If I could go back, all those years, and stand next to twelve year old me, would I have the courage and strength to tell that nervous boy watching all the other children, swimming, laughing, and running—playing shirts v.s. skins—to quit worrying and join in, that it doesn’t matter how chubby you feel, or how different you look, that as long as you love and accept yourself, no words from another can harm you, or would I just sit back and watch, still the observer unable to join the party?
It’s funny how something so simple as taking your shirt off to swim can be so detrimental to a young child’s self esteem and yet as adults we often forget what that was like or rather what external forces beyond our control led us to believe ourselves unworthy of such a simple, yet harrowing task.
As in childhood, so as in adulthood, what we allow to harm us will.
Commercials show us long, slender, sleek models who seem to effortlessly fit in to their surroundings while being rewarded with warm smiles and admiration for seeming perfect.
Television shows and movies give us well manicured, quintessential versions of ourselves that often seem more like science fiction than what actually is.
Billboard ads and magazines are placed conveniently to fill all our psyche with blemish-less detail to promote this false sense of unattainable beauty that even when met, there’s ultimately an even whiter teeth formula, or wax to whisk away our imperfection.
It’s a cycle that even before the mind has time to develop, stunts it’s growth and like a cavity begins to decay all sense of self worth.
How often have you judged yourself by your looks rather than how you feel?
For this average white guy, countless.
But it’s taken all those countless times to figure out that it doesn’t matter in the slightest, especially as a child who’s developing.
So would I tell that twelve year old me to take his shirt off and go swimming with the rest of the lot?
I don’t think there is a clear answer other than that instead of telling him what he should or shouldn’t do like all the rest of the world, I’d allow him the opportunity to listen to my story and decide for himself.
But I would say this. Chances are that boy or girl over there thinks there nose is too big or there ears are too small. Chances are that kid who cringes to put on his glasses everyday feels just like you do now, wondering what others will think of what makes him human.
Perhaps I’d reassure him that everybody has stretch marks, even the biggest, strongest athletes. Even his mother, and what could be more beautiful than sacrificing your physical form to grant another life?
I spent a good portion of last night, mooring with the tide, tied to emotions, most of which surely weren’t mine to suffer, though, like a good little buoy I did all I could to stay afloat.
But what causes a man to harbor such feelings of faithless dread.
Sympathy? Empathy? Selfless, selfishness?
Isn’t it funny how even when no one asks us to suffer, we often choose to suffer.
Could it stem from guilt? Plausible, though I think not. Depression? No, because I could still move. Trauma? Not in this case, as it had nothing to personally do with me.
Perhaps than maybe deeper, beyond the physical self, far from age or reason, like roots grown deep within the soil, always there yet invisible to the naked eye.
So then what?
Let’s take the current state of society in which the mind is placed.
We are and always have been reactionary beings, jumping to conclusions without fully taking the time and energy to understand or explore where these irrational compulsions come from.
So the year is 2020 and we are still at one another’s throats.
Not a day goes by that I don’t get a phone call whether or not I am willing to vote. Not a day goes by that I don’t see one side of the argument ready and willing to cut the other’s throat. Not a day goes by where I don’t get the impression that peace is just dependent on war, like an inside joke I just don’t get the humor.
So it’s within this grey area that I swim where both sides of the equation continue to expel these deep seeded emotions from within.
Had it not been for the open minded, tirelessly educated guidance and good nature of a mother, I may have gone another way years ago, though still I stay afloat while the undertow continues its torment.
So it seems here, now, in the mornings clean light, where all that I can do is observe—in nature that surrounds—human nature take its course.
I know who I am. And I know my intentions are good. Sometimes our actions speak louder than words but for most of us, words just don’t seem to be heard.
But that’s no reason to destroy what you can’t control.
So for those who cannot express or explain this current state of extremes we face both alone and together, I suggest this: be a beacon of hope.
Because what we know today, with or without our help, will surely change tomorrow.
So even in my darkest hours, I know, hope will never falter, light will find a way, and tides will turn, if not now, then surely another day.