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A Supposed Mango's Tale - #DearAdultWorld

A Supposed Mango’s Tale

Brittnee L. Jean, 18, she/her/hers

I thought I was born a mango.  

My tough exterior was not as tough as it appeared. Instead, it was easily peeled with strong words or sharp bites. 

My skin–tender to the touch.  

In my elementary years, words of discouragement and lack of understanding painfully ripped open my skin. As a black child in a predominantly white community, I was constantly reminded that I was different. The other children would laugh at me and say that I had worms coming out of my hair–that I looked like Medusa. Or, they would tell me that my skin was dirty because it was brown and that I dominated the cotton field. The teachers, of course, did not hear the comments being said, but heard my retaliation and responded, “I’m disappointed in you.” Since then, I trained myself to not open up to my teachers as much as I should. 

My fruit–sweet in taste but easily bruised.  

Exposed and as vulnerable as this fruit, I was naked and bare for the whole world to see.  

As a high achieving middle school student, I discovered what being used meant. With good grades came ​academic ​ ​friends. Everyone in my classes knew that I took my work seriously since I always excelled, so they would compete with each other to see who would get to me first in order to work with me. At first, I was flattered by being wanted by everyone, but then I began to pick up a pattern. All the burdens of the group work fell on me. The more it happened, the less I enjoyed working with other people. My peers would use me for my strong work ethic, then forget I existed until the next project came along.  

Until I had enough. 

All my fruit had gone away, and I was left with my hollow pit. Any bit of hope, 

confidence, and emotion echoed softly inside.  

My hard exterior showed the world that I was used up and devoured.  

So, I hid. 

As a freshman in high school, I hid behind my classes, isolating myself and avoiding academic ​​friends. I sat quietly in class and instead showed my intelligence on paper rather than raising my hand. I became an average, typical high achieving, quiet student.

I thought I was nothing but a mango. 

But one day something inside me snapped and the very bits of emotion, confidence, and hope I had hidden deep inside of me climbed out.  

As a junior in high school, I realized I had aspirations. I decided to be more active and once again show my true potential. I began participating in class and began working with others who took their work just as seriously as I did.  

I am now a seed with newfound freedom. Without my hollow pit, I am free to make a new story for myself.  

So, I do.  

 

Today, I plant myself in the rich soil of hopes and dreams, eschewing harsh soil. I drink in every piece of knowledge to help me grow and prosper, to discover myself. Making new friends who see more than my academics, I begin to flourish. 

I build a new pit around myself, not to hide behind, but to hold and produce my bright, sweet, tropical fruit.  

And with my bright fruit, my exposed fruit, I don’t feel vulnerable anymore; instead, I feel confident enough to expose myself to the world and positively affect people with my sweetness.  

And when my skin, my beautifully colored skin, covers my fruit once again, the world might see nothing but a mango. But when they pick me up and look at me, they’ll see that I am not easily defined.  

They’ll see a girl that came from a place full of challenges but persevered beyond expectation.  

And soon enough they’ll quickly understand what it took me so long to understand. 

I am more than just a mango. 

Visual Art: “A Childhood Devoured”

Gwendolyn Armstrong, 18, she/her/hers