I Am My Own Person and Proud

Photo collage of Rising Voices Fellow, Maya Franks.

Each day when you wake up in the morning, you have a choice. You can be positive, or you can be negative. Sometimes people blame what choice they make in the morning on what is going on in their lives, be it trivial or life threatening issues. I am one of those people. Most days I choose to put on a good front. I’m a little grouchy before I have my green tea, but at school I’m generally smiling, attentive, and social. I pay attention in class and I get good grades. I tell myself that I guess I like my school, and I guess I like my friends, and nothing is exactly wrong so that means everything is kind of right. My life was, and is, starting to look like the plotline of a stereotypical movie about stereotypical upper-middle class teenagers doing stereotypical upper-middle class teenager things. But simultaneously, this year has been filled to the brim with the largest amount of good and bad (a lot of bad) experiences I’ve had in my short 17 years of life. I’ve laughed, cried, and grown. But most of all, I realized something.

I’m not happy. I’m not 100% satisfied. I don’t love my entire life, or all my friends. I don’t feel incredibly confident in my own skin. I don’t work to my fullest potential, and I most certainly don’t treat myself with the respect and kindness I deserve. I am not always how I would like to see myself: thoughtful, kind, studious. Recently, I have been grouchier than I typically am. I mope around, wrung out, tired, and empty from the extreme stress I put on myself to make my life look like what society deems appropriate.

The worst part of all? I was in denial about it.

I told myself that I would be happy after I lost some weight to attain what society deems a beautiful body. That if my grades were just a little bit better, I might be good enough for the colleges that my label-whoring heart was dying to attend. That I had to abandon relationships in order to form what I deemed newer, shinier, better ones. That my new “friend” was being mean to me because she was having a bad day. That I had done something wrong. That I was not smart enough. That I was annoying. That I was not good enough. I am not good enough.

I gave myself health issues from stress. Stomach ulcers. I never thought that I would be one of the tightly wound people who needed to take 4 pills a day for intense stomach pain that I brought upon myself with my lack of balance. And when my Mom told me that she didn't recognize me anymore, and my gastroenterologist told me that I wasn't okay, I blocked it out. I thought that they were just background noise. I was Maya Franks, fake stereotypical upper-middle class white teenager, but that’s not me, and I know that now. I stopped caring about my health and sanity to transform myself into an idealized version of who I told myself I wanted to be. I rinsed off my personality, watered down my empathy, and tried so unbelievably hard to make myself into someone I wasn’t, and I failed miserably. The moment I realized that, I felt like I’d just woken up.

It’s going to take a lot of work to build myself back up into the nice, intelligent, thoughtful, proud person that I once was. But if I put half of the effort into this that I did into trying to be someone else, I think I’ll be incredibly successful. I am different. I am one of 7 billion, but I’m unique. And that is okay. That is more than fantastic. The best thing I’ve ever realized. The fact that I, Maya Ashley Franks, am not meant to fit into the conveniently packaged, sterile, emotionless, boxes of the vain and shallow people around me makes me a unique human being. The fact that I cry in public, and I laugh loudly, and I care genuinely is what makes me, me.

I like my feminism, my ugly instagram page, my mom car, my painting, my emotions, my writing, my political beliefs, and myself. And if you take one thing away from this, it’s that you have to be yourself at all costs. Trying to be someone else doesn't make you better. And, if you’re one of the lucky people who can find a way to be your true self, do it. It will be unbelievably liberating.

This piece was written as part of JWA’s Rising Voices Fellowship.

Topics: Feminism
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I am right where she is and I am 40! Loo! I totally agree and get it. As humans we all share the universal need to love and be loved with authenticity and true unconditionality. Thanks for sharing your story because your story is my story and I too choose how my story is written. Respectfully ,uniquely me,and collectively us,with love.

I am very moved by this blog. It could have been written by me, and I think I understand--although I am 79 years old. I remember 17 and have retained some (not all) of it. Thanks for writing as you did.

How to cite this page

Franks, Maya. "I Am My Own Person and Proud ." 20 June 2016. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on December 5, 2023) <https://jwa.org/blog/risingvoices/i-am-my-own-person-and-proud>.

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