“Are You Fat? Or Old?”

I just have to share an experience I had today while walking around the track at the high school where I currently teach.

For the past couple days, I’ve started to go to the track, after I workout at the gym, to walk a mile or so and then run some stairs of the stadium. Someone on my faculty told me that the high school track is accessible to the public because our taxes help pay for it — so I decided to utilize it to help me with my health goals!

Today went especially good! But it definitely had its interesting beginning!

As I was walking around the track I came around to some of the bleachers where a child was sitting; he looked like he was just there for an older sibling who was part of the football team practicing on the field at the time.

As I walked past him he stuck his hand out so I could give him a hi-five as I passed. Of course I obliged, but then he asked me, “Do you want to see how fast I can go?” I replied, “Sure!”

I counted off for him and screamed, “Go!” He took off in a dead sprint and ran for about 10 meters or so. As he slowed to a stop, he called out to me, “Now, let’s see how fast you can go!”

I have to admit here, that the first thought that came to my mind is, “I’m not going to run as fast as I can for you, kid, in front of all these people!” But I calmly just said, “Nah, I’m just walking for now.”

He then asked me something that I don’t believe anyone, child or adult, has ever asked me: “Are you fat or old?”

I think you can imagine the internal shock that hit! I had one earbud in my left ear listening to music, so I wasn’t sure if I heard what I thought I had heard. I took it out and asked with a chuckle, “What did you say?” He repeated himself, which confirmed that what I had thought he said was indeed reality, “Are you fat or old?”

Honestly, I was slightly taken aback, but mostly I just laughed because here was this little kid calling out a truth of mine! With laughter, I replied, “I’m just fat. I’m not old.”

Now, there was a time when it wouldn’t have mattered who pointed it out to me — in the form of an honest question from a child without guile, or an adult — the pointing out of my size and physical appearance would have made me want to run away and hide in the deepest corner I could find.

But that’s not me anymore.

Over the past 2 years, I’ve been on this “journey,” you could call it, to be more aware of myself, hold myself more accountable, and stop making excuses for my being or not being a certain way — looking or not looking a certain way, sounding or not sounding — and I have to say that it has been one of the greatest journeys I’ve ever taken.

I know that this little kid didn’t ask this question to be hurtful — or maybe he did, but it doesn’t matter! — I was able to face that truth and say to myself, “You know what, YES! I am fat! I know that I am. And THAT is why I am here walking around the track after having already worked out at the gym!” And then with no less feelings of self-worth, I continued my walk with a little more pep in my step!

I tell you this story because it is my hope for EVERY SINGLE PERSON in the entire current and future existence of humans, that every boy and girl, man and woman, know who they are, how they are, why they are the way they are, why they feel the way they feel, OWN IT, and then take the necessary responsibility to do the things that have to happen in order for them to either maintain or improve.

When we take responsibility for our own actions and do our best to suffocate our own excuses with every ounce of effort we can must out of ourselves, I believe that is us telling ourselves that we are worth everything — that we are of great worth, that we do esteem ourselves as someone important — and if we can convince ourselves that we are of great worth, nobody else and their comments can penetrate the fortress of confidence we have built for ourselves.