Becoming whom I never thought I could be

One of the most beautiful things in life is proving — not others — but yourself wrong.

I guess you could say I’ve done this before, in tiny spurts, but something feels different now. Are these the post-Hajj blessings? Perhaps. It’s not in spiritual matters, so I can’t know for sure. Although, that doesn’t mean that things of this world are not important…

For much of my life, there have been multiple self-defeating stories running through my head: 1) I’m a horrible public speaker and 2) I am not an athlete and can never be an athlete. There are others, of course, but these are the most prominent ones for me at the moment.

My last post was about not letting things out of my control get to me. I’m still working on that. I did get stressed. I did have my moments of snark and eye-rolling (in my head at least). But when it came time to give my presentation, I wasn’t as nervous as I usually am (I really didn’t have the time to be nervous, constantly on my feet trying to “troubleshoot”). Actually, I did say I was nervous, but only as a segue to start reading my speech because I realized after two slides in, I couldn’t just wing it. I’m not there yet.

At first, I was upset when my name was put on the program. I’m organizing this symposium AND you expect me to present a paper? But I saw this as an opportunity and a lesson. Ever since participating in AMCLI last year, I’ve resolved to say ‘yes’ to more speaking opportunities, especially ones that I have a semblance of interest in and am available to do so.

This time around, I didn’t have that knot in my stomach and in my throat before speaking like I usually do. And when I was asked to give the same presentation just days later, my response literally was (after some thought, of course), “Sure, why not?” Maybe I should believe people when they say I did a good job, instead of deflecting or disparaging as is my wont. I need to prepare for my first academic conference in November anyway. I need as much practice as I can get; I don’t get much of a response from my stuffed cows and Mickeys.

Simultaneously, as I mentioned also in my previous post, I’ve been working on some personal health goals. Not only did I complete that 5K last week in (personal) record time, I ran 5 miles for the first time last Sunday, got a bloody toe, and then just today ran my first 10K ever!

Wherever I go, I always find my cow. Me at the end of my 5K race last Saturday. I’m only posting it for the cow, to be honest.

As recently as last week, I didn’t think I would be able to do this, especially after seeing that blood-stained sock and shoe! But I allowed myself some time to heal physically and mentally (there was lots of ice cream involved). So when I went out today, knowing how humid it was, I told myself I was going to take it slow, allow myself to take walking breaks whenever I needed them and that it still “counted.” The first mile was tough. But then it got a bit better afterward. I thought about just doing my usual 5K, but then when I got to 3 miles, I was like, “Let’s go until 4.” “Okay, let’s try to at least do as much as I did last week.” And then I was like, “Girl, just do that 6.2 miles, you can do it.” And I did! I completed my first ever 10K! Was it a great time? No, a little over 73 minutes. But considering how slow I was going and how many walking breaks I took (don’t want to get dehydrated again!), I think I did great. My average pace was less than 12 minutes. I think I qualify to run the 10K in next March’s Great North Run… as long as I continue running.

I’m worried about winter. I imagine I will have to do more treadmill running than I would prefer. But if that’s what I gotta do, then that’s what I gotta do. All I know is that I don’t want to stop.

It’s exciting to think about how far I’ve come in less than a year. But even more than that, how far I’ve come mentally since high school, when I struggled to run even a single mile. Going from near morbid obesity to “skinny” didn’t change who I was. I didn’t lose my anxiety, I didn’t lose my self-defeating thoughts, I didn’t lose the narrative of the static identity I created for myself. I also didn’t all of a sudden become more fit. Never mistake size for fitness.

I can never compare myself to someone who’ve never been over 100 pounds overweight, nor should I. But there’s this perception and perhaps expectation that as soon as you become thin, life is easy. I am here to tell you that it is not. Just like getting married doesn’t solve all your problems, losing weight does not either. Would I wish for either of those two things to not have happened? Of course not. But the hard work continues, it must continue. Obese Rafia will probably always be a ghost who haunts me. But I think I need her, to prove her wrong and as a reminder to never stop (as long as I am physically able).

Will I ever be invited to give a TedTalk? No. Will I ever be considered an elite athlete? No. I’m not even sure I want those things, to be honest. But Alhamdulillah, I am grateful to God for bringing me to this place. One was something I’ve always prayed for and the other I could not have even foreseen. I have lots of room for improvement in both, but that should be our mental state regardless of our station.

I would say I deserve some cake. But I already redeemed by free dessert yesterday with that Ben & Jerry’s. Tomorrow begins a new week though ;)

4 thoughts on “Becoming whom I never thought I could be

  1. small steps everyday – congratulations!!! I feel like we live our personal narrative in our head so.. so strongly? that we debilitate our progress just by those darn thoughts, yknow? really wish I had a two way Pensieve sometimes. I could just shove unwanted thoughts into it and create positive ones and store them back in my head. :D

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I had to look up what a Pensieve was. I suspected it was part of the Potterverse, but was not sure. I think part of the problem for me was that I didn’t have anyone or thing to counter these negative thoughts until recently (well with the exception of my doting mother) and so I took it to be true. I also have to admit: Mr. Rafia has really helped to push me to stop being so hard on myself. It was not easy. Like always, I wasn’t a willing audience at first. But that’s the thing: we absorb the habits of the company we keep… Somewhat. I will never eat shaami with tzatziki sauce ;)


  3. Lately I’ve been really appreciating seeing productivity in people. I’ve related for too long with the lazy and with the procrastinating, but seeing people actually doing the things that they know future them will thank them for is so beautifully refreshing. I’m so happy that you’re the kind of person that you are, always trying to improve in the ways that you feel you need to. It’s incredible, really. I’d go to your Ted Talk :)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Aww, thank you, Sumaya! There was a time when I thought I could not do something like this. I wouldn’t even characterize myself as someone who’s always looking for ways to improve. Like, I picture some type-A go-getter, which I am not. But once you are able to do something you kinda thought impossible, for me anyway, I like “beating” myself… it’s like I’m in a competition with myself. Oh, and hey, I’m getting exercise too!

    Liked by 1 person

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