It was stuffed in the back of my workout drawer, as it had been in various closets and shelves for three years. I bought it on a whim, rushing through the packed bookstore the last week of school with Julia, who wanted to pick up a few things before graduation and her return to San Francisco. It looked small hanging on the rack, but I figured it would fit. Or would soon. I have been guilty of this kind of vaguely optimistic thought my entire life.
Trying it on at home was a real blow to the ego, and so into the drawer it went. However many times I cleaned out my closet or moved in the years that followed, it sat as a crumpled red reminder of the disparity between the body I thought I had and the body I did.
Over the next three years, my weight would fluctuate in frustratingly regular and seemingly unpredictable waves. Looking back now, I realize they were predictable, and moreover— they were preventable. I was lazy, I was willfully ignorant, and I had an unhealthy relationship with food. The red shirt moved further and further into the back of my closet, obscured by new, bigger, looser fitting clothing.
After an emotionally brutal Winter, I knew something had to give. In March of this year, I (literally) dusted off the scale and stepped on to reveal a number I couldn’t believe. The something that had to give was me. And so give I did.
For the last six months, I’ve been giving every day. Giving myself as much time at the gym as I need. Giving my all in the sweatiest workouts to make each run the furthest, each Warrior II the deepest, each row the fastest. Giving myself patience through slow growth and the courage to try new things, even if it means failing at first. But most importantly, giving myself the self care and love that I had denied myself for so long.
“I am strong.” This was my intention in every yoga class, my mantra, what I repeated to myself when I wanted to give up the most. I didn’t believe it in the beginning, but I do now. I’ve said it to myself more times than I can count. I think it’s part of why I forgot the shirt.
Last night, putting clothes away, it peeked out at me from behind free shirts from volunteer days and alumni associations. My instinct, despite being logically aware of my fairly significant weight loss, was that it didn’t fit. As long as I had known this shirt, it hadn’t fit, and so some small but powerful and very irrational part of my brain believed it never would.
With the rest of my gym clothes tumbling in the dryer, I pulled it out. It was wrinkled from years of begrudged storage but still the brilliant red it had been the day I bought it. I shook it out and eyed it. It still looked small.
But I tried it on. And it fit.