It’s a SUNNY, hot Sunday in Ithaca! Hot days are rare for this area, even in August, so it’s nice to lay around and get some last sun exposure before central New York becomes crisp and cool. Honestly though, I’d take the crisp fall weather and beautiful foliage over sun exposure any day!
The first “week” of school went relatively smoothly – two days of class followed by a three day weekend ( I won’t have class on Friday at all this semester…a senior’s dream!). I worked at Wegman’s today and yesterday. Wegman’s is a hugeee supermarket chain located in upstate NY, PA, and NJ with a few other random locations.
I started at Wegman’s last April after making the decision to stay in Ithaca for the summer. My ED was at it’s worst when Spring semester started in January, and I got significantly be behind in my last semester of Pre-Med requirements – Physics 1102: Intro to Electromagnetism and Quantum Mechanics. Halfway through the semester I talked to my therapist about how I was behind, and she told me I should look into dropping it. At first I said no, but after some thought (and pushing by my coach and therapist) I dropped the class and decided to give it another shot during the summer.
After researching possibilities for taking the class, the only viable option was to take it at Cornell. Since I was going to be around the summer and at least until May 2011, I decided to get a part-time job at Wegman’s. I was hired by the Sub Shop (think “Subway” but more expensive, better, and within a GIANT, healthy grocery store where pretty much all of Ithaca hangs out) and have been working there going on five months. And honestly, the decision to work there has been one of the best I’ve made in my recovery.
Whatttt? Being around FOOD all the time was a good decision?! When I first got the job, I have to admit I was a wee bit nervous. Alright, maybe a big bit. I was creating these monstrosities of sandwiches that I could never see myself eating. I was in group therapy at the time, and all the girls were like….”Aren’t you scared? Doesn’t being around food all the time make you reallyyyy anxious?” And the honest answer is Yes – I was anxious in the beginning. But that anxiety was more than worth all the benefits I’ve reaped ever since.
The job got me out of my apartment and into the world. Yes, I was nervous about meeting the people I’d be working with. But going there gave me something to do with my hands. It gave me the chance to interact one on one with hundreds of customers over the course of just one shift. It got me out of my head and forced me to interact with people.
Most importantly, going to work was an escape that I desperately needed at the time. My “real” world at Cornell and home had been tainted by my ED. My whole family knew, most of my friends knew, my coach knew, and I spent a lottt of my free time going to see my therapist, going to group therapy, going to see the nutritionist, or trying to work out in my head why this was all happening in the first place. Going to Wegman’s gave me a chance to just be me – not any of the labels I’d acquired over the past 3 years (pre-med, swimmer, eating disordered, unhappy, unhealthy).
That is, until about a month ago when one of my co-workers seemed to catch on. Some people eat subs there, others don’t. Over the summer I worked a five hour shift, so I only got a ten minute break – not enough time to purchase and eat a meal. Most nights I would pack a protein shake and peanut butter sandwich. My co-worker asked me why I don’t eat them and I said “I don’t like subs.” She commented “it’s probably the bread” and that I must be “watching what I’m eating.” I just said that I’d rather eat other things and that as a competitive swimmer I try to eat healthy. The next few times we worked together she kept asking me about my eating habits, to which I would (unskillfully) make evasive responses. Finally, she said to me “You don’t have eating issues…do you?” Before I could even think I said “no” and looked away quickly. BUT I’m pretty sure she figured it out because I could go down in history as the worst liar of all time.
I spent the rest of the night feeling like crap, and I couldn’t figure it out. Even though I’ve told many people close to me, I didn’t need to tell my co-worker, so that wasn’t why I was upset. But something was out of balance. I woke up the next morning feeling like the air had deflated from my sails (or however that saying goes). I thought, and I thought, and I thought some more.
What I came to realize was that I liked my job for many reasons – but the number one reason I loved my job is because it showed me what “normal” life could be like. How I could be confident, how I could be polite and friendly, how I could make real friends and spend time with people, how I could smile and laugh and sing and dance and no one cared. I spend half my time at my job singing whatever is on the radio in spite of my AWFUL voice. And yet – I was accepted by these people. Not for a size on a tag, or a weight on a scale, or a grade on a test, or a time in a race. I was accepted because I was being ME. And I was upset because I felt like that had been taken away because one of my co-workers knew about my ED.
But then I realized something else. The smiling, happy, confident person I am at my job is the person I could be all the time if I didn’t let my ED run the show anymore. Instead of feeling like a live a “tainted” life, I need to stop focusing on what I think are my failures and move on. I can be me, I can live that life all the time. It doesn’t matter that people know about my struggles – if anything that may give them more respect for the smiling, happy, healthy, confident young woman I will be. There are glimpses now, and I know someday my life will reflect just me and not my ED.
And even though I have a lot on my plate this semester… I’m staying at Wegman’s 🙂 I’ll be working ten hours every weekend.