Yesterday, I received an email from the former president of the company I work for. He just recently retired, so receiving an email from him caught me off guard a bit, as I wasn’t expecting to hear from him. We said our goodbyes weeks ago, in which he actually asked me to stop down to his office so that we could talk. He told me that he has high hopes for me and that he knew I would make it far with the company and in my pursuits. It feels wonderful to be respected and to receive commendation of this nature from him, especially so because I respect him so very much. He’s the type of individual or president that one ideally would want to work for. He made the company a family, of sorts. He took active interest in the employees that worked for him, he was humorous when he wanted to be and could be very serious and authoritative when the job called for it. He was wonderful at what he did and because of that I respected him immensely.
We had a retirement party for him a couple weeks back. His secretary was taking pictures at the party and he came over to me, telling me he wanted to make sure that before I left, we got our picture taken together because he wanted to remember me. Then today, out of the blue, I receive an email from him as follows:
Just checking to see how it is going for you. Hope the job is going well, and that you are still excited with your career. Please feel free to call upon me should you ever have any questions.
I responded as follows:
It’s good to hear from you! Thank you for the email; I truly appreciate it. I really have been enjoying my position here. I feel the more time I have under my belt, the more my knowledge and understanding continues to grow. I know that with more time I will continue to grow and learn more, which I am very excited about. I have such a desire to learn and am very glad I have the ability to do so in this position.
I appreciate your offer. I really take that to heart.
In response to my email he sent me this:
Elise: Every so often someone comes along with all the fight ingredients for success. It is not just talent, although that is a requirement. But it is more than talent. It is work ethic, ambition , and an intangible that others look up to. You have those ingredients. I saw that very early upon your joining us. If I have one ability it is that I have been able to spot that in young people throughout the years. Actually it was the most fun part of my job watching good young people develop into future leaders. I have all the confidence in the world that you will stand out as one of those people, and I will always be interested in how you are doing.
Upon reading this last email from him, I literally started tearing up. I’m not sharing this email from him in an attempt to “toot my own horn” (what a funny expression, by the way) but because of how it effected me so much and really made me stop and think. This isn’t the first time I’ve received commendation from him, nor from others that are my supervisors. In fact, I have every reason to feel really great about myself and the work I do. Yet, I never see myself the way other people do. In the past especially, while others focused on the wonderful things I was doing at work, I was picking apart all of the things I did wrong. I thought I was never good enough. Like I could always do better and be better. Time and time again, I’d receive compliments, yet I never let those compliments sink in. I never believed in myself…or viewed my work ability as something to take pride in.
Instead…I didn’t even consider it as something to be proud of. My focus was on something else. My worth, my whole concept of myself, was based upon my appearance; specifically my weight and my body. Nothing else mattered. I could be the nicest person, the hardest worker, the smartest girl, and none of those things ever compared to being thin or having a toned stomach or defined, trim legs and arms. They all paled in comparison. Being skinny was what I wanted and the only thing that mattered. Unless my body was perfect I felt like I didn’t matter or that others did not deem me ‘worthy’. I think much of that mindset is a result of how I felt when I was overweight. I always felt like others perceived me as ‘the fat girl’ and wanted nothing to do with me. I think that led to my thinking that thinness=acceptance. Acceptance=happiness.
Only lately has my opinion started to shift. I’ve learned a lot about what really matters and about letting certain things go. Right now I have so many things in my life to be happy about and focused on. I have seen my eating disorder time and time and time again destroy every bit and measure of happiness that I have…sucking the joy out of every aspect of my life, ripping the life right out of me to the point where I couldn’t feel happiness in anything that I did. The best thing I can compare it to (ironically enough) is being at an elaborate dinner party with the finest of food and drink being served and all of the food and drink tasting bland. The hardest thing about it all is that I just sat by and let my life lose it’s luster. I chose to allow my happiness to flee from me, because of where I placed my values and because I carried this all too common idea that being thin is the most important thing. As much as I knew I was on a journey to attain the unattainable, I simply could not get myself to stop walking on that path.
Currently, I have so much going for me. I can see it all before me…a new addition to the family, a girl who I want to be welcoming to and be able to enjoy myself with, and not be preoccupied with my eating disorder…a family who is drawing closer and closer to one another each and every day that passes…a best friend who just moved back to town who I want to be fun and crazy with…a husband who is choosing to fight for me and our marriage after being on a break for months (Yes, that’s right…my husband and I have not been living together for months now in order for us to both work on ourselves individually and to figure out what we really want and if we still want to stay together. I had decided a while ago that I wanted to stay with him, I wanted to make our marriage work. Just this week, he told me that he felt the same and that he chose me; he chose us)…a job that I am really thriving in and where I’m continually appreciated and valued…the reality is, my life right now is pretty dang good. I have so much going for me right now. I want to finally be able to enjoy my life, enjoy the everyday. I want to really start to live and not just exist.
