December 30, 2014 2 Comments
WARNING: If you are not one for gooey, reflection-y pieces and prefer just to look at pictures of food, please skip this post and continue scrolling down for biscotti, granola, and brownies. I promise I won’t be mad. 😉 Thank you!
As each year draws to a close, I like to reflect on how I’ve changed and where I’ve gone since the previous December. I do fun stuff (like making a playlist of my top 100 songs of the year), but I also partake in more serious, sentimental activities, including reading my journal entries from throughout the year and having deeper conversations with friends about life and relationships. I know it sounds cheesy, but I love carving out this time for myself before I dive into the newness of the next year.
I hope you don’t mind me sharing this with you, whoever is reading this.
I know I’m a teenager and don’t exactly have a lot of years to compare this one with, but I feel as if 2014 was a big year for me. And overall, I think it wound up being a really, really good one, despite some rough patches along the way. Yes, having my best friend from Texas visit and getting my driver’s license were certainly monumental, but my mindset has definitely changed, too.
I came into this year with a lot of baggage, honestly. It was hard looking back in January 2014 to January 2013, when I was very, very thin and in a cold, miserable fog that I had put myself in. Though I know I was far healthier weighing more, eating more food, and exercising, I didn’t like how my body looked at all. It was vain, but I missed the me that could wear size 0 pants, even though that me had to wear two or three jackets at school to keep warm and felt incredibly lonely inside. And for those of you who maybe didn’t know this about me, yes, I struggled with disordered eating and body image issues, and it was difficult and painful and I don’t like to talk about it much because it hurt. A lot. And I got help, I got better, before things got bad. And while I am happy and bubbly most of the time now (and I have infinite reasons to be joyous and grateful, to be completely honest), sometimes in the dark at night, these thoughts come creeping in, and I let them linger for a moment before blowing them away.
Throughout the beginning of this year, I was incredibly critical of not only my body, but my grades and schoolwork, too. While I had a perfect GPA for my sophomore year when I finished up in June, it was a drive for perfection that really did me more damage than favors. I self-imposed competition between myself and my good friends (who were also high-fliers in the grade category), and every time I got any mark I wasn’t satisfied with, I’d beat myself up inside. There were times when I’d scream and cry for hours because I hated my body, because I didn’t get a perfect grade, because I felt that I had to be perfect in order to be satisfied. I hated that place, but at the time, I felt as if this was where I had to be in order to be better.
But better than what?
And then, at the beginning of my junior year–this September–something changed within me. Maybe it was getting my driver’s license (and being able to take myself where I wanted when I wanted), maybe it was starting yoga and participating in Eat Breathe Thrive, maybe it was eating a magic banana, I don’t know, but I found that hating myself, hating my body, making myself feel so much pressure was just not worth it anymore. And I realized that I was spending too much time looking inward at all of the things that were “wrong” with me and not looking outward to my family, my friends, my teachers, all of the wonderful people in my life that I loved (and love) so much.
So I just…stopped. I stopped caring that I wasn’t skinny anymore, that I couldn’t count my ribs, that I didn’t have a perfect, wonderfully-toned body. I stopped caring that I wasn’t getting a perfect score on every test, that I wasn’t going to be valedictorian, that I wasn’t always going to be the person that got the highest grade in the class. Do I still have negative thoughts? Of course, everyone does, no matter how optimistic or strong you are. I didn’t feel great when some of my clothes didn’t fit right anymore or when I got a few grades that were, er, “under the sea” in math and AP Chemistry, but I accepted those facts, and I moved on, because you know what? Neither is really that important.
You know what’s important? The people in my life. The places I get to travel to. The experiences I have cooking in the kitchen, visiting the farmer’s market, holding myself in wheel pose (back-bend), laughing so hard with my best friends I almost get dizzy, talking on the phone with my best friend Natalie, having dance parties in empty classrooms and my bedroom, waking up at 5:00 in the morning and listening to my favorite song…these are the things that matter, not what I look like, not the numbers on the scale or written on my papers.
And I have been the happiest I’ve been in so long because of it, even in the midst of the stress that is taking standardized tests and looking at colleges and being sixteen years old.
This is the time of year where magazines publish recipes for spinach-kiwi-antioxidant juice, where gyms have special rates for getting a membership, where every drugstore is advertising how this pill or this shake will make you skinnier, younger, prettier. And after all of the delicious treats we ate over Thanksgiving and Christmas, we feel as if we need these things, for we have done something wrong by indulging and letting ourselves go.
While I strongly believe that you should try to be the healthiest person you can be, I personally think you should ignore all of this crap the world is throwing at you, because you are lovely just the way you are. And not just at this time of year, but every time of year.
The world tells you that beauty and success are being tall and slender, getting into a prestigious university, taking ten advanced placement classes over the course of your high school career, living in a big, elegant house, and being the most well-rounded person you can be 24/7, 365 days a year. Yeah, having model-status looks and going to Yale and being famous and whatnot all seem like they’re the most important things in life, but there’s so much more to this world than that.
You want to see beauty? Look at yourself in the mirror, then close your eyes and listen to see what’s within you. You are not a statue carved by society, you are a real breathing, caring, feeling person, and that’s the most beautiful thing of all. Need more? Look at your friends as they chuckle about the most random thing in the world. Look at your parents or grandparents or cousins as they smile at old stories or photographs. Look at random people you see on the street painting or holding hands or just being alive. Look at the sunset or the crescent moon at night against the rich navy of the sky or at waves rolling against a sandy shore. Call me a a mush-ball, but these are the things I think are far prettier than being thin, being famous, being “perfect.”
You don’t need to be anything other than yourself–who you really are inside, who you’d like to be–in order to be loved. And I know being “yourself” can be hard, that everyone faces rejection and loneliness and wishes he or she was different, but maybe if we all tried to like ourselves, to stop trying to change ourselves, the world would be a happier, better place.
You want to be healthy? Here’s the secret: you don’t need a special regimen or rainbow-colored free weights or even chia seeds. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables. Drink water. Find a form of physical activity you actually enjoy. Cook more food at home and share meals with family and friends. Eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’ve had enough. Get sleep. Give yourself time to relax and be with others. Smile and laugh. And don’t listen to anyone who tells you that you aren’t good enough or that you need to change something, because you are good enough just the way you are.
This year, I don’t want you to go on a juice cleanse or buy a fancy workout DVD or resolve to spend hours and hours doing nothing but studying so you can get into college or grad school or anything. I want you to love yourself, because I love you, and I hope you do, too.
Instead of trying to be different or do something just for yourself, write a letter to your best friend describing all of the things you love about him or her. Bake something or compose a poem or draw a cartoon or make a mix CD for someone. Spend time with yourself reflecting, doing whatever suits you best. Hug a stuffed animal. Break out your favorite pair of fuzzy socks. Give a stranger on the street a compliment just because. Listen. Be present. Love with all of your heart. Be open. Because in the long run, these will be the things that make the biggest difference in your life…and someone else’s.
Before I go, I want to say thank you to everyone that makes my world a wonderful place to be in every day…to my incredible mom, my awesome dad, my loving family, my darling friends, my amazing teachers (both in school and not), and of course my adorable cats. And thank you to all of those who are reading this post, who put up with my babble about almond flour chocolate chip cookies and purple cauliflower and who read my recipes and thoughts on the world. It means everything to me.
Have a wonderful 2015, everyone. Let’s make this year one filled with love, with joy, with acceptance.