In my first year of college, I’ve made some realizations. Making new friends is hard AF, I miss my parents, and, most importantly, being comfortable in your own skin goes hand-in-hand with success. If you’re not confident in yourself you’ll suffer. I feel the need to speak out about how important that is, because I had such a long journey getting here.
Middle school was 100% the most awkward stage of my life. Think back to your middle school self… If you were anything like the typical American pre-teen you’re probably cringing. Well, I was worse than the classic version, but I’m not cringing, I’m hysterically laughing.
I was bullied. I came home crying more days than not, and I hated myself. I was large, I actually weigh a little bit less right now than I did then, but I grew about a foot taller. I had short hair and a round chubby face. They called me Dora, and even sang the theme song when I came into rooms.
I didn’t actually look like Dora, but I laugh at this nickname today and I even considered dressing as her for Halloween this year. At the time, however, the nickname was very traumatizing. The bullying started in 6th grade but by the beginning of 8th grade I was way more comfortable in my own skin. I grew out of the Dora stage and into a happier, healthier version of myself. I’ve found peace with my flaws now, and I’m stronger because of my experiences.
In high school I surrounded myself with people who made me happy, people I didn’t feel I had to impress. I began eating healthier and I exercised more. I started losing weight after I joined the cheerleading team which I’d loved in elementary school. I discovered my love for sushi and my favorite restaurant, Kiku Sushi, even named a roll after me I ordered it so much.
During high school, I created a program to teach kids about leadership. I wanted kids to stand up for themselves and their friends against bullies, to make responsible decisions, and to be great examples for others in our community. I wanted to be their role model.
This process of creating my own program at my alma mater elementary school was so rewarding. Being recognized as more than I was in middle school and showing my past teachers and administrators how much I’ve changed made me happy. That was when I realized how important it was to recognize my past with humor.
I told the kids I was mentoring that it’s okay to laugh at your mistakes, clumsiness, and past misfortunes. It helps with finding peace with them. I contributed hours of service at Davenport Ridge Elementary through my Young Leaders program, and in 2013 I made it on live local news, during an evening “News on Health” broadcast.
I told them stories about my experiences in middle school as “Fat Dora.” Although their first reaction was to feel sorry for me, I told them to be happy for me and laugh, because it molded me into the person I am today. My transition was much more than just simply going through puberty and I’m so proud of that.
When I arrived at college I realized my fears of judgement might always be with me, but that’s okay. It fuels my drive for wanting to be the best version of myself. I love trying and making new things today, healthy and unhealthy (props to Spoon for making this fun/easy in college).
I’m not classifying what my bullies did as right and I’m not saying I didn’t deserve to be upset back then, but because of those experiences criticism doesn’t effect me the way it did then, today. If I do get upset, I remember how far I’ve come since Dora. Then I laugh. I love to laugh. This experience gave me so much strength to do what I love.
Fat Dora will always stay with me, but being skinny isn’t happiness for me, and it shouldn’t be for anyone. Being okay with who I am and where I came from, finding passion for what I love… That is my happiness.
So, a special thank you to my middle school bullies. Who would I be without ya?