Sunday, April 10, 2011

My Journey of Friendships, Career, Marriage and Aging Gracefully

I've always been a size 4 or 6, but never really fit or toned. Keeping my weight down without exercising was easy in my youth. I’ve never been an emotional eater or indulged in snacking on potato chips, but I’ve also never been a consistent exerciser. I’ve only been able to lose about five pounds in my entire life, and that was due to just not eating very much. In short, I basically half starved myself, which isn’t healthy. Now, however, I need to lose about 20 pounds to stay in my current clothes and age gracefully. I’ll be 45-years-old in five months, and I want to shed some weight, continue to grow my business as a P.R. professional and freelance writer while also juggling the next big full-time career opportunity. At the same time, I need to keep nurturing my 17-year marriage and raising my soon-to-be 8-year-old twins. I know I have a full plate filled with many blessings. As full as it is though, I just don’t think God would have put all of this before me if I wasn’t suppose to learn how to handle it; therefore, I will.

One big tip I can share in maintaining my 17-year marriage is the importance of communication. No matter how painful a conversation may be with my husband, we keep talking and spending time together — even when we’re mad. Frankly, the key to any relationship is honest communication and a deep desire to keep working it out and trying to understand one another. You also need to keep the “punching below the belt” comments and actions to a minimum or not at all. I’ll explain “punching below the belt” comments and actions in another article. As I said, communication is the key. Frankly, communication is also the key to understanding yourself. I’ve consistently kept a journal for over 26 years. Honest reflection of your decision-making through journaling and poetry will definitely yield a deeper understanding of your motivations and life choices. My life is a testament to that.

After giving birth to twins through a c-section, I’ve struggled to maintain my figure as I age. I'm more of a size 8 or 10 right now, but can still wear a tight size 6. I’m not into tight clothes though. My style is for clothes to hang on me, look well put together, but be comfortable. I'm 5'2 and embarrassed to say, 140 pounds. But since I’m happy to be alive having survived a few health issues, I’ll proudly state my weight and size any day. I want to be 120 pounds and slightly muscular in the tummy and legs. I don’t want to wait until I’m obese to start focusing on my health. Losing these 20 pounds is hard enough. My heart goes out to those struggling with obesity because that’s got to be tough. I carried twins and know how uncomfortable extra weight can be. Today, I’m ready to transform myself into a fit working mom juggling all I’ve mentioned above — and winning, as Charlie Sheen would say.

I just read this incredibly well-written article about how some women hate women who are fit, skinny and toned – basically different. It was the most honest article about women and weight I had ever read. It really motivated me to share my story because I do believe there is a link between ambition, weight, and friendship for a lot of women. I believe because I’ve always been skinny, professionally driven to achieve something in life, and not constantly angry with men because of something I allowed them to do to me, some women have found me to be so different and hated me for this. I do believe you train people (particularly men) how to treat you. I never apologized for who I was, and I’m not going to start now. I’m sure some women aren’t happy with the fact that I’m dealing with my weight issues before it becomes a huge problem, but I really don’t care.

I feel proud that I abstained from sex well into my mid-twenties, I got a college degree when most of the women I grew up with were dreaming of getting married. It shocked me that my girlfriends didn’t want to know what they could accomplish in life other than snagging a man. As I secured more P.R./marketing jobs, maintained my weight, never got pregnant, and dated a lot but claimed few men as serious boyfriends, my friendships disappeared. I had a girlfriend I’d known since the age of 10 that point blank asked me why I was so different. She actually said it in an angry tone, and decided to say it around other women I didn’t even know well. That was the day I knew she really wasn’t my friend. She also asked me why people stared at me so much…go figure. I chalked it up to just another stupid question from a person who wasn’t my friend. Today, kids call that type of behavior just haters. She was the only friend bold enough to ask me such questions, except for one other crazy friend. She said she could be jealous of me because I was smart, pretty and drove a jeep (my Dad’s car at the time) but instead she said she’d use those energies to better herself. At the time, I thought her honesty was refreshing and never thought anything of it. But in the end, I stopped being friends with her once she said I’d fail in life because I graduated from Columbia College with a B.A in Broadcast Journalism. She couldn’t figure out what type of job in Communications I could ever get. I became a P.R./Marketing pro, something I’m sure she’d just be jealous about instead of supportive. This field hasn’t been easy, but I love the work. I never stayed in what I considered a “bad relationship” very long with a man or any fake girlfriends. However, misery does love company. To this day, I’ve maintained one friendship for 17 year’s because she’s a cool person who is driven to achieve, attractive and doesn’t have a jealous bone in her body. I treasure our friendship. I’ve had girlfriends off and on, but no other solid friendships except that one. I had no more than three serious boyfriends with my husband being the third. The circle of women I grew up with just thought I was too different for words, and when I become a successful P.R./marketing professional at the director level as well as a happily married woman who was still a size 6, then I lost the last of two girlfriends who could not have ever really been my friends at all anyway.

Friendship shouldn’t be based on your waistline, marital or career status, it should be because you just get along and enjoy each other’s company. My experience is that most women thrive on drama. I did have brunch with my friend of 17 years who had invited a few of her other friends. All of the women around the table were beautiful professional women who shared their journey in their careers while enjoying a delicious breakfast. It was such an inspiring afternoon to be around career-oriented women who were not catty, but kind and conversational. Needless to say, forming new friendships hasn’t come easy to me. And today, my priorities are totally different. I need to put that energy into my marriage, my children, my full-time career, and my side business as a writer and P.R. pro. Other than my 17-year friendship, I have no interest in any other female friends primarily because I have no time and I don’t trust easily. If I think you aren’t a friend, I will leave you alone quickly. I don’t want a bunch of fake girlfriends just to say I’ve got friends in my life. All of it has to be real or not at all.

Yes, I’ve always been different. The experiences of my youth and as I grew into an adult have prepared me for the life I lead. Today, I thrive on those differences and welcome them. I express who I am with confidence and understand that my journey is unique and just as it should be. Yes, the road gets bumpy. My marriage and business are definitely a work in progress, but the journey is made all the more sweet by the struggles I’ve overcome, the loneliness I grew to enjoy during my single years, and the challenges that surprisingly made me stronger as a wife, mother, and professional.

I want to age gracefully, drop 20 pounds by my 45th birthday, secure a senior level position at a University and put an African-American owned college on the map while staying true to family commitments and business relationships. I have faith in God that I’ll do it all with grace and style…at least, that’s the plan.

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