Lost and Found

As some of you may know, when I was 17, I struggled with an eating disorder. (I go into much greater detail here: https://emkayed.wordpress.com/2015/04/28/the-secret-could-have-killed-me/). I lost about 75 pounds from September-March of my senior year of high school. When I tell you it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever been through, I don’t say that lightly. I started losing weight because my life was spiraling out of control.  I desperately needed structure, something I could methodically and meticulously manage. Food and exercise filled that role for me. My eating disorder quickly became my life. It was my every thought, my every glance in the mirror, my every second from the time I opened my eyes to the time I closed them at night. I learned every trick of the trade. It was all-consuming. It became my sole identity as I eradicated everything from my life that didn’t put me closer to my “fitness” goal. I was miserable and miserable to be around. I lost my friends because I completely removed myself from the outside world. I stopped pursuing the things I loved. I carried my disorder around with me, even when I was crushed by the weight. As the days got longer and the number on the scale got smaller, I hated myself more and more. Facing daily tasks seemed daunting. I was perpetually exhausted from being constantly at war with my body. And then one day, after talking to many people who loved me and many, many tears, I waved the white flag. I began to heal.

Slowly but surely, I started to love life once again. More importantly, I started to love myself. I went to the beach. I went to the mountains. I ate good food. I played softball. I moved out of my parents house and 250 miles away. I started college. I ate more good food. I started my job. I road-tripped. I ran and hiked and thoroughly embraced the days and nights. Every day certainly wasn’t perfect, but for the first time in a long time, I was allowing myself to live. I had times where I struggled with the demons that living with an ED brings, sure, but I was leaps and bounds of where I had been. I was finally moving on with my life. And I was happy.

Interestingly enough, all the weight that I had once lost found me again. Plus more. I knew it was bound to happen, but I don’t think I was quite prepared for the extent of it. I had no idea I would gain all of it back. While some was definitely necessary, much of it was most definitely not. I struggled for weeks because I knew that once again, I wasn’t treating my body the way that I should. The last thing I wanted to do was slip back into my old habits, but I knew I would enjoy life more if I made changes to be healthier. One day this past February, I decided to start over again. I wanted to change, but this time, it was because I loved my body, not because I hated it. It was because I wanted my body to be able to do more, not weigh less. So I decided to give true health a shot. And this time, my intentions were pure.

Since mid-February, I have lost roughly 40 pounds. There is no before and after, because I am not a finished product, and I never will be. I am on a never-ending journey of just doing the best I can every single day. Some days I feel myself slipping back into the security of my old thoughts and I’m sure that’s a struggle I will always face. I try to make good food decisions most of the time, but I know that having a piece of cake here and there won’t kill me. I don’t see food as the enemy anymore. I run every day because I love it, not because I feel the need to punish myself. And I drink water like it’s my job because I know it’s what my body needs. I try to make choices that I know will make me happier and healthier. While I want to lose weight, sure, I am much more focused on making sure I’m living the life I want to live in the process. I want to love and appreciate the body I currently have, even if I’m trying to change it. I don’t like to think of things in terms of a goal weight because my plan does not include a number on a scale or the tag on an item of clothing.

I’ve already weighed the least I probably ever will and I know for a fact that alone cannot bring you joy. If I have learned anything for certain, it’s that “skinny” is not the greatest adjective you can be. Kind, thoughtful, passionate, adventurous, grateful, happy: these are all so much more important. So this time around, that is my goal– not to be a smaller person, but a better one.

 

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One Day This Won’t Be Your Life Anymore

I spent nine years chasing the game I loved. I played every weekend, holiday and summer until I was 18 years old. I collected memories and trophies and battle scars. And then, in one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever made, I walked away. I felt sure that it was best for me and most days, I believe I was right. I was watching my dad’s team play this weekend (he coaches high school softball) and a parent asked me “What would tell these girls if you knew they’d listen?” And this is what I would say:

One day you will walk off the field for the last time. One day you will untie your cleats forever. One day you will put your glove in your bag and there it will stay for months at a time. One day your tan lines will fade. You’ll forget the feeling of seams beneath your fingers. You’ll struggle to remember the way it felt to hit the perfect pitch. You’ll see your teammates once or twice a year instead of every single day. You won’t slide into second. You won’t round first. One day you’ll be on the other side the fence.

