Dear me at 13:
I know, I know. Your nose is too big. Your legs are too short. Your hair is too frizzy. Your hips are too wide. Your teeth aren’t white. The numbers on the scale aren’t where they should be. Or this is how you see it, anyway.
What you can’t see is that in 12 years time you will undergo a complete paradigm shift in the way you view your body. This will be spurred on by the two most defining moments of your life: Your father’s battle with cancer, and the birth of your first child.
Right now, you view your body as purely appearance. It is something to be looked at, scrutinized, ogled, adorned, and someday touched if you could just get it looking right. You view it as an object. Something thats worth is defined more by other people than yourself. “Why bother liking my body if nobody else will like it?” you might ask.
I’ll let you in on a little secret: Your body is not defined by other people. It’s not defined by how it looks or how much it weighs. It’s not defined by how much boys might like it (boys your age would like it even if it were smothered in sea kelp and a thick layer of fur by the way). Your body is so much more than the sum of its parts. It does amazing things each and every day. And the more you grow, the clearer this lesson will become.
When you are 25 and pregnant with your first child, you will find out that your best friend, your mentor, your hero and your rock, your Father, has terminal cancer. You will watch his body do horrible things to itself. You will see him sicken and wither away. And paradoxically, you will understand for the first time what it means to be healthy. You will begin to appreciate your body in a profound and grateful manner. Most importantly, you will be so, so very thankful for the baby growing inside your belly.
In 39 weeks, you will watch your body change, and grow (and grow and grow!) in complete awe and wonder. Your body will be hard at work creating a whole other person inside of it. A whole other person with little fingers and toes and hair and eyes, and, even more amazing, a whole other little soul with thoughts and feelings and beliefs. You will withstand 30 hours of excruciating pain and will push this person out of you, using strength that you never knew you had. Even though your body will have taken on a very different shape than what you have typically desired, you will never be as proud of, or as happy with your body as you were when you were pregnant. Not because of how your body looked at the time, but because of what your body did.
And as one body passes away, another will be born. One sick and weary and wilted, one new and pure and perfect.
Dear girl, what your body looks like is completely irrelevant. It’s what your body can do that defines it. Appreciate your body. Appreciate your hair and nose and legs- they came from your father. He gave them to you in a process so incredible that even modern medicine will never be able to define all its intricacies. A process that is also so humble and quiet that you might miss its profundity if you hadn’t first learned this lesson.
Unfortunately, this lesson will take you many more years to learn. In the meantime, don’t be so hard on yourself. Appreciate your body. Treat it with respect. Love it regardless of its shape. Nurture it and nourish it. After all, if you’re lucky, you’ll have many more years inside that skin. So you’d best start making yourself comfortable within it.