The above picture is the second picture which I clicked from my brand new smartphone. The picture shows a fresh leaf which is in its prime youth. One day while I was strolling in my garden, all of a sudden, my attention went to this leaf. Just by looking at the plant, anyone could have felt that there was something different about this particular leaf. It was quite easy to spot. It was brighter as well as slightly smaller than the others. After I discovered this leaf, I started taking care of it and made sure that it looked the same always. I was able to keep a track of it for 6-7 days but to my utter disappointment, on the very same day of the next week I was unable to find that leaf again. I don't know where it disappeared. I felt really sad. Maybe it just went away with the wind or it is possible that due to the pressure of the rain drops the delicate leaf weighed down and drifted away from its counterparts. Whatever be the reason but I felt really bad about it... I know nothing is permanent in this world and no one of us is forever. But the effect that leaf had on me, its ethereal beauty, its freshness and its liveliness, is surely there to stay! As in John Keats famous words, "A thing of beauty is a joy forever." 💚
To love is to act , that difficult roads lead to beautiful destinations. And I found and landed in a beautiful destination. As for me I liked this guy , had the biggest crush on him . My friend and her boyfriend told me to go for it and I did . I made the first move by asking him (my crush) to be my boyfriend because I really liked him and wanted to be with him. But anyways I wanted to say this Maybe I'm scared because you mean more to me than any other person. You are everything I think about , everything I need , everything I want . Have I mentioned today how lucky I am to be in love with you ? I know I'm not a perfect girl . I'll annoy you , piss you off, say stupid stuff, and then take it back . But all that aside , you'll never find a girl who loves you more than me . Your kinda , sorta , basically pretty much always on my mind . Our first kiss together, those long tight hugs , our late night conversations, the songs you send me as relating it to us . I remember them all . And I will always remember. All that you are is all that I'll ever need . You make happy in a way no one else can . Life isn't about finding yourself , it's about creating yourself. I love you not because of who you are , but because of who I am when I am with you . Also, that smile of yours drives me crazy . You make me laugh when I don't even wanna smile . You pay attention to detail when it comes to me . You remember everything and anything I've ever told you . You had me at hello . I love when each morning you take the time to text me good morning beautiful or my love . You always put 110% effort in all that you do . Before I met you, I never knew what it was like to be able to look at someone and smile for no reason . Thank you for always making me feel like the most beautiful woman in the world . I'm all about good vibes, big goals, amazing experiences, more happiness, less pain , healthy relationships, and staying focused on what matters. Lol so I love how you smell and how it lingers onto my clothes . Your my best friend , my happiness, my lover and each day that goes by its seems I find something new to love about you . Thank you babe for coming into my life!
Depression fogs the brain as does humidity fogs the air. It causes one's view of the world to be warped into another reality, a dark, misty, reality. Depression, however, is not just a state of mind, it is not so easily fixed by yoga and clean eating. It swallows you up, chews, spits you out, and convinces the world that you drowned yourself, and you, and you alone, are responsible for your shape. It is a thief. Selfishly, it takes your job, friends, family, hobbies, and various opportunities hostage. You have ran a marathon with only 2 hours of training, climbed the highest mountain, dove into the middle of the Atlantic with no life vest. Save yourself, you are lazy, always making excuses the world says. If only they knew, if only you knew, what you have gone through. Maybe it would have been different. Maybe we could have saved you. My dearest baby brother, soft spoken, a gentle soul. He did not deserve the sentence that he was given. Depression is a gruesome punishment, not to be wished upon anyone, not even the person that you or perhaps the world hates most. He was a blooming tulip surrounded by barbed wire, slowly, painfully being torn apart. Petal by petal he diminished. Permanent damage, an act performed by the broken, shattered, weak souls that had been subjected to depressions horrendous beatings. You can't take it anymore, the pain and suffering depression has caused you over the years has racked up tremendous debt, debt you could never pay back. You are depression. Depression is you. There is only one way out. My brother knew the way, Drew, just barely 14 years old, had committed suicide. It is all over now. And just like that, my life, and my view of the world changed. Mortality, mental illness, and the meaning of life made their nest in my heart while my brain tried to comprehend their stay. Death wasn't meant for him, his soul was so precious. Suicidal thoughts pulled the trigger, when he shot himself, he shot all of us. The night I got the texts to come home, I knew one thing: Drew had been found. I had assumed he was alive. His date of death? August 12, 2015. 3-4 pm. Found? August 13, 2015. The passing of time was whimsical, but the night he passed had stopped all time. I had no idea that Drew had the option to stop the clock from ticking. Screams. After the news there were just screams, my throat hurt. I was alive. My fault. My fault my fault my fault my fault my fault my fault. I couldn't see. My fault my fault my fault my fault. A paramedic had placed an oxygen mask on my face. Heart beats racking my brain like a meat mallet, everything was just so aggressive. I was standing in the middle of a field, paralyzed, watching the herds of buffalo charge towards me. How I wish that would've been true that night. How can someone, the one who made me a sister, a bond for life, for goodness sake, his blood ran through my veins, how could he be gone… Clouds were messages from heaven. Cotton candy swirls were now passionate messages that conveyed the message that he, Drew, was alright. Hysterical, everything had transformed into messages from above. Feather hunting rituals, dragonflies, and birds on wires, he became. Grasping for air, I had known, but for the sake of my sanity, I continued. Anything to lift the weight of reality off the delicate heart. The brain had yet to catch up with it, for it had not received the news. This, of course, had created milky eyes and muted ear drums. My previous reality shattered onto the floor at my feet, and looking down, it was utterly unrecognizable. Not like it was wanted anymore, how foolish had I been! I had took upon a perspective not known to many that night, you know, the worst night of my life. I had never thought that death was an option, death was not real, I was so young. I grew old that night, Drew became forever young.
