Dear Young Fated Teenage Misfit,
Do you have red hair? Are you a bit overweight—not by much, just not a size 8? Is there something a bit different about you? Do you kind of feel like you don’t fit into the any of the social cliques and really, you just want to hang out with a dog? You don’t belong with the cool kids and you’re pretty sure you’re not a loser? Do your parents not have any idea about the social implications of making you wear hand-me-down non-branded clothes in a Northern English working class town in the midst of Late Capitalism? Do they not realise that the fifteen quid they save on buying a black sweater and sewing on the school logo instead of just buying the official jumper is a drop in the ocean compared to the amounts you will spend, pointlessly, on therapy when you’re older?
Do they not know that a sewed on logo on its own might be okay, but combined with all the other things that make you a target (like your shoes and the fact that one day you’re clearly going to figure out that you’re gay) will be the straw that broke the camel’s back? Do they not know how incredibly cruel kids can be these days?
Even though everybody does it and its considered completely normal, do you already somehow know with conviction that covering yourself in fake tan until you’re orange is objectively not a good look? That’s probably why you make such an excellent target. A normal person in a town full of Oompa Loompas really stands out.
Okay, well get ready my skin-coloured friend because you have got your work cut out for you. If you don’t fit in you will stand out and you’ll develop a bullseye on your forehead to be used for anyone’s target practice. You’ll be told every day that you’re fat and that you should dye your hair; you’ll be called “fat ugly ginger bitch” more often than you’ll be called by your name. You’ll be told to go home because nobody wants you around. You’ll be told to get some friends but you won’t have a clue where to find any because everybody seems to be quite awful. You’ll get open cans of coke and rocks thrown at you by kids you don’t know as you walk home from school. You’ll get your bag snatched from you by the same boy, what will feel like every day forever, and the contents of it scattered onto the floor for you to pick up in front of everybody. You’ll get mean tricks played on you by your friends who thought it would be funny.
You’ll eventually starve yourself. You’ll eat a piece of toast and some baked beans every day for months and nothing else and you’ll lie to your parents about it, which will make you feel even worse. If you have to have dinner during that time you’ll throw it up afterwards. You’ll do it so that you can finally be skinny and not hate yourself quite as much. Then you’ll go to your friend’s party and you’ll feel good. It will be quite exciting to feel attractive and then a boy will pour a pint of beer down your back for some laughs. Then he’ll do it again. You’ll walk down the corridor at school and a boy will run up to you, grab you by the shoulders, look you in the eye, throw back his head and then spit right into the centre of your face. This will go on for years. You’ll give up on being skinny because it didn’t help anyway and at least that way you get to eat chocolate.
And the absolute worst thing about what will happen will not be what these people do to you. It will be that nobody will ever stick up for you. Not once. The people around you will pretend to not hear, to not see and eventually they won’t hear and they won’t see. People will convince themselves that it was just a joke, not to be taken seriously. They’ll laugh it off. “You should do the same” they’ll think.
At the beginning when you’re younger you’ll be like “hang on, this feels quite awful, I don’t think I’m supposed to be called these things every day. I didn’t think life was supposed to be this horrible”, and so you’ll tell your parents some of the things people say. You’ll only give examples of the least bad things because you won’t even be able to bring yourself to speak the other words and your parents won’t come close to understanding just how bad it is. Your mum, who, it seems like most mothers in the Western form of patriarchy that we have, will, to balance out the over worrisome dads, be catastrophically stoical and will expect the same of you. “Oh they’re just insecure, that’s why they say those things” and she’ll be right, obviously, but that won’t be even one millionth of the words you need to hear to unravel the ones that are shaping you.
After a couple of years you won’t mention anything to anyone and you’ll start to disappear. The two people who you do like will try to get you to come out to the pub but you won’t go. You’ll say you don’t have anything to wear and what you’ll mean is that you don’t have an animal costume or an avatar to slip into that will hide who you are completely. If you go out to the pub that serves the fifteen year olds, quite perfectly named The Trap, then you’ll be around those people who make you hate yourself and they will see you and you will tense up when they so much as look at you. And it won’t occur to your friends that these people have made you hate yourself because your friends aren’t brave enough to stick up for you so they’ve tricked themselves into thinking nothing is wrong. Thinking back, they’ll struggle to remember it ever being that bad.
You might get lucky and be forced to move house when you’re sixteen. It will be absolutely horrible, obviously, but it will make a change at least. You’ll still hate yourself in the new place though so it will be very hard to make friends. You’ll make a mess of school, which won’t matter at all, but you’ll be made to feel that you are throwing your life away. Hopefully you’ll be clever and you’ll know they’re wrong. Hopefully you’ll have something deep inside your subconscious that makes you know underneath all of the pain that you are in fact perfect.
You’ll leave college without any grades and you’ll buy yourself a one way ticket to the other side of the world. “Get me the fuck out of here” your subconscious will be crying. And when you no longer have to hear the sounds of your country and the tones of the accent reverberate through you, you will start to feel better.
