I don't know why or how, but I have a couple memories from before I even turned five. I know I wasn't five yet, because I have a metric. My fifth birthday came almost immediately after I moved out of Buckhead, Atlanta to a suburb north of the city. The first is a memory of the Kindercare daycare that I was enrolled in by my parents. It was located in North Atlanta, maybe around the Cobb Galleria.
One day we had a new teacher. She was young and had just finished her degree. I don't know how I remember that, but I do know why I remember it. We were told by another employee to behave for her because this was her first day on the job as a newly graduated teacher. She must have only been twenty.
She had us all sit at a rectangular table, maybe fifteen of us total, ages three to four, and she was teaching us something. I have very little idea of what it was, and I won't know until the day my physical husk dies and I can look into the akashic record. I do however remember that she mentioned cats.
While talking about cats, she conjured a grease pen and drew little whiskers on one of my fellow students faces. Suddenly, I was filled with my first ever memory of hurt. She'd stabbed me right in my chest. It may have actually been the first time in my life that I was able to even understand that concept.
My lips quivered, but I had to stay strong because I wasn't allowed to cry. I tried forcing myself to listen to her reading her book about cats in order to take my focus away, but it wasn't enough to keep me from cracking. I broke down into uncontrollable sobbing. Surprised, she asked me what was wrong, and why I was crying.
"I want to be a cat too." I was bawling like a baby, because I was a baby, and I can remember how happy she was.
She closed the book, set it down, grabbed my tiny face, and then drew whiskers on my little cheeks. Suddenly, all the other kids began to cry, and she drew whiskers on their faces too. She finally gave up on the book and placed it gently on the table.
We crawled around the room, mewing like kittens as she watched. I can remember her smile and how happy everyone was. Ah, man. It was so genuine. Even a three or four year old me couldn't forget that. I had accidentally made her first ever teaching experience wonderful.
I think the reason I remember it is probably multi-fold, but I do know that only around a year or two after that, I was never a good child again. I would abuse other students, choke the little girls that were my age, trash classrooms, cuss, tear pages out of school books, and lash out violently, until many years later, I dropped out in the eleventh grade and got my GED.
I think I remember that moment, of that day because it really was just one of my first memories ever, or maybe I remember it because I can still see how genuinely happy that teacher was. Maybe it was because in that moment, a complete stranger showed me an unconditional love that we adults all want and have trouble finding, because it's an unconditional love that goes away at some point in our lives, but makes you wish you were a child again.
Tell me I'm wrong and misremembered, but I still have dreams of her happiness at seeing my hurt over something so sweet and adorable. I couldn't imagine me seeing that as an adult. The absolute innocence would make my heart melt, and I'd draw little grease-pen whiskers on every child on this planet so that they wouldn't have to ache because someone else got to be a cat for a moment. I'd draw the little grease-pen whiskers on their cheeks so that they never had to grow up. I'd do it so that they never had to worry ever again. There is still a child in my heart.
My parents eventually took me out of that Kindercare. I don't know why, but I was put into a privately owned daycare that was right across from Miami Circle, along Piedmont road. It's just beyond a set of train tracks, and is currently a bank of powerlines with a train track behind it as well, but back in those days, the powerlines didn't exist. There was also a CUB Foods supermarket in the giant parking lot directly across Piedmont.
I can remember a few things about that set-up, which I won't elaborate on, but the one thing I remember the most, was my last day there. It was my last day there because someone who had stake in the daycare was into touching kids.
Two of the female teachers took me and another girl out. I don't remember much about her, other than that she was older and taller, and very articulate in the way she spoke. She'd also come from out of town and had previously lived in Atlanta and her parents were back visiting for a day or two. They drove us around to multiple businesses and restaurants and even a few museums.
At the end of the day, we stopped at a sandwich shop and they bought us each one of those big chocolate chip cookies that delis always have. I can remember me and the other girl thinking they were one of the most heavenly things ever created, but really, the entire day and everything in it, was as amazing as that cookie. Maybe it wasn't even the cookie, or the day, but the fact that I was forming my first memories.
She was quite the yapper. She talked very fast, and the two old ladies driving us around thought she was adorable and hilarious, and they kept joking that we'd get married one day. We didn't get married though. The last thing I can remember her telling me is that we'd meet again one day. That didn't happen, and I don't know a single one of their names and never will.