One day this won’t be your life anymore. And when it’s not, you won’t remember the things that you’d think. You’ll have no idea how many times you struck out. You won’t know how many errors you made. You won’t be impressed with how many home runs you hit. You won’t care about your batting average or ERA. For the most part, you won’t remember wins and losses at all.

After your last inning has come and gone, you’re going to remember the times when you wanted to quit— but didn’t. You’re going to remember the teammates (and families) you loved along the way. You’re going to remember playing in the freezing cold, driving rain, and unbearable heat. You’re going to remember the hotel bonding and the eight hour road trips. You’re going to remember the early practices and late games. You’re going to remember the coaches that never gave up on you. But most of all, you’re going to remember the sheer happiness that came only from being between two chalk lines. You’re going to remember the moments you did more than you ever believed you could. You’re going to remember the times you used every bit of talent God gave you.

One day this won’t be your life anymore. So for today, run as fast as your feet will take you. Whether it’s a pop up to the pitcher or it bounces off the fence in left field. For today, swing as hard as you can. Commit to every pitch and give it everything you have. For today, make every play like it’s the last chance you’ll ever get. For today, play because you want to. Play because you need to. Play because the little girl you used to be fell in love with this game all those years ago.

For today, don’t stop until the last pitch is thrown. Play with every piece of your heart and leave it all on the field. One day, this won’t be your life anymore. When that day comes, make sure you wouldn’t change a thing.

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I’m Overwhelmed, but I’m Good

This afternoon, as I was waiting for my 1:30 physics class to start, I overheard two girls talking. It seemed like maybe they hadn’t seen each other in a while. One girl was catching the other up on various aspects of her life. When the first girl was done, she asked girl number two “And how have you been?!” After a few moments of hesitation, the second girl said “I’m overwhelmed, but I’m good.”

I laughed to myself and thought, “Wow, story of my life.” If there was one word to adequately sum up my constant state of being over the past six months, it was “overwhelmed.” Overwhelmed with eighteen hours of classes. Overwhelmed with the stack of unpaid bills on my kitchen counter. Overwhelmed with five broken bones in my foot. Overwhelmed with spending more hours at work than I do sleeping. Overwhelmed with living four hours away from my family. Overwhelmed with change. Overwhelmed with an uncertain future. Overwhelmed with doubt.

I’ve felt lost and scared and everything in between. Like whatever I’m doing isn’t enough. Like just when I get one thing under control, something else falls apart. My heart is restless and I am exhausted on all levels. I feel like I’m just treading water. Like I’m going through the motions but not really moving forward.

And until this afternoon, I don’t think I really understood why: I am overwhelmed because I am trying to bear the weight of the world on my own.

Alone. By myself. Here, at 20 years old, I have been trying to walk through this world without help from Jesus Christ. I have my own plans, and I was just expecting the One who created me to watch from a far and allow everything to fall into place. But God loves us too much to let that happen. He wants to walk with us. He wants to carry the weight for us. He desperately wants to provide the peace that comes from Him and Him alone.

God WILL give us more than we can handle because He never intends for us to handle it on our own. He lets us go through the hard things because He knows they will lead us back to Him. In the middle of the mess is where we find Him once again.

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It’s easy to forget (and I often do) that this life isn’t even my own… It belongs to Someone Who has counted the stars (Psalm 147:4) It belongs to someone Who already knows every piece of the story (Jeremiah 1:5). Someone Who knows that my classes will be passed, my bills will be paid, and my body will heal from the inside out (John 14:27). Someone Who holds the world in His hands and promises to guide my steps as long as I remain faithful (Proverbs 3:5).

The past few months, I’ll admit, have not been pretty. But even when it’s not pretty, I know that it will be okay.

