This year, 2019, is the 10th anniversary of the year I graduated high school. In fact, I just got a message on Facebook asking that I RSVP by August 1st so they can start finalizing venue options.
This is important information, because the personal evolution that has taken place in the last 10 years is incredible, both in size and the ways in which I have grown as a person.
**Just a warning, this is a pretty lengthy post. Read at your own risk.**
There are so many times I catch myself thinking about how past me would view present me if she saw me walking in the store or around the mall or eating out alone or with friends. I think about how I would love to be a good role model or even just an example of how fat girls and women can dress and love and exist because that, more than anything else, is what 18-year-old Angel needed.
But there are other things that Past Angel needed to hear and be told that aren’t communicated through cute clothes and a good haircut.
Your Body Is Perfect Just the Way It Is
Honestly, what teenager doesn’t need to hear this? But especially a fat one. No shade to all the other body types out there, but my earliest memory of feeling like I, as a person, was less than because of my relationship with gravity was when I was 7 and I was put on a diet of egg whites and grapefruit juice by my then-stepfather. I was a chubby 7-year-old, I’m not denying that, but no person, much less a child, should ever associate the feeling of shame with their body.
Being fat shaped a lot of the ways I interacted with people when I “discovered” I was fat and that it was apparently not okay to exist the way I did – the way other kids my age did, because I was averagely active, even playing organized sports (despite being terrible at it) on a team and did pretty much everything else other kids did regularly.
Instead of letting my light shine as bright as it did before I cared about how much I weighed or how big and squishy my stomach was, I dimmed it, because the best way to not get picked on or pointed out, I thought, was to hide.
Don’t hide, Past Angel. You are an effervescent, hilarious, intelligent, witty, kind, generous, sassy kid who has so much more to offer the world than being overly nice and becoming a blur because you think you’re “too fat” for anyone to actually want to be around you. You are doing a disservice to yourself and to the people that need you to shine as bright as you can. You are allowed to stand out without shame. Your body is perfect as it is because it is part of you and it carries you and it is the vessel that all the shiny muchness that is you resides in. You only get one body, so you might as well give it all the love it deserves.
Not Everyone Is Meant for You
This one has probably taken me the longest to figure out.
I worked so hard trying to fit in and be friends with everyone, because I thought that way, I wouldn’t have to worry about being bullied. And it worked! Kind of. The bullies at school never got me – I was apparently too nice to be mean to. But the bully in my head didn’t agree.
In order to maintain some kind of armor, I tried to be friends with the popular kids and I made friends with athletes and nerds and art geeks and band kids and kids on student council (a lot of whom fit into some or all of the previous categories). I wanted to broaden my friend group so that I would never have to feel like the awkward outcast that my anxiety was telling me I’d be resigned to because of – you guessed it – my size.
It’s okay to be nice and be friends with everyone, Past Angel, but don’t let that detract from being yourself. The friends who you can be yourself around are the ones that will still be in your life in 10 years. That group of popular kids you used to stand with before your first period, junior year in hopes of absorbing some of their popularity by osmosis won’t remember you and you won’t remember most of them, much less talk to any of them anymore. What will matter is the bonds you formed and the memories you made with the friends you can still reminisce and make new memories with.
Your Anxiety Is Lying to You Most of the Time
This is something I will always struggle with, as any person with chronic anxiety can attest to. It’s also one of the hardest, sometimes impossibly so, things to overcome.
So many times my anxiety is telling me to “abort mission” when I’m doing some of the most mundane tasks, like calling to make a nail appointment or going to the gym. My natural instincts of being in danger are no help because my brain pretty much always thinks I’m in danger.
Don’t let fear and anxiety rule you, Past Angel. There are so many things that you’ll end up doing because you managed to push past the fear and do it anyway, that ended up being some of your favorite things, or some of the easiest things you deal with. But when you do let fear and anxiety take over, embrace it, accept it, and then move on. The only thing worse than living in fear is beating yourself up and feeling guilty about it. Own that fear and anxiety, and do the thing anyway.
You Are Strong and Brave and Fierce
Imposter syndrome is a real bitch and I’m willing to bet a good majority of us have felt it in some way or another at some point in our lives. It’s that feeling that everyone else is so good at the thing and you’re just pretending.
