What We Have to Do to Fly, From Someone Who’s Trying to Learn How
by Alina Wilson
Sweat beads appear on my forehead as soon as I open the first shower curtain. Girls stand changing and chatting around me in various states of undress. I strip, keeping my eyes fixed on the wall, carefully covering my body with my towel during every stage of the process. After I nearly push some other girl’s clothes off the lone bench to fit mine, I grab my body wash and hand towel so quickly I almost drop them. And then I speed walk to the shower.
Now, normally I’m a pretty confident person, but there’s nothing like communal showers to make me want to crawl into a hole and never come out… or just wear a wetsuit in the shower (one girl actually did that– it was a swimsuit but still). The six and a half minutes I spent in the shower every night that week almost made me wish I hadn’t gone to the overnight camp in the first place. I would love to say that by the end of the week I was more comfortable in the showers, but that’s not what happened. My showers got shorter every day, and the last day I quit showering completely and just drowned myself in vanilla bean Bath & Body works spray. Showering with a dozen other girls shouldn’t have been a big deal… but it was. I guess it was because a little part of me couldn’t stop comparing myself to the other girls. My hair, my stomach, my lack of a cool tattoo and/or a belly button piercing… how did I compare to those around me?
No matter how many times I ask myself this question I’m never satisfied with my answer. There’s always something about my appearance that I want to change. Up until high school, I desperately wanted to change my feet. I don’t know if that’s normal for little girls, but it all started for me at Jenna’s 8th Birthday party. I was swimming with all the other girls in my class when one of them announced that she had heard from her older sister, Sarah (Sarah was 16 years-old and thus a credible source), that if your second toe was longer than your big toe then you were pretty. Naturally, all of us immediately looked down to inspect our feet. It turned out that my second toe was not in fact longer than my big toe. The party didn’t seem so much fun after that.
Now you may ask, “You’re insecure about your feet, really?” Obviously, you haven’t seen my feet. My second toe overlaps with my big toe, and all of my toes are essentially turned sideways. My pinky toe basically doesn’t have a toenail, and I have a severe case of a terrible affliction known as “soccer feet.” I have the type of feet that employees at a nail salon look at disdainfully before saying something quickly to the other employees in another language. I have the type of feet that grandmas get after decades of wearing too tight heels and my cousin tells me so. Because of this, I never wore sandals to school during junior high– which is a shame because I had the cutest pair of Chacos.
Those are two of many experiences I have had with comparing myself to others. In both experiences, scrutinizing myself in relation to other people does not turn out well – it rarely does. Most of the time, it just leads me to want to change myself to the extent that I forget what makes me beautiful and unique in the first place.
Though I could continue to compare myself to others, eventually all I would see when I looked in the mirror would be what I’m not, rather than what I am. I won’t do this. As Roy T. Bennett once said, “Accept yourself, love yourself, and keep moving forward. If you want to fly, you have to give up what weighs you down.”
I want to fly… so I’ll try my best to love the things that I can’t change about myself– even my janky feet.
Learn to soar like Alina: