The Shell

My whole entire life, I've walked around with an invisible shell covering me. A shell that would only open for a few people. A shell that kept me away from the outside world. Most of the time, I didn't mind having this shell, and looking back - I am so grateful it was there. It made me unique and worth getting to know. At the time, I felt like I was the only one going through this. Perhaps it was because my shell was made out of indestructible material. But I know there are other young girls out there wanting to break out of their shell so they can let themselves shine to the world. And I want to inspire those girls. Let me tell you my story.

This was me at 15 years old, at LeakyCon.
Nerding out and fangirling at meeting
Andrew Sims, one of my favorites. 
This shell kept me from being myself around everyone. Every time I would talk to someone, a screening process would go through my head. I didn't ever know what to say or do. And when someone actually did like me, I was so happy because I felt...irrelevant. I was a cute little awkward nerd who appreciated my individuality and the little things in life. Lauren Fairweather, indie musician helped my throughout this time with lyrics like "If I have moments of insanity, the only one hearing them is me. In my head, it gets pretty lonely. I've been silenced by my own insecurity." and "He knew there was more to here than what appeared, she just isn't in her element when she's stuck here. And while he tried to bring her out of her shell, she realized she was under his spell." I always felt like there was so much to me on the inside but I barely knew how to express it. Maybe I was afraid, maybe I wasn't certain who I was yet. I felt most comfortable when I was alone with my thoughts yet I was craving love from other people. This made things complicated.

This isn't even half of it.
Regardless, I was trying SO hard to break out of this shell. I was always happy in my own little nerdy world, dreaming of what could be. I have boxes, boxes in boxes, and boxes in boxes in boxes of poems and songs I wrote, old photos, comics I made, notes I received, diaries, stories - you name it. I was always a writer, and always will be. To this day, it's how I express my feelings. I've been writing continuously since 4th grade. In these boxes, there is evidence of the following things: me being a hopeless romantic, me being overdramatic, and the existence of this shell around me. This shell was so powerful it felt like I couldn't even express myself. I remember liking this boy so much at the beginning of my sophomore year of high school and I would literally have to plan our interactions with one another. I was memorizing potential dialogue because I knew if I didn't, my breath would get caught in my throat and my heart would stop beating. I realize today he obviously had some interest in me because he wouldn't even bother talking to me if he didn't. Back then, there was really nothing there unless you wanted to look deep enough. Now that I am out of this shell, this guy would do anything to be with me but unfortunately it is too late for him. There would be times I would peek out of the shell for a little bit, and people loved it. People would like me for my unexpected, creative sense of humor. I would come up with a signature joke and then all the sudden the whole class would be doing it for months. Yet even with that in mind, I felt like it was so hard to break out of this shell.

Going through these boxes, I found old writings about this stage of my life. This is from a poem I wrote: "Black car, blending in with the night. Red car, shining in the sunlight. Black car is breaking down. Red car is the talk of the town. White car come along. They say opposites attract, with the exception of the red cadillac. The stoplight turns green, the red car goes. But by the time the black car caught up, the stop light said slow." Don't mind my awkward rhyme scheme and cheesy metaphors...I was still an amateur. (haha) I was the black car: unnoticed, slow, blending in. The white car was the guy I liked: pure, unattainable, close enough but no closer. And the red car was the girl I felt I was in competition with: beautiful, unique, and not hard to spot. This was how I felt back then, believe it or not.

Expectation vs Reality
To the right, you'll see a comic. At the time, my friends and I would draw each other comics as a joke. By friends, I mean my current boyfriend, Andrew. *chuckles* You can see at the beginning of the comic, I'm hiding in my shell. Then, I have a realization - and try to plan a scenario where I break out of the shell. The expectation is that I break out of the shell confidently, winning the guy's heart. But the reality of it is that I'm still stuck in the shell - miserable as ever. Just to clarify, this post is not about changing who you are to please others. It's about being your true self to please yourself. AND THAT, my friends, will please the entire world. I have so many more diary entries and poems trapped inside those boxes about this subject, and a hundred others. I'm not going to blabber on about it, but if you're interested in more - let me know and I will gladly share them with you.

I was in this shell my whole life up into the middle of sophomore year. I was talking to one of my friends the other day, and he said, "What changed? There was such a sudden, noticeable change in you after sophomore year. Everything was so different." I get this question a lot, and I answer it the same way every time, "I found myself. It was always there I just never knew how to express it." I remember when I first got bangs. That was the start of my soul searching, my journey to self discovery. When I cut my bangs, I was symbolizing breaking out of the shell. I wanted people to see my how I am. And they did. I cut my hair how I wanted to, wore the clothes I wanted to, read the books I wanted to, ate the food I wanted to. I changed myself mentally, spiritually, emotionally and physically. People noticed me because I was myself. 

I want every young girl out there to realize you NEVER have to change to please anyone. You don't have to be outgoing, you don't have to be skinny. You don't have to wear designer clothes and you don't have to have a bunch of guys all over you. You don't have to have a lot of friends. You just have to be yourself and do what feels right for you. Smile at the fact that you're different! YOU ARE SO SPECIAL. YOU ARE SO LOVELY. YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL INSIDE AND OUT. 

I am grateful that this shell is no longer defining me. I am myself, I am free. I am confident, I am happy.
I love myself and the world loves me too.

Break out of your shell.
Take your time.
Love yourself.
I AM HERE, for YOU.

- Maria Elena



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