The Labor Logbook: how jobs teach self-discovery, stamina, and saving

The Labor Logbook tells two stories: 24-year-old burned out teacher Lisa Whiteleather, and a handful of working college students enrolled at different universities. The first story illustrates the causes and effects of teacher turnover and how a young adult’s stressful job experience led her to discover her true passion. The second story delves into college students’ unique motives to work while in school. Integrating the latest career research into intriguing narratives, The Labor Logbook is relatable for everyone in or entering the professional world.

Story #1: 

Depression, Fatigue, and Attrition: How School Districts Burn Out their Teachers

Lisa Whiteleather, 26, was known by her coworkers as the devoted young teacher who would escape burnout unlike the majority of Baltimore county’s new teachers.

Unfortunately, Lisa burned out.

With a bachelor’s degree in education, Lisa began teaching fifth grade in 2014 at a challenging Title I school in Baltimore county. She left her position last June.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, about 50% of new teachers leave the profession within five years.

Richard Ingersoll, an education scholar who studies teacher turnover and retention at the University of Pennsylvania, believes that the constant rate of teacher turnover costs school districts upwards of $2.2 billion a year.

Why do teachers stop teaching? Top reasons include challenging work conditions, not enough support, testa and data collection, and failure of the system to act in the students’ best interests.

No voice or choice 

The main factor in Lisa’s reason for leaving was the issue of voice. “Imagine having zero input in key decisions in the building that affects your job. Being able to have input . . . isn’t that the lifeblood of a fulfilling job?” said Lisa.

One of these key decisions was standardized testing. In Lisa’s school district, standardized tests are used to evaluate and punish teachers. This test-and-punish approach to teacher evaluation caused Lisa’s school to ignore other factors affecting her students’ achievement like poverty and socioeconomic status.

“Some of my students came to school exhausted. Their clothes weren’t clean and their only meals were coming from the school. How are you going to convince them that a standardized test is what their priority should be when their basic needs aren’t even being met?”

Last year, The Baltimore Sun reported that less than half of Maryland elementary and middle schoolers pass the state’s tough new standardized tests, and the disparities in achievement are disheartening.

For instance, while 65 percent of Asian students passed the English test, only 23 percent of African-American students did. Also, only 13 percent of low-income students, and 5 percent of students who are learning English as a second language passed.

“These tests are full of racial and socioeconomic issues. They leave children behind,” said Lisa. “And then how can you hold the teacher accountable for their success or failure when there’s a lot of problems outside the teacher’s control? Kids aren’t going to test their way out of poverty.”

This educational expectation of teachers creates anxiety for teachers across the nation. “Lawmakers play down our ability and blame us for our students’ grades. They want to take away our fringe benefits. They want to take away everything from the possibility of having tenure to receive a decent pension,” said Lisa. “It’s really frustrating to have gone to school to do this, have been qualified for my job, and then to be told by people who have no experience what I should be doing in my classroom and what’s best for my individual students, and then not be fully compensated for it.”

Underpaid and overworked 

New teachers in the majority of states feel like they aren’t paid enough. In Maryland, first year teachers make anywhere from $40,400 per year up to $46,561 per year, according to Maryland’s State Department of Education.

In most states, the teacher pay scale is based on seniority. “You get a raise each year, but it’s not based on merit, so the really bad teacher down the hallway will be getting  paid the same amount as you because they’ve been there longer,” explained Lisa.

A 2015 study done by the Economic Policy institute found that the weekly wages of teachers in the United States were 17 percent lower than comparable college-educated professionals.

“I compared myself to my friends who also graduated with bachelor’s degrees. They had been in their career fields for three to five years. They were happy. I felt stuck. Like I’d wasted four years of college. I know I didn’t have to quit, but I was depressed, and I saw that depression affect my students,” said Lisa.

