Dear younger Me,
As a sensitive, socially-awkward only child, you will struggle with dealing with other people for a while. You will not be able to get a read on them, and you will feel assaulted by their remarks ever so often. Your parents will tell you not to be so sensitive, but you will always sulk about how untrue the old adage about sticks and stones and bones is. Words do hurt. They claw at you and eat you up slowly.
People will belittle you and judge your life choices. They will build up your expectations and then disappoint you time and again. They will embark on passive-aggressive mind games that leave you guessing and hurting and angry. Some will remark that your sense of justice and compassion is commendable, but that you will lose that with age — We’ll see if you still feel so strongly about that when you’re 35. Others will behave badly then blame you for it — couldn’t you see that doing that would make me angry? why did you do it then? Some will take advantage of your willingness to help, while others will project their dissatisfaction with life on you. People will try to dictate your life in an attempt to bring fullness to theirs, and then get angry when you don’t act according to their plan.
But here’s the thing about other people: when they hurt you, it’s because they are hurting inside too. Or maybe they are confused. Or perhaps unsettled about something.
Think about the times you have rolled your eyes or fired a caustic remark — you’re quite good at those — or issued a bitchy comeback to someone because you were having a bad day or because they reminded you of that other time you went through the same episode and how sick and tired you were of going through the same shit over and over again. The problem was your inner world and its turmoil. Your dissatisfaction. But it manifested as violence (figuratively) upon other people.
So, younger Me, remember that the hurt that is being inflicted on you isn’t actually about you. It’s about them and the battles they fight. Always remember what it was like to have that violence done unto you and think three times (twice isn’t enough) before shooting off that remark about how ridiculously stupid the person is. Treat others kindly even if they don’t reciprocate. Don’t turn around and blame them for making you feel bad either. Telling them isn’t the same as blaming them. One is communication for the purposes of achieving clarity, the other is an attempt to incite a sense of guilt. It’s a fine line that you have to figure out on your own.
Piling on the hurt doesn’t make anything better, it makes wounds fester. But responding with love is like adding salve to a wound. It’s difficult, but do try.