Earlier today, I saw a post on Facebook that took my breath away.
“How do I help my teenager?” it said. “The kids are so mean she doesn’t want to go to school anymore.”
I remember those days.
I remember huddling down low in my seat before class, hoping no one would notice me. I remember walking as fast as I could through the halls, trying not to hear the taunts my classmates threw at me. I remember the torture that was finding a spot in the lunchroom, and the tears that I shed while hiding in the bathroom after school, trying to avoid the bully who said she was going to beat me up.
I remember looking in the mirror and hating everything I saw. I remember thinking that if I could just change this, that, or the other thing, then everything would be perfect. I remember begging for this bag, those shoes, that hairstyle…all in an effort to fit in.
I remember feeling completely and utterly bewildered. Why did they hate me so? What had I ever done to them? What did I have to do to get them to stop being so mean?
I remember feeling like I was stuck in a nightmare that would never, ever end.
But you know what?
Eventually it did get better. Not all at once. In fact, the progress was so slow, I didn’t notice it at the time. But now, looking back, I can see when it started to change.
Middle school was the worst. The. Worst.
The first year of high school wasn’t much better.
But eventually, I found a little spot where I belonged. I found friends. True friends. No more than I could count on one hand, but it was enough. We were enough. We knew we were different, but we were different together.
And although people were still mean, they weren’t often as blackhearted and cruel as they seemed in middle school. That helped.
But you know what helped the most?
I started to figure out who I was. What I loved (writing), what I hated (dissecting animals), and what I really needed to be happy (books, a loved one or two, and a purring kitty).
And as awful as those early teen years were, in the long run, they helped me become stronger. They helped me become, well, me.
And now? Well, now I am awesome. Okay, not really. But I’ve got a great career, an amazing husband and family, and I’m a PUBLISHED AUTHOR.
Sorry ’bout the all caps, but if you had told 14-year-old me that someday she’d have a romance-writing career? Well, first of all, she wouldn’t have believed that she’d ever know enough about “romance” to write a book about it.
But if you had finally managed to convince her it was true, she would have squee-ed the world’s longest and loudest squee and smiled the rest of her way through high school.
I tell you all of this to make a single point (well, maybe two or three). Middle school (and sometimes high school) sucks. There’s no getting around it. People are stupidly, horribly mean.
But it’s just the beginning. And not even the good part of the beginning. If it were a book, it would be the prologue of your life. And not even the whole prologue.
Stay strong when you can. Let your mom hold you while you cry when you can’t. But you will get through this. And you’ll come out the other side smarter and stronger and even more amazing than you already are.
You’ve got this. Really. You’ve just got to believe in yourself, and know that we believe in you.
That might not be good advice, but it’s all I’ve got.
It’s better than nothing, right?