Today I looked in the mirror and for the first time in a very long time I wasn’t ashamed of what I saw. And I cried.
I can remember being unhappy with how I looked as far back as fifth grade when my jeans started getting tight. I would beat myself up because I wasn’t a straight line like the rest of my friends. I was more the kind of line that you get when you draw with a sharpie and hesitate and let the ink bleed. Nothing I wore was sleeveless because I didn’t like my arms and I didn’t wear skirts or shorts because my legs were too big.
It got worse when I started high school. I was shy and quiet, only a handful of friends, and I blamed my appearance for that. All the popular girls were skinny and had loads of friends and confidence to boot, at least on the outside. I was just as good as them, so naturally the only thing holding me back was the fact that I didn’t look like them. So I decided to change that. Towards the middle of my freshman year I joined the tennis team and I worked my ass off, literally. I lost twenty-five pounds in four months and I was so happy because for once I started to see myself as pretty. And then everything stopped when an older girl shoved me in the hallway and called me ugly Betty. I cried for an hour after that.
I feel so bad when I think of that. It was just one comment from one girl whose name I didn’t even know and I let it completely shatter every bit of self-confidence and appreciation that I had built through months of hard work. I feel like I should’ve been stronger, like I should’ve been able to handle that better, but I can’t really blame myself for simply being in the headspace I was back then.
I became obsessed with my weight after that. I would get on my scale at least four times a day, usually more, and I would just stare at the screen and hope the number would be different from what it was an hour ago, but it never was. I hated that thing. I remember one night after dinner I went into the bathroom and stared at the toilet, contemplating whether or not I should throw up. To this day I’m certain that I would have if it hadn’t have been for the fact that we only had one bathroom in the house and eventually someone would’ve found out. I didn’t want anyone to know what was going on with me. I didn’t want anyone to look at me like they felt sorry for me.
After that first night in the bathroom I went back countless other times. I would stare at the toilet and I would be tempted. Sometimes I would cry, other times I wouldn’t, and eventually I would go back into my room. And then I had enough. I put the scale up on a shelf and closed the toilet lid and decided to pretend that they didn’t exist. I wasn’t in the least bit close to being comfortable with how I looked, but I figured I would probably start feeling better about myself if I pretended that scale didn’t exist.
So I tried my best for the next two years to push my weight out of my mind and focus on better things instead. I applied to schools, said goodbye to my friends, and headed off to college after a much anticipated graduation. My life completely changed after I stepped onto campus. I became friends with amazing people I never imagined I’d meet, I found my independence. I fell in love. I don’t know exactly how I did it, but over the course of the year I took advantage of the blank slate that college offered me and I changed myself.
The thing I’m most proud of is my wardrobe. I went to college with one pair of jeans and a slew of baggy boy t-shirts and now, a year later, I own nothing but dresses. They’re all sleeveless, too. Fifth grade me would cringe. But every morning when I put one on I look at myself in the mirror and I think of her and marvel at how far I’ve come. I wish I could talk to fifth grade Sara and tell her that she doesn’t need to be ashamed of who she is. I wish I could show her the pretty dresses that I wear and tell her how happy I am and show her that she’s going to be okay.
Yesterday I voluntarily stepped on a scale for the first time in three years. I was utterly astounded when I saw that I lost 30 pounds since my doctor’s appointment in January. I didn’t even realize it was happening. I fell asleep confused, went to the mirror this morning, and I cried. As happy as I thought I was, I didn’t realize just how unfair I was still being to myself. I looked in the mirror this morning and what I saw was so drastically different from what I saw yesterday that I can hardly believe it’s only been one night. It’s incredible.
I don’t really know what else to say now. I’ve caught up to the present, so there’s not much else I can share. A big part of the reason I wrote this was to let someone know because I’m that kind of excited where you need to share with somebody, but I hope somebody out there will find it helpful. I say that a lot when I write these kinds of posts, but I really do. If I can let someone know now what I wish I could’ve told myself years ago and help them out, then I would be so happy. I hope you see how beautiful you are.
So I’ve been watching a lot of Scandal recently (great show, totally recommend it) and watching Fitz and Olivia, which I totally don’t approve of by the way, has had me thinking a lot about the nature of hatred and what it really means to hate someone.
