I bet you don’t remember me as distinctly as I remember you. I bet I cross your mind maybe once a year, if that. I’m sure your lives are going well and you’ve grown into some amazing, and not-so-amazing, people. I know that I am pretty proud of the person that I’ve become.
I’m sure you don’t remember the time you called me chunky or the time you said, “No offense, but your legs are really big.” I’m sure that’s in your past, a forgotten moment from when we were just ten-year-olds. I bet that it didn’t even cross your mind that your comments would stick with me and I’d be here, going on twenty, remembering these comments that made me stare in the mirror and hate myself.
I bet you don’t recall the time you told me that my friends were “hot” and I was “cute,” or the time you said, “Girls like you just aren’t my type.” I bet that time you told your friends, “I’d hook up with her, but I wouldn’t date her,” you didn’t think that it would reach my ears from their very lips. But it did.
Here I am today, after hearing so many comments, so many insults, so many things that you said without batting an eyelash. Here I am for the better. Over time, I have realized that the opinions of those outside your inner circle don’t matter and if the opinions of those within it are harmful, they don’t matter either. I’ve grown a very thick skin and I have grown large amounts of self-respect and self-love. It took a while. It took a lot of time covering myself in concealer and too much eyeliner, pretending to be something I was not. It took running for class president and having mustaches and horns drawn on my campaign poster photos. You don’t remember that. I do.
But I forgive you. I forgive you because I know you didn’t mean it. I know that you were just as lost and confused as I was. You may not have had the loving support system that I did and do possess to this very day. You lashed out and I’m sorry that you had to.
I forgive you because eventually I learned to take off the concealer and the pounds of eyeliner. I learned that I didn’t need to win class president or the approval of a bunch of people I barely knew to feel loved! I learned that freedom, love, and acceptance had nothing to do with impressing people. They could all be achieved if I simply surrounded myself with the people who were impressed by me before I began trying to be something else. I learned the value of true friends and true love. I learned what it meant to understand. I learned what it meant to be hurt.
Maybe that’s what you never understood: What it meant to be the underdog or to be the outcast or to be, to quote Steve Jobs, the “round pegs in the square holes.” Maybe you never got that, and that’s OK. You helped me grow. You helped me to be humane and empathetic. Without you, I would be worse off. You and your words made me beautiful, without even knowing you did so. All I ask of you is to try to teach your children and your friends and coworkers that it doesn’t always take harsh words. Kindness can always speak louder. That is something else that you taught me. Thank you.