“Am I beautiful enough?” “I hate to see the way how fat I am” “Your dark skin looks like you have been burnt right down in the sun seriously” “Go to this XXX Dermatologist, she will brighten your skin so it can boost your confidence just like mine, and voilá!” “Hands down. No wonder why her instagram-story worth hundred viewers, I kinda sceptic how pricey that beauty spa and salon maintenance might cost” “Look at this Hollywood Goddess, Scarlett Johansson, I absolutely about to dye my mediocre black hair to brunette-ish like her.” Have you ever heard at a very least one of these statements amongst our society on a day-to-day basis for certain circumstances? For me, yes. Kind of ironic yet realistically pathetic. This essay is written to digging deeper about how millennials in Indonesia for having ‘Beauty is White' sort of mentality, as in term of their measurement standard for beauty. The writer will encourage readers why it's important to start treating our own selves in a very respective way in aim to see ourselves as a whole genuine beauty without questioning the diversity. Living in the era of upgrades, it's not a secret that in the age of technological development like today, everything has become accessible. People have the ability to browse all various topic that might catch their interest in certain facets; from brand-new fashion updates in America until issue about chronic famine in Africa. This is because of the role of mass media for spreading information not only in local-based, but worldwide based. Fortunately, by only having a gadget, it let us gain information as quick as possible, as transparent as a simple click from our fingertip, emerge on various platforms, thus all being wrapped up called social media. Furthermore, the existence of social media is inevitable for millennials to not maximize the essence of social media functionality itself to different uses depending on the users' intention. Millennials in Jakarta, especially young grown-up girls are very obsessed with the nature of fashion industry. Media is over-emphasis on certain point for attractiveness to some extent. This phenomenon is, of course, cannot be separated from what so-called as advertising strategy realms. Longman defined advertising as an act of showing people publicly about a product or service in order to persuade them to buy it. Brand owners are often recruited models based on certain physical requirements suited on their products that are being sold, because truth to be told, it's important to employ model who also has physical attractiveness in order to maintain and escalate the level of elegance for brand itself because of some common physical traits model own i.e: pale skin, lean legs, slim waist, and wide hips. The latest research showed that Asian women are obsessed with having flawless white skin. From Indonesian millennials perspective, in contrast, these physical traits you see on social media are often to be considered as the ideal beauty that needs to be internalized. As (Botta 1999, Irving 1990) stated, people tend to compare themselves to other people that represent idealistic goals. These are definite signs that you are trapped in a zone called “Euro-American Centric” beauty mentality. Beauty is a complex issue. Saltzberg & Chisel defined beauty cannot be quantified or objectively measured, it is only the result of the judgement from others. The reasons Why do Indonesian Millennials are obsessed with ‘Euro-American Centric' beauty ideal can be stated below: 1) External Validation Seeker * Hyper-focus of physical appearance. Their time is wasted only dedicated to browse whitening beauty products as in hope to be ‘white or have lighter skin'. * Thirsty upon external validation for a serious amount of duration. 2) Having “White People are Better” Mentality *Narrow-mindedness due to not wanting to broaden their mindset in concrete opinion caused by cultural norm rooted in some of Indonesian Millennial's head: dark skin is associated with poverty, thus not being able to have buying power and afford beauty maintenance, such as whitening beauty products. While white skin is associated with wealth and high socio-economical status, more likeable, successful in jobs, marriage etc. 3) Poor Level of Appreciation *Lack of Self-Awareness: not aware that sometimes there is certain factor that cannot be changed due to the biological nature we have by genetics. * High Level of Self-Judgement: easy to judge people based on external appearance only. Wake up, fellas! We all have no time to judge other people as more important as ourselves. Why would you perceive yourself as ugly because of our nature DNA of healthy tan skin? It's time to start wake up and feel blessed because of the fact you are standing for who you are, you obligate your happiness. Never let society defines your level of beautifulness. Start treating yourself in a very respective way and stop seeing yourself as a total failure, because you are not.
