I Just Wasn’t the Person I Wanted to Be
Originally published on GastricBypassBarbie.com in September 2009.
I Wasn’t Bad. I Just Wasn’t Who I Wanted to Be.
I have a very, very dear friend (we go back 30 years) who has always been there for me whenever I have needed him. He is the truest sort of friend, because he says what I need to hear precisely when I need to hear it. He was my knight in shining armor when I was young and impetuous, gallantly swooping in to save me from the travails of young adulthood with a cold wine cooler, a soft shoulder and a waiting ear.
Mostly, I think, he saved me from myself.
He never asks for a single thing in return, (which is good, because I cannot imagine a single thing I could do for him), and I always wonder what value he sees in me as a friend. Through it all, he tells me I’m as dear to him as he is to me, and for some strange reason, I believe him.
We “dated” for an entire 3 months when we I was “15-1/2” and he was 16. We might have lasted longer, had he not lived 20 miles away (in a different area code) and cared so much “more” about soccer and his friends. In other words, he was a typical 16-year old guy.
We had met at Knott’s Berry Farm when I was 13-1/2 and he was 14. I was chunky and going through my ugly duckling phase. He was cute as a button (surfer blond, blue eyes, typical Southern California hottie.) We wrote letters back and forth for awhile, but then that stopped. Remember: This predates unlimited long distance phone calling, email and cell phones, so writing letters was a really big deal.
Time passed and we found ourselves starting high school. I lost my 20 pounds of baby fat over the summer, got my braces off and was sorority-girl cute. I gave him an innocent (yet, scandalous) call, *casually* mentioning my weight loss (and braces, of course!) — I was about as subtle as a heart attack.
He invited me and my friend to meet him at the mall (which we promptly did), and from there, it was an invitation to Knott’s for his birthday, a little smooching and hand holding, and before we knew it, we were boyfriend and girlfriend. (At least for 3 more months.)
It was a fairly amicable breakup and we stayed in touch, constantly flirting with the idea of giving it another go, yet just missing (since one or the other was usually in some sort of a relationship.) The one thing I know is this: he was always there to pick up the pieces from my “failed relationships” and “drama-queen life”, NEVER judged me as my weight began to increase, and always loved me for who I was — even if I didn’t believe him.
Eventually, I met an amazing man whom I would marry, thus, any rumblings of a possible rekindling were roundly silenced forever. My friend graciously DJ’d our wedding reception. and a few years later, when he met an amazing girl, we brought our little 4-year-old to his wedding. Through it all, we managed to keep in touch and fell into a comfortable stride with our friendship.
About 12 years ago, he developed cancer and we very nearly lost him — twice. Thank God he beat it and is still in remission! But, I remember that call from his wife, telling me he was in the ICU at Memorial Hospital — about 5 minutes from my house. I have a hard time admitting this, but I actually hesitated going to see him because I was fat! I seriously contemplated NOT seeing him when he needed me most, all because of my shallow insecurities.
Fortunately, I ignored them and went anyway, and he — in his inimitable fashion — complimented me on how great I looked.
After that, it was more pounds and fewer visits. At one point, we met for lunch — but I brought my daughter along as a distraction. His email to me that afternoon was “you looked beautiful, as always.” Even though I’d warned him that I was “really heavy,” he insisted that it wasn’t the outside that mattered; he loved me for who I WAS and NOT what I look like.
I tried to believe him, but how could I believe him when I didn’t believe myself? If I didn’t think I was beautiful, how could anyone else? I was convinced the cancer had affected both his vision and sense of reason.
That lunch was about 4 years ago. In the ensuing years, I’ve had 4 surgeries, lost my weight, rebuilt my body, and learned to live life as a thin person. He’s been one of my biggest champions — cheering me on with every updated picture I’d send. All the while, he continued to tell me that, though he was immensely proud of my success, I was no more beautiful now than I ever was before. Again, I doubted his ability to think clearly.
So, today he asked me about my before and after pictures — you know, the ones where I’m standing in one leg of my fat pants? Interestingly, I haven’t actually TAKEN that one yet, but I told him that I thought my befores were “icky” and they really bothered me. I told him they made me want to cry when I saw them.
He replied that he didn’t like his cancer pics either — especially when he was purple from head to toe and bald, to boot. But he still looks at them to reinforce the fact that he is no longer in that situation. He does not like to look at them, but he uses them as reminders of what his life could still be like. He says it reminds him to be happy now that he is no longer that other person.
But, he didn’t leave it at that.
Be very proud of yourself today,
but do not believe that what you were was bad.
It was just not who you wanted to be.
And you were never not loved,
no matter what you looked like.
Trust me on this one.
The words are so powerful, yet so simple:
I was not bad. I just wasn’t the person I wanted to be.
I was always loved, even when I didn’t believe it.
I guess it’s time for me to stop hating that morbidly obese girl I once was.
She was neither unlovable nor unloved.
She just wasn’t the person I wanted to be.
I will strive to remember those precious words every day; especially as I fight to be the person I have become, while learning to love the person I once was.