times.
And then my father went to prison.
He stayed there until I was 19. I felt too old. I felt too slow. I couldn’t swim the way I could at 16 when he got out and I didn’t have to spend all my time working to help support my sisters and brothers.
I’d lost my edge.
I’d gained 30 pounds.
I gave up.
Because I thought I was fat.
Now I really am fat (5’10” and 170 pounds of mostly muscle is not fat, no matter what my 19-year-old self believed. Nearly twice that much is.) And I’m scared. Scared of putting myself out into the world. Scared of trying so hard and failing.
I was an athlete once. A serious athlete with drive and determination. I could have been an Olympian. But I gave up.
I hated my body. Even when it was strong, lean, a butterfly-machine. Even when I could run ten miles, or do 250 incline sit ups, or swim like the wind for hours a day. I hated my body because as much as I loved being an athlete, and intellectually I knew that to be an athlete I had to be fit, I wanted to be skinny like my sisters.
I wanted to be beautiful like my 6′, 125 pound, Brooke-Sheilds-look-a-like sister. (Looking like a Brooke Shields is always a blessing, I suppose…but in the days of Island of the Blue Dolphins? Yeah. That’s what my sister looked like. At 13.) I wanted thick, waist-length hair like hers especially. Mine was short to fit in my cap, and chlorine burned.
I wanted to be perfect like my pretty blonde sister who never seemed to struggle socially the way I did. Even now, when I read her Facebook wall I get a familiar tinge of jealousy over how much everyone she’s ever met loves her. Everyone loves her.They seek her out, to be near her.
I was an athlete amongst beauty. And I hated my broad shoulders and muscular arms.
I don’t want to hate myself anymore.
I want to accept myself. I want to open myself up to criticism and critique and the possibility of greatness. Not the promise of it. That’s never been promised. Not when I was a swimmer, and not as a writer. But there was a time when satisfaction came from trying as hard as I could. Reaching for something I didn’t even know was there, down deep. Being just a little bit better than I even knew I could be.
I want that again.
Maybe it starts with learning to eat for enjoyment and love of good food.
Maybe it starts with letting people love me. Just as I am.
Not 30 pounds, or 50 pounds, or 150 pounds from now. But right now. Just as I am.
Maybe it starts when I get on a plane, bound for New York City and a train to Vermont, to write.