Sitting on my balcony I take a delight in looking at the sea. Today it is calm, like a mirror, like a shiny polished silver plate. I can spend hours sitting here, contemplating, just looking, waiting, watching. Occasionally a white seagull will fly by, a tiny boat may sail smoothly along and get lost in the distance. Far out and close to the horizon, you will imagine rather than really see the large container carrying cargo ships and maybe one or another cruise liner, sailing in the distance, sailing on the invisible border line that separates the waters from the sky. You can feel the sea, you can hear it, you can smell it, and it will leave you yearning, wanting to stay and absorb it, to breathe it, it will fill your dreams. Sitting here on my balcony, I enjoy the song of the birds as they take a rest in the yellow flame tree next to the house. It is full of leaves and flowers and hard working bees. Their song fills my ears while the sea gives my eyes an incredible delight that I never tire of admiring. Sometimes, with the storms, its power frightens me and I am glad I am not out, helplessly exposed to its violence but safe and dry here on my balcony. My thoughts drift back in time and I see shades of sailors lost between waves but when I open my eyes, the sea is still peaceful and calm. Its beauty once again amazes me and I realise how lucky I am. A soft breeze touches me and the world around me, gently the leaves of the flame tree start to move. The sea, its waves now gently moving, reflects sunbeams in shades of blue and green, shining like stars. While the birds continue their song and the sun warms the afternoon, frayed white clouds dancing over blue sky announce a change of weather. I consider going inside but then decide I´d rather stay on my balcony and wait for the rain to come.
Looking at the mirror, I see myself with a sense of peace today. Devoid of any makeup or accessory, late at night, my reflection smiles back at me. Sometimes it is a smile of joy and victory, sometimes of heart-wrenching sadness. But these is always an odd sort of comfort, like the feeling of slipping into your favorite pair of worn out pajamas. Or the feeling of coming back home after a long, tiring day. This solace was earned, not gifted. I was born as a confident and happy child. Never really caring about my looks, I do not remember ever worrying about how people saw me. My teenage years were not so carefree, however. They were tainted by remarks about how my ugly self did not deserve any company, let alone sympathy. I looked at the mirror then too, but with feelings of contempt and despair. My confidence hit rock-bottom. I did things to myself I am not proud of. I have always had long hair, now I hid my face behind it. Walking through the school corridors, I hung my head low. I had few friends; people distanced themselves from me as if I carried an infectious disease. It can take years of contemplation to make a change happen, but in hindsight you can always find a turning point that acted as the catalyst. My turning point came in the form of a random woman in a random convenience store. She kept stealing glances at me, making me extremely conscious of my appearance. Just when I could no longer bear the scrutiny and was about to bolt, she walked over to me and said in broken English, “You're very pretty.” I stared at her, dumbfounded. What was this strange woman saying? My face was bare; my hair, which I consider my best physical feature, was tied in a bun. She looked over me once again, then said in a decisive tone, “Yes, very beautiful.” She waited a few seconds for me to make a reaction, during which I barely managed to gather my wits and mumbled a faint thank you. Then she left, leaving me extremely confused among aisles of snacks and scattered thoughts. I believe in miracles, I am forced to believe in them since that incident. Now whether the miracle came to me or I made it happen was another question. I have reasons to think that the whole thing was a figment of my imagination. My brain could have simply conjured this up to pull myself out of the pathetic state I was in. I do not remember a thing about the woman; her face, her clothes, her voice, nothing. Just the words. If you are thinking I suddenly discovered my hidden beauty, got a wardrobe upgrade and showed the world what a catch I was, then I apologize for being the cause of disappointment, but no such thing happened. I did not feel particularly beautiful after that encounter, but it did eventually bring clarity to my thoughts. For one, there was no great change in my appearance that could have suddenly sparked such hatred among my peers. Sure, my body was changing thanks to puberty, but my face was essentially the same as it was before I was bullied. Thinking hard, I traced back to the inception of my suffering: a certain comment from a mean classmate who was always jealous of me for some unfathomable reason. Historically speaking, being the subject of envy has never worked out in my favor. At that time, the consequences of a single snide remark were two whole years of self-hate and being treated like an outcast. It took me months to come to terms with the fact that the harassment had nothing to do with the way I looked. More than a year later, I finally learned to fight back and recovered my lost self-confidence. I did nothing to change my appearance. This experience has greatly shaped the way I feel about beauty as an adult. In my 22 years of existence I have been fortunate enough to live in three different countries and meet countless beautiful people, as well as a few ugly ones. Before you jump the gun, let me clarify that beauty, or the lack of it, does not simply refer to the so-called golden ratio or the symmetry of a person's face. At least not in my dictionary. To me, the most beautiful person in the world would be empathetic. Confident, yet not arrogant. Bold, yet not disrespectful. Physically, well, there is no single way to be beautiful. There is no denying the fact that the first thing you see in a person is his/her face. It is out there for the world to see, and it is convenient to judge thanks to the many beauty standards society has imposed upon us. The problem arises when we take the easy way and try to figure out a person's character based on his/her looks. Stop. Because this is where you should stop. Not only are you putting unfair expectations on that person, but you are also making a fool out of yourself. I now listen to the people worthy of my love and admiration to evaluate my beauty. Most importantly, I listen to myself. Do I think I am beautiful? Physically, I consider myself just normal, and I love it. But truly? I am on my way there, though I still have a long way to go.
