Birthday girl of muddled ways
Ever inside wanting to truthfully see
Antisipating and always seeking a new way
Underestimating her own worth each day
Remembering most of the bad things
Ever losing sight of her own reality
Graced by a mind that is sharp and pure
Always giving way not being sure
Remember as you walk the next age
Dear Beauregard unique in many ways
I remember my first grade picture day dress. I remember how I didn’t like navy blue on me
and how the white Peter Pan collar was too stiff and too tight around my neck.
I felt like I was too big and my dress was too small.
Its pretty little bows couldn’t make a pretty little girl out of me.
I remember being self-conscious of the scars that freckled my face thanks to last year’s chicken pox.
I remember being nervous waiting in line to have my picture taken,
because I knew I would look terrible. I remember wondering why I couldn’t smile
right for the photographer and the way my thick red hair wouldn’t lay right.
But most of all, I remember being six years old and already hating myself.
From my trip to Disney World in second grade, to puberty in fifth grade,
from seventh grade’s rock bottom to tenth grade’s rock bottom,
self-loathing was the ever-present demon looming in the back of my mind.
So I guess you could consider this the story of an exorcism-in-progress.
It was some time last year that I realized, as a poet and lover of words,
that connotations of words didn’t have to dictate my life.
What could I mean by that?
Let’s consider, for instance, insults; words like “fat” and “ugly”
are connotatively equated to words like “worthless”, “disgusting”, and “unloveable”.
I realized that I didn’t have to equate “fat” or “ugly” with negative words.
I could equate them with whatever words I found befitting. I could make “fat” and “ugly”
personal compliments, after all, I am fat and ugly, and I’m pretty damn awesome.
Why should I consider myself pretty damn awesome despite being fat and ugly?
Fat and ugly were two things I had identified with for the past 19 years,
so why not consider myself pretty damn awesome
because fat and ugly are pretty damn awesome things to be?
That was steps one through two of
What To Do When You’re Ugly,
step one being “realize that you are, indeed, ugly” and
step two being “realize that ugly is not the worst thing you could be”.
From there, I was regularly flooded with memories and insights about my past.
I remember that as a child, my long, straight, shiny, thick red hair
was the only feature of mine that ever gave others a reason to complement me.
When adults looked at me they exclaimed, “Oh! What pretty red hair!”
and that was the end of their interaction with me.
I realized that that lead me to resent my hair even more than I already did.
I hated waking up each morning, unable to brush the knots out of my hair.
The ritual that followed involved my daddy desperately attempted to gingerly brush his baby girl’s hair
as she stood before him, cringing in her pajamas clutching Pooh Bear against her heart.
If we fast forward several years, to middle school,
I convince my mama to let me cut fourteen inches of long, beautiful red hair
to donate to Locks of Love.
I still have enough hair for a nearly-shoulder-length bob and
I am finally free of the complement-worthy physical feature that I never felt like I deserved.
That is in eighth grade, Kelsey age 13.
Six years later and my hair has only gotten shorter,
to the point where I currently buzz three-fourths of my hair to three-eighths of an inch long,
every other week.
My hair no longer causes me grief, anxiety, or poor self-esteem
and that may be due to the fact that there is very little of it at all!
Nonetheless, my experiences with my hair led me to step three:
make yourself happy. I am a firm believer that happiness comes from within.
Our minds are an amazing, irreplicable machines of actions and reactions.
We can often choose how we act and react, which will dictate our happiness.
When I began to believe that my happiness was something I had to choose for myself,
I started noticing all the little things that made me happy.
Alternatively, I also noticed all the little things that made me quickly reactive and upset.
Therefore, whenever possible, I surrounded myself with the things that made me happy
and avoided the things that upset me.
It’s an imperfect endeavor to maintain and impossible to perfect, but I always try.
One of the biggest things that makes me happy is expression,
which is a umbrella term for many things I enjoy.
My self-expression ranges from how I cut and style my hair
and the clothes I wear to my artwork and even my mannerisms.
I remember feeling like I hit rock bottom in seventh grade.
I was exposed to emo music and the gothic subculture.
I was infatuated, enthralled by the horror and fantasy influences of it all.
But most importantly, I could wear black, baggy clothes
to hide my disgusting body and smudgy black makeup to hide my disgusting face.
I reached rock bottom that year because my life revolved around that hiding.
My only emotions were disgust and shame, geared toward myself, and resentment,
geared toward my mother who did not want her daughter to be bullied for being a freak.
I climbed up from rock bottom when I discovered poetry as a form of expression.
It was ninth grade and I had found something that made me happy,
an emotion I hadn’t felt in years.
One year later I hit rock bottom again when self-loathing, anxiety, and depression
got the better of me and no form of self-expression was worth the effort.
Since then, I’m finding new forms of self-expression all the time.
I know that if I start to spiral downward again, I have the means to climb back up.
I know that I’ve lived through twenty years of hate, all from myself, and I’m still here.
I have the resources and the determination to keep living, and that step four: Keep living.