When I was seven years old I started four different new schools in one school year. The collective experience and the individual schools both had profound impacts on me. The first impact was that I became deeply aware of my extreme whiteness. Two of the schools I attended were places where I was the minority. I’m talking like one of five white kids including my sister. It was a stark contrast to my previous school where my best friend was probably the only non white girl in town.

The second impact was that I learned what it felt like to be both lonely and different. A blessing and a curse. Since then I’ve never quite fit the mold. Even after moving to a school where the only thing distinguishing me from the others is that I was poor, I never quite felt normal in a white washed environment again.

When I was waking up from my nap a few days ago I was reminded of another one of those impacts.

And then the bell rang…

At the same school where I experienced life as a minority I also lived under the tyranny of the unrelenting warning bell. Dinner time conversations were littered with phrases like, “So I was talking to Amanda on the monkey bars and then the bell rang…” or “After I bought my pepperoni at lunch we sat under the jungle gym and then the bell rang…” There was a bell to tell you when you needed to be in class, a five minute warning bell for when you should be going in the direction of class, a warning bell to warn you that in five minutes you will hear a warning bell for five minutes until class starts, a bell five minutes after class started to tell you that you should have been in class five minutes ago, a five minutes before lunch warning bell, etc…

“And then the bell rang…” was cemented into my head and upon my young psyche. Perhaps my school was attempting a human Pavlovian experiment. I think that my mother was secretly working with them, reinforcing my sister’s and my learned response, by using a bell to signify that dinner was ready. Never mind the fact that I bought her the bell… this is my conspiracy theory!

Well, the conspiracy worked. Even now I live by the bell. It’s the only way I can keep myself on schedule remember to get stuff done. Monday through Friday my entire schedule is set out for me my the ringing of bells, alarms, computer alerts, and rings of my phone. The weekends are still mostly alarm free which is probably why I become perpetually late and impossible to get a hold of (on purpose).

(Now watch as I try to make this relevant to the stuff I’m supposed to be talking about…)

Too often my weight loss progress feels like it’s supposed to be on this schedule. Some metaphoric bell goes off in my life and I fee like I’m supposed to have met some milestone in the journey. Despite the fact that I’ve given myself no time or end goals I still feel this way sometimes. Apparently despite my lack of written goals, I still subconsciously have a general idea of what those goals should be. The warning bell for the warning bell is ringing and reminding me that I should be at a certain weight by a certain time, and I don’t want an unexcused tardy.

My Pavlovian conditioning is telling me that I need to respond to the bell and get there now. As my intentional actions try to beat out my subconscious conditioning my alarm clock is going off reminding me that it’s time to move on to another task and that there’s more to my life than weight loss. Just like the first two impacts the ringing bell, too, is both a blessing and a curse.

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