“It’s depressing when you plan an entire unit and your books won’t come on time because of school bureaucracy. It’s depressing when you can’t go out with your friends on Saturday night because your entire paycheck went to student loans, rent, and groceries. It’s depressing when you’re trying to meet the needs of your students academically, help them develop socially, focus on whatever the county is pushing at the moment, and try to be fifty different things at once while living paycheck to paycheck.”

Teacher attitude influences student performance. In 2015, researchers analyzed data on 520 third grade students around age eight in 27 classrooms in North Florida during the 2010-2011 school year. They discovered that as teacher depression symptoms increased, the learning environment tended to become poorer quality.

“The link between teacher depression and student performance is so real,” said Lisa. “Why our schools are obsessed with standardized testing instead of focusing on teacher support is beyond me. I was always alone,” said Lisa.

Not enough support 

Lack of a support system also put constant stress on Lisa. “During the first year of teaching, you’re supposed to have a mentor or partner teacher and I didn’t have any of those things. My school was so small that I was the only first-year teacher in my building so everybody was already established and they kind of just did their own thing. I had to figure it out on my own,” explained Lisa.

A report released last month by the nonprofit New Teacher Center revealed that states have largely failed to invest in programs that support new teachers. “They hand you the curriculum guide and it’s sink or swim,” said Lisa.

New teachers can also get placed in the worst schools in the district. “It’s extremely competitive to get into the really good schools, which is why the low-income schools have so many novice, inexperienced teachers who have no support systems and then burnout because there is nobody there to help them.”

This continuous cycle of new teachers entering and leaving low-income schools is a huge problem in Maryland, and most parts of the United States. Nearly half of new teachers who have completed between one to two years of teaching will have left the field by the beginning of the third full year, according to data from the Maryland State Department of Education’s 2014-2015 teacher and principal effectiveness ratings.

According to the State Department of Education, in the 2015-2016 school year, Maryland lost 4,536 of its approximate 60,000 teachers. Forty percent, or 1,815, of those lost teachers had five or fewer years of experience.

Further, 30% of teachers in the state have less than five years of experience. The average length of teacher service is nine years. Teachers with more than 20 years of experience account for about 16% of the teaching staff. According to the state data, teacher effectiveness plateaus after the fifth year.

Overpopulation

Overpopulation is also common in American classrooms. “Last year, my largest class was 35 students and when you’re a new teacher and thirty five kids get handed to you, it’s overwhelming,” said Lisa.

Overcrowding is a serious problem in Baltimore County schools, and the district has little money in the budget for expansion, so just have to accept larger classes.

“There’s so much I had to figure out by myself in addition to learning how to teach them. I had to learn how to manage them, how to set behavior expectations, how to be able to contact their parents when I’m 22 and they’re 45 and I’m trying to tell them what’s wrong with their kid,”

Loss of personal connection with students is a common result of overpopulated classrooms. “I wanted to be able to give one-on-one attention to each student every day. I wanted students to be able to develop deep, lasting relationships with each other. I wanted my classroom to have that community atmosphere, but it was just too big,” said Lisa.

Class sizes are increased in an effort to avoid having to increase the budget enough to add a new teacher into the school system. This leads to low-income school districts having overcrowded classrooms and poor learning environments.

A new path

After Lisa quit teaching in June, she applied to law school. “My experience as a teacher made me realize how much I want to stop government overreaches and force the government to follow its own laws.”

Complaints of federal overreach in K-12 education have intensified throughout the years. “Less federal meddling and allowing the teachers to make decisions is necessary for education reform,” said Lisa.

Lisa is now a first-year law student at University of Baltimore.

Multimedia #1 &2: 

Lisa’s Slideshow and Audio 

 

 

Story #2: 

Three Lessons Students Can Learn from Part-time Jobs 

Coffee-guzzling, all-nighter-pulling, class-skipping-to-work-for-another-class college students — that’s pretty much how the four years go. However, 14 million college students still make time for a part-time job according to a new report from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.

The study also found that 40 percent of undergraduates work at least 30 hours per week while in college, but despite this, tuition is too high for those hours to make much of a difference.