Children yelling and racing through the yard. The smell of fresh cut grass. Teenagers singing happy birthday and cutting the cake. A girl approaches my perch on one of the picnic tables. “Hey Joslin, do you want me to pop that big fat zit on your nose? After all, you wouldn't want to be seen in public with that now would you?” The party that seemed fun and playful dissolves from my eyes, and all I can see is the people watching me be humiliated and staying silent. The brand of the sun turns into a brilliant red dye of embarrassment covering my face. I stand up and walk inside. The stunned silence fades and the party returns to full volume. I was nine years old when it first appeared. I greeted the day and shuffled into the bathroom to brush my teeth. Bright red splotches littered my face, like the trash beside the road before community clean up. I run to my mother, my predicament obvious. She tells me acne is normal, everyone gets it. The next several months though, it becomes more than a common cold, but rather a fever, and then a cancerous tumor spreading across my body. My face begins to swell up and turn red and puffy on a daily basis. I look in the mirror and all I see is blow fish cheeks, and they never deflate. I'm twelve years old. My parents finally have to accept that this isn't just acne, but puberty on steroids. We go to the doctor. Twelve bottles of topical creams, pill bottles, and a dairy free diet later, they tell me I'll get better. But the pockets of pus won't leave when the radiation of medication hits them. The first day of high school comes, and I'm embarrassed to leave the car. My face is just as puffy as before, only now, scars litter the battlefield where my clear face cells once fought and sacrificed their lives over the years. I slathered cover up all over my face hoping no one could tell the truth. Inevitably though, someone would see through the camouflage and blurt out, “What's wrong with your face?” As the stresses of trying to make new friends, selling my horse, my siblings leaving for college, and my parents' separation built up, my face released it through acne, not yoga. In a culture where value is calculated based on appearance, my stocks were at the level of the Great Depression. On the plus side, figuring out who my true friends were was easy. Compared to other kids who struggled with frenemies; I had only to find people who were willing to sit by me. My Sophomore year, however, the grin-and-bear-it method began to dissolve. I walked by a flyer advertising for Cheerleading tryouts. As a Freshman I had seen the same exact flyer Mrs. Dvorak recycled year after year. I'd let my mind take a brief flight of fancy of what it would be like to be a Cheerleader. Yet the poster said applicants were partially judged on appearance, and with a face that had only marginally improved since I was 12 years old, that placed me firmly out of the running in my mind. As a fifteen year old girl though, I was ready to challenge what society dictated was appropriate for someone who looked like me. I tried out. And that Friday, teeth chattering and knees knocking, I scurried out into the parking lot. I expected the opening words to be “I'm sorry, however…”, but instead they were “Congratulations!” I worked as hard as I could to be the best cheerleader because I felt I had to prove I was worthy of the honor. I continued to hide my face when I washed my hands in front of the mirror, but I also chose to put a hold on the cover up. After all, it was my face. If I didn't care, who had the right to? Slowly I became friends with the other cheerleaders. Girls whose faces were as smooth as models. For them an acne problem was one zit in a whole month. I felt sure that they secretly found me ugly. Finally I asked one of the girls why they were friends with me. They told me that after years of people seeking their friendship solely for their physical attraction, friendship felt tainted. No one appreciated them as a friend, but rather only as a status symbol to be seen with in school. My friendship though, was more about personality than appearance. Acne forced me to find intrinsic value within myself. I wasn't traditionally beautiful, so I cultivated my humor and intelligence. Without experiencing this dermatological condition I might never have gone beyond my surface stock market value to polish my personality. Acne helped me build a self esteem that would last longer than a smooth complexion because it was based on my intrinsic worth and uniqueness, not what I looked like as a person. Some days I still struggle to look eye to eye with my reflection, and whenever someone mentions my acne, even as a compliment, I feel hurt. I never want people to see me as an object to admire or be disgusted with. I am a person with character who may suffer from acne, but I do not let it define me. I am a person with dreams and goals who twice a day washes my face with special medications.
