I haven't ever been a small person.
When I was born I was oddly long, all limbs. My mother fondly recalls memories of meal times when I was small. The diary she kept detailing how I would gleefully eat pasta with tomato and garlic sauce and end up with it all over my face.
When I was young and told 'oh how tall you are' as if it were an achievement, I felt proud. Yes. I am tall. I am strong. I am something. As time marched on, it became a flaw. 'Gosh, you're tall'. So noticeable, at a time when I so desperately wanted to blend in. I wished I could disappear.
When I was twelve a boy who caught the same bus home as I did asked me out, whatever that means when you're twelve. I assumed it was a joke, shot him a puzzled look, and walked away without saying a word. I hope it was a joke. I hope I didn't hurt his feelings.
When I was fourteen I stopped eating breakfast. When I was fifteen I started throwing my lunch away as soon as I entered the school building. 'Oh how well you look, now all that puppy fat has melted away'. I don't know how I functioned through my exams. Seemingly solely fuelled on empty compliments.
As I have grown I have come to understand that I am, as someone who has helped me enormously has described as, a slightly off-centre person. And although I understand that now, it's a bit of a recent revelation. I won't run through a list of my particular quirks because it doesn't matter. All that matters is being nice to people.
The first mistake was mine. I was in a fragile place and tearing myself apart. Wishing I was 5'7. Wishing I was more intelligent. Wishing I physically took up less space. Wishing I could write more coherently. Because if those things were true then... then I would be happy, finally.
I fixated on one thing. And that thing was my body. I would tell myself that if I were smaller, I would be worthy. Worthy of friendship, of love, of success, whatever that means. The way I was somehow wasn't enough, and couldn't ever be enough. And I would be better, infinitely improved if my body looked different. Only now do I really see how that doesn't make sense. But it's taken a long time. Because sometimes there's a disparity between what we know to be true and what our minds allow us to believe at any given time.
My mistake was to seek validation from people I didn't know, who could say whatever they wanted in that moment, protected by the anonymity of the internet. This was a time when I found pure, unabashed joy in 'what I wore' posts. I needed someone, that I didn't know, to tell me that I looked nice. I posted some pictures that I'd been staring at for an hour, meticulously identifying everything I didn't like about myself. Part of me hoped that these thoughts were just me being too hard on myself, and part of me knew that if anyone did say anything nice I wouldn't believe them. But instead, someone took immense joy in confirming many of the horrible things I'd been thinking about myself. It was almost as though they could see into my mind.
The problem: I'm very good at projecting an illusion of normality and I never looked like I had a problem.
As I stared at myself in the mirror one day I finally had a moment of clarity and I asked myself what I was doing. And then, for a long time, I felt annoyed with myself because I thought I was stronger. I knew not to let a stranger tell me how to feel. But I think when a comment confirms all the worst things you've been secretly thinking about yourself for an extended period of time, it's different. It's difficult to brush it off. Somewhere along the way I stopped caring about validation from others, but untangling myself from the depths of my own mind took a while.
I don't know what that person wanted to achieve with their words. I don't know what they were feeling in that moment. Maybe it made them feel better, for a few seconds. I don't know if they could sense I wasn't in a great place. I hope they didn't know. Because I don't think I can let myself believe that they were genuinely poking me to see if I'd implode. Mostly I just hope that they're okay. I'd like to believe that no one's end goal is to push someone over the edge. You can't ever know how someone is feeling at that time and projecting your feelings, no matter how low or hopeless you feel, on to someone else isn't healthy.
Please be nice to people. Please. And if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all. By all means think what you want to think. Think about how much you don't like me, or whatever it is. That's fine. And I'm not saying that you can't ever be critical or that you can never disagree with anyone about anything. But choose your words carefully, please.
I will never be a small person.
That isn't who I'm meant to be.
When I consult with my legs about a thigh gap even my calves shrug to my thighs, not understanding the concept.
And I'm okay with that.
I'll nourish my body with what it needs, my mind with what it desires to learn, and my soul with the contentment that comes with the fulfilment of a life well lived.