As director of Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce Gary Carnevale pointed out in The Washington Post, even if students work full-time while in school, they would only earn $15000 a year at the federal minimum wage. That’s only half the tuition at an average private college, and it’s just a few thousand dollars more than tuition and fees at a public college.

If tuition rates are too high for students to work their way through college, why do they even work? It turns out that the reasons go beyond just wanting to have a little spending money.

Jobs push students to learn budgeting 

“My parents paid for my tuition, books, room, and board. Everyone was always like, ‘Why get a job if you don’t have to?’” explained Delaney Van Wey, a senior at Syracuse University. Currently, Van Wey works 15-20 hours a week as a desk assistant at a residential building.

“I get why my friends think I should take advantage of the fact that my parents can financially support me through college, but I’m going to be independent sooner or later, and I like having my own hard-earned money.”

Indeed, there’s a special pride that comes with being able to buy something you want with your own money, and having a job teaches students how to manage their money and rely on themselves.

“Since freshmen year, I’ve had this system where I put a certain percentage of my paycheck into my savings and a certain percentage into my checking, and I’m pretty proud of that. The only reason I have this system is because my job pushed me to create it for myself,” said Van Wey.

A 2009 study from the University of Arizona and the National Endowment for Financial Education showed that students’ ability to handle money has declined by seven percent. It also showed that while 50 percent  of college students have four or more credit cards, 80 percent of students fail to pay off their credit card bill.

“Schools don’t teach financial literacy,” said Taylor Shubert, a senior at George Mason University who works 20-25 hours a week at Panera Bread. “Colleges don’t offer many personal finance classes, and it’s sad. The best way to learn personal finance is to get a job, so that’s why I got one,” said Shubert.

When it comes to financial literacy, the U.S. fails. In a 2015 global study conducted by Standard & Poor’s Ratings Group and others, the U.S. ranked 14th with a financial literacy rate of 57 percent.

“You could require college students to take some Personal Finance 101 class, or you could just tell them to get a job,” said Shubert.

“You might have a phase, especially when you get your first few paychecks, where you blow it all on alcohol, take-out, and a bunch of other crap, and then you live off of cereal and Ramen for a month. That miserable month pushes you to start managing your money,” said Olivia Bergmann, a senior and part-time dance instructor at the University of Buffalo.

“It’s like, you have to go through that first paycheck euphoria, blow it all, and then be dirt poor so that you can learn how to save your money,” said Bergmann. “The most frugal students I know always have that miserable first paycheck story, and that experience really scares them into learning how to budget.”

Jobs help students learn their passion

College students tend to define their passion and then get a job, but this might limit the decisions they make about their career paths. In 2015, branding strategist Terri Trespicio did a TED Talk called, “Stop Searching For Your Passion.”

In Trespicio’s speech, she explained how young adults are too focused on a singular passion. “They think their job is to find it and pursue it to the exclusion of all else. And if they do that, they think everything will fall into place. And if they don’t, they think they will fail,” said Trespicio.

Instead of passion fueling success, Trespicio believes success fuels passion.

Kelsey Delpriore, a senior at Brockport University, found her passion by working for Brockport Student Government.

“I was always freaking out because I had no idea what my passion was. I thought something was wrong with me and I thought I would never get a job because of it,” explained Delpriore. “My roommate made me join student government with her when I was a sophomore. It made me realize how much I love representing the views of my peers, creating initiatives, and developing community projects. Now, I have a full-tim career where I get to do all of that.”

Delpriore’s experience is a perfect example of why you should just start doing rather than sitting around waiting for your passion to show up.

Jobs teach students to relax

Being extremely busy can help students appreciate the art of relaxing, at least that’s what it did for Hunter Samuelson, a senior at George Mason University.

“I feel like in America we’re taught to feel guilty for relaxing,” explained Samuelson. A 2015 survey of 1,000 U.S. adults by Princess Cruises found that a majority of Americans spend vacation days dealing with various errands like family emergencies, medical appointments, and taking care of loved ones. Thirty eight percent of respondents said they feel bad for relaxing.

