She sat across from me, arms crossed over her hoodie and converse-clad feet kicked up on her friend’s lap. One eye hid under a curtain of hair, and she studied me, curiously. I saw so much of myself in her. Perhaps because when I was her age, I dressed just like she did. Perhaps it was the shy smile she had or the way she spoke in a way far beyond her years.
She asked me about the tattoo on my arm and complimented me on the piercing in my nose. She talked about how much she longed for a tattoo of her own and she showed me the many piercings that lined her ears. She asked about what my parents thought about my tattoo, and became frustrated when she told me her mother’s opinion of tattoos. Her mother was sitting close by, and shrugged with an apologetic smile.
Her mother talked of brokenness and the turbulent life the two of them had in the past. And that’s when I saw it, the pain in the girl’s gray eyes. Her eyes had seen much more than a girl her age should have, and I felt that familiar sting in my heart. The feeling of wanting to take away pain and give her a reason to hope. I talked to her that evening, and I told her about my story. I told her about the roads I’ve traveled and the things I have experienced. I showed her fading scars on my wrists, and I told her I understood. I recounted my times of bitterness and my years of pain. But then I told her that there is hope. There is hope in everything, even in the darkest seasons of life. There is light at the end of the tunnel. There is hope beyond understanding.
But as I look back at all that I told her, I wish I could change it a little. I wish I could have said these words instead.
To the girl with the piercings,
I’m not going to pretend like I know what you’ve been through. Because fake understanding is painful, no matter how meaningful the intention is. I’m not going to pretend like I know you. Because I don’t. I’m not going to pretend like I know your story or the struggles of your life. I’m not going to pretend like I understand completely. I’m not going to pretend because I wouldn’t want you to pretend if I was the one sitting on the couch and you were the one sitting in this uncomfortable chair across from me.
If you want, I’ll tell you about the experiences I’ve had. I’ll tell you my story. I’ll show you how I got through some things. I’ll tell you about how I found hope. I’ll tell you about the pain and the darkness that turned into hope and joy.
But I understand that you might not want to hear it. You might not think there’s any hope for the situations you are dealing with. And that’s ok if you don’t want to hear about me.
What I want to tell you is that you’re not alone. I promise you that. No matter what you are going through, I can assure you that there is someone going through that same thing. Please don’t isolate yourself. Please tell someone. Please don’t hide behind a fake smile and “I’m fine”s. Please let people help you help yourself.
You might not see eye to eye with your mother and you might not understand her opinions. But your relationship with your mother is one of the most important ones you will ever have. I can’t tell you that my mother and I have always been the best of friends and that everything is perfect. It took work, it took sacrifice and compromise. But now I know I have a best friend, a confidante, and an anchor in my mother. Your mother loves you, I am sure of that. And you might see her as being unfair and old fashioned, but not getting a nose piercing or a tattoo until you’re 18 will not kill you. It will not hurt you. But sacrificing your relationship with your mother over this will hurt you. Trust me, I know this first hand.
Lastly, I want to tell you to hold on to hope. Right here, right now hope might seem like a strange concept, something unattainable. But I promise that there is always hope. Even in the strongest of storms, the darkest of nights, hope cuts through like a ray of light. It pierces through the darkness and the waves. Even when life clouds your view and the storms blind you, hope is still there. It is constant. And it will be your beacon. It might seem far off, but I promise you it isn’t.
So, maybe these aren’t the right words. And maybe I will never find the right ones. But above all, I want you to know that I care. And I believe in you.
The girl with the lion tattoo and nose hoop.