Messages to Ourselves

“I used to think there was just fat and skinny. But apparently there’s lots of things that can be wrong on your body.” – Cady, Mean Girls

At some point in elementary school I determined that I wasn’t beautiful.

And that mindset was reiterated to me through high school.

“Let me see yours,” Miranda said. She gestured to the large envelope I was putting in my backpack that contained my prom photos.

messages-to-ourselves
Oh gosh, me in a dress, with a guy I’m still good friends with.

I stared at her for a moment before I reached in and took out the small, black cardboard framed photo from a few weeks ago. She snatched it up, and examined the two figures grinning up at her.

“Why’re you so short?” Miranda looked up at me. She ignored the dress I wore, or the fact that my date was two feet taller than me. Miranda and everyone else had to point out it was my fault I was vertically challenged.

I shrugged. My height was something my friends had picked on. If it wasn’t that, it was my choice in clothes, or boyish haircuts.

Reading became my escape. It was much easier to face He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, or the murderous trail of Count Olaf, than the friends that picked on my appearance.

I got used to telling myself in the mirror, “You’re not good enough for anyone.”

When I found myself in a relationship in college, my inner monologue didn’t change.

“Why would you date a hobbit like me?” I asked my then girlfriend.

“Why would you say that about yourself?” She looked at me as we sat on her bed doing homework.

“Cause its true. You’re beautiful, and confident. And I’m going to fuck this up,” I said. She set aside her textbook and scooted across the blue comforter to me.

“I happen to like hobbits. And you’re beautiful, too,” she said.

We showered each other with compliments, but I still had a hard time believing the kind words she said to me.

A childhood of negative thoughts had skewed my reflection.

Children are aware of body issues and methods to control body size and appearance by the time they are preschoolers, and many young children start exhibiting socially motivated distortions in their body perceptions.­[1]

At ten years old, I compared myself to the other girls in my class. It started when they took more time in the bathroom to fix their hair and apply another layer of LipSmackers. They cared about impressing the cute boys in class, and I cared about playing kickball at recess.

No one told me I wasn’t beautiful. I told myself.

My own words caused more damage than the casual or joking comments from friends. These micro aggressions taught me to see what was wrong with my body.

I stopped loving who I was.

[1] See “Children, Teens, Media, and Body Image.” Common Sense Media.

Pronouns


ask me about my pronouns
I stood behind a table during Accepted Students day to promote my club. Parents were wandering with their students after a sandwich wrap lunch, with a salad and chips. Some of them smiled at us and kept walking, while others averted their eyes and gave our table a wider birth.

A few students came to ask us questions, while others walked right up to our table. They saw our giant rainbow flag and were eager to join our email list.

One student came up and collected a few stickers and other freebies. When it came time to jot down their name on our list, they glanced up at me. “Is it okay if I put my preferred name and pronouns?”

I blinked. While that was a question I should have expected, it wasn’t something I figured anyone would ask about. “Of course! We love being able to communicate with everyone the exact way they want,” I said.

By the end of the two hours, I started to pack up the table. The idea of pronouns and gender identity kept reoccurring. And I realized I couldn’t just sit idly.

If we wanted our campus to be inclusive, we had to start with more than just our club. I approached the Director of the Office of Diversity Initiatives and spoke to her and her grad assistant at length about the importance of pronouns. The usage of gender neutral pronouns in our incoming first-year student class was prevalent based on my interactions.

Pronoun-nametagsAs President of the GSRM club on my university’s campus, I have been working closely on making pronouns part of the conversation during syllabus day.

Its led to a lot of great conversations and simple education in the classroom.

A few days ago, our campus had a grand opening for our new green space. It had been nearly a month since the sod was placed, and finally the chains were down. At long last we could walk through the luscious green grass.

I stood with a few friends, and my Residence Director as we talked about the green space. The provost turned around and placed her hand on my shoulder.

“Whenever I see this person, they are always so stylish. And I just wanted to compliment you on how you dress,” she said.

I stared. I hadn’t expected the gender neutral pronouns. In fact, I’m used to people misgendering me since first grade that it doesn’t even phase me anymore. But the pronouns are what halted my brain. “Oh, thank you,” I said.