I wasn't even five yet, but I remember how much I cared about this person who is like a silhouette to me now. She has no distinguishing features anymore, save for one or two, and one of them is her biting into that giant cookie and laughing. I think it's important to me because it was the first time I experienced loss, but not just loss, irritation caused by loss. To this day, three decades later, I still wonder who any of those people were.
I believe in God, and I love God, and I know that nothing he has ever done on this earth is cruel. I believe in evil and I hate evil, and I want to place the blame for all hurt on evil, but only God could have made memories as vivid and wonderful as those. Only God could have made them end the way they did.
The real cruelty lies in giving someone as young as that the ability to think, and to go so far as to give them the ability to think in words, pictures, and colors.
of “I’ll do it
but I don’t.
the sum of
No body’s Perfect
Because I was always bigger than all my friends.
In every picture we took together I stood out and above them all.
Because I wasn’t allowed to wear a two-piece bathing suit,
and I was sure it was because I didn’t look skinny enough.
Flashes of every beach vacation ending in tears and frustration plague my mind.
Because I lied to myself about myself. No one will want me unless my body is microscopic.
I was convinced something was wrong with me and that everyone else knew it too.
Because I forgot how perfectly I was designed in my mother’s womb.
Because I wanted to be paper thin like all the girls I saw on tv and Instagram.
Because so what if I hurt myself and those around me if it got me thinner.
Cue the concerned gazes of my little brother during family dinner.
Because I could handle it and I was in control.
That’s a lie, because I started to enjoy the feeling of hunger.
The pain that was once unbearable was now a reward.
Cool water gliding down into an empty stomach became my favorite sensation.
Because my joy was being taken away with every cardio work-out I forced myself to do.
The night before my 16th birthday was spent doing jumping jacks on a broken foot.
Because fainting became a game to me, and I was beating my high score.
Because even strangers complimented what they thought was hard work,
when in reality they were congratulating me for starving.
Because my mind was swarmed with figuring out how sneaky I could be,
how long I could not swallow and how many ribs you could see.
Because enough was never enough. Too little never came, too small was non-existent,
and suddenly I couldn’t picture my life without being hungry.
And then, one day,
my secret was no longer a secret, and my family was worried about me.
It became because I was tired of hating myself.
Because my body is simply the shell I am inside of.
When I think about the people I adore, their size doesn’t even cross my mind.
Because my body is the least interesting thing about me.
Because I started therapy and there are people who know what I go through.
Because I owe it to five-year-old me to be the girl I was before I cared about calories.
It’s liberating eating what you’re hungry for instead of what you feel worthy of.
Because true beauty is realness and even famous artworks have imperfections.
Because Hannah Montana said nobody’s perfect.
Because Christmas lights and stars both shine beautifully,
but there’s no need to compare them.
Because food keeps us alive and tastes delicious.
It’s still scary sometimes, but that’s okay.
Because I won’t stop trying to unlearn all the evil habits I adopted.
It turns out no one cares about your BMI.
And because it’s exhausting being at war with yourself.
“I cried when you were born”, is how my childhood framed the birthmark on my face thanks to my dad, who continued on to say, “…because you were different”.
Family genetics were awesome enough to bless me with a port wine stain (birthmark) that covers most of my left cheek. Everyone I know of on my mom’s side of the family has a birthmark somewhere, but usually it’s somewhere easily concealed by clothing; I just drew the short straw.
As a young kid it only bothered me when strangers and classmates would point it out. Kids, especially in the 80’s, were prone to bullying and I was an easy target when they went looking for one. I remember being pushed around by kids who had encircled me for what felt like no reason at all. It was a hierarchal playground, and this was just their way of posturing. I really doubt any of them had a real understanding of what they were doing…but it still hurt me inside. Just as it hurt when the family would be out at a restaurant and some stranger would stop, stare, and question about what’s “wrong” with me. I believe it was these stories from the playground and the embarrassment my dad felt in public that drove him further to “fix” me.
But as a kid I didn’t really understand the fuss. I had a great group of friends, was often “going out” with a cute girl and felt no limitations to my ability to get an education or excel in sports. How was something wrong with me yet I was still able to live this happy life? But my dad knew best.
