As I look through old photo albums, creep on my own Facebook, and analyze the different pictures of myself from my late elementary school years, I can’t help but say, “Why on EARTH did my parents let me dress like THAT?”
I was that girl who wore basketball shorts, pressed her hair to her head when she pulled it back into a ponytail, wasn’t even slightly interested in dressing like a female, and threw herself into every sport she could muster between school and hanging out with my small circle of best friends.
I was that girl who didn’t wear makeup until eighth grade.
I was that girl who wasn’t interested in little elementary school “relationships.”
I was that girl who wanted to wear t-shirts to school every day instead of fashionable clothing.
BUT I was that girl who stood up for the special needs girl in her class.
I was the girl who didn’t dive into drama when it flooded the halls of junior high.
I was the girl who became close friends with literary characters and preferred knowledge instead of worrying about petty fights with friends.
I was the girl who tried becoming friends with everyone who showed me respect.
I was the girl who learned the difference between physical beauty and inner beauty.
Today, I am the girl who thrives on accomplishments, has steadfast determination, and has an unwavering faith in someday living in a world where people can join hands and live in harmony.
To every girl who has ever looked at herself in the mirror and hated the reflection looking back at her:
You are strong.
You are beautiful. The way your face is shaped, how your eyes are placed, the color of your skin, the way your mouth curls when you smile. These qualities define who YOU are and the comments other people make about your unique qualities define who THEY are.
You will change the world, but be patient. Remember, you will do it one step at a time.
You are loved. If you doubt this even for one moment, then know this: I love you. The man above loves you. Every girl who can relate to how you feel about yourself understands you and loves you.
Every person has a story.
Your story will be full of tears, defeat, darkness, and, at times, loneliness. But every bleak moment has a silver lining, and yours is coming soon.
If you promise to look at the positives about yourself and realize how special you are, then you will find a golden future of confidence at your feet. Confidence brightens your smile, heightens your laugh, fulfills your needs, and strengthens your weaknesses.
Promise to have faith.
As the red-orange sun begins to settle behind the ocean’s horizon, waves gently kiss the shoreline and recede into their home. Waves leave behind jagged shells of assorted colors and seaweed nestle into the packed sand, leaving a trail of ocean life for beach joggers to follow. White ocean foam soon returns to shore, but upon taking its leave, erases all evidence of returning to the sea’s edge.
When the waves hit your feet, they bring a cold sensation in the midst of the heat, putting to rest any worries of overheating in the sunlight. As soon as they make their marks, they fall back to meet the rest of the sea, cleansing your feet of grainy sand.
Families with sunburned skin pack up their Frisbees, beach towels, and books filled with grains of sand and words smudged from the ocean’s kiss. Kids scream and beg, “Just ONE more minute, Mom!” Dogs try quenching their thirst in the water. Seagulls call from the clouds.
Overhead, birds soar through the sky, occasionally swooping down onto the beach to find the remains of past picnics and parties. When they find stale crumbs from unwanted lunches, their heads bow as they dive into the sand, but stop just short of plummeting into the earth as they gently pick up their treasures.
Orange and red hues melt across the sky, preventing the sun from blinding everyone with its light. The hue turns the white beach a subtle shade of orange, making the slow transition to release the sky over to the moon and the stars. This beach is more than a home of sand and sea.
This is St. George Island.
It’s an island with many possibilities and few tourists – a delightful combination.
If you plunge into the salty sea, and take a few long strides toward the horizon you find the land of the dolphins. Here, near a barely walked on sand bar, they thrust their glistening bodies into the water after making a graceful presentation of flips and jumps for their viewers. While most people think dolphins will bolt from the sight of humans, these sea creatures essentially remain curious and friendly. By slowly bringing your shaking hand to touch their wet skin, you can feel the slick water running off their bodies and you can see the sun's rays glistening along their backs, just before they break off at their fins.
If you make your way onto the land, away from the ocean and sandy shore, few beach houses occupy the land, with even fewer tourist attractions. Shops with cracked paint and St. George Island memorabilia are few and far between, but if you look up and down the main road, you may find yourself a one-of-a-kind ice cream shop with a walk-up window to relieve you from the hot summer’s day spent on the island.
As the sun sets farther beneath the horizon, the bridge linking the mainland of Florida and St. George Island becomes a sea of cars crowded with exhausted parents, mournful teenagers like me who would camp out under the stars, build a fire along the ocean’s edge, and rinse away all responsibilities in the sea if given the chance.
** Side note: Used in my English 285 course at Ball State.
Lauren is a Ball State University alumna with a Bachelor's degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. She enjoys breakfast for dinner with a side of literary enjoyment.