Magazine, website & books written by teens since 1989

What Better Really Means

Last night - two weeks before I leave to go back - I reread my train letters from everyone. Jokes I hadn't remembered. Moments I'd forgotten. A letter to myself I didn't know I wrote. Reading it, I feel like I failed myself somehow. Or, not failed, exactly, just didn't live up to how I wanted to.

The Last Day of Poetry Class

Dear Shell,
Take into the night all that you want from this day, wrote Stafford, or something similar. Soak it up, breathe it in, put it around your neck and move bravely forward. It's a whole new world back at home. Don't forget this, ever. Revise - really revise - every Fountain poem. Know that he is reading them. Know that there's someone watching over you, making sure you'll remember how you were touched by every life in this room, right now, where you stand.
Love, Shell


A year later, I look at myself then. So hopeful. So sure that she was going to be someone new next year. That she would ROCK junior year. Be a whole new person. Be confident. Be popular. And it didn't happen. Not the way I thought it did. I still feel self-conscious. I'm still not the person I thought I was going to be then.

But I didn't lose everything. A year later, on the other side - I am a different person. I laugh with my friends. I have more friends. I don't feel the need to take pictures every time I hang out with people, just to post them on Facebook and prove to the world that I actually have friends. I can eat what I want and not worry about my weight. I can stop by the side of the road, lay down in the grass and photograph insects. I don't know what people say about me. I don't care.

The thing is, I learned confidence in three weeks. I learned self-esteem. I learned that I am prettier when I do what I want than when I try to do what I think other people want me to do. Schools don't teach this. They say that classes where your heart rate is measured and timed and you're put up on a scoreboard to compare your points with those of the other people in the class are better. Why are they better? Because they're easier. They're quantitative. But they're not better. Better is something else. Better is not something that can be measured in numbers. But it can be measured.

Better is putting on clothes and looking at yourself in the mirror and not seeing numbers.
Better is measuring your waist and not knowing if the numbers should be lower.
Better is going out and meeting new people and feeling equal to them.
Better is looking at people's accomplishments and seeing yours next to theirs.
Better is not comparing yourself to anyone else.

This year I've started measuring my life in Before Interlochen and After Interlochen. Before it, I was shy, self-deprecating and just generally an awkward person. After Interlochen, well... I'm still shy. I'm still self-deprecating and I'm still exceptionally awkward. But underneath that - or over that - I've been touched by so many beautiful people that I can't help being a better person for it. Interlochen taught ne that I have seen something beautiful and I should share that beauty. Interlochen taught me that self-worth cannot be measured numerically. Interlochen taught me more about the real world than anything I've ever learned in a classroom.



Post a Comment

Be the first to comment on this article!

Site Feedback