The first time I felt self-conscious was in kindergarten. My teacher spoke to me in French and I didn’t know how to respond. The other children in the classroom looked at me expectantly. The majority of them spoke words from two languages, while I struggled to answer a simple question.
My mother took me to a specialist. We drove to a strange house, sat on a strange couch, talked to a stranger. I was asked to put shapes back into their original design, asked to read sentences, write. I was told I was dyslexic.
I would frown after getting a quiz or test back, red pen marking my mistakes. I added incorrectly because I inverted the numbers. I got marked down because I mixed the i’s and e’s in words such as fields or quiet.
I read a lot, compensating for my brain misbehaving when writing. I read two levels above my classmates. I felt proud.
My parents discouraged me from taking the difficult math class. They believed I would struggle and didn’t want me to fail. Instead, I breezed through the standard math class. Of course I still struggled, but even my teacher knew I could do more. I wanted to believe that, but I held myself back.
My older brothers used to call me names. They would poke or squeeze my fat. They were both athletic, intelligent in their own ways. I compared myself to them, as you do with siblings, but knew we were different. While they played soccer, I performed in plays. And when I did try my hand in sports, I felt like a joke.
I never appreciated my body. I still struggle, even now, to appreciate myself. All my friends were tall, lean, muscled. I was short, hairy, pudgy. I slimmed out in high school, but even when I felt comfortable wearing a two piece bathing suit for the first time, I hated what I looked like. I couldn’t stop from comparing myself to others.
Recently I’ve come to terms with how I look. I may not be happy with who I am, but I know it takes time to change. I just have to be patient and let myself grow.
Yellow, tired eyes stare back at me.
Green tinted shadows circle lashes, casting bruised silhouettes down my cheeks.
Red streaks run across blood shot eyes, lids puffy from too many shed tears.
Pink, cracked lips quiver into a small smile.