By Kayla Harrison
I know I’m not a beautiful young woman, not like the others.
My legs are wider than the average Barbie doll’s, at least the first model. I knew looking like that was completely unrealistic, so I didn’t care to compare myself to her. Now that the “average” doll is out, I begin noticing little things that she has and I don’t, or things I have too much of.
My nose sits like it doesn’t quite belong to my face, questioning the dimensions of its oblong figure. My ears, situated at slightly different heights on the sides of my face, are pierced with jewelry cheaper than a glass of wine. A deep valley rests in the middle of my chin. My lips are etched in an immortal smile hiding more confidential thoughts than a middle school girl. My eyes have seen both good and evil, and lost their innocence long ago. The scope of my memory far exceeds the pages of my diary.
I never liked the way I looked.
Thoughts rush back to me…
Of the day when the boy in front of me in the lunch line told me, that I could get in front of him, as long as I saved enough food for everyone else…
Of the time when one of my close friends told me all my clothes were ugly…
Of the day my (once) best friend wrote a note to the boy I liked, telling him that he shouldn’t like a heavy girl like me.
I wasn’t good enough.
Those words grew into stares, laughs, and whispers. I felt worthless. Every time I encountered people, I prepared myself for the mendacities they were destined to throw my way.
Their words trained me to stay quiet, blend in, to make it through the day. If I didn’t speak up, if I didn’t intervene, if I didn’t participate, no one would make fun of me. I became who they said I was, not who I wanted to be; but, I was so afraid to speak up and be myself, because I had been broken so many times.
College offered a chance to finally start over and become who I wanted to be. The only problem was that I had been silent for so long that I forgot how to make friends and speak up about my thoughts.
Once again, I was isolated. My entire freshman year was filled with my inner voice screaming that I just wasn’t good enough.
During my sophomore year, I met with a professor after I had written a paper about how language affects children. In that meeting he told me I was meant to be a writer, and my words were meant to be heard by others.
I couldn’t believe the words I was hearing.
While finishing up an assignment later in the day, another professor asked to speak with me outside the room. All I could think of was what I could have possibly done wrong.
My professor told me my writing skills were exceptional and I had written the best paper in the class. She explained how detailed my writing was, and she could sense the passion I put into each sentence. I heard the same words from her as I had earlier that day.
I knew in that moment that I was meant to be a writer.
My inner voice was shattered. I seemed able to breathe for the first time. I finally felt good enough to be noticed. I couldn’t have felt more alive.
I’m now focused on writing. I’ve found writing is my escape, a way of connecting with others who’ve lost their voices, or feel that they have no choice but to be silent.
My words matter.
Through writing, I can communicate my thoughts, my opinions, my hopes, and my fears.
I joined an online writing class last summer and nervously posted a poem I had written about losing my voice. I hadn’t expected the response: reply after reply telling me I wasn’t alone and that my words do matter. I knew then that writing was what I was supposed to do.
I felt saved.
One day, a woman posted a poem she wrote about being a “creative badass” and “reinventing herself.” Something clicked in my head.
I didn’t have to let all of my flaws, or the words of other people define me. I could reinvent myself through my words, and choose how I see myself.
The lesson I learned through it all was that I could choose which words I accepted.
The more I write about who I want to be, the more I begin to see the real me.
For more self-study, The Urban Howl recommends I Am an Emotional Creature: The Secret Life of Girls Around the World.