Now, I believe that people are born unaligned. I don’t think anyone is totally good or totally bad when they’re born, they develop that sense on their own over time. Babies can be douchebags. They pull your hair and they’re selfish, but they also like for you to hold them and they’re sweet. Then, as they grow up they are taught the difference between what’s right and wrong and, depending on their personalities and their outlook on the world, they begin acting on those principles accordingly.
This leaves plenty of room for a wide range of different people, anywhere from saint to evil, and nobody is ever quite the same. People develop different tastes and preferences, different personalities and identities, and no person is ever exactly the same as someone else. There are two things, though, that are universal and connect everyone together, and those are compassion and empathy.
These two traits are shared by everyone in the world, although some may have more than others. Everyone has the instinct of looking at something and understanding or identifying with it. It doesn’t even have to be another person. It could be the sad, hungry-looking stray dog you pass by on the street or, if you’re like me, the one stuffed animal that’s sitting alone away from all the other ones. You feel bad for it, you want to help, or celebrate if the situation is different. This instinctual feeling of connection and understanding is what makes us human, in my opinion anyway.
I don’t think it’s possible to hate someone. Or, if it is, it’s crazy difficult. When you hate someone, you hate them. You make the conscious decision to hate everything about them. You can’t feel empathy or compassion for them, you have to give that up entirely. By doing that, you’re no longer looking at them with any semblance of respect. They are worth less to you than a stuffed animal, if the case above can apply to you. You can no longer feel bad when someone they love dies or if they’re experiencing heart-wrenching trauma, you can’t feel anything for them anymore except for hatred. By doing that, you give up the one thing about yourself that connects you to every other person on the planet. You have to give up what makes you human, your own humanity, just to hate someone.
I don’t think that’s possible. It shouldn’t be possible, and if it is I wouldn’t expect anyone to want to do it. I couldn’t. I couldn’t give up my humanity for someone else, especially if I didn’t like them. Could you?
Well, it’s the eve of the beginning of my second semester in college. I go back to campus tomorrow and I have to say I am way beyond excited. I’ve been sitting at home on winter break for over three weeks and in that time it’s been crazy how much I’ve noticed my life has changed since I started school in August.
My brain feels like mush. I am so ready to start classes again and actually have to use it since this whole break it’s done nothing but rattle around in my skull and watch Netflix and look at Tumblr. I’m not saying those are bad things because I totally like doing them, it’s just that three straight weeks of it can start to wear on you. My brain needs my Game Studies class and ethical reasoning and questions about Tolkien (Oh yeah, I’m taking an entire class on Tolkien literature. How freaking awesome is that?).
I actually miss being around people. Growing up, I was never the person who liked being around people that much. They either ignored me or bothered me way too much, with hardly any happy medium to entice me any further. I figured that when I went to college I’d find maybe one or two cool people to be friends with and stick with them whenever I wasn’t sitting around in my dorm room preoccupied with either school work or Netflix (I realize that I have already mentioned Netflix twice in this short post. Netflix is a big part of my life and I am not ashamed to say it). Now I have a group of seven people that I hang out with so much that I’m hardly ever in my room anymore. I even miss sitting in the crowded cafeteria, although the noise bothers me sometimes. I’ve become someone who enjoys being around people now, and that is a weird concept for me to get accustomed to.
They’re not really huge changes, but when you look at them and compare them to the amount of time that I’ve been at school it’s a pretty cool thing. I’m happy with them, anyway. College has been good for me in tons of different ways and I am so ready to go back and see what kind of changes I’ll make this semester.
Kani, my friend, you are exceptional. I can’t even begin to thank you for becoming my friend at Bridge Builders and helping push me out of my shell. That karaoke night really was one of the very first steps to my becoming the different person that you saw at our staff reunion just the other week. Your confidence and who you are really are an inspiration and I hope you have the best birthday!
This entire year I’ve blogged under the category “The Twentieth Year”. Since my birthday is New Years Eve’s Eve, I spend the entire year prepping for my day of birth and getting excited. While I’ve spent practically the whole year as a nineteen year old,this year marked my twentieth full year on the planet. And it has been a crazy year of growth; I’m so thankful that you out there in cyberspace have stayed along for the ride.
I’ve written about things that infuriate me, things that inspire me, things that make me happy to be alive. This year has literally flown by and I’m so amazed by the sheer awesomeness of it. Y’all, I spent so long in the shadow of the valley death, when years roll around that don’t scare me, I have to thank God for reassuring me of His grace. The years that are unmarked…
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