Baby I Wasn’t Born This Way

bench-press

“How did you get here?” I get this question at the gym and in general outings at regular intervals and my usual response, because I am usually mid set and not in the mood for conversation, is “It just kind of happened.” At that point; people, especially the perceptive ones leave me alone and are sufficed with the answer. Other not so in tune individuals get my “bitch face” a little later on but both end up with the same result. They leave me alone. I don’t know if they expect to hear more (I largely suspect they really don’t care anyway) or if they just don’t really think I have a deeper story and since I am mid set, I don’t really care what they think or want to hear.

However, if someone were to pose that question while sitting down with me when I am not jacked up on a weight high or in the middle of being distracted by whatever might be in front of me at the time,… SQUIRREL!. The real answer isn’t nearly as transparent.

To pinpoint exactly when “I” happened is probably impossible as I am a firm believer that each one of us is a direct result of every experience and possibly more importantly, how we REACT to those experiences, we have ever had to up this moment. Those moments of impact in our lives that shape who we are and where we end up, largely unrecognized mid impact and only usually only truly appreciated some time; maybe even years later are how we become who we are.

I think the “I need to be healthy” Liz started when I was about 5. My mother will tell you I would prep salads and was always on a “diet” because it was healthy. I am nearly ashamed to admit that. Thinking back I don’t really remember that very well but I do remember harboring negative feelings towards myself very young, I never felt like I measured up and that was probably one of the “outlets” I used to project those feelings.

Those that knew me when I was younger will tell you that I was sweet, too sweet probably and easily bruised by words and other things (I will get into THAT in a minute) and I was attached to my mother’s hip, all while still being outgoing and a real people pleaser.

I went through most of my childhood like that, attached to my emotionally doting parents and constantly trying to get people to like me. Always wanting to be in the cool crowd…and always missing the mark. I blatantly remember being told by one; at the time, cutest and most popular boy that people might like me more and think I was pretty if I didn’t have such an ugly nose. …to this day I still occasionally wish for a nose job.

But it wasn’t until middle school that things really took a turn for the worst. This would be one of those “moments of impact”, lots of moments actually…. Enough “moments” to make up years as a matter of fact! I went into 7th grade with a determination to be pretty and popular and I just knew I would succeed. … I failed so completely it is nearly laughable (now anyway). I was hated and mocked, bullied to the nth degree pretty much from day one. I fled to my parents, my ever so loving, hearts on their sleeves, parents. They tried to do their best by me and gave me the ancient tired advice to just ignore the bullies and they would go away. I TRIED. It didn’t stop and it just got worse. I spent so many days and nights, crying and hurting I don’t remember much of anything about those years except being miserable!

I was beat up so frequently at school, the teachers having so much fear for my safety, that I was put on a special “class change” time, 5 minutes before others were let out they let me go to my next class so there was less of a chance for bodily harm to come to me. After I had been jumped for the first time (from behind and with ZERO warning) my parents had called the police and filed reports trying to bring justice to the ones that had hurt me. Those kids just called their friends… and it made it worse. The bullies would find me at the skating rink (we are so 1990…) and corner me telling me how it was MY fault they couldn’t have any fun or do anything because of their punishment and probation periods. I remember thinking, “if you hadn’t jumped me then you wouldn’t be in trouble…” but that was a silent thought-I was exhausted with fear of these girls!

When it didn’t seem like things could get worse, at least to my middle school mind,  a girl that actually WAS friends with me came down with MONO. Well, what do girls do in 7th grade? Share everything, right? Pretty soon I was sick too. Soon as word got out that I had mono, not only was I a target for the bullies, I was also, overnight, the class “ho”. … I remember going home and asking my mom what exactly that was after I had been called it for the first time.  I believe she even had to look it up.

One act of shear cruelty takes the cake though. I was in 8th grade and was walking to class (I was actually on a regular class change schedule at this time), a big kid (I mean like-180lb guy), came up behind me and hit me square on the butt so hard it fractured my tailbone. The bruise on me was awesome, least his bruise on his forearm was equally as impressive.

…Just so happened it was that kid’s “final straw” in the grand land of educational justice and he was expelled.  I was terrified of what the repercussions for ME would be when his punishment was revealed and turns out I was right to be.  Not too much longer after that I was sent to the Doctor to check for a broken xiphoid process after being pushed into a door by a girl that was friends with him. It was MY fault that he was expelled, I WOULD PAY FOR THAT she said. … I remember thinking, “I AM paying for it… I can hardly sit down! And I didn’t ASK for him to hit me!”… come to think of it I never asked anyone to hit me, hate me or bully me… I just wanted to be pretty, and well liked.

I remember wanting so desperately to be cool I started going places dressed, trying to look older, – drinking; not heavily-just socially- to look cool, I was 13! That didn’t gain me any friends. I tried acting tough (I think I weighed 75 pounds, mind you), that got me absolutely nowhere. I was a joke…. And people made sure I knew it.

FINALLY something in me snapped. I remember the day actually; it was towards the end of my 8th grade year. I was in the gym and in the middle of being target practice for the most popular guy in school. His crew found it hilarious when they clocked me with a basketball a few times; the third ball to the back of the head snapped my last straw.

My limit had been reached. I marched right up to him and clocked HIM with a right cross.

No one laughed after that.

After an afternoon in the principal’s office and a slight reprimand and no real punishment given, I had finally won a victory. It was like magic. After that day I was never messed with again. Literally. All the sudden I was mean and people left me alone. It didn’t help the wish of being well-liked but at least no one else tried to beat me up!

That particular persona traveled with me to high school and I was thankful. I still didn’t like high school very much, I voluntarily went to summer school to shave a year off my “sentence”. I managed to jump from Freshman to Junior and got a whole new graduating class, I was ecstatic!  To this day, I have zero intention of ever going to a high school reunion.

While these experiences sucked and I am not saying my childhood and teenage years were harder than anyone else’s. Looking back I would not change them or wish for different. These things MADE me. No longer am I the weak minded, tiny girl that everyone laughed at and beat up.

The introduction to weights happened at 15 when I took a job at the ConocoPhillips gym and my love for weight training came very quickly after that.  That outlet came into my life at just the right time. Another true, “moment of impact”-the ripples still working through my life daily.

I had a choice to make back then, take the experiences and let them take me down OR take the experiences and let them make me BETTER. While there are days still I want to succumb to my circumstances and experiences, I choose to not get bitter but better. Stronger in every aspect of my life, I became a stronger person in my mind and in my body. No longer am I afraid, no longer am I bullied and no longer do I care about being well liked or considered pretty. I know I am beautiful because I know my heart is in the right place, no matter what I look like to others on the outside. I am stronger, not only physically but because I refuse to let others dictate how I REACT to situations brought before me. I am ME not because of having it easy or because “I just happened”. I am me because I made a choice to become ME. The girl that doesn’t stop pressing towards SOMETHING, ambitious and just a bit bitchy- always striving for more. Driven to be more than I was when I started, more than just a girl, more than just a mom, more than just a wife, but dare I say- A Warrior. A warrior of my life; a product of my experiences and the result of hard work- in the gym, in my mind and in my life.

….although, I have to admit, the “boulder shoulders” and strong squat that have come along with that strength just so happen to be some awesome fringe benefits!

Just telling you a bit about me.

Liz Jackson
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