You could call smiling one of my specialties. The impact of a smile keeps the peace and love in the world going, the passive expression of saying “ Everything’s okay, I’m here to be happy and conquer whatever comes.” People sometimes tell me that I smile too much. “ Trang, you’re always smiling, you could be in pain with a broken toe and I wouldn’t know because you’re always smiling.” I used to think smiling was “phony” or people did it to get something they wanted. Through the course of life, smiling has seeped its way into my daily routine, bringing out its genuine goal instead of the superficiality it may suggest today. My life wasn’t all smiles and such though.
Born into a low income family, my dad’s main goal was to raise children who were not wasteful. Not being wasteful meant eating until every single grain of rice was cleared from the bowl. If my brother and I had any food remaining, we had to stay at the table until we did. Sometimes I would sit there for hours and hours on end, dreading eating a few pieces of dry meat. Eating everything did have its downfalls; for example I was a relatively inactive kid who immensely hated physical activity. As a result of being inactive and eating a lot of food, I grew up clinically overweight.
Being clinically overweight did not necessarily attract the best attention as a little girl. Everywhere I went , there were voices. The “voices” were mainly from my relatives. At family parties, parent conversations consisted of how I needed to watch what I ate, aunts asking my mom why I was so chubby, questions about what size I wore for clothing. I never wore jeans, jeans gave me an uncomfortable feeling with its thick denim waistline. I refrained from being fashionable because I couldn’t fit anything stylish right.
I started swimming at the age of 4, but never swam competitively until 7th grade. My dad was the reason why I started swimming and am still swimming today. My dad was diagnosed with liver cancer when I was in the second grade. The day he was diagnosed till now, everything that his cancer did to him impacted me. He started to take walks at the beach every day, walking to early 6:30 am morning mass, sacrificing all he had for my brother’s and I education. One of the things cancer influenced my dad to do was to sign us up in a sport. He saw swimming as a low impact and rewarding sport, my life took a toll for change. Swimming trimmed me into shape, exercising nearly 3 hours everyday for 7th and 8th grade from Physical Education and swimming on a competitive club swim team. The comments about my weight stopped and compliments started pouring in.
My dad passed away the January of 8th grade, 2012. His passing made me realize that he did not let himself decay away with the terrible disease called cancer. My dad took every moment in life and made it worth it. He did whatever he did to put my brother and I ahead of the game, so that we could prosper in the future. His passing meant that I lost my biggest supporter, a father figure to guide me, and the reason why I started swimming.
It took me a while to get used to it. I’m still not used to the change. In the freshmen year, I noticed that I lost the hard working aspect of myself. I had no one to support my decisions, my mom worked for six days a week from eight to six. I was still swimming, training with the Varsity school team. At that time I didn’t notice it, but I developed extremely unhealthy eating habits. I would eat a microwavable Egg-McMuffin at 12 am and chug down chocolate milk, all day everyday. I would eat bars and bars of Hershey’s chocolate bars on end. I did not notice how broken I was as a human being.
It wasn’t until the summer of freshman year that I noticed that I gained unhealthy weight that affected how I felt about myself. I remember the day clearly, the option of eating healthy flashed into my mind for one instant second, and that was the day my life changed. At first, I ate healthy for physical appearance, to appear slim. Two years later, current day now, my main priority in eating healthy is to be and feel healthy. There were times when swimming felt like a burden on my life, but I was quick to realize that I am swimming for my dad. My dad is inside me. His words and legacy speak through my actions. I am now looking into the field of health science with a desire to transform the world a healthier place so that maybe people with illnesses may have the confidence that my dad did and to live out lives that impact others, just like my dad did to me. I am Trang Truong, a “just keep swimming” is my life motto.