Dear my former, smaller body,
I’ve waited a while to write this letter. I guess I was holding out that you might still come back. But you haven’t, you won’t, and it’s time to say goodbye.
Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate all that you did for me. You played enthusiastically at recess with friends. You easily won “Guess-My-Age” contests at carnivals. And you ran the mile in gym class and took swimming lessons as best as you could, though you were never very good at either.
Perhaps most importantly, I appreciate the countless dance classes, competitions, and performances. You kept me going for hours at a time and built a lifelong love for the arts. I appreciate your balance when flying high in cheerleading and your ability to literally flip head over heels. I appreciate your willingness to even try water ballet and baton twirling, though those didn’t stick. You were outright strong, and I mean physically, amidst all that small. I’m not sure I fully appreciated that at the time, so I want you to know that I appreciate that now.
The thing is though, I am not less now because I am less strong. I am not less because I am a bigger body. I am still a dancer and artist, though I can no longer do a backflip. The backflip isn’t what matters anymore. My goals have shifted; the targets have moved. I focus on expression, not perfection. And sure, I still aim for good technique, but the goal is to have fun, not to get a new skill, as cheesy as that may sound.
I’m also sorry that I made smallness such a large part of your identity. It was an easy way to make myself feel seen when I was otherwise shy and didn’t know how to stand out. I was always the smallest in my grade, the one pushed to the front row for pictures. But I set you up for disappointment because it’s not realistic for me to want my sixteen-year-old body when I turn twenty-six. I am an adult now in an adult body, and that is okay. My identity has grown to be so much more than my shape and size.
Yes, I can do less. But I can also do more. I have independence to get in a car and drive wherever I please. I have re-found my love of musical theater, and now I am even using my body to sing. I visit animal shelters; my arms cuddle my own cat. I hug my mom, my friends, and my partner with more force. And my hands. I am so grateful for my hands. My hands have learned to write without a filter, and that writing is everything to me.
My body has changed, and my body will continue to change as I age and mature and also grow mentally as an adult. I don’t know what the future will hold for my body. But I do know that I will never be okay with my future body if I do not finally grieve my former, smaller body. It’s okay that I miss you. You did so much for me. But it’s also okay that I let go.