November 20, 2011

Quarter life crisis

Today, I am 25 years old.

Last night, as the clock approached 12:00 a.m., I found myself staring at it, counting down the final minutes of 24. In the last few seconds, I took an incredibly deep breath, and held it. The hours and minutes reset as the date changed from the 19th to 20th, and I exhaled. It felt heavy. Like I was letting go not just of the number 24, but of everything I've experienced this past year.

I'm about 75 pounds less than I was on my birthday last year - about half of my total loss so far - and accompanying every physical ounce of that has been pounds and pounds of emotional weight. It's interesting: the beginning of my year was very strong for both the numbers on the scale and the feeling of overall peace and emotional lightness. But both seem to have plateaued in the past couple of months. I'm finding balance lately, and even though I'm still at a relative stand-still with my weight loss, I'm feeling a bit more like my cheerful old self. But believe me when I say this peace has been hard earned.

I'm turning 25 in onederland, the first birthday here since I was a preteen. But this isn't the only new location I've discovered this year. I'm 2167 miles away from where I imagined I'd be celebrating this birthday. In several aspects, I can say that I'm in a place I never imagined I'd end up.

In the ten minutes leading up to midnight, I was chatting a bit back and forth with Matt about perception of age. It's certainly different for males and females; for me, at 25, I feel old. It's a little silly, I know. Age, I think, is kind of like clothing size. I can be anywhere from a medium to an extra large still depending on the store, so that really isn't a measure of progress for me anymore; a person can feel old at 25 and young at 90, depending on the quality of the life he or she is living. Don't pay too much attention to the numbers, just focus on how you look and feel.

My feeling of malaise isn't necessarily founded upon a feeling of dissatisfaction with the way things are right now, but more a nervousness based on what I thought I would be doing at this age and what I'd like to do in the next five years or so. My current heavy thought is on my personal relationships - romantic, but not only. I always assumed I'd marry young. My mother did - by the time she was my age, she was married and pregnant with her second child. I've gotten to know a few guys this year - all interesting, but mostly the wrong ones, for one reason or another, with the exception of one that I believe to be someone who'll become increasingly present and important to my life story in the next few weeks, months, and hopefully years. But I'm still quite far from being even close to considering marriage right now.

I'm also at an interesting crossroads with my friend and family relationships. With the exception of a few nasty e-mails and blog comments, I haven't spoken to my mother in over half a year. I terminated my six year friendship with my best friend from college with absolutely no regrets - it had run its course - but just like with most very close relationships, our separation brought the tough realization that in losing her, the relationship dynamic with most of my other friends from college is also forced to shift. I found a group of healthy, active people in Chicago, but that was met with the challenge of physical distance within a month and a half. We keep in touch, and I know I'll run with them again someday, but it was still so hard to feel like I finally met some people with similar goals, only to lose them just as soon as they had been found.

I've even grown distant from the blogging community I used to feel so much love and support from, due in part to bad experiences but also, my plateau and feelings of failure. To lose 150 pounds in a year and then nothing at all for months and months has been very painful for me. Claire put it exceptionally well when she told me that
With so much success so quickly, your standards are high.
I agree, and in the back of my mind, I know it's silly to stress out so much over gaining and losing the same few pounds. Given my past with binge eating disorder and my tendency to cope with stressful situations via compulsive eating and inactivity, I ought to be at least content, if not happy; all things considered, I'm just thrilled that my highest weight during all this has been 8 pounds higher than my lowest recorded Chicago weight, and that for the most part, I'm maintaining at 4-6 pounds higher.

When I was in Chicago a few weeks ago, I got to hang out with my cousin Sarah and her boyfriend Marty. All along this journey, they've been my strongest supporters, without a doubt. I felt very conflicted before seeing them, because as much as I love them, I was also feeling very ashamed that I've made no progress in the months since moving to California. Per usual, though, they made me feel incredibly better about everything. First, they explained, no progress in terms of pounds lost doesn't translate into no progress, period. And second, it's okay to take a little time to maintain and figure out what my goals are for this new chapter of my life, and what I need to do in order to reach them.

Marty reminded me that it took me twenty-three years, two of which were in Chicago, to get to a point where I was ready to make the changes I needed in my life. Everything aligned - the timing was right, with a perfect work situation and familiarity with my location that allowed me to transition my habits and routines into healthier ones. Right now, I'm still figuring California out. I didn't gain the weight overnight. I didn't lose 150 pounds overnight. And I can't expect myself to be completely, perfectly, peacefully transitioned after a few weeks or months. This semester, I need to focus on discovery: of my town, of my job, and of myself. Continue to eat well, keep moving. But don't call maintenance failure when it's exactly what's appropriate for the situation.

And so, today, I am 25 years old. Not where I thought I'd be, but nonetheless happy to be here. And happy to be healthy. And a runner. And a big sister. And a friend, both long- and short-distance. And employed full-time. I'm happy to be enjoying and celebrating as many these things as I can - not just today, but every day.


Prof. D said...

Happy Birthday Mary. Enjoy yourself. Do not be so hard on yourself, measure your progress by your new abilities and not the scale. You run, you bike, you maintain a healthy lifestyle and above all you are inspirational.

