High school finalist
Senior at Parkview High School
Dear Younger Self,
Everything is about to get very different very fast. By the end of this year, you’ll know more people with doctorates than you can imagine, and gain a whole new vocabulary of love and hatred, because your brain is about to get sick, and it’s going to spread to your body.
Pay attention. This isn’t the only warning you’ll be given, but it just might be the only one you listen to.
From what I remember, you’re almost paranoid right now. Everyone is out to get you and force you to break your own rules, and though those people definitely aren’t perfect, they are healthy, which is more than you’re about to be able to say. It’s going to sound like utter treason to your ears, but you need to turn your choices-food, exercise, all of it- over to them. You’re staring at the world through warped glass right now, and cannot trust your own judgment.
I know I can’t convince you, I know I can’t change what you’re about to become and what I’ve already been, but I wish so much that you could know something, and maybe ease it just a little: your body is so incredibly loving. The stomach that you’re so fixated over holds most of what keeps you living. It’s the source of breath, ‘gut’ instinct, nervous butterflies, and maybe one day, even a baby. It is completely responsible for your life, and even when you treat it this way, when you let your brain trick you into torturing it, it is so loyal that it will still do everything it possibly can to keep you going. But it can only do so much.
This incredible and miraculous machine needs to be treated like one, and it’s up to you to learn to care for and love it. Unconditionally. Good luck.
Love (and I mean it),
Soon to Be You
Senior at Pace Academy
Once you love who you are on the inside, the love you have for your body will come. I promise. When you don’t take what other people say to heart, you will feel a great relief. I know you want to please everybody, but you can’t. You can’t force your body to look a certain way; you’ll only go through agonizing pain while you attempt to distort your body. It doesn’t make sense- why you have the need to be everything you’re not. I know you want it to make sense, so you lie to yourself and say that you’ll be happy smaller, and that you don’t deserve to eat, but you’re wrong- deep down you know it too. And don’t take any of what others say personally. You are afraid to speak your mind and be who you are because of this, but I promise that what other people say and think doesn’t matter. Once you can accept yourself, when you can appreciate your snort when you laugh or your unique personality and not be afraid to share your love with the world, loving your body will come. I promise. Don’t assume what people think of you, don’t you dare say the girl from Calculus “hates you” when you haven’t ever spoken to her. Chances are she has the same fears that sometimes keep you awake at night. When you discover the truth, that the world is not against you, you’ll become free of the prison you’ve put your mind in. When and only when you can say “I love me, my soul and my heart,” will you be able to look in the mirror and truly love yourself. It isn’t easy, I won’t lie-it will be the hardest thing you’ll ever do. But love will come- I promise.
Junior at South Atlanta High School
You’re standing in the mirror at eleven years old, and the way your belly pops out makes you feel deranged and insecure with a tinkering power. Little did you know, that beyond that glass, the image reflecting only what your dark eyes could see, that there was a beautiful girl with a lovely smile and a quirky personality with a uniqueness that caked your self-demeanor.
But no, I’m still ugly, I’m still black, no one looks like me.
I’ll just tell you otherwise.
The media has fooled you and used you as a playing pawn…making you feel like this is the way to be. I know you loved to read your Seventeen magazines who displayed Caucasian beauty idols 24/7, and I know you enjoyed your bag of Cheetos while watching a teen clique show full of stick thin girls with long and silky straight hair and pale skin, but…they look nothing like you, and guess what?
That’s the beauty of variety in the world.
Standards of beauty had you locked in a trance that had you set on “black being ugly and not pretty.”
If I knew now what I knew then, you would’ve been a much more proud kid and you wouldn’t be worried about your outlier appearance.
I’m still chubby, and I can’t wear cute clothes.
You had been programmed into believing that “thin is in”, when really, ANY body type is in. Without variety in the world, there would be no pop of color and indifference and everyone would be clones.
Love yourself no matter what, because you’re one of a kind and gorgeous in your own state of nature. No one can come close to your diamond beauty, despite being thick, brown, curly-headed, and a tad bit crazy.