I was in pitch black, nothing surrounding me to tell me where I was. But my feet seemed to know where they were going. I let them lead. I glanced around, trying to decide if this was a dream or not. Before I could, I saw where my feet were taking me. There was a young girl, 10 years old, nose in a book and golden-blonde hair falling in her face, bangs hanging just above her golden eyes, which were flicking across the pages-without her reading glasses that she had probably outgrown by now, I noted-who was sitting curled in a ball on the ground. It was me. My pace slowed, looking at the face of my innocence, which was still not so innocent, pausing at the end of a chapter and looking up to see me. She smiled, and looked off to the side of my face. I never could bear looking people in the eye, still don't. "Hi," I said. "Is it okay if I sit here?"554Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡPwKA9qwH5t
She nodded, but still said nothing. Shy around someone she didn't know. She'd speak if she was comfortable, I knew, trying to earn a little praise every now and then for what she loved, what she did, what she enjoyed. "Watcha readin'?" I asked.
"The Mysterious Benedict Society," she responded, that higher soprano voice not trained enough to be used as a Soprano 1 yet instead of a mezzo-soprano.
I smiled at her, remembering the book vividly. I'll still read it. "That's a good one, isn't it?"
She lit up and nodded. "Ms. McMunn, my reading teacher, recommended it, and my dad got it for me a little while before, so I figured I'd try it. It's really good!"
"Well, don't let me stop you, you can keep reading," I encouraged.
She shook her head. "That's okay, I'd like to talk with you."
I was shocked. That was something I don't remember happening, except maybe with my closest friends. "What would you like to talk about?"
"My future," the girl said brightly. "I want to know what it's like. I want to know about middle school, and high school, and whether I find someone I really, really like, and who my friends are. I want to know if I ever write a full book, and how Mom and Dad are, and--"
"Slow down!" I interrupt, my heart sinking. This girl, this sweet, little girl, wanted to know what it would be like when she grew up. What should I tell her? Surely I can't tell her how quickly her innocence will leave, and how she'll stop taking those awful antidepressants only to continue taking them after 2 years of surviving. Still, she looked at me eagerly, hoping for an answer. I'm so inquisitive. "I'm not sure you want to know," I say.
She looked crestfallen. That told her all she needed to know to stoke her fears. I wrapped her in a hug. "I'm not gonna lie, kid, it's gonna be bad. But I'm so proud of you. You beat the anorexia, and the depression that comes with it. There are people who will jump on you for no good reason, you'll get injured, and claustrophobic, and feel like you're being strangled...and that's just 6th grade!" I choked a laugh. "But you get through it. And you get away. You go to a high school where kids understand, and if they don't understand they at least accept." I'm crying, now, not trying to hold it back. She's surprised. "You learn to cry, Emily," I say to her. "You learn to cry a lot, not just when you're alone, but in front of people, too. It's nothing to be self-conscious about. It happens, when you have too much. It's your mental red light. It gets out of control a bit, you hate crowds for quite a while and you're not sure why, but it's because you're just overwhelmed. There's so much information, and you try to get it all in your head, and you shut down. And sometimes you do that for no reason, but you have medicine that will help you, though it'll take a while."
She looked worried. "It's...it's not more right?"
"It's not Zoloft, sweetheart. It doesn't shut you off, it turns you up. It lets you be yourself, it lets you not be afraid.
"You write that book. And your friends, your family, even your teachers wind up reading it, and love it.
"You learn that while some people want things...that I probably shouldn't explain to you, you don't want them, and that's okay. You still love, both friends and family, and more. You have a boyfriend, it doesn't work out in the end, but when you're with him you feel happy. You make friends, more friends than you've had in a while, and even though you...I still deal with depression and anxiety...we turn out all right, maybe better because of it."
She smiles. Not shy, or nervous, but the sort of smile I've learned to display when I'm happy, no inhibitions, just a pure sort of happy. "I'm glad," she says. "I don't feel this glad much."
I smile sadly. "I know. But you will."
She squeezes me tight. "Thank you for not giving up," she whispers. "It sounds like our future is great."
Great. I think. I haven't used that word to describe it, but I suppose it is. "It is great," I say, "Bumpy, but great. Coal needs pressure to become a diamond."554Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡsdZ03Cy8TO
She pulls back and away. "Thanks for talking with me!" she says. "I'm really proud of who I become, now!"
My heart warms. Maybe, just maybe, I can love myself like that one day, too. "I love you too."ns 22.214.171.124da2