A letter from older me to younger me
The older me definitely has some things to say to the younger me.
Let me give you a bit of background. This was the first day at a new school. I was 11. This was Bible class.
I know you meant well. You were just being yourself.
And Mr. Ford yelled at you for it.
He didn’t even know you yet. He might not have even remembered your name. For him to make an example of you like that is just cruel.
I wish I could tell you that you’ll never face another cruel person again. I can’t. They’re everywhere.
Now that I’m older and have been watching people a while, I need you to hear this.
People who are mean to you might just be mad because you disrupted the way they think things ought to be. Or maybe they got stuck in traffic on the way to work and they’re still pissed off about it. Lucky you. You get the venom spray and you don’t even have to do anything to deserve it.
Had he had more patience with you, things would have gone differently. A lot differently. You’d have felt a bit embarrassed and moved on. Maybe you’d have learned the class rules in a more pleasant way.
And you wouldn’t have spent the next twelve years thinking you were worthless.
If I had been your dad and this happened to you, I’d be at the office demanding an apology.
But I wasn’t there to do that.
And for whatever reason, you didn’t think to tell anyone.
It’s not that no one cared. Your parents would have done something if you had told them. But you were too ashamed to tell them. Like they’d be eternally disappointed in you. And all you did was talk to yourself, barely loud enough for anyone to hear.
Did the punishment fit the crime?
When Mr. Ford yelled at you, I know it scared the daylights out of you. When no one reached out to you after class, it was like they all left you for dead. That’s a horrible feeling, Frank. And no one deserves to feel that way after a few harsh and careless words.
I hate that he scared you so badly that it was 12 years before anyone could change your mind and unlock the prison you put yourself in.
You put yourself in prison because you believed a twit. And that led you to believe every other twit that treated you badly.
If I could have changed anything for you, it would be for someone to come alongside you and help you see your value. Someone you could trust and believe. And someone who could open your eyes to what was possible.
That’s why I’m so set on helping others find their own greatness. I missed too many years of my life thinking I was nobody. And what’s worse is, I never told anyone how much life hurt when I needed a friend the most. I thought because a class of strangers didn’t care about me, nobody else did.
I was wrong.
Don’t you ever think you’re worthless or a failure. Don’t worry about whether people like you. Be yourself in all your glorious imperfection. Don’t hold back. You’ll have friends everywhere you go.
When you stand up and show the world who you are, they’ll look to you for leadership. That’s a big responsibility. You won’t always do things right, but you’ll do your best to grow and let people know you care.
Later, some of those people will share their deepest pain with you. Since you’ve felt pain like that, your ability to listen and empathize will help people feel heard when no one else is listening.
You don’t know it now, but you have an uncanny ability to brighten someone’s day. Your observational humor and quick wit have lifted some of your friends out of the darkest depression long enough for them to feel some relief and just breathe.
Don’t let one mean teacher destroy all these gifts God gave you.
Stand up to bullies, now and forever. Better to risk a blow to the jaw than a wounded psyche that lasts over a decade.
You’ve got this, Frank. Now show the world what you’ve been hiding for so long. It will be scary but the exhilarating feeling afterward will far outweigh the pain.
Do you feel powerful?
You have creative power. With that in mind, here’s the next step of the challenge. I’d love to see what these writers would tell their younger selves: Donna Barker, Sam Kimberle, Michael Thompson, Shannon Ashley, Michelle Monet, Caroline DePalatis, Bebe Nicholson, Shayne Seymour, Natalie Frank, Ph.D. (Clinical Psychology), Nicole Akers, Jenny Justice, and Nikki Kay.
I hope you enjoyed this letter. And please, don’t let others push you around. You’re not a doormat. You’re special, and it’s your responsibility to show us how great you are (and can be).
Happy Writing! I look forward to reading your stories.