Grow As We Go

Dear Emilie (c. 2010),

There is so much about this world that is difficult to understand. Much of my life thus far has been spent trying to understand how to find my place in it, among the billions of others who walk on the same ground and breathe the same air.  

When I was your age, I was much like you: bold, kind, confident, and unapologetically unafraid to be myself. I read books endlessly, yearning to become a heroine in a Jane Austen novel. But as I grew older, I was introduced to and influenced by the negative stereotypes propagated by society and the media — imagined false realities of a “perfect” person that could never and should never have been what I wanted to become. My version of a heroine was no longer that brave, stubborn, and warm-hearted person I once dreamed of. It became a disfigured creature, born from the ashes of burnt magazines, the tears of broken dreams, and the bitterness of cold envy. I was lost in a storm of fear, and I retreated into my mind, creating a boundary between what was real and what I imagined, or wished, to happen. 

In middle school, I began to crawl out of this mindset, this dark, dank pit of ugliness, grasping at fragments of my old, shattered, naive vision like one listens to a piece of music played in another room. Little by little, I regained the ability to see and hear the truth through my own eyes and ears. Music and writing became outlets for the raw emotions that I still experience daily, that both tear me up and create intense rushes of joy. Perhaps those raw emotions are one of the reasons why I am writing this letter to you. 

Now that I am in high school, my Jane Austen heroine has reemerged, but she is more nuanced than ever before. She would not be who she is without this nuance. She is different. I have learned that the most important part of a Jane Austen heroine is that they change — by the end of the novel, they are not the same character they were when it began. Take Emma Woodhouse, for example. 

In some broken, strange way, I am grateful for my experience because it made my vision of “perfect” different. I still do not have perfect vision, both literally and figuratively. But in both ways, I have ways to help me navigate the world: glasses, for my literal poor sight, and experience, support, and love from those around me. Finding the tools that are right for you is one of the most important parts of life. If all else fails, ensure that you find the people who love you and will support you until the end.  

Being truly perfect is not a reality. All you can hope for is to be the best person that you can become. You are already perfect if you strive to be better every day, and if you are happy with who you are. Being perfect is not about society’s view of you; it’s about being and staying true to yourself. Your mindset will shift throughout your life. I like to think of it as a live creature, or a working thread of music, endlessly growing and adapting to everything around it. To me, that ability to constantly change is the most important part of this life. We all grow as we go, and hope for the best. 

I think a part of me is writing this letter because of my wishful thinking that you will never develop this mindset to begin with. Yet there’s only so much that I can do to shield you from this, and it will never be enough. Maybe this letter will lessen the blow; maybe this letter will act as a trampoline to bounce you back up when you fall— because the negative aspects of society will come no matter what I do; in some way or another, you will be exposed to them. I don’t know if this letter will do anything at all, but I am writing it in the hopes that it will at least warn you of what’s to come and serve as a reminder that things will change. Just remember that through it all— all the hard times— there will always be the underlying good, whether it’s in the form of family and friends, or a simple stroke of luck. Bad times are only temporary. Life is best taken a day at a time. 

             I still don’t understand the world. Understanding takes time, and all we can do is grow as we go. 

Emilie (c. 2020)

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