Share a lesson you wish you had learned earlier in life.

“[Harriet] never minded admitting she didn’t know something. So what, she thought, I could always learn.”

Louis Fitzhugh, U.S. author, Harriet the Spy (F)

A lesson I had wished I had learned earlier in my life would be

Let go, be yourself.

In hindsight, it seems obvious. Obvious that that whatever I was doing wasn’t working. Oh how much easier my existence would have been had I just had the foresight to let go of the absurd notion that there was a “right” and “wrong” way to be as a person.

How much simpler would it have been to just say,

“This is who I am, and I will not compromise my personality to fit your expectations.”

A number of circumstances come to mind.

That one time that Kaley called you “annoying” and “weird” for texting her an entire verse to a song she showed me. If I had only had the gift of hindsight I would tell my young, impressionable, and naive self that your friends aren’t required to like every single part of your personality.

Or the time that Savannah loudly proclaimed how “uncomfortable” it made her to witness a “big-hulking” black guy with a “small” white girl and how you brushed it off as if you agreed. It made me feel so small, as if white men, by design would never love me and the black men at my school I didn’t considered to be what society would deem as acceptable for a black man.

Or the time that Kaley’s mother looked at you up and down as if deciding on whether a rug would look good in her house or not. You wanted to scream at her,

“Please don’t hate me, I’m not a bad influence on your daughter I promise, despite hpw awful she treats me I look out for her.”

In the moments of scrutinization, you had hoped your eyes spoke the words you so wished you could say, but to no avail. The next time you would feel the eyes of her mother’s scrutiny wash over you in guilt at something you hadn’t done would be when Kaley decided to rip the flags off of mailboxes and was caught. The cops called your mothers and even though you hadn’t done it along with her, the questions of “why” unanswerable, and your silent indignation hiding the social suicide you just imparted upon yourself. You think,   

“Why didn’t I rip the flags off of the mailboxes, I’m such a pussy.”

Or the one time I did let go, and use the sense of humor god had given me, and I failed to realize that the liberation I was feeling in that moment was the feeling of letting go.

Victoria with her overbite, braces, and strong sense of self, showing an unwavering amount of confidence in herself gave me pause. I was of a higher social standing than her couldn’t even make myself impart the levels of humiliation I had experienced onto her.

When Meghan began to insult the bell bottoms with corduroy patches that looked like a quilt hastily thrown together, the heat of embarassment turning my cheeks pink, Victoria loudly declared, so everyone could hear,

All of these instances I should have let go, I should have just been myself. I should have taken a note out of Victoria’s playbook, and learned the lesson of authenticity that had eluded me for so long.

“I happen to LIKE your jeans Madelyn, they’re cute.”

I thought on my feet, grateful for the “out” she had just so graciously given to me and hoping I could convey a “thanks” as discreetly as possible, and looked at Meghan whose nose will never fail to remind of a pig’s, and said,

“See you guys, Victoria likes my pants.” An innoculous enough statement to ward off any further insults and (thank god) leaving Victoria unscathed and free from the threat of becoming a target.

I would have had stronger friendships, been more confident in my appearence, and maybe, just maybe, it would have saved me from ever conforming to the unrealistic expectations of the girls in my high-school.

I wish I had learned. 

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