I reluctantly rolled out of bed and began to prepare for the day. As I braided my hair before my mirror, I recalled a particularly painful comment someone had said to me. The malicious orator was the reason I didn’t want to be here today since I would have to face her and her snide comments.
It was a Saturday night almost one year ago. My first dance. I had no date, but my single situation didn’t concern me. My parents had bought me a gorgeous new dress, I had a pair of wedges laced to my feet, and I had applied my first official makeup set to my face. I felt like a princess and my smile was genuine. However, one particular girl certainly wasn’t acting like royalty. She came up to me with her date and spoke what can only be called malice.
“You’re a nice person, you know. But clearly, you’re not pretty enough. You don’t have a date! Look at your beautiful sister - seems like she has dates to spare.”
I glanced over at my older sister who was surrounded by several boys and her date before looking down at myself as my smile dropped. She was right. I wasn’t pretty enough for a guy.
My reflection in the mirror unbiasedly portrayed my physical appearance as I zoomed back to present day. An array of freckles. Ridiculously bushy eyebrows competing with even thicker hair. Brown, almond eyes. No, not the prettiest girl. I sighed as I searched for a pair of matching socks. Once I was physically ready to face the day, I hoisted my backpack on my shoulder and grabbed my diligently composed essay before I descended the stairs.
Walking into my favorite class did little to boost my confidence. In that class, a tempest sat. When I enthusiastically engaged in class, recalling ingenious foreshadowing in passages of literature and debating the development of characters, a small part of my mind soaked in the way the girl responded. Mimicking me. Mocking me. Making the literature-lover inside of me shrivel up even more.
After a long day of school, my tired feet dragged me back up the stairs and I nonchalantly began to rub the makeup off of my face. My sister walked into my room, a sordid comment poised on her lips. I wouldn’t deal with it today. I was tired. The door would be shut and human interaction would cease for the day. As I sat on my bed with a heavy heart from another day of taunts and teasing, I despised human interaction because it dragged me down to this state of lethargic despondency. I flopped on my mattress and requested sleep to come. However, Reality didn’t grant me the usual blessing. A text popped up on my tablet - an invitation to coffee with a dear lady I knew. I accepted the proposal to meet the next day before the weighty thoughts could bear down on me again. The screaming words of hatred. The pitying remarks regarding my physical appearance. The hyperbolic description of ‘the freak.’ Then came the sleep. The blessed sleep. The dream I always clung to.
The following afternoon, I was seated in a coffee shop across from the lady.
“Human interaction?” She mused.
I nodded, holding back tears.
“Don’t believe those lies, girl! Don’t let what they say about you bring you down! It hurts, but why care what they say about you?”
And as I thought about being ugly, I remembered what a friend told me. We were sitting behind a dollhouse discussing our struggles and I mentioned some comments a girl directed toward me. With a gentle shake of the head, my friend blatantly expressed that the girl was wrong. And as I thought about being a geek, I recalled an amicable conversation. I had moaned about being a geek over dinner when my friend said, “that just means that you’re smart.” And as I considered difficult sibling relationships, I recollected when another lady I knew drew me aside and talked to me one afternoon. We cried together. We hugged. She encouraged me immensely.
And now this lady in the coffee shop was suppressing tears with me, reminding me of things I already knew, but had idiotically pushed aside. I had permitted the taunts of others to replace the love of friends. There is only so much room for voices in my head - I had chosen to let the degrading comments reside in my head.
When I dressed for school the next day, I made a deliberate decision. A courageous decision. It’s easy enough to tell myself to think different thoughts, but the real challenge is acting upon those beliefs. What’s difficult is walking like I know I’m valuable towards people who think I’m worthless, holding myself up with confidence when people tell me that I should be ashamed of myself. I would do it nonetheless. As I glanced in the mirror and smiled at myself, I realized that I changed my philosophy. It was not human interaction that could make or break my day. It was human reaction that would produce a ray of sunshine or a horrendous storm cloud. At this new discovery, I smiled benignly at the mirror - Reality smiled back.
The clock informed me that I had ten minutes left before I had to leave for school. Not wanting to waste any more time, I picked up my pen and my journal. I finally had something significant to write about. No one said human interaction would be easy, but with courage, human reaction wouldn’t be so arduous. Courage is dwelling on truth when people are screaming lies. With my pen, I resolved to herald the truth right at them, the blessed sun streaming through my window, promising a new day. I would defy malice.