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Five-Year Old Me

My dad tells me I was a very brave little girl that day. I wore an oversized Pittsburgh Steelers sweatshirt, and navy spandex pants tucked into white ruffled socks that poked out from my flashy Sketchers sneakers. It was my first day of school. Not preschool- big kid school, where kids stay the whole day without taking any naps. Apparently from what my dad can recollect, I was so enthusiastic and energetic getting off the bus after school that day, that I tripped on the last step of the bus before running towards my dad’s open arms.

When my dad asked me how my first day of school went, he remembers me saying, “I made so many new friends, Dad, and I talked about my boo-boo in front of the whole class! So now everybody knows, and we’re all friends!”

Back in kindergarten, I could embarrass myself and no one would care because I was just a cute, hyper kid who wanted to play. Making friends was effortless back then because all I would have to do is play Legos with someone or share my crayons with another kid, and we would instantly become best friends. In elementary school, I could speak about my “boo-boo” and not notice what kind of weird look I got back from people. I could ignore the constant stares and be thrilled to answer the relentless question of “What happened to your lip?”

I was born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate. However, a ten word answer doesn’t explain the whole story, and possibly an entire college essay can’t either. I have a facial deformity, and to fix it requires several surgeries and years of waiting for stitches to heal, for teeth to move, and gaps to close. Since I was two weeks old, getting wheeled into the operating room, I’ve been waiting to be done. The longer I wait, the more self-conscious I get. I know the kids I go to school with can tell I’ve had my braces on longer than the usual two years, and maybe they’ve even noticed a difference in my appearance after recovery from my surgeries. The doctors can help me fix how I look, but they can’t tell me how to fix how I feel inside. Growing up with a facial deformity doesn’t come with a manual on how to feel pretty or confident, or how to ignore the mean comments.

High school has been tough, but I’ve found a place where I feel content with who I am and what I look like. I’m that little kindergarten kid who feels comfortable talking about her appearance in front of other people. My five- year old self has taught me to embrace my looks and not feel shy about my story. It worked for me on the first day of school, and I’m sure it will work for me on my first day of college.





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