In 2007, I weighed 270 pounds. At 6’1′, that was not good weight.
It was natural to be that large being I spent the majority of my time with young adults eating their food without their metabolism. It was the nature of the work, I guess.
Without getting into the weeds of my point, when I moved to California that year I had to make some changes. The weather in the East Bay was brilliant and afforded me the dynamic opportunity to enjoy the outdoors. I tried a lot of things to lose weight and be healthy, but I had no real knowledge of how to do it or how to make life changes.
One night I was browsing the television and came across a celebrity talking about losing 200 lbs. She remarked that she ate less, and moved more and it seemed to work for her. I scoffed at the simple arrogance. But something clicked. I made being healthy too difficult. So, my steps toward health began the next day. And when I say steps, I mean I just decided to walk more and spent time during the day walking up and down the three flights of stairs in our century home in Oakland’s Piedmont district. From there I moved to walk at Lake Merrit, just a short distance from us. Lo and behold, the moving more and eating less started to work.
Now, this was a difficult journey with many emotions to boot. I hope to write more about that later. But, in eight months I lost 120 pounds, found a love for many outdoor activities, and held a new lease on living healthily. I was so passionate about this journey that I got my certification in weight loss coaching and fitness and began helping others do what I had done. It was very fulfilling. It was not fancy.
It was, however, a journey in buying all new clothes. From 40″ pants to 28″ pants and XXL shirts, to small/medium, I had to buy all new clothes through the process. And when it comes to buying things, I am a frugal cheap shopper but I like nice things. That is why I love discount stores, second-hand shops, pawn shops, and liquidators. My entire life I have always bought my clothing at extreme liquidation prices. So, I had a new venture ahead of me and decided I wanted to find a new style.
As I browsed the California landscape of second-hand stores I discovered a few classy brands imported into the US. A $200 button-up for $9 was a steal. Let’s try it! The same was true for my jeans and shoes. I tried a few different ideas before I fell in love with embroidered shirts. I love them! So, I compiled a nice array of different types of shirts.
Moving to Georgia in the fall of 2011, I brought my fashion with me. As a teacher of students, I quickly became known behind my back as “Fancy James”. Another dear brother in the midst, whose name is also James, had no moniker but his own. So, after several years of this role, I was finally told by one of my students. Since then, I gained a bit more weight and couldn’t buy these types of shirts in Georgia. So, I changed up a tad in style but the name seemed to stay. I will always be fancy James to those students, even as adults.
How do people see you? What are people saying that is positive? Interesting? Creative? Negative? While we are not to find our purpose and identity in what others think, we can learn a lot about them and ourselves by knowing, to an extent, how we are perceived. Who else had a perception of me? Was I known as “ugly James” or “stupid James?” No matter, I embraced the title and kept in step with the fun.
In the last few months I have gained a bit more fitness and in turn, have been able to cover myself with some of Fancy James’s shirts again. I did get some attention last week from some who had never seen these things, and they had fun at my expense, which I enjoyed. And if you’re wondering, they look so different from what normal men wear in the South, that my first trip to the drycleaners engaged in a debate that these were not my wife’s blouses and I would not be paying the pink tax of double price for their laundering.
Life is a series of events. Some good, some bad, some terrible, and some meh. But, all together, they are us, we are molded by all things we endure, enlighten us, engage with, and extend to others. Imagine that even what we wear can speak to the minds of others. What are we really saying? Who is really listening? Hmmmm… something for me to think about for sure.
I hope that my life is worth seeing and that to some of you I am more than just ‘fancy’. I love to hear about your lives and moreover, I am very interested in being a part of your discovery and your joy.