Dear Hurting Teenager,
I know you want to leave.
I know the horrible, endless walks through the hallways that you endure every morning, near vomiting.
I know the afternoon bus rides to Hell where you sit frozen with fear, praying to just become invisible.
I know the locker room beat-downs and the lunch room stares and the wounding words behind your back and the hateful taunts in your face.
I know the incessant online trolls who hound you day and night; who hurl verbal violence from behind the anonymity and security of phone screens and fake handles.
I know how it takes every bit of strength you have just to paint on a smile and pretend you’re OK and to hide how much it hurts and to act “normal”.
I know that all of this has left you exhausted; that you’ve numbed yourself and hurt yourself and starved yourself, in the hope that their voices will become silent and their fists will be lifted and you can finally breathe again.
I know that right now you’d rather leave than live.
And even though I’m not standing in your shoes and even though I don’t know you and even though I have no right at all—I’m asking you to stick around.
I’m asking you to stay; to endure your incredibly painful, totally senseless now because I can see your glorious, blindingly beautiful then, if you do.
You see my friend, if you stick around your giants will shrink. All those monumental terrorists whose daily words fall heavy upon you like boulders, will begin to get smaller and smaller and smaller as you walk deeper into your life. Their names will fade from your memory, their power will be drained to nothing, and those whose opinions and accusations now loom so very large and important to you will be but specks that you brush from your shirtsleeve on the way to greatness.
If you stick around, you will see just how big the world is, and just how small the minds of those who once tried to ruin you were. You will understand how much hatred they had for themselves, and see the weakness that tried so hard to look like strength; the insecurity that masked itself as arrogance and as unbelievable as it is now, you will actually pity them, realizing how very wounded they were.
If you stick around, you will travel to amazing places that will take your breath away and see sunsets that have yet to be painted in the evening sky.
If you stick around, you’ll eat that cheeseburger; the one that will cause you to make an actual audible noise in public (and you won’t regret it).
If you stick around, you will hear that song that will change your life and you’ll dance to it like no one’s watching (and then not care that they are).
If you stick around, you will hold babies and see movies and laugh loudly and you’ll fall in love and have your heart broken—and you’ll fall in love again.
If you stick around, you will study and learn and grow, and find your calling and find your place and you’ll lay in the grass, feeling gratitude for the sun upon your face and the breeze in your hair.
If you stick around, you will reach a spot that the sadness won’t let you see right now—you’ll reach tomorrow. And that place is filled with possibility. It is a day you’ve never been to. It is not this terrible day. There, you will not feel exactly what you are feeling right now. You may be stronger or see things differently or find a clearing and life may look a way it hasn’t in a long time: it may look worth staying for.
And yeah, there will be other stuff too; disappointments and heartache and regrets and mistakes. You will screw things up and be let down, you’ll face terrible pain, and you’ll wonder how you’ll ever make it through.
But then you’ll remember how you got through the hallways and the bus rides and the locker room and the lunch room, and you might remember this letter and you’ll remember how freakin’ strong you were—and you’ll realize you’re gonna be OK.
So I guess this is just a reminder, from someone who sees what you may not see from here; the future, one that will be a lot better with you in it.
This is a plea, a promise, a dare, and an invitation.
You are loved.
Things will get better.
Cry and get angry and ask for help and punch a wall and scream into your pillow and take a deep breath and call someone who loves you.
But whatever you do…
Please, stick around.
(Note: If you’re struggling with depression, desire to self-harm, or suicidal thoughts, talk to someone.
Order John’s book, ‘A Bigger Table’ here.