Perception is Personal

It is Christmas time and that means a few different things. Secret Santa with my cousins tomorrow. I have my cousin Josh and as Star Wars geeks he will be receiving a stuffed Yoda and Han Solo frozen carbonate ice trays. He is 23, not weird at all.  Some other things include the big Christmas dinner at my dad’s house on Christmas day. It is delicious. We eat til we are full and then pass out. But one of my biggest dreads is…cookies. They are delicious, smell good and go right to my hips. In the past few weeks as Christmas cookies become more and more apparent in my life, I notice the digits on the scale going up a little bit higher each day. I was sitting at my kitchen table in my apartment with my roommate Tony a few weeks ago eating some cookies sent up in a care package. He noticed the self hate that was growing in my face. He asked what was wrong. I explained how with how busy I had been with work, there was very little time for the gym. I definitely have been noticing a little weight gain in the past few months and I attribute some of that to the season. Thanksgiving to Christmas involves a lot of eating.

But Tony said something interesting to me when I explained how I didn’t like the weight gain. He stopped me and said “You have a girlfriend, it doesn’t matter what you look like, look at me.” Tony had been dating his girlfriend for just under a year and remained heavy and hairy during the entirety of the relationship and they grew more in love every day. I began thinking about his statement and considered it. But I like being in shape. I went to college weighing 265 pounds. I now top off at 200. Why should I not care after all that hard work? I guess it is a personal thing.

See the summer after my freshman year of college, I got my first tattoo. It was a pen and paintbrush symbolizing my two majors and the words “Perception is Personal” read on top of it. My parents were not thrilled. To this day my father jokes that it spells, “Penis is Personal”. Alas, it does not. But no one ever asks what tattoos really mean. When people see it, they just read the phrase and usually say, “I like that”. It is rare that someone asks for a definition. But the meaning comes from when I was younger. See my Grandmother, Nana, used to have a bit of judgement on my future as a writer and artist. She doubted both a lot. She used to tell me how I needed a more structured plan. But I didn’t like locking into a solid plan. I didn’t want my life planned at 18. I wanted to experiment and wander in the fields that I loved. They have certainly brought me to many different places I didn’t think they would. But I remember in the midst of conversations with Nana, it would lead to a conversation with my mother, which would lead me to a conversation with my father, which lead to subsequent conversations with cousins, aunts, friends and/or strangers. It was in this never ending discussion about what I wanted to do with my life that lead me to the thought.

We all have very different perceptions. Perceptions of life, of one another, our our selves and the things we do. We can’t see them the same as anyone else. They are personal. So when I say perception is personal, I am saying that everyone has their opinion, it is perfectly alright that they are different, but it is a belief. It is not something that should be squashed or subjected by another. In today’s day in age, it is honorable to have a perception or opinion of anything. Society certainly tends to push the public’s opinion in different directions. If we have different perception’s of different concepts, they should be respected. My Nana, who I love and who loves me very much, wants me to be successful and for her that means creating a structural road map for the future. For me, this is my time of exploration, finding out what works and what doesn’t work.

Tonight I was fortunate enough to get to the gym. I worked on my shoulders, did some cardio and then stripped down to hit the sauna. Something I forgot about my home gym is that the sauna is co-ed. So when I walked in in just shorts to see a girl, I was a bit taken back. Regardless I took a seat in the hot box. After adjusting to the high temperatures and difficulty to breathe, I glanced over at her. There was something very odd about her. She had lovely brunette hair, big brown eyes and a very peaceful aura about her as she soaked in the dry air. But what I found so disrupting about her was that in the distressing heat of the sauna, she was wearing sweatpants and a sweatshirt. I don’t know if you have ever been in a sauna, but it is very very hot. After sitting in the box for no more than a minute does an individual regret wearing any clothes at all. As we sat in the steaming silence, an older gentleman entered and sat down next to her. After he took his time to adjust he looked over to her and asked, “Are you warm enough?” The three of us snickered. She commented that it was her cheat to losing a little extra.

After a few more minutes, I exited. As my lungs remembered cool air, I began to pull on my clothes in the locker room. I couldn’t help but think somewhat little of the girl. A cheat to losing weight? That seems unfair. I’m a big dude and have to do extensive amounts of working out and dieting to lose weight. She was a tiny thing and got to cheat on those last few pounds. I arrived home and prepared some whole wheat pasta and shrimp (I’m an awesome cook). I sat down and ate and my mom and sister came in to start baking Christmas cookies. I laughed at them and said I would stick with my healthy dinner. I cleaned up, got out of their way and headed up to the shower. When I was out I dried off and when I went to rub my arm with my towel, my tattoo caught my eye.

I get told a lot that I will regret my tattoos. I fear that day considering I love what I have and want more. But this day, I definitely did not regret my ink. It definitely was my little reminder not to judge. Let her have her perception. Maybe she is terribly insecure like I used to be and remain today with my weight. Maybe she suffers from an eating disorder. Maybe she just does it because it is a personal thing. It is her perception of what is alright. Who am I to  judge the decision another person makes?

After a few episodes of How I Met Your Mother, I went to get a drink from the kitchen. When I walked in, everyone had gone to sleep. I noticed the large batches of Christmas cookies. I had a mini internal debate as to whether or not I should have one. I ended up coming back downstairs with a glass of milk and just one of my mom’s chocolate chip cookies. I smiled as I dunked it and had one last thought, who am I to judge myself? Perceptions are meant to idealize what is the best possible route something or someone can take. In simpler terms, a perception identifies how something can be done or changed to make us happy. So maybe I don’t have a 6-pack (yet), I’m happy and  I might even have another Christmas cookie before bed.


Nicholas James


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