14. Here’s What Happens When You Do Nothing

There is a point when it’s too late to change. Some people would argue that it’s never too late to change; it’s never too late to do something different. The optimistic side of me wants to agree, wants to believe that’s true—it may never be too late—but the realist in me knows better. It’s true, it’s never too late to change a behavior, to alter your perspective, to start something different, but some things are too late to change. I saw this video the other day on Facebook that highlighted all these famous actors and award-winning entrepreneurs who didn’t begin their successful careers until much later in life. It was as if they reached a point in time when they had had enough of the mediocre life they were living and decided now was the time to change, now was the time to make a difference in their own lives. The video was one of those motivational clips intended to make you feel like you can change the world when you’re 85. Watching those clips, I always feel ready to conquer the world, ready to live life to the fullest, ready to take on any and all obstacles in my own life. But, that feeling is short-lived, because changing is hard. And as much as I want to agree with all those motivational clips, I feel like they miss one key hindering element: for some, it’s too late to change. For some,they’re at that point in time when they realize they should have, could have (done something different), but didn’t. Even if they wanted to change, even if they knew they should change. It’s too late. Change is difficult. It means they have to accept that they need to change and take the steps toward something different. Ultimately, for some, that’s not always possible. For some, their window of opportunity has passed.

For me, the gap between knowing I should change and the act of actually changing have always been challenging. I knew then, at the age of ten, that if I wore a brace everyday that I had a better chance of not having my spinal curve progress as much as it did. Just like I knew that if I worked out and strengthened my core, I would be in less pain. But knowing that something could positively affect my life and taking the steps to make the change was not easy. I have a pretty obsessive personality, and in many ways it hindered my ability to feel better. In a short period of time, I gained an ungodly amount of weight. In just a few months I went from 140 lbs to almost 160. I could definitely blame all that weight gain on my constant obsession with food. I had this bottomless pit, where I never felt full, no matter how much I ate. At the time, I thought this ability was amazing. I was able to constantly indulge in a 20-piece chicken McNugget super-sized combo from McDonalds and still have space for a chocolate sundae for dessert. My days revolved around food, and when I would be able to grab the next meal. It was a constant desire to eat and consume. But it wasn’t just my over-consumption of food that led to my own demise, it was also my extreme sedentary lifestyle. I chose to watch TV all day long instead of playing outside with my friends. I know now that my focus on food was a form of comfort, because I didn’t want to face the real problem. Instead of focusing my energy on my spine and taking the steps I needed to take to make a change, I chose the comfort of food.

Dr. Gray always had a way of bluntly telling me exactly what I didn’t want to hear. Like when he told me he had gotten shot in the head in Vietnam, and proceeded to show me his helmet. I didn’t need to know that and I definitely didn’t need to see it, but I saw it, and I listened to his story, and still, to this day, the thought of war haunts me. I think Dr. Gray, like many of the adults around me, didn’t see me as a kid or like the other kids. I was the kind of kid you could talk to. I was an old lady in my ways. I still am. So when Dr. Gray suggested that I start working out because I was gaining a lot of weight and it could have negative affects on my curvature, I wasn’t surprised that he only told me. He didn’t mention anything to my mama. It was as if he had decided, like everyone else, that I was mature enough to handle my own life. In all reality though, I wasn’t. I decided, like any normal ten-year-old child would, to ignore him. I wasn’t surprised by his suggestion, but I didn’t yet have the nerve to face how bad off I really was. I was loathe to change. My weight gain and how it could affect my scoliosis were facts that I understood, but I didn’t want to face. I was ten years old. I was a kid, just trying to be a kid. So instead of working out and focusing on my health, I became preoccupied with my physical state. There was a growing obsession with how much I weighed, but I did nothing to change it.

There were days I would go to Pointe Orlando just to people-watch. Pointe Orlando is located right on International Drive. It’s one of the main tourist actions in Orlando and the place where the majority of families stay when they visit. I loved sitting outside of Starbucks with my venti caramel frappucino staring at everyone walking by. I loved to see the different types of people that would come to Orlando, and so often I would sit and take note of the many different types of women walking by: I’d think to myself, “Man, what I would do to be as straight as she is,” “I’d take her flat stomach any day,” “If I could trade my thighs for hers I would be all set.” I wanted to swap bodies with everyone and anyone. I wanted a quick and easy fix for the problems in my life. A magic eraser that would change my deformity. A pill that would help me lose all the weight I had gained. But often, it was these very thoughts that would make me feel even worse about myself.

