A Fight worth fighting for

A Fight worth fighting for

She was the girl. He was the boy.

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She was the girl who did as she was told and nothing more. She was polite and put together, never a hair out of line, and she always smiled from ear to ear. Her purse was filled with lip gloss and gum. Her voice was soft and subtle. She had hands which could hold the whole world, yet gentle enough to engulf a baby dove. Parents saw her as an example. Siblings saw her as a mentor. Relatives saw her as a success. She was the girl everyone wanted to be and more. Embodying grace, beauty, power, and strength. Her classmates trusted her judgment. Her teachers appreciated her work ethic. Her peers knew her as a go-to gal. Boys would flirt and girls would befriend her for her genuine heart. She would listen to others talk about her with such high praise and freeze in that moment of time trying to see what they saw.

That girl looked in the mirror and hated what she saw.

She changed 10 times, fixed her eyeliner over and over again, switched out shoes to match her outfit, and constantly picked at her hair, hoping one look would make her feel normal. She sat in class silently judging herself next to the "It" girls. Every detail of their appearance made her feel like less of a person and more like a troll. She went to class seeing her grades slip and her social life deteriorate. She ate lunch with a group of people who didn't even know her last name. She bit at the tips of her fingernails to avoid talking to anyone.

During athletics, she would go in the bathroom stall to change because she didn't want other people to see what she saw. She would admire people around her thinking "if only I had her hair" "her smile" "that girl's body." She was constantly grabbing visual images of others to re-create this ideal imaginary figure in her head where she was popular and skinny and someone that could freeze a room when she walked into it. She would hear whispers and think people were talking about her. See cameras and run for the hills trying to hide her face. She would make up excuses to stay home instead of being in the terrorizing public where she always thought she was either a laughing stock or completely invisible.

Coming home from school would lead to her changing outfits again, looking up the tabloids and trying to match the photoshopped images which she craved to become. She dieted, exercised, exhausted herself, thinking it would make her happy. Then she would crack the door of her bedroom just to hear voices bouncing off the walls reminding her that she wasn't good enough. The rumors would become true to her and the words would sting like a taser over and over… until they went numb.

She was the girl who had it all but never felt more alone.

He was the boy who just made it by. He would do the minimum to make others happy and feel like he did his job. He would shower and slide on his Nike elites and scuffed up sneakers. His hair was always parted the way his mom liked best. Everyone around him thought he was just doing his own thing and enjoying life. He was patient and understanding. Doing as he was told and then waiting for more. He was the life of the party, always finding ways to make people laugh and bring a smile to their faces. He would not talk back or make excuses, just took the punches as they came, and handled life with a "meh" look tattooed on his face. He played his video games, played sports his entire life, and always gave his momma a kiss goodnight. His grades could be better, but he tried all he could, and then some. He never turned away a friend. Never let the little guy get pushed around and helped anyone in need. Listened when he was spoken to and sat silently when he felt overwhelmed. He did what he could, and nothing more.

That boy looked in the mirror and didn't care.

He used video games as his escape. Sports were his outlet. He felt like he was capable but never good enough. Never strong enough or smart enough. He would see the smart guys and wish they knew he wasn't dumb. He saw the bad kids and would think that they were the only people who would accept him. Home reminded him of a jail cell. School reminded him of a job that he needed to quit. Girls would see him and look away. Teachers would give him lecture after lecture that he was not good enough. He felt like there was no one he could relate to and his family was just there to be there. They didn't know him. They didn't see what he saw. He was the outcast, the scapegoat, the victim, the problem. He would walk in the house to hear yelling and fighting. He was ignored and stuck in the middle of everyone else's struggles. He heard so many bad things about himself that he decided to let himself become the rumors. He drowned the boy he once was and came out as the interpretation everyone made him be.

He took the phrase "If you can't beat em, join em" and created this fake identity where he was a combination of all the things he was told he was. No one really saw him for him. He spent all his time trying to help other people be satisfied that he lost himself in the process and felt all empty.

He was the boy who couldn't find his way.

We are all chasing ourselves in other people trying to grab pieces of them to fill our battle wounds. We feel empty inside because it is our bodies way of rejecting the fake solutions we paint for ourselves. We are our biggest critiques and we weigh all our mental struggles on our shoulders that one day we just fall.

The girl in this article is every girl in the room. The boy if every guy on the field. We see flaws in ourselves no matter what, because we are human and by definition, we want to be the best versions of what we can be. There will be days where you think so low of yourself that you can't pick up the pieces. There will be nights where you bury your head under your pillow and block out the world. There will be people who make you feel insecure and judge you.

"Your skin is the wrong color"

"Your hair looks gross"

"You're too fat"

"You're dumb"

"You're gay"

"You should go kill yourself"

Woah…

Those 5 words are no longer what they used to be. They aren't just a collection letters spelling out a meaningless sentence. They are a bullet. They hit hard and deep straight into the center of someone who was thinking that all along. It lodges itself into an unreachable spot and continues to go deeper and deeper until they no longer feel the sting… they just feel at peace with those 5 words.

