My Hands

Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

My hair used to fall out because I thought I was strong, my heartbeat used to waver because I thought I was in control, and my hands used to shake because, for the first time, I thought I was beautiful.

My hands have done great things. I used my hands to give my best friend the Heimlich maneuver when she choked, to hold my baby cousin when she scraped her knee in foursquare, and to rub my grandmother’s back when she remembered that her love was gone. But I also used my hands to do awful things. I pushed my finger down my throat to expel the Nutella pizza my parents forced me to eat on my fifteenth birthday, I used the pen between my fingers to draw lines on my thighs where I contemplated cutting the fat off with a chainsaw, and I clenched my fist to hit my stomach every time it growled during a lecture.

Addiction is consuming. I can be addicted to listening to Miles Davis because his trumpet fills that little scar where someone stomped on my palm in my last soccer game, or I can be addicted to the smell of paper because it reminds me that nothing compares to running my fingertips along the spine of my old copy of To Kill a Mockingbird. But I can also be addicted to calculating my body mass index because I loathe the extra fat that I carry on the insides of my thighs, or I can be addicted to drinking glasses of ice water to appease my shriveled stomach.

The amount I ate rapidly deteriorated as I convinced myself that “skinny” was equivalent to “pretty.” When I reached my goal weight of 115 pounds, I thought I would suddenly love myself, but ultimately, I still saw the same 160-pound girl I was before. Every pound lost was not enough, every calorie was a guilt trip, and every workout was draining. When my dad lost his job and I gave up soccer, the sport I had loved for ten years, my life felt unmanageable, so I had to control something.

These thoughts still haunt me periodically. Sometimes I look in the mirror and burst into tears because I can no longer count my ribs. When I grab a cup of frozen yogurt with some yearbook pals, I cannot help but feel guilty as I spoon some heaven into my mouth after we meet a deadline. On the worst nights, I grab my old pair of size-00 jeans and convulsively sob because I can no longer button them.

But I remember that I am so much more than my eating disorder. I wake up every morning to my mom kissing my forehead, and I realize that my trivial sorrows do not compare to my unlimited joys.

Now, instead of starving myself when my mind is disordered, I have created a ritual of looking at the same hands that once betrayed me.

The hairs on my knuckles remind me I am warm and alive. The short nails remind me I am focused and determined. The elliptic patterns on my thumbs remind me I am unique but not isolated. The permanent twinges of purple on the tips of my fingers from lack of circulation remind me I am resilient and I overcame an internal civil war. These hands that once broke my trust are now the very things that remind me I am beautiful, and that my character, not a number, defines my beauty.

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