It was a particularly long and dreadful school day in 2014 when I’d first experienced ugliness in its most bewitching form.
I was making my way across the high school parking lot, several hours after the last bell had rung for the day. I’d spent about three hours after my classes had finished, editing news articles for the school paper until the janitor gave me the ‘hurry up and get out’ eyebrow raise. Even with the blurred vision that is brought about by hours of squinting at a computer monitor, I caught a faint glimpse of a piece of paper fluttering in the wind, secured by the jaws of my windshield wipers.
I brushed it off, convinced it was either a parking ticket (I’m no stranger to these), or a nondescript ad for tai kwon do lessons. In truth, it was neither.
Once when I was nine, I’d had the wind knocked out of me while traveling in my family’s bright red speedboat. We’d hit a monstrous wave head on, and my small-person lungs simply didn’t agree with the momentum. I gasped for air, my eyes blurry with tears and assumed that moment would be ‘the end.’ The air -- and the day’s joy -- quickly returned with a McDonald's chocolate milkshake.
Standing in the empty parking lot, clutching a piece of notebook paper that dripped with pencil-scrawled hatred, made that day on the speedboat a cake walk in comparison.
Essentially, the note confirmed everything that I suspected to be true about myself in high school: that the majority of the people within those yellowing walls and disintegrating ceiling tiles considered me as hilarious and stale as a practical joke.
I reacted to the note the same way that anyone else in my circumstances would have: I pretended it never happened, while the anxiety of it all ate away at my insides like moth larvae in a coat closet. I looked into the eyes of my classmates, wondering if he or she was the penman of the letter, questioning every friendship I ever made and robbing myself of even a shred of joy. I drove myself mad, pouring over the pages of past yearbooks, convinced that if I could just figure out who’d penned the note, I’d finally earn peace.
Eventually, I graduated high school and began the greatest endeavor of my entire life thus far: college. The sleepless nights and ravaging anxiety that the letter had brought into my final year of school soon dissolved, and I’d nearly forgotten about it entirely.
The reason why I decided to unearth this story from the innermost archives of my mind, is the fact that I consider it to be a very defining moment for me. I see life as being a series of soaring highs and staggering lows, and this was one of my most distinct ‘low’s’.
No human is completely without blemish. Considerably my most fatal flaw, is my tireless need to drive myself absolutely bonkers with over-analysis. Every once in a while, I become consumed by the idea that even the closest of my friends secretly hate me and the horrible reality that I could never be loved or married, among other things. But it is in these moments that I pinpoint the enemy: myself. Or, my mind, for that matter. And the sad truth is, it’s not me alone who is guilty of doing this. In fact, I’m sure you’re just as guilty as I am.
Genuinely, it is really none of my business what other people think of me. If I make this my business— if I MAJOR in ‘caring about what they think of me,’— I will wither away until I’m nothing but a sack of meaningless, passionless bones. If we spent a considerable amount of time dwelling on every negative comment, horrible bully, and lie we hear about ourselves each time they come about, we’d be selling our souls over to the ugliness. We are not the reflection of those corrupt people who can’t see us for who we truly are. We are a picture of vibrant color and loveliness, and no one has the right to convince us otherwise. We can’t let the behavior of others rob us of our peace.
Small people make it their mission to belittle the ambitions of the seemingly unbreakable. However, their petty stones can’t penetrate the walls of a stone castle— remember that. The stones will only hurt you if you open a window and let them in. Refuse to open that window.
Socrates once said, “be as you wish to seem.” By the same token, feel as you wish to feel. Not every situation demands a reaction. Sometimes its best to look those who wronged you in the face (figuratively), smile and think “I’m sincerely sorry for YOU. I will not award you with the luxury of seeing me cry.”
I never did find out who wrote the letter.
And quite frankly, I don’t give a damn.
First photo courtesy of art director and designer, Jessica Walsh, via Instagram. Second photo courtesy of a tumblr blog, source unknown.