Broken Girl Behind the Airbrushed Smile
“We are all broken, that’s how the light gets in.” ~ Ernest Hemingway
I buried this calendar in a storage box long ago, too ashamed to share the truth behind its airbrushed illusion. But, more and more, I’m reminded how swiftly attacks on one’s character can escalate to levels that elicit rash, unthinkable decisions. If revealing my public humiliation and personal meltdown could help even one person — I’d be a petty coward not to do so…
💔 💔 💔
In the spring of 1987, I was honored to represent my sorority competing in Pi Kappa Alpha’s annual calendar contest to raise money for United Way. What should have been a highlight of my college days would soon turn my little world upside-down.
The contest was at the end of my junior year, and this photograph was taken shortly thereafter. The photographer creatively captured various settings and wardrobe swaps. Perusing the proofs, we agreed the best shot was one of me leaning against a white picket fence, long dress billowing in the breeze. But the ultimate selection was not ours to make.
I returned senior year to this surprise cover. Not my choice — but I was proud to be part of such a great cause. I attended all the PR events, signing calendars and whatever else I could do to support the PIKE’s wonderful philanthropy.
And then it happened: I became the poster child for the date rape problem we were having at the university. Our campus newspaper featured my “suggestive pose” above a female journalist’s scathing article. This quickly morphed into a free-for-all forum, prompting a seemingly inexhaustible rant from those who disliked the Greek System. Their harsh criticisms grew more derogatory with each passing week.
Making matters worse, I’d been elected pledge trainer that year, which meant promoting academics, philanthropy, and — yes — code of conduct to our newest sorority members. As my good reputation was being ambushed, I stood week after week in front of girls who must have wondered who the hell I was to lecture them on morals. Walking around campus, I’d hear snickers and see people point and whisper. Suffice to say, I became quite crafty at fabricating excuses to hide in my room.
Stress ravaged my exterior to match the ugliness brewing within. My hair fell out, and my face erupted. People I’d never met had decided I was a promiscuous tramp perpetrating a deplorable issue — and in my silent suffering I relinquished the keys to my soul. I felt irrevocably tarnished, sinking into a pit so vast the surface was no longer visible. I deferred final exams, returning to my parent’s house prematurely for Christmas break.
But how did the girl who appeared to “have-it-all” explain my torment to anyone?? I was surely a trite fool with zero excuse for being depressed. Shame engulfed me. This girl was down for the count but mortified to ask for help, fearful of disappointing those who believed I had my act together. Stubborn pride made escape seem the only viable option.
Fortunately, a force more powerful than my ego swooped in that dark day — something I still struggle to adequately verbalize — and saved me from my utter hopelessness…
In hindsight, I have nothing but gratitude for those who drop-kicked me out of my superficial existence. Because of them, I boldly reject careless judgments, unfair generalizations, negativity, and hearsay. Because of them, my life has been enriched by countless genuine, upbeat, supportive, humble, loving souls I may have otherwise failed to fully appreciate. Because of them, I can spot pain behind the cheeriest smile. And I will forever defend the downtrodden and voiceless, breaking my arm if that’s what it takes to hoist another upward.
So, for those convinced you’ve fallen so low you’ll never claw your way out, I say this: Get help now!!! Talk to someone — anyone! There’s absolutely no shame in admitting your load is too darn heavy, and so many of us are right here, eager to help. But don’t you dare allow a misguided few to define you. You’re far too powerful and wise to be caged in their pathetic traps.
The good and decent people in this world love you!
💞I love you!!!💞
And the story of your irreplaceable soul has untold chapters remaining…
“Place your hand over your heart
Can you feel it?
That is called purpose
You’re alive for a reason
So don’t ever give up”
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