Tuesday, February 20, 2018

This Week's Thought: February 19, 2018

I remember a girl I went to college with. She was gorgeous. Supermodel gorgeous. Just the kind of girl that you can't help but stare at.  She was confident, stunning, fit and she'd stride across the campus like it was her runway.  The first time I saw her, I thought "I want to be exactly like her." I was never very confident.  I always doubted myself. I had (have) body issues and I admired those who felt comfortable in their own skin.   I envied her.  I wanted so much to be like her.

Then one day, I was behind her in the campus bookstore. She was laying into the cashier because the sweatshirt she wanted was sold out. She was so obnoxious in her tirade that everyone standing around her was uncomfortable. She finally called him an "a**hole" and left the store. When she was gone, it was like a gush of cool air blew in. This was just the first episode. Throughout the semesters, I saw her cut people off in the parking lot when she wanted one of the coveted few spaces close to the dorm. She was infamous for leaving her trays on the tables in the dining hall.  She would park her things on a chair next to her in a crowded classroom. Then I noticed it. 

She was usually alone. This gorgeous girl who looked like the prom queen was as mean as a hornet. Her intolerable attitude to anyone she considered less than her was ugly and this reflected in her.  I thought maybe she just didn't have the right friends in her life. Naively I thought maybe she just needed a friend who was kind to her so she would then be kind to others. I don't know what I was thinking. We had a class together and I asked her to grab coffee one day. She agreed. The next day, we met  at the coffee shop and worked on our upcoming assignment. It was going well and I thought "She isn't so bad. Maybe we all just misunderstand her." 

Then she took a sip of coffee,  smiled, looked me dead in the eye and said "You know, Taylor, if you just lost fifty pounds, you could get any guy you wanted. Seriously. How did you let that happen?" I felt  the sting. My face flushed and it took everything I had to not cry. I knew I had a weight issue. It was something I had been ashamed of and battled since I was a teenager.  It was the last line that hurt the most 'How did you let that happen?" Even thinking about this now, I feel my face get hot. Even now, the humiliation of that moment makes me want to tear up. I wanted to say so many things to her but instead I said "Excuse me." I gathered up my books and left. I walked to the chapel, sat in a pew and cried. It was not one my favorite moments from college. It breaks my heart when I think of how I let someone else's unkindness hurt me. 

I knew I had a problem. After seeing therapists and nutritionists and trainers and doctors, I know what the underlying reasons are and I am working on it. I promise you that if someone has an issue, they know it. To put a spotlight on it, to hurt someone by shaming them is about as unkind as it gets.  

The next day when I saw her in class, she wouldn't make eye contact with me. I didn't exist to her. My feelings were hurt but then I realized that my weight issue can fixed. I had friends around me who loved me and a life that made me happy. I didn't tell anyone about what she said, how she hurt me. Words can hurt. They can deliver just as severe a blow as a slap across the face.  For the next few weeks, other than class, I stayed in. I didn't want to see any of my friends. I felt embarrassed. I starved myself. Finally, my roommate and my friends pulled me out of that bad place. They didn't know what was wrong but they weren't going to let me wallow.  With their friendship, their kindness, I came out of that protective shell I built around myself. My friends with their kind hearts were the most beautiful souls. 

Later, on a beautiful day in May, at commencement, as I was surrounded by my family and friends, in the middle of an all encompassing hug from my grandmother, I saw her. The girl stood alone with her family who were standing off to the side. In a sea of other graduates with their families and friends, this girl could not have looked more miserable. In that moment I felt sorry for her.  I hoped that kindness would find its way into her heart. I could only imagine how beautiful that would be.

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