Self-Portrait | Candice Brattain

Written by: Candice

Scene: I am sitting on my shower floor, and I am crying. I have collapsed to purge whatever it is that I’ve kept contained inside of myself too long, and for what? To seem more composed, more adult. Less of a child, less human. Maybe I fell in momentary love with a boy in a coffee shop and he didn’t like me back after all. Maybe I am a twenty-one-year-old wine, just letting others drink me up but I have never felt so alone in my whole life. There is nothing purer and more absolute than this moment. You can see my whole body tremble, my shoulder blades quiver, and my arms wrap around whatever I have left of myself and hold on for dear life. I turn the water to the hottest setting. I feel every nerve hate what they are and want to change. I wait for the water to run cold. I forgive my body. I stand back up.


End scene.


Crying in the shower has been a means of survival since I was sixteen, a hobby I rarely told people about then, but something I’m more okay with now. I’m afraid there are many things I outgrew (my jeans, my hometown, a couple of friends), but my crying sessions in the shower have always remained. It’s as if my brain, my looks, and my personality were pushed to new heights a year into college but life said, “You gotta stay grounded somehow, dude.”


At sixteen I think I would describe myself as a hopeful wild card. A nothing in the moment but a something much later, just you wait. What would I be? How will I surprise everyone? At sixteen I had hoped that meant that by eighteen, I would’ve been through a full fledged nineties movie-esque coming-of-age story. I would be nominated for prom queen (not win of course, but be nominated) or at the very least people would tell me, “Chill. No one thinks you’re ugly.” My favorite color was yellow, but my bedroom was painted orange for a reason I couldn’t quite explain. I think I liked my school counselors more than they liked me. I danced in the kitchen with my dad a lot. I said no to plans and went home before dark. I believed in true love like it could be the very thing to save my life while having no real experience with it. According to my best friend from high school, at sixteen I was “a mixture of sad and frightened.” When I asked him for something a bit more positive he said, “jubilant.” I think that’s all accurate. Thanks, Andy.


At sixteen I was a mixture of sad and frightened, but I was jubilant. It makes me sound like I was a trip to the zoo, or a new ice cream shop just trying to make it. Or a really good shower cry. I think after five years I am still those things, but ask me what I’ve become since then. There have been changes. I am in the midst of them, always half-hoping to come out on the other side and half-hoping to never stop growing. What’s been the most surprising thing about being in my twenties is that they can feel like regression. I miss my parents all the time. I often want a nap. I haven’t texted back my dentist’s office in six months. I take my garbage out at 1 A.M. I cry in the car twice as much as I cry in the shower. And I am always believing I should be so much farther ahead than I am. I am constantly telling myself, “I am not an adult.” And life’s harsh reality is that I totally am. My greatest challenge within myself is feeling adequate and I have this theory that that is The Most Adult Thing Ever.
Candice 5 years ago & Candice today. 
Candice 5 years ago & Candice today. 


On the days I feel like enough, I’d tell you I’m proud of how generous I am. I’m proud of the way I can give and give and give. I also love how tenderly and deeply I feel for others, a trait I hated at sixteen because of how much it hurt. I think in five years I’ve found a way to cultivate my giving and empathetic nature into a person that other people trust, and a person who can adequately give back to themselves too. I’ve let who I am in my soul tell me who I should be in this world. I’ve really listened to the place in my heart where there are no holes, where it is absolutely full and I’ve just ran with it.


And it’s worked. At twenty-one, I can say I like who I am in this life so far. My identity lies in volunteering in my community, working with children in an after school program, having a major in college that teaches me how to help those in need, and loving the people around me with everything in me. All of these things make up me, and all I can hope is that I can leave little bits of myself in those things too. Because all of this is subject to change. Maybe someday my identity won’t be rooted in giving back to my community and playing with little kids, but I like that that’s what it is now. I think sixteen-year-old Candice would too. I think she would finally like who she is and what she looks like. I think she would like her birthmarks, her brown eyes, and her straight teeth that she had to earn. Her cheeks, her sense of humor, and the compassion she has for her body that she didn’t have before. I am not a conventional kind of beautiful, but I am still so.


Scene: Even from the bottom of the shower floor, hot water camouflaging my tears. My back muscles in a frenzy, all of my beauty-marked body spread into a puddle. Twenty-one years staring back at me, wondering how we got here and then remembering. Tenderness brings us here often. Thoughts of inadequacy looming in the steam, my brain begging for real change. I think I must be the most lonesome person to ever live. I think I’ve given all I’ve possibly got to give. Perhaps that is when I am most beautiful. Perhaps that is growth. I wait for the water to run cold. I forgive my body. I stand back up.


End scene.  


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