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My eyes are searing critics of my reflection
As I stand in a high school bathroom.
This image is my identity, my spirit, my god.
Look at that face—a façade.
A mouth curves into a smile for the mirror;
My skin is a canvas, daily repainted to hide flaws.
I twist my deadweight of hair
Into a ponytail, out of my eyes,
That burden of endless washing and brushing.
Hot pink shorts reveal tanned, strong legs,
Built by countless miles and hours under an unforgiving sun:
A body molded by pain and sacrifice.
Anchoring me to the floor,
Worn-out running shoes hide my feet:
My tired, worn-out feet.
But this is my routine now.
I will run until my body is numb;
I will run until, step by step, I release my effort into the asphalt and earth.
Food and running fills my dreams and nightmares.
A quest for acceptance fuels my dreams and nightmares.
To ease the pain, chocolate and adrenaline are my drugs.
I'm standing there, staring, and
Guilt and unease ties my stomach in knots:
Can I survive my self-inflicted religion? Is this the day I break?
At the starting line I will commence
The race, the climax, the glory
Of this struggle…
And yet, the other girls always push past me.
Their lungs are sturdier and their wills are keener and
Their bodies are slimmer.
I can't compare.
I will be just a name, a race time, a number on a scale—
And it won't be enough.
Deep inside, I know the reward of my striving
Is fleeting and selfish and wrong.
I can’t earn love; I can’t win by conforming to an ideal.
I should heed my grandmother’s reminder
To a child in a flowing pink dress:
"Pretty is as pretty does."
I should rediscover the truth owed
To a child of a living God,
Whose love exceeds that which I deserve.