At around the age of 14, right about when puberty was in full swing, laser technology had advanced to a point where removal of my birthmark seemed like a possibility. My dad was so excited and spent hours researching local resources and different treatment options. All I knew is that this is something he wanted for me, so I was on board.
It was about the middle of grade 9 that I went for my first laser treatment. It would take place early in the AM at the children’s hospital about an hour away, so we were up super early. After a bowl of cereal in my belly, and teeth were brushed, it was time to apply the thick numbing cream onto my face. A cloudy cream, about the same consistency as Polysporin. The to stop it from dripping or rubbing off, my parents covered it with shrink wrap which was adhered with white medical tape. Imagine, if you will, the self-confidence hit I took walking out the door that morning. I looked like I had an issue while I was a perfectly healthy kid beneath the plastic.
Once at the hospital we went to the special ward, passing by children my age and younger who were facing real life challenges, not a vanity one. Being in my angsty social-justice teen years I made mention of this to my dad, but he assured me that since he pays taxes we had just as much right to be there.
The kind doctor, a lady from eastern Europe, peeled back my plastic cover and poked at my face with a needle to ensure I was numb…I was “numb enough”. In a 3” x 3” square on my face she administered over 500 laser zaps, all feeling like the snap from an elastic band. I winced when she was on numb spots and shed tears when she got into the crease of my nose and up around my eye socket. My dad held my hand and offered support within the vein of “suck it up and be a man”.
After it was all done the doctor applied a thin layer of Poly and we were off. Not home, but to sales calls my dad wanted to make while we were in the area. For most calls I stayed in the car, but frequently I was asked to come in where he’d display me as his science project while his customers looked at me with judgement.
The next day I’d be off to school, with now half a face covered in dark burgundy spots lit up by the new layer of Poly which was meant to stop scaring and bleeding. As the days went on the spots got more angry looking and the area began to scab, develop pimples, bleed, and flake. I have never been so thankful than I was for the friends I had who would circle around me, both literally and figuratively, and shield me from teenage drama. It took about three weeks for the red spots to be gone, and another two weeks before we’d see any change in my birthmark.
We repeated the treatment 17 times within 3 years.
When I saw the treatments were no longer having any effect, I really started to resent the procedure. I talked to my friends about it, and I remember sitting in the cafeteria one day with my best female friend, who also happened to be one of the prettiest in the school. She bluntly asked why I was doing it anyways, saying that my birthmark is what made me unique! Not different, not flawed, but unique. That pretty much settled my mind on it…I was going to be done but I didn’t know how to tell my dad as he was only focused on 100% removal.
A couple weeks later I had another treatment scheduled but my dad was able to take me, so I was left in the hands of my step-mother. She had faced many health issues in her life so on the morning of the appointment I asked her how she was feeling, thinking/hoping that she might be in too much pain to make the drive. But she was fine that day. She asked why I’d asked, and I came honest about not wanting to continue with the treatments. This is where you’d think I got support and caring, but boy oh boy did I get the opposite. Her response? “I don’t know why you’re bothering anyways…it’s not like you’ll be good looking”. She might have said other things, but as a kid all I felt was the knife in my back and the mud on my face. For forever and 1 day…fuck her. We didn’t go that day after all, but I do go back one more time with my dad which felt like the compromise between he and I.
So now what? In my dad’s eyes I wasn’t normal yet, so his project wasn’t yet complete. Well maybe instead of getting rid of it, we would just cover it up! Yes! What a fantastic idea! Dad found the specialty store that sold cover-up cream (aka, makeup) and off we went for a pigment match. I was bought a container of cover-up and another of finishing powder to knock down the sheen. I would have been around 17 when all this happened, and I wore the cover up until I was 22 or 23. All of my clubbing, deejaying, promiscuous, partying years were shrouded by the uncomfortable feeling of wearing makeup to hide a grotesque birthmark.
- Friends and I would head to the beach for a day…some of my face would tan while my cheeks (because I covered both for evenness) stayed the same, now lighter, color.
- I’d wear a dust mask at work, then not take it off until I was back in private where I could fix my makeup.
- Every photo from that period makes the coverup obvious, and I know I ruined at least one series of wedding photos by standing out.
- I’d let nobody get close to me, and certainly entertain nothing more than a one night stand so I could keep my secret.