How can I be a good employee, a good worker, a ‘future leader’, if I’m sick…or even worse, dead. My illness will kill me eventually if I hold onto it. How will I be a good, compassionate, kind-hearted person if I’m sick or dead. How will I be a daughter, a sister, a wife, a friend, a sister-in-law, if I’m sick or dead. At the end of the day, who will remember me as the skinny girl? Who will care what size jeans I wear or how many grams of fat I ate each day or if I ate more carbs than I “should have”? Tell me who, at my funeral, will point out the little jiggle in my thighs when I walked, or that they had cellulite on them, or that I had extra pudge on my stomach? NO ONE. No one will remember me based on such foolish, futile things. I want people to remember me for who I am as a person. I want people to look back and remember that one time that I drove all the way to where they live and stayed with them for hours at night because they needed a friend to be there with them. I want to be remembered as the daughter who took an afternoon off of work to spend time with her parents. I want to be remembered as the sister who flew out to Los Angeles to welcome a new addition to the family, and not being afraid to spend a substantial amount of money to do so. I want to be remembered as the employee who went the extra mile and stayed late or started early in order to help another co-worker out. I want to be remembered as that ‘bakery girl’ from Pick’nSave who was always friendly, even to the grumpiest customers.
I want to be remembered for my kindness, for my humor, for my positivity, for my zest for life, for my cheeriness, for being the real Elise. I don’t want to be remembered as the girl who refused dinner invitations with family because she was afraid to eat. I don’t want to be remembered as the girl who isolated herself from friends because she was ‘too in her head’. I don’t want to be remembered as the girl who counted calories, or always chose a salad, or was irritable or crabby or short-tempered, or downright rude. I don’t want to be remembered as the girl who was always too low in energy to do anything fun. I don’t want to be remembered as the girl who didn’t live; who was too miserable to have a good or fun life. I don’t want to be remembered as the girl who felt worthless, as the girl who was too afraid to wear shorts because she worried about how her legs looked, as the girl who equated her self-worth to the way her body looked. I don’t want to be remembered as the girl who was too afraid to let go; so she held on to something that slowly killed her, piece by piece, one complication after the next. I want to be remembered for being the spirited girl who is up for anything. I want to be remembered as the girl who is a ray of sunshine when others are down. I want to be remembered as the girl who lived life to the full, who bit off more than she could chew because she believed she could tackle whatever came her way. I want to be remembered as the girl who believed in herself, her abilities, her personal strengths. I want to be remembered as the girl who faced obstacles, but instead of letting them defeat her, she chose to rise, and let them strengthen and toughen her. I want to be remembered as the girl who was present, who could experience everyday life. I want to be remembered as the girl who gave all she could because there was nothing worth holding back. I want to be remembered as the girl who could be there to help others and put others first, instead of being solely focused on herself.
I want to be a girl who can do the things she enjoys free from worry. I want to allow myself to cook and bake because I truly love to do those things. I want to allow myself to go out to ice cream with friends (and get two scoops!) or just hunker down with a bowl (or maybe the carton?!) at home on the couch while watching a movie by myself. I want to allow myself to skip workouts in order to do things that are better or more important (yes, there are A LOT of things that are more important!) I want to be more, do more, see more, experience more, live more. I want to let go of all that holds me back. I have never before felt so determined to let go of my eating disorder, the negative self-defeating thoughts that whisper ‘you’re not good enough’, the mentality that being thin provides a rewarding and happy life. I have never been more determined to undo all of the negative, disordered ways and patterns of thinking that have mounted up over the years. I know that bit by bit, layer by layer, I can start to chip away at all of these things. I’m already letting go, each day, each hour, each minute.
My life has been waiting for me to take control and jump head first into living. My mentality is the best it has ever been. I can’t quite describe how the ‘switch’ flipped, how I finally got it in my head to let go of so many things that I was holding onto and afraid to let go of…but regardless, it is the most beautiful thing in the world. I know what is important, I know what really matters. I’ve spent too much of my life letting trivial things like my weight and body hold me back and keep me miserable. I want to live; to really live. It’s time for me to be the daughter, the sister, the wife, the friend, the co-worker, the employee, the girl I want and can be. Because if people like Gerry can see what I’m really worth, than why the hell can’t I?