You don’t have to protect me anymore

Spartan Editor Aris Sherwood at age 14.

Middle school sucked.

Really, really bad.

I know that it may seem weird for a college student to write about their middle school traumas, but who would have thought that 14-year-old me would still be present in 21-year-old me. 

Aris on her recent 21st birthday.

As I try to grow, and live my life as a young adult, my young teenage self pops through and holds me back, almost trying to protect me from getting hurt.

When I was in middle school, I never felt like I fit in. I went to a really, kind of snobby school. For years, I thought I had made this up in my head, but as I got older and talked to some classmates, I learned that it wasn’t. I can confidently say I felt isolated, judged, and never felt I was able to be myself. 

This has had a lasting effect on me, in many, many ways. How I see myself when I look in the mirror, not pretty enough or not skinny enough, my clothes are weird and my hair is greasy. I have a hard time with friendships or relationships because I never feel good enough. They’re just gonna leave me. 

I can’t even go on a run in my own neighborhood because I’m scared someone is gonna look at me and call me “princess,” just like they did in middle school. 

When I was young, I was a really imaginative kid. I wanted to be on Broadway. I was really loud and I loved to laugh. When I was in middle school, I had to hide all of those parts of me. Now that I am older, I want to be who I was when I was a kid. 

But my 14-year-old self wants to keep me safe.

So I put up walls. I hide myself because I don’t want to get hurt. I’ve messed up almost- relationships because I felt I wasn’t good enough for them. I stop writing when it’s not going the way I want to. I stop eating when I feel too fat, and then look back and realize that I was almost too skinny. 

And all because of a fear that people will laugh at me. Or not want to be my friend. Or I’m not good enough.

I went through a really lonely time. And I don’t want to go through that anymore.

But now I’m growing up. I have dreams I want to accomplish. There are people I want to love. There are experiences I want to have. 

I need closure.

So, I’m writing this for my 14-year-old self. To say thank you. 

Thank you for protecting me for so long.

Thank you for making sure I won’t get hurt.

Thank you for keeping me safe.

You must have gone through so much.

14 was really rough, wasn’t it? 

You were hurt.

But I’m okay now.

I promise. 

I promise that no one is gonna laugh at you for how you dress.

I promise that no one is gonna not love you for your body.

I promise that you are never too loud.

I promise that it’s okay to be exactly who you are.

You don’t have to protect me anymore.


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