While yes, my life is messy, and some days I struggle to find the motivation to leave my bed, I AM overwhelmed. Overwhelmed with unconditional love. Overwhelmed with the promise of a prosperous future. Overwhelmed with perpetual forgiveness. Overwhelmed with God’s never ending grace. Overwhelmed with the chance, every day, to start all over again.

I’m overwhelmed, but I’m good.

8 Reasons I Love My Girl Friends

I’ve never really been a “guy’s girl”… you know, the one who eats pizza for every meal, shows no emotion, and spends her weekends watching football with the boys. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with that. And sometimes, I even get a little jealous that I will never be THAT girl. But to my very core, I am a girl’s girl. This has been true since I was very young and has stayed with me through the years. It breaks my heart to hear teenage girls say that they “don’t get along with other girls” because my girlfriends are such critical pieces of who I am. At this stage in my life, I am more grateful than ever before for the girls I call my best friends. Here are eight reasons why:

1. They want me to succeed just as badly as I want to. They understand that we aren’t in a competition. They celebrate my triumphs and help me learn from my losses. They don’t let me quit when things get hard. They know my capabilities and won’t allow me to stop until my potential has been reached.

2. They listen to me, even when they’ve heard the story a thousand times. They let me recount every detail from an argument with a boyfriend (seven times) and allow me to cry over the same situation for five wine nights straight while still somehow managing to feign interest.

3. They tell me when I’m wrong… They let me know when I owe an apology or when I’m not seeing a situation as clearly as I should.      

4. …but never make me feel like they aren’t on my side. Even when I am wrong, they make sure I know they love me even when they do not agree with me.

5. They remind me of my worth when I seem to have forgotten. They always make sure I know exactly what I deserve and that I never settle for less. They don’t let me chase after things that no longer serve me.

6. They hurt when I hurt. They pick up the pieces time and time again. They offer shoulders, spots in their beds, and copious amounts of junk food. There is nothing in the world they would let me face alone. 

7. They always know exactly what I need to hear. Even when it’s not necessarily what I want to hear. They let me know when a dress is too tight or a boy is no good. They truly want what is best for me and always have my best interest in mind.

8. They love even the parts of me that are incredibly hard to love. Even when they are angry with me. Even when I make decisions I am not proud of. Even when I make decisions THEY are not proud of. Even when it’s 10 PM and our makeup is gone and our hair is up. Even when they are sleeping at 3 AM and I call them crying even though they have to work in the morning. They love me fiercely, loyally, unconditionally– and they know that feeling is mutual. 


“A friendship between college girls is grander and more dramatic than any romance.”

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An Open Letter To My Step-Mom…

Based on traditional standards, you’re not supposed to attend your parents’ wedding. But in less than a week, I will watch my father walk down the aisle. While I know that divorce and remarriage are not foreign concepts in this day and age, I never dreamed that one day I would wake up and they would be my reality. Life has a way of surprising you. Over the past two years, I have had every conceivable emotion about the day my dad would remarry, and even sitting here writing this, I probably still cannot adequately express the way I feel. Here is my best attempt.

To my (future) step-mom: 

I never wanted you in my life. In fact, for years, I prayed for the opposite. Every night I begged God to keep my family together, as if words sobbed into a pillow could magically become the glue that kept my family whole. When that didn’t work, and my parents split, I prayed that they would each stay single. I couldn’t wrap my brain around the thought of my parents with anyone else. But here you are. 

I would be lying if I told you that the moment you walked into our lives, I was happy. I’m pretty sure you quickly understood the day that I met you that was far from the truth. I felt heartbroken, betrayed, and emotionally drained. I know you could tell that I was less-than-pleased to meet you. Thank you for giving me a chance anyway. 

I tried to hate you. I avoided making plans with my dad so I didn’t have to see the two of you together. I deliberately didn’t ask about you when my dad called. I didn’t attempt to build a relationship with you because I thought that somehow meant I cared less about my mom. Thank you for trying anyways.

As the months went by, I watched your relationship with my father grow stronger. I watched you make him smile bigger than I’d ever seen before. I saw the light in his eyes when he said your name. I realized that you were God’s plan for him all along. And I began to love you. 

