The Pants

Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.

“Mom!” I grumbled, “these don’t fit either!” I could feel my throat closing and my eyes welling up. “Mackenzie’s fit her so well, and…and Juliana’s actually look good on her.” I stared at the streaked mirror disgusted with the pants that squeezed me in some places, hung loosely around others, and exposed my knobby ankles. All I wanted was to start freshman year without looking like a dork. I took a deep breath, drew back the polyester curtain of the dressing room, and stepped out into the dimly lit uniform store. The female clerk, only a few years older than I, flashed a false smile.

“I’ll grab you some more sizes,” she offered as she hurried toward the endless rack of khaki pants.

That day I should have expected to leave Debbie’s Uniform Store disappointed; after all, I had already spent 14 years dealing with the wearisome task of finding pants that fit my lank body. My mom, unsure of which motherly cliché would hurry me up, stood outside the dressing room. She endeavored to console me by saying that she would love to have my long, thin legs rather than her short, stubby ones. I turned away from her, my eyes welling up again, and thought, “I would gladly trade my legs for hers if it meant fitting in.” I drew in a big, but hardly calming, gulp of air and turned back to face her. My mother gawked at me for what seemed like several minutes before letting out a desperate sigh and pleading that she needed to return to work. Shortly we left, in her hand a plastic bag with three pairs of neatly folded, loathsome khaki pants.

A week later on the first day of high school, I stumbled into the gymnasium where the entire freshman class sat in the bleachers; looking around I realized no one cared, or even noticed, how my pants fit. The khaki pants lacked the power to dictate my identity—but now that I knew the pants could not tell me who to be, what would?

I reflected on the details that made me who I am and learned that I already had an identity. I once had a very flat perception of myself: just the girl with her hand up in class. Now I acknowledge all the other aspects of my multifaceted character instead of trying to mask them with a pair of khaki pants. I am the artsy girl who wears her handmade jewelry and who chooses to ride her bike to friends’ houses instead of to drive. I am the girl who doodles in the margins of her economics notebook yet contemplates supply and demand curves while throwing clay on the wheel. I am the yogi who never misses a Friday school football game. I am the runner who solves equations during races to distract herself from the pain. And I am the beach bum doing her calculus homework out on the sand. On relinquishing my attempts to mold myself into others’ expectations, I evolved into a carefree and more confident young adult.

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