'T' is for 'Traci'

Friday, January 10, 2014 / 6:00 PM

"'T' is for 'Traci.'"

My father picked up a square stuffed tiger and handed it to me as a baby on an early shopping trip. If it weren't for the triangular stripes on his face and the black 'T' on his stomach, he would be mistaken for an oddly-colored mouse.

My parents laughed at how strange the toy looked, but I wouldn't let it go--no matter how many flashy toys they tried to make dance in front of my face.

Tiggy has 22 strands of orange yarn sewn to the top of his head for hair. I took him everywhere as a child, and would braid his hair or tie it in knots as I listened to my sister tell my parents about her day or as I tried to fall asleep at night. As I grew older and my hair fell out, I stopped tugging at the orange yarn in fear my tiger would be bald someday too.

"He doesn't look like a tiger," my sister said once. I shrugged. Tiggy and I were kindred spirits, comrades against a world of judgement. It would never matter how much hair either of us had--or didn't have--on our heads.

It sounds lonely, but having Tiggy next to me at night made me feel better. There was something about the permanent smile on his face that made me want to smile whenever I cried at night over being bullied or whenever I was scared about the next unknown in life.

Of course, I know now that looking back at who I once was is not necessarily a bad thing as long as I don't dwell or have regrets. It's important to be able to see the journey you've taken to becoming the person you are today, and to know that you've grown. And even if you're not entirely happy with who you are or where you're at right now, just knowing that there's a possibility for even more growth and for change is the key to moving forward.

I'm not afraid to admit that Tiggy has a place in my New York apartment. Even throughout high school and college, when I didn't really "need" him anymore, I couldn't let him go. He represents where I came from and, in his square little face, I see who I was: a scared and hurt child who learned how to stand on her own with every ounce of confidence she could find in her core.

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