I am a Fil-Am. A Filipino American, who happens to live in a cold place. It's take me years to let go of my stubborn want to wear flip-flops in winter despite the below zero temperature. Maybe it's my neuroticism managed. Sunshine, sunscreen, and sand are some of my favorite “S” words. I've lived in Alaska for nearly 10 years, and despite the dark winters, I still slather sunscreen on my face to combat wrinkles and skin damage. In Alaska I've never had someone make me feel more or less than I am based on my skin color. If I do what I need to do, do my job, my role, fulfill my expectations, I'm OK. From the outside. But on the inside it can be lonely, but I am whoever I strive to be. But sometimes in the Philippines, around certain people, physical appearance is over-examined. Specific features on my face are pointed out before someone even asks my name. My nose shape, my eyebrows, and my skin tone are coveted. Beauty is seen as a sum of ones outside parts, which can make someone feel like a strange fish in a tank that doesn't know how to hide from people staring at it. I stumble over a “Thank you” when someone praises the bridge of my nose, so confused, remembering years ago in the 6th grade when a girl teased me for having a “flat nose.” To each their own. In the Philippines, if you're pale, you are admired, distinctly pointed out. This can be strange if you don't understand beauty in Asia. It's something that worries me, as the younger generation grows into this concept of what beauty should distinctly be. In the U.S., we are seeing more acceptance and celebration for women of all skin tones. Diversity and representation being fought for in a plethora of fields. Beauty is not just skin deep, and isn't representative of capability or competence. But we don't ignore someone who is attractive. We all hold a bias to people who are symmetrically more beautiful. It's a fascination that will never leave the public eye, but we at least see a need for more inclusivity of people all over the color spectrum, and of a diversity of cultures and backgrounds. In the Philippines, there is an inherent bias for people of lighter skin tones. When a women has darker skin, she is made fun of, and seen as the opposite of beautiful. She's familiar with the jokes. “Negra.” “Uling.” (Charcoal). “Lagum.” (Dark). There is something in Asian culture that highlights status and allure of white skin. It has been a symbol of money and prestige. Hardworking people who engage in manual labor have no reprieve from the sun. People with power and money stay inside, having the luxury of staying away from backbreaking work and the heat. Maybe, at least in particular with the Philippines, we hold on firmly to skin lightening products and a worship of light skin becomes it pays homage to our colonizers. As if, at the core of our being as a culture, we hold onto this self-hatred of who we are. That we are not good enough. Dark is not the opposite of beauty. Skin is skin. It protects, it tells a story, but no person is defined by the shade of their skin tone. It is not a symbol of success. It is genetics, biology, it is an organ that is above the judgement of human eyes. Filipinos: let's examine our bias towards what we accept as beautiful. Let's tell our daughters and sons to embrace and love their skin, despite the shade that is on the outside of their bodies. They are worth more than the shade society deems acceptable.