- I was constantly embarrassed for my friends. I knew they knew, and I knew they were being seen by others as the friends of the “freak” who wears makeup.
- It was awful, and I developed such deep mental health issues that almost took my life more than a dozen times. I’d cry in my apartment for hours, thinking unsuccessfully of any way I could stop wearing the cover up yet be accepted by society. Thankfully my cat loved me unconditionally and needed me to stay alive to care for him.
When I was 22 or 23 I’d just had it. I couldn’t hold down a job, I was always struggling for money, and I could feel my mental health spiraling further and further into dark places. It was time to cut bait one way or another. But because I’m a tad stubborn I chose to keep going with life and opted to move in with my mom for a short while. With that, came relocating to another city about an hour away, and an opportunity to start fresh. When the last truck of my stuff had been unloaded at her place, I finally removed the cover-up, and never once put it back on. I made trips back to see my old friends and decided they’d just have to be ok with who I am, and never once did anyone make a comment. I was accepted, despite what the demons my dad had put into my head were telling me all those years.
It was amazing. I spent over five years trying to hide, while actually making myself stand out more. I was an embarrassment by who I chose to be, rather than accepting of who I was.
I’m now a middle aged man, with a fantastic wife, an amazing life, and free from most of the birthmark demon grips. Every now and then a dim person will ask “what does the other guy look like?”, suggesting my birthmark is obviously the result of a fight, which does bother me a bit, except for that they’re assuming I won the fight. I can stand in front of work associates and feel judged only my abilities, not my appearance, and I’ve been fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to talk to random kids with similar issues.
So, I don’t care much about my birthmark anymore, but the long term mental trauma is still something I work through daily. I’m never good enough, I should keep to myself, and I don’t fully trust anyone. Thanks, dad.
For more of my stories please check out www.timwilde.ca
Written As It Came To Me
Nobody is coming.
It's been a long time.
I'm eighteen, now.
Eighteen years old.
An "adult", people may say, decided by... Who even knows.
And my life is as it is.
It's not great, not even good.
Getting through each day is a struggle.
A struggle that doesn't stop because I keep... Waking up the next day, you know?
And I went a little nuts and decided that I would reach out.
The results of my attempt?
My father made me cry two days ago and I still haven't forgotten how much that hour long conversation hurt.
My mother suggested the needful like God, friends... Both parents repeat the same things like broken records, things that will no doubt "fix" me.
But I have tried those things before and I simply can't, anymore.
My sister told me to be happy because my sadness makes her feel sad... And I don't want to bother her, anymore, because we are twins and we've both been sad a long time in our own ways.
The person I care about a lot that I thought cared for me too, well, they not only forgot my birthday but they haven't spoken to me in almost a week.
I think I'm alone, you know?
I think this is it.
I think that's how things were meant to be.
Maybe it'll change.
Maybe someone will care for me like I deserve to be cared for, some day.
I wish I believed that but until that hypothetical morning, here I lie.
Struggling to get out of bed, no hygiene, barely speaking to anyone, apathetic to life, dead inside, a stormy rain cloud settled above my head that no one but me seems to see or understand.
Here I am, listening to music, writing things that make me smile, talking to the sky like an old friend, waving at birds, smiling at clouds
When I am happy... I am very happy.
But the lows crash right in once that moment has ended.
And I can't keep up the joy juice in me, it's too hard and I am much too tired.
So here's the best I can do.
A promise to myself.
That I will keep going and going until somehow, maybe a decade from now, maybe more, maybe never, I feel good.
I feel content.
Until the day comes where I wake up and feel happy to be alive.
What have I got to lose, right?
Lost my sanity years ago so screw it, here's to another possible seven years of sadness and isolation.
Here's to the disconnection I feel with everyone and being proven right in my distance everytime I dare to reach for someone's hand.
Here's to me.
Here's to more.
Here's to the foolish hope some part of me still clings to that I may some day be happy.
May you be proven right and I wrong.
it is snowing and I am trying to love myself
It is snowing and I cannot feel my hands.
My hands are always cold—poor circulation, a symptom of being tall, of tall stature. I am a front row person, but I never sit at the front of the classroom out of fear of blocking someone else's view, of inconveniencing others, of condemnation. I am very tall and my hands are so cold, I am a tree in winter with brittle branches and twigs ready to snap, ready to break.
