I'm cleaning out my email archives at work today. I've been getting squawking messages for the last week that I'm getting close to my limit (part of working in document control means I save a lot of stuff to cover my own butt), so I'm trying to delete some of the oldest stuff to make room. It's kind of appropriate, because today is also my fifth anniversary with my company. I've actually worked here for six and a half years, but the first year and a half was as a contract worker. You can accumulate a lot of stuff in 6.5 years.
So, I started cleaning out some of the stuff I've saved in my 'personal' folder, and it's been an eye-opening journey at just how much has changed since I've had this email address. As I went through sorting and deleting (I really don't need to hold onto flight itineraries from three years ago), I realized just what a different path my life has taken from where I would have expected it to go. Although, honestly, if you'd asked me back then where I'd be in 2013, I don't think I would have expected to take any path. I'd been living in limbo for years at that point, so what's a few more years on top of that?
From the top down:
A little over two months ago, a co-worker sent out a congratulations message about my race to the entire floor. I saved the responses I got from that because I need to feed the ego (and I discovered a few closest marathoners in my office).
The last two years have been a bit of a potpourri. Some trips booked, some hockey tickets purchased. Plans for my sister's wedding. There are pictures Nick sent me to print out to make 'for sale' posters (we still have our old TV sitting in the dining room. At this point, I think we're just going to move it to the new house and set it up in the basement), and resumes he asked me to print out when he changed jobs last year. Race entries I forwarded to myself since I don't have a printer at home. Healthy recipes. Address updates as friends continued to move on in life, and emails that reconnected with old friends who were lost.
This is the life I recognize.
Two years ago, it was all wedding planning. We went about as simple as you can so planning was pretty low-stress, but it's still fun to look back at where our minds were in August 2011. I was the organized one, sending follow-ups and confirmations. I saved pictures, kept checklists and kept everything tidy. The whole thing ended up being a fantastic experience, and it was fun to read through some of those old planning emails.
In March 2011, a co-worker sent out a general email asking if anyone wanted to join her in a charity event to climb the calgary tower. I'd automatically gone to delete before I realized that I was actually starting to get a little bit fit, and I could actually handle the 802 steps to the top. I clicked the link instead, and got my first ever race shirt out of it.
Around late 2010, there are replies from some of my favourite bakeries and cafés in the area. I had just joined SparkPeople again and started tracking my meals, and I wanted to know what the damage was. I may have looked crazy, but I appreciated the cupcake shop sending me approximate numbers, and I still feel better eating their treats over others because of that (and because they're awesome).
Back in April 2010, more resume printing requests from Nick. We were about to move in together, and he was looking for his first job in the city. A little earlier, there were moving arrangements to be made and apartment hunting as I sent him photos for expensive buildings in a city he'd only visited (He was used to $400 small town rents, so Calgary's rental market was a bit of a shock).
Christmas 2009. Last minute address updates to friends as I headed out to visit Nick for Christmas that year (which is when we ended up getting engaged). I had commissioned an artist to draw a portrait of our World of Warcraft characters, so there are ongoing conversations as the drawing took shape.
An email from a university student I did an interview with for a research paper she was writing on gaming and social interaction. Out of curiosity, I looked up her name - she's working on her PhD now.
2009 - So many greyhound tickets. I didn't have a car and flying to the interior of BC, which was only a short hop away, was horrendously expensive, so every month or two I'd get on the bus for a five hour ride through the Rockies. Our long distance dating phase wasn't too bad - I had a friend who ended up meeting a guy in Australia and had to do that commute until they tied the knot and he moved to Canada.
Daily conversations with ADARKARA working out WoW raid strategies, chatting work, chatting recipes, chatting anything. Who knew we'd eventually both end up here on Spark? In 2008, confirming plans to head out to NJ for her wedding (I can't believe it's been so long already!). I was firmly in my 'cooking is scary' phase of life at that time, and in awe of some of the dinner ideas she sent me.
July 2008. I updated my resume and cover letter and applied for my current job. At that time, I was starting to climb out from my rock bottom moment. I seriously doubted myself, but the opportunity was there to make the leap to permanent employee, so with a little help from a co-worker and my very kind boss (who has since retired), I took it. A few months later, the economy tanked and my company was hit hard. I had just managed to sneak into what's become a fantastic, fulfilling (if sometimes stressful) job.
My co-worker and I signed up for SparkPeople, which was this 'really cool weight loss website' I'd tried a couple times before. We printed out and signed a pledge, then hit the gym after work. I did 10 minutes on the bike (co-worker, who was already maintaining a 50 pound weight loss, was far ahead of me), almost passed out, decided to almost throw up instead, and finally filed the pledge away with the weight watchers point books she'd loaned me far in the back of my filing cabinet. I didn't look at Spark again until 2010.
