Julienne Dagpin | Phillipines
"I'm going to die!"
I thought it was the end of the world. The words circled my head and rattled every bone in my body. I did not want to look down again, but I knew I needed to assess the damage. After a few seconds, I looked down at my chest and saw a growing lump. I considered several life-threatening ailments, ranging from cancer to heart problems. I felt my insides twisting inside and out as I was overwhelmed with fear.
I wanted to run away, but how could I when the problem was right under my nose?
I knew there was only one way to get to the bottom of the situation. I finished putting on my clothes and dashed to the kitchen. My mother swept the floor with a steady motion. I did not want to bother her, but I had to fix this problem.
"Hi ma..." I shyly greeted my mother.
"Hi, Yen. Please call JP and Yanna so we can eat right away," my mother said as she put the broom and dustpan in the closet.
"Ma, umm... I have a question. Is it normal that I have a lump on my chest?" I asked with some uncertainty. My mother was taken aback by the question but quickly composed herself.
"Yes, your tutoy is beginning to form," she quickly answered, reminding me to call my siblings again. I gazed down at my chest and imagined the breasts that would emerge from it.
I thanked her and ran to call my younger siblings, knowing that I could not ask any more questions because my mother was not in the best mood.
Her response left me with mixed feelings. I did not have access to the internet, resources, and discussions regarding puberty. We did not have that at home, and my school only discussed puberty until about three months after it happened. My TLE (Technology and Livelihood Education) teacher simply gave a quick overview of the technical terms and changes in puberty because it was and still is a taboo subject. I felt uncomfortable during the discussions because these changes were happening to me.
Thus, my mother was the most reliable source. Her answer helped calm my nerves, but it also made me realize that I am going through a major turning point in my life. I was worried: growing breasts, a changing body, and changing expectations were all uncharted territory.
I didn’t know whether I would be able to cope with the changes, but the echoes of fear and uncertainty subsided as I became more accustomed to their existence.
Seeing my peers also going through the joys and pains of puberty made the process easier.
I am currently 18 years old. In the Philippines, I am legally an adult. In other words, a woman. Still, I do not see myself as a woman. Being a woman, in my opinion, entails reaching a point in your life where you fully embrace your identity. I am still insecure about various changes. I don’t feel confident in my body because of the weight gain I had during the process. When I go outside, I don’t wear shorts and crop tops because it emphasizes my big thighs and belly rolls. Even then, I get better every day. As more aspects of myself change, I have to start accepting this period in my life. This acceptance made me see that changes are not the end of the world, but an opportunity to live and be more of a woman day by day.