I think one of the biggest aspects of growing up is self-acceptance.
At least it was for me.
Throughout my life, there have been so many instances where I wanted to be somebody else. Desperately. And it would consume me.
When I was in elementary school, I thought my cousin Tiffany was the most beautiful girl in the world. She was like a teen dream out of a movie. Skinny. Blonde. Blue eyes. Cheerleader. Whenever we would walk places, people would turn and stare.
For example, one afternoon, on the beach, when she was wearing an American flag bikini, a line of hot guys stood up and saluted her, shouting remarks like "god bless America for you, baby!" And she just laughed at them. Because she was young and gorgeous and carefree.
I remember in 1995, whenever Tiffany would come to our house to stay overnight, usually with her best friend, I would linger in the hallway near their room and listen to them gossip and giggle. They often talked about cheerleading practice, what boys were the cutest in their English class, or silly articles from Seventeen magazine. I fervently wished that I could join them, but I doubted they wanted an annoying 11-year-old girl hanging around, making their sleepover lame.
I wanted to be Tiffany so badly that I pleaded with my mother to buy me the same perfume Tiffany wore and the same shampoo she used and a subscription to Seventeen. My parents bought me the first two, but I was deemed too young for the third.
And as a pre-teen, I would stare in the mirror and hate what I saw. Instead of a beaming blonde beauty queen, all I saw was an unattractive brown kid with crooked teeth, long ratty hair, and glasses. It broke my heart. It didn't seem fair. I had absolutely no self-esteem and while my friends were starting to be interested in boys and makeup, I found myself fantasizing about things I couldn't control, like silky blonde locks, ivory white skin, and bright blue eyes.
Several years later, when I was in high school, I was still licking my wounds from my self-destructive childhood image. It didn't help that Britney Spears, basically a younger version of my cousin, was now the face of my generation.
But when I was 16, I met a girl who changed my perspective. Lisa was cute, with long brown hair. She dressed in "skater" clothes. She wore black eyeliner around her eyes. She smoked. She listened to alternative rock music I didn't even know existed. She said "fuck" so frequently, it just became another word.
She also had a wicked sense of humor. Like, she was hysterical. Without missing a beat. She was like a teenage Janeane Garofalo.
I thought Lisa was so cool, I started copying almost everything about her. The way she talked. The snarky attitude. The questionable fashion decisions she made (Hot Topic, anyone?). The black eyeliner. It was very Single White Female of me.
I noticed that adults started treating me differently, like I was a delinquent. And looking back at old photos, I don't blame them. I looked like I should have been dealing drugs behind the gym.
Instead of being weirded out by my transformation, Lisa happily accepted it and we became best friends, walking around the cafeteria making bitchy comments about the popular kids and casually saying "fuck" in every sentence.
When I moved away to college, I never saw her again. And I threw away all those horrible clothes.
Now, ten years later, I'm surprised to realize that it has been a very long time since I've wanted to be anyone else.
I still don't have the highest self-esteem in the world, but I've accepted who I am and what I am. My twenties has been a period where I've discovered a lot about myself. It is fulfilling to know what I really like and what I don't, rather than copying someone else.
I have also embraced my differences. I've grown very pleased to be half-Indian because it's exotic and terrifically unique. The blonde princesses of the world no longer rule. Our role models come in every color. So do our sex symbols.
And while I do envy qualities in the people around me (Rian's brains, Jonny's charm, and my best friend Jenn's jaw-dropping singing voice), I don't want to be them. Instead, I appreciate them even more for it.
After all, I'm sure there are people out there who envy me, right?
That's just how it goes.