A Word to the Wise: Hard Lessons That Came Easy To Me

This will be a series of anecdotes, life lessons, and just some generally embarrassing insight into my life. The number one lesson I feel all people need to learn is to stop being so worried about other peoples opinions. Cliche, I know, but it is absolutely true, and once you accept the fact that no one elses opinions matter, the better off you will be. Now for the background story.

In the sixth grade, I came into my own. At five foot six inches, I towered over my classmates, and had maxed out on everything. I peaked early on all fronts. Well, almost. My personality blossomed, as if it happened overnight, and I found myself a new woman. I was nearly a foot taller than my sister, skinny as a rail, marked as a young woman by my unevenly straightened hair, made crunchy by White Rain hairspray that reeked of straight alcohol. Aside from my occasional use of hot tools, I had the flat chest of a six year old boy, the sickly legs of a starving animal, and the attitude of a drag queen.

To compensate for my bodys shortcomings, I felt obligated to prove my new-found womanhood. I revamped my wardrobe, steering away from the printed leggings of the Target girls clothing department, and opting for juniors styles from Marshalls and TJ Maxx (my mother refused to pay full price for anything, complaining often that I would grow out of it before I got to wear it.) As an underweight, obnoxious, incredibly unique young woman, I felt the need to further draw attention to my chicken legs with boldly emblazoned pants in a variety of eye-stinging prints and shades, of which, my favorite were a pair of grey and black zebra print skinny jeans. The hideous pants had been clearanced out for a whopping $6. I adored them, but they were a size three. Having barely fit a double zero (remember, I had no meat on my bones. People often told me I looked like a holocaust victim.) I was horrified by the thought of being denied this pair of perfectly punk pants. So, I placated my mother with my most effective line yet: “I’ll be able to wear them longer!” And wear them I did.

That Monday, I stomped through the halls of my middle school, teal D.C. skate shoes, zebra print pants, a bubblegum pink graphic tee with a giraffe and a monkey with a clever “fun sized” joke (featuring a new push-up bra that slid about my rib-cage, with nothing to hold it down.) My hair was in its usual afro/frazzled twig style, I had no idea how to straighten my kinky hair, and was jealous of the silky straight haired popular girls. Gold hoops and rainbow colored jelly bracelets completed the look. I was all of the worst things from the eighties brought back all at once. It was horrendous, but I loved it.

At lunch, a couple of those glossy straight-haired girls approached me to hate on my outfit, telling me my clothes were as ugly as I was. I was not having it. I stood up from the table, furious, knocking over my chocolate milk and spilling my beloved cheez it grips. Fists curled up at my sides, I looked the girl in the eye and told her the worst thing I could come up with.

“Is that a new outfit? I thought I saw that top on the clearance rack at Hollister this weekend. It was as cheap as you are!”

Little miss perfect was unprepared for my low blow, and she stormed off to the girls bathroom, probably to cry about her miserable, name brand existence. I sat down, seemingly triumphant. I was revered by my friends as a sort of god. They thought my courage was incredible, but I knew better. I certainly did go home and cry to my mom. I was hurt by the girls petty words, but momma bear had something to say that stuck with me. “Sarah Beth, you march to your own drum, and you don’t change your rhythm for anyone. Don’t let anyone change the way you are.”

As much as I would like to believe that my bad-assery helped me to overcome the situation with grace and dignity, but I know I only bullied her back. In any case, I learned a big lesson that day. I learned to love myself. To have confidence. To be proud of who and how I am. I wore those ugly pants until I grew again in the eight grade, and even then I cut them off and wore them as shorts.

The less you concern yourself with the opinions of others, the more enjoyment you will get out of life. I promise.

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