The most beautiful moments of my life are the ones nobody sees. God has called me to see the sacred in the ordinary. From ripe, round, unbearably red strawberries in a simple pottery bowl to spindly curvy palm trees arching into a perfect Hawaiian sky or speckled-belly puppies lying on their backs under a hot Georgia sun, if I choose (and I do choose) to see with my heart as well as my eyes, I get to watch the common transform into the holy. I am one girl, one woman, one daughter, one mother. I have lived this incredible lifetime of memories, choices, gains and losses. Sometimes I wish I'd accomplished more: written my bestselling book, won the Pulitzer, made more money, acquired more possessions. I wish I'd become famous for something meaningful, helped to eradicate a disease, saved a life, or invented something really, really cool. In those times, when I'm thinking that way, I feel a little foolish. What is my life about? Why was I here? And, in some cases, what was I thinking? But, God reminds me. He made me with one purpose: I am here to bear witness. And I take that charge seriously, with great reverence and gratitude for that which I am privileged to see. Like the connection between my daughter, a homeless man and me in front of a Costa Mesa diner. A disheveled man with bright blue eyes in a sun-beaten face, whose name is Kevin. Who connected with my brand newly 26 year old daughter Zoe and me. The one who said, "I was just wondering what to do about dinner" when we offered him a burrito, uneaten, with a clean fork, knife, napkin, and a gorgeous fruit juice. I looked at him and took him straight into my heart. We will never see each other again but Kevin is a part of me now and I am a part of him and that is because God showed him to me, and me to him. Our hearts met because we could see. Like the nights - so many of them - when I leaned, exhausted after a long shift at the hospital, and stared down at my three daughters, sleeping in their little beds. I drank in the sight of them, lying there with their tousled hair and the innocence of sleep dusting their beautiful small faces. It was hard, lonely and scary being a single mom but every time I looked at my girls, my heart cracked wide open and new strength flowed through my tired veins, giving me life to keep going one more day - for them. Like when my parents' house was leveled by a tornado and I watched my 82 year old father searching through rubble for pieces of the 70-year-old train set he's had since his father gave it to him when Papa was 12. That strong man, that beautiful heart, that frail body, bent and weak after twin heart attacks, a stroke, and heart surgery less than a year ago...his will, his courage, his beauty shone like a bright light over all the broken bricks, splintered wood, uprooted tree trunks. Like the way God made me a Pied Piper of animals, mine and other people's and strays. I love them all the same. Ruffy, the tiny toy poodle who became my love, the son I never had, the husband I should have had! Ruffy, who became my dearest companion for the next eleven years til he died at 18. I think Ruffy is still with me. How could he be gone? I feel his presence. I loved him then and I will love him always. Thank you, Dillie, for being his first mom and for allowing me to be his last. And Molly, Beau, Dearie, Goldie, Sadie, Peter Criss, Lily, Sophie, Nahla, Ollie. To every animal I have ever seen wandering the streets, I pray each time that you will be safe, fed, protected. I give you food if I can. I love you. I see you. I see squirrels darting, raccoons scooting, deer leaping across roads and I pray to God for you to make it, and for you to live long lives, free from hunters and fast cars. You matter because I see you. We are all living souls. Like the one who gave life to me, my strong honest God-fearing mother. I watch her raising her grandchildren. She is 74 years old. Every morning she gets up and takes three kids to school. Every night she stays up late, getting clothes washed and lunches ready. I see you, Mama. I see your tiredness, your fear, your weariness and I also see your surviving spirit, your strong beating heart, your wisdom that goes on forever. Like the beauty of humanity: people making human chains to save one dog, a woman giving her life to save her child's, people of faith sacrificing for their beliefs, one homeless man giving his coat to a homeless child. This life is a gift to us from God. That's what I believe. You don't have to believe that way. One thing we all need to do, though, is find a way to bear witness. If we don't, it will go away. And we, as a people, will have lost out on an entire universe of honest, simple, ordinary, common moments that are actually magical, beautiful, wondrous, glorious, sacred, and holy.
I remember sitting up in my room one night when i was little. I was always afraid to wear a skirt in class. I was that girl always playing tetherball and beating all the boys. My faborite colors were black and red. It wasnt until one day when i was coloring i realized something, The pink crayon i was using wasnt the shade of pink i wanted for the flowers. In fact this color pink was beautiful. It was so beautiful it stood out on my page , it danced around the dark black outlines; it shined. ‘You know what else shines like that ? ‘ i thought. ‘That dress thart your mom wore yesterday' and i kept thinking. My lips shine when i have on lip gloss. My dress shines in the light. My makeup will shine in the sun. My smile will shine because im happy. I wanted to be as beautiful as that damn pink. And thats how beautiful i was going to get. Im completely self absored, a real caramel goddes, if you ask me. But i probably wouldnt be this way , if i didnt steal my neighbors crayons.
