As we both walk down the long corridor, heading in opposite directions but headed toward each other, our eyes meet—but only for a split second. The moment passes by as quickly as a yellow light turns red. All we shared in that moment was a brief smile, maybe a friendly hello. And in no time at all, we’ll forget that moment ever happened. We’ll forget we ever looked in each other’s direction. We’ll forget either one of us exists at all. Yet, no matter how brief that moment was, for a short period in time, we were existent in each other’s lives.
We did not stop to have a conversation. We did not learn each other’s names. We know nothing about each other. But that doesn’t mean neither one of us didn’t form an assumption on the type of people we are nor what kind of life we lead. From your rugged blue jeans and slightly dirty sweatshirt, I assume that you are a hard worker. I assume your job is demanding and requires hard labor. From your unshaved face, I assume that you’re laid back and not concerned with maintaining a clean cut because you probably work too many hours to be bothered by such a thing. From the look in your eyes, I assume you keep to yourself and focus solely on the things you need, such as your family and your job. I assume you have a family from the rough estimate I assumed your age was. I take a quick glance at your hands and can see the dirt you have tried washing off hundreds of times to no avail, and I assume that you either work in a garage or have a car that is your prize possession.
But I don’t know if any of these assumptions are facts. Your clothes could be rugged and worn today, only because you were doing work around the house and had to run out for a quick errand. For all I know, any other day you could dress in a suit and tie, headed to your corporate job. Your face may be unshaved because you prefer it that way. The look in your eyes could mean that you are overworked and tired, but when fully rested, you could be full of life. Your hands could be dirty due to the fact that on the way here, your car broke down and had to fix it as soon as possible. Maybe not. Maybe you don’t even have a family. Maybe you don’t even work at all.
As you pass by me, you build your own assumptions. You may find me to be an attractive girl, assuming that I think the same about myself. You notice that I have taken time on my appearance and the stereotypes begin to build in your mind. You may assume that from my style of clothing and the way I took time on my makeup, I always feel the need to look my absolute best. From the smile on my face, you probably assume that my life is easy and perfect. The way I walk may exude confidence, and you assume that I don’t work much for the things i have earned. You may assume that I’m conceited. You may assume that I am stuck up. But what you don’t assume when you look at me is that I once tried killing myself.
What you don’t assume when you look at me is that I struggle each day to recognize the person in the mirror. What you don’t know is the numerous times I have cried myself to sleep, hugging my knees, begging to anyone who was listening to just end it there–please don’t let me wake up in the morning. What you don’t know is that I tirelessly try to control my roller coaster emotions that have negatively effected my life for too many years to count. What you don’t know is I hate that you even looked in my direction, because now I worry that you are thinking terrible things about me. What you certainly don’t know is how much the endless thoughts and worry and darkness can completely engulf my life, yet some days I feel a little normal–all the while knowing that the dark and anxiety are just waiting to pounce.
You may think I am vain by first glance, but you don’t notice that I tuck my stomach into my pants because the thought of even a roll of skin hanging over the tops of my jeans makes me feel as if I am about to explode out of my skin. You don’t notice when I hit my teeth onto each other, I feel forced to run my tongue along them to make sure they are still the same. You see me looking in the mirror, or at my reflection, and assume I am admiring my beauty, when in reality, I am cutting myself down as I pick apart each and every flaw. The constant obsession to make sure my pores haven’t doubled in size, or that my nose hasn’t grown, or trying pointlessly to make my eyebrows identical drains every ounce of energy out of my body. The monster staring back at me in the mirror is certainly not the same girl you see for that brief split second. Do you know what it’s like to close your eyes and not even be able to envision what it is you look like?
And just because there is a smile on my face does not mean that inside, I am feeling what the outside portrays. Constantly feeling as though I could not allow others to know my problems (mostly because others don’t want to hear about it, or mostly because they don’t care) has allowed me many years of practice to convince others that I am okay; that I am whole. Because why would I feel insecure? Why would I be depressed? Do you know what it’s like to be so ashamed for feeling as though you can’t live this life any longer, knowing full and well that there are millions of people who are struggling far worse than you are… that you just end up shutting yourself out emotionally because you are far better off than many other people and don’t deserve to feel the way you do?
Just because I walk with my head up and my eyes wide, does not mean that when I am alone, I don’t struggle to get out of bed, let alone open my eyes. Just because I laugh does not mean that I do not cry over troubles that aren’t even real, but instead made up scenarios in my head. Just because I say hello, does not mean that I am confident enough to speak to any passerby–but instead because I need you to know I’m a nice person. I need you to know that I do not think I am better than you.
You pass me by and you never know my story. But then again, I don’t know yours. Do you struggle with the same demons as I do? Do you feel like giving up sometimes but know that there is so much more to live for than this up-and-down misery? Maybe you do. I’ll never know.