Dear Teen Tara,
Writing you this letter is much harder than I imagined it would be. It’s hard because, I’m finally on the other side of it all, but I know that you’re still there. Being bullied, battered, and ignored. Thinking you’re not good enough to occupy your tiny space in the world.
Let me tell you something it took me a long time to be able to say.
You are better than the way people make you feel. You are better than the bruises you hide. You are better than the dark, hopeless thoughts swirling around in your head like a storm.
I wish I could tell you that you wake up tomorrow and everything gets better. It doesn’t. It won’t get better for a long time. For years all you’ve known is the word ugly. Boys and girls alike spat the word at you. And even though it was just a word, it felt like shrapnel. They made you believe it. They made you believe that you were no more that the big pink-framed glasses, the frizzy hair, the second hand clothing you wore.
Roses are red, violets are black, why is your chest as flat as your back?
Remember that one? Me too.
When you turn seventeen, you’re not going to be that girl anymore. You’ll ditch the glasses, learn to style your hair, get a job to earn money to buy better clothes. Now you’re just the socially awkward girl. The shy virgin that never goes to parties and occasionally shows up at school with a bruise that people like to whisper about, but don’t care enough to help. You’re not the twelve-year old ugly duckling anymore, but you still feel like her. You feel like her enough to fall head over heels for the first boy to notice you. You fall hard enough for him that you believe him when he says that he’s falling for you too. You fall hard enough to give him a part of yourself that you always promised yourself that you would save for someone special.
I wish I could stop you from making that decision. If I had access to a time machine I would. Because he’s not special. He doesn’t deserve what you gave him. He’s just a boy who bet his friends he could get into the panties of the shy virgin at school. And after two months of wearing you down, saying all the right things…he does. And now you have to endure a whole other kind of hurt.
His friends will laugh at you. They’ll mock you. He will act like it never happened. Like you never happened. He’ll pocket his forty dollars, light the match to your personal Hell, and he’ll walk away.
Forty dollars. That was the amount he won for being the one to take your innocence. His friends tell you this. Then they laugh. They spread rumors. Make others think you’re an easy target. They pick you apart, savoring your humiliation and broken heart like vultures.
In reality the only thing they accomplish is making you terrified to trust anyone. To let anyone touch you.
You are going to be ashamed of that moment. That moment that should have been special. You’ll stuff it so far back into the dark corners of your mind that most days you can pretend it never happened.
You may not believe it for a long time, but you are worth so much more than the forty dollars he and his friends made you feel like.
You are smart and creative and funny. You are beautiful. You are kind despite the cruelty others have shown you.
The next four years are going to be unbelievably hard. Hard enough that you paint your walls black and spend your nights angrily scratching emo poetry into your journal. Hard enough that you sit in your room with a kitchen knife thinking of nothing and everything all at once, as you try to convince yourself that sliding the blade across your wrists will make everything better.
You don’t do it, thank God. You call yourself a coward for not doing it. But if you could see what I see now, you’d know it was the bravest thing you’ve ever done.
Facing it, not running from it, makes you the bravest person I’ve ever known. Because we both know that you are going through so much more than I’ve written in this letter. At fifteen years old, you know that bullies come in all shapes, sizes, and ages.
If I could leave you with anything, it would be this: It gets better.
It gets so much better.
Are your days of encountering bullies over once you reach adulthood? No. Not by a long shot. The difference now is that you know that they don’t matter. They don’t have the power to take away your happiness. Not anymore. Not ever again.
Over the next fifteen years you’ll become more confident. You’ll learn to appreciate all of things about yourself that make you special and unique. You will find a way to feel beautiful in your own skin, in a way that isn’t dependent on what anyone else thinks. You’re going to get married to someone that is special and have beautiful babies. You are going to wake up every morning without the fear that someone is going to hurt you just because they are angry and they can. You are going to be a published author! Yeah, that thing you’ve been dreaming about since middle school, it’s going to happen believe it or not.
And more importantly, you are going to be happy. You are going to be happy in a way that you don’t know exists yet. Trust me. I’m already there. I know.
So, thank you in advance for sticking it out for us. For suffering in silence. For not letting all of this ruin you or break you. It’s going to be worth it. I promise.