The things that define us

When you're injured, especially in the military, sometimes you need a reminder that you are defined by more than just your job and your size.

My broken leg and uncooperative knee have been thorns in my side for the last 6 years, especially now that the injury is releasing me from the forces. And I’ve explained that I hold no ill will towards the military for the fact that I am being released because the reality is, I can’t perform all the tasks I should be able to do as a soldier and this means that in war, I would put others in danger. But on the flip-side, it’s hard not to be angry sometimes. It’s hard not to be scared about not having the job I’ve counted on for nearly a decade. It’s hard to lose that part of myself; something I fought so hard to keep.

But what’s become very evident over the past while is that being “broken” in the military is not fun. Since I can’t deploy overseas, it feels as though it has become my label, as though perhaps I’m only half of a soldier. That’s due partly to feelings I’ve put on myself and half of it has been perpetuated by archaic ideas of what a soldier should be. So here I am, with this label: Injured.

And those feelings are only furthered by the repercussions of my broken leg. I certainly can’t exercise the way I did once. I played basketball, swam and biked daily. But all of that hurts so much now that my glory days (if indeed, there were any glory days) feel a lifetime away. Because of this, I’ve put on some weight. Certainly not an unhealthy amount and in fact, I’ve embraced my new curves (as seen in a recent picture at the top of this post). Because here’s a fundamental reality about me: I LOVE food. I love it so much that I never regret a single bite. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have gravy through intravenous or anything but I love to eat great food, which for the most part, is usually very healthy. But to me, life is too short to not enjoy what’s on my plate be it a burger or a salad. That’s just me.

But the thing about the military is that part of our jobs is to be in shape and so while everyone traipses off to the gym, I often feel left out as I move to a corner where I can modify workout routines until they can physically work for me. Sometimes, it’s hard not to feel completely and totally alone. So I won’t lie and pretend I’ve been totally comfortable with myself as my body and my career continue to change. Some days are and will be harder than others.

So yes, my days of being 118 pounds were left behind when I finished basic training and was no longer able to work out constantly. But you know what? That’s okay. I’ve accepted that I will not be completing any marathons or scaling any mountains anytime soon (although I’ll never say never!). But what I’ve also embraced is the fact that I am beautiful no matter my shape and no matter my size, because I am so much more than the number on my scale. I am smart, funny, interesting, and full of creative writing to share. I have things to give beyond my role in the military. My labels transcend just Injured.

Sometimes, making that peace with yourself is all that can matter in the world. And then all you can do is hope that others will follow suit and come to realize that we all have things to offer. And whether I’m my current 155 or back to the 118 of years ago, the fundamentals of who I am have not changed. When I am no longer a soldier, I will be something else. I will have new labels. New definitions of myself. And acknowledging that those definitions will continue to ebb and flow is what allows me to consistently change my labels; both those given to me and those I give to myself.

I am not just Injured. I am Kelly. And she is so much more than just a label.