There is an expression, “Age is but a number.” Well yes, that is true. However, by that logic birthdays are but numbers, time is but a number, years are but a number, even YOU are but a number (based on social security numbers). Let me show you how many numbers can define one person in just a few sentences. Hi, my name is Max, I am 15 years old, born on the 15th day of the 11th month of the year 1997 (16 very soon), 6 weeks early, and I am now in grade 11. I am 5 foot 9 inches, play 1 sport and 10 instruments. There, 9 numbers that can describe an average person in just a sentence or two.
Lately, there have been another few numbers that I am not so proud of. No, not grades and IQ. Rather, my weight and BMI. One quarter in fitness class, we had to do testing to see how “fit” we are. We tested flexibility, endurance, heart rate and much more. We had to measure height and weight. Because of my insecurities, I made sure that no one else could see what my weight was because I was so insecure. Here is the reason why.
Growing up, I was never as skinny as my friends and that annoyed me. I couldn’t understand why all my friends seemed to be so athletic and “fit” and I just wasn’t. I was never really into sports. Yeah, I played soccer for 2 years when I was little, but who doesn’t? I thought something was wrong with me due to the fact that I was 6 weeks early. Was it baby fat? Or was it an unhealthy lifestyle on my behalf as a child? I was an active child; don’t get me wrong, just not “fit.”
Around the end of 8th grade, I decided I was sick of all of the bullying about my appearance. It was time to make a change, a lifestyle change. It may not have been apparent to those around me, but I started to change. I worked myself harder in swim practice, to the point where I went back to an old team to get harder practices. I also did abdominal workouts in my room at night. I decided that I wanted to look better and be more “fit” than before.
This worked for a while. Family would come over and say, “Max, you look great! You look like you are losing weight!” and other things of that nature. Yet, I somehow was never truly satiated, almost like those compliments were out of pity just to make me feel better about myself.
In September of 2011 I started as a freshman in a new school, in a completely new district. I got away from the kids who made fun of me growing up. It was a fresh start for someone who really needed it. I bonded very quickly with a lot of people. I could not have been happier. Besides my few good friends in my hometown, I really felt like I had friends who would truly be there for me no matter what. I love my few theatrical friends back in my hometown (you know who you are), but those at my school, I really got close to.
Sophomore year rolled around and I was still really good friends with those who I became close to the year before. There is one friend who I am particularly close with, and we talk a lot about almost everything and anything. One evening we were texting, and somehow body image came up. I mentioned how I hate my appearance and I ALWAYS have and probably ALWAYS will. He responded, “Stop it you’re fine, great!” Yes, this made me feel better, yet, still not satisfied yet again. He then told me that he was not always satisfied with his appearance, which came as a shock to me. I will say no more besides the fact that there was nothing besides support from this friend, which showed just how good a friend he is. It means a lot to me to have friends like this finally. It was situations like that that made me realize how fortunate I am to be in such a place that I am. I only surround myself with those who will be there through thick and thin.
The same year, I gained another group of friends that became even closer to. I got involved with a group called NFTY-GER, which stands for North American Federation of Temple Youth- Garden Empire Region. The warmth that I got coming into this region was something I had been longing for and finally got. I met GERate (gotta love the puns) people, one of whom became my very best friend; we finish each other’s sentences we’re just that close. NFTY-GER showed me how okay it is to flaunt who I am, and that I have nothing to be ashamed of. I also started a program called Diller Teen Fellows, where a group of 20 teens were selected among many others to embark on an amazing 14-month journey of leadership training skills. The 20 of us spent a month in Israel together this summer. I got so close to them, they just added to my confidence. They opened up to me and I was able to open up to them. I love the other 19 kids like my family. Things were really starting to look good for me.
All of my friends are so supportive and caring, which is why I choose to be friends with them. There is not one doubt in my mind that they feel that they can count on me just like I needed to count on them. Through all of this, I have learned that being fit doesn’t always mean that you look like the guy on the front of an Abercrombie or Hollister shopping bag. If you think that numbers measure how “fit” someone is, then I am sorry because it’s wrong. My BMI of 31 might tell me I am obese, but for those who know me, I surely am not. I am a hard-working swimmer, and I don’t have the stereotypical “swimmer’s body.” But who cares? Since my freshman year, I have truly changed as a person. I went through some pretty depressing moments freshman and sophomore year, but I’m happy to say that through my experiences, I’ve learned to be happy with who I am and flaunt the good things about me. I leave you with this; a quote from Dr. Seuss, which I live by day to day and I think it, will be easy to know why.
“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind,”