When you come from a “broken” family, it’s easy to make the story about loss. But if I tried to write that story, I wouldn’t have much to say. When I hear the two of you say “I do,” the tears that fall will not come from the same place in my heart as those two years ago. This time, I am no longer sad for the family I have lost, but overjoyed at the one I have gained. 

It’s taken me nineteen years to figure out that your family is the people who love you. That is the only requirement. Not adoption documents, not names on birth certificates, not marriage licenses. Family is a lot less about law and a lot more about love. So thank you. Thank you for being there. Thank you for accepting me, shopping with me, crying with me, and keeping me as your own. Thank you for calling at two in the morning to make sure I made it home safely. Thank you for cooking me dinner when I come to visit. Thank you for filling such a unique place in my heart that no one else ever will. Thank you for loving my dad. And thank you for loving me. 

— Your (almost) step-daughter

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Caitlyn Jenner Doesn’t Have to be Your Hero

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past week, you’ve heard about Caitlyn Jenner and her decision to share the news of her transgender identity with the world. If you know me, you know I am thrilled by this. I am one hundred percent supportive of and amazed by anyone with the courage to be completely and unapologetically who they are. In the past few days, I have been at times completely in awe of the compassion of the human spirit. I have been overwhelmed with the amount of love and support I have seen directed at Caitlyn Jenner and her family.  However, I have also been completely disgusted at the ease with which some people are able to completely dehumanize a person.

Please understand, my problem is not with those who disagree with respect and kindness. My problem is with those who claim to value life so much but refuse to acknowledge the importance of Caitlyn’s. I have seen, heard, and de-friended many people who portray an adamant rejection of Caitlyn’s announcement. I don’t understand this at all. I don’t know why anyone would proudly declare that they will continue to call a person by a name that is no longer the name they prefer. I don’t know why anyone would continue to use incorrect pronouns for a person who has explicitly stated that they are no longer the ones that describe them. I don’t know how anyone can decide that her identity is not valid simply because they personally do not agree with it. I am completely blown away and utterly baffled by this ability to act and speak with such hatred towards someone who has done absolutely nothing wrong. I can only pray that those of you who feel personally victimized by Caitlyn Jenner never have a child who feels anything but one hundred percent comfortable in the body they are born into. 

The thing I am most perplexed by, however, is this concept that Caitlyn Jenner is not allowed to be called a “hero.”

Please let me define the word: hero – a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.

People seem to be convinced that “hero” is an entirely objective term. Somehow, those opposed to Caitlyn Jenner have subscribed to this collective notion that in order to be deemed a “hero,” one must possess a specific set of characteristics. A mother can be a hero. A third grade teacher can be a hero. A child battling a terminal illness can be a hero. An NFL quarterback can be a hero. And I don’t think anyone is arguing the fact that a soldier can be a hero as well. Any man or woman who has served in the military has my utmost respect, and I understand that I am forever indebted to them for the sacrifices they have made. But to claim that this is the only kind of hero the world has room for simply is not true. Why is it so difficult to accept that Caitlyn Jenner, a woman who is becoming the face for the 700,000 people in the U.S. who identify as transgender, is a hero as well? Calling Caitlyn a hero does not make someone else any less of one. I don’t know when it was decided that building a person up diminishes someone else. Those celebrating Caitlyn are not undermining others. This is not a competition.

By publicly transitioning, Caitlyn has started a new conversation. She is using her role as a celebrity to draw attention to the very real hardships faced by every day people who also happen to be transgender Americans. Caitlyn is providing a face for the nameless by staying true to the person she has always known she is. She is restoring hope for many people who may have lost it. Caitlyn Jenner is reminding the world that transgender lives are worthy. Is that not noble? Is that not courageous? 

Caitlyn Jenner doesn’t have to be your hero… but for the nearly 50 percent of transgender men and women who will attempt suicide at some point in their lives, I’m sure she is a pretty good start.

