Attending a predominantly white school in a newly post-Apartheid South Africa meant, for me, that a few parents didn't want their children to have play dates with me, a few kids would wipe their seats before they sat on a seat that I'd used, and boys whom I'd dated would be ashamed to tell anyone that we were an item. I wanted to hide the most obvious thing people saw about me: my dark skin.
My father and mother would continuously remind me that I was beautiful but, for some reason, I didn't believe them. I didn't believe them because so many people were telling and showing me otherwise. How could I believe the only two people who would love me regardless? Although I've always believed that I was meant to be made this way, and I've always believed that everyone was meant to be the way that they are, I was baffled by the fact that I hadn't done anything wrong to anyone but some people had treated me as though I had.
I spent a long time hating those who mistreated me because I had always treated them with respect and kindness – I felt taken advantage of.
Until one day, I forgave. I forgave the parents who didn't want their children playing with me, I forgave the kids who wiped their seats after I sat on them, and I forgave the boys who wanted to hide their attraction to me.
I forgave and forgave and forgave. I forgave because they didn't know any better, and ignorance is the easiest thing to forgive. Once I forgave, I realized that their inability to be kind to me had nothing to do with me. If you're truly comfortable in your skin, you accept all shapes and colors because you're able to appreciate difference. And everyone is different.
I forgave because I realized that I'm special. I forgave because I saw that all of us are special. Once I learned to forgive them, I became free of trying to fit into a box, and acknowledged that a life of acceptance allows you to appreciate everything for its own reason.
I forgave because they haven't had the fortune of experiencing the greatness of kindness – they are truly missing out.