Jose Ponce

When we were kids, we don’t think about how simple things like eating could affect us. I know I wasn’t aware of my eating habits because during the time, I was enjoying my childhood like any other kid with no worries would. But all of the worry-free moments and happy times seemed to darken when I finally started to notice the changes in my physical appearance. I became less active when it came to my playtime and was almost always running short of breath. I hated watching my friends play without me while I was sitting on the benches by myself. And then I saw the changes in other kids’ sense of humor. Like my eating habits, I ignored the kids’ comments because I thought it was only temporary, but when I began middle school, everything went from bad to worse.

I thought middle school would be tough because it was a higher level of education and required a higher level of maturity. A higher level where I would have challenging tasks and tons of homework just like any other student. But instead I received an even more challenging task: trying not to get torn to pieces by the other kids. Almost every day I’d hear kids laughing and calling out cruel names to others, primarily to the obese students. I wasn’t sure, but it looked as though I met this task with high performance. I didn’t know anyone who made fun of people based on their appearance. It seemed unnecessary.

Why did they do it? What would make them think that chunky or obese people aren’t normal in their view? I pondered these questions while they picked on some other obese student in the cafeteria. I watched the obese student change the expression on his face and let some tears roll down his cheek. Right when I started to go to the restroom, other 7th and 8th graders entered right before me. When they came to me, they shouted, “Hey fatty, you’re blocking the restroom”, and pushed me out of their way.

Fear is what brought me down, fear of being cornered in the restroom and get pushed around like some ball bouncing from wall to wall. I thought of all the things they were capable of doing, probably just push me and throw my school supplies to the ground, but fortunately, they only passed me by and left. I let out a sigh of relief and walked back to class. Then I saw a group of 8th graders around a chunky 6th grader.  They started poking him in his stomach and telling him he was going to drink up all the water in the water fountain. The expression the chunky kid had on his face, it seemed as if he were broken, not physically but emotionally, and he nothing to defend himself because he already knew there was nothing he can do. The 8th graders saw me and asked, “What the hell are you looking at?” In my head, I fantasized myself standing up to the them and saying, “Don’t bother him, what did he do to you? Who cares if he’s different, just leave him alone.” It seemed so simple to do, but instead I said nothing and walked away.

After that day, I kept asking the same questions in my head, “Why do you do this to me? To us? Are we that different? We are humans. We have feelings. Damn you, then. I won’t care.” That was the day I decided not to let fear keep me in the shadows. I was tired of being afraid. Physically, I didn’t show weakness, but emotionally, I had already crumbled because of the same fear I faced every day. I didn’t want to be insulted or pushed or called out by cruel names.  Though I didn’t have the body to prove my worthiness, I had beliefs. Beliefs that I can do anything, anything to show the people who bring down other “different” people that I am capable of more extraordinary things than they can. To be or not to be, that was the question in my mind. Can I be more than what people see me as or not? I chose to be.