In this moment of my life, past the days of college and in the days of adult life, I am aware now more than ever of the girl I was. The struggles I endured. The restraints I broke. The expectations I surpassed. Everything that developed me into the woman I am today—both good and bad.
Day in and out, I see girls who were once me facing insurmountable difficulties. My heart aches for them to escape these dark, lonely, all-consuming cells. To feel even a tinge of happiness, without wearing an artificial smile on their emotionally-battered faces. I want to be you for the sake of freeing you. But I know I can’t.
So, this is an open letter to you, my sweet, deserving friends. To the girls I love who are struggling, and to the girls I haven’t met and wish I could. This one is to the girl.
To the girl who struggles with her worth: I know it is so damn hard to be there. When your efforts aren’t recognized, when your purpose feels nonexistent, and when all you do is try for what seems like nothing, understand that you are here for a reason. It’s a reason that no one else could ever share, no matter how hard they try. Why? Because it’s yours. Hold on for now. Trust me, your worth will show itself in time. And when it does, you’ll be thankful for these dark moments.
To the girl who isn’t comfortable in her skin: understand that everyone else feels that way. Try as it may, society will never define what perfect is. A standard of beauty one day, is quickly trashed and packaged as ugly the next. What is fat to someone, is skinny to another. Every curly-haired girl wishes at some point that she was more like her straight-haired friend, not knowing that inside, her friend is wishing her hair would hold a wave for more than 5 seconds. This was something I struggled with deeply, and still do. My anorexia dragon will creep its scaly head in the most innocent of circumstances, hissing words of hate and judgment. But I fight it, knowing that expectations aren’t worth losing my confidence, beauty, period (literally), and goals. And it’s not worth it to you, either.
To the girl drowning in stress and anxiety: been there, still there, will always be there. What you are feeling right now isn’t an overreaction, no matter the source. It is OK to look at piles of homework and stacked deadlines with dread. It is normal to become nervous and anxious about your uncertain future, an upcoming exam, job applications, scholarships, and sport tryouts. But the difference lies in how you handle these feelings when they arise. You can choose to dwell on them and squash any chances of facing the hurdles giving you anxiety, or, you can leap over those hurdles, knowing that greater rewards lie beyond them. I took this perspective, and because of it, I am where I am today. Do I still face uncertainty? Of course. But I look past it, knowing it is only a lingering feeling along the path of success.
To the girl who feels lonely: the truth is, you aren’t. There is always at least one person out there who cares for you and doesn’t want you to feel this way. I’ve often struggled with this, thinking that my loneliness in one situation translated to loneliness in every situation. That just because I wasn’t invited to one event, or looped into one conversation, those people wanted nothing to do with me. To the girls who feel this way, I urge you to step and ask yourself: is what I’m feeling true loneliness, or just temporary hurt? Was this exclusion intentional, or just an accident of the moment? I think you’ll quickly discover that these fleeting moments are just that - fleeting. They will pass, and you will see that you aren’t lonely. In fact, you’re pretty damn loved.
To the girl who wants to end it all: you really, really, really don’t. Your life is precious beyond measure. It is unique, significant, beautiful, and worth fighting for. I know it seems like every door is shut, and every eye is blind to your suffering, but all it takes to change that is one, small admission: I can’t do this alone. Find someone you can talk to (and no, I don’t necessarily mean a therapist or an adult). Seek out a friend or family member who you know will listen. You can even reach out to me, no matter who you are. And if that fails to help, know there are professionals who can lead you along the path to healing—whatever it takes. There is more courage in living through our struggles, than dying because of them.