I love this tiny little town in the middle of Pennsyltucky
. I love the fact that I can walk to wherever I need to go — down to Weis for groceries, down to Standing Stone for coffee and studying, down to the hair salon for a haircut (though, to be honest, I haven't done this yet — but I plan to eventually, and it's the thought that counts, right?). For a girl like me who has yet to get her driver's license, who really doesn't want to bother with driving at all, living in this little town is actually kind of heavenly. I was afraid that I'd be bored out of my mind here in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania — and, okay, there have been some serious boredom moments, don't get me wrong — but most of these moments have been when I'm lounging in my room, not doing homework, just reading and chilling and listening to music and going crazy with laziness. But there's no way I'm bored when I decide to get up, get out, walk around, see the gorgeous trees and the mountains and squirrels scampering and the rows and rows of houses and the people sitting on their porches in the middle of the day. Every time I venture outside, I'm taken aback by how beautiful and homey it is here. Just now, walking to Weis so I could pick up dinner (it being fall break, most of the students are gone, so food services are closed here on campus), I passed a couple out for a walk and said hello, and a few minutes later ran into them again. And I love it, love the fact that I can walk around and smile at people and feel life's beauty and brilliance envelop me in its sudden autumnal chill.
I've been thinking a lot lately about how much I've changed since I first wrote "Sleeves," my essay in RED. Back then, aged fourteen or fifteen, I was this scared girl who wanted to stand back and not exist, who took everything I heard to heart, who believed that every time people laughed they were laughing at me. I wrote "Sleeves" because I felt like my weight held all the blame — that when people looked at me, all they saw was this silly overweight girl; that nobody would actually care about what I had to say. All the remarks that passed through my ears, all the clothes that never seemed to fit right. It infiltrated my academic and social lives — clinging to friends and too afraid to even say hello to classmates that I decided probably laughed at me in private, refusing to speak up in class and failing projects simply because I didn't want to read a speech or offer my opinion because I couldn't handle any sort of attention. It built higher and higher until all around me towered the anxiety and pain and self-consciousness that I felt I would never escape. I wrote "Sleeves" because there was no other way to let it be known how I felt: there was no one to talk to, just me and the keyboard and my bursting, burning mind.
Now, three years and thirty pounds later from when I first e-mailed Amy G. my essay, I look back and want to rattle myself, shake me up a little and say, "Hey! Stop it already!" Because I used to think that my body image was what made me. And now I know that that's not the truth. Sure, that's what makes me if I let it. But I don't want to let it. I don't want to be silenced by my negative self-image. I don't want to forever hide behind what I assume of others, when the only person who truly matters the most in my life is me
. I want to be able to look in the mirror and like what I see — and believe it or not, nowadays I do
. Yeah, I get off days, but I just pull myself up, smile, and walk on. That's what I've learned matters most, something so simple yet so hard to grasp: smiling. I didn't always put so much stock into the power of a smile, but now I live by it. And you know what? It's harder to be unhappy when you're smiling. So I wake up in the morning, I get dressed, I brush my hair, and I look in the mirror and I smile and I do a dorky pose and I think, "Yeah. You're fabulous."
Everybody has the right to think that they are beautiful, that they are magnificent. Sure, some people will try to bring you down, but it's being able to stand back up and remember to smile that will keep you going. No, I'm not going to tell anybody not to care about what others think and say — that's advice that I hear but can't follow, because I can't help but care myself, and I know I will always care, so I don't try to change this mindset — but it's possible to learn new ways to handle and even interpret others' opinions and remarks. It's like when I'm afraid of presenting to my peers, afraid of speaking up in class. Even after all of my worry and fear, chances are, nobody's going to be bothered enough to care about or remember your flubs. Life isn't a presidential campaign, nobody's going to go fact-checking every statement you make. What you have to remember is that for people to remember you at all, and for people to remember you positively, you must aim to stand out in as best a way you can, and even if a few people choose to point out the negatives, most others will remember your spirit, your courageousness, your drive, your fire, your passion, your intelligence, your wit — they'll remember what matters most. Yes, I still get scared, freak out, drown myself in anxiety. But I breathe. I smile. Yes, I stumble and stammer incoherently most of the time. But I breathe. I smile
. I hold my head high and remember that it all takes practice. Public speaking, making friends, loving yourself. It all takes practice.
So here's my statement of growth and self-appreciation: I am beautiful. I love the person that I am. I love how I think, what I have to say, and all that I have to offer to this world. I am amazing. I wouldn't trade my life for any other.
And don't you ever doubt it.