I started my post bacc for medical school about a month ago, and I've been doing okay. I was originally going to apply to medical school this cycle, but I ended up postponing my MCAT and will be applying next cycle instead. I’ve unintentionally been isolating myself since January because I needed time to recover from life in general. I kept finding it impossible to do the bare minimum of leaving my own home, nevermind trying to plan for my future. I thought that being in a school setting again after my covid-ridden undergrad experience would make me feel unwell again and send me spiraling into some of the bad habits that I had during undergrad, but honestly I haven’t. There’s something about returning to classes as an older adult with more life experience that makes it feel different. I feel bad for everyone in my life that I’ve been unintentionally ignoring, but for the first time in my life, I’ve found myself without any expectations I feel like I need to meet. It took me some time to adjust to this concept, but coming around to it was liberating.
A value instilled in me young was to make sure that I never “fell behind” in life. Make sure to make myself “palatable”, and that anything I do is valuable in whatever society I find myself in. Looking back, I’ve always unintentionally valued the opinions of other people more than my own. When I subconsciously felt like I had fallen behind, I just let myself stay behind because in my head there was no point in trying to catch up. I kept self-sabotaging my own joy and self-growth over and over again. It doesn’t help that a lot of my interests would be labeled “strange” while growing up in the Midwest, resulting in me getting ostracized by my peers more than I felt I already was. I genuinely thought that there was something inherently flawed and inhumane about myself until I was about 20 years old because I was not given the privilege of being inherently understood the way I perceived my peers who had “conventional interests” and to be. I was jealous that everyone else seemed to have received a manual on how to be human while my package had seemingly got lost in transit. It felt like no matter what I did or how well I did it’d never be enough, so I was more inclined to not even try.
I needed to take 12 credit hours this summer to be a full time student. One of the classes that I chose was “Intro to Weightlifting”, because I wanted a lower stakes class to help balance out some of the harder classes I was taking this summer alongside continuing my MCAT pursuits. However, despite being an intro class, everyone who signed up for this class over the summer is experienced in weightlifting except for me. I’d be lying if I said it was embarrassing how pathetic I look doing my bicep curls with a 3 lb dumbbell while the student athlete next to me is doing them with a 40 lb dumbbell. Part of the reason why I felt okay enrolling in this course is because I thought that I’d be surrounded by other beginners like me just trying to become healthier. On the first day when I realized this wouldn’t be the case, I briefly toyed with the idea of dropping “Intro to Weightlifting” and finding some other easy 1 credit hour class to take online to spare myself the embarrassment. I ended up not going through with it. I wanted to learn how to weightlift, and I wasn’t exactly sure how many other opportunities in life I’d get to truly be in a learning environment where I’d be able to learn things like proper form with immediate feedback.
I’m glad that I didn’t drop the course, despite how embarrassed I feel everytime I end up panting after doing the lightest set available to me. Back when I did track and field in 9th and 10th grade of high school, I was technically supposed to go to conditioning once a week that consisted of a lot of weight lifting. I went only once, where one of the coaches basically followed me around the entire time to make sure that I was doing everything correctly. I know that she was only trying to help, but I was genuinely so mortified that I skipped every conditioning going forward. It’s genuinely really nice to learn the basics of weightlifting without that feeling of being judged by my peers. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure that the powerlifters in class with me probably feel a little sorry for me everytime I try to do a set of anything, but I just don’t care anymore. I attribute this to age and life experience mostly, and not being in class with a bunch of people that’ve known me since middle school. One of the things during undergrad that weighed on me heavily was being in classes with a lot of people I’ve known since basically 11 years old. It felt like in some ways, college was high school 2.0 and I’d never be able to escape people’s past notions of what a loser I was. On the other hand, I’ll never talk to any of these people ever again after summer semester ends. So why do I care what they think of me?
Surprisingly, I find weightlifting to be meditative for me. I love the act of clearing my mind as I focus on a spot on the wall while doing reps. I hope to slowly make exercise a healthy coping mechanism for me. Up until the age of about 19, I struggled with my body image quite a bit. I needed my outsides to look and feel as sick as my insides, and to me it meant being as thin and sickly looking as possible. The only form of exercise I permitted myself to do was cardio, because I was terrified of weightlifting making my body look “bigger”. I was constantly stuck in cycles of starving myself and overexercising. It’s been quite a few years since then, and my mental state has improved quite a bit through a lot of self work. I don’t necessarily feel the urge to be as small and sickly looking as possible. In fact, I don’t want to be as small and sickly looking as possible. I want to have the energy to do the things I love without my stomach being in pain all of the time. If my body changes because of me being more active that's a completely different situation, but by no means is it a goal of mine at all. I finally feel mentally well enough to start exercising regularly again without only seeing becoming small as my only motivation. I want to take good care of my body so that I live a long and happy life! When I use exercise as a way to relieve stress and become stronger I feel a lot better. I’m excited to continue learning lots about my body, new exercises, and start hitting new personal records. I’m happy to slowly be discovering that the only person’s validation I need is my own.