It was an easy moment. There I was helping Happy get dressed for bed and he was struggling to pull up his pajama bottoms after putting on lotion. He twisted, grunted, tugged.
“The struggle is real, baby. Isn’t it?” I asked him.
He looked at me with that profound open face of his and said, “That’s all of life, mama. You just gotta keep trying.”
And, just like that, my nostrils flared, my eyes welled with tears, and, so as not to scare him with how true his words were, I embraced him. I pulled him so close that I was practically tasting his mango butter leave-in conditioner, and I felt his certainty.
“Yes, baby. Life is a struggle. And you just have to know that you already have everything inside of you that you need. You just have to keep going.”
Here is the awful news: life is hard. Just by itself, no human miscalculation, error or drama factored in, it is hard. And then we add our stuff to it—the stuff that happens to us, the stuff that we do to ourselves, the stuff we do to others—and life gets really dense, really fast.
But here is the amazing thing, the thing that it can take a whole life to realize but doesn’t have to: you already have everything inside of you that you need. And it is worth it- you are worth it- to keep going.
Here is what I have witnessed in you and from you in the last four months: profound compassion, inspired asking, deep yearning, an unquenchable thirst to understand, a true desire to connect, a healing, uniting humor, a broken open hope, a quixotic magic.
And those things aren’t just sweet. They aren’t quaint. Those are the practices, the ways of being that change everything, that heal us as a people, that create connection and change and progress.
At any given moment, what we control varies but what we always control is our relationship with ourselves. Every morning when you wake up, choose you. Choose to give yourself self-respect, patience, care. Choose to believe in yourself and treat yourself well. Choose to matter to you.
Life is primed for struggle, but while the struggle can be for you, it should never be against yourself. As our journey together draws to a close, I want you to remember that you are all you have got in any given moment. Let the truth of that bring you home. To you. Let it crystallize anything you still need. You have everything you need inside of you. You just have to reach inside for it.
You don’t have the time to be mean to yourself. You don’t have armored souls that make those barbs not matter. You don’t have the luxury of doing the type of damage in minutes that it will take years, decades, a lifetime to undo. What you have are these gorgeous spirits that you have allowed us each to glimpse, yearning to be free. But to be truly free, they have to know they will be safe in your world. That you will fight for, honor, and cherish them.
I have glimpsed you, and I know your magic. And I know that the world needs that magic now. Put down the sword you have used against yourself. Pick up your wand. Go do what you were meant to do. And when it gets hard, keep trying. Stay gold.
At the end of each semester, I write my students a letter that is unique to their class. This was the letter for my body image class this semester.
Want to read some past letters?