Even though the age thirteen was just a mere six years ago for me, I have since undergone a transformation of far greater caliber. Six years ago, I was overweight and lacked the discipline to take care of my body. Six years ago, I felt ashamed to be a 5’11’’ eighth grader who was the worst player on her basketball team. Six years ago, I was bullied for wearing glasses and braces. I was the girl who preferred reading to recess and inhaling spaghetti over sports. Six years ago, I was not Nina; I was “Ni-nerd” and fondly reminded of it daily by my classmates. Six years ago, I was afraid—afraid to be different and most of all, afraid to be myself.
I told myself that if I was skinner, people would like me. If I was athletic, people would want to know me. If I wore contacts and hung out with the cool kids during break, I would have friends. What I did not realize at the time is that people cannot like you until you learn to like yourself. So, I did.
I stopped slouching in class to make myself seem shorter and reminded myself that my confidence should match my height. I quit basketball, because the combination of repeatedly failing to catch the ball and being the team benchwarmer brought me no joy. Instead, I joined my high school tennis team and worked my way down to a healthy weight. The braces I resented eventually came off, and I immersed myself in activities other than reading books. I learned to love myself, and love the things I used to think made me flawed. Because ultimately, the “Ni-nerd” I was six years ago, or the Nina I am today would now still follow the same advice: be fearless, be bold, be un-apologetic, be YOU.
Nina Forest, Miss Treasure Valley 2017