Okay, not OK…

Help will always be given at Hogwarts to those who ask for it.

Albus Dumbledore

Running late is not my favorite.  Those who know me well are chuckling at what a major understatement that is.  I don’t really DO late.  I am preternaturally punctual.  And yet, I wasn’t.

I was rushing to get to my daughter’s athletic event, but I needed to use the restroom first.  I mean, I almost ALWAYS need to use the restroom first- before everything.  And also, after.  I darted into the girls’ bathroom outside the gymnasium.  In the stall I hung up my purse (because, gross.)  That’s when it caught my eye.

12115579_10207759292763051_8632247535726452077_n

It was faint, and a little hard to read, but my eye was immediately drawn to it.

I AM NOT OK

I felt all the hairs on the back of my neck stand at attention.  I searched in my purse for a pencil or a pen.  Nothing.  I needed to get to my daughter’s meet, so I hurried out after taking a photo.

I have no idea who this girl is.  How do I help her?  What does she need?  What can I do? Is she hurt?  In danger?  Sick?  Depressed?  Being bullied?  Is it a home thing?  A school thing?  A boy thing?  A girl thing?

When I was young, I tried every tactic EXCEPT writing this on a bathroom wall to let people know I was NOT OK.  I drank young, and often.  I would stay up all night obsessing over my appearance.  I starved myself.  I underperformed in school.  I ran after boys who I knew would hurt me- that was, in fact, often their only appeal.

I remember not being ok.

So now I’m home.  My daughter’s asleep.  My Favorite’s asleep.  The dogs are asleep.  And I cannot stop thinking about this girl.  How long ago did she write it?  Does she use that bathroom every day?  Does she look to see if anyone responded?  If it’s been a while, does that make her feel unseen?  Unheard?

Hi.  I’m Laura.  I might be a little co-dependent.

I’m going back to that stall tomorrow, pencil in hand.  I will ask her if she needs help.  I will check that stall daily.  I hope I hear back from her one way or another.

In the interim, I thought I’d write a letter to her, and all of the other girls who might not be okay right now.

This is not another one of those ‘open letters’ intent on shaming young girls.  I am so hand-to-God tired of those letters. You know, the ones disguised as straight talk, and loving advice, but really put all the onus of how the world treats our girls squarely on them?  The ones supposedly written by mothers protecting their sons?

The only thing those sons are being protected from is personal responsibility.

I hate those letters.

I think most of them are smug and judgmental, and intent on shaming girls for being products of the world in which we live.  I am tired of a world that bombards our girls with images of women’s bodies being monetized and then judges them for treating their bodies like currency.

They are learning what we are teaching, and they are buying what we are selling.  Sorry. Rant over.  This ain’t that.

Here is my letter to the girl in the stall.  All the girls, in all the stalls.

Dear Necessary Girl,

You are not ok.  I hear you.

This is an odd way to meet, I suppose- but here we are.  If you are seeing this, it is because you responded YES to the question, “Do you need help?”  That’s pretty brave.  It’s brave to say you are not okay, and it’s brave to say YES, I need some help right now.  Most women don’t learn to do that til they’re much older.  You are so ahead of the game, sister.

High school is hard.  It’s just so unbelievably hard.  It’s hard when there are none of the ‘extras’ that life throws your way.  Since I don’t really know you, (although, I suppose it’s possible I do, now that I think about it) it’s hard to discern how best to help you.  I guess I’ll just respond the way I would like someone to if it was my daughter asking for help.

You are loved.  Let’s start there.  You are LOVED, and NECESSARY, and ENOUGH. Sometimes the people in our lives don’t know enough to tell us that, or they don’t know it about themselves.  It’s awfully hard to teach what you don’t know.  So, just in case, we’ll get that covered up front.  LOVED. NECESSARY. ENOUGH.  That’s your baseline, okay?

Do you feel different?  High schoolers would have you believe that different is bad.  High schoolers are not always the smartest.  If you don’t believe me, revisit your fashion choices in twenty years.  Love, A Child of the 80’s.

Different is FANTASTIC.  Different means you are onto something.  You’re figuring yourself out before a lot of the others.  No surprise there, we already agreed you’re ahead of the game.  Smart girl.  Different is so much more interesting than trying to contort yourself to fit into a mold not made for someone as glorious as you.  Different is great, but it will make things hard for a minute.  I’ll let you in on a little secret, though.  High school is hard for EVERYBODY- even the ‘it’ girls.  At least it’ll be hard for you for a good reason- because you’re being true to yourself.

If it is hard because you are trying to figure out who you are and who you love, there is help.

If someone has hurt you, or is hurting you, it is not your fault, and there is help.

If your relationship with food has become challenging and it is starting to scare you, there is help.

If your home has become unsafe, there is help.

If you think you might have a problem with alcohol or drugs, there is help.

