Wednesday, January 2, 2008

2007, What A Year . . .

On New Year's Day, 2006, Joy and I sat down and talked about what we wanted out of the year ahead. We had just gotten married (six months earlier), my gastric bypass surgery had been cancelled by my insurance company a few months before, we knew that we would have challenges to starting a family and I hated my job and Joy had left her job and returned to school a full year prior so things were sort of all over the place in our life. We needed to settle in to life.

We had a long talk and made a very simple decision . . . we would do NOTHING major in 2006. NO big changes. NO life-changing events. NO talk about starting a family and NO talk about moving, changing jobs or any thing else for at least a year.

Then, January 11th rolled around. 10 FULL days later. We got a call that changed our New Year's Resolutions and everything else. It seemed there was a pregnant woman in Wichita who wanted to give her baby up for adoption.

What followed was 12 of the busiest, craziest and most important months of Joy and I's joined life. A month later, almost to the day, I was in New York interviewing for a new job. A month later, almost to the day, we listed our house in Maryland (sold it in four days), two weeks later we chose a new house in Bethel, Connecticut, a month later, almost to the day, we moved to Connecticut. Two months later we were in Wichita to wait for Ava's birth and six weeks after that we were driving back from Kansas - as a FAMILY. The week before Thanksgiving I attended my informational session on gastric bypass at Danbury Hospital and announced to my family, the week of Christmas, that I would have gastric bypass in 2007.

So, on New Year's Day 2007 Joy and I sat down and talked about what we wanted out of the year ahead. Shocker of shockers and pattern of patters, we decided to do nothing EXCEPT focus on being a family, developing my career, getting Joy back to school (maybe) and, of course, having my surgery in March.

But, like 2006, our "best laid" plans were all for nothing. By the time I woke up from my surgery on March 20th, we had already started making much, much bigger plans for the remainder of the year.

I lost 40 pounds in three weeks. I went back to work.

I realized the FIRST day back that I was not as happy as I could be professionally (I LOVED my previous job, the people there and the idea of working for one of the biggest companies in the world BUT I hated how competitive the environment was and how insecure it made me feel about myself) and within a month, my new outlook on life had me realizing just how miserable Joy was and how unfair it was to Ava to raise her in a household that was goverened by two people who weren't as happy as they could be at any given moment.

We talked about moving to Wichita in early May for the first time in almost two years. We boarded a plane to visit the Terry family in early July (I was down 100 pounds already) and - by the time we flew back - we had put an offer on a house, I had interviewed for a job and we had called a realtor in Connecticut about getting rid of our dump in Bethel.

Two weeks.

That is all it took - just 14 short days - and we were both able to board the plane back to Newburgh knowing that our happiness was what 2007 would be about.

The rest of the year was all about that happiness and leaving the trappings of the life we lived in Maryland and Connecticut behind us.

I made some wonderful friends through the gastric bypass program at the hospital and I focused my energies on the people at my old job that made me truly happy to go to work. Joy and Ava moved ahead of me to Kansas and I used the next two months - sleeping on sofas and feeling "alone" even though I rarely was without company - to say "goodbye" (literally and figuratively) to the people, places, events and ideas that had let me grow to a 530 pound, very angry and very lonely man (despite having had an otherwise wonderful life) in only 31 short years of life.

I made a secret weekend trip to Washington, DC. I broke in to my old office (security at the building didn't even notice that they hadn't seen me in a year and a half (they DID notice I had lost weight though - thank you very much) and sat in my old chair . . . one last time. I sat on the front steps of my old apartment in DC, hoping the people who live there now would come home and let me in. I walked over to the CVS across the street where I bought all my junk food, bad magazines, bottled Frappaccinos and over the counter drugs for six years and thought of the thousands of dollars I threw away in there looking for some joy. I took the Metro to my first apartment in DC and the dorms at GW where I stayed before that. I walked in to Georgetown. I went to the building where my masters program was housed at GW and sat on the stoop for a minute and reflected on how much I HATED graduate school and how much that time in my life influenced me weight (I gained well over 150 pounds in 18 months). I drove to Baltimore - stopping at a few key spots on the way (Jess and Tim's old apartment complex, the Mall at Columbia, Patrick and Joyell's old apartment, our old house in Halethorpe, the Inner Harbor, Fell's Point, etc.) and then I drove to Patrick and Joyell's other old apartment. I drove through New Jersey and back to New York City. I visited a few of the places where I had gone in my youth - when taking Amtrak to NYC for the weekend meant credit card debt, drunken nights, hotel rooms and time spent with an old flame from DC. I drove to Quinnipiac where I had such a wonderful college experience (but where my weight went up and down and up and up and up) and I drove to Providence, Rhode Island where I had spent many a weekend with Jess and Tim and then, more recently, where we spent a disasterous family-getaway-weekend in February, 2007. By Sunday night, I was in Providence and was exhausted. I had spent a few hundred bucks on motels, gas, tolls, protein bars and bottled water and I still had a two hour drive back to Connecticut before heading to work Monday morning.

I left all sorts of laughter and tears and emotions on the various doorsteps, welcome signs, eateries and crowded streets of the stops on my Weekend of Goodbye. I loaded my car at the end of October fully ready for the 1,300 mile drive ahead of me and with the peace in my heart of understanding all the phases of my life - their importance to me and how I would remember them and what long term value they would hold in the life that awaited me here in Wichita.

I don't know why I'm typing all this. I'm prattling. The point is simple . . .

2007 was - without a doubt - the most important year of my life. It saw my surgery. It saw me lose 186 pounds in nine months. It saw my daughter walk and talk for the first time. It saw Joy and me the saddest and then the happiest we have been (individually and as a couple) since the early, early days when we first met and fell in love. It saw my parents health continue to decline and me, for the first time in my life, being able to criticize and ask questions without feeling like a hypocrite. It saw me say goodbye to the entire life I had lived in the Northeast (the good and the bad) and it saw me start to really look at who I am and who I have been and what parts of my personality I wanted to keep and grow and what parts of my personality I had to get rid of - once and for all.

The best gift of 2007 was that I ended the year with a whole new world around me. People who knew me "when" still in my life (family, close friends, etc.) but - for the most part - a whole new world of people who wouldn't know pre-surgery Sean or any part of him. People who don't think of me as being all-that fat. People who think my only flaw is being from the Northeast United States.

I enter in to 2008 KNOWING that 2008 will be the YEAR OF HAPPY for my family. I will hit my weight loss goal in the next twelve months and start a lifetime of maintaining that weight. Ava will be speaking full sentences by the end of the year. Joy will be three semesters closer to her degree. I will be an established Wichitan and we will be ready for 2009.

That is the plan. For now (at least)!

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