I'm sorry to bother you, but do things really get better? I'm 16 right now and everything I know is sadness and exhaustion and anger and then I talk to my parents and they just complain about adult life... is it worth it to go on?
oh gosh, i promise, it’s worth waiting, buddy. i know there are a lot of people who say, oh it gets better. and it does in some ways, but what it really gets is different. the people who are angry and mean and horrible often stay that way. the people who cut you off or who flip you off or who piss you off often are the same people at 16 as at 26.
i think i hated people telling me “it gets better” because what could get better about being a mentally ill queer cuban girl in a world that wanted to eat me. i got spat out. my writing isn’t published because i’ve been rejected so many times i don’t even notice anymore. i was told a few times “make it less obviously homosexual”. what is going to get better about that, i said to myself. the memory of it will never be a nice one.
things got different slowly. like i didn’t realize until i was far on the other side of it. i wasn’t kidding in that last post when i said today i read my writing at 15 and it was painfully obvious how depressed i was. i didn’t have a diagnosis. like you, all i knew was that i was exhausted and angry and sad all the time and when i talked about it, i was told “everyone feels that way sometimes.” i felt that way all the time. in this story, i don’t suddenly wake up after turning 18 and have a magical life where it is all bunnies and flowers and loving. it took me 3 years of trying before i finally managed to quit self-harm completely. my eating disorder and i are still not on speaking terms, luckily. i’m slowly getting a handle on my ocd. i didn’t realize that the biggest thing that was changing was me.
yeah. being out of the house made it easier. away from where people knew me as a certain person. being someone new or being who i was or being in a room full of people who didn’t care how gay i was. being in control made it better. finding real and true friends made it better. being able to make my own plans and choose my own story and do more than just wait until i was old enough to be taken seriously - it got better.
but honestly it’s me. i learned how to shake hands with depression, he and i are such good old buddies i sometimes see him before he’s even coming. and i’ve gotten so good at getting out of his embrace, because practice makes perfect, same as anything. and i’ve learned things about myself i had no idea about at 16. i didn’t even realize i’m funny. i had never been skinny dipping. my only kiss had been sort of an accident. there was a lot i cared about then that i don’t care about now, because in my new world outside of that, the people i surround myself with don’t care either. i’ve worn a dinosaur onesie pajama set to eight parties now when 19 year old me wouldn’t be seen without her makeup. i wear glasses in public even though i’m nervous they make me look like a bug. i have tattoos and new piercings and a bank account (and no money) and i have love. and i don’t mean with a partner, although i’m blessed enough to say i have that as well - i mean. i just found it. i taught myself how to look for it. i figured - listen, i’m here still, so i might as well, like, try to enjoy it. and it wasn’t overnight. it still goes away sometimes. but i love so much and so easily now. i laugh more because of it. i let myself love dogs and movies and silly things. and this love sort of … makes things better. because it reflects off of everything into you. like a mirror.
at sixteen… at sixteen i was very suicidal. i didn’t know that it applied to me, because i thought i was just annoying and lazy. looking back now i always pull a face at how obvious it was, and how close i got to walking myself into a grave. it was more than a close call. death, like, waved. i actually believed i wouldn’t make it past 18. what was the point? what was the point of anything? i think if i’d told myself then, “it gets better”, i would have laughed. “maybe for you!” i would have said, “you have money and a life and you’re not like this.” but it did get better. in inches. stick around to see it. stick around to see everything wonderful that’s waiting in the wings for you. that knows your name. a fate of beautiful moments that are small and precious, like butterflies landing on fingers or snowflakes on tongues, or just sitting with a good book during the rainfall. hell, stick around to write the book, because (trust me), if you believe in your art and yourself - it can be done.
stick around most of all because what gets better is you fall in love with yourself. the world doesn’t become suddenly sickeningly sweet, even if the people around you become better and you’re given more opportunity. that’s wonderful too but… what happens is that over time, the stuff they told you stops sticking. you realize that just because your nose is crooked it doesn’t even matter because it doesn’t stop you from being the best dang ping pong player in your family. you realize you have a family, even if they’re not blood. you realize you are your own family. and you learn to take care of yourself and yes, it gets ugly at times, but you manage. and inside of managing there’s all these wonderful successes like mac and cheese and getting the bills done and the smell of clean laundry and friends that make you laugh so hard you almost pee and an apartment with plants in every corner and a hairless cat in sweaters or a dog with a bowtie or both and watching movies and reading books and seeing art, all of which haven’t been created yet, and possibly you’re the one who makes them. and managing … managing doesn’t have to be big. sometimes it’s just making a small difference. and sometimes the person you make a difference to is yourself. and that’s amazing.
stick around because, trust me, somewhere in there, you meet your younger self in your dreams and you tell her - oh gosh, i promise, it’s worth waiting, buddy.