And if it’s bigger than that.  If you are in a dark and scary place, if you are struggling to get through the day, if you are battling depression, sweet girl- there is SO MUCH HELP.

If you have asked the adults in your life for help and the call has gone unheeded, ask different adults.  A favorite teacher, a guidance counselor, a pastor, a coach, a police officer, a doctor.  You keep asking. Sometimes the adults in our lives are part of the problem, not the solution.  You. Keep. Asking.

This world is so much better with you in it, honey.  I promise.

Love,

Laura

32 Comments on “Okay, not OK…

  1. Thanks for posting.

    I am reading ‘The Art of Asking’ by Amanda Palmer. Especially helpful for artists, but there’s something for everyone.

    Like

  2. There should be a vast number of copies made of this and put on the wall in every girls’ high school restroom in the country. Or maybe even in every individual stall, so no one would have to worry about their reaction to it being seen.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. This made me cry. Since most of my career has been spent in junior high and high school, I spent many nights staring at the ceiling thinking about those who were not okay. I hope you fine her.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. so– I need help!!! I have an amazing son- , he is 18 he has a diagnosis of Aspergers- Very high functioning, 30 on the ACT- he -to my knowledge has never been bullied at his high school BUT he has no friends-yes he sits with a group at lunch but he doesn’t know anyone’s phone numbers and no one has ever called him. He came home the other day after an interview with a ‘disability counselor’ at a college ( which was horrible- mostly because she might not understand what Aspergers is despite the pieces of paper on her wall) – my sweet son came home from that and said ‘ I’m a friendless retard'(sorry for that word-ick) He is so great- he has been thru classes to help him relate on a social level- and he works incredibly hard especially a star at looking people in the face! He wants to feel ‘normal” and I want to help him– any suggestions are welcome…

    Like

    • Oh, that hurts my heart. OKAY. I worked in Special Ed , and we did a lot to try and foster relationships with Gen Ed kids, but they were younger so it was easier to facilitate interaction.

      I am going to think about this, and talk to some smart people- I will get back to you.

      PS- what the hell kind of “Disability Counselor” doesn’t understand Aspergers in this day and age?

      Liked by 1 person

    • My daughter is 19 with Aspergers high functioning as well – she is kind and would be a good friend to connect with. It is very hard for them to feel valued – sometimes someone going through similar things can be of comfort. PM me on facebook – Liz DeWysocki Barrette to see if we can help.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. One of the most beautiful pieces I have ever read. Every girl and woman should read (and believe it). Laura you continue to amaze me!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Thank you, Laura. This is beautiful and inspiring, and God bless you for noticing all of it and sending what you see out into the world. I’m glad to know you.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Laura, you are truly a gift. I read this because I ran into you tonight. I am crying and I am sad for her. I hope with my every being that she finds your words!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I love this. If only I had thought of that when I was her age. And there had been a you – or a me now – to see it. Definitely a smart girl. And hoping she sees your response.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Laura,
    My wish is that you write this path name
    https://inotherswords.com/2015/10/16/okay-not-ok/
    in the groove of the wall right below those words. Even if the person who wrote those words never returns to that stall and sees it (which I still hope she does), someone else will.
    I know I mentioned paper taped there before but this is more permanent and even though it is long, it is easy to snap a pic with a phone and get the url.
    If I was there, that is what I would do.
    Thank you for caring for the wall writers out there and beyond,
    Kerry

    Like

      • Fun fact: The second most visited internet page on my phone is “Okay, not OK.” I’ve read it countless times, all while praying and hoping for something, of what I’m not even sure. Perhaps love. Since ‘only love today’ is really the only prayer my repertoire even holds…

        It has become progressively darker and heavier as 2016 continues toward its end. We’ve got to be almost done with this one, right?? All season though, I’ve been reading this beautiful post – this letter to a lost girl. And from the dark and scary place you mention, as I struggle to get through the day, I know I will lie down at night and have a letter to read. A letter from a friend.

        Love you.

        Like

      • I know things have been hard, and yet you are here. Like a sunflower, so determined to survive that it doggedly follows its source of light wherever it goes and insists on being nourished so it can grow, you are here. So am I, sister. And I’m not going anywhere. So incredibly proud of you, today and every day. Hang on. Both hands. xoxoxo

        Like

      • Trying. By a thread, with both hands. xoxo

        On Sat, Nov 26, 2016 at 5:23 AM, In Others’ Words… wrote:

        > In Others’ Words commented: “I know things have been hard, and yet you are > here. Like a sunflower, so determined to survive that it doggedly follows > its source of light wherever it goes and insists on being nourished so it > can grow, you are here. So am I, sister. And I’m not going” >

        Like

  10. Pingback: Sing | In Others' Words...

  11. Pingback: Sing | In Others' Words...

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: