Going through life from kindergarten to 10th grade as the heaviest kid in my grade was challenging for many reasons. I loved playing basketball, but would get winded when running the length of the court even one time. I sat excited on many car rides to the mall when my parents said that they were giving me an allowance for new clothes, only to discover in store after store that the cool clothes the other kids wore were not carried in my size. Eventually, dejected, I would return to the car, empty handed and head home to look online for larger sizes. Despite the sadness that I felt after these and other experiences, nothing could compare to the pain of the cruel, merciless teasing that I received from other kids at school on an almost daily basis.
Being overweight made me an easy target for everyone, and it seemed as though no one wanted to miss out on the opportunity. Close friends, acquaintances, even kids I had never met before would often call out derogatory names to me as I passed by in the halls, ate in the cafeteria, or attempted to keep up with others playing basketball at recess. I remember one particular time when I 13. I was walking around the football field alone, fulfilling the minimal physical education requirements, when a group of football players, running laps to warm up, approached me from behind. As they passed by, several of them called out to me, hurling profanity-laced insults concerning my slow pace and suggesting my worthlessness based on my size. Knowing that any response I made would simply result in further abuse, I looked down, choked back tears, and kept walking.
To many of my classmates I probably appeared unfazed by their incessant teasing. After all, I did have a large group of friends, and my intelligence and proclivity in school was often highlighted during class time by teachers. I even had a reputation for being the “smart kid” in school. The truth was however, that on many days I wished and prayed that I could just disappear or go live in a hole somewhere where I could hide so that I wouldn’t have to face another comment or insult or profanity from people I had never wronged. At the end of the day, when school got out, I would walk, always with my head down staring at the ground, the short distance to my house.
On particularly bad days, unable to hold back the tears anymore, I would begin to cry as I walked through the front door, playing over and over again in my mind the things that had been said to me. It was however, just inside the front door of the house that I would find the greatest gift that I had been blessed with, a loving and kind mother. She would always search immediately for my eyes, and when our gazes met she would know, with the instincts that only a mother possesses, that I was in pain. Despite the fact that I know her heart was breaking, she would smile big, put her arms around me tightly and tell me that I was the greatest son in the whole world and that she loved me more than she could say. She would then make me a snack and together we would sit on the couch while she rubbed my back and we watched an hour of our favorite shows.
No matter what cruel or hurtful things were said or done to me by the other kids at school, once home, I never doubted that I was loved and adored unconditionally. It was this knowledge alone that would give me the strength to get up and face the world the next day.
I am 25 years old now and it has been nearly 10 years since a dedication to health and fitness has drastically transformed my outward appearance. I have played on many basketball teams, several times leading the team in scoring. I have a closet full of clothes that were purchased at a regular store and are just the same as those that “cool” people wear. I have a stunningly beautiful wife that by most any measure is far out of my league. Despite all of this, certain scars, ones felt rather than seen, are left from many psychological gashes inflicted long ago. And although these scars exist, it was the unconditional love of an angel mother over the years that closed, soothed and healed each and every wound that ever existed.
Brett is a student at Brigham Young University and is studying Middle Eastern History and Finance. He still loves to play basketball and still maintains a very close relationship with his mom, who is currently living in Argentina.