Self-Portrait | Olivia Laughlin

Written by: Olivia

I think about my past often, but never with much structure. Here’s the thing: 5 years ago, I was 12. I have kind of a shame in that. I mean, I am only 17. What could I possibly know about life? Then, I realized that maybe my progress is even more interesting than that of an older person. It was during the last 5 years that I turned from child into teenager. This is one of the most important times of a human’s life.

In 2011, I was in 5th grade, the first year of middle school. My school district was known for having very little money and containing many “troubled youth”. Many of them were from rough neighborhoods and had difficult family situations, making school education the least of their worries.

When I was in middle school, I saw 5th grade as one of my best years because I felt it was the grade in which I was most popular. I remember teachers talking about how preppy I was with my uniform, pearls, and ballet flats. I did very well in classes, as I always had. I believe my success was a result of having a supportive family and a fairly simple life. Of course, my family had problems, but I did not know of them yet, and none of them affected me as harshly as having a broken home or a parent in prison.

My classmates were forced to grow up long before I was. They listened to explicit rap music, and Nicki Minaj was their role model. Not fitting in with the majority, it was easier for me to tell myself that I was superior. My friends and I were known as the sweet, academic white girls. I remember making the top of the hot list and a boy asking me out because I could read fast. These were the types of things I took pride in.
Olivia 5 years ago & Olivia today. 
Olivia 5 years ago & Olivia today. 

These days, I find my purpose in my creativity, my individuality, my music, my style. I remember the teachers telling my friends not to comfort me when I cried for being called a bitch (I’ve always been a crybaby!). It feels like someone else’s past. I remember how anxious I was when my math class went to play basketball with the athletes from March Madness. That’s one thing that hasn’t changed.

I remember doing so many stupid and regretful things. I was close-minded. I thought that my way was the best way, and I couldn't understand why anyone would do differently. I like to think that my mind has been opened in the past 5 years. I just realized that’s probably a very teenagery thing to say, but it’s true. I know that people have their own reasons for doing things a certain way. It’s so strange to hear my friends talk about my past. They open up about how I made them feel. I hurt so many people without thinking, and I know I still do. At first, I thought I was going to write about how horrible I was then and how great I am now, but everyone knows that’s not how life works.

12… Before my period and my depression and my move and the first time I dyed my hair. It was before I had given up on being a popular cheerleader, even though I couldn’t do a cartwheel or the splits. The truth is, I know all of the poor qualities still linger within me somewhere. The difference is that I see all my flaws so clearly now, for better or for worse.

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