Sunday is the first day of summer – my 26th summer, to be exact. I remember one time when I was 9 years old and still lived in Brazil, a woman at the pool my family frequented looked at me and said: “Wow, you look so great this year! What did you do to lose weight?”
I blankly stared at her. She then attributed it to a growth spurt, and I kept on my way to buy a Popsicle at the concessions counter. But as I stood in the sun watching my sweet treat melt down my hand before I even took a bite, I looked down at myself and felt inadequacy rush over me for the very first time.
“Did I not look great before? I thought I looked fine then. What if I still don’t look fine now? Why did that random woman I see but once a year feel the need to comment on what I looked like? Did she know I had won the Math Olympics in school that year – for the 3rd time in a row? Did it even matter, if I wasn’t pretty? Am I really not pretty?”
It’s been 17 summers since then, but the feeling is still sitting tight in my pool bag, right next to the sunscreen. This stealth message waited patiently to infiltrate my every thought – and now, man, does it linger.
Even though I’ll always carry it with me, come summer or winter, I make conscious efforts to try and see the good in myself every day. I wear what I want, regardless of the attention it may draw to my ass. I wear it even when I feel I have nothing to wear. I pin flowers to my head and I no longer style my hair in a way that will hide my right eye. I may never love the way I don’t blink right and that my eyes aren’t symmetric.
But 26 summers in, I realize that perhaps I just like to wink at the world, and perhaps not having 20/20 vision allows me not to see all that’s wrong with it.
The curious thing about being yourself is so cliché, you almost miss it: "be yourself because every one else is already taken." Be your own lighthouse, your own driving force, your own world and let everyone else figure out their own paths. The ones who can’t find their ways will begin to worry about yours. And they’ll want to swat that melting Popsicle from your hand, because they’ll never be brave enough to get a big ole' lick in, no matter how hot the sun.
They say it only takes one negative comment to overrule ten positive ones. I call bullshit and you should, too. And you can trust me; I’m a 5-time Math Olympian.
\\ Photos by Monica Minor //