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Don't Even Hesitate by Tara Clark

What do you want to do after high school?” My U.S. history teacher questions. My classmates’ expectant eyes turn to me, and instantaneously, I feel heat ghost across my cheeks. I can picture the scarlet hues that must be forming on the tips of my ears.

Shyly, I shrug, “I don’t know…”

That’s a lie.

What field are you looking to go into after high school?” My Spanish teacher questions. Again, a few curious eyes and ears gear my way, focusing on the indecisive parting of my lips, and the bashful downcast of my eyes. Warmth once again nestles against my cheeks.

“Well, I’m not sure, but if I had to say, I would say something in the medical field? Like maybe a nurse? But I don’t know.”

That’s another lie.

As a junior in high school, I am constantly being asked about college and my pursuits after high school, and each time the moment resonates with me. Because I have an idea fueled by passion that I can’t help but bottle up inside of me. However, anytime someone tries to pry the lid off, I refuse to let them in.

When people in my life, especially adults, ask me about my plans after high school I assume that they are expecting some grand, distinguished answer. Or at least something practical that requires 4 years of higher education. The truth is that there are plenty of practical careers that I have taken into consideration, and still have some degree of interest in, but they are not the first notions that come to mind.

Immediately I think. "I want to be a model.”

It shouldn’t be a big deal, I know, so excuse my melodrama, but it’s not a conventional answer. Therefore, I have become afraid of the reactions and responses that I could receive.

I could just imagine having a conversation with my counselor in which she contorts her face into an expression that is a mixture between hesitance and confusion. She’d then prompt me to “take something else into consideration” or make sure that I “have something to fall back on.” I would know that it’s true and I should hear it, but it would almost seem discouraging.

And truthfully, it wasn’t always this way.

The idea of modeling clicked to me about a year and a half ago, during the best summer of my life. It’s fair to say that, during this time, I spent a little bit too much time on Instagram where, it was common to find beautiful girls, making a career out of it. It never seemed like anything that could be important to me until I took notice of one specific girl who depicted modeling as a genuine craft.

It was about more than looking pretty in front of a camera, but about telling a story with your body, your face, your hair, your clothes, your environment. It was an art that combined photography and the beauty of versatility in a human.

From there, my interest engendered me to take a peek inside that realm. I began learning about different models and their journeys into the industry, as well as a variety of companies, and their standards. The knowledge bubbled in my head, and each day I thought of the possible prospects if I were to become serious about the idea.

I talked it out with family members who heartened and fortified me more than I ever could have expected them to. My aunt joked of me going on America’s Next Top Model, and affirming that she’d watch every episode as long as I reminded her to tune in. My uncle reiterated that he knew I could make something of myself. My parents made sure that I knew I could overcome whatever challenges the experience would throw my way, and that I had their support.

The inclination latched onto my soul and I couldn’t shake it even if I wanted to. Even as time passed and I tried to rethink the decision or talk myself out of it. But with the passing of the months, and the change in times, it was no longer about my influence over myself, but the influence people outside of my relatives, had over me whenever they weighed in. And whether they knew it or not, they were influencing me to some degree.

In the setting of school, it seemed taboo. I knew that’s not what my teachers were expecting to hear in response to a question about my post high school plans. I knew that’s not what my counselor wanted to hear about what I anticipated doing after I graduated.

I would tell my friends, and they wouldn’t say much. Their true emotions would flash on their face, a second before they fixed their features and nodded their head slowly. But not everyone was so close-lipped.

I had a conversation with one of my good friends about my aspirations after high school. I could practically see the distaste coming over her features when I told her. She had complaints about the modeling industry, saying that she would never be a port of it because “they would force her to become super skinny” or that it annoys her that plus-sized models “aren’t really plus-sized.” I knew she wasn’t trying to dispirit me, but it was only a sour addition to my accumulated bashfulness to share this information.

I started to question what I wanted, and if anyone actually wanted that for me too. I began to think:

My family was just being nice.”

They probably don’t even remember I expressed this desire.”

No one takes me seriously.”

The excitement I once had to share, the ambition I once had for the future dissipated like sand, through the cracks of my fingers.

Having these moments with people over the past year and a half put me at a loss for a while. I would spend so much time in my head, reeling over what I truly felt, and what I truly wanted to do about it.

Although it took some time, in this frustrating swirl of dismay, I found that piece of me who fueled this fire in the first place. She declared that I can’t let myself be shaped by the opinions of others. I can’t let other people’s judgements or lack of faith dictate who I am or what I want. If I’m not ashamed of my passions, I shouldn’t act like it, and I shouldn’t let anyone make me feel that way either. I’m nearly in my senior year, and I’m 7 months away from being a legal adult. I need to be more headstrong about my fast-approaching future.

So just that it’s known, after high school, I have aspirations to be a model. And I’m not ashamed of it.