“Think of it like exercise. If you don’t provide your body with rest, you can actually reverse the muscle-growing process and put your body in a destructive state,” explained Samuelson. “If you don’t take time to relax throughout a busy semester, you’ll break down. If you’re going to commit to a busy routine, you also have to commit to a rest and recovery routine.”

Taking fifteen credits while working 30 hours a week last semester forced Samuelson to relax on the weekends. “I started getting physically sick from being so stressed out. Mid-semester of last year, I emailed my manager and told him I needed off Friday through Sunday. Ever since then, I’ve realized how important it is to take care of yourself if you want to perform well,” said Samuelson.

Despite the intense workload, Samuelson said she would have never realized the importance of relaxation for optimal job performance.

Multimedia #3:

College Student Infographic 

My infographic

Multimedia #4:

Working student video 

 

A peak at some of the interviewees: 

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Lisa Whiteleather, former middle school teacher and current first-year law student at University of Baltimore.

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Olivia Bergmann, part-time dance instructor and senior at University of Buffalo.

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Delaney Van Wey, part-time residential desk assistant and senior at Syracuse University.

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Taylor Shubert, part-time associate trainer at Panera and senior at George Mason University.

 

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You are not your weight

“We think we’re made of numbers; percentages on tests, pounds on a scale, likes on a photo, price tags on clothes, but we’re not. We’re made of love, happiness and the way we laugh. We’re made of good memories and late nights. We have more substance than numbers.” 

I saw this caption on an Instagram fitness page and it made me tear up. I recently went to the doctors and the receipt from my visit revealed my BMI. I was not happy with it.

Numbers dictate our lives and it’s treacherous for our wellbeing. How many dollars did I make? How many miles did I run? What was my pace? How much do I weigh? How many calories did I eat? How much weight did I lift? Numbers, numbers, and more fucking numbers. They ruin us.

I’ve done the most idiotic shit to make numbers go down. I’ve tried cigarettes to curb my appetite (and I’m a distance runner).  I’ve ran 60 miles a week for months on a fractured foot just to lose some weight. I’ve spent hours at the gym when I should’ve been with family and friends just to be lean. I let the number on the doctor’s receipt ruin my entire week to the point where the voice I thought I’d defeated slipped back into my mind to tell me

you 

are

fat. 

And it’s all because I let numbers dictate my emotions. I think I am my BMI. My GPA. I am the miles I ran this week and the paces that I did. I am the amount of calories I ate today. I am the pounds on the scale. The dollars I made in tips. The price of my clothes. I am my weight.

Starving. Purging. Weighing. Measuring. Tracking. Tracking, that’s a big one. We can track our steps, heart rate, and calories burned all on our watches now because you’re a failure if you haven’t reached your 10,000 steps, right?

The world is triggering for those struggling with body image. We are encouraged to track, juice, diet, cleanse, detox, and measure. We our encouraged to believe that we are our weight. But our weight is a scanty little speckle compared to what we actually are.

When I saw my BMI, the voice came back. You should pick up bulimia again. Chug some diet coke for dinner. Pick up a pack of camels on your way home. That can be your meal. You don’t deserve anything more. 

And there’s a voice like this for all of us. It believes we are made of numbers but we are so much more. You are not your weight or your paycheck or whatever number dictates your happiness. You are how you treat others. You are how you persevere through a shitty day. You are your grit. You are the way you smile when everything seems to go wrong. You are the way you forgive. You are the way you love people unconditionally. You are your favorite accomplishments and memories. You are anything you make yourself.

weight-on-a-scale

Just don’t be the god damn numbers.

 

 

20 Things I’ve Learned at 20

1. When you’re getting checked for skin cancer and the doctor leaves the room for you to undress, you don’t just get completely naked and sit there in your nakedness waiting for her to come in — especially when they have a 17-year-old intern with them (this is what the gown is for).

