Musings from a 12th Grade Ali

So I am still home.  My break is until Sunday, which means I will be undergoing a final push to finish all that I wanted to get done over break (most importantly how much of my Independent Study project I had planned to complete).  A lot of times when I’m here at home, sleeping in my childhood bed surrounded by all of my stuff, I get nostalgic.  This happened to me recently.  I pulled out my old high school yearbooks, and amazed myself with how many people I’d forgotten about in only 4 years.  I read all of the really sugary sweet messages people wrote when they signed my yearbook, laughing at the fact that I wasn’t really that close to a lot of them to begin with.

I also pulled out an assignment that I had completed for my senior English class called My Philosophy of Life Portfolio.  This was a creative project that we did, reflecting on our life thus far, what lessons we have learned about the world and ourselves, and how we are approaching our future.  We had to write a bunch of different pieces in any style of writing about anything we wanted that we felt was relevant to the goal of the assignment and we supplemented these with pictures, artwork, etc.  I remember loving this assignment because it was the first school assignment I completed where I felt like it really meant something.  It was also the first real thoughtful self-reflective process I can remember undergoing. I love school assignments that require self-reflection (hence, why I love my Senior Independent Study topic), even though they end up being the hardest for me to complete.

Anyway, I just wanted to share something I discovered in looking back at this portfolio assignment.  I was showing a fat feminist consciousness even before I realized it. Granted, it wasn’t very developed and explored yet, but one piece I wrote was specifically about growing up fat (after I read it, I remembered that it took a lot of courage for me to write it and I even folded it up and put it in an envelope, gluing the envelope into the portfolio in hopes that it would discourage people from reading it).   Another piece that I wrote was specifically about being a young woman (even though I avoided the term “feminist”).

Here is the piece I had written about being fat…

When I was younger I used to always think “If only I was skinnier and shorter, I could be one of the popular kids.”  I was so sure of it too.  I think all young people are secretly fascinated with the idea of being “one of the popular kids,” and I’ve always been convinced that my size was what was holding me back.  I was 5’5″ by fourth grade and have been clinically overweight my whole life [editor’s note–While writing this…I’d changed “obese” to “overweight” because I was embarrassed at the time] .  People might ask “Well why didn’t you just lose the weight?” but each individual’s ability to lose weight is a different topic to be discussed at a different time.  Right now we’re just talking about me and my experience as a person of my size.  My size has been a burden for me my entire life but sometimes I wonder, would I even be the same person if I’d grown up average sized?

Thinking back now, I see that being a big girl my whole life has humbled me.  If I had been more petite I might have had different friends, I would have not faced some of the struggles I’ve faced, and I might not be as smart as I am today.  Being big gave me some insecurities that have molded me into a somewhat cautious and introspective person.  I have a history of being much more reserved in some friendships, feeling lucky that I even had friends, worrying that if I was too clingy or assertive my friends would not like me anymore.  I felt like I needed to compensate for my body.  I would do this by being extra nice and letting friends walk all over me.  I would also try real heard to build up strengths in myself because I needed to feel like I had something going for me.  I would immerse myself in schoolwork, figuring that brains and good grades might show that I did have good qualities.

Realizing the huge affect that my size has had on my life leads me to wonder if I’d really have been better off as a shorter, thinner, more popular child.  Would I be as smart as I’ve become?  Would I be a meaner person?  Would I be one of those people who make fun of obesity?  Would I have any perspective at all?  I’m not trying to preach the cliche “the grass isn’t always greener on the other side,” philosophy.  I really don’t know what color the grass is on the other side and I almost think that’s because I’m afraid to find out.  What is stopping me from getting fitter and fixing my body image? [editor’s note– I have no idea what I meant by “fixing my body image”, but I seem to be dancing around saying “losing weight”]  Sure I’ve tried enough times to know that my metabolism makes it really hard for me but could there be a deeper reason?  Could it be that I appreciate the strength I’ve received from my size and all that I’ve learned from having the perspective of a large person?  Am I deep down afraid that being a different size would make me a different person?

I really want to go back in time and give twelfth-grade Me a pat on the back for this piece (while also telling her that the last few sentences are bullshit because I was just grasping at straws to figure out why I was still fat.  Figuring I could only blame myself].  Granted, it is not a fat acceptance piece, because I could not have, in my wildest dreams at the time, known that FA existed and that it could be ok to be fat.  I also avoided the word “fat” like the plague, and made the conversation about both height and weight in order for it to be a bit milder.  I definitely could have pushed it further, if I’d been brave enough.  But I think that it really showed that I knew something was up.  And it showed that I actually was grateful for the worldview my fat gave me, which was a huge step in the FA direction.  All-in-all I’m pretty pleased with twelfth-grade me.

What would you tell 12th grade Ali?  Thinking back, do you think that you could find similar seeds of FA from you when you were younger?

One response to this post.

  1. Oh my God, I love this post. First off, I think 12th grade Ali was pretty freaking brave. Because 12th grade Roxy [me] would NEVER have written something like this. I was in such denial until my senior year of college. So first thing I would say to 12th grade Ali- is oh my, you are so much braver than I ever was at your age. Second, I would tell her- she is totally on to something. Every experience defines who you are and if you’re happy with any part of who you are– you shouldn’t regret any of your past… none of it.

    I’m 31 years old and I’m still not at the point where I have fully embraced fat acceptance (it’s sad I know)… so there were definitely no seeds when I was in high school!


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