I examine myself for the first time in my life,

explore the valleys on the undersides of my toes, visit the mountains which grow on my chest, I realize that I am a woman. Woman in a floral-patterned dress, woman with my hair tied in a delicate knot, woman with my short frame, I am everything they want me to be until I become too woman for them. I cry because my hormones are like monsoons, they arrive certain times a year, stretch me like elastic, I cry and suddenly I am too woman for them. My entire sixteen years of life, self-doubt has followed me like a lost dog, turned every corner of me, entered every new year with me, I am too everything one day, and the next not enough. When will I be just right enough for you to love, for me to love? Loving myself is like sliding a toothpick into a cake to know when it is ready to be eaten and it is never ready, loving myself is like the one christmas light that won’t spark, the one that makes the whole strand lifeless, loving myself is like a word that is on the tip of your tongue but it’s a swell at the base of your throat, falling to your stomach like a wilted rose. Maybe it’s my fault. Maybe it was just the way I was born to think, and I am a sponge meant to be filled with water until rivers pour out of me and I am no better than a tree without leaves. I never got the chance to learn about myself and how unique the shape of my nose is because I was too busy trying to make it look like everyone else’s. Me, woman? Barely. Woman is strong, woman sits atop Mount Olympus, a queen on her throne, a goddess in her heaven, and I have never felt like any of those things. Not powerful, not mighty, more like a shell. I only became whole the day that I asked myself how I am, how my muscles feel, if my bones need to be bent enough to crack but not break, it was not until I treated myself like a partner instead of the enemy that I found the woman inside of me. Me, a woman? Once a small girl with slippers on my feet, ribbons in my hair, a smile with gaps, she is a woman? Once a small girl who needed to be perfect at everything she did in order to not go home and burst into explosions and sobs, she is a woman? At first I didn’t believe myself, it feels so foreign to distinguish myself as woman, but as I dipped my hands to the sides of my thighs, felt the skin that covered bone, muscle, tissue, vessels, I felt real for the first time in my life. I am human, and I am woman, and how wonderful it is to finally see myself amidst a sea of stars.

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