What is wrong with me, I whispered angrily to myself through clenched teeth, tears running down my cheeks. Curled up on the cold bathroom tile with my feet pressed up against the door, I pressed my eyes shut, wishing the world would disappear.
This was not unusual for 14-year-old me. In fact, this had become part of my daily after school routine. 2:30 pm. Finally escaping what felt like a prison to me, leaving the bullies and hateful comments in the hallways behind, I couldn't be more relieved to be back at home. But the taunts never left me, they echoed in my ears, trembled in my body, every hour of everyday.
Moving to a new town, a new neighborhood, a new school; It's never easy. It's especially not easy when you're a middle-schooler jumping into a huge school after being sheltered at a small, private school from a town where everyone-knew-everyone. On top of all of that, a painfully-awkward puberty phase wasn't helping... Tough is an understatement.
From my early teenage years, I struggled to fit in. Though I made friends, no one ever stuck around with me long enough to really get to know me. Walking through the halls alone with no confidence, looking down at the ground, made me an easy victim for bullying. I was the ugly girl, the loner, the weirdo. Every torment that they cackled during the schoolday echoed in my head every time I looked in the mirror. I felt alone, isolated, unwanted.
I soon became a pro at avoiding mirrors, or anything reflective. I didn't want to see myself, I didn't want to be reminded of who I was. I began to believe all the hateful things the kids at school hissed at me on a daily basis. I was disgusted with every inch of myself: My clothes weren't good enough, my hair was awful, my skin riddled with imperfections. I couldn't control anything going on around me and I couldn't bear to tell anyone about how I was feeling. I couldn't stand the idea of admitting that I was dying from the inside out every time I stepped through those big, metal double-doors of the school. I, instead, turned to harming myself, it was the one thing that I had control over. Focusing on the physical pain I inflicted upon myself gave me those few moments of peace where I could forget, even for a moment, every painful thing that I was going through. It escalated to suicidal thoughts, and I thought that I wouldn't be able to see my 15th birthday.
Discovering music truly changed my life. I realized how my favorite bands could somehow wash away every hurtful moment of the day just through their songs. My first concert, surrounded by people singing the same lyrics I listened to alone in my bedroom everyday, I finally felt like I belonged somewhere. I loved finding new bands and artists to support, and a collection of CDs quickly filled my shelves. Band posters ripped carelessly from the inside of magazines taped across my bedroom walls. People around me had noticed that there was life in my eyes again, after it had been dim for so long.
At school, I wasn't afraid to admit my obsession. More ridicule ensued as I now had been coined the 'crazy-obsessed band girl' but somehow, it didn't matter to me anymore. I had found something I was passionate about—something that inspired hope within me, something that gave me a reason to look forward to every tomorrow. As I got older, and my scars began to fade away, I continued to use my favorite songs and artists as an escape from reality when things got hard. Meeting so many great people who accept me for me as I got older, and pursuing things that I am passionate about validate exactly why I was meant to stay when I had thought, years ago, that I had so many reasons to end everything. Birthdays, anniversaries, parties, new jobs, babies being born, new movies and music, laughter, late-night runs to pick-up ice cream, new places to see—We are all meant to be here to see it all. My hope is that everyone gets a chance to see it all.
So today, at age 23, I find myself standing in front of the mirror, finally accepting who I am, flaws and all. It took me years to realize, but the answer is: Absolutely nothing.
Nothing's wrong with me, after all.