Opening Up

Student writing from Girls Write Now: Two Decades of True Stories from Young Female Voices

This essay appears in Girls Write Now: Two Decades of True Stories from Young Female Voices, published by Tin House Books in October 2018.  

Ms. Sears, our school’s guidance counselor, greets me with a smile—protocol, I’m guessing, because no one is ever that happy, especially not someone whose job is to help a bunch of kids going through rough times. She reaches out to grab my shaky hand. I don’t know why I am nervous. I scheduled the appointment. It’s probably because I’m scared my mom might find out and think I’m seriously depressed. I’m not.

My hands clam up and twitch vigorously the closer we get to Ms. Sears’ office door. She finally lets go to open it and steps aside, the jolt of her head silently letting me know it’s time to come in. I cross the threshold but remain in the doorway. The red walls are the first thing I see, covered in inspirational quotes. One in bold font says: “Don’t become the person that hurt you.” No one hurt me—that’s the first thing that comes to mind.

“You can sit anywhere you want,” Ms. Sears says. I pick the farthest beanbag chair from her desk and plop down on it.

“Nya, right?” she asks. Of course she calls out the wrong name. I sigh at her mistake, already regretting my decision to speak to her.

“No,” I say, and my voice cracks a bit. “My name’s Meek.”

“Ahh, yes. I’m sorry, hon.” Ms. Sears scribbles something down on her clipboard and I repeatedly crack my knuckles, a nervous habit I’ve picked up over the years. “So, what did you want to speak to me about?” 

I’m terrified, I don’t know where I’m going. I’m lost, and I’m hoping you will just give me the answers to all my problems. “Oh, um . . .” I clear my throat. “I guess I was feeling a bit overwhelmed,” I say flatly. I’m careful not to show emotion.

“Hmm.” She nods. “How so?” She picks up the clipboard and pen again, awaiting my answer. 

No one cares what I’m feeling. I’ve been living to try to please others my entire life and now I seem to have completely lost touch with myself. I want to go away for a bit. “School,” I blurt out. “It’s hard.”

Ms. Sears looks up at me with a raised eyebrow, silently condemning my reluctance to open up, then sighs and walks my way, green Post-it and pen in hand. She plops down on the beanbag chair next to mine and sits there quietly. Really, lady? Time goes by and neither of us has made a sound besides my occasional sniffle, and I begin to wonder if I’m wasting my time by coming here. Then I find the courage to look her way. She has four Post-its placed in a line on the white board next to us.

“I heard you like to write,” she says. My heart leaps in my throat and I nod. “So, write what you’re feeling.”

For the next thirty minutes, I write how I am feeling toward family, school, relationships, and inside.

My mom only cares about my grades. “How’d you do in school today?” is different from “How was your day?” She doesn’t pay attention unless I’m failing.

I just want to graduate, but I don’t know what comes next. I mean, I know I’m supposed to go to college, but what if that’s not for me? Can I study what makes me happy or what makes money? I think of dropping out every day.

My boyfriend loves me. He’s told me multiple times. I love him too, I think. He really does care about me and has pushed me the most to get some help. He’s special, but I feel like I’m waiting for him to screw up, like all the others do.

Ahh, internal stuff. I know nothing about myself except for my name. I think I’m going through that “finding yourself” stage. I Googled symptoms of depression again last week just to be sure things haven’t gotten worse. I think I’m good. Is it normal to be strangers with yourself?

I drop the pen in the beanbag chair. I don’t realize I’m crying until Ms. Sears hands me a box of tissues. “Thanks,” I sniffle.

“We’ve all been in this place, honey,” she begins. “And sometimes it takes crawling through a whole bunch of mess, but we eventually get through it. This is part of growing up; we realize that the things around us aren’t always as they seem, and right now you’re just swaying in the middle of child and adult. You’re a promising girl, and I know you’re going to be something real special. You just gotta pick yourself up.”

She steps closer to hug me and I open my arms to embrace her. When she pulls back I begin to chuckle through my tears.

“What’s funny?” she asks. That was the best Disney advice I’ve ever received.

“Thanks for today,” I say. “Save some more Post-its for next time.”

From Girls Write Now: Two Decades of True Stories from Young Female Voices. Copyright © 2018 by Meek Thomas. Reprinted with permission from Tin House Books.

Meek Thomas was born in Brooklyn, New York. She attended the Uncommon Charter High School in Brooklyn and Bay Path University in Longmeadow, Massachusetts. She wrote this essay in 2016.