For years and years you will get on with things. You’ll grow and meet good people and have some fun but you will have this feeling inside you always like there is something really not right. It will feel very sad and you won’t be able to put your finger on it. Perhaps you’ll fall in love and because you are hurt in a way that runs so much deeper than our language gives us the words for, you won’t know how to heal the pain and you’ll take it out on the person you love. They’ll do the same to you because they have the same pain inside them. Its what we call a relationship. If you’re lucky, like me, you’ll fall in love with someone so beautiful and so kind that even though they are hurt from this world they will still help to heal you in ways that will unfold for years to come. Hopefully you will do the same for them.
When that has run its course and the pain outweighs the healing you will call it a day. The future you imagined will show itself to be nothing but a figment of your imagination. You will be left with nothing solid to show for all the years you’ve lived and you’ll find again a big gaping hole inside you. It will make space in you and if you’re too scared to look at the shape of it you’ll fill it up with all the things this world offers to numb us. If you’re really fucking brave you’ll decide you want to understand it. When you make that decision be sure that you’re ready because there will be no going back. Truth will take over and you will be made to know it.
You will find so much more pain in you than you ever dared to imagine and it will come so thick and so fast that all the painkillers on the market would not be enough and you will be forced to hold it and to eventually one day transform it. You will begin to understand yourself in a way that will be so foreign to the world that has created you that it will be perceived as madness. As you come to understand yourself you will come to understand the whole universe and you’ll see that you both operate according to exactly the same laws. You’ll understand that the human experience is ultimately emotional. Your body and mind will start to unravel the galaxies of tension that have been birthed inside you by cruelty and fear. If it happens gradually you’ll be okay and you might be able to continue passing as normal. If it happens rather more rapidly than usual it won’t just bring tears and laughter and partially spasticated limbs, it will sometimes leave you vomiting so hard that there’s nothing in you but stale breath that desperately wants to come out. You’ll have to go to hospital a few times and they will try to tell you what is wrong with you and give you drugs you know you don’t need. It will be quite frustrating because you will see that all pain and all suffering and all sickness comes from the mind and is created by the cruelty of the world, which in turn is created by the sickness of the Mind.
And then the reality of our existence will hit you and you will find this human world goes from hard to unbearable. But you’ll have to bear it and you’ll have to somehow learn to love it because you know you can’t cheat your way out. You’ll find that it becomes quite difficult to relate to people as soon as they start talking about health and sickness because you know why they are sick but you can’t communicate it because people’s minds will not allow Truth to be heard. The truth hurts and the ego does not like pain.
It won’t just be awful though. Even though nobody believes a word you’re saying and doctors in both the East and the West will keep telling you that you have a mental problem, and you’ll be like “yes I agree but I don’t think we mean the same thing by it”, what you’ll come to see will be very beautiful at least. You’ll manage to find humour in horror and if you have enormous amounts of cosmic tension (aka neurological pain) exploding out of you with force you will learn to feel the movement of energy through your body and it will be really quite mad and spectacular.
But you’ll recognise too that in infinite time and infinite space and in every one of the possible worlds that exist there is always going to be a point at which the evolution of life demands something; that any species on any planet which evolves to the point of self-awareness will then have to get involved if it wants to carry on. Because if it does not embrace Life at that point it will be subjected to the process of decay. It will be ruled by fear and ego and greed and the desperate cling to individual identity and it will destroy itself and it’s planet completely. And you’ll wonder if that’s why the Universe is so empty.
And you’ll think of your brother’s words and other scientifically-minded people who nonchalantly declare “all species die out eventually” as though they have overcome the fear of death as opposed to words like that actually representing a great fear of the importance of Life and you’ll wish everybody could stop being so fucking boring and complacent and scared for a moment. You’ll wish all the people who liked the movie Avatar actually understood it and you’ll wish all the smart arse socially aware, politically correct people who just wanted to critique the notion of a white man saving an Indigenous planetary civilization would get over themselves and look at it from another perspective. Yes I agree, it would have been way better if it had been a woman and if she’d have fallen in love with a giant blue female alien, for sure, but while the white man saved the people, he also saved himself. He altered his perspective on existence and in doing so he got himself a one way ticket out of the dying world he’d been born into, to a different one that was significantly better and more fun and had more creatures and more bioluminescence than the stifled, disabled war-born existence and mass planetary extinction he had come to think of as normal.
And if you do realise all these things it will probably be quite overwhelming for you. You’ll wonder how people’s perception of you has changed since you stopped only using words like God and Jesus as exclamations and you’ll realise its irrelevant because you can’t stop the words from coming. You will hurt a lot and you’ll wish there was a world within this world that you could go to, at least until you get better. Your body will become very sensitive and tender during the healing process and when you “overreact” to things because the wrong sound at the wrong time sends nerve pain through your face and body, people will think you’re being “emotional” and it will be quite hard to not rip your face off in frustration. Or theirs.
You’ll think “yes giant blue elastic cosmically connected life would be nice but perhaps I shouldn’t have dreamed so big. Maybe being orange and living in a factory with lots of other identical orange people where everything is automated, there’s all the sugar you could need to numb the pain and a man in charge who brings security and predictability—maybe that would have been okay after all.”
You won’t think that though will you. Because you were born by the grace of all human history into a body and a mind that made you a misfit and there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it.
So good luck. It’s yours but it will feel remarkably similar to bad luck.