“Do you play basketball?”
“You must run track!”
It was (and still is) a never-ending slew of stereotypical questions. A tall skinny black enters the building…so she must dribble a ball or sprint down a track right? WRONG. Being asked these questions used to boil my blood and embarrass me at the same time. Why you ask? Let’s dig in…
I’m 6’2” going on 6’3” currently, and I’m pretty sure I’m still growing. Hard to fathom at 24, but for me I’ve accepted it as just another day in the life of Natalie. Most of my growth was done in the 6th grade. In just a short 9 months, I had grown a whopping 6 inches and by the time I was 12 I was already 6 feet tall. Can someone say HOLY JOINT PAIN?! I was eating everything in sight, putting it away like a garbage disposal and had no control, I HAD to eat y’all.
Besides being tall, my knees were knobby and my teeth were big. A recipe for awkwardness. I thank God for the sport of swimming to aide as my daily escape, but on land- every new inch came with what felt like 1000 new people to stare. I was uncomfortable in my own skin at times. When I was with my friends I wanted to hunch down so badly to make myself their height. How sad is that? Anytime someone commented on my height in public I became either angry or totally embarrassed to the point that I tried to avoid conversation.
Finally when I went to college, my eyes were opened to say the least. The University of Florida (the best school in the land) was teeming with athletic freaks. An amazing place to be and was inspirational to say the least. People were tall just like me! I became accustom to my surroundings and finally realized that I was given a gift that not many people in theis world have. Long limbs, a leaner figure, and a love for the water. It wasn’t until college that I realized that swimming was not just about pursuing my life-long dream to make the Olympic team (although that was a huge part of it), but that it was my vehicle, carrying and helping me learn life skills. Having confidence in my swimming abilities (along with a lot of hard work) got me to one of the highest performance stages in the sport, but in my time in college I learned how to transfer that same confidence into my life outside of the water.
Learning to embrace my height and the fact that I can clearly see over most of my friends and strangers that I meet has taken some time. Learning to become oblivious to the stares of others has taken some time. Learning to take “Wow, you’re tall!!” as a compliment….has taken some time. Sticking out like a sore thumb isn’t always bad y’all, and in this day in age, it probably is better to differentiate yourself! Remember what makes you unique, is it your height? Personality? A God given talent? If I could go back and talk to 12 year old Natalie who would almost be staring me in the eye, I would tell her that this self-love process takes time and to embrace what makes you different because I promise, you will be happier for it!
Until next time city slickers,
P.S. I would love to hear your self-love journeys! What things have you had to overcome? Comment below!