2. Strong character always trumps a high GPA.

3. Don’t give your social security number to a TJ Maxx cashier just to get a free rewards card.

4. Don’t pre-game the pre-game. It’ll ruin your night and everyone else’s.

5. Her success is not your failure.

6. Being healthy isn’t being skinny. It’s a mixture of physical, mental, and emotional components.

7. If you run out of laundry detergent, don’t just rely on water for the next two months. Your mom will kill you when she finds out you pulled that ratchet move.

8. There is a difference between true love and an unhealthy obsession.

9. A Goodwill store, especially in a rich neighborhood, is a godsend.

10. If the Great Value brand gets the job done, then why spend more money?

11. Stop trying to prove yourself to everyone. Let your success be your noise.

12. Don’t try to pierce yourself. Anywhere. Don’t. Do. It.

13. There are a LIMITED amount of times you can transfer your savings to your checkings before you get charged.

14. Have fun and let go. Productivity is the result of a good couple rest days.

15. Mom on Venmo might seem like a good idea until she sees that you paid Sarah $40 for “Shotz at da clerb let’s get figgidy” at 2 am.

16. You think you peaked in high school but remind yourself of Jenna’s glow up in 13 going on 30.

17. Simplicity is a blast. Starting a book, trying a new recipe, texting someone you haven’t talked to in a while, shoveling Nutella into your mouth alone on a Friday night . . . that’s the good stuff.

18. If you want your words to be effective, less is more. Think about Hemingway’s six-word novel: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” Incredible.

19. You can do whatever you think you can do.

20. It will be hard for others to love you until you can love yourself.

My Battle with Perfectionism

I used to be a chronic perfectionist. From my sophomore year of high school to my sophomore year in college, I obsessed over appearance, grades, and exercise. If I was going out to a party, I would purposely try to eat as little as possible because I knew I would be drinking empty calories later on. I had a 4.0 GPA. I sacrificed my own well-being to make my appearance and grades absolutely perfect. I had a compulsive need to please everyone. Everyone was constantly telling me to lighten up and relax, but I never could. I never bothered trying to chill out because I thought perfectionism was an inherent trait that would never go away, but that is far from the truth.

Today, I am not a perfectionist. I occasionally skip class and workouts. I eat ice cream on the reg. If I go out, I don’t mull over how many empty calories I consumed. I don’t try to please everyone. Of course there is still a part of me who aches for control over my weight, grades, and others’ perception of me, but now, I am much better at silencing that part of me. Here are some of the factors that I believe helped me overcome my perfectionism:

1. Getting older

Yes, becoming more mature and level-headed probably played a role in helping me overcome perfectionism, but I think there is more to it than that. It was much easier for me to be a perfectionist in high school than it is in college. My school was small, and it was easy for me to be the star of everything. I’d known my peers since the third grade, so I knew what I had to do to please them. My academic workload was easier. I wasn’t subject to the social pressure found in dining halls and social gatherings as much as I am in college, so it was easier to eat less and be at that “perfect” weight. Additionally, there were less distractions in high school, and it was also much easier to focus on exercise.

Living on a huge college campus seven hours from my hometown changed everything. I had no chance in being the star, so I simply cared less. Don’t get me wrong, I still persevere and give my all here at college, but there’s no obsessive element anymore. I no longer freak out when I get a B instead of an A, and I no longer count my calories. There’s something about adulthood that makes you go from constantly questioning yourself, “Is this good enough?” to telling yourself, “This is f****g good enough.”

2. Social media

Yes, despite all of the research arguing how social media destroys self-confidence, social media has helped me become much more accepting of who I am, especially Instagram. I follow many fitness gurus on Instagram, and lately, many of them have been posting “12 Hour Transformations” where they compare how their bodies look in the morning versus at night.

As a social media addict, I am constantly comparing myself to the bodies of women on Instagram, so seeing these 12 Hour Transformation photos is incredibly refreshing. I get discouraged at night when I don’t feel as “skinny” as I did in the morning because I look at photos on Instagram of who seem to have perfect abs 24 hours a day. But these transformation photos remind me that those perfect-bodied women are probably snapping those photos as soon as they wake up when they haven’t eaten in eight hours. They probably get bloated at night too, just like me.