Before that, an update to our company nurse (I work for a chemical company, so they have medical staff on hand) that my insulin had increased again. Confirmation emails from medic alert, emails back and forth to my diabetes educator working on dosing, an email from my doctor telling me to let her know the next time my blood sugar shot up to 33, because I should have been in the hospital, not at work staring at the screen as my vision went blurry. I was in rough shape back in 2008.
Gaming emails. Gaming was keeping me sane as I felt like crap. I had good friends, a great guild, something to focus on that I enjoyed and was somewhat good at. Gaming gets a bad rap, but it was a starting point for me to build good habits that eventually translated to bigger things. Plus, there was this hunter in another guild who I kind of liked chatting with some nights, even though I'd totally screwed up and gotten him killed and he thought I was incompetent. At some point, we were back on speaking terms, I got much better at keeping him alive, and eventually we started to form a real friendship outside of the game.
And, at the start of it all, an email from my dad in July 2007, a couple months after I'd landed a temp position that was supposed to last eight months. It was from my baby brother's grad - my brother, sister and I. My brother is wearing a tux, something that'll probably only happen again if he decides to get married (and even then, I wouldn't take bets on a tux). My sister, two years older than him, is wearing a terribly formal hoodie and hot pink shirt underneath, growing out of being a teenager. And then there's me, ten years older. I'm forcing a smile, but my face is round and sweaty. My hair and skin are unhealthy. I can feel my body pushing against the clothes I'm wearing, which were already XL to begin with. I look uncomfortable. I felt uncomfortable. I was probably close to 170 pounds there on a 5'1 frame, most of that carried in the middle. Walking a couple blocks from the car to the auditorium had made me short of breath, and I just wanted to get done with the photos so we could go out for our traditional post-grad Chinese food.
I looked terrible.
I hated that picture when my dad sent it. I honestly don't know why I filed it away in the bottom of my 'personal' folder instead of deleting it, but I'm glad I did. It's hard to look at that sweaty face and stretching fabric. I didn't know on the time that I had started to tumble down a medical cliff that would be difficult to climb up again. I'd had my diabetes diagnosis for a few years by that point, but the last disastrous year at my previous job with 16 hour days, no time off, and an abusive boss had finally pushed me over the edge. I was out of that toxic environment, but any good habits (and the money to follow them) were gone.
For contrast, here's the three of us at my sister's wedding last year:
Hey, 2007... guess what? It's going to be okay.
You took the biggest step already by walking out of that horrible job. Your current job seems like a band-aid to pay the rent (even though it's a good band-aid), but it's going to turn itself into a career. There will be a few more months of scraping to get by, followed by several years of paying down the damage, but before you know it you'll be debating how far you're willing to go in kitchen renovations on the home you're looking to buy.
You're sick right now. You're going to get sicker. It's going to suck, and you're going to hit rock bottom. Then you're going to wander around rock bottom in circles for a little while before you finally manage to accumulate the tools you need to climb out. The important thing is that those tools are there.
You feel like a bit of a loser because you're clinging to a game and the friends you've made in that game. Don't worry about it. It's a shared activity that you enjoy with people you like. Eventually the game will change, you'll get bored and move on to something else, but the friends will remain.
You'll meet someone. That's not a requirement to be happy, and as soon as you stop thinking of a relationship as a far off achievement that will be filled with a generic boyfriend as soon as you're skinny and perfect, you'll relax and develop a friendship that surprises the hell out of you. You'll meet him when you're fat and frustrated with yourself, and he'll be the one to tell you to "S*** or get off the pot" when you're whining about being put on insulin and how hard it is to get healthy. He'll tell you you're beautiful and send you love notes at work that you'll rediscover years later. He'll be your best friend and biggest cheerleader. How cool is that?
You'll hit the gym one day. You'll cry. You'll start up Spark account #4 and track your food. You'll cry. You'll sit with your mom and your boyfriend drinking tea and eating fresh cooked scones, talking about how after you get back from Thanksgiving vacation you're totally going to lose weight. And, somehow, you'll do it. You'll visit your doctor a couple weeks later and tell her you've started hitting the gym four days a week. You won't tell her that you've done that for exactly one week. Somehow, that'll become week one of many, and for once your fitness habits won't make you a liar.
You'll sign up to climb a tower. You'll sign up for a 10k when you meant to hit 5. You'll sign up for a half marathon, and then another, and then, what the hell, a full. Your now-husband will post another picture of you sweaty and wearing tight, awkward clothes, but this time you'll have the excuse of just having run 42.2 kilometers instead of crossing the parking lot.
Things can get pretty weird in six and a half years, and that's a good thing.