We want more than average. We want to be seen for the real us and love what we see. Everyone sees the flaws in themselves and the easiest thing for us to do is correct them by changing who we are. Stop trying to change yourself to fit another people's definition of perfect because you know what if they never see the real you how would they even know what you are capable of. That you are beautiful and strong and vibrant. You are smart and funny. You are given the gift of life because someone thought you were worth it. Someone looks at you from across the room in awe of how quickly you freeze the room. Someone looks at you and wants to fill their empty spot with they think you do perfectly. Someone is jealous of your talent or your appearance or your positivity and they want to radiate that energy which you give off. Someone loves you and prays for you and dreams of you. You are the reason someone smiles. You are here for a purpose and everyone around you has felt just like you at one point. Do not give up when things get too overwhelming. Do not cry from things you can't control. Do not think you are alone in this fight.

It is a fight. But you will always come out on top if you keep on pushing toward a better tomorrow. Find that internal light and spark the flame which never goes off. Look at your battle wounds and remember that YOU overcame them. All the hardships YOU overcame. Not because of anything other than the fact that you deserve to be here and be happy.

So, laugh all day, have a contagious smile, inspire those around you and use your "bad days" as a sign that there is more to life and more to love than dwelling on the past. Leave your shoes at the door because you have so much more in store for you than you could ever imagine. You don't need anything dragging you down when you realize that you are perfect just as you are… nothing will ever change that.

This is a piece written in memory of victims of suicidal thoughts or attempts. For more information on how to cope with overwhelming days visit https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ or call 1-800-273-8255. You are not in this fight alone.

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7 Things You Do If You’re One Of Those 'I Always Order Chicken Tenders' People

It's hard to love food but also hate it at the same time.

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Growing up, my mom would usually have to cook me a separate dinner from my siblings. Why? Because I was ridiculously picky and wouldn't eat the same foods as everyone else. Trust me, it gets old. It's not my fault certain things just taste gross, you learn to live with it.

1. You eat something you hate just to see if you still hate it

I'll take a bite of a burger every once in a while just to reaffirm that it still tastes like dirt. I just have to know. Don't even get me started on vegetables.

2. When trying to explain what you actually like to eat, people give you major side eye

Don't ask me about my eating habits unless you want to get into a long, confusing conversation.

3. Eating at someone else’s house when you were younger was a pain

You hate to tell their parents just how much you hate the food that they gave you. So, you sucked it up and ate it anyway only to come home and whine to your parents.

4. There’s one thing on any menu you always fall back on...even if it’s on the kids menu

Pizza, maybe. Chicken tenders, always.

5. Trying a new food is a very proud moment

It's like, wow! Look at me being all adventurous.

6. When you realize you actually like some new food, that’s an even more amazing moment

Crazy times. This rarely happens.

7. Sometimes it’s the texture, sometimes it’s the flavor, all the time it’s left on your plate

Oops. At restaurants it's either left on your plate or your order is very specified.

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The Saying 'Traveling Changes Your Perspective' Isn't Just A Cliché

Experiencing the aura of another country doesn't compare to anything else.

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If I had a dollar for every time someone said "Traveling changed me," well...you get the idea. I'd be rich.

We always hear this, and if you're anything like me, the statement probably just blows over your head because you've heard it so many times, or you think everyone is overexaggerating. However, I came to realize that it's something you simply don't understand until you experience it yourself.

Over this past winter break, I traveled overseas to Barcelona, my first time in Europe. Of course, you prepare for how "different" things are going to be in terms of basic travel planning like currency, weather. Those sorts of things. You get lost in travel planning: booking tours, making reservations at the best restaurant spots, but what you don't realize is how amazing it is to simply get to experience and get lost in the general mood of a new place.

Getting to experience life outside of the U.S. and seeing what other parts of the world value is incredible.

While unfortunately, there's some level of poverty and inequality no matter where you go, the way many of the locals presented their outlook on life was amazing.

We went to a small bar on one of the first nights, and ended up going back two more nights (once on our last night because we had to say goodbye) because we had great conversations with the bartenders. They told us how throughout many parts of Spain, there are people who aren't as well off as others, but that everyone lives with what they have, and they make the most of it and always put happiness above all. They said part of this ability for the general population in their country to remain stable and happy, is that people who are very wealthy rarely show it.

They acknowledged that of course, there is inequality in terms of what opportunities are available to what groups of people, but that those who do live very comfortably always stay humble. They told us how, sometimes, they can tell based on how customers present themselves in terms of how they respond to the workers and carry themselves, that they're from North America and carry more materialistic items.

In many parts of Spain, they said materialistic items aren't necessarily as valued or prioritized, which also explains the happy essence that Barcelona seemed to radiate: Strangers would say hello to each other the streets, stop to give each other directions, or just to spark up a friendly conversation; something I never see in Chicago. Instead, everyone is on the go, with their heads down or headphones in.

Family comes first always, they said. Sure, jobs and money are taken seriously, but they're not always the number one priority, and neither is having expensive things. If you have a roof over your head, food on the table, and are lucky enough to spend time with your loved ones every day, then that is something they celebrate every day.

It was eye-opening to see how much the constant "on the go" lifestyle in America compared to many of the people we encountered in Spain, and how that's reflected in the cultural values of the U.S.

Seeing small businesses close every day for a few hours for people to home for their "siestas" and family time was amazing and was a true representation of everything that the wonderful bartenders explained to us.

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