The professor in my social justice course once assigned us to write down 10 words that described ourselves. We were given just a minute or so in class so it was a quick reflect and write process. I can’t remember what was on my full list, but I remember things like student, daughter, and wanna-be. We were told to strike-through half the items on the list. And then through two more. Then one more. Then one more. Leaving just one word. Then we went around the room, each person sharing their word.
When it was my turn, I really didn’t want to say my word but I also knew I had to, if only to process what I’d picked.
Out of all the words on my list, all the words in the English language, I had settled on a negative adjective. A word that defined too much of my life, no matter how many pounds I’d lost through gym visits and running around in literal (and sometimes figurative) circles.
I thought through the exercise later that night, and many times in the weeks and months afterward. And I hated where I landed on that list. And, when I was being honest, I couldn’t think of anything else I should have picked.
If I were to do that activity today, I’m not sure what my word would be. It can’t be the same as that first time since I’d know the ending of the “game” before starting. But I like to think it wouldn’t be fat anymore.
Yes, there are still moments, hours, and occasionally days when I feel like I’m going to break through the chair I’m sitting in, like my pants are going to split at the seem, or like snickers will echo as I lumber past. Those feelings are much less often than they used to be. They are the minority of moments rather than the foundation. When I look in the mirror, I actually see the bad hair day before any squishiness on my sides.
That feels like progress.
So then, who am I? I am the woman who stalls on a run all morning, because Netflix sounds better than sweat. And I’m the woman who hears the rain coming down in the afternoon, and still laces up the shoes because sweat and rain will feel so much better than regret.
After 4.5 miles of running over muddy trails, I am a happy little paradox whose internal gray clouds lifted thanks to the literal ones overhead.
I knew who I was for that hour. I was a runner, trying to get stronger and trying to be kind to myself while I was feeling gray.
I like those words so much. Those are the ones I want at the end of my identity list. Those are the ones that I want to seek in the mirror, and on the trail.
What about you? Who are you? Who do you want to be?
“We are the spark, that will light the fire that’ll burn the First Order down” (Poe Dameron, Star Wars: The Last Jedi). – #52sparks is a year-long writing series for 2020, based on an art prompt challenge. The spark that lights a fire to toast a marshmallow or to ravage a forest begins in the space of an inch. This series is to explore what hundreds of inches and words can do.