Weight Wars said...

Happy Birthday Beautiful :)

Your friends seem very wise, you know I'm struggling right now and going back to where I was when I started this has helped loads, celebrating each lb, celebrating the little wins as well as the big ones.

Enjoy 25, honestly, I don't miss 24.

Tim said...

You've experienced so much more than most people i know who are double your age. I think you should be so proud of who you've become and what you've achieved.

I think Marty is spot on, wise words!

Amy said...

Happy Birthday!!!!

I know exactly what you mean about being where you thought you would be on your birthday - it's that time of the year you reassess everything.

I think you should be really proud of where you're at. The time will come when weight loss is more appropriate again. This past year I've been focusing on myself and finding myself again and now that I'm getting to the point I have been able to focus on weight loss.You just had a huge change in your life and you can't base any sort of maintenance on not being successful. You've accomplished amazing things!

Have a fabulous birthday!

Christie Farrar said...

Oh the quarter life crisis. Welcome to the real world.

Everyone experiences this in their 20's. For me, it was when I was 21, depressed, overweight, engaged. Planning a wedding where my fiances family hated me and my family loved him, stuck in a highly stressful job, right as the economy tanked; finishing my degree at a school I hated in a field I didn't love.

Now, I'm 24, married, with a kid on the way, work from home, with a useless degree. Still about the same weight, still don't know what I want my life to be like... but I am immensely happier. All I had to do was a little self reflection and realize that I love my life, even if I failed to meet my "goals" about my fantasy-life. So as long as you can celebrate your accomplishments and take your fantasy-life unreached goals in stride, you will get through it

Sarah said...

Happy Birthday, don't stress bout 25, just breathe, I freaked out when I hit 30 for some reason, leaving the 20's was hard, I can't imagine what 40 is gonna be like LOL

Dawn said...

You have a wonderful birthday.
I hope you not only have a great day but that this quarter century year is a fantastic happy and successful year.
I started this diet aged 47, You have been very wise, successful and clever to do this at 25, make the most of it! You deserve this

Unknown said...

I think just about everything that could be said has been let me just say we're all still rooting for you, and I hope you have a very happy birthday :)

Unknown said...

I'm so glad that you ended this post with a list of all the other things that you are - not just a onederlander, not just someone who's lost a lot of weight; you are those things but trust me when I say that after so much concentration on achieving such an unattainable task for some, it's easy to think that's all you are. My suggestion is to KEEP identifying yourself with all of these other wonderful aspects of what makes you YOU until your next birthday. It will serve its purpose.
And as for the age thing, women have it harder than men sometimes, I think. We put so much more responsibility on ourselves; but age is like finding that one piece of clothing you've been searching your life for. Once you slip it on, you feel more comfortable, self-assured...more - you. The real you. And when that time comes, you also let go of all the baggage (well, most of it). I never thought I'd say I'm happier at almost 42 than I ever have been, but I am. Happy Birthday, sweet Mary. Much love.

Bluezy said...

" Bon anniversaire, mes vœux les plus sincères
Que ces quelques fleurs vous apportent le bonheur
Que l’année entière vous soit douce et légère
Et que l’an fini, nous soyons tous réunis
Pour chanter en chœur :”Bon Anniversaire !”

No way did I know this...but Vlve La Google!

Anonymous said...

Happy 25th birthday! May this year bring you joy and peace and discovery, and may it also bring you dedicated, hard-working students who always do the required readings and never miss class. :)

Ann said...

Happy Birthday, miss Mary! Love this and so proud of you and what you've done in the past year! You are an incredible person and deserve all the best - happiness, healthiness and love. Here's to another wonderful year of creating the person you want to become. You rock!

Jovia said...

Happy Birthday :) I feel you on the age crisis, however, I think you're in a much better place now turning 25 than you probably were in previous birthdays. Hope you had a great day.

Jitterfish (WJW) said...

Happy birthday :)

I think its not uncommon to feel this way. We look at our parents generation and at 25 they had married, had kids, were well on their way in life. At 25 I was still a student and thinking by now I should have had kids. I was a lot happier turning 30 in fact because life seemed more together (not that I wasn't happy at 25, but something was missing).

Shannon said...

I hope you had a wonderful birthday, Mary! You're on an incredible journey - thank you for sharing it. :)

Anonymous said...

Bon Anniversaire! You have come so far and that's definitely reason to celebrate!

Greg (Transformed and Scaled) said...

Happy Birthday, Mary! You've come so far!
I think for most people, where they say they want to be in 5 years, and where they actually want to be 5 years later end up being two different things. We change in that time, as you've certainly experienced, and our goals change and evolve with us.
I hope you have a great next quarter!

Weight Watcher Wannabe said...

Happy Birthday to you. :)

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday Mary! I just found your blog a couple of weeks ago and have spent too many hours reading all your archives! But it was worth it. You are such an inspiration!

Tammy said...

HAPPY BELATED BIRTHDAY!!:) You are one of the most awesome people I "know.":) DON'T give up! You have done so great this year! Don't ever give up on yourself. I love your blog. You're an inspiration to me and I know to a lot of other people out here in "blog world" as well.:) We will be here for you thru thick and thin.:)