“What? What are you all looking at? Do I have something in my teeth? Fine, might as well get this over with. No, I’m not seasick. Yes, I’ve always been green. No, I didn’t eat grass as a child.” – Wicked The Musical
This week was the beginning of my senior year of high school. I have about nine months to figure my life out – colleges, what I want to study, what I’m passionate about… it feels like I only have about nine months to figure out the rest of my life. So, I’m constantly thinking about colleges and what I want to do with my life. But, I’m also taking these nine months to figure out the problems I’ve battled all my life.
All my life, I’ve struggled with looking different. I worry constantly about what people will think of me, constantly wondering how people see me. Often, I shut myself off from the world, shutting out anyone who tries to be my friend, because I don’t love myself enough to believe someone else would want to be around me. There have been times when I absolutely hate the way I look, the person God made me to be. There are days when I can’t stand to look in the mirror, because when I see everything that makes me look different, I’m immediately filled with disgust. I try to tell myself that, deep down, I wouldn’t want to look like everyone else. But, this summer, I realized that I still struggle to accept who I am.
In sixth grade, it was the first time I truly realized that some people will only see me as the person who looks weird. I had been home schooled through fifth grade, and when I was enrolled in a school for sixth grade, it was the first time I truly experienced hatred for who I was created to be.
I still remember the night like it was yesterday. I was invited to a birthday party over Christmas break with two other girls. For it being my first time being invited to a party or anything, I was understandably nervous. The plan was to go to an art studio. I had been there many times before with my family to paint plates or little ceramics for fun. But this time, I was outside of my comfort zone, alone.
When I went to pick out a few paint tubes, the mom of the birthday girl told me: if you can’t hold those, let me know and I’ll help you. Even though I was only in the sixth grade, I sensed a major red flag moment right there!! But I tried to ignore it. Time passed, and as I was the last one still working on painting, being the perfectionist I tend to be, the other girls left to look around the shop…somehow I was left alone with the insane mother. She began interrogating me about my hand. How many fingers do you have? Can you bend it? How do you hold things? It must be really hard. I didn’t know how to respond. I just kept saying that I was just born this way and I can do everything I want to do. I just remember the rest of the night, being stuck at this party where I felt so uncomfortable and consumed with this sadness and hatred towards the person I was made to be.
I remember the next morning. I was still so sad. When I wasn’t talking much, my mom could sense something was wrong. I remember just crying and crying, feeling so ugly. Sure, I had heard those questions before, but never from an adult. In a weird way, with those questions coming from an adult, it felt like the fact that I was ugly and different (in a negative way) was finally confirmed. When kids ask questions, my mom always told me they’re just curious, ignorant, or stupid. But, adults aren’t so much like that.
Accepting the way I look has been one of the biggest challenges in my life. I see the way I’m treated differently because of my hand. Kids stare at me in grocery stores. I’ve had people ask me countless times: what happened to your arm? or how many fingers do you have? or can I touch it? I would like to say I’ve been able to overcome the questions and the stares; and, in a sense, I’ve learned to handle it and not let it completely consume me. But I still notice the stares, and the questions still sting. I wish I could say that I’m completely comfortable in my skin and never hate who I am, but I can’t. At school or other places where I don’t feel safe to show my true self, I make sure I have a sweatshirt or a sweater so I can use the long sleeve to cover up my hand if I feel uncomfortable. I’ve been consumed with jealousy towards my sister who looks perfect and others who look completely normal. I’ve spent a lot of time in dressing rooms, crying over how no matter what clothes I try, I still don’t like the way in which I look. There are times and places when I feel completely safe and don’t think about the way in which I look – and I cherish those moments. But, I still face the challenge of learning to love who I am.
I have 272 days until I graduate. I have 272 days to figure out my life and figure out who I am. This year, as I enter my senior year, I have to learn to accept who God made me to be. I have to learn to no longer be afraid to show people who I am, to no longer hide my personality. I have to learn to love myself and trust that I can be loved. There’s a Bible verse that my mom reminds me of whenever I’m struggling. Psalm 139, verses 13 through 16: For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book. I have to trust that God had a plan when He created me. So, here goes the first step…
Hi, my name is Julia. I was born with only nine fingers, I have an arm that looks different… and I’m okay with that. I have many scars that decorate my chest and my back scars… and I’m proud. They’re to show the many battles I’ve won. I may be short for my age, but I’m not afraid of anyone, and nothing can stop me. My smile is crazy and crooked, but I’m tired of not being happy. I’m funny, I’m kind, I’m smart, I’m tough, I’m different – and that’s what’s beautiful. Yeah, people have hurt me a lot, and I’m not invincible to the hurtful words that have been thrown my way. But, I’m working on it. And to anyone who has ever doubted that they are beautiful, please love every part of who you are. Normal is boring. It’s the scars, the unique differences, the brightness found inside that is truly beautiful. I’m done wanting to hide who I am. I’m done doubting that God knew what He was doing when He made me. He made no mistake.