“I came to the quaint and vibrant community of Hope College ready to take full advantage of the fact that I was a freshman and able to start over with hundreds of new faces all around me. Even though I was just a mere 45 minutes away from my cherished hometown of Rockford, I felt like I could start a new and different journey. I traded my life of basketball games and homecoming dances for a cramped dorm room that constantly smelled like burned popcorn, 7:30 am cadaver labs, and rarely washed twin XL sheet sets. I missed home, but I was head over heels in love with the fact that I was given the chance to re-write my life story.
As I progressed in my first year at Hope, I noticed the student body and faculty taking an active role in each other's lives. I shared cups of coffee with professors, stayed up all night talking to a new friend in the dorm's lobby, and was invited to events by people I barely even knew. But as my counterparts would share stories from childhood or high school, I remained silent. I lied on assigned "life story" papers to avoid that awkward, sympathetic smile from professors, ran out of the room if things got too deep in advising appointments, and made up excuses for why I had no pictures or yearbooks from my childhood in my possession to show in the dorms or at college events.
I tried to hide the fact that for 10 years straight I was the fat girl in school. I was endlessly ridiculed by one boy for all of elementary school and then tormented by five more kids in middle school. I was sent messages from fake e-mail accounts calling me fat and ugly, mocked in the hallways for having to shop at Lane Bryant as a fourth grader, and was harassed with pictures of elephants that had my face taped to it. I had to camouflage tears when my bullies would hold up my chocolate milk and announce to the cafeteria they wished it were Slim Fast so I wouldn't look quite as disgusting anymore. And I had to swallow the overwhelming urge to vomit when I saw my bullies standing by the school entrance, waiting to throw tennis balls at me while calling me fat. For most of my young life, I forced a smile on my face to show my bullies they couldn't win, and to prove to everyone that things were just fine. But behind closed doors, I burned old pictures and ripped apart my yearbooks because it was the only way I knew how to deal with the immense pain.
It wasn't until my bully told the entire lunchroom that I could probably break the table in half if I sat down that I finally snapped. I yelled at him, and I yelled at everyone around me. I was torn apart for years, but something was burning inside of me, pushing me to get up one last time and fight for my life. So in the 8th grade I went home and made a promise to myself that I wouldn't back down. From then on, every time someone made a "fat joke", I ran an extra mile. Every time I was ridiculed on the bus, I ate 500 less calories. And every time a "best friend" didn't stand up for me, I went down another pant size. I cried. I fought. I was barely breathing. But something inside me wouldn't quit. By the end of my high school career, I was finally able to say that I had gone from a size 22 to a size 14. I was 50 pounds lighter. And I had finally beaten my bullies.