As a member of a South Philly Italian household, food was the centerpiece of my familial experience. We love nothing more than to share a chat over delicious foods, pass down ancient family recipes, and ensure that no one leaves a gathering hungry (or without copious amounts of leftovers).

As a result, I was, by default, always a little chubbier than most of my peers because of my family’s culture and my genetic love for carbohydrate-rich foods. It was pretty normal for my family members to be heavyset, so I didn’t think much of it. It wasn’t until I moved to a new school and was targeted for my size did I make the connection.

Being picked on for my weight, knowing it was a variable I could ultimately control, was tough to manage psychologically. If I could sum up a singular takeaway from the lessons I’ve learned up until this point to deliver to my former self who is eating pizza with the fam in some sort of parallel universe, it would be this:

“Be patient with yourself.”

Time Management

Time is the most valuable currency in our human existence. What we do with our time shapes who and what we are, in some ways.

If there’s one thing I learned from my World of Warcraft days, it was how to manage my time. Due to having to meet at regular times weekly with my guild over the course of several hours (almost like a job), I had to manipulate my schedule in a way that I would be uninterrupted. I also had to calculate time for breaks, leveling my alts, daily questing, dungeoning for new gear, and more. In addition to managing my high school schedule and periodically a summer job or two, I had no time to waste!

However, I realized that I was favoring my time in the World of Warcraft over my real life as Monica Miller. As good as my time managements skills were, I wasn’t balancing my schedule fairly. Despite bringing my gaming PC to college, I was determined to start on a clean slate and actively work toward building and fostering an IRL friend group by managing my time equally across the areas of importance to me: academics & career, fun & games, health, and alone time.

To prepare for the changes in my daily habits, I began making an audit of my time. Where was my time going each day? To whom? For why? I wrote it all down and discovered where I was spending my time. Then, by using my class schedule as a foundation to build around, I was able to define a schedule that allowed me the time to do whatever I wanted (or needed).

After analyzing my time audit and creating a new routine, things started changing. At my busiest in college, I was attending classes full time, working two jobs, and starting an internship. In addition, I made time to show up at the occasional party with friends, log into League of Legends for some casual matches, and most importantly: I showed up to the campus gym 3x a week.

I had the skill to manage my time in the real world all along thanks to having the opportunity to practice in World of Warcraft. It was just a matter of recognizing it and implementing it into Monica Miller’s life instead of my online characters’.

Consistency

Consistency was another lesson I learned from my gaming habit. For example, the more time I spent leveling up my characters, the better I became at playing them and topping the DPS charts. I learned that the same idea can be applied to any area of life.

It was admittedly difficult going to the gym and sticking out like a sore thumb among the toned collegiate athletes, but I persevered. I had to stay consistent if I wanted to make progress. There was once a time I didn’t know how to control my character in World of Warcraft, after all. So, I applied the same rhetoric to the gym. When gym anxiety struck, I reminded myself that I was showing up and doing something to help myself, and that I had to “keep playing” if I wanted to “win the game.”

To help myself move past these mental roadblocks, one thing that helped was to put blinders on at the gym and become the only person in the world while I was there. I would tap into my own personal zen mode. My “blinders” of choice are big, chunky headphones.

After finding my own personal safe space at the gym within the frequency of loud metal and EDM blasting in my headphones, I had established a foundational routine and ritual for my physical health that has stuck with me over several years. Gym anxiety is no joke—especially as a woman—so developing consistent habits in this area was crucial to making change.

Conclusion

Regardless of what you pursue in life, it takes hard work to achieve your goals, especially if you set the bar high. If a goal is to improve your physical, mental, or emotional well-being, know that each of these goal-areas will require different levels of time, effort, and energy to reach. You’d be surprised, however, by what you learn along the way, even if you can’t see it in the moment.

The lack of proper nutrition, self-care, and movement for my most formative years clearly did not go unnoticed. I’m grateful I was able to unlearn some of my unhealthy behaviors, but it wasn’t without the help and support of others along the way. These changes over time have enabled me to continue to grow into the person I’ve always projected myself as in video games: strong, wise, agile, and kind.