Thursday, January 27, 2011

Journey, Part 1

I hesitated a lot when trying to decide to post this. I wrote it about 2 weeks ago and then sidelined it. It embarrassed me. But there has been something on my mind and I'm feeling the need to get it out there, outside of my head and into the universe. Would that be ok with everyone?  Yeah? Ok.

It should be said on the outset that I do not tell this story simply to get sympathy, to say "waah waah poor me", or to have people tell me I'm beautiful. No, I tell this story because it is about the journey I'm on, a journey that I've been sharing with you all for a while now, and a part of the journey that has been rather difficult for me. Five years on, I am beginning to feel able to fully process this part of my journey, which is exciting and terrifying all at the same time.

What is this thing I'm going to share, you ask?  Well, to put it bluntly, it's my face.  I have struggled for a while with the way that I look, not because I think I need any plastic surgery or anything, but because the face I have now, the face a large number of my friends know as mine, is in fact my new face. No, I didn't have a face transplant or anything, and for a lot of people there will be no difference between the before and after pictures, but when I was 18 I had to make a big change to the way I look...and it has become an extremely important part of the Ashleigh Renaissance story. Renaissance is all about rebirth, right? Well, the way I see myself was reborn, but it took a long time before I recognized what I saw.

This story is too long to post at once.  So here, my beautiful and patient friends, is PART I.
It all started my freshman year of high school, 9 long years ago (has it been that long?).  Being the daughter of a dentist, the quest for perfect teeth was less of an option and more of a moral imperative.  And when I hit puberty and my growth spurt at 14 it became clear that I was going to have, let's say, a less than perfect mouth.  To be honest, my bottom jaw was growing more than my top jaw.  If we were face to face I would act the entire thing out for you. Here, instead, is a pretty accurate depiction of what I looked like: 
We are kindreds, this dog and I.
I know, I know, obviously my face didn't look like a dog's. But really, this is what I looked like (below). This is a picture of me smiling, with my teeth together by the way, I'm not laughing or anything. I'm on the right.
That's me, on the right, with my best friends from high school on an impromptu trip to Santa Cruz.
At first it wasn't anything terrible and, truth be told, I didn't feel like there was any sort of problem, but as I went through high school my jaw kept on growing.  By my junior year, no end to my growing in sight, I couldn't bite through anything.  Yes, you read that right.  I couldn't take a bite without tearing it away from whatever the food was.  Many an inside joke was formed because of this (right, Brooke?). Eating became a chore--I avoided sandwiches or any food you had to eat with your hands, I only ate things that could be cut up (or didn't need to be cut up at all, like salad).  Looking at menus was like looking at an insurmountable obstacle. I cried in restaurants. A lot. Do you know that feeling when you look at something and you just can't see a solution anywhere? All you see are big, red NOs?. It is perhaps the worst feeling in the world. You feel helpless and small. It is beyond frustrating.

It became abundantly clear that I needed to change something. And change meant surgery.  And not just little surgery, BIG surgery.  Jaw surgery.  Wire-your-jaw-shut surgery. And soon.

To be continued....


  1. You and your face rock. I wish you could act out the story because nothing beats your facial expressions ... which is only appropriate since that is the topic at hand =)

  2. Yes, your face is different, but it is still the face I fell in love with on June 15, 1987. And it is now, as it was then, a BEAUTIFUL face. Just like your soul.

  3. i think it's incredibly awesome that you're writing about this!! and brave as well.

    i totally admire you for sharing your journey openly and honestly and also i love you!!!