I would have given anything to change my own appearance, but since I didn’t see the road to change as something I had control over, I just avoided my reflection altogether. In my mind, I didn’t see myself as the person in the mirror. I thought to myself that there was no way that I actually looked like that, and because of my own denial of my reflection, I had no shame in judging myself. I would ruthlessly judge every inch of my body, because I didn’t feel connected to the person in the mirror. That person staring back at me was someone else. It was someone with a giant deformity, and a slanted body. It was someone whose right shoulder was rounded and whose hips were uneven. It was a person covered in stretch-marks and cellulitis. It was everything I didn’t want to be, so instead of accepting the person staring back at me as the person that I was, I simply avoided the mirror. Thinking back, I know that a part of my soul believed that I would never be the same person again. The care-free happy kid, who didn’t care what other people thought had been lost underneath the stresses of life, and I no longer recognized myself in the mirror.

It was the amount of food I consumed, coupled with my vain attempt to avoid my own reflection that highlighted my inner disharmony. It was this disunity that led to the shame I felt about my own appearance. I was constantly worried that people were looking at me, laughing at me, judging me for the way I looked. Now, I realize that the only person that judged me was myself. I know now that the shame I had emerged out of my inability to change the outcome of my future. I was so unsure and ashamed of myself that I did nothing to change my circumstance. In retrospect, this was a big mistake: there was a window of opportunity that I could have taken. A point in time when I could have done something to change how I affected my spinal progression. Instead, I did nothing.

8 thoughts on “14. Here’s What Happens When You Do Nothing

  1. It is so sad that you felt that you couldn’t do anything because of your appearance, not just your disability. Schools can be cruel and I think many people go through hell there and grow unconfident. It also depends a lot on where you live. I live in a poor neighbourhood where there tends to be people or all different cultures who wear all kinds of clothes. There are also many disabled people either physically or mentally or both that live harmoniously. Admittedly new students to the area often stare – but they are the ones who feel like the outsiders. I hope you are doing all that you want to now.

  2. I have often thought that the Russian and Chinese had their propaganda pumped out to brainwash at every opportunity, but the west is the same, ‘you must look like this, you must own this, you too can have all of this,’ so we consume of course. But its not just ads for watches, cars or houses, the dream pervades most entertainment, the hero always wins, the heroine always gets her man (well 95%). In ‘the west’ we do have a choice of walking away, even if it means exclusion or mockery. Is that what makes it so hard to change, swimming against the current.
    oh and thankyou for the mirror, as you know I have an invisible disability in modern politically correct language but my reflection was never anything of interest to me other than forced light bouncing for shaving, and that lack of vanity IS probably to do more with the problem I have than my handsomeness 🙂
    still reading you – x

    1. It is such a shame that western society has to deal with an overwhelming number of ads that tell you what you are suppose to look like or be like. It took me a long time to realise that I didn’t need to be like anyone else that I was perfectly wonderful just the way I was. I always said to myself that I was comfortable with who I was, but saying that and actually believing it are two very different things. It’s the false conception in our society that ads are the ideal body and personality that can leads to so many mental issues: anxiety (because you have to be perfect and you clearly aren’t), depression (because it sucks when you’re not like those ads), OCD (obsessing over something you will never be), etc…

      Anyway, the mirror now is precisely that; a forced light bouncing off an image of a perfectly wonderful version of me.

  3. ” Dr. Gray, like many of the adults around me, didn’t see me as a kid or like the other kids. I was the kind of kid you could talk to.” They could talk to you because they knew you suffered too?

    I realised the other day, that I lost out a lot on life because I’m semi paralysed from a post partum stroke I had when I was 36. I simply did all the things I could, and never considered myself as disabled, until the other night. In the UK we have a program called “Strictly Come Dancing”. I was watching a contestant of my age – 70/72 yrs old – dancing. I thought to myself that I really really did love dancing, and that could have been me. I felt immensely sad at what I lost. The first time self pity has entered my life.

    Lovely post. Thank you.

    1. You know I like to call it self-reflection instead of self-pity. I’ve learned that it’s okay to think about the possibilities of what if, it’s like a dreaming of the possibilities, a mental escape, and yes it is true that there are so many things one can’t do,but yet, it’s still nice to dream about what you could have done if things would have been a little different — at least for me it is 🙂

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