By Ny’Asia President, Contributing Writer
I remember every day felt never-ending. I woke up daily at five o’clock in the morning, which, as a five-year-old, took a while to adjust to. At the end of the day, I would get home around four-thirty in the afternoon. When I started to swim competitively in high school, I would arrive home at around nine o’clock at night at the earliest and eleven o’clock at the latest. By the time I arrived home, most people would be getting ready to go to sleep, but I, on the other hand, was just beginning to start my homework.
METCO is a program intended to expand educational opportunities and increase diversity, allowing students in certain cities to attend public schools in other communities. However, being a METCO student, attending a predominantly white institution twenty-five miles away from home, has challenged different elements of my life as a young black woman.
I found myself being the only black student in my classes and the only black girl in my group of friends. I began to compare myself with others, which lead to me being self-conscious about my body, looks, and hair. I’d always watch my friends shop in Hollister, and I broke my combs trying to put my hair into a ponytail. I attempted to change my looks to fit the ideal beauty standard, but no matter what, I still was unhappy.
I came back to school one day after the weekend. The halls were crowded, and the chaos was normal. I could feel a few heads turn their attention away from their conversations. I just smiled back and kept walking. My hair had broken the tie and clouded loose behind me. That morning I spent no time worrying about what products to put on my face.
The purple, cropped tee and frayed skinny jeans I wore complimented every inch of my curves. Everything, from the way I held myself to the poised smile, said “I can do anything.”
Days prior, I had spoken to one of my biggest role models. “I don’t think I’m pretty,” I told my mother. “I don’t have hazel eyes or long straight hair.” She always listened to my words. “No,” she responded. “You don’t. You have eyes like the night, deep and mysterious, and hair like the wind, wild and free. You do not look like everyone’s definition of pretty. You look like my definition of beautiful.”
I believe that loving yourself isn’t conceit, its love. Love means acceptance, kindness, encouragement, and care. With love, doubt disappears, fears fade, and there’s even comfort that develops in being alone.
I believe you’ll help to heal and inspire others just by being yourself. You’ll help someone to discover that it’s possible for them to do this, too.