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.