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Two of my first memories are of me reading a book I'd found in my father's library, and me asking my aunt for a stethoscope for my 7th birthday. Fast forward to today. I'm a medical student with a kindle that has gone through the most over the years. It seems a tiger doesn't change it's stripes!
I had my first best friend when I was in preschool. We were as thick as thieves, so it made sense when we went to the same junior school. She left just before fourth grade when her family relocated to South Africa. I was sad, as one would be after four amazing years of friendship had been cut short. Fourth grade a new girl game to our school and she became my new best friend, until she decided to join the cool girl squad. That was the first heartbreak I experienced in my life. Fifth grade brought yet another new girl, and yet again she became my new best friend. I experienced my second heartbreak when she left me for the cool girls. That was when I decided I would never have a best friend again. It hurt too much when they left. High school I had a few friends but we drifted apart when we graduated. I became a bit of a loner, until college came along. I went to a foreign country, where I was somewhat of a celebrity. I was the only person there from my country, so everyone was fascinated with me. In spite of all the attention, I found myself with just acquaintances and no true friends. Even though I didn't want to admit it, I was yearning for true friendship and companionship. The last time I had really felt connected to another human being who wasn't a part of my family was when I was in junior school. Surrounded by people, I found myself alone and lonely. Second semester I was allocated a roommate who was from the same country as me. I didn't know how to feel about someone else from home, but my worries were soon put to rest. Tina and I got along splendidly. She was like an extension of myself. She understood me, and sometimes we would say the same thing at the same time. I'd finally found a friend and I was just ecstatic. When we started second year, Tina went to school before me. When I arrived, she had made friends with two guys who were a year below us. I was a bit sceptical about the guys. They were spending a lot of time with Tina and I didn't like it. I had finally found myself a real friend and these guys were threatening to ruin my happiness. I know I was being childish, but I told myself two is company but four is a mob. What I didn't expect was me warming up to the two guys, Gavin and Peter. They were always joking around and laughing, and I couldn't stop myself from laughing along. I found myself looking forward to their visits and actually enjoying their company. We were all alike yet so different. Gavin was the goofball, the one you could always rely on, while Peter was the lady's man who was surprisingly very sweet. Tina was the social bunny, easy to talk to at a party, and then there was me, the quiet but sarcastic one. In spite of the differences, it felt like I had known them in a previous life. We became a squad, a crew, a tribe, but above all, we became a family. I met Tina, Peter and Gavin a little over three years ago, and we are still friends to date. My sister always says they are my best friends, but I always say I don't do best friends. I won't admit it to her, but I found not one, but three best friends. The broken heart I didn't realise I was nursing for more than ten years was finally healed when I met my three friends. Thanks to our friendship, I have been able to open up to other people and actually let them in to my life. I can say with confidence my friendship with my three best friends has brought growth for me. I have learnt to trust again, and to just take a leap of faith when meeting new people. I now have a healthy number of friends, and even a guy I am seeing. Right now the world is resting, and we are all at home in different countries, but for the four of us it is as if we are in the same place. We do not talk daily, we don't even talk weekly, but whenever we do, it's as if we never stopped talking. Gavin messages me to discuss novels we've recently read, or to review stories we've written. Peter is less available on social media, but he always makes an effort to call at least once per week or fortnight. Whenever I receive a text from Tina, I know something saucy has happened, and a juicy story is coming my way. Three years ago I met three total strangers who brought light into my life. They showed me that I can cope on my own, but having companionship can make life's moments more fulfilling. We have become friends, kindred spirits that have a way of always finding each other.
I gained a lot of weight during the 3 month holiday before I started high school. While my old classmates had shed their baby fat, I had gotten bigger. I never noticed until an uncle remarked that I was bigger. He laughed, pinched my cheeks, then called me ‘fatso.' That made me feel small, as ironic as that may sound. I began to dread his visits to our house, because he always made it a point to call me fatso. I mean, every time I answered the intercom he would begin by saying, “Hello fatso.” You can imagine what such statements did to a teenager's esteem. It didn't make it any better that my mother would sometimes call me fat when she was angry. Fat stopped being an adjective, it became my identity. I reached college with the conviction that I was still single because I was too big for any guy to want to date me. To my surprise, I found myself the recipient of the attention of a couple of guys at school. I convinced myself that they were only showing interest in me because they wanted to get to my hot friend. There was no way any guy would want to get with a fat girl. I met Todd through my roommate Clara and we hit it off instantly. Our friendship was budding and everything was going on well until the day he told me he told me I was beautiful. I looked him straight in the eye and bluntly told him I was fat. He tried to reassure me that size didn't change the fact that I was beautiful, but I of course didn't believe him and told him to leave my room. He tried to see me several times after that day, but I was cold to him. I told him I didn't need people who lied to me and would prefer to not be friends with him. He eventually stopped coming at all. One day, I was with Clara when we started talking about some beautiful dresses a friend had posted on my status. Out of nowhere, I burst into tears. When asked why I was crying I told her it was because I was too big to fit in any of the dresses. She tried to tell me otherwise, but I did not listen. I don't know why it happened on that day, but all my past hurts and jabs at my size came to my mind. I broke down and cried all the tears I had never shed. I was hurting, and had been hurting for a very long time. As I was sobbing, Clara came and sat before me. She took my hand and told me words I was never to forget. “Your perception of yourself is the only one that matters. Your uncle may have called you names, but it has always been up to you to take it to heart or not. People will always talk, that's why they have mouths. The more you bring yourself down, the more others will do the same. I can't keep telling you that you are fine the way you are, and neither will the guys around you. The sooner you accept yourself, the sooner happiness will find you.” She left me with those words. Her words struck a nerve. She had called me out on my insecurities, but she had spoken the truth. All of a sudden I felt angry at myself. All these years I had lived my life holding on to hurt, succeeding only in hurting myself more. I was responsible for a heinous crime. I was guilty of body shaming, the victim being me. It hit me then that the reason I never dated in my younger years was because I was at a girl's school, with strict parents. I had nowhere to meet guys! Yes I sometimes had difficulties finding jeans that fit, but size 14 jeans fit just fine. It was like my eyes were opened that day. I didn't have super confidence all of a sudden; it took some weeks, but eventually I became confident in my own skin. I changed my mentality and started seeing myself for who I was, not who people thought I was. I went to Todd, and we had a long talk. He forgave me for my outburst, and we started working on our friendship. When my uncle visited, I told him body shaming was disgusting and not fitting a man of his calibre. He was shocked to say the least. He stopped calling me fatso that day. There is so much I am grateful in my life, my friend Clara being top of the list. She opened my eyes to what was always there. She made me realise I needed to accept myself as I was. As for me not having a boyfriend, I realised I had to love myself before anyone else could love me. I knew then when the time was right, I would connect with someone on that level and it would just make sense for us to be together. I finally found myself, and the happiness that only comes from being comfortable with oneself.