ClothingThose of you who know me will know I’m a big fan of Billy Joel. So much so, that when I was given the opportunity to choose a song to practise for voice training, I picked one of the best I could think of: “Just the way you are“.

It’s a nice sentiment: don’t go changing, you’re not too familiar, I won’t leave you, I love you just the way you are. Great words to hear from a lover or a friend. Those who aren’t Billy Joel crazy will probably be surprised to hear that it’s actually one of his least favourite songs. He wrote it for his soon-to-be ex wife after all. I remember watching an interview with the piano man where he said he now addresses the song more to himself than to anyone else.

That’s what I get most out of this song: it’s not addressed to some third party. This is a message of love and commitment that we each owe ourselves: “I love me just the way I am”. I try to take that message to heart. It’s my tag-line on my online dating profiles, not so that people think I’m a swell guy with old-fashioned music tastes, but to remind myself not to change just because I think it will please someone else.

I guess it’s strange then, that after saying all that I’m going to spend the rest of this post talking about how much I’ve been changing lately.

You see, I think change is a good thing. Change means growth and the collection of new experiences. Change is exciting and daunting. Change is progress. I like progress,. I don’t think there could be said to have been a trigger for the recent progress in my life, if anything, there were three triggers that all seemed to happen around about my birthday last year:

For starters, I was dumped by my then boyfriend (same thing happened the year before, I guess birthdays are a bad time for relationships). It had been a bit of a rough relationship, hardly a relationship at all to be honest, and I don’t think I handled it particularly well. During the course of the break-up he said some things about my weight with were true but not particularly kind. I’m not embarrassed to admit that his venom and negativity were fine motivators for me to want to lose some weight.

Melting ChocolateAt around about the same time, Sarah (my flatmate) exposed me to a lecture by a professor of paediatrics who talked about the evils of sugar. I went off sugar completely. Gone were the cans of energy drink such as “V” or “mother”. Gone were the chocolate bars. Gone was coke, orange juice and even that nasty vitamin water. Gone was even any trace of sugar in my coffee.

Finally, I had a rather bizzare experience in a shop called the Village Squire in Taupo. I was driving through there, soon after the break-up on my way to a Halloween party. I stayed with my friends Chris & Charles to whom I lamented that it’s impossible to find a nice red shirt in New Zealand. Charles sent me Village Squire’s way and I can tell you it was quite an experience.

“How can we help you?” the lady at the counter enquired with the typical air of a retailer trying to judge whether you’re a tire-kicker or you’re going to take her clothes for a spin.

“Um, I’m looking for a red shirt” I started, eyeing one of the red checkered shirts she had hanging up.

As if I’d said nothing, she reached for the equivalent blue shirt and impressed upon me that I should try it on. I did so, coming out of the changing room looking more than a little sheepish.

“Oh, and you’ll need some pants for that, here, try this, it’s Tarocash”

I don’t really know what Tarocash is when it’s at home, but I’m always eager for some decent fashion advice. I dutifully put on the pants.

“You’re not… going to wear those shoes are you?” she asked as I modelled the pants in my signature black running shoes.

Well, as you can imagine, it didn’t take long before I had an entire wardrobe: shirt, pants, shoes and jacket, totalling $800 bundled into my car.

Dinner with Granny“Um, you don’t suppose I could get that red shirt now?” I ventured.

“Oh, honey” she said with a very vexed expression “you already have so much colour in your face…”

I foiled her, though, I bought a red shirt later when I was back up in Auckland!

Thus began the recent sequence of changes in my life. Shallow changes mind you, just changes in my waistline and in the way I dress, but they’ve been good changes nonetheless.

Skinny StephenWhen I was a teenager, I used to wear big bulky clothing to cover up my body which I had very little confidence in.

I’m now just about the same weight I was back then, but I’m considerably more confident. I was surprised to see the scale reading 64.8 kg the other day. Down about 20 kg from the 80’s when I was back in Texas. To illustrate this change, I have a picture of me from last year and a shirtless picture of me from this year. Warning, the second link doesn’t involve a shirt, so if that kind of thing turns your stomach, don’t click 😛

Pointy shoesFor me, the shoes I bought represent a big change in my thinking. Seems petty, doesn’t it, but 6 months ago I would never have considered wearing what I think of as “pointy toed” shoes. Now, I have two pairs of such shoes! I feel like I’m growing up a little, and I am growing to be more and more like someone I want to be every day.

 I guess the lesson I learn out of this experience is: Don’t go changing to try and please me, but by all means, make changes to please yourself.