53: Scarred But Not Different

53: Scarred But Not Different

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Just for Preteens

Scarred But Not Different

Being happy doesn’t mean that everything is perfect. It means that you’ve decided to look beyond the imperfections.

~Author Unknown

When I was fifteen months old, I was burned by hot grease falling on me from an electric skillet on the stove of my parents’ home. This was an accident caused by a precocious, strong-willed, or as my sisters would say, bratty child who wanted her way and wasn’t getting it. In plain terms, I pulled a pan of hot grease on myself that caused first, second and third degree burns on my face, arms and chest, leaving me with permanent scars, the worst of which is having one breast. Growing up with scars was and has been all I have ever known. My body as it is now is my “normal.”

Going through grade school I never saw myself as different, other than the fact that I was overweight. The boys teased me of course, and some girls did too, but my parents taught me that these kids didn’t feel good about themselves so they didn’t want anyone else to either. These words always helped me get through the teasing and find friends that liked me for me.

My scars followed me from elementary school to junior high school and at eleven years old I learned that not all kids are cruel. On the first day of school we found out that we would be required to take showers in the open locker room during physical education. This meant that I would have to undress in front of the other girls and shower with them. They would see my scars.

“Would you feel better if I talked to your teachers to see if you can take your shower after the other girls are gone?” my mother asked.

“Yeah,” I said quietly. “I’m afraid they’ll laugh at me.”

My mother looked at me. Even though she may have been hurting for me inside she didn’t let me see it. “Remember Stacie, anyone who would make fun of you because you have scars isn’t worth the worry. They just do that because they think that will make them feel better about themselves.” The next day my mother went to the school and met with my P.E. teacher and together they worked out a solution: I would wait until the other girls showered and went to the next class and then I would shower and be allowed to be late for my class. I was relieved. I would avoid all of the stares and ridicule that I knew would come from my scars.

But that night as I lay in bed I felt like a coward. I didn’t want to be different and I didn’t want to be picked on because I was allowed to do things the other girls didn’t get to do. It was then that I knew what I had to do.

The next morning as I got ready for school I had a talk with my mother. “Mom, I think I might go ahead and shower in P.E. like everyone else.”

She looked at me surprised. “You don’t have to, honey. The teacher has already worked the schedule out for you.”

I nodded, “I know Mom, but I don’t want to be different because of my scars.”

She hugged me and said, “I’m proud of you, but Stacie, if you change your mind, you don’t have to.” I hugged her back. I knew that no matter what happened, my mom would always understand.

That day I dreaded P.E., not just because it meant running, but because I knew that no matter what, I was going to shower when the other girls did. “Okay girls, it’s time to go in and shower!” the teacher said, blowing her whistle. The one hundred yard walk to the locker room felt like one hundred miles. I went inside the locker room to my locker and stood there, taking deep breaths. It was now or never. As I undressed and picked up my towel, I saw some of the girls looking at me. To my surprise, not one of them laughed or made fun of me.

After we showered and dressed, all of the girls in my class walked over to me and asked how I got my scars. I told them my story and one girl asked, “Do they still hurt?”

I shook my head. “No, I can’t feel anything,” I said, which was true — I didn’t have any feeling in my scars — not then, not now. They walked with me to our next class, talking about school and boys, but none of them talking about my scars. From that day on, P.E. was not the class I dreaded... math was. I didn’t worry that I was different from the others. We were all the same; we were friends.

That day is when I realized I didn’t have to be different. I just had to be me, and in doing so, friendships that began then followed me into my adult life. We all finished high school together as friends, and none of them ever made fun of me for my scars or my weight. As for the boys, when any of them tried to make fun of me, I had a whole class of friends to set them straight.

That P.E. class taught me that even though my body is different, I’m not. My scars don’t make me who I am — my heart does.

~Stacie Joslin

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