“Where do you see yourself in five years?”
I was at a job interview in 2008 when this question was asked of me. In my career I have been asked this quite often.
I was taken by surprise by this question. I mean, I was not worried abut five years from now…I just wanted a job. I was over 400 pounds at the time. I sweat a lot. I had to pull up a chair by the booth just to be able to sit down. Yet, I knew the answers he wanted…
“I would like to run the company!”
“I see myself where you are!”
“I would just like to be happy!”
Instead, I did not say anything. I was miserable. I felt like there was no hope for me. I wanted to lose weight so bad but could not. Maybe it was more like would not. I knew what to do, but food consumed me. I would always start a new diet “tomorrow”. Funny thing about “tomorrow”…it turns into yesterday before you know it.
But for some reason I thought about a situation that happened two years earlier…
It was February of 2006. I was a chef at an Italian restaurant based out of Minnesota. The cool part, and I mean the only cool part of being a 400 pound chef, is that people respect a “fat” chef. Sad but true
Because the company was based out of Minnesota we would have meetings there. It was horrible for me. Minneapolis is cold and I only had warm clothes (I live in Orlando). Buying clothes at the time was not as easy as going to the mall. It was going to a “Big and Tall” store and praying they had size 60 pants. Praying they had 5xl shirts.
Also…to fly, I would have to either get two seats or move up to business class. I hated the looks. Looks that if the plane were to crash it would be my fault.
Regardless, I knew I had to go to the meetings so I flew “business class” out to Minneapolis, a prettier version of Buffalo. I was able to buy some clothes that fit me. None of it was easy.
I was very overweight then. Over 400 pounds.. Breathing was hard, walking was even harder, and living was the hardest.
When I arrived in Minnesota, my company put me up in a hotel one block from the corporate office. While others walked, I took a cab every day. I could not walk without my back hurting. I was the only one who took a cab. The only one.
Here is what I remember the most. The story that I think about daily. All of the chefs were going to do some volunteer work. For the life of me, I do not remember the name of the charity.
When we got there, the offices were on the fifth floor. We were also informed that the elevator was broken.
People were bummed. I was not bummed.
I was scared. Five flights of stairs!!!!! Are you kidding me????? I could barely walk to my car at work.
Yet, I could not just stay downstairs. I went up the stairs.
20 minutes later, I made it up five flights of stairs. I was out of breath, full of sweat. I felt like I was going to pass out. I could not help because I was so out of breath.
I will never forget this. The VP director of the west coast came up to me and said “You really need to lose weight.” Then, while walking away, under his breath, he said…
I have been insulted before. I have been called fat, porky, pig, chunk, and nine million other names. I have been insulted by CEO’s and presidents of companies about my weight. Nothing stung like the word worthless. Under the VP director’s breath, he said I was not worth anything. Why am I even here? My wife and family are idiots for loving me. If I was for sale, I would be worth nothing. He questioned my existence.
I never forgot that moment. I never will…
It is now 2013. I lost over 225 pounds and kept off over 200 pounds for four years.
I work out all the time. I even got on the StairMaster every so often just so I can prove to myself that I can climb stairs.
The VP director was wrong. I was not worthless. Overweight people are not worthless. They just eat more calories than their bodies can burn.
That is all.
I have received over 1,000 letters from people all over the world since I began my journey. So many people who are inspired by my pictures, a post I did, even a question I answered. I have been called an inspiration to people. I think so many people who defeat the odds are inspirational.
So when he asked me where I saw myself in five years during the interview, I shrugged my shoulders. Who knows?
Maybe I will leave restaurants. Maybe I will go back to school? Maybe I will pursue things I was afraid to do for over thirty years?
But in five years, from 2008 to 2013, I went from being worthless to being inspirational.
I look forward to the next five years.