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Changes in my American life

Now that I have a functioning MP3 player, I’ve started listening to podcasts in my car on the way to work. I usually go to the iTunes podcast directory and look at what’s popular or download some NPR (National Public Radio) since they evidently have 621 podcasts available. I was listening to an episode of This American Life recently called Nobody’s Family is Going to Change. This American Life is an hour long show that presents a variety of stories on a common theme, usually true-life stories of ordinary people. This episode’s theme was about whether people can change. After listening to the show, I would say yes and no. People certainly have the ability to change, but more frequently people just stay the same.

As my MP3 player skipped to the next track, I realized that one of the appeals of weight-loss blogs like this one is the idea that people can change. You might be fat now, but you could get thinner. You might be in debt today, but you can pay off your bills. You might be “you” today but you could upgrade to “you 2.0″ tomorrow. It does happen. You can’t force other people to change, but you can change yourself to a certain extent. I guess it’s like the old serenity prayer:

God grant me the serenity

to accept the things I cannot change;

courage to change the things I can;

and wisdom to know the difference.

It’s funny that I came to this revelation while listening to NPR. For the longest time I wished I was the type of person who listened to NPR in the car, but in reality I was the type of person to listen to the same CD’s over and over again. I only listen to NPR now because it’s really easy to get the podcasts. In the same way, I used to keep lots of books on my shelves that I wanted to read. The problem was, I didn’t actually want to read them, I just wanted to be the type of person who read those books. Or I was hoping I could purchase the knowledge within those books without taking the time to read them because it takes me F.O.R.E.V.E.R. to read a book.

In the past couple years I’ve culled a lot of my possessions, partly because only so much stuff will fit in a one-bedroom apartment, and partly because I’ve decided those books belonged to a person I wanted to be and not the person I am. I am not the kind of person who was going to read those books, so it was time to get them out of the apartment. If I ever do become the kind of person who is going to read those books, I can buy them at the bookstore again. Until then, I need the shelf space.

I’m definitely capable of change. I’ve lost a lot of weight and I now know who Ira Glass is. But there are other qualities about me that have not changed, probably will never change, and I honestly have no desire to change. I doubt I’ll ever be the kind of person who isn’t annoyed by the phrase, “I could care less.” You could care less? Then you must care a little. Is that really what you meant to say? It’s inspiring to know that I don’t always have to be the same, but it’s empowering to accept the parts of myself I don’t want to change or might not be able to change.

And as much as I love This American Life and was excited to hear about their live broadcast in movie theatres across America on Thursday, May 1, I was not excited to learn that it cost twenty bucks. I guess I’ll always be a skinflint. That will never change.

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24 Comments

dietgirl • April 21, 2008 at 8:12 am

OH how I love that you hate that phrase! Hehe.

Such a wise post. Don’t know how many times someone’s said to me, “You’re a completely different person” since dropping some lard. Sure, there’s some things that changed in order for that to happen, but some fundamental qualities will never waver. And that is a comforting thought somehow :)

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Kate • April 21, 2008 at 9:15 am

That’s because the actual expression is “I couldn’t care less”. So you are definitely right to be annoyed when people say “I could care less”. It doesn’t make sense.

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Comrade GoGo • April 21, 2008 at 9:19 am

In a way, this post seems to speak directly to me, PQ. I’ve wanted to be lots of “types” of people in my life. . . . Sometimes I’ve even made close approximations and seemed to fit in with others of that type, whether they were club kids or goody-two-shoes. I’ve modeled myself briefly on close friends I admired. I’m one of those people who’s tried dozens of perfumes looking for the perfect fit. It’s cool that you seem to be at a place where you know and accept who you really are. Sometimes I’m not sure if I have that knowledge of myself, despite all the years of exploration. And sometimes I’m afraid the real me is too horrible to contemplate, and so I just look away. . . .

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Rah • April 21, 2008 at 9:49 am

So wise, so wise. Who has not surrounded herself with the accoutrements of woman-I’d-like-to-be? You wisdom is in realizing it and getting rid of the sham props (the courage to change the things I can). Brilliant post. Thank you.

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Natalie • April 21, 2008 at 10:07 am

I know people can change. I need to believe that because I don’t want to live in a world that excludes progress. For me, it’s a choice. I think we get what we really want and the question is, “How bad do we want it?” Plus, I’m secretly in love with Ira Glass!

Thanks for the continued posting Pasta Queen!!

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coraspartan • April 21, 2008 at 12:30 pm

Just dropping in to say I received your book in the mail on Saturday and started reading it that night. I’m not too far in yet, but I started enjoying it on page 1! Great job PQ!

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victoria • April 21, 2008 at 12:42 pm

I read your book over the weekend. Nice work! I hope you make a lot of money from the book sales and splurge on a live show by someone from TAL (I’ve heard that David Sedaris’s live readings are more than worth the price of admission). ;-)

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Red • April 21, 2008 at 1:20 pm

WRT “I could care less”. As a youngin’ I rationalized that this was an abbreviated version of a joke, specifically:

“I could care less, but it’s not worth the effort.”

To this day I assume this is what people mean by “I could care less.”

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nolafwug • April 21, 2008 at 2:02 pm

I thought I would always be a skinflint as well, but I moved to New Orleans and it’s a different world down here. DH would rather get a second job than spend a second looking at – nevermind clipping – coupons. It’s rubbed off on me a bit and it’s kind of nice to let go of some of my yankee frugality and treat myself to things I never would have dreamed of 10 years ago. And I haven’t gone broke. I may even be a bit happier. So, never say never. :)

Can’t wait to get your book from Amazon! Rock on, PQ!

