Anna was part of The Photo Studio’s Actually, I Can campaign. Here she has written a letter to her younger self, expressing how even when times appear tough and dark there is always light at the end of the tunnel, as life does get better even when it is looking dim at the worst of times.
Dear 13 Year Old Anna,
In ten years’ time you will trust fall into your own embrace as the sun falls into the sky; with everything that it has and in want of nothing at all. I know that right now it seems as though you are trapped in the bottom of the deepest well, calling for help, only to be ignored. I promise you that you are not. I promise you that you are not the untruths that roll off the tips of their venomous tongues as they force unwanted names upon you without your consent. You are not the stones that they have thrust into the air with their taunting words making their way through the fragile boundaries of your glass home where you rest that heavy head. A shattered reflection was their intent, yet mere cracks across the surface do not negate your innate and boundless strength. My darling, their shattered voices must not become yours to regret.
Your peers see your achievements accumulate one by one, piling onto you as rain mercilessly throws itself onto the ground, the trees, the flowers, and those who dare to walk beneath it. They shrivel beneath your humble clouds of contentment and dare to try and turn your triumph into mist with their mere tongues. You will often hear the tireless ringing of ‘sticks and stones’ but you are a kind soul that has been shown a cruel truth: that words often hurt more than the pain of wounds and bruises.
They tear you down only to pick you apart until you begin to believe that you were always this way; afraid, fragmented, insecure, lonely, fat, ugly, disgusting, a monster, a nerd, unlovable, pathetic, too sensitive, too smart, too mature, a-know-it-all, boring, greedy because of your ambition, overconfident and unrealistic because you know that you are bigger than this.
The only noise that rings true in the midst of all this chaos is that you are bigger than all of this. You are better, you are wiser, you are stronger, you are kinder, you are smarter, you are braver and you are more beautiful than all of this. Please, do not forget to echo these words into your ears every night before you lay to rest, before you cry yourself to sleep again because they made you think you are not good enough.
Do not dwell on the unkind words that bounce back and forth between the walls of your young mind lest you become them. Remember that the ruminating darkness that you see is a reflection of what is within, and that this is also applicable to light. Always focus on the light, the sun, the stars, the moon, the fire within the entrapment of your body – lest you forget your nature and spend the next few weeks, months, years trying to morph yourself into a mould you will never fit for all the right reasons. Light is a blinding force that shows everything in its truest form and yours should not be dimmed just because someone is uncomfortable. We are human, we are whole on our own, bodies with souls – we were not made for beauty, or comfort, or ease. Our only purpose here is life in all its “gasping for air, roller coaster, sunrises on the beach, refreshing sips of iced tea, this is everything we will ever need”, glory.
Our only purpose here is life when it manifests in the form of wholeheartedly laughing with your family at the most minuscule of things as you lend them you gracious and helping hand after a tiresome day. It is your mother as she breathes out a sigh of relief while finally resting her feet while dad kisses you on the forehead and your sister tells you that she is so proud of you and that you are everything all at once along to the music of your brother’s chuckle as he squeezes your shoulders reminding you that you are going places and you just need to take the next step. After all, they did carry you all this way, thirteen years and they will for another ten more – those will be the hardest so far but the most beautiful of all.
Live your life with – and not for – the ones that always catch your fall, and hear your grief, and sit with you in silence without an inkling of discomfort. I know you don’t have friends right now and I assure you that you do not need any presence outside of that which you call home, but when they finally get here they will be here to stay. The friend staring right back at you from the mirror is the one that knows you the most, and will be the one that loves you the most regardless of who comes and goes. She is already there. Right there with you. Cherish her regardless of the islands that the waves will float you towards. Friends will come. Peace will come. Confidence will come. Life, it comes and goes in its fleeting force and it is all waiting for you right here, in the palm of your hands.
Light is light, no matter how dark the room is.