It’s 3:00 pm. The school bell just rang. An overwhelming fear has come upon me. I feel butterflies in my stomach. I knew once I got to the front gate where everyone lingers, that bullies would be there to call me names. I was in the 7th grade. At that time, my face was still paralyzed and my smile was abnormal. I was hesitant to laugh or smile at school because my face appeared disfigured. I was called “weird” “horse” “creep” and “monster.
The most devastating bullying experience occurred in the 5th grade. I went to the playground and saw my name in large chalk letters on the playground: “Kiana is ugly”. When I got to school the following day, the words were still there.
Respect means: to accept others for who they are without trying to change them. I endured my experiences by respecting myself first. I did not retaliate by calling the bullies inappropriate names. I felt that if I participated in name-calling, then I too, would be showing disrespect. I stayed strong. I set standards.
Mainly, I discovered creative ways to deal with the negative effects that result from bullying. I decided to apply positive energy to a negative situation. Specifically, I created a Science Project entitled: Do You Have the Nerve to Smile? This project shed understanding to my peers regarding my facial asymmetry. I explained how the non-functioning nerves affect my facial expressions. My project gained national attention. It was published on the front page of the Los Angeles Times Newspaper.
I do not fit the standards of beauty that society has created. I do not fit the mold. Despite two major surgeries at Children’s Hospital that were both 12 hours long, some nerves are still paralyzed. I rarely hear: “You have a beautiful smile.” Though I do not fit societies standards of beauty, I have created my own standards.
Despite my smile, despite being born addicted to Meth and being placed in foster care, I have learned to love myself and not try to be anyone else. I refuse to allow anyone to break down my self-esteem. I love myself. I respect myself. I respect others. Hallelujah and Amen!