On the first morning back at school, I walked through the gate and quickly ran into people I knew. Many of them commented on my looks. They asked if I’d lost weight. I thought I looked the same. My uniform skirt fit lower on my hips than I remembered, but it wasn’t low enough to cause this kind of attention. Maybe they’d missed me.
Bounding up the steps, I passed a popular girl who said hello. We’d walked by each other many times before and she’d never noticed me, much less offered a greeting. I had to admit I enjoyed the recognition. I approached the school office doors and pulled out my doctor’s note.
I looked up to see one of my mother’s friends. Adults, especially Mom’s friends, were going out of their way to talk to me now that my mother and brother were gone. I’d fill them in on my brother, saying he enjoyed the cold weather in Maine, played football for his boarding school, and that his new favorite snack was something called a Whoopie Pie. Mom was still visiting family, and yes, I missed them very much. Mom’s friends seemed concerned about me and even gave me gifts. Their well-meaning efforts, however, only reminded me of my family’s absence. I prepared myself for the usual questions as her friend approached.
“You look great! Have you lost weight?” she asked.
Well, that was unexpected. I said I had and that I’d been sick but was feeling better now. I thanked her for the compliment and told her I had to get to class, but as I walked away, I noticed something inside me changing. The last pieces of a puzzle were forming into a picture I hadn’t seen before—an answer to the void.
I turned in my medical slip and went to class. I watched the teacher’s lips move, but I wasn’t listening. I was busy processing something else. People had noticed me. Not for my grades. Not for sports. They didn’t ask about Puppy Love. They’d affirmed that I’d achieved something else, something of value. I’d been sick, very sick, and I’d lost weight. And people praised me for it.
I’d lost so much lately—much more than weight. The stress of thinking about the loss of rugby and the catch-up work overwhelmed me. Get your head back in the game, Corinne. You can’t afford to fall behind more than you already have. I shook my head and tuned back in to the class discussion, but the processing continued running in the background.
That day I walked into the cafeteria and was confronted by the aroma of Mr. Hoe’s fried rice and sesame chicken, my favorite. My stomach rumbled. But as I made my way toward the hot-meal line, I balked. To my right, a smaller station with fewer people captured my attention—the salad bar.
I scanned the options: chicken, ham, chickpeas, cheese, croutons, veggies. As I considered my choices, Mr. Hoe’s chicken called out to me. Want did I want to do—satisfy a desire for what I wanted at the moment or show myself there was still something in my life I could manage, something I could control? I had to succeed at something—anything. One small exercise in self-control might make me feel better. Done. Salad it is. I’d be in charge of what went into my salad and how much I wanted. I counted this as a win. It felt good not only to win, but to eat right. I determined right there and then to make “healthy” choices a priority.