I turn 23 this year, which would mark the ten-year anniversary of a time when I was at my lowest. Thirteen was a formative year in my development, in good and not-so-good ways. At (almost) 23, I’m still young and learning, stubborn and very emotional, but I can’t deny how much I’ve grown. If I had to tell my 13-year-old self any words of advice, it would be this:
Dear very overweight, acne prone, never smiling Klarize,
Take out your headphones blasting Taking Back Sunday and listen to me. Yeah, you’re scowling and for good reason. You’re not having your best year. You feel ugly, fat, alone, unlovable and stupid. You feel invisible, like nobody loves you and you’re not going to amount to anything. Your older sister doesn’t talk to you and your cousins hate you. You continuously compare yourself to other girls which makes you detest them. You hate school. Negative influencers have shaped your worldview and have made the world seem far more hopeless than you ever thought. You listen to a lot of dark, depressing music which fortifies your negativity. You hate that you’re not popular, pretty, smarter and more likable. You are sad that the boys don’t like you. Nobody understands you — which makes me laugh now because that is such a stereotypical teenage trope — but you’re right. Nobody does understand you right now. You don’t even understand you. Most of all, you hate yourself and you wish you were somebody else.
So you think the best way to deal with all of this is to end it all. By March 27, 2007, you feel lonely. You wonder why you’re such a failure and all this bullshit is happening to you. You have no friends, you’re doing poorly in class and you spend most of your day hating who you are and wishing you were somebody else. When you realize that’s not possible and you’re stuck with this waste of an individual, that night, you swallow a shit load of pills hoping for it to end.
But it doesn’t. You wake up at 3 in the morning to your mom and dad are screaming at you and motioning to the empty bottle of painkillers next to you. You don’t really react; it’s all a blur. They make you get out of bed and get dressed because they’re taking you to the hospital. You go through the motions of it all. Then they send you to the mental institution for a few weeks where you also go through the motions, and nothing really changes except they make you you take Zoloft a couple times a day. You come back slightly better, but the depression and anxiety don’t go away. It stays with you for years, but it’s slowly diminishing because you grow stronger in the next few years.
For years, I was so ashamed of my past, of you. I felt so stupid for having fallen into the crevasse of depression, anxiety and suicide. But I have learned to love you dearly, 13-year-old Klarize. I love you and accept you and all your flaws. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for you. I attribute my happiness and success today to you, for your endurance and the strength you will develop to survive and keep on going.
Let me tell you what I wish I’d known (but obviously couldn’t have): The following years will be slightly better versions of 2007, and I promise you that. Don’t worry about those boys who only like skinny, popular girls. I can tell you now that I’m glad you didn’t start getting involved with boys until the latter part of college. I can’t imagine the pain you’d feel if you had to endure the atrocities of teenage heartbreak.
Don’t second guess yourself. You are smart. You’re just not focused. You are capable of so much greatness, Klarize, you just have to have the confidence to let it shine. Do not beat yourself up for how you’re feeling. You’re feelings are very, very valid and don’t let anybody belittle them. You’re allowed to feel. You’re allowed to feel vulnerable because there’s strength and bravery in that. I know you’re afraid to feel vulnerable because it makes you feel little and weak. You’re not little and weak. You’re human.
And I wish that you didn’t think you were unlovable. So many people love you, it’s insane. You’re just not seeing it. Your parents love you. Your sister loves you. The aunts, uncles and cousins that visited you at the rehab center love you. And as years go by, you meet other people who love you and help you grow. You have so much to look forward to. Your mind is a deep reservoir full of creative ideas and possibility, and your heart, which is to the brim with love, is a treasure to anyone who receives it; you just don’t know it now. But you will.
By 2016, you’ve evolved enormously. You realize your love and talent for the written word and journalism. You have a great set of friends and family. You have really nice eyebrows. You know how to do a proper cat-eye and you’ve lost weight because you’re working out and loving yourself. You’re more focused on what you’re doing. You have direction, ambition and a desire to understand the world. You’re filled with love and have so much of it to give. You realize how lucky you are that your life didn’t end that fateful night in 2007 because you’ve discovered (and are continuing to discover) your strength and capabilities. If that’s no reason to keep on living, I don’t know what is.
Why am I telling you all this? To remind you of the beauty of strife and struggle. You are enduring so much shit, but you will be grateful for all the bad things. In 2016, you go through a few things that make you question your self-worth, but you’re healing and strengthening from it. You’re going to accomplish things that sound absolutely nuts — I’m not going to tell you what they are now because I want you to be surprised but know it’s ahead.
You’re going to hate the way this sounds, but at 22, you’re still the same 13-year-old girl. But you’re better, stronger and wiser with so many wonderful experiences under your belt. But all the wonderful, previously overlooked attributes of 13-year-old Klarize are very much still apparent in almost-23-year-old Klarize.
And that’s what I wanted to tell you most of all: you’re beautiful. You’re so smart. I love you. You are capable of so many things but just don’t know it. It’s just you’re worrying about the wrong things, but you will figure it out. Life is all trial and error, and it’s okay to make a lot of errors, as long as you learn and grow from them. And you will. You fucking will.
Thank you for making me stronger.
Btw, the Arctic Monkeys and Kanye West are still your favorite band and rapper at 22, and they’ve gotten so much better, believe it or not. So look forward to that.