The ground shakes as the second bomb hits the ground. Barry presses his head against the dirt wall behind him as he breathes heavily. His hand steers towards his chest and he pulls out a crumpled, old picture of a young woman with one kid on each side. The memories are still as new, even though it's now 8 months ago it was taken. They were in the park, in that park with two swings that were a bit rusty but still managed to hold two kids, and the benches that desperately needed repainting but still brought a certain charm to the park. And don't forget the trail beneath the trees, where you had to jump over logs and wriggle between the bushes that covered the area. It was like it had happened yesterday, and every time Barry thought about it a smile came to his face and...
 
The third bomb brings him back to reality. The park has now been replaced with trenches and dead bodies, and the sound of birdsong deafened by the sound of bombs and gunfire. The harsh reality of war. Barry turns his head to the right and can just barely make out General Belper's command of returning fire. He nods and stands up, just enough to get a good sight of the enemy and fires off. The troop runs on to the battlefield, weapons in their hands and courage in their heart. Barry watches soldiers from both sides drop as bullets pierce their skin and that same braveness fizzle out of their body and form dark-red pools, scattered across the field. So much bravery, and for what? Barry flinches as a pain shoots through his leg and he realizes that he's been hit. He stumbles to the ground, his pulse deafening the shouts of his friends as they retreat back to their trench. Someone, he doesn't see who, stops and looks down at his face.
 
"THIS ONE ISN'T DEAD, HE'S ONLY INJURED!"
 
---
 
Barry leans his head against the window on the train and watches the trees fly past outside. His hand is touching his lips and trembles slightly as he takes a deep breath. A single tear escapes the corner of his eye, and he can't decide whether it is a tear of joy or sadness. All of a sudden the speakers crackle to life and Barry can barely make out a voice announcing "Next stop: Redgrove. Redgrove*. He turns to the social worker at the opposite side of the aisle. "This is my stop", he says with a big smile. The social worker nods and helps him out of the train carriage out to the platform. "Do you have anyone to pick you up, sir?" the social worker asks. Barry shakes his head. "Nah, I thought I'd surprise the wife and the kids." The social worker glances at his watch. "Well, I have time to help you get to the house, unless you want to manage yourself?" Barry chuckles and points to where his legs used to be. "Believe it or not, these two things are pretty essential when managing yourself." His eyes turn sad as he continues: "I guess I haven't gotten used to them not being there". The social worker firmly grabs the handles of the wheelchair. "Don't you worry, sir, it's no problem for me to help you all the way to your house."
 
As the social worker pushes Barry out onto the street, Barry looks around with a frightened look. Chestnut Street, once filled with beautiful white houses and small shops and crawling with people, was now filled with buildings that were half-torn down, littered with chunks of pavement and concrete and the few lonely souls there look tired and scared. A woman walks past Barry and the social worker. "What happened here?" Barry asks her aghast. Her face is dirty and her eyes are puffy. "The bombs...they came out of nowhere." She quickly looks down at his wheelchair and clasps her hand over her mouth. "I-I-I have to go", she says before hurrying down the street. Barry sits there staring into the distance. 
 
Without looking up, he points in one direction and breathlessly says "Take me to my house. Now". The social worker, panic-struck by what had just been said, rapidly nods his head and starts pushing Barry in the direction of his finger. When they reach the end of the street, Barry sees his neighbour standing outside of what is left of his house. "WHERE ARE THEY?" he yells as the tears start streaming down his face. "WHERE ARE THEY?" The woman turns around to Barry in shock, and Barry sees that she has been crying too. "I'm sorry..." the woman starts to whisper. "No." Barry stares at her in disbelief. "Barry, they didn't get out in time. I'm so sorry." Barry lets out a scream and desperately tries to get out of the wheelchair before falling to the ground. The social worker looks with a horrified face at the remains of the house and then rushes over to Barry. Together with the woman, they get Barry back into the wheelchair where he rocks back and forth, sobbing loudly while whispering "No, no, no. It can't be true."
 
---
 
A month has passed since Barry came home. He lives in an apartment for people with disabilities now. His social worker comes to check on him once a week. Unfortunately, that's not enough. If you would go into Barry's department today, you will see that the dishes are piling up in the sink. A vase has been smashes in one of the corners. On the drawer beside the door is a letter, a letter that won't be read until the next visit from the social worker. A beautiful note, "The pain was only growing stronger. This was the painless way out. I was going to lose the game of life anyways." that would bring you to tears and difficulty breathing. And if you continued in to the apartment, you would find him there. Peacefully resting in his bed, a brave man that is now finally united with his wife and kids again in a place where they can go back to the park if they wish to do so. 
The note fell out as I opened my locker before first period. It swirled around a little before softly landing on the ground, front side down. I bent down to pick it up and followed the clumsy text that covered the note, left to right.
 