As I put the phone of one of my family friend's down the other day and murmured with a sharp satire, ‘We need to talk', I discovered that I am encountering this phase often and frequently now more than ever. Wonder what had I done to deserve to hear this so often? A lot! I had aged 26 and was not married yet. I was working in one of the biggest international development partner bodies in the country but was only a beginner and not at a stable and secure position and so that is easy to belittle and obviously does not matter. I did not know a thing about cooking, my job with frequent field visits had taken over me maintaining a healthy diet, beautiful skin and the life of a social butterfly. To me, none of these sounds too bad because somewhere lost and caught up with so much expectations of so many people, I sometimes feel that my only true identity is probably this struggling job. I don't really feel sorry for myself for not living up to other people's expectations, I don't kill the peace of my mind over increased weight and hair fall and stressed skin for I knew my inside was stressed from so many things and it is normal to show up on my skin. I pursued a yearlong full-time master's program besides my full-time job and that turned my average days into 14-16 hours a day which equals to two full times. I would leave early morning for my office, would complete my office by the late afternoon and would catch up soon for the evening classes. Coming back to the great family friend story, the phone call was mainly to remind me that I am not aging backwards with the passing time and how I needed to start thinking and expediating the thought and materialization process of getting married but in my own mind and conscience, was I ready for marriage just because I was about what they call past the age for marriage? No, I was not and to be frank that does not matter. It is difficult to explain to your family that how you are of the ‘marriage' age and are still not ready for it? People can get mean on so many levels but one of many beauties of being born as a girl to a south Asian conservative set-up is that ‘mean' means normal and justified and words like ‘considerate' and ‘civic sense' pretty much do not exist. In fact, the dominant conservative south Asian countries are a warehouse of interesting norms. When it comes to the girl in the family, everyone in the family think that they have a right to decide what she should wear- the length of her hair and her dress, what and how much she should eat, what should be her skin color ideally and if it is not that which it is not mostly then how she should achieve that, where and with whom she should go out and with whom she should not and at what time and by what time she should be back and most importantly, when should she get married, have her first child, have her second child and the list goes on. To tell them that they do not actually have the right to decide and more often, their opinions are not welcomed if not asked for, is a sheer audacity and is a sign of questionable upbringing. Not that I ever liked the phase ‘we need to talk' but the frequent encountering the phase made me realize the extent of dislike I possess for this 3-word sentence. I had just turned 26 and was struggling with my new job in the multilateral entity. I was struggling with almost everything and was looking for my breakthrough in the job through the bumpy journey. Wonder how I feel confessing that I was still a beginner at 26 and was struggling with my job instead of having it mastered by this age and heading towards at least a semi managerial position if not managerial? Well, the answer is proud. I feel proud of myself and all small accomplishments of mine. Through the fast paced 25 years of my life, I have learnt that the life we live is indeed very small and so if what we achieve in it are small too, it is alright. Not everyone needs to climb the Everest or make it to the space, the valleys in the countryside hill-stations can make a wonderful escape destination too. Another thing I feel while I write naked confessions of my weaknesses and difficult times and that is carefree and brave. I feel brave because I know from my very short-lived life experiences that not all of us have the courage to admit to our faults and flaws and I feel carefree because I love my flaws and dents as much I love my strengths and stamina. Little do I know that the road to my beauty is paved through my flaws and the road to my power is paved through my fears and insecurities.
“Mofe Joshua” I mentioned to him, little pride minced with doubt could have been detected in my tone at that moment, “I might be the one” I thought to myself. “Sixty Percent” Mr Rojo called back at me. Not an excellent score, in fact a low point at that but remarkable because I was indeed the one, I had scored the highest mark in the English test. Earlier, Mr Rojo had reprimanded the class for its poor performance in the test. Myriad of lower grades have been mentioned to every other students who asked to know his or her score, until now probably every other person had hoped they were the exceptional student who scored sixty in the test. Sadly enough, their hopes has been shattered because after sixty, the next best score the teacher reported was twenty six over hundred. And so throughout the rest of the class I positioned myself to face Mr Rojo as though I am indeed a serious student, but mind you, I was absent-minded, trapped away in my own world of imaginations. I contemplated a situation where Lawal was around, sitting directly behind me “Meh! I really do miss her” if I turned my head to look in her direction with a smirked face, I bet she would anticipate my move by smacking my head, ask why I'm too full of myself and tell me not to make a fuss of the issue because it is not big deal. Even now, in reality, I can feel Rhoda's eyes on me, staring in envious delight. She had held my head in marvel once as though trying to weigh the contents of my brain when I answered a question no one else could do justice in Economics class. ”You guys are playful, very playful” Mr Rojo reiterated, “most of you can go on ranting in Yoruba[ Yoruba; the indigenous language of the south-western people in Nigeria.] like you are quoting bible verses. Especially this boy, Emmanuel! Where is he?” He shouted pointing at him with mean eyes. “Sir!” Emmanuel responded and everybody laughed. “You scored fifteen percent” Mr Rojo retorted and everybody laughed again. The rest of the period went on as Mr Rojo retreated to giving the right answers to the test questions, making comments about stupid answers He came across while marking our papers. At the end of the class, He left for science class, the class next to ours “Class of Efikos”[ Class of Efikos; Efikos denotes the set of brightest students.]. And there He continued with the second edition of the issue He started in our class, art class. Funnily enough, I remained the only top scorer even in their league. Meanwhile, in our class, we had a free period so everybody joked around, Emmanuel taking the lead role, imitating the gestures of furious Mr Rojo. Some mates praised me, whined about what a bookworm I am and some other passed abrasive comments about how scoring the highest mark in a test is not such a big deal, I just faked calmness and joined in the merriment of the free period, joking around with my close pals, Shodiya and Ayodeji. We all heard a loud cry from science class when Mr Rojo was done with his period, I wasn't much alarmed since I knew the reason for the cry. It was quite pathetic how poorly we did. When colleagues from science class came to our class, they wanted to know who had scored the highest mark, the point of emphasis for the poor overall performance and when they were told I was the one, more praises came. The mind blowing part of the story was when Oyindamola found me and commended me with some gesture I can't quite remember but it did seem like a hug, I thought it was very playful of her, little did I know I was soon to be swooned by her ravishing beauty.
