Senior Columns: A gut feeling

Senior+Columns%3A+A+gut+feeling

Malini Ramaiyer

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Photo by Aditya Pimplaskar.

Let me tell you my favorite childhood story. In second grade, my friends and I used to play this game where we’d see who could push their stomach out the most. There we stood, every morning before we entered Mr. Hodge’s Room 9: second graders holding our breath, hoping that we didn’t get an outie in the process.

It was cutthroat, but I always won.

“How’d you do that?”

“Cheater!”

“Are you stuffing anything under your shirt?”

As reigning champion, I’d nervously laugh because, you see, I never actually pushed out my stomach.

This is the first story I share with people I’ve just met because I feel it’s telling of who I was and who I’ve become. When I tell the story or show people baby pictures, I play it off as a joke: “Haha look at fat Malu…” It should be a joke because I know that I’m not literally fat. That word, however, can seem relative at times.

In these past four years, I still remember the times I felt “fat”. I didn’t win that one class office election. I didn’t make the volleyball team. I didn’t get that A in first semester Pre-Calculus Honors. I didn’t get asked to homecoming.

Now, I’m sitting here laughing at everything I attached my confidence to. Back then, I’d go running to the bathroom in between the girl’s locker room and the swimming pool. Yeah, that’s the bathroom I always cry in.

High school is weird. Sometimes it felt like it was just meant to break down the confidence I never had. But as I found my people and my voice, mostly here in A111 (and A103 during seventh period), I stopped feeling like “fat Malu.” When you have to go up and ask strangers for interviews or when you have lead a 70-person staff, you find your confidence.  In journalism, you publish your own work for others to criticize, to scoff at, to throw in the trash. In journalism, you have to lead your peers — a lot of the time you have to tell them to shut up and listen so you can finish teaching your lesson.

In these past two years of madness, of journalism, the need to hide in that bathroom grew smaller and smaller. The confidence that came from being a part of El Estoque not only gave me a voice, but also made me more secure about my looks.

Confidence works in a strange way. Sometimes I still find myself looking at my stomach to make sure I won’t be winning any contests that second grade Malu would have won. I still dread doctor appointments because I know I’ll have to check my weight.

At our school, it’s so easy to default to self-deprecation, and while it’s funny, somewhere along the way it becomes toxic. So I think I’ll find a new story as I head out to college and meet new people. Perhaps, it’ll be about that time when my favorite pair of Vans were so far gone and some people on staff pooled money to buy me new shoes.  The story about how I got stuck in the middle of a spat between two petitioners. Or maybe I’ll tell them about the time no one would hug me at late night because I had poison oak. Either way, I have a gut feeling that it’ll be good.