101 Days, 101 Strangers, 101 Stories: Day 89

“I was recently reading Alice Walker’s biography and she said something about how we learn to love our oppressions”, she said.

Meet Jacquie – the inspirational 11th grader I had the pleasure of meeting today. I had just delivered a keynote address at a sustainability conference at UBC. Jacquie was a conference attendee, and she so kindly approached me afterward to say that she enjoyed the speech. This was reassuring because I had honestly felt like I was rambling the entire time. Anyways, a few seconds into my conversation with Jacquie, I realized I recognized her. She had recorded a video on Youtube about climate change and youth. I remember watching it and finding it very moving, telling myself that I hoped I’d meet her one day. Today was the day.

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Of course, I had to ask if she’d be my stranger of the day. She was excited about it and dove right into sharing her story, vulnerability and all. I’m excited to share a bit of her story with you.

Jacquie is passionate about tackling injustices — from environmental injustices to social injustices, especially those revolving around gender issues.

She was particularly moved by the words of Alice Walker, reflecting on her own life and thinking about the very real ways in which she had come to love her own oppressions. “I’m the youngest sibling, the youngest of twenty cousins. I’ve always been the ‘perfect daughter’, the smart and pretty little girl”, she explained.She came to embrace her role as the little girl of the family and the expectation of perfection it entails.

She came to love it — being the little girl people would always want to help, and who people would adore simply because she was a pretty little girl. She let herself shrink and twist into a box without even realizing it. She even faced the complexities of an eating disorder in the ripe years of seventh grade, eating less to shrink more. She wanted to be smaller. A couple years later, she started to exercise, maintaining a small physique in a more healthy way but on some level she still knew her motives for health were unhealthy at heart.

“Then, I had to get surgery for my spine”, she said. She had scoliosis and had to undergo a procedure to straighten her back. “When the surgery was complete, I remember feeling so straight. I don’t know if it was the morphine or if I was thinking clearly but I just remember feeling so, so straight”, she continued. She had felt compromised and cramped up before, and the literal straightening of her physique complemented a more invisible levelling out that she underwent more internally. She was ready to take up more space and fill the crevices she deserves to fill.

She spoke so eloquently and from the heart. I was blown away by her maturity and self-awareness. I’m really happy that she shared her story with me today.

Here’s Jacquie’s video that I spoke of earlier. Enjoy!

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