What To Remember When It Feels Like You Don’t Matter


So you think you’re small. You think you were born to be quiet and blend into a wall of neutral and pass on your toes. You are surprised when somebody mentions your name. You turn to look behind you to check they weren’t speaking to someone else. You are almost relieved when you find that they are. You have perfected the art of just getting by.

You live in the space in-between. Your life is a series of waiting. You are the one at home, two feet pulled onto the chair and a cold plate of dinner staring back at the hungry clock face. You collect breathing air like privileges. You hold the door open for one person and then continue holding it for the next until a whole stream of people have passed through. They barely look at you, let alone thank you. You wait behind the door until they have all filed through and then you slip between the crack. It’s enough, you think. It’s fine. You’ve shrunken your voice down into a whisper of noise and then you boxed it up for future use. You agree because assent is easy and it’s an automatic movement.

When other people demand to know what’s wrong with you, you mumble replies that are half-truths even if you don’t want to answer. Because, somehow, you think you owe them an explanation. You feel like you have to justify yourself. You have to rationalize your life. When you walk down the street, you tiptoe between the pavement cracks. You feel the wind blow behind you and wait for the leaves to cover up any sign you were here. If you believe it of yourself, other people will believe it too.

Don’t look away first. Don’t pull your shoulders forward and down, down where they can’t see you. Don’t settle. Don’t wait. You cannot pick up the leftovers and contend yourself with that. See the things you deserve in Technicolor clarity. Because you are deserving. But just because you deserve something doesn’t mean you are automatically entitled to it. Sometimes you have to fight for your oxygen. You have to stake a claim on it and guard it jealously when others come near. This is your goddamn air and they can find their own. They cannot take yours.

You must know you are not small. You are not the girl to be yelled at over the counter, or the boy to scuff his shoes and laugh off a cruel comment. You exist in your entirety. You are whole. Even when they chip around your edges, even when they take the pieces away, you remain. You stretch out wide and far. You are as visible and real and tangible as any other human. Your opinion is important. Your dreams are valid.

You have the right to chase after what you want if you want to. But you have to cultivate your wanting. You have to believe in your own velocity. And you must be brave to venture into acceleration, with or without the brakes. Perhaps you have a soft voice, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be big. It doesn’t mean you can’t be heard. You don’t have to be louder to do that. Other people just need to be quiet when they’re listening to you.

featured image – Lauren Rushing