How often have you judged yourself by your looks rather than how you feel? For this average white guy, countless.

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?

But we all figure it out in our own time.

I know he did.

Clearwater Beach Florida

it’s ok to feel blue too.

I think I’d rather not

I mean ok

Let me walk a block

Get my thoughts straight

Try and help out

Make you feel great

If this was high school

Basket case.

I think I’d like that

I mean no don’t

If you bite back

I could go home

Take my shoes off

Draw a warm bath

Some use a toaster

Here I’ll right back.

Got a new job

Got a new face

Got some new friends

To help replace

No that ain’t right

I mean ok

It’s a bad trip

Depends what you take.

Is that a sick joke

Or the new wave

Is that a cut throat

Or a switchblade

Is this real life

Or a showcase

No one can hurt you

Just be brave.

Had a dog once

His name was courage

He could sense pain

Like a surgeon

One day I woke up

He had broken

His chain and ran off

But that’s the breaks kid.

See the sunshine

And the bus stop

See the shadows

And the rooftops

Even your grumpy

Great grandpa

Smiles sometimes

Don’t last long.

So if you feel bad

Just know I like you

If you feel sad

I’ll feel sad too

We’ll sing a singalong

In a sad room

Kid it’s ok

To feel blue too.

Yet still I turn to the East in longing.

I was nothing more than excuses,

a great big ball of disappointment

which she tried desperately to employ.

At the bottom of it, I was fragile and weak.

In the pits of despair I looked to love,

but could not fully know love without

loving myself, which by terms of engagement

were cut like beautiful red ribbons from her hair.

Give me death, I’d beg.

Give me peace, I’d scream,

unaware that there was any difference between.

Still she’d try, day in and day out, pushing forward

like an endless train car of hopeful desire.

We’d even escape together too

with nothing but the wind to guide our path

and the rise and fall of the sun to persuade us forward.

Knee deep in the escape of journey we’d prevail,

until of course the final push where and when

like a wrecking ball of fate our souls would wither

in the crest of the sun upon the blind horizon.

Even now, I still turn my sights inward

reminded of her beauty and strength,

channeling it outward where I can walk

head turned high among the many shapeless eyes

who know nothing of my past, care nothing of my future

who’d rather see me not than to judge.

Yet still I turn to the East in longing.

And like all those many times before I know

even if we were to change(our minds) we couldn’t.

Though my count of crows is high

I know that one day it will be but one.

Until then I’ll keep this in my breast pocket

along with my sunglasses, where I reach for them sometimes

when my heart is heavy

where I can’t bear to look away

where I gaze into the distant clearing

and watch grasshopper spring

from golden stalk to golden stalk

blissful in the quiet light.

alone and warm and aware

The sun is warm on my face

grey shadow upon wood grain

stuck somewhere between

sympathy and harmony

with the universe

and where a headache should be

there is none

and where a heart should be

there is stone

and where I should be

there is shadow

alone and warm and aware

cast too across wood grain with

the closing doors of another work shift.