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Cindy • April 21, 2008 at 4:27 pm

Hi PQ,

Two things:

First, I got your book in the mail today. This is good news and bad news, as my semester isn’t quite over yet…I can’t afford to start reading it for another two weeks. Its going to KILL me to wait, but I am “old” for a student and the brain doesn’t fire at 47 in quite the same way as it does at 27, so I can’t be distracted! I’ll get to it, though, and then I will be SO pleased!

Second, great post! I have worried and wondered and worried some more over the whole idea of change. When I first lost the weight and people started treating me differently, I positively freaked and resisted ANY kind of change in myself, demanding that I was the same person. I have modified that some in the last year or so, as I’ve eased into maintenance, accepting that I have changed a little. The important parts of me haven’t changed and I maintain that my “worthiness” hasn’t changed,despite how some folks see me differently (this is one of the insidious aspects of the weight-loss journey ~ I’ve had to deal with my feelings around how others see and feel about me. It hasn’t been easy…). So thanks for this post and I will think some more on the idea of change and what changes are worth making, perhaps after I read your book…which is after I write my final paper…Whew! That is a lot of important stuff to be doing!

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Jen • April 21, 2008 at 5:39 pm

I love This American Life. Thanks for letting me know about the live show in movie theaters. I have such a crush on Ira Glass. Yes, I’m a nerd.

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cara • April 21, 2008 at 6:09 pm

I just got back from the mail box and got your book. Woo hoo! “Yellow noodles of fat…”, huh? What a way to start a book.

Can’t wait to devour it!

I haven’t even ready your blog, yet, I just wanted to tell you the good news!

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Tricia • April 21, 2008 at 7:18 pm

Great post as usual PQ. I really enjoy listing to NPR. I feel it is much more informative then local news. My psychology teacher informed me that a recent study indicated that the local/natonal news comprehension base is geared for a six year old. I enjoy NPR, because i feel that they speak in intelligent sentences, and have very informative topics. It makes me feel good that such a savvy author such as yourself listens along with me =).

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Amanda • April 21, 2008 at 7:46 pm

First, I just answered the door and met the UPS guy and GRABBED my copy of your book out of his hands! Really looking forward to it.

I am 41 pounds into my weight loss “journey” (a phrase the bugs the crap out of me)…and have already received some of those types of comments. Great post.

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PastaQueen • April 21, 2008 at 7:50 pm

Don’t worry, the book will still be there after your finals. Your school work is more important!

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Andrew is getting fit • April 21, 2008 at 8:03 pm

I’ve changed quite dramatically in both my physical and emotional makeup as I’ve made my transformation but only for the better I think. And yes, some parts of me will never change as well. And that is good too.

:)

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Michelle • April 21, 2008 at 10:00 pm

I too was excited to hear about “This American Life” was going to have the one night only live event… but I’m flying to another state that day, so I can’t do that. :(

Did you know it’s also a Showtime program? There’s six episodes in season one… but beware “Pandora’s Box” I’ve been vegetarian since I watched it two months ago. (OK, ovo-lacto (plus fish) vegetarian… but should I ever go back to eating meat, it will be organic meat!)

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starbird • April 22, 2008 at 12:33 am

Here’s the cool thing I learned about finally changing something – in my case, I stopped drinking. Like learning your third language, each subsequent change is just a little easier to accomplish. So, next I tackled smoking – becoming a non-smoker. Then, I started a freelance writing career with multiple magazine clients after nearly 10 years of being a newspaper correspondent for a single publication at a time.

Finally, I began to deal with my weight. I had to lose “only” 20 pounds, but as many posters on this site have confirmed, sometimes that’s harder than the big weight loss effort. The rewards are smaller and so less-reinforcing of your effort. Anyway, I’ve done that. I don’t know what personal defect I want to work on next! Probably talking/posting too much. ;-))

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PastaQueen • April 22, 2008 at 7:37 am

Actually, I think I found out about the radio series because of the press they got about the TV show. And yeah, that “Pandora’s Box” ep was rather disturbing.

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psychsarah • April 22, 2008 at 10:13 am

I love this post. As a clinical psychologist, I simply have to believe that people can change. I think its part of the job description to believe that, or else it would be impossible to counsel people on how to change behaviours. That said, I know its not easy-if all change was easy, some people wouldn’t need my help. Furthermore, while I firmly believe that people can change their behaviours, I think there are aspects of personality that generally don’t change, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. While you can learn the skills to change your behaviours to reach a goal (be it to lose weight, alter depressive thoughts, run a marathon, finish writing a book) you can still lean towards being introverted, frugal, or someone who thrives on routine. Sometimes those traits look different in a person who has changed their behaviours, but it doesn’t mean they have completely changed who they are.

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MizFit • April 22, 2008 at 11:19 am

laughed at this as I had the same thought (20?! gee, lemmie see what else I could buy with that money).

I do listen to npr in the car though…I think because I tend to sing when music is on and ZONE OUT when Karl Castle is yammering.

M.

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PastaQueen • April 22, 2008 at 10:04 pm

Why do I feel like I was just psychoanalyzed? :)

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Sexy at any Size • April 24, 2008 at 6:51 am

Very inspirational post, and inspirational blog really for all the people trying to get fit, trying to get healthy. By sharing your personal trials and tribulations you are giving a lot of courage to others.

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sportmom • August 15, 2008 at 7:39 pm

That’s why she wrote that – she knows it.

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Comments are now closed on all PastaQueen entries. The blog is an archive only so I don't have to deal with spammers. For fresh discussions please visit my new blog JenFul.

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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JenFul now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

Disclaimer: I am not responsible for keyboards ruined by coffee spit-takes or forehead wrinkles caused by deep thought.

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