It’s ironic that this past week’s commute to work has included a lot of stop ‘n go traffic at the 70/71 interchange, and a traffic jam is the perfect metaphor for the first six months of being 30.
I’m going where I need to. But holy crap have the speed bumps, the unexpected stops, then the waiting to go again (whenever that comes) and the stress of other people zooming around me has been a lot to handle.
I don’t want to keep going back to my grandfather’s passing right after my birthday and the sadness of that period in my life, mostly because it feels repetitive. That was then, and this is now, where I’m at a place of acceptance after the anger and sorrow. But man did it take a while to get there. That’s the funny thing about grief – the immediate aftermath is all-consuming, and yet you’re carrying on with daily life. However, I’d be a liar if I didn’t admit that the process of getting through it involved stress eating, lethargy and a depression that initially I wasn’t doing anything to alleviate.
So the first six months of 30 saw me eating too much cake, pretzels and fast food, while being completely baffled as to why my loosest clothes weren’t so loose anymore. Clothes still fit, but I was bloated and didn’t feel comfortable.
Running was embarrassing. Candidly, I wasn’t prioritizing training for the three spring races at all, so when it was time to lace up and run, I was able to finish but at a slower time than normal for me. Getting emails with the race photos added insult to injury. I knew I had gained weight, lost muscle and my body composition was looking less Coke bottle and more beer barrel. All I could see was a bloated lower half of my face and no waist on a good day. Race photos are notoriously unflattering even for the more beautiful among us, but with me holding extra weight? I’m still flinching when I think about them.
The final wake up came when I was in Cleveland. I wore a cropped top, since it was supposed to be humid that morning and the cropped top was the most comfortable thing I brought – it covered and supported my chest but didn’t feel like I was trapped in sweaty clothes. A few days after the race I got those race photos and guess what was front and center? My awkward barrel waist. The skin poking out under the cropped top and over my waist band.
I’m not embarrassed to admit that moment of truth and my own vanity were the kick in the pants to get serious about making healthier food choices and being consistent with training again. I was also tired of everything hurting – which I knew my higher weight was triggering – and for things I love to do no longer being enjoyable, even if I could still do them (running, biking, hiking.)
It’s been almost a month since that moment of truth and putting my plan into action. I have no idea how much weight I’ve lost, but I can tell you all that so far, the non-scale victories have been incredible. Regular upper body training eliminated my back pain. I’m getting faster on my bike, and I have the stamina to run again. Additionally, the bloating is gone, which I think is the result of a mild gluten intolerance and me switching my diet to gluten-free options such as fruits, vegetables and nuts. I still can’t get over how much better I can feel in such a short amount of time by switching out bread in favor of blueberries.
Also during my first six months of being 30, I talked to and went out very briefly with a new guy. When I say brief, I mean brief – two evenings, and then the texting gradually faded away. In hindsight I was only seeking out a new guy for some short term dating because after my relationship ended, I didn’t think I had it in me to jump headfirst into a serious commitment like I had with my former boyfriend. So I thought maybe I was a short-term gal, someone who could enjoy the act of meeting someone new and the fun of them, without the expectation of building towards marriage, parenthood and a mortgage in the suburbs.
The guy I went out with was opposite from my ex – which was a nice change – and I enjoyed myself. But I had too much going on in my life, and he had his own schedule to maintain. Naturally we drifted apart, and there’s no hard feelings here. But I did confirm something about myself that I’ve always suspected – I have absolutely no business with long or short-term dating, or the temperament of someone who would be successful at it. I’ll envy the shoe closet of Carrie Bradshaw, but that’s as far as I’m interested in going when it comes to dating or men. I’m better on my own, more at peace and happier. And I sleep far better. Can’t underestimate the importance of sleep.
The third big thing I decided to pursue in April was therapy. Do you all remember the explosion in April between some family members that left me furious and uncertain? Shortly after that fight, I knew had to get some help or else I was going to be a bigger wreck than I already was at that time. I heard an ad on YouTube for BetterHelp.com, which helps people meet up with a therapist virtually, and decided I needed some grief and general life counseling. I’m not going into all the details of what our sessions covered, but I will say that over the course of six weeks, having a neutral third party to talk to really did wonders. I was able to really process a lot that I hadn’t been willing to confront within myself – which manifested in stress eating and my weight – and get the clarity I lost really over the course of two years, with the pandemic, unemployment, ending my relationship, starting a new job as a contractor that would hopefully be extended to a permanent position, Grandma going into the hospital and Grandpa’s sudden passing.
In between therapy and listening to sermons on YouTube, there was a lot over the past month and a half I was finally able to let go. And with letting go, I was able to shut up a lot of feedback that was taking over my thoughts, my sense of self and distracting from the purpose of my life.
The first six months of being 30 had a lot of sadness to cope with, frustrations when expectations didn’t meet reality and anxiety over the unknown. But within all of that, there was happiness and triumphs. I did get the offer at my company in April, and I’m enjoying myself more now than I did then. Actually, the professional sense of purpose I lost in 2019 during my hellish year at OldJob is back, and I’ve decided come Hell or high water I’m going to pursue the career goals I thought weren’t going to happen for me. I did get to travel again, including running half marathons in two new states. I got to explore the beauty of West Virginia in my longest solo road trip to date. I finally got the help I needed for my personal life, and slowly, I rediscovered the woman I’m supposed to be, that deep down I think I’ve always known I’m supposed to be.
It only took half of a year, but I’m back. That’s all I’m going to ask for, and that’s all I want.
Until next time, friends.
Yours in writing and running,