I am about to proffer a smattering of advice and thoughts. I know, I know. Who am I to offer advice? I’m 24-years old, look relatively like the other thousands of students with whom you are packed into the hallways like sardines, and am, truthfully, overly familiar with law and order SVU episodes & lipstick brands. I’m not an expert in much, except perhaps the exact amount of pizza & Nutella it takes to send you to bed clutching your heart and wondering, somewhat seriously, at what point you should call an ambulance. So why, amidst my abounding imperfection, do I insist on writing this letter? It comes down to this:
Imperfection does not negate the value of one’s words. Imperfection is at the core of the human experience and our stories, our truths, are all worth sharing. Even the silly, imperfect ones. So, from one imperfect soul to another, here are some of my truths:
1. To truly love, you must be willing to fail, to crumble, to cry. Love means opening yourself up to vulnerability and walking, arms outstretched, into moments that could break you. Moments that could hurt you to your very bones and make you wonder whether you'll ever be okay again.
Love is scary, but hiding is scarier.
If you run from vulnerability, your life may feel safe. But it will be safe and small and numb. Love means taking risks when you want to run. Love means giving help when you're strong and asking for it when you're weak.
Love is being seen.
You are all worthy of love, no matter how broken and bruised you feel. You. Are. Worthy.
2. For some, high school is a beautiful time of self-discovery and growth. For most? It's a time in the trenches, a battle against oneself and the world.
If teaching's taught me anything, it's that everyone is fighting a personal war. The beautiful, fragile souls you pass in the hallways are in an arena fighting self-doubt and loathing, fighting abandonment, fighting depression. They’re winning some rounds, losing others.
There are many versions of the people we pass in the hallways, and most are only given a single, incomplete narrative. We assume, we judge, we compare, we critique. We get it wrong.
We don't have to keep getting it wrong.
We can get it right by looking for the whole story, instead of accepting the convenient pieces being passed around. We can get it right by loving others.
Don’t love someone despite their flaws. Don’t love them anyway. Just love them. All of them. They need it and you need it.
3. There will be times in your life when your mind and soul will be too broken to recognize your value. Maybe that time is now, maybe it's coming. In these inevitable dark moments, you may think your absences go unnoticed. You may think, even, that no one would care if you simply disappeared.
I would care. I, with every other person on whom you've left a print, an echo, would care. You have touched and taught and helped more people than you know. We need you here.
4. Becoming the best version of yourself may be lonely. It may require asking difficult questions and feeling isolated as you seek those answers. But being honest with yourself is always worth whatever pain may follow.
Ball up your fists and ask the difficult questions.
5. We’re all off-brand versions of an unrealistic ideal and hallelujah, my friends. How boring perfection would be. Perfection has never been a requirement for value, whatever people may say. I’m imperfect, you’re imperfect, and we all have things to offer.
We must be able to stand proudly with our gifts in one hand and weaknesses in the other, the good and the bad both wholly a part of our identity.
The world needs us, all of us.