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I met her for the first time in fourth grade. She came to me very suddenly, no warnings whatsoever. She pulled me over in my room and looked me dead in the eye. She told me the truth. And I felt so dumb for not having seen it before – the truth. It was so simple. It was nothing but the truth, the truth I had feared for so long and the truth that I was only beginning to accept.
And once it had been planted in my brain, it lived with me every step. It consumed me. It only took one small thought for me to understand that this truth was what I was forever to live by. This truth would become my bible, my road to happiness, my secret weapon.
And so it began.
She came to me often, mostly during the night, right before bed. She always had something to say. She would account the events of the day and highlight all the errors I had made. I made far too many, she said. I was going to have to make some changes.
I tried to bargain with her at first. Told her I wasn’t ready for it, I was still so young, I wanted to live freely. I couldn’t fight her. She was too strong, too witty for a girl of only ten years old. She had me in the palm of her hand, and she knew just how to maneuver me.
I lived for a year or two under her command. I felt the pains she demanded, I cried the tears she insisted upon, I even wrote the feelings she condemned me to. I was a good girl, I was always a good girl, and so I obeyed. But as I grew taller and stouter, she began to have new kinds of demands.
She told me I was changing; I was becoming a real girl. And that just wouldn’t do. She often took me far back, where I would relive the recent past that seemed so distant. As the movie played, I was filled with passion, filled with ambition to reach a goal that will still unclear to me at the time. I was in search for something, she said, but she couldn’t tell me what. I had to do that on my own.
It didn’t take me very long to figure out the secret. It had been right there, right next the truth, standing so grandly at the top of my shelf, only waiting to be polished. Once I caught sight of it’s beauty, there was no turning back.
It took a while for it to become an actual obsession. It started slowly. First with the sadness, than the anxiety, and the of course, the depression. But it took shape in a funny way. I started to act different, started to wear clothing that felt foreign on my body, started to say things that were not in my internal vocabulary list. I was becoming a New Girl, revised, replenished. I was going to be the girl she wanted me to be. But it couldn’t happen over night. I had to work away all the quirks and fears that were rooted in me. I had to write off the girl I was, and if I were to do it, a beautiful life would be waiting for me on the other side.
I was a hard worked. I didn’t want to disappoint her, so I did the best I could. I started with the Nice. The Nice was a crime, the Nice would be my downfall. No one liked a Nice. They were walked on, beaten up, tossed away. I needed to be a Mean, and I needed to be a good one.
It wasn’t enough. The Smart had to go as well. Boys didn’t like the Smart. They liked the twirl-my-hair kind of girl, say-something-cute-and-dumb was what I needed. And next was the look. And then the words. And then the me.
It was hard. I was accustomed to all the things I had always been. But it wasn’t enough. It was just never enough. So I began the journey to the New Girl and on my way I encountered a ‘defect’.
Her orders were strictly not to enter this other world, this world of over indulgence, this world of gluttony. I tried to stay away, I saw the big red flags as I crossed over the line, but it was too tempting. She called my name from the other side, but I couldn’t come back. I stayed there too long, and I became trapped in the cycle that would not stop. And she vowed to punish me for it. She was mad, so mad, that she made me stay on the forbidden side.
If only I had known what it really was…
It all spiraled down from there. The image, the game, the act. I was still the liar she wanted me to be, and I still decoded every face, those I could trust and those I would play. The lying became my second nature. It flowed easily out of my mouth, and it felt so good. I was worth the lies. I just wasn’t worth the secret.
And so it became The Secret.
My life began to revolve around it. She was there, smack in the middle, laughing at me all the time. Every night, she would stand behind me as I grabbed at everything I could take. I would drown myself. And than I would drown myself again. She only stood there saying, you can hide, but you can’t run. She was right. My feet were glued to the floor as I tried to empty my stomach, empty the Old Girl, empty the guilt.
She started to follow me constantly. She wouldn’t let me go. She haunted me in school, with my friends, in my room. She became my mind, my soul, my other being. She held on to the Old Girl, and kept her there in my mind, refusing to let her go. Not until I did what she asked.
And one day, I had enough.
I took the scale and shattered it.
She was still there, but she was bleeding all right.
When I turned to the mirror, there was another girl. She was not the Old Girl or the New Girl or the She.
It was just a girl. It was me. But I only lasted moments before she got back up, put her hand on my shoulder, and whispered “nice try”.