The Kind Heart Will Triumph:
An Open Letter To A Young Girl I Know
It’s suckage when you believe that there is no one you can trust to truly have your back and never fuck with you. I think that’s what all of us want from our families, friends and lovers – the one person we can depend on not to INTENTIONALLY hurt us. I am emphasizing “intentionally” because sometimes, shit just happens. Perhaps the person does not have the necessary skills to put themselves in your place and feel what you feel. Perhaps it does not even occur to them to do so. Maybe they are not mature enough to have empathy and compassion, or maybe it was never taught to them. Maybe they are all tied up in the competition for status, for a position among the “cool” people. Maybe they are really desperate for it, they really, REALLY need it. Maybe it’s so important to their own feelings of self-worth, they cannot afford to worry about your feelings or anyone else’s. Maybe they are trying their best, but it’s YOU who isn’t being clear about what you want, what you will accept and what you will simply not tolerate insofar as their behavior toward you is concerned.
Or maybe – just maybe, they are incapable of empathy and compassion, regardless of their age or maturity level. Maybe some people really ARE just that shallow. Maybe some of them do not see anything beyond the clothes, the hair, the makeup, the number of friends they have, the things they own or the number of boys who are salivating after their insubstantial, plastic little selves. Maybe they are just mean girls; there are some kids who don’t want friends, they want worshippers. They don’t value love, they value notches on their belts (or worse, on their bedposts). They don’t hesitate to hurt someone if they stand to gain something from it – inflated sense of self-worth, status among peers, whatever else they might want in a moment of malice.
At your age, the power of that status-among-peers thing is not to be underestimated. It is so very craved, it turns even nice young people, people who were brought up to behave “better than that”, into glory junkies. It’s a rough time, the teen-into-mid-twenties years. Insecurity drives more friendships to ruin during this time than any other. It drives people to behave with unspeakable cruelty toward one another. It drives them to behave with unspeakable cruelty toward THEMSELVES. It drives kids to do things that are dangerous to their bodies as well as to their psyches, just so that others will stand in awe of them and think they are cool. It drives them to cut, to have sex before they are ready and it drives them to smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol and do drugs. Worst of all, the craving for status among peers can drive kids to end up, at their own hands, dangling from the end of a rope or floating in a pool of their own blood.
I don’t know how any of us manage to escape the teen/young adult years with our lives. We’re all just so fucked up and so disoriented during this time, it’s a wonder we can see straight once it’s over. Certainly we all bear the scars when we emerge. We’ve learned some hard lessons about people. We’ve maybe learned to be a little more cautious about whose opinion we value, because placing a lot of stock in the wrong person’s esteem for you can turn you into someone you never had any intention of becoming, and it can make you feel like a worthless fool when they capriciously flat-leave your ass for some insignificant supposed infraction. Or maybe just because they ceased to think you were cool. They don’t really have to have a reason, do they? They just do what they want with your emotions.
We learn that what gives a person value is this and only this – your value is measured by how you behave toward others, particularly toward those who are less fortunate than you are.
Hopefully, what we learn from all this is how to measure a person’s value, how to measure your OWN. We learn that what gives a person value is this and only this – your value is measured by how you behave toward others, particularly toward those who are less fortunate than you are. I don’t mean that just materially. I mean it emotionally too. If someone is more unhappy than you are, then they are less fortunate. When you throw that person some pixie dust, it will make their day and they will always remember you for that. They will remember that you were kind to them when they needed it the most.
Those who matter, the people who you really want on your side through thick and thin, will measure your value by HOW YOU MADE THEM FEEL. Not by what lip gloss or shoes you wore. Not by your cool phone or your car or your status as an brainiac, athlete, whatever. They will measure you by how you behaved toward them.
I’m not saying that you should eschew material things. If it makes you happy to wear cute clothes and have cool toys , then have at it. You know that I’ve never denied myself anything I really wanted. But you also know, if you’ve taken the trouble to observe, that I have a shitload of friends; people who come running to wish me a Happy Birthday, people who clamor to be the ones I come to see when I’m home on Long Island, people who sorrow with me, hold me up when I’m down, rejoice with me when I’m happy. I would one million times a million rather have them in my life than anything else. Yeah, I’d flush my smartphone for them. I would. And they know it. That’s why they’re my friends.
You will get past this time when transient, meaningless things seem to be defining you and your relationships. It will happen sooner than later, if you let it. It will, if you can muster the courage to start choosing friends from the people who maybe aren’t so “cool” by school standards but who are smart, funny, compassionate people. Kind people. People who have a heart, like you do. You will attract these people to yourself by your own behavior. If you aren’t ready to do this yet, it’s ok. It’s a lot to ask of a person in your position, and it takes practice.
Start small. I remember one time being in an amusement park with a little person, many years ago. We looked across the street and I observed that some little kid’s stuffed animal had fallen out of the stroller and was just lying there in the street. Well the little person I was with, she saw this and she rushed across the street, picked up the stuffed animal, and lovingly tucked it into the stroller to await the return of it’s young owner.
That single random act of kindness and compassion is what I remember most about who you REALLY are underneath all this horrible but apparently necessary teen angst you’ve got to go through. I have faith that sometime very soon, you will start to collect friends who will always love you, who will always have your back and never fuck with you. I have faith that your kind heart will rise up and beat back all this meaningless bullshit, and that you will grow into the kind of woman everyone wants for a friend – smart, funny, gracious toward others.
And with really cool toys, cause that’s just how we roll