The Former Me I Didn’t Know

As changes happen in my life (both big and small), I find myself called to writing again. It’s in my blood, it feeds my soul, and truthfully it is one thing that brings me immense joy to do. For a (long) time I was scared to use this blog as that place. I created this with the sole intention of writing about knitting and relating it back to other things. It was an idea with the noblest of intentions, but what ended up happening was I placed a limit on my creativity and missed many opportunities to write about what was happening in my life and how to relate that back to many parts of myself and my relationship with crafting. My life had a Big Scary Change (BSC) that happened, which turned out to be one of the best things to happen to me (hindsight and all, of course) … but I could have spent the 16 months it lasted talking about how it affected my anxiety, how it affected my eating disorder recovery, and though I did touch briefly in a few posts about its impact on knitting and crafting I never gave myself permission to really dive deep into that, because in my head this blog was to be about knitting and if I wasn’t knitting there wasn’t anything to write about. Wrong, wrongwrong.

This leads me to today’s post, and what I want to share with you. The BSC was completed at the beginning of March. A significant chapter in my life closed for good and it was with relief I began anew. My day-to-day stayed quite similar to most of my time in Windsor thus far, but there was a definitive shift in how I saw myself and the possibilities in front of me. I wasn’t ready to rush out and be reckless in trying things, but I was finally ready to step into the role of single adult and what that meant (no matter how panicky I felt about it). Life is messy and unpredictable as we all know and in early April I met someone. How cliché to say, but really how else do you put it? This story is one I’ll want to share someday, but not just yet. It’s revelant only because things fell into place fairly quickly (even with my anxiety making me overly cautious), and I have found myself purging my home of things I don’t need, want, or use to make way for someone else’s things to make my apartment our home.

This is how I found myself hot and sweaty and motivated on a Sunday afternoon to rearrange half of my living room on my own. We had gotten rid of the bed that was in my living room (lovingly known as CouchBed) and aquired a real couch to sit on (which made me feel so grown-up). Once the couch was set up we knew the current arrangement of desk and bookshelves on that side of the room would not work, so I set about the task of going through the bookshelves and desk to empty, clear, and purge as needed. I knew that parts of this could be emotional, as I would come across things related to my time with Wasband – and I was fully prepared for that. What I was not prepared for was the thing I found that caused me All The Feels and is now the (long-winded) subject of this post.

On one of these bookshelves was two photo albums. I knew one of the albums contained photos from a boudoir shoot I did when I was 20. The second album I knew was related to Wasband but I hadn’t looked at it in years and truthfully did not know what it contained. When I got to that shelf and took the albums off, I gave myself time to sit and look at the photos before tossing them – acknowledging I could keep some if I wanted, but was not obligated to.

I started with the boudoir book first. I remember a lot about it – I did it as a gift for Wasband (and boy, am I glad I got them back); I was working at an adult store that sold lingerie and gave me a 40% discount as an employee; I had asked a co-worker to help me do my make-up because I was (and still am) completely useless about it; if I could go back I would tell myself that I was making a stupid careless choice but (thankfully, luckily) it worked out. I flipped through the pictures, seeing a me I vaguely remembered. There were many pictures that looked weird or awkward to me, where I could see more than a decade later I was very much out of my comfort zone. The make-up in a lot of shots looked unnatural for me, and there were still parts of my face I was nit-picking as something I didn’t like. On the other hand, there were multiple pictures that I liked. I looked good, or comfortable, or (in some cases) erotic which duh is the point of the photos. After flipping through them I took out the ones I liked and put them aside, and then ripped up the ones I was throwing out. I carefully put the saved ones back in the album and went to the second book.

This book was filled with older pictures, though not much older. I recognized some as from my first trip to New Hampshire, or that time we went to Pioneer Village and took pictures in all those places you’re not supposed to go. There was a ton of pictures of him and I sitting on the steps in front of the house, which I’m certain my sister took for us. There was a picture of me in a Halloween costume standing beside my brother who looked super skinny, and quite a few pictures my sister took of me in her bedroom. I didn’t expect anything ground breaking or earth shattering while looking at these pictures, until I came to this one.

