Vibrant pink roses with the silkiest petals I’ve ever rubbed across my face sit on my windowsill, glowing in the late evening sun. They were $3.99 at the grocery store, the edges just becoming brittle with decay. They’ll last a few days; I think to myself as I carefully trim their thorns and fill a thin vase with filtered water.
Every morning when I leave, and every night when I return, I inhale deeply, my lungs filling with their sweet scent. When I was young, my uncle would take me to Maplewood Rose Garden. I filled the pockets of my plaid skorts with every color and size imaginable, peach primrose, American beauty, and impeccable white. I kept them under my pillow and even ate them—the pink tasted the best.
My philosophy, then and now, is the same.
I give myself roses because I am the most important person in my life.
For a long time, I forgot that. I was eating half a box of Barilla whole-wheat penne and a half jar of Francisco Rinaldi Heart Healthy Spicy Marinara Sauce every night, and three oranges during the day. Waiting until my mom got home from work so I could go Planet Fitness, only leaving when I received frantic voicemails from my mom, once from my dad and that’s when I knew I had to go home.
“Where are you?”
“Where have you been?”
“Your mother is freaking out.”
“I swear to GOD, you better not be at the gym.”
See, at first, the gym was a place that I went to blow off steam after a fight with my parents or when my OCD and anxiety started acting up. I didn’t have a car or a license (still don’t) and had nowhere else to really go, so why not the 24-hour gym around the corner? I had always liked lifting weights and riding the bike in gym class and was tired of sly comments from classmates and my family about my size 12 frame and thought it wouldn't hurt to try out a gym for $10 a month. Especially since my parents were paying the fee.
As senior year crept by and I was waiting for college acceptance letters, the pounds were literally shedding. Clumps falling from my waist as I created new holes in my belt to keep my pants up. “You shouldn't lose any more weight," says my, what I thought to be unobservant, mother as I modeled the first pair of skinny jeans I would ever own (classic blue with taupe seams). Her brown eyes were stern and her forehead crawled in concern.
I rolled my eyes, thinking of all the muffin top jokes that no one thought I heard. "It's not even that much." I pointed out, stomping into my bedroom, slipping into my worn out Nikes, and jogging to the gym.
By senior prom, just five months into my new routine, I was half my size and spending three plus hours at the gym. It went from a fun, healthy thing to do with friends, laughing and trying not to fall off the elliptical into a quick wave and smirk at my old friends who couldn’t even hold a dumbbell, as I leg pressed 120 pounds and biked 9 miles.
I was like the mailman. Rain, snow, or shine, you could count on my blonde ponytail bobbing along on the treadmill, my pale arms shining in the fluorescent lights as I squatted more than the lacrosse players, and the never ending rivers of sweat.
Those years, when I was in high school, aching to be at the gym rather than in my English class, calculating exactly how long I could convince my mom that I was at a friend’s and not at the gym, letting people insult me, blow me off, act like I wasn’t important, were rose-less.
Throughout college, I slowly became stronger. Long gone were the days of crippling self-loathing, trying desperately, in personality and body, to mold myself into something that just wasn’t natural. I dropped people who made snide comments behind my back, or worse, to my face. Those who weren’t comfortable with my extensive knowledge of JRR Tolkien facts and penchant for gemstones. Those people weren’t my friends and didn’t care if I was healthy or not.
I still forget sometimes. And that happens, you relapse and forget to take care of yourself. For me, it’s when my jeans won’t zip up o I sleep for 16 hours every Sunday because I have insomnia. When I make a mistake at work or get into a fight with my friends.
The thing is you shouldn’t change or push yourself into unhealthy or dangerous habits because of how others choose to see you. You’ve gotta look in the mirror each morning and say, “Damn, I’m the best thing this side of Beyonce.”
The lesson I’ve learned is that when you eyes flicker open every morning, the only person who’s always going to be around, is you.
So, go buy yourself from roses.
–story by SHELBIE JANOCHA