Don’t read the comments.

I’ve heard “don’t read the comments” so many times. But I’ve never had to take the advice because, well, I don’t usually get a lot of comments on my work. That’s the beautiful thing about writing things that no one reads: your words just belong to you, safely and securely. 

I thought I had gotten past that perception. Recently, I decided to stop locking my words away from other people. And for about a year, I was able to without any pain. But then I wrote a post for a blog. And it was published somewhere else. And people linked to it on social media. And suddenly way more people read my work than I’m used to. At first, it was absolutely exhilarating. No, my article wasn’t exactly becoming super popular, but people were reading it. People were responding to it in a positive way. It made me so happy, I couldn’t even put my feelings to words. For most of this summer, I’ve been doubting myself. I haven’t really vocalized those doubts to anyone, but I’ve felt them. I think change does that to people; change fills people with doubt. I kept wondering “what do I even want from my life? What do I even want to do with my writing? What if I was wrong about everything? What if I have no idea?”

When I saw that my article had inspired people, even on a small scale, my doubt washed away. I remembered the importance of stories and the importance of truth. I remembered why I love words and why I could never abandon storytelling.

That all happened yesterday and I felt wonderful.

But this morning, when I went online, there were more comments. “Don’t read the comments” didn’t even cross my mind. My article wasn’t even controversial. I’m seventeen. I’m a little incoming freshman. I realize now that none of this matters. I realize now that if people feel like tearing someone to pieces, none of that matters. 

I wanted to respond to the negative comment in a sassy way, telling the person that he probably didn’t even read my article and whatever else. But I wasn’t feeling sassy then. I was actually crying. And I’m not the kind of person who can easily say something didn’t affect me at all when it did affect me. 

I’m going to be honest. I didn’t sit there and think about ways to insult this person. I didn’t sit there and think about how this person is a loser who has nothing better to do than insult someone’s article on a publication that he apparently doesn’t even like anyways. 

I sat there and cried. I sat there and tried to think of a way to respond, but nothing felt authentic. If I were to tell the truth to him, I would have to say 

You hurt me. For a brief minute, you absolutely destroyed me. You made me feel so worthless, so awful, so stupid for having faith in the human population. Is that what you wanted? Does that make you happy? 

But I didn’t say that. I didn’t say anything. And suddenly, just when I found the courage to raise my voice, I felt silenced again.

It astonishes me. It completely baffles me. I could never wrap my head around why someone would insult someone for no reason, especially on the internet, especially to a stranger. I can’t help but think of all the people who have to deal with this so often. The people who feel the constant agony of logging onto social media but do it anyways. The people who are affected by this so deeply. Because, honestly, everyone says “don’t read the comments,” but how many people actually listen?

Because we’re all human. We all have stupid faith in the human population sometimes. We all want to inspire people. We all want to be inspired. We all want to believe in people. Sometimes we all are just waiting to hear “you’re not awful, you’re not worthless, you’re not alone.”

Forgive me for thinking that believing in people isn’t stupid. Forgive me for writing a story about what I felt. Forgive me for being honest and broken and vulnerable and human.

I realize now that I’m not sorry. 

Do you read the comments? How do you deal with negative comments on your work? 

 

P.S. You’re not worthless.

 

Dream big,

Paige 

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coming clean

As a young girl, I was obsessed with Hilary Duff. I watched Lizzie McGuire frequently and had all of Hilary’s CDs. I’d picture myself standing in the rain, dramatically shouting the words to “Come Clean” like in the music video. I’d picture myself as a teenager, putting on red lipstick while listening to “Wake Up.” During “So Yesterday,” I’d see myself walking the streets of some imagined city, surrounded by flowers and local markets and friendly people. “Fly” reminds me of an exact moment with my cousins after our bond had been strengthened by a family loss. I still hear my cousin whispering to me in the darkness while her friends were in the other room; we had something that connected us, something that seemingly could not be broken. But “Why Not” was another story. “Why Not” was my ultimate spin-happily-in-a-circle-while-wearing-a-summer-dress song. It was the kind of song that made me twirl around until I got dizzy and jump on my trampoline until I fell over. 

“Why not take a crazy chance?”

I had always wanted to believe that I lived my life with this “why not” outlook. I liked to think I was carefree, fearless, and ambitious. 

It’s absolutely crazy that these songs can be a part of our lives for so long without us making sense of them for; that these songs can be our anthems without ever actually guiding us until much later when we don’t even listen to them anymore.

Because I could twirl around in my dress in my living room all I wanted, but I didn’t learn how to embrace “why not” until my junior year of high school when I stopped letting my fears dictate my life. When I started going to zumba classes and truly doing “a crazy dance.” When every day started to feel like “a crazy chance.” A crazy, beautiful, worthwhile chance.

I could listen to my cousin’s stories and feel connected to her, but I didn’t learn about how relationships fall apart until I was 14 and we lost that connection without any sort of warning. I didn’t understand before that “flying” takes a lot of trying. 

I could imagine myself as a teenager or an adult, thinking that I had everything figured out, but that wouldn’t make me figure anything out in the future. I didn’t learn this until recently. All my life, I wanted to be sure of myself. I wanted to have everything figured out. I wanted this so badly that I convinced myself it was true. Easily, I could make myself believe that I knew exactly where I wanted to be and exactly how I would get there. But the truth is that I don’t know everything. I don’t know exactly where I will go. I have so many interests. I have so many goals. I stumble and fall a lot. I keep going, sometimes turning in other directions. I stay up late, trying to figure out what I’m going to do. I make lists. I cross off what I’ve written only a day later. I go back and forth trying to figure everything out.