Taking pictures of pictures like it’s 1999

I would swear to you my heart stopped. I knew this had to be of me – she had the same shirt and same hair styling in many other pictures. The room was definitely my sister’s (come on, who else has that many cat pictures on their wall?). The date on the back said May 2004, and I would have been 18 then, only recently being “allowed” to dye my hair red as I was adult and really, it was my body who was going to stop me? As I stared longer at the picture I knew two things to be absolutely true – this was a picture of me taken 14 years ago, but I didn’t know this girl.

In May 2004 this girl was 18 years and 5 months old. She was still working at the bingo hall, and just a couple of months shy of a promotion. She was still in high school, having opted to take an extra year to finish because of the double cohort and really, she already had a full time job. She was in a long distance relationship of just over a year, having actually met him in person the month before. She was 2 months away from travelling internationally for the first time. She was 4 months away from getting engaged. She was about 2 years away from being diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. She was approximately 4 years deep into an eating disorder she wouldn’t know she actually had for another 8 years.

The girl in this picture is beautiful.
The girl in this picture is flawless.
The girl in this picture looks happy and healthy.

I did not think those things about myself then. While remembering exact thoughts is impossible, I can remember the gist because it’s thoughts I’ve had about me my whole life – fat, ugly, insecure, unwanted, undesirable. I know I hated taking pictures of myself (something I still struggle with), so I must have really liked this boy to take so many pictures for him. I imagine I probably had a hard time looking at these photos when we got the prints back. I bet I had to really talk myself into giving them to him. I imagine I fretted that he would hate them.

I wish I could have seen myself then as I see this picture now. I wasn’t a stunning beauty, the way society conventionally describes it, but if this picture is an accurate representation of how I looked (and I imagine when I smiled it is) then how could I have hated myself so much? How could I have despised my body so much, carried around so much negative self-talk, convinced myself I wasn’t worthy because I didn’t look good enough.

Naturally this type of introspection comes from being 24+ hours removed from the discovery. What happened yesterday was seeing the picture, my mind racing through everything, and then a crap ton of tears. If I could look at a picture of me from this long ago and think I was beautiful, why can’t I look in the mirror and think that now? Why did my recovery have to wait until I became comfortable with the idea of being plus sized forever instead of just learning to love my body without putting a label on it? Why do I have to assume that the marks on my face – be they moles, or beauty marks, or acne (or other) make or break the difference between beautiful and ugly? Why is my body ugly instead of incredible for carrying me through life and enabling me to do those things I want to do – knit, work, laugh, love, walk, bowl, dance?

This photo, taken 14 years ago to send to a boy I loved, has become the catalyst of change for me. This photo is life-altering today, even though it was something I forgot not long after it was done then. This photo is a wake-up call (yes, as dramatic as that is to say). This photo is not telling me that I once was beautiful – but that I am beautiful, and always have been. This photo tells me the voices in my head are lies and have been lying to me my entire life. This photo gives me hope that I can change my outlook on myself, and really embrace who and what I am.

I am strong, beautiful, capable. I want to laugh and love and explore. I want to write all the time. I want to knit. I want to travel. I want to be a mother. I want to get married again (one day, maybe). There are so many things I want to do – both big adventures and everyday little things – and I keep telling myself to wait.

Wait until I’m thinner.
Wait until I’m prettier, or can make myself prettier.
Wait until I have more money.
Wait until I feel more “stable”, mental health wise.

Fuck. That. (Sorry Mom)

Life is just going to pass me by otherwise. Between the girl in the picture and the woman writing these words … I’ve barely scratched the surface of things I wanted to do because I’ve spent the last 14 years waiting for what? For life to align enough that I say I’m ready?

I am ready – to write, to knit, to love, to laugh, to live and only when I get up and make it happen will it actually happen for me.
You gotta risk it to get the biscuit.

~ J

3 thoughts on “The Former Me I Didn’t Know

  1. Beautiful words, you have set your goal and are now working to achieve it. I wish you all the best in your quest and in your life….


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