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In addition to the transformation photos, Instagram is full of “strong over skinny messages.” I used to secretly go on pro-anorexia/pro-bulimia forums which would give me purging/starvation tips. They are horrific. Now, my feed is filled with strong, beautiful women who lift heavy and fuel properly. I strongly encourage those with body image issues to start following people like @nessasphere, @karinaelle, and @zuzkalight. Trust me, they didn’t get their ripped stomachs and perky butts from starving themselves.

3. Relationships

I know I say this in just about every blog post, but I am saying it again: you become the people you surround yourself with. Until college, I was never really around people with a lot of self-confidence. In fact, I liked connecting with people who also hated their bodies because they would share their weight loss tricks with me. Being around insecure people helped me maintain an eating disorder that I was very attached to. College changed all of that. I remember eating dessert — for the first time in a year — during my freshmen year of college with my friends. Even though it was just vanilla yogurt topped with chocolate chips and whipped cream, it wasn’t one of my “safe” foods and I knew I was going to regret eating it. After we were finished, I expected my friends to talk about how much they regretted dessert, but instead, they continued to laugh, talk, and move on with their lives. That’s when I realized something: life is so much more fun when you don’t spend 65% of the day freaking out over the food you ate. That was my life before I met my friends at college. Because of them, I went from being a neurotic eater to a normal eater. Overall, if you think you have a bad habit you want to get rid of, ask yourself, “Are my relationships furthering this habit?” If they are, find new people to be around ASAP. It’s amazing what new relationships can do for you.

For all the chronic perfectionists out there, I want you to know that your perfectionism is not a permanent trait, and you CAN minimize it. Changing my environment and building fresh relationships helped me silence the perfectionist voice inside my head. Learn to celebrate your mistakes. Be comfortable in your own skin. Believe in redemption. Remove the all-or-nothing mindset. Compare yourself to yourself rather than to others. Realize that it’s okay to binge on an entire Dominos pizza and cheesy bread all by yourself. Get the hell away from nervously perfectionistic people, because when you’re on your death bed, you’re going to regret all of the energy you spent trying to make everything so god damn perfect.

Teammates

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I spent the majority of my high school track  career pouting, bawling, and crying to my coach about why I was such a horrific athlete. It killed my parents to see their daughter beat herself up after every single performance. I was a hopeless fusspot burdened with an eating disorder that I thought would make me run faster (but only destroyed my body) and deadly perfectionism.

Now, as a collegiate runner, I’ve changed. A lot. In fact, my parents, coaches, and former high school teammates are baffled at how much I’ve changed as an athlete and as a person. In high school, I was 100% devoted to whittling down to an unrealistic race weight that did make me fast in the short-term, BUT I ended up with a stress fracture, osteoporosis, a damaged running career, and broken relationships. In other words, focusing on my weight throughout my training ruined me as a runner and as a functioning human being.

Now, I don’t focus on weight. I focus on training, recovering, and eating a balanced diet. I know that if I focus on these three things then the right “race weight” for me will come right along.

How I went from becoming a pessimistic, weight-obsessed, perfectionist athlete to a positive and self-loving one is all because of my teammates. They say you are the people you surround yourselves with and I think that is so true. Running at George Mason, I am surrounded by people who are so good at staying strong amidst physical and emotional hardship, so good at telling themselves that they really can reach their goals, so good at just having fun with the race, so good at being happy with who they are. Being around these people so much has made me cultivate a much healthier mindset, and I haven’t felt this happy with myself in a long time.

If it wasn’t for my teammates, I would have quit running by now because I would’ve been telling myself that I’ll never be good enough. Because of them, I do feel good enough. In fact, after my 3,000 meter indoor race, I came in dead last (it was my first race coming back from an injury). Yes, dead last. However, I returned to a group of teammates who cheered for me and hugged me as if I had qualified for the Olympics.

