Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Letter to a Fat Kid, Stuck on a Wall

Dear Fat Kid,

I saw you while I was on my way home yesterday evening, when you were stuck up on that damned wall and wondering how in God’s name you’d get down. I hope that was your da with the ladder. Humiliating, of course, but dammit, at least he’s family. It being one of the neighbours would have made a bad situation ten times worse. Maybe a hundred times worse, depending on the neighbour.

Anyway, the main thing is I hope you got down in the end. You were a little red in the face when I saw you, and I think that stepladder must have looked as far away as China. I wanted to run over and say come on man, nearly home now, but I thought it best to leave it. Like I say, it’s sometimes best to keep these things in the family.

But you know what I hope most? I hope that as soon as you got down off the wall you shot up there again, just as soon as you could. I hope you spent the whole evening – and the evenings are getting shorter now, so you need to make the most of them – climbing up and down that stupid wall, and maybe shinning up a nearby tree or two, for variety.

Chances are, when you were up on the wall you probably felt you were born there, lived a long life there and would eventually die there, peacefully, in your sleep, surrounded by your loving family. Time stretches when you’re stuck. But the reality is you were probably only up there five or ten minutes. It might have seemed like a long time, but it wasn’t.

See, getting stuck on a wall is no big deal, really. A friend of mine got stuck in Bohola once. Boris Johnson looked a right eejit stuck on that wire at the Olympics. On my own first ever visit to Dublin under my own steam, I got lost on O’Connell Bridge. Nothing unusual in it. Happens all the time.

And I’m only saying this now because I was a bit worried about you, up on that wall. I hope I’m wrong, but I thought you were thinking that if you ever got down off the wall you’d never go higher than two feet off the ground ever again for the rest of your days. Just enough to climb into bed at night-time, and leave that other stuff to the Indiana Joneses of this world.

And it was ok to think that thought. Like I say, time gets long up there, and ladders look very far away. But I hope once you got down and settled you realised that it is only a wall, after all. I hope you laughed about the idea of never going higher than the bed again.

I hope you told your Da to come looking for you if you weren’t back in fifteen minutes as you went out with your rope and your grappling hook for another crack at that dopey wall. There’s a whole lot of world beyond that bed-high horizon.

And I hope that attitude stays with you, all through your life. That it’s not the getting stuck but the getting out that matters. And the more you get out of jams in life, the more you’ll take from the experience.

While I’m at it – it might be no harm to go easy on the cakes either. Tell you what, try an experiment – promise yourself you’ll go easy on the cakes for the next four weeks, and maybe walk home a bit of way from school instead of taking the bus.

Weigh yourself every morning, and write down your weight inside your sums copy – nobody will twig it among those other numbers. It’ll just be you that’ll know. After four weeks, you’ll be surprised how much the number has gone down. And you’ll notice that you’re feeling a lot better too.

There’s nothing wrong with being fat. Kids pick on other kids for being fat – there’s a special place in Hell for bullies, so you needn’t worry about them. Screw them. This is about you. It’s a fact of life that you’ll feel better when there’s less of yourself to carry around. You’ll get places quicker too.

Of course, the chief reason I’m writing to you is because I’m writing to myself as well. I didn’t even like climbing in the first place, when I was your age. But when I saw the red face and the terrified look up on the wall just now, I could have been looking at a mirror.

Take it easy, Fat Kid. It does get better, you know. I remember very well what it’s like, being stuck and scared and overweight and undercooked. But it’s ok. It gets better.

Your friend,

An Spailpín Fánach.