A girl in my 6th-grade class kicked the back of my chair once and I said sorry. My teacher laughed, and she said, “Why are you sorry?” I didn’t have an answer. I felt like I naturally needed to apologize for practically everything and shoot out "I’m sorry’s" like cannonballs out of cannons.

As I grew older and refused to comply with my "indoor voice," apologizing for everything or for crossing my legs on the subway so that the guy sitting next to me could sit comfortably, I felt sad for my younger self. I felt sad for her, the young girl who felt validation came from the acceptance of popular girls and boys in my middle school class and the inches on my waist.

I remember in 7th grade, a pad fell from my pocket and on the ground in the hallway. I panicked and ran away immediately, with blushed cheeks and a deafening pounding in my heart. I desperately hoped nobody knew it came from me.

Did I forget that all of us girls got periods? Did I not think about all of the pads and tampons stuffed in our lockers, backpacks, and pockets? It wasn’t until my senior year of high school that I yelled at my substitute teacher for not letting me go to the bathroom because I needed to "wait my turn" and that I would literally bleed on my seat. It wasn’t until my junior year that I pulled pads out of my backpack proudly and swayed to the bathroom with them clutched in my hand.

Harmful cultural messages aimed at women, from the notion that we can or should “have it all” to whatever is traditionally feminine, all illustrative as shallow expectations that we must confine to. To confine to these unwritten rules that were fabricated out of nowhere, don’t accept me, for all I give a fuck. I won’t feel ashamed to walk the streets with what is thought to be a "resting bitch face" or talk about my biology or get a second slice of cake (you may say it’s all empty calories, and you might be right, but fuck you, just look at that icing).

You don’t need to apologize for everything. Walk with your spine straight, moon rocks settled between each vertebra and embrace the intoxicating high of being right (and being wrong). Take into your palms censorship, and sexism and misogyny and crush it to a pulp.

This is for girls born with a fire in their belly, for girls who are taunted for their "resting bitch face," and for girls who are expected to conceal their skin, but also dress sexy when the time is right. This is for girls who get shit on for being a feminist, rather a "feminazi", and for girls who tug their dresses down and feel like a sheep among hundreds led by wolves.

The world might be determined to douse those flames of yours. You have a daunting smile and your hands can shatter glaciers, and you need to remember that speaking up is ladylike and having an opinion is sexy and screaming is okay if you want to, and saying no when you need to is good for your soul, especially when it feels barren. There is a strange, subtle art of apologizing, and you don’t need to abide by it.