It’s like when people say they need an adult or that they can’t adult. We’re all just kind of winging it, but some are better at pretending than others.
You are strong and brave and fierce, Past Angel. You have and will endure things in your life that some people will never have to experience. You’ve handled some of the toughest situations with so much grace and strength that leave people in genuine awe. Just because you have your moments of “weakness”, that doesn’t take away from your inner badass Goddess. She is you and you are her. Always remember that.
Don’t Feel Ashamed for What You Do or Don’t Like
When I was in high school, I used to go to local concerts with one of my best friends at the time (still one of my good close friends whom I adore). I honestly didn’t enjoy them. I’ve always had hyper-sensitive hearing, so being at the stage with loud music and vocalists practically screaming in my ear while sweaty shirtless dudes are attempting to mosh behind me was just the worst to me. I loved when we would take a break and go out into the main hallway and relax.
But I did it so many times because I loved spending time with my friend and I really wanted to enjoy it because I felt like I was absorbing some more coolness by hanging around the guys in the bands and being with her who made it seem so effortless to hang out with them. Turns out we both very much enjoy a good night in watching movies and eating dinosaur shaped chicken nuggets like we used to, too.
I also remember in my senior year of high school being particularly obsessed with the band Tokio Hotel (anyone know them besides me and you, Leah?). I remember hiding it, though, because they weren’t a mainstream band and had an… eccentric look. I had a massive crush on the lead guitarist, Tom Kaulitz – Heidi Klum’s fiance, actually – even going so far as to get my lip pierced because I thought it looked badass (which it totally did, btw) and attempting to learn German. But instead of embracing Bill’s gorgeous androgynous aesthetic or admitting that I’d watched their Monsoon music video so many times that I could tell you every detail, I watched the videos and looked press pictures in secret lest someone discover that I had interests other than whatever was popular then (The Hills maybe? I couldn’t tell you).
Embrace what you love, Past Angel. Your love for chick lit and German indie bands and Frank Sinatra and quietly making art and writing – all the writing – and the Dallas Stars and the color pink are what make you you. You are allowed to have interests that you don’t share with everyone else. And you are allowed to embrace them. And if anyone says otherwise, they can fuck off because those aren’t the kinds of people you want to spend time with anyway. And also, you don’t have to pretend to like things that other people do just so you can have something in common with them. Chances are, you already have something in common with them but you just haven’t bothered to discover it yet because it seems easier to pretend.
You Don’t Need to Be In a Relationship
Fun fact: I had a boyfriend in 8th grade that no one knew about. Truth be told, we were both kind of embarrassed of each other, but also both had mild crushes on each other. It ended the way most relationships end when you’re 14 – something like “I don’t like you anymore” (him) and “Okay” (me).
But my first serious relationship wasn’t until I was 18 and already graduated from high school. I’d already been in love and had my heart broken by that point, but had never been in a relationship that was mutual and matched.
I resented that a lot. I used to fantasize about having a boyfriend and about how having a boyfriend would just solve so many, if not all, my problems. Who the hell was this mythical, magical, problem-solving man of my dreams, anyway? Where did I get this idea? Honestly, it was probably just my desire to feel loved and admired and adored and beautiful on a level that my friends and family couldn’t give me. It was a yearn for a type of companionship that I was genuinely afraid, at some points, I’d never experience.
You don’t have to be in a relationship to be or feel whole, Past Angel. That includes settling on someone just because they actually liked you and you, however mildly, liked them but who you had nothing in common with. You will find your person and it won’t be who you expect and it will be perfect, but it will also take work, as everything does. But you are whole all on your own. You are a complete person; the entire package, by yourself. It’s okay to want someone to validate your beauty and worth, but you don’t need that. You are beautiful and worthy even without it.
I think the most important thing I could ever tell Past Angel is this:
I am proud of you, Past Angel. You are brave and strong and I am proud of you and you will be proud of me, I think. Your life won’t turn out the way you expected it to go, but very rarely does it work out like we expected in the first place. You are worthy of every ounce of happiness you could ever experience regardless of what mental illness will tell you. I love you, Past Angel.