Open letter to me, age 15


Dear 15-year-old me,



I see you there.  You’ve taken more pills than your stomach can handle and you’ve cut your wrists over and over to relieve some of the pain.  You cry yourself to sleep pretty much every night and pray for death because at 15, you don’t see any other way out of the bullying.  You are tired of hurting and tired of living.



You don’t tell your friends because you feel like you can’t.  You also don’t tell your family because your parents just had their fifth child and both are unemployed.  You don’t want to worry them any more and add to their problems.



I’m writing this in 2012 because I am tired, too.  I am tired of you affecting every choice I have and haunting every decision I have made since that awful spring of freshman year.  I love you but it’s time we talk.



The bully does not dictate who you are.  You do.  And right along with that, the 15-year-old me does not dictate who I am in 2012.  I do.



Beginning in 2010, massive public attention was drawn to a rash of suicides among teens, many of them gay, but all of them bullied.  It started a meaningful public dialogue on bullying and what should be done about it.  It has led to the “It Gets Better” Project.  People you will truly come to admire—President Obama, Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Ellen DeGeneres, Gloria Estefan, Al Franken, Tim Gunn, Tom Hanks, Neil Patrick Harris, Kermit the Frog (not a person but still awesome!), Suze Orman, George Takei and BD Wong are just a few of the people who’ve lent their voices in support of the project.  The message?



It gets better.


You have laid the foundations for the person I am today and I want to show you that even though I’m not a perfect person, what you started at 15 is quite the reflection of the woman I have become.



It gets better.


 1.  It’s pretty easy to see you enjoy learning.  You love to read and write and absorb material at an astonishing rate.  You don’t know it, but you graduate from high school, college and grad school with a 3.9 GPA.  Merit scholarships pay for half your bachelor’s and your entire master’s degree.  You are also runner-up for the Fulbright scholarship.  You learned three languages easily and never stopped learning your history.  You even learn to lighten up…no one loves to read pop culture, dumb criminal stories or news of the weird like you do.



It gets better.


 2.  You took your first trip abroad last summer (Britain and Ireland) and are already planning another trip (Mexico).  You never stop travelling because you move to France a couple times while you criss-cross Europe.  You also travel to Canada and the Caribbean and love it.  You like being on the move and the thought of another trip gets you moving full-throttle.  What’s next?  Hiking the Scottish Highlands for the trip of a lifetime.  Or something closer and cheaper, and goofier—like the Spam Museum in Minnesota.  We’re totally there before summer’s end!



It gets better.


 3.  You are all about volunteering.  Girl Scouts, volunteering at the hospital, teaching CCD (religious ed) classes and vacation bible school.  That spirit of volunteerism got you awards later in high school.  You joined a service fraternity in college and were VP of Service.  You organized service projects for dozens of college students to participate in.  You cared enough about other people that you became a teacher.  While not our true life’s calling, you worked with hundreds of kids in five states and two continents.  You opened a lot of doors and made some meaningful connections and contributions over the years.



It gets better.


 4.  Even though you despair and pray for death, there is a strong faith there.  You hold onto it through all your trials; it led you to some of your most moving experiences in high school and college when you went on retreats.  You hold onto it even though your world views change in college and throughout your travels.  It leads you to do probably the most drastic thing of your life.  At 27 you get off the fence, join a religious community and are a Sister.  Even though it was for only a year, and a damned hard one at that, you gained independence and perspective you certainly would NOT have had if you stayed holed up in your hometown.  Social justice becomes something that reaches to the core of who you are and even if your faith is shaken, your moral compass isn’t.  You stop going to Church after the convent, but we’ll talk about that later.



It gets better.


That is the woman you have become.  Is it all roses?  No.  You bury both your dear grandfathers and your best friend from high school.  You have to grieve from hundreds of miles away when students die, and the same for many of the Sisters you come to love.  You are laid off in 2009, have familial rifts, get into car accidents, have relationship blunders, you almost lost your life in Paris and go through deep depression and anxiety.  You are also hospitalized in 2010 after you almost commit suicide again.



BUT…your amazing immediate family is still there, still in your corner.  You add to the family when you bring home the unequivocal fatass feline Farley in 2007 and little curious George in 2010.  You’ve made incredible new friends you can’t even begin to imagine right now.  You’ve held a variety of jobs that pay the bills and while not perfect fits, allow you to grow as a professional and acquire skills you can’t fathom as a 15-year-old.  You live in Europe and four different states because you chose to.  You have new hobbies and interests you would never have considered—yoga, silent movies, jazz music, trivia nights, cooking, jewelry, dancing, couponing, running, making soap, dining out…



I wrote this to you in an attempt to communicate that it does get better.  You don’t know that right now, but I do.  What I also know is this scared girl has held me back from doing even more with my life.  You make me doubt myself, second-guess myself and hold back.  You prevented me from embarking on relationships, getting out more out of my comfort zone, taking risks…in short—living.



I am not diminishing your feelings, nor am I ignoring you.  I can’t ignore you because you are a part of who I am.  I’m validating it’s OK to be scared, sad and hurt because you don’t have a crystal ball, so how can you possibly know how good it is going to get?  You can’t know that, but I do.  BUT…



We’re done.



You are not going to hold me hostage anymore.  I am not going to use you as an excuse the next time I don’t get out there and do something crazy, unexpected or amazing.  You will not dictate how I act and feel.  You let the bully tell you how to feel about yourself, but I’ll be damned if I’ll let you tell me how to feel about myself in 2012.



It’s been almost 20 years.  I’m tired of fighting you.  I’m sick of you holding me back, scaring me and haunting me.  I love you not in spite of, but because all of your flaws.  You are a part of me and I want to live a richer life not to spite you but to avenge the wrongs done to both of us—that is how we stand up to bullies.  We deserve it and we’re going to get it.  I don’t know how but that doesn’t really matter right now.  It will figure itself out.



Put the knife down, put the pill bottle down.  Turn off the radio, get out of bed and get out of the shadows.  Put your hand in mine and let’s start walking.  Let’s start walking to the better life you and I both deserve.  Because of you, I am a more genuine person.  And the further I go, the further you go.



It gets better.



3 responses »

  1. Very touching post!!! I love your vulnerability and strength…we all have are “things” we go through growing up I glad to see you choice not to let them define who you are as an adult!!! That is my purpose in life through all the pain I’ve experienced at the hands of others I refuse to let that define me today!!! Love it!!! Keep up the great work! Just take one day at a time!!!

    • Thanks you so much Maria I really appreciate your kind words. It’s taken me almost 20 years to finally face facts but I am such a stronger person and so much more at peace for it. And props to you for being the strong woman you are and refusing to let others define you or how you see yourself!!!

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