Stories are all around us. Television series, movies, plays, fables, and books are only a few examples of how stories collide with our lives every day. I’ve noticed that many of my older-souled relatives get a kick out of talking about their younger years, and most of those aged stories sound like they could be fictional. I chalked all the horse-bucking and three-birds-with-one-bullet anecdotes up to my relatives having a few more years up their sleeves than me. After almost two decades of breathing oxygen, a horse never has bucked me, and I’m certain my father never killed three birds with one bullet. Their childhoods seemed much more adventurous and youthful than what I experienced in the twenty-first century.
As much as I’d like to say that I didn’t grow up too quickly, I know I’d be lying. While my southern “Nanna” spent her youth getting into mischief and exploring her own world full of nature and extended family, I spent too much time comparing myself to everyone else instead of loving myself. The comparisons were everywhere: my standardized tests, my towering two or three inches over my average-sized friends, and, worst of all, the way in which I viewed my body.
Nanna told me she didn’t remember anyone being overweight when she grew up. I always kept in the back of my head the fact I was always about 75% heavier than my peers. (Thanks to my doctor for sharing that statistic with ten-year-old me.) Skinny and girly went hand and hand, and my muscular calves didn’t resemble the body types glorified by the media. So, I worried, I refused to eat sometimes, and I hated the way I looked and the way all my clothes fit my less than ideal body.
The world that youth see now is full of concerns that are detrimental to their innocence. Never have children been more aware of their family’s financial state, of the way in which social status is assembled, and especially of how they look. No child should forcibly go to bed hungry for the sake of their dwindled confidence or stare in the mirror and pray for another body — a body that would not encompass his or her unique beauty. This idea of perfection is a goal that should be shredded.
Why would we all want to look alike, anyways?
It would’ve been freeing to not worry about the way I looked from the time I could solve for ‘x.’ A horse throwing me off or watching my father shoot three birds with one bullet would’ve been worth remembering. But I wasn’t born in 1944, and if I didn’t care about the way I looked, then I may have never took an interest in writing stories at all. The times in which we grow up help shape us — along with other factors, like the stories we hear and see.
Even when living in a corrupt world, and even if finances and social statuses are apparent, every child should have the right to stay young for as long as possible. They should be able to have their own horse-bucking stories and to watch their fathers shoot three birds with one stone. Perhaps this is unrealistic, but what is tangible is reaching out to others independent of their backgrounds and telling them how loved, wonderful, and special they are. Make a difference. Support wondrous childhood stories. And, most importantly, love yourself because you are beautiful.