I stare at my reflection in the mirror and run my fingers through my thick, curly hair, unable to get through. “It's pretty. I wish I had hair like yours. Is it hard to maintain?” I am suddenly transported back to the many evenings spent at the mercy of a ruthless comb – for brushing was taboo- and to which I vowed never to subject myself again- and pondered the meaning of these words. They might mean simply a few remarks on the importance of conditioner; perhaps a few more on the sins of shampoo; some helpful counsel on the hazards of humidity; or just a respectful allusion to John Frieda. Though it may not be as simple as this – and I assure you it is not- all I can offer is my experience with the reality faced by millions of women around the world – naturally curly hair. One can only share their story with others; yet one can only have endured to comprehend. Nevertheless, I will guide you through every coil, spiral and twist of my journey, spinning tales of oil and frizz and creamy concoction. Curly hair, although seemingly a defeat in the success of a new day, leaves far greater an imprint on one's identity than one may think. Each woman has a “hair journey” often marked by struggles stemming back to their childhood. Such was the case for myself as well. Since kindergarten, my long curly hair was pulled back into a thick braid, safe from knots and tangles, making it easier for my mother forever perplexed by my type of hair. Dozens of little girls with their long, silky tresses skipped around the playground, flipping and twirling their hair; I felt my lone black braid grow heavy and taunt me as it hung down my back. In an attempt to experience the frivolity of such hair, I would often secretly take my braid out at school, claiming it got caught on something. After school, I would often spend hours, aggressively brushing my hair, hoping I could magically rid myself of my swarm of ringlets. As years passed, I began wearing a ponytail, giving my mother a break from the unruly mess of my head. Throughout this time, I dreamt of straighteners and blowouts, soon becoming a consistent annoyance to my mother, yet she refused to concede. I was angry, harboring much resentment for the “monstrosity” atop my head. With high school came a shift in my perception. Similar to all straight-haired girls, the girls at my high school were often envious of my natural curls. Although flattered by their comments, I still longed for the simplicity of straight hair. I did not want a life of having to keep my head straight to avoid an unnecessary expansion of curls, or loading up with dozens of anti-frizz serums, curl-softening lotions, sculpting creams, holding gels and countless other products. I wanted nothing more than to be rid of the monotony that came with caring for curly hair. Striking a balance between my personal and academic responsibilities, with the unpredictability of my hair was a nightmare, but it was often thought-provoking: why let the stress of my hair play such a dominant role? In the daily discipline of its wild antics, I realized how much my self-image was invested in this simple physical feature. Why had I spent years resenting an aspect of myself when it may have been simpler to embrace it? Though easier said than done, I felt perhaps the true lesson lay elsewhere. Yes, it requires work. Yes, it requires time. And yes, it may cause a certain amount of stress. But how many things can one say do not encompass these factors? In this moment, I began to see my curly hair as a metaphor for life. Wild, unpredictable, sometimes unmanageable, but at the end of the day, it was beautiful. Having curly hair taught me that often stress is required to be stress-less similar to how one works hard in school in order to enjoy the relaxing luxuries of life later on. Now, although I have not given up on any of my products, my wide-toothed combs, or my silk head-wrap, I have come to terms with these elements of my life as a part of me. I'm no longer in a hurry to change and instead, I have chosen to welcome the sense of individuality and timelessness that curly hair brings with it. Though I am not obliged to put myself through this struggle every day (and believe me, it is often a pain), I believe there is beauty in the struggle and not only in the result. In fact, it is empowering. In a world where we live by certain standards of what is considered beautiful, naturally curly hair is always lost in the mix. If we brave our curls, showing that we are undaunted in our care for this gift, I believe we as a society will be able to bring naturally curly hair to the forefront. In my opinion, it all comes down to the simple idea of giving a little in order to receive much more in return. If curly-haired girls remain a united front, unchallenged by the straight-hair standard, there is potential for great strides to be made in our society; and for me, that is what makes it all worth it.
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