“You always look very well put together and you’re brave enough to dress the way I wish I could.” She patted my shoulder and moved on to another conversation – a busy woman our provost is.

“Thank you, again,” I said. I talked at length with my best friend, and we discussed the provost’s ease with using them.

And I appreciated that the most.

Choose to be you

Move-in day arrived with much fanfare. The first year students were loaded into their rooms and shuffled off to a variety of activities that included a never ending list of ice breakers, inspirational speakers, and free food.

On the second day of move-in, students could attend the Dear World photoshoot in the Dining Center. I mentioned my requested participation in my earlier post, Stories to tellAnd between directing traffic, I jogged over to have my picture taken.

I explained the story of my chosen words to the photographer.

Throughout high school I let others dictate who I was. I let the words of others push me mentally, emotionally, and physically to make choices – that I didn’t want. I lived passively to appease others.

And it took me until I was 23-years-old to finally accepting who I was.

I had resisted for so long to be the person I was meant to be.

After moving 3,000 miles from home, I made the choices that I wanted.

Maybe I reference my move from Seattle too often. But in the novel of my life, that is the major turning point of my story.

And I’m the prime example of someone that finally chose to be themselves.

The other day I swung through the Student Center to check my mailbox. My best friend Curtis had sent me a text about sending me some post. I was not expecting two letters in my mailbox though.

A surprise letter from my mom.
A surprise letter from my mom.

I skimmed through Curtis’ letter, and made a mental note to respond when I got the chance. The second letter was from my mom. Over the last two years, she’s sent me sporadic letters and cards without any warning. We talk enough over FaceTime that I’ve never seen the reason for her to send them.

But this letter was different. I tore it open in the kitchen of my best friend’s apartment and started to read. And then my eyes welled with tears as I alternated between the conversation with my best friend and her roommates, and reading my mom’s letter.

My mom and I don’t have a rocky relationship. We did for about a year or two when I decided to join the Navy – again another instance where I let people dictate what I should be doing. But we have always been a solid pair akin to Lorelai & Rory Gilmore.

Letters of encouragement always make me cry. The same goes if they’re acknowledging some trait of myself that I don’t. I don’t tend to believe in myself as much as people say I should. People say we are our harshest critic.

My mom poured her heart out. She was proud of how well I was doing at school, and how much I had grown into myself. And she finally understood why I had to move away. That understanding gave her the wisdom to speak to a family friend that would be experiencing exactly what she had two years prior. Both of his daughters are moving away for college. One of them will head to Portland, OR., and the other will head to Spokane, WA.

Be fearless and choose yourself.

Non-Spoken Regrets

“I’d rather regret the things I’ve done than regret the things I haven’t done.” – Lucille Ball

A friend recently went through a break-up with his girlfriend of two years. He cites that they had been distant as of late, but wishes there was more he could have done to try and fix things before this point.

For the past few weeks since the break-up, we’ve had several talks. Lately they were about closure; is it too soon, how to talk about it with the ex, etc.

I am the last person to ask for advice.

My experience with serious relationships has totaled a span of 3.5 months with two people over the course of a year. This has been between accepting myself as grey-asexual, and then coming out on my mostly defunct Youtube channel.

The first person I dated, I broke up with him because I was going through a lot of personal things. One of those being my sexuality, and other areas of self-acceptance that have to do with my estranged father. It’ll be nearly three years since we dated this October, and we’re much better friends than we were significant others.

The second person I dated, she broke up with me after 2.5 months. We’ve never hashed out what exactly happened. After a year of working together on a club executive board, we’re friends again. I’m guarded about our friendship because I don’t want to upset her significant other.

In the middle of the night my mind drifts to these two people. And then further to the things we never said, or the feelings I never voiced to them or to anyone.

Its easy to have spoken regrets. Sometimes your mouth races ahead of your brain, and you can’t take back what’s already spilled out. The clean up crew of apologies launches on aisle seven to try and salvage anything.

And then I’ve reached the downward spiral of unspoken regrets. Expressing myself to him instead of locking everything in my head, or inviting her to dinner more than I did. The list could probably circle the Earth a few times.

I’ve come to terms with those. And maybe a few others.

A part of life is accepting both forms of regret.

It hasn’t been easy. I’ve worked on letting things go. We’ll see how that works out for me.