I am not ready to break, I am bent and twisted, the scoliosis twists my spine, wringing me out until I can only see behind me, like an owl frozen in time. I can only see behind me and I am peering into a past that is eerily familiar. They say that hindsight is 20/20, but my vision has always been awful and everything is blurry. There are shapes and the shapes are moving, moving; nothing ever stays stagnant, nothing ever remains, nothing persists, everything changes and changes and changes until it is not what it was before, but rather something new, the amalgamation of experience and addition and subtraction and refinement.
I am afraid of change. I am afraid of the unknown, of shifts to my routine, my routine that gives structure to my life. Without my traditions, my rituals, my routine, I stumble, I fall. I wish I weren't so deeply troubled by insignificant interruptions, but it is not Christmas and I don't believe in Santa Claus anyway; I wish I weren't so fragile, but there are no shooting stars in the sky for me to wish on—everything is cloudy, everything is misty. I think, maybe, that I can wish on myself. I am myself, aren't I? Aren't I?
I am myself and I am tall and my hands are very cold, but I love them anyway.
My hands are cold and they move slowly, but I am patient, I have patience. I have patience with my hands, why can't I have patience with myself? With myself? With who I am—who am I? I can give you the boxes I package my identity in, I can deliver little gifts and presents that contain the chopped up fragments of who I am. I can tell you my Myers-Briggs type, I can tell you my Enneagram type, my astrology sign, my college majors, my research interests, my favorite color, my results from Buzzfeed personality quizzes. That's not quite me though, is it? That's not quite me. If you want the sketch, take the boxes, but if you want the entire painting, you'll need to wait and watch.
I am myself and I am tall and my hands are very cold and my spine is twisted and I am peering into the past.
It's awfully inconvenient to walk forward when you're stuck looking behind you, but my routine is deeply ingrained into my body, so I take my steps confidently, I take my steps cautiously. I am a cautious person, I am an anxious person.
I need routine and that is okay, that is okay because I am okay, and if I am not okay, I will be okay. I will be okay and that is enough. That is enough. I am enough.
It is snowing in April and my hands are very cold. I wrap them around my body, clutching myself closely, giving myself a hug I know I need. My hands are very cold and they aren't always precise, but they are my hands, and I love them for what they are, not what they should be. I love myself for what I am, not what I should be—or at least, that's what I want, I want that to be true. I want to love myself again, and really, I'm trying. I've made so much progress, I've come so far. I think there's self-love in my future; I trust my body to know where to go even though I am stuck looking behind me.
I am stuck looking behind me because my spine is twisted and because I am addicted to the charm of nostalgia. Nostalgia and I are in a complicated relationship; there's no romance between us, but sometimes she smothers me with sadness over a past that never was and I like the emotional asphyxiation, but I don't think that's very healthy, is it? I don't think that's very healthy at all.
I am afraid of change and I need routine and I get so horribly sad when my routine gets disrupted. I am the epitome of a creature of habit, and I live joyfully. I live joyfully on my well-worn tracks, I live joyfully knowing what to expect and seeing it come to fruition. My first year of university, I ate the same things ever single day: breakfast was a bowl of raisin bran with whole milk, coffee with french vanilla cream, some fruit, and Emergen-C or orange juice; lunch was a small chocolate chip granola bar paired with a tiny cup of espresso; dinner was a spinach tortilla wrap with lettuce, grilled chicken, two tomatoes, and ranch dressing, plus french fries and a chocolate chip cookie. I ate the same things every day and I did the same things every day and I was a creature of habit, and I was happy, I was stable.
The world is so awfully unpredictable, and I can't see what's happening in front of me because my head is stuck facing backward into my past. It's okay, I'm okay. Maybe I should visit a chiropractor?
For now, I am working on acceptance. I am working on accepting that I need routine but that my routine will get disrupted inevitably. I am working on finding comfort with chaos. I am working on strengthening the walls of my mind so that I can find comfort in turbulent times. I am working on loving myself—really, I am! I'm working on loving myself. I'm making progress. I love my hands, I really do.
My hands are cold and they're not always perfect but they do what I need them to do.
It is snowing in April and my hands are very cold and I am trying to love myself, I really am.
It is snowing in April and I think that everything is going to be okay.