When I was younger, my parents really encouraged me to be happy and do a lot in life. There are videos from my childhood where my parents would say, “What is this?” and I’d say, “I’m Taylor Watkins, and this is a great day!”
I remember, in fourth grade, when that childhood happiness was taken away. That was the first time I was called “ugly.”
Throughout fourth and fifth grade, the name-calling didn’t really stop. It made me think a lot less of myself. In sixth grade the vocabulary expanded, and I was called names that I didn’t even understand. I just knew they hurt. For the first time, I wanted to die.
In seventh grade everything sort of calmed down. But then we all got social media. Someone made a fake Twitter account and messaged me that I should kill myself, saying I didn’t belong at the school and that I didn’t belong anywhere. I believed them. I believed that if one person thought that way about me, everyone else must too.
In eighth grade I got invited to a place called Castaway. I went, and I found acceptance in Jesus. The camp speaker kept saying, “You take God’s breath away.” I thought, “Yes, I know Jesus loves me. I’ve been singing that since I was little.” But she kept saying it. And then one night it hit me. The Creator of the universe looks at me and says, “Taylor Watkins, you take my breath away.”
When I came back from camp I had the “camp high.” I was going into my freshman year, so that changed everything. I ended up getting a boyfriend, but when we broke up, he told me that I didn’t deserve love. I agreed, “Yes, I don’t deserve love. Especially from God.”
I kept going to youth group and Young Life—things that lifted me up. One night a speaker was talking about how big the universe is. He was explaining the things in the universe, and then said, “God didn’t think it was complete until he created you.”
I used to self-harm and do all kinds of things, but this time I went home and just threw away everything. I threw away the knife I used to cut myself with. I threw away harmful notes I had written. I started to understand that I have constant love from Jesus. If I mess up, I know he still loves me. If I’m having a bad day, I know he still loves me. That’s something I get to experience every single day.
And so, I’m still Taylor Watkins, and not every day is a great day. But my heart is on fire for Jesus Christ, and that’s how I’m living every day.