Have you ever witnessed cruelty and thought to yourself I don’t belong here? I don’t belong in a world where humans can do this to one another. I must have been placed on the wrong planet because a world in which these terrible things can happen is not for me. My soul can’t handle it here.
I am writing to tell you that you are meant for this world and so am I. I, too, have had these thoughts too many times to count throughout my life. It is because of individuals like you and me that our society has been able to progress, even slowly, into what it is today. That it is good in this world, it just oftentimes is so incredibly hard to see.
I remember distinctly the first time I ever felt someone else’s pain. It is burned into my heart’s memory.
Let me first paint the background picture for you of my childhood. I was raised in a middle-class, predominately white, suburb a few hours outside of Chicago. The word suburbia and cookie-cutter never seemed more relevant than when describing my hometown.
It was during girl scouts, the little troop of prepubescent girls huddled together learning how to start a fire or putting together a ridiculously complicated craft all while wearing adorable green sashes with our accomplishments displayed nicely, that human cruelty first made itself apparent to my 7-year-old self. There was, as in all groups of young girls, a pecking order: the prettiest, the smartest, the one with the nicest clothes, and of course the odd one. I was none of these girls, just your middle rung, not surprisingly pretty, nor incredibly smart and definitely not the one with the nicest clothes. I was just there to fill a space. The odd one, Kim, was taller than all of us, had glasses, and wore different clothes. She was in my eyes though, pretty cool, we liked the same books and were in the same class and our moms got along. But you see the pretty one, Lauren had something against sweet Kim and she made it her 7-year-old life’s work to make her miserable. She taunted her behind the adult’s back and created silly rumors that she spread around the school. Kim spent most of her nights in tears when she got off the bus due to Lauren’s tormenting. Those of us in the troop got a front-row seat to the games Lauren would play; we were all pawns, of course, unbeknown to us. I cried to my mom and asked why people are so mean? And she looked me square in the eyes and said “Honey, some people are just born that way; they are just mean. Your job though is to be her friend. Just be a friend to Kim, that is what she needs.”
So, I was a friend, not a very good one, because I never dared confront the all mighty, all beautiful Lauren. But I was her friend and that made me feel somewhat better at the end of the day.
Then there were the commercials. I know you saw them too. For the children in Africa that you could adopt for a penny a day. I would sit in front of our box screen T.V. and watch this infomercial for an hour crying looking at all these children. My mother would eventually turn it off and I would start my plea for adopting one of the kids. My little heart could not take the misery it was observing especially because it seemed like we and those around us had so incredibly much.
Nothing made these thoughts more apparent than my own rape itself. After the rape, I was lost and convinced that this world was not meant for me. The hatred and disgust I felt from my peers were unbearable most days. The things that mattered to others, their hair, their jeans, or their participation in a sports team, meant nothing to me. I thought to myself all of this is silly, these things mean nothing. There are people rotting on the inside, including me. Most days, walking through the halls of my warehouse of a high school I wanted to scream or cry or both. Just so someone could see real emotion coming from a human being, rather than a robot trying to fit in. The fact that no one read the pain on my face or came to my aide, solidified the fact that I did not belong.
It would be a lie if I told you that I did not fantasize about leaving during those high school years. I would think it would be so much better if I just were not here. I wanted to fade away, evaporate into thin air, and travel to another world where fucked up things didn’t happen. My saving graces were my mother’s love, a few good friends, and helping others.
Through throwing myself into a job where I helped children and teenagers my age with special needs, I learned that there was good on this planet. There were kindness and hope too.
Now my short little story is nothing compared to what others have endured or faced. I know there is so much evil in this world that I cannot even begin to fathom. I am also aware that I am one of the lucky ones who has made it out of sexual assault, alive.
What I can tell you with full honesty and love is that YOU BELONG HERE, just like me, and maybe together we can make this world a little less shitty.
Four things you can do if you are feeling like you’re not meant for this world:
1. Say it out loud to a trusted human. Saying these thoughts out loud often makes us realize that there is no validity to them. Trust me, I have used this strategy often.
2. Strike up a conversation with someone new, someone at work who always keeps to themselves. The person you always see at the dog park or maybe the woman who is always at the register at the grocery store. Talking to others and learning about them and their lives always give me a sort of hope. Hope that maybe our conversation made a difference in their day like it did in mine. Maybe you will make a new friend, who knows?!
3. Perform a random act of kindness. Pay for the car behind you at Starbucks or McDonalds, whatever fast-food strikes your fancy. Give the homeless individual on the street corner $5 dollars or $20; who cares what they spend it on? Bring your neighbors some of the cookies you just baked. Giving and expecting nothing in return is just plain good for the soul.
4. Get involved. Google organizations in your area and reach out. Or download the app CommunityX to find organizations working on the issues important to you. See what you can do to help. Meeting others who also have the drive to help and change this world can help you feel much less alone.
If you are acutely having thoughts of self-harm or suicide please call a hotline, 911, or someone from your safety net. Reach out and share your thoughts out loud!