When I do not understand something, I tend to question every aspect of it. From many within one of my many circles, people often hear me apply the statement, “Define ______.” Most times, I am greeted with response; very few will feel hesitant because it is probably the beginning of my chain of questions. I’ve even been told from less than a handful that this simple statement graduates into a complex issue because I either already know the definition or I’m being a predator, looking for an opening to antagonize their fragile thoughts and statements. Frankly, it depends on what brought me there.
Since January 2017, the term “inspire” or referencing me to being an “inspiration” has been the top ten terms of the year that’s come my direction. If I go according to my online analytics, ‘fat runner,’ ‘running fat chef nigger’ and ‘fat running chef’ are my most generated terms in how to find me. But ‘inspire’, eh? This term both drives and burdens me. In turn, I’ll define inspire below:
Why Is It A Burden?
Inspiring people to pursue their dreams or be a better person than they were yesterday doesn’t overwhelm me. Instead, the unspoken (or sometimes unsolicited spoken) expectation to constantly inspire becomes burdensome. Prior to my fitness journey, I used to fear success because it was accompanied with accepting failure. Years ago, I couldn’t see past the failure, not acknowledging that you grow as a person from not being perfect. In 2017, I find myself doing a self-evaluation and reality check that I am not supposed to be perfect, although some of those people who find me inspiring have an expectation of me to never fail in anything that I do.
In many ways, succumbing to the word inspiring correlates with words like leadership, progressive and even straight-laced. Why place such a pseudo pressure on myself? Frankly because I have been reintroduced to the fear of failing again.
If a person trips and falls from a crack on the ground with nobody around, the person might have a few scrapes and bruises but they are able to get back up and hopefully, continue going home without assistance. Imagine this same scenario in front of thousands of people and welcome to my reality.
I certainly don’t want anyone who has called me inspiring once or twice to feel compelled to retract their words nor do I want anyone to think that I’m ungrateful for such a beautiful compliment. I do request that you respect me as a human.
Prior to the six week fiasco, a person who read (and by confirmation, still reading my blog), accused me of being “safe for white people.” For the blog’s sake, we’ll call her Sarah. Sarah is a middle aged white woman from the Mid-West, who told me that I have a personal responsibility of “educating” my African American audience on how to be strong and “white washing” my blogs was a true disservice to people of color. She further elaborated and assumed that my position as a ‘plus-size athlete’ that I shouldn’t censor or shy away from talking about “black issues within the race community.” Before I deleted the email, I couldn’t help but notice the word “inspiring” surfacing through each response. In hindsight, I realized that Sarah had placed me on a pedestal with other words like “leader”, “progressive” and “perfection.”
Let me be frank: I was and at times, still exceptionally pissed off about that email. Let’s acknowledge the obvious: I’m an African American woman that lives in a very racist America that is dancing on moving backwards every day. Nonetheless, I will NOT be a poster child to all stereotypical black issues. THIS IS NOT WHAT THIS BLOG IS ABOUT. I have danced with topics about race relations, discrimination, colorism and fatphobia but I will not make this the topic of all of my blogs. I find beauty in fitness, food and everything in between. When these subjects are brought up on my platform, it is because it was my cognitive decision to share. Nobody will place me in a position where I am forced to be a social justice warrior ventriloquist dummy.
Another incident was fairly recently after grieving the loss of my children. While many of you were very supportive in my transparency about the events that occurred over the last month, some of you thought that I was an “over sharer”, “lacked self respect to my privacy”, “attention seeking” and one of the nastiest comments to date surfaced from a troll: “If you wasn’t so fat and took care of your health, you would have your kids. You’re an unfit parent.” For the trolls who share this sentiment with the statement, my response is simple: Go fuck yourselves. As for sharing sensitive aspects of my life, this was MY CHOICE.
I get it...most people keep things to themselves. Honestly, I saw an opportunity for grieving without hiding. I am in pain. These smiles lately are very genuine. Days like this morning hurts my soul but I still find ways to move through them. I am not sorry for not grieving to your desired preference. I am also not looking to be “inspiring” to others. If others are moved by my desire to move forward, then that’s certainly okay but please don’t think this is an effort to impress others. Please respect that my level of transparency differs than others. Before I ever hit the publish button, I have ample enough of time to retract statements and even after posting, I have the opportunity to pull it back. (And yes, I’m aware that once things are on the Internet, they’re probably there forever.)
Embracing Being an Inspiration to Others
As I affectionately talk about with the media, social networks or conversations about my fitness, I am amazed how my fitness journey, particularly running, brought me here. I’m “inspired” by myself and others who already walked this path or are doing their best to excel in their own lives just by getting up. On the other hand, I didn’t experience “failure” until this year. It took three years of running to touch a DNF (did not finish). Jesus, it sucked. Albeit, I honestly embraced it way before it happened because I knew how tough the Spartan Ultra Beast was going to be but experience it a second time two months later was a humbling experience. Strangely enough, I needed to experience ‘failure’, as it became one of my biggest lessons in the sport. Not every race nor life experience will be the same, even if you approach it with the same technique. There are elements that will be way out of your control.
During racing events, we are plagued with possibilities of shit weather conditions to the most horrific terrain. People like me find themselves injured by mile 2, wondering how the hell are they going to complete another 24 miles. As the saying goes, “Shit happens” and my follow up modern day cliche would be “...but did you die?” Nope. I didn’t. I’m still here. In fact, I’m dusting off sneakers, licking my wounds and going back out onto the pavement.
Inspiring People Are Still Flawed
My new mantra for the year is to practice “keeping my feet on the ground.” I adopted it almost a month ago after grieving the loss of my twins thanks to my first session with a new therapist. If I allowed the beautiful compliments about my resilience against devastating events and being in the media once in a blue go to my head, I would be arrogant enough to believe that nothing could stop me. Perhaps I can say that from a dreamer’s standpoint but life has taught me otherwise. There will be hiccups and plenty of mistakes to be made. I hope that there will not be much loss in the near future but if anything else comes my way, I pray for strength to battle the storm. All I ask of my readers is to be considerate of the people that you’re inspired by. Sometimes, in life, we put people on these unrealistic platforms, expecting them to never make a mistake or do something that is against your own flow of thinking. As I type, I’m reminding myself not to do this to people who I care about or admire from afar as well. It is easy to judge harshly or forget the good in people when we are seeing something wrong in that moment. Try to respect the inspiring individual as a whole person. Perhaps this person is not in the media like me. Maybe they come in the form of a grandparent who happens to give excellent advice 98 percent of the time but says something abrasive on the one day that you needed them. Or maybe it’s the college professor with the 18 New York Times best selling novels who made an ill choice while off the clock. We are all very flawed individuals with hangups. So remember, inspiring people break, cry, can be self destructive, grow, nurture and are layered too. Remind us once in a blue that we’re allowed to fuck up or not be perfect once in awhile.