Used to be my mom’s photographs were dutifully developed, dated and tagged, placed in protective albums, and stored on a shelf where they were rarely viewed. My mom has since emptied her albums, filling a large wicker basket with photos spanning the life she and my dad have shared for over thirty-five years.
I recently stuck my hand into the basket and saw the seventh-grade version of myself smiling back at me. Hair in a pony-tail, standing in our living room, modeling my new p.e. uniform for junior high school. I felt very grown-up, wearing the same colors as USC.
I was going to junior high school. I would have several different teachers. I would use a locker. And I had p.e. class. Every day. With boys. And I had to wear these shorts.
The picture shows me smiling. I was home; it was safe.
School was another story. In school, the shorts were never long enough to cover what I thought were chubby, chunky thighs. I wanted knee-length shorts, not burgundy shorts that ended inches above my knees.
I never saw myself as pretty. And truthfully, it’s something I still struggle with. Back then, I knew I wasn’t pretty. Except the picture shows I was. My legs were slender. My smile, wide and open and bright. And I didn’t see it then.
It saddens me to know that I beat myself up back then for no reason. All that time and energy wasted, worrying about the way I looked, telling myself how awful I looked. And I didn’t.
I’m honest enough to acknowledge that I am my own worst critic. I can’t always see what’s really there; I can’t always see myself the way others do.
But seeing that picture of myself in my p.e. uniform really made me take notice. I don’t want to keep repeating the same mistakes. I don’t want to miss out and not see, not acknowledge the me that’s really there.