Behold, two images of a girl in a dress.
The one on the left smiled maybe once her entire thirteenth year of life (which may or may not have occurred in the attempt to hold in a sneeze,) had to be bribed to wear said dress by both her parents and (excellent) eighth grade teacher. She wrote creepy stories, was a decent artist who rarely shared her work, and lived in a haunted house, surrounded by a loving family at home and a group of (blessedly!) accepting friends she met less than a year prior, after moving to a new state. She never fit into any mold, unless there was one labeled, “Socially inept outcast with prize-winning death-stare.”
The one on the right smiles often, mostly at her four daughters and (hot) husband, but the field is growing because she talks to a lot of people she adores. Including the same (just as awesome) group of accepting friends from eighth grade. She is a college graduate, still writes (somewhat) creepy stories, paints commissioned children’s artwork, is a voracious runner, and bakes cupcakes that have inspired marriage proposals numbering in the dozens. She goes out with friends from time to time (wearing a dress if the occasion calls for it) or stays in with a fire and a word file or a paint-stained New York sweatshirt and a blank canvas and is just as happy doing either.
As I sat down this morning at the computer after my run, I saw the headline of a story about a kid who was bullied mercilessly on social media websites.
Truth is, the girl in the dress on the left would have been a terrific target for bullies at that tender point in her life. Continuing on to a social media site while sipping coffee, these were the first several posts :
- Game request (argh,)
- Two separate high school friends had a total of three gorgeous baby girls (aww!)
- Suggested post to “like” Walmart page as my closest 35 friends have (I do not “like” Walmart, in fact I “loathe” Walmart with the passion of a thousand suns,)
- Article about 5 reasons women hate showering (?)
- Quirky update statuses of friends (favorite of which included a date night of cheap wine and a cheesy eighties movie, muwaha,)
etc.) Ads for face cream, children’s clothes, and whatever machinery my husband was perusing on Home Depot the last time he got on the computer clutter up with ad overlaid on ad.
Social media wasn’t around when I was a kid. In fact it has opened up a whole new world of unreality for the kids these days. It is not easy navigating these sites as a grown up, I can’t imagine what kind of pressure this new realm must add to children of today. What must they think when they are confronted by so many stock images of what life is “supposed” to be to set their compass by?
My wish for the kids of today is that they know they are not alone. My favorite barista once said, when presenting me with a beverage it took 5 minutes to concoct after two spills, “The struggle is REAL, Julie!”
I wish these kids know that the struggle is real, for all of us. And if they were to ask whomever they think is exempt from the pain of feeling left out and misunderstood and different…SO not like the shining people on television or their tablet screen…that they would be told honestly that everyone deals with these pressures. I wish they knew that the type of people that put them down are no more worthy of their time or thoughts than the many ads that clutter up their newsfeed.
My wish for my associates, and for all kids, is that they can smile and reply, “I know!” when told how beautiful they are, like my 3-year-old does. That they can one day look at side by side photos of themselves at a very awkward time of their life and a happy one, and be grateful for both.
The struggle is real, kid. But not insurmountable. Just listen to the girl in the dress.