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“I think a hero is an ordinary individual who finds strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.” – Christopher Reeve

What I Learned From Being “The Coach’s Kid”

I’ve never really been the kind of person that was especially enamoured by people. I never had a Disney princess obsession and I’ve never been particularly starstruck over actors, athletes, or musicians. But if there ever was a person who I was exceptionally impressed with, (as many daughters are), it’s my dad.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been his biggest fan. He’s a coach by trade and he’s never let me forget it. I know he’s good at what he does. I attended my first basketball game before I was a year old and in the 19 years since, I’ve seen him win playoff games, district titles, and state championships. I’ve watched as he was named “Coach of the Year” multiple times. I’ve witnessed him build programs from the ground up, taking them over when they sported less-than-stellar records and turning them into contenders for state titles.

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Few things have shaped my identity as much as my father’s occupation. Growing up, I was Emily, also known as “The Coach’s Kid.” You don’t carry that designation without learning a few things along the way. So many of the lessons he instilled in me on the court and field are just as applicable now that I’m all grown up. These are a few of my favorite:

The call that’s made is the only one that matters. Life isn’t always fair. It doesn’t really matter what you think should have happened. It doesn’t matter if you think you didn’t touch the girl, or if you know that you beat a throw. If a foul was called, it was a foul. If the umpire called you out, you were out. Instead of analyzing what could have happened had that call not been made, you accept the fact that it was made and do your best to work from there. A situation doesn’t change just because you disagree with the outcome. All you can do is make the best of what’s in front of you.

You’re good, but you’re not the only one. My dad never for a second let me believe that I was the best at anything, and for that I am forever grateful. He made sure I was never content with my ability or skill level. Contentment breeds complacency, and complacency gets you left behind. The fact of the matter is, there will always be someone better. You can let this destroy you or you can let this motivate you.

There’s not many worse things an athlete can be than “uncoachable.” It does not matter if you are the best player in the state, if you are aren’t capable of accepting and applying criticism, you won’t amount to much.

Coaches make the decision they feel is best for the success of a team as a whole. If you aren’t starting, or if you aren’t playing the position you would like to be playing, there most likely is a valid reason. The reason is usually that a) you are a better fit elsewhere or b) someone else is better than you, plain and simple. The coach is under no obligation to make you or your parents happy. The team is not all about you. Life is not all about you. Learning to fulfill the role you are given, whether that be sitting on the bench and keeping the book or pitching every game, is what makes you successful.

All that matters is what you bring to the table on the day of the contest. Nothing up until that point is relevant. It does not matter if you haven’t lost a game all season and it doesn’t matter if the other guy has beaten you twenty-seven times in the past. All that matters is what is happening on that given day. You treat each opponent with dignity and respect and play each game like it’s your last– regardless of what your expectation is of the outcome.

Success means nothing if you aren’t happy. My dad always instilled in me that passion (on the field or court and in life in general) can make up for a lack of many other things. It really doesn’t matter how talented you are if you no longer love the game– if your heart isn’t in whatever you’re doing, you might as well not be there at all. I watched my dad coach basketball (very well) for 18 years. And then when I was 19, I watched him walk away. Though his years of winning records were a testament to the fact that he was indeed good at his job, he was no longer happy. He moved on to a new adventure and over the past year, he has been highly successful there as well.

Though the good Lord knows there were many a day when I couldn’t quite figure out if having a coach for a dad was a blessing or a curse, I think I’ve grown to realize that I am a better person because of it. I am better because of pitching practice at 6 AM before he left for work and left-handed layups until I could do them with my eyes closed. I am better because of hours spent in the gym on Sunday nights with him and years of us watching film, always searching for ways to improve. And most importantly, I am better because he always seemed to remember that his job on the court was not nearly as important as the job he had off. He’s supported me through every decision I’ve ever made. He’s loved me enough to to drive thousands of miles to watch softball tournaments for seven years straight, and then still loved me when I decided it just wasn’t what I wanted to do anymore. He taught me how to swim, dribble a basketball, and drive a golf ball (or attempt to drive a golf ball… I’m still pretty bad at that). He’s always believed in who I am and who I want to be, and he never let me think that my dreams were out of reach. Even though he is a phenomenal coach, he never fails to remind me that he’s an even better dad.

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