Note: This is a question I got off Quora (I promise this will not be my Quora dump *cough*) and I got a little carried away and wrote this answer. It really made me reflect on everything that I have gone through in the past 6 years, and I’ve realised how far I’ve come, even though I feel like I’ve just been going in circles, and I wanted to share it with all of you. I do hope you get something out of this.
“What would 12-year-old you think of who you’ve become?”
What would 12-year-old me think of present-day me? Easy.
I wouldn’t believe that this is who I’ve become. Both in a good way and a bad.
When I was 12, I didn’t know what worry was. I was always living in the now, enjoying every little thing that came along and just being me. Yes, I was bullied at school (which is a whole ‘nother story) but it never really affected me. Not immediately anyway.
When I was 13, I became quiet. I shrunk, I was confused, I was desperate to fit in. I was falling fast, but I didn’t know at the time. I didn’t understand what I felt and how to do anything.
I had next to no friends, and being in a class where I barely have any friends in the first place (my school had both a primary/elementary and secondary/high school so most of my classmates went up to secondary with me), which is mostly because my reputation precedes me, in a bad way, of course, thanks to the bullies. But it was also the year I met a few of who became the best friends in my life.
When I was 14, I had my first taste of fallout. Not because of school or a lack of achievements. I had my first taste of emptiness, of loneliness, of what I later came to understand is depression. I was slowly losing emotion and I didn’t even realise it until all I felt was numbness.
I seemed like a happy kid in class, but really, my mind was barely there. I just laughed because I had to, because I couldn’t understand why I was feeling what I was feeling, because I wanted to push it all away and hide.
This went on for a few years, until I was 16, when I completely spun out of control. I didn’t know why — perhaps it was the stress in school or the pressure from everyone around me to do well, or the looming public exams I had the following year — my mental health was deteriorating fast.
I was in a relationship that, at the time felt like the best thing in the world, but now I know is mere infatuation that just brought me emotional strain. He never initiated anything. Looking back, he never did anything with us. He just faked it around his friends but when it came to just the two of us, he didn’t seem to care. And that year, amidst my spiralling out of control, he broke up with me. And it wasn’t the reason, but it was the trigger.
I just broke.
I completely broke.
When I was 17, I couldn’t find it in me to care about the things that mattered. I couldn’t find it in me to care about the things that would affect me in the long run, that could make or break my happiness. I just stopped caring.
Instead, ironically, I focused on the now. Not in a good way. I didn’t turn to any addictive substances or self harm — I don’t condone those at all — but I did things that gave me temporary happiness. Shopping, rash decisions, late nights.
My grades dropped, my friends probably thought I was crazy and distant, I locked myself in my room, I hated myself, thought everyone hated me, thought I was a lost cause.
I didn’t know what to do.
And now, that I’m 18, I’ve changed. Not too dramatically because, really, how much of a difference can one year make?
I’ve accepted that I need help, and took the step to consult a therapist. That I need to be a little selfish sometimes and focus on myself. I’ve learned that I need to chase after things that I want, things that I’m passionate about, to never settle. I’ve learned to walk away from people who make me feel horrible about myself, to walk away from so-called opportunities disguised as my dreams. I’ve learned who my real friends are, and gosh I love them so much for sticking with me.
If 12-year-old me saw me now, she would think that I’m the bravest person she knows, to not be afraid to ask for help or to cut ties, no matter how painful they may be.
She would think that I’m lucky, that I’m a determined person, not afraid to chase after my dreams, not afraid to take chances, not giving up.
She would think that I’m a strong person for being able to push through everything I did, for not caving in or giving up.
But the truth is, I’m none of that. I’m not brave, I’m not determined, I’m not strong. I’m terrified of life, of what the future may bring. Every time I hit a road block, I break down. I tear myself apart, sometimes from guilt, sometimes because of failure, and I don’t see a way to go on. I’m weak. I’m afraid of what people may think of me and every other day, when the thoughts come and consume me entirely, I just want it to end, I just want to give up on chasing the life I’ve always dreamed of.
But I’m trying. I’m pushing through. I’m fighting back. I may back down, I may cave in, but I’m not going to let fear or depression or anxiety hold me back from being the person I want to be.
I have a long way to go, but I will get there. Because I have people who will walk with me along the way, to pick me up when I fall down, who believes me more than I believe in myself.
Dear 12-year-old me, nothing is as easy as it seems. You’ll face many many hardships along the way and you may feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders. But if there’s one thing you should take out of this, it’s to never give up. And keep fighting for you. Because, really, your happiness is all that matters in life.