Excerpt: 'Note to Self'

Meanwhile, I prayed for a miracle to keep me out of school, but God wasn't listening. As I drove to class on the first day of my senior year, it dawned on me that I was an anonymous participant in what used to be my life. I was terrified to face my peers. The responsibility I had felt prior to my fellow students to be beautiful and to be their homecoming queen was now replaced with utter fear and self-loathing. I felt ugly, and disgusting.

Walking through the hallways that early September morning was the first time in my life I wished no one would notice me. Some of my classmates stared too long, while others averted their eyes. I could hear the whispers of concern coming from every direction, and my head was spinning. They say kids can be cruel, really cruel. Well, due to my previously held titles junior and sophomore years, my peers were kind or felt pity and nominated me for homecoming queen. I was completely stunned.

But this was Texas, and let's get real: I knew in my heart I was not going to be crowned queen. I went to the Homecoming game anyway, decked out in one of Lewisville's finest dresses and wearing two gargantuan corsages made of Mums pinned to my chest, complete with streamers that hung down to the ground. The queen was to be crowned at halftime.

When the time came, I made my way down the bleachers to take my place with the other nominees. As I descended, I stepped on one of the streamers, ripped a corsage out of my dress, and tumbled down the steps. I knew that I could either fake a serious injury or get up off the ground, brush myself off, and make my way onto the field. I mustered every shred of dignity I had and got up. Limping, I made my way to the fifty yard line, escorted by my father, only to witness the crown placed on my friend's head. She was the perfect homecoming queen: beautiful, nice, and gracious. It was the most humiliating moment of my life. All that practice to walk like Christie came crashing down. The one thing I depended on, my looks, had turned on me and sent me plummeting down the stadium steps in front of the entire town. And at a young, impressionable age, it seemed like the world was coming to an end.

Seventeen years later, I was living in Los Angeles. My body had gone through changes due to my Grave's disease, but I regained a sense of self. Granted, I was no runway model, nor did I want to be, but I was healthy, active, and very much in charge of my life. I had traveled the world as a documentary filmmaker covering grizzly bears in the Canadian Rockies, active volcanoes in British West Indies, rock stars in Europe, and the March for Women's Lives in Washington, D.C. Lewisville felt far away and abstract, as if my darker high-school days there had been a dream from which I had awoken. I was a new brand of queen: a goddess with lip gloss, a woman grounded through meditation, a filmmaker who wanted to make an impact on the world. One night I went out to dinner with a friend, who brought along a woman and her husband I had never met. The moment I saw this woman, Ayrin, I knew she was from my past. I asked her where she was from and she said sheepishly, "I like to think of myself as being from the East Coast, but for awhile I lived in a small town outside of Dallas called Lewisville."

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