It’s always the bad moments and the bad people that stand out to me the most. When I look back on my life and consider everything that made me who I am today, I think about the worst moments. From the time I was about 7 years old to when I was 14, I couldn’t look in the mirror without only seeing the flaws. In school, I was fearful that if I drew too much attention to myself, I would be taunted for it by one of the boys. So instead of risking this, I forced the most genuine part of myself deep down, into a place that I am just getting access to now.
Despite my best efforts to stay under the radar, one time I was taking notes in algebra class, and I heard the two boys behind me talking. I turned around and saw that they were mimicking the way I pulled my sleeves over my hands, and I heard one of them say, “Look, I’m Sunny and I have braces,” make spastic movements with his head and say some other garbage in this ridiculous, quivering voice. Some other students were laughing, and I felt embarrassment like I’ve never felt before. In my head, I felt that there was something wrong with me and that this taunting was justified.
It was hard to go to school without being afraid. I could do something as simple as take notes in class, and they would find something to make fun of. I felt unsafe wherever I was at school. Whether it was how I looked, how I talked or what I did, it was all up for scrutiny and insult. They would amplify what they saw as flaws for the entire class to see and point at. I stopped appreciating my strengths and obsessed over my faults. As a way of protecting myself, I shrank into myself and became as invisible as possible.
I began to blame my insecurities on the other girls in my class. I started to resent them for being pretty, for laughing at the boys’ jokes and for being outgoing in a way I could never be. Little did I know, they were also victims of bullying and marginalization. After grade school, I learned that many were called nicknames of a sexual nature, and the boys would do things such as snapping their bra straps when they were standing in line as “a joke.” They had to endure so much bullying and harassment, if not more than I did, and I’ll always regret not standing by them when it happened.
After I graduated eighth grade, I decided to go to a Catholic all-girls school, because quite frankly, I didn’t want to be around another male my age ever again.
My new school, while it had its ups and downs, allowed me to grow as I never had before. I got to exist in an environment where girls were allowed to lead discussion without being judged and just exist without being marginalized. They showed us documentaries such as “Miss Representation” that taught us about feminism, and I probably had a conversation about “taking down the patriarchy” at least once a day. The girls at my high school never took my weaknesses and made me feel lesser for them. I was finally given space to grow and exist without regrets. It was like a bildungsroman movie. I was Lady Bird (kidding — I only wish I could be Saoirse Ronan). I came to UC Berkeley with this invigorated sense of self-worth that I didn’t go into high school with.
I’ve had an amazing and happy life. I have a wonderful family with a father who’s taught my brothers and me what a good man looks like. I have a mother who has taught me to be strong and never to accept failure. While I do think about the bad moments the most, this love and this strength have been shaping me and supporting me throughout it all. Now, as I go into my third year at UC Berkeley, I’m over being scared. I’m done with questioning my worth. I’m going to pull my sleeves over my hands if I want to and laugh at the people who make fun of it. So to every womxn who knows what it’s like to be judged or put down for existing, you are worth so much. Don’t let your worst moments define you, but instead, let them motivate you and make you stronger. Take back whatever you lost from years of boys being allowed to be “boys,” and live your life unapologetically.
“Off the Beat” columns are written by Daily Cal staff members until the summer semester’s regular opinion writers have been selected. Contact the opinion desk at [email protected] or follow us on Twitter @dailycalopinion.