Quiet. Peace and quiet. Quiet and peace. No sound, no noise, except for the rising sound of ocean tickling the shore and muffled squeals of people splashing in the water.

I was in Cancun, Mexico, the city known for vibrant nightlife, partying and endless streams of tequila, but I had not felt more at peace, amid all the distractions beckoning at every corner.

The months leading up to my pre-Christmas tropical getaway, I struggled through finishing up my thesis to graduate with my Master of Arts in a writing program. I spent the majority of my summer before that last fall semester penning my thesis so that my load would be lightened. I knew by the end of it all, I’d need a vacation and booked a direct flight out of Atlanta that would leave the morning after my graduation.

But the quiet. The peace and quiet. The quiet and peace. Although it was comforting and welcoming, I found that my thoughts about unnecessary stresses whittled away and wandered to the more important things, like who was this woman I was becoming now that graduate school was out-of-the-way?

Where was my life leading me? When would I end my self-instituted bout of singledom and at least try casually dating again, instead of clinging to being by myself which was easier and required no risk on my part?

As I lounged on a beach chair in the sand, these thoughts whirled around in my brain as the sun rays beat down on my frame and warmed my body from head-to-toe. I couldn’t help but stare, halfway oogle, at the other women who strolled on the sand as I was lost in my thoughts.

Since I had arrived at the resort, I had only seen a handful of other Black people, as most of the people were either Brits or Mexicans. The color of the skin of these other women, however, didn’t matter. By day two of my vacation, I was fully obsessed with how they looked in their swimsuits, rather how self-conscious it made me feel in mine.

Because of the aforementioned stress from graduate school, my health and eating the right things fell far down my list of priorities. Rather than take the adequate measures to prepare meals at home, I carelessly picked up food and ate while submerged in my bed sheets night after night, sometimes with a bottle of wine, rum or sugary soda in tow.

I had gained weight, gone up a dreaded dress size and teetered into the 200s and the comments from my mother as well as the echoes of my last boyfriend who cited me being “fat” as one central reason for his disgust and lack of interest with me haunted me nearly every day.

But here, my extra pounds on my 5’10” frame, my wide hips, my thick thighs, pudgy stomach and the stretch marks that greeted me if I peered at my love handles, didn’t matter. Here, in Mexico, party town Cancun, both women and men walked with ease in swim trunks and bikinis without coverups, almost as if they were blissfully unaware that their bodies weren’t created in a flawless fashion.

I wasn’t comfortable with “letting it all hang out” and for those first two days, a stranger’s eye didn’t meet anywhere past my coral cover up. I wondered though, If none of them were concerned, if all of them were happy, if their bodies as imperfect as they were were okay with them, then why did I care at all?

On day three, my final full day I had on the beach, I mustered up a little (liquid) courage. After chugging a margarita down from the beachside bar, I lugged my beach towel, tote bag with reading materials and a beach chair to a spot on the sand, a few feet away from the dip that extended to the salty ocean water.

Without blinking, I removed that coral cover up, exposing my string bikini and vibrant yellow frilly, flirty triangle top. The fresh air flew past the sides of my body immediately, greeting me and alerting me that although I felt very insecure and silly in that moment, I was doing the right thing, the courageous thing, the self-love thing. I was taking that solitary step to admitting that yes, my body was not perfect and yes, it was greatly flawed, but yes, even there was beauty in that.

In this skin, I was fine. And in this skin was all I ever needed to be.


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