self love , Hana Mendel

words 

    For days, I’ve been trying to figure out how to properly articulate this response. Words have never done justice to my emotions, as my body has not done justice to my consciousness. My body is heavily separated from my mind - I have felt this way for as long as I had the ability to think for myself. I’m heavily aware that my body is something I seldom have control over. I did not choose my wide eyes, my sporadically Semitic features, or my soft nail beds. In fact, excluding use of surgical augmentation, nobody has control of their body and/or features. Bodies are a physical representation of collateral heritage, which although important, does not reflect a person's state of being. This is something I’ve always been hyper-aware of, and for this reason, my eyes are not (and will never be) my source of judgment. 

 It took me a long time to realize I felt this way. However, it took me an even longer time to realize that most didn’t. It started when I was younger, when I was bigger. I knew I was big because everyone felt the need to tell me so. Don’t get me wrong - I could feel my extra weight, but let me make it clear that I never considered this to be a bad thing. My negative feelings towards myself were taught to me by my surroundings. 

 I struggled for a very long time, hitting a pinnacle when sent off to a sleep away Fat Camp the summer before my freshman year of high school. My parents had been pressured into sending me here against my will, as my weight became an “extended family concern”. I was 13 years old. 

The first day I arrived, and each day that followed, I was placed into a group therapy class. One by one, our therapist would ask the group, “What is wrong with you that you ended up here?” I was astounded — I remember thinking how loose and distasteful a question to ask a group of children. Yet, I continued to watch each child cry, explaining their shame in having extra weight, and how they were embarrassed merely to exist. I was deeply disturbed to see the therapist nod his head in agreement. When the question reached me, I answered the only way I knew how — with the truth. “There is nothing wrong with me.” The room fell silent. 

   

  

 Although much more severe and taunting things have happened in my life since, there is a certain realization that comes with an experience specifically like this. At the age of 13, I learned that people weren’t necessarily what I had assumed them to be. I learned that many can and will assess an identity on something as irrelevant as the pitch of one's voice, the protrusion of a brow bone, or, in my case, the width of a waist. I learned that your body became your definition. I returned seven weeks later and thirty pounds lighter. My eating disorders did not start until after I left fat camp. 

    High school was hard. Every day that I existed, I felt wrong. It was one thing to feel uncomfortable in my size, but I began to additionally feel uncomfortable in my idea of femininity and gender. I felt lost, like every part of me was wrong for a different reason. As any high schooler knows, these four years are defined by words — constricting, label fueled words. I turned my interests to the only subject I knew had no limitations — music. 

    Music changed something in me. Music is a medium that has no eyes. It is the sheer sound of a human being's soul — an echo of the inside. I started to remember who I was before I was my body. I remembered that I didn’t have to define myself in words, or in my mirror. I found myself playing, listening, and creating. This music came from me and sounded like me because it was me. I began to break my social confinements. I was no longer a body. I started to grow again. 

    

By no means is my story over. I do the best I can while I can, and I’m okay with that. I no longer feel the desire to feed a hunger I never wanted to have in the first place. There are concerns much bigger than my materialistic demons, but I’m no longer afraid to say that some days they win. This is all part of being human, and being human is not about achieving perceived perfection. Being human is about finding your niche, your people, and defining your own interpretation of happiness. I have a feeling; my happiness will find me soon. It’s out there for all of us, it’s just a matter of time. Until then. X