In college, I went on a date with the son of my mother’s coworker. I couldn’t remember if his name was Jason or Justin, so I spent the entire night maneuvering my way out of saying his name. He... [+]
I entered a stall in the girls' bathroom. Assured by the presence of a few chatty girls doing their makeup. Knowing the girls would be occupied in the mirror for a while, as the bulk of the upper class-man girls at S.Fide High were; my body relaxed against the now tissue covered toilet seat and my mind began to drift.
Somewhere between releasing my bowels and not quite finishing, something loud and disturbing penetrated my thoughts. I listened to figure out what it could be. Silence. Thick, heavy, loud, and disturbing silence pierced my ears.
Cold recognition chilled my bones, causing them to shake viscously beyond control. I don't know at what point the chatty girls had left the bathroom, but they were no longer here. It was just me. Without a thought to my still occurring defecation, I lurched off my seat and through the stall door, only to screech and be jerked back by the horror before me.
The little brown girl in the mirror stared at me, reflecting everything I feared. I didn't know who she was, but her deep brown eyes were as wide as my eyes and the vain in her neck imitated the throb in mine. "Get away from me, " I screamed, even as her steady tears poured down my face. I tried to inch toward the bathroom door, but my muscles locked in place. I kept screaming. I tried to close my eyes but the idea of not being able to see when the little brown girl tried to get me, prevented my eye lids from shutting. My throat ran dry, taking my voice along with it. My already liquid vision swam. "Please, someone get her away from me," I rasped, completely petrified on the linoleum floor. The bathroom door squeaked open and I saw the figure of my best friend, Liza, walk in and swear before everything went dark.
You may think you know, but you don't. Liza cleaned me up pretty well, but anyone who'd have come in before that point would've seen nothing short of a pantsed me, passed out with stool outside of the toilet. Only if you were as close to me as Liza would you have known that it had been a result of self-fear.
"Here I am at this Face Your Fears Event about to do something I've never been able to do.
Most people are afraid of public speaking or small spaces," I said to the audience as a stage director wheeled over the clothed full-length mirror.
"But I? I have spent, what I can remember of my life, being afraid of myself."
Most of the members of the crowd looked around, but my best friend Liza stared straight in my eyes, silently encouraging me to move forward. I continued.
"People have tried to tell me who I am all my life. It seemed like everyday someone would voice the high or low expectations they held for me, the well or the poor opinions they thought of me, the things I was and wasn't capable of doing or becoming in life. People told me who I was before I had I chance to learn for myself and it scared me. I was afraid of finding out who was telling the truth. Whether it was the person who yelled 'demon child,' the one who yelled, 'angel,' or the ones in between."
I walked over to the covered mirror and continued.
"At some point I became so afraid of myself that I clung to groups of people just to keep from being my only company. There were days where I could handle that. However, the thing I avoided most, the thing that scared me most... was my reflection.
Looking at a reflection I couldn't recognize as myself. Someone I didn't know. Someone that could be a monster."
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. Then, taking hold of the cloth that covered the mirror, I ripped it off. Immediately, boiling hot tears burned my face as I pointed and looked at myself. Truly looked at myself, for the first time.
"It may have taken 18 years for me to realize this, but you are a bright and talented young woman. I know this, not because someone else told me so, but because I said so. I am the only person who can decide who I want to be. And because I am staring at myself, I will say this: your name is Coraggio Fuerte, and I hereby declare you courageous. From this day forward, you will never, ever, allow anyone else to define who you are, ever again.