Now there are people out there who will say “great job” just because they feel like they have to, or because they don’t really know what a “great job” is in the track world, but I could tell that my teammates genuinely thought I gave it my all, and that meant so much to me.

Sometimes, it’s hard to tell if you are in a good spot in your life. I think the best way to make sure you are is to look at the people you’ve surrounded yourself with: are your coworkers/teammates/neighbors/friends building you up and helping you become healthier emotionally, or are they doing the opposite and making you feel like you aren’t enough?

Face it. You can’t build yourself up and become a better person all by yourself. You need a support system. I’m lucky enough to have an incredible and inspirational one that is my George Mason XC and Track family.

Eating disorders. They suck.

A lot of people know and have read the long, long story that I wrote a while back about my eating disorder, but I never got into the graphic details about it. I was asked to summarize my eating disorder for my friend who is doing a project on anorexia/bulimia and I’d like to share it on here. It’s shorter, more concise (I’m a lot older now and can . .  . write a little bit better) and pretty detailed. I want to share this story because it illustrates how eating disorder patients are always still suffering, no matter how physically healthy they are.

I want to spread awareness. I want to show people why I have this tattooed on my body. Most of all, I want you to love the body you’re in and recognize all of the incredible things it can do for you.

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I developed anorexia/bulimia when I was 17. One day I wanted to see how long I could go without eating and I felt so proud of myself after I did that. Eventually it turned into a habit and I went from 135 pounds to 105 pounds. I just hate (and still hate) my body type. I wanted —and still sort of want —to be skeletal. I wanted my clavicle and ribs to jut out and once it started doing that, I became so “happy.” I remember sitting with my friends at lunch and thinking I had so much will power because I was better than them for not eating. I ruined relationships with my family and turned into a liar. Anorexia turns you into a huge liar because you have to constantly lie about eating and purging. I remember purging in the shower and in the woods in my backyard. I would bring a toothbrush to school and purge there in the bathroom after lunch. My family didn’t live with me anymore. They lived with an eating disorder.

I stole laxatives from my mom and abused them all the time. I took so many laxatives every day. I only ate soft foods (ice cream, jello) so that they would come up easier. I was so thin and I felt high from starvation. It literally gave me so much euphoria. Temporary euphoria, that is. I would always go home to a brokenhearted family who watched their daughter wither away. I remember my dad, my stoic, unemotional, callous correctional officer of a father came up to my room, hugged me as I laid in bed, and just bawled his eyes out.

But that didn’t stop me from starvation.

I was obsessed with myself. I loved my new body. I threw out all of my clothes so my mom would buy me smaller clothes. She drove me two hours to therapy and the doctors every day and I always lied to them. Always told them I would get better and that I wanted to get better, but I wouldn’t.

So my starving and purging went on for two years, on and off. I finally started to make real improvement when I got to college and joined cross country. When you run as much as I do, you’re forced to feed yourself, and running pretty much saved me and my body. Running forced me to eat and I remembered how much I loved food. College and running, and an incredible support system out at college really saved me.

But did I recover? Well . . . physically I have. Mentally, no. I don’t think eating disorder patients ever fully recover. I will always hate my body. I try crazy diets all the time and sometimes go days where I starve myself because I miss the “high” that I get. I drink and eat too much fiber on purpose because I miss what laxatives did for me. I binge and sometimes I even make myself throw up. I still hate my body and think I am morbidly obese, and a lot of it has to do with the pressure society has put on me. I wish I didn’t hate my body and it breaks my parents’ hearts to see their daughter hate the way she looks and I wish I didn’t but I do.

And a lot of people feel exactly like I do.

Thursday thoughts

Pebbles_on_beach_at_Broulee_-NSW_-Australia-2Jan2009.jpg“We modify each other just as pebbles in a tumbler rub the rough edges off each other.”

-Nagapriya

Be mindful of who you are surrounded by, because maybe, just maybe, you are the sum total of all the people you have ever met and their influence on you.