My daughter had to write an essay for school last week and when I read it I have to say I have never been prouder. Of both the writing and the content. And also the human that she is. Being a teenager is hella hard. Being a teenage girl seems borderline impossible most of the time. Yet she navigates it with the perfect mix of grace, beauty, and awkwardness.
Reading it was one of those rare moments where I felt like maybe, just maybe, I might be doing something right as a mom. Also the content sort of fits with the type of stuff I publish here so I wanted to present it to you. So take a couple of minutes to be steeped in the wisdom of my 16 year old daughter. I often say I want to be like her when I grow up. She is sort of the best. Here you go:
Be Unapologetically You!
By Melissa Schroeder
The thing about middle school and high school is that everyone feels this crushing pressure to fit in all the time. You are constantly surrounded by groups upon groups of people who all dress, talk, and act exactly the same in a desperate attempt to just “fit in” with the many norms and stereotypes of school life. I have some experience with this from switching schools, plus going through more friend groups than I can count on two hands. The thing that I finally learned over the last year was that you will never truly find your people you belong with unless you can find yourself and just be you no matter what. In theory, this sounds so easy and parents, teachers, and guidance counselors are constantly shouting from the tops of mountains that “you just need to be you!” and waving their motivational cat posters in your face. The reality of it is when you are constantly swimming in what seems to be an ocean of neverending negativity, judgment, and stress it seems close to impossible.
This summer I realized that I had twisted and tried so hard to fit in with everyone at school that when I looked in the mirror I didn’t recognize myself anymore. Right when I noticed this I started helping out at the Playhouse and as soon as I stepped into the brightly lit theater I made a total 180. The whole atmosphere was so completely different from what I had just spent an entire school year stuck in. Rather than feeling the need to be a photocopy version of everyone around me, I actually felt like I could just be myself without worrying about what other people would think about me. There was a constant environment of love, acceptance, positivity, and family that I had been desperately searching on hands and knees with my big bright flashlight of fake positivity for all year. Everyone was being their whole unique self 24/7 and loving each other for it. I had truly and finally found my people. We may not all go to the same school, we may not even see each other every day but they are always going to be there for me no matter what happens.
Truthfully I think the world would be a much better place if everywhere had the same atmosphere as the Duluth Playhouse but that is a little unrealistic for the world. In order to find a happy medium, I think it is so important to try in little ways to be yourself. Whether that be wearing the overalls I bought for back to school shopping, or wearing my hair in pigtails, or saying “yikes” whenever I’m awkward. I believe that in order to truly find my people I had to unapologetically be myself all the times. If you can’t find yourself you won’t be able to find your people who will love you, for you no matter what.