But the words Hilary sang were right all this time: “If you lose a moment, you might lose a lot…”

And that’s what I’ve been doing: passing up moments. Skipping the chapter of my life where I put on red lipstick and “wake up, wake up on a Saturday night.” Bottling up what I feel instead of just “coming clean.” Imagining myself as a “bird that’s already flown away,” without even allowing myself to leave the ground.

Thank you, Hilary, for the metamorphosis.

Thank you, Hilary, for the metamorphosis.

I’m coming clean now, and it’s more than me just shouting to myself in my imagination. It’s me taking control of my life. It’s me repairing the broken relationships and embracing “why not” and enjoying the moment and exploring the world around me. It’s me finally, finally taking the advice that Hilary Duff’s CD gave me years ago: “go, baby, go.” 

 

Paige Sheffield 

the truth

I’m not often one to display my emotions in public. Because of this, I’ve gotten various comments such as “you don’t seem like the type of person who cries very often” or “you seem so sure of yourself.”

I have two main problems with these statements.

1) Just because I don’t often display my emotions doesn’t mean that I don’t have any.

2) Just because some people display their emotions doesn’t mean they’re weak.

Holding back what I feel sometimes in no way makes me strong. I think being in touch with your emotions and owning them is one of the most powerful traits you can possess. Because when we, as humans, hide our emotions, we’re hiding something important: the truth.

The truth is that we’re human and we feel things. It’s not something to be ashamed of. It’s not something that makes us weak. 

The truth is that I sometimes read through old messages. I let the words hit me, just wanting them to give me the butterflies they gave me before, but the words feel old and word out. Out of context. Like they belong to someone else. Like they were never really mine and I never really read them the right way. They lose their magic, just like that, and yet I continually let it happen. 

I try to repeat the previous night, playing it out in my head and thinking about what could’ve happened differently, knowing that I can’t change a thing. 

I hold on to so many things, just waiting for them to come back to life. Just letting the faded memories make me feel guilty somehow, like I should’ve held on longer. Like I should’ve somehow kept everything going all at once, even though I never possibly could. 

I constantly try to recreate butterflies but it leaves me empty. We can’t create butterflies out of feelings and moments and people that have flown away from us. We have to get out there and let ourselves feel again.

More of July 094

That’s right-feel again. Because feeling isn’t stupid or worthless or “feminine” or pathetic. It’s human. Letting our feelings guide us and motivate us isn’t foolish. If we don’t chase after what we feel to be right, what we really believe in, what we love fully and imperfectly, we can’t expect to ever end up where we want to be. We can’t expect to be happy. 

I’m trying to embrace my feelings. I’m trying to chase my dreams despite my rapid conflicting thoughts. I’m trying to chase after what I want without feeling ashamed of it.

Because we’ll never feel butterflies if we just keep watching them fly away. 

 

Paige Sheffield

impact.

Recently, one of my friends and I went to visit a woman who truly influenced us as writers. Prior to meeting her, I had little confidence in myself and my writing. I didn’t call myself a writer because I didn’t believe I was one and I was afraid to share my writing with anyone. That year, I finally read a poem out loud. That was five years ago.

Since then, I have handed out my feelings to everyone at my school by writing vulnerable and honest feature columns in my school newspaper. I have started this blog. I have written for various websites. I even wrote a speech and spoke at my graduation!

It’s weird to think about how everything would be different if I hadn’t been encouraged five years ago. As we were walking into the bookstore, though, I thought “what is she doesn’t remember us?” My friend assured me that she would.

She didn’t. Five years is a long time. I can’t expect people to remember me after that long. Except I remembered her so distinctly. I remembered so many details and moments and that’s what hurt me. Those moments from five years ago shaped who I am. And she didn’t remember anything about me.

Five years ago, I gave her the words from my heart that I had never shared with anyone. And then, she gave me generic words. Words that felt like they didn’t fit the connection we had, that didn’t stretch to encompass all that she taught me.

I wasn’t upset, really. When I thought about it, I wasn’t even that surprised. Sometimes, people impact you more than they realize. They impact you more than you impact them because you’re at different points in your lives, you’re seeking different lessons, and you have your own problems that have their own misplaced answers. She gave me my answers five years ago. And she even gave me an answer I needed recently. Because we also have to understand that sometimes we impact people more than we realize. We spend so much time thinking about who we miss and who broke our hearts. Truthfully, many of these people probably don’t even know that they hurt us or helped us.

We let ourselves be the bruised ones. The forgotten ones. The heart broken ones. And maybe we are. We are all of those things at times. But that doesn’t mean that we’ve left no bruises other places. That doesn’t mean that we haven’t forgotten anything or anyone. That doesn’t mean that we haven’t hurt people’s hearts.

Right now, maybe you’re thinking of someone who isn’t thinking about you. Someone who doesn’t even remember you.
But right now, maybe someone you don’t even remember is thinking about you.

Sometimes, the people who we want to remember us don’t remember us. At least, not in the way that we want them to.
But that doesn’t mean we haven’t forgotten the details of someone who never wanted to be forgotten. Someone who still remembers everything.

Feelings are hard to forget. They blare through the songs we listen to and sneak into the books we read and display themselves in the movies we watch. They follow us through different parts of town and make themselves at home within certain areas of our houses.

Memories fade. We remember and forget again. But we’re not simply forgotten.
I guarantee you that someone has woven you into a song. I guarantee you that whenever he or she hears that song, memories pierce through the lyrics.

Paige Sheffield