Letters to my Younger Self: Shannon King
To my younger, self-doubting and scared self,
I know that at the moment you feel like your life is crumbling around you, and I know you are hurting so badly but I want you to know that a few years down the road you will not only be happy, but you will be thriving. You will realize that you are strong as hell, in fact, you always have been, but you will finally actually believe it and have the confidence to say it out loud.
I know that the recent move away from home into a residence for your first year of university has been anything but easy. Moving to a new town where you don't know anyone is challenging. Moving into university residence where the culture is focused around partying and where you just don't fit in is feeling absolutely horrific at the moment.
On top of all this, you recently and unexpectedly quit the sport that you had dedicated the past four years of your life to and the loss of your identity as an athlete is heartbreaking. Everyday at the cafeteria you battle with yourself trying to figure out how much food you actually need to be eating now that you aren't training 2+ hours a day. You struggle to go for a run or go to the gym, activities you used to love, because it feels like a chore and is now just a means to keep you fitting into your clothing. Despite all these obsessive efforts, every time you look in the mirror you want to cry thinking about how you no longer feel or look like an athlete. Your quads, once toned from millions of squats and lunges, and abs, once visible from all the core routines, are gone but the most heartbreaking part is that you feel that you have lost the sense of who you are.
Here is what I need you to know, regardless of what you see in the mirror or your lack of participation on a team, you are still the same person. You are still the strong, beautiful, caring, loving, empathetic sister, daughter, and friend that you have always been. It doesn't matter what size your shorts are, it doesn't matter what number the scale says, it doesn't matter if the girls in your class are all skinnier than you are. What matters is that you realize that you are so much more than that. And despite your belief that everyone is noticing how much you've physically changed, the hurtful and self-destructive words you are saying to yourself on a daily basis are the only comments being made about your physique.
So my advice for you- stop tearing yourself apart, it isn't worth the energy, instead take time to sit with your emotions and explore them. Take time to listen and remind yourself that you are worth every minute of investment in your wellbeing- both physically and mentally. Begin to remind yourself how strong you truly you are, you will begin to see that it has little to do with what you see in the mirror but more about your attitude when faced with adversity, your ability to love and empathize with those around you, and your capacity and tenacity to learn and grow into the person you want to become.
Little do you know that 5 years down the road you will join a free fitness movement that will remind you that exercise is supposed to be fun. It will relight that spark inside of you to move, jump, skip, run, and most importantly play. It will have you jumping out of bed at 4:30am so you can be met with hugs, laughter and a tough workout that challenges you to be stronger. It will remind you that community is what makes the world a better place, and you will feel blessed to be a part of this group of strong bad-ass individuals. And most importantly looking around this group of people that range greatly in their size, shapes, and ages, these athletes you surround yourself with will remind you that it is that internal flame and drive that defines an athlete, not what they see in the mirror.
You may never fit back into that uniform that you used to hold so close to your heart, you may never be able to reach your personal bests that you previously let define you but in time, with the right community and a decent amount of healing for your heartbreak, you will feel like an athlete again. And soon you'll realize that that athlete never left and never will leave so long as you believe in yourself.
Be kinder to yourself, you deserve it.
A slightly older, wiser, and happier you.