I Believe in Me
“When I was growing up, I knew I was different. The other girls were blonde and delicate, and I was a swarthy six year old with sideburns.” When I heard this line in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” every fiber in my body resonated with understanding. Sometimes I look back at my life in Panama. I was a gangly pre-adolescent girl trying to conform to the social mores imposed by my society, not to mention learning to accept my ever-changing body, when my parents decided to make the grand move to the United States of America. Somehow my parents felt the normal difficulties of teenage change weren’t traumatic enough for their daughter. No, let’s throw in a dose of culture shock and a nice helping of “I’m a complete alien in a new country” and you have a taste of what my new life was like. OK, maybe I’m being a little overly dramatic…my parents did have our family’s best interests in mind. But tell that to a kid who is different in every possible way from all the other kids at Bailey Junior High. All I wanted was to be like the rosy cheeked, blue-eyed girls who ate Wonder bread sandwiches. So started my quest to fit in, but all the time I felt like I was trapped in a box. I hated my frizzy, untamable hair, and why in the world did God bless me with such a plentiful amount of dark, body hair? But slowly, I began to accept the very things that made me different. And in that journey of self-acceptance, I learned a greater lesson and that is to accept others just the way they are. God molded in me a depth of character that is not possible without a little pain. I finally could celebrate those things that made me ME and, in turn I could be a friend to anyone. Maybe I began to believe the truth that God actually make me, frizzy hair and all, on purpose. I mean, come on! We are talking about the All-Wise Creator of all that is great and good. I must fit in that grandiose scheme in some way. Or maybe it was seeing other people like me being lauded or praised in the public media. Dark. Hispanic. Different. Since those traumatic, early years, I’ve continued to learn and grow, to try to understand what real beauty is, to accept all of God’s creatures. God’s creation is beautiful and, amazingly, it includes me. I embrace all that I am — Latina, wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend. A woman. Don’t get me wrong. I might have a twinge of envy when I see a statuesque, flaxen-haired beauty with perfect dimensions. But, who doesn’t?! I’m getting there, I’m learning to love myself just the way God made me. It’s a process, but I’m on the road to being truly and wholly me.
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