September 9, 2019
by Joslyn Smith ’04
When I think of the trajectory of both my personal and professional life, being a student at Scripps—and in Claremont— clearly was a pivotal point. Before I moved from rural Arkansas to campus, I was an expert in running from my body. Once at Scripps, that running culminated and exploded into what, by anyone’s standards, resembled collapsing and falling apart, emotionally and physically. Less clear was that I was taking my first steps toward healing and back to my body.
Along with the clinical expertise and commitment of mental health providers in town, my healing was encouraged through academics at Scripps, when I became curious about and, when appropriate, able to critique the ways I’d communicated using my body over the previous decade or more. This was specifically true as I pursued my major in studio art with the advisement and unwavering encouragement of Professor of Art Susan Rankaitis. After returning from a summer mostly lost to a suicide attempt followed by inpatient eating disorder treatment in Iowa, my first assignment in photography class was to create slides and find a song that illustrated how I spent my summer. Concerned about how to approach the assignment, I met with Professor Rankaitis. I’ll never forget her response: “Well, I guess you can be honest, or you can fib and say you vacationed in the Midwest. My understanding is that eating disorders thrive on shame, so I’d suggest you be honest.” I did exactly that, and truthfulness about my eating disorder and constant conflict with my body became the basis for my creative and professional pursuits moving forward.
Since my time at Scripps, I’ve been fortunate to work on federal eating disorder policy initiatives alongside then Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, at the American Psychological Association and Binge Eating Disorder Association, and, most recently, at the National Eating Disorders Association. In addition to jumpstarting my personal healing, my time at Scripps taught me the importance of questioning and critiquing the status quo. This has been of paramount importance as I sift through research and information related to health and wellness, specifically about what it means to be “healthy.”
I am grateful for the opportunity to pen this PostScripps submission, and I look forward to watching—and, when possible, contributing to—how Scripps supports women in our personal and professional pursuits (especially questioning and critiquing with an intersectional and social-justice-focused lens) related to celebrating all bodies.
Illustration by Nathan Stock