"Happy Valentine's Day", it began with. Valentine's Day. A day that I felt nothing but pure hatred for. Who would be stupid enough to send this to me? I moved on to the next line and a small smirk replaced the frown on my lips as I read the rest. "Love from you-know-who."
 
Genius. He always knew what to do. I slid the note into the back pocket of my jeans and looked around me. He was nowhere in sight, but I knew he was lurking around at school grounds.
 
I kept my eyes open throughout the day, my guard constantly up in case he would show himself. He wasn't allowed on school grounds but, knowing him, I knew that he had his ways of coming around that if he really wanted to. 
 
It wasn't until right before last period that I got the feeling I was being watched. I recognized the feeling, and welcomed it back like a long-lost child. Without making a sound I swiftly vanished into the darker areas of school and became one with the shadows.
 
There he was. Standing a couple of meters in front of me, leaning casually against the wall like no troubles in the world could bother him. I started walking slowly towards him

"You know you're not supposed to be here."
 
He chuckled.
 
"Then how come it's so easy for me to be?"
 
I smiled and stopped, keeping my distance. Nothing good ever happened when he was in the neigbourhood, but the adrenaline rush just before that nothing good happened had become a drug for me.
 
"What made you come back?"
 
"You."

"And you expect me to just come running back to you whenever you feel like showing up?"
 
He chuckled again. "Yes."
 
I blushed and let out a soft laugh. "You know me so well."
 
He quickly took a few steps towards me, closing the distance between us. His hand went up to stroke my cheek and I shivered at the touch of his cold fingers against my face.
 
"Run away with me." His breath tickled my face and my eyes flit towards the ground for a quick second before my gaze met his again.
 
I put my hand behind his neck and leaned in to softly whisper in his ear. I could tell that he was getting goosebumps from my touch and couldn't help but love how powerful that made me feel.
 
"No."
 
He stepped back, a clear confusion in his face. "No?" he asked, not sure how to act.
 
Now it was my turn to carelessly lean against the wall with all the power in my hands. "Yes, that's what I said."
 
I walked up to him again and put my palm against his chest.
 
"I don't trust you enough yet to run away with you. I know that you are going to leave me again, and I'm just not ready for that."
 
With a light push I expanded the distance between us again and turned around to walk away.
 
"But... don't you love me?" I could hear the desperation in his voice, which for some reason put a smile on my face. I didn't even bother to turn around as I answered him.
 
"Feelings don't go away. But I need you to make an effort for me. I need to know that you really want me before I put myself out there for you again. I will always love you." I turned my head just slightly.
 
"You will always be in my heart, Voldemort."
This is for the girls who suffer from eating disorders. This is for the girls who are overweight. This is for the girls with makeup. This is for the girls with no makeup at all. This is for the girly-girls. This is for the boyish-girls. This is for every girl in between. This is for all the girls who hate their stomachs, their face, their hair, their thighs, their butts and boobs.
 
STOP.
 
For the love of God, stop hating yourself.
 
I know, I know. It's not that simple that you can just stop when someone tells you to. But what if it could be? What if, when someone says "You're perfect the way you are, don't hate yourself", you could just take all that self-hatred and throw it to hell?
 
Well, I'm going to tell you a secret of mine. Feel free to tell it to friends and family, partners and enemies. It's not super important that it stays a secret, actually. Here goes nothing: You can do that! And what proof do I have that this is possible? Myself, of course! I have gradually taken every small hatred I have of myself, and I have looked it dead in the eye and told it to fuck off.

My confidence has taken a lot of beatings. I have been called everything from whore to shrimp-face (yeah, I don't even know the logic behind that one to be honest...). I have been told that I would stay single for the rest of my life, because no sane guy would ever want to date someone that looked as awful as me.

The worst thing was that I let each and every insult leave a deep scar in my confidence. I forgot to put that protecting "I don't care what you think about me, I don't think about you at all"-layer over my confidence, and instead just let them push me further and further down.

But no more of that bullshit. I am not going to let them get to me anymore. They're making me hate the body that I have to live with for the rest of my life. And if I don't love myself, then who will? That my friends, is exactly how I want you to think as well. So what if you don't look like a model? Not even models look like models! (You know, with all this photoshop that is available nowadays).

Now, put this paper away (or computer, or wherever you may be reading this) and go to the mirror. Take a close look at every part of your body that you don't like and repeat the following:

"I am a beautiful unicorn." (Don't question it, just do it). "I am unique in my own way, and I am also majestic because I love myself."

And the next time someone says a mean comment about your appearances, go up to them and hug them. Also, don't forget to tell them that you are 100% supportive of whatever visual defect they have. And smile, just smile, because you are alive and just that is something beautiful in itself.

 

"And the funny thing about it is,

I've spent so much time hating it

but it never says a bad word about me.

This is my body and it's fine

It's where I spend the vast majority of my time

It's not perfect, but it's mine."

- Tim Minchin