About a year ago, I wrote a blog post for HuffPost Teen titled "Pretty Is Just a Word." It was about dealing with having vitiligo, a skin condition that causes white splotches on the skin. In this post, I wrote about how attending an academic summer program made me realize how there are many things to aspire to in life besides being pretty. While I still stand by this sentiment today, I have made a couple realizations since I last wrote about my skin condition. In "Pretty Is Just a Word," I wrote about having vitiligo as if I had completely accepted it. I wrote this piece as if I had not only come to terms with having vitiligo but as though I was completely and constantly proud of the white splotches on my legs, arms, and neck.
And, there really are some days that I am. In fact, most days I am content with having vitiligo. But since I have decided to be fully honest here, there are still some days that I am not confident enough. There are some mornings where I just wake up wishing to have evenly tanned skin, no longer dealing with stares or questions about why I have spots on my legs. I'll even admit that I still have the rare temptation to try self-tanner or skin makeup yet again to try to cover up my splotches.
But then I end up feeling guilty or vain for imagining situations where things turned out differently. Where I never had vitiligo in the first place. Or where the dermatologist prescribed yet another cream, except this time it actually worked. Or even where I found some self-tanner or skin makeup that perfectly covered up the splotches instead of making them more obvious. I feel unappreciative when I start thinking about how nice it would be to have perfectly, evenly tanned skin -- because having vitiligo has truly been a blessing in many ways, which I write with nothing but honesty.
Recently, I've realized that it's okay to have mixed feelings and to change my mind. Some things will just always force us to stand at that border between denial and acceptance, between unsatisfied and content. And that's okay. Andmbetter yet, it's honest. Not that I didn't truly mean what I said in "Pretty Is Just a Word," but I also oversimplified. I wrote as though it was a black or white, yes or no, this or that issue instead of addressing the fact that there is gray area. I wrote simply because I didn't want to get into the nitty-gritty details and those fairly occasional moments of insecurity. It would make it too complicated and confusing. How can I write piece on learning to be less concerned with physical appearances while bringing up that I still struggle with accepting having vitiligo? Isn't that kind of sending mixed signals? And, who would even get inspired by a piece that backtracks on itself and almost contradicts its main point?
Even though it is still just as complicated and confusing to explain as it was a year ago, I've decided to at least address my ambivalent attitude. Because there's no point in sharing your struggles if you can't be 100 percent honest about them -- and, because you can't just go through life ignoring the complete story for the sake of convenience. It's no way to live, and it's no way to write.
So, yes, I do sometimes wish that I didn't have to deal with white splotches all over my body. Yes, I can still get self-conscious when wearing short-sleeved shirts and/or shorts. Yes, I sometimes still hope for there to be a treatment that will actually work. An, I now know that these feelings and moments aren't meant to be ignored and denied; they're meant to be addressed and recognized. Because they're just as much a part of the story as the good, happy times are. And because if you're going to tell a story, you might as well tell it wholly.