Franklin Middle School, Cedar Rapids
Dear Mr. Spinelli,
When I started reading your book "Stargirl", I was in a really bad place in my life. I was stuck in a darkness that had consumed my mind and I had given up on stretching and grasping helplessly for a ray of light to pull me out. Mostly, just really having trouble accepting myself. To be honest, I hated myself. I acquired your book by chance, but as they say, everything happens for a reason. I started reading it and for a while, it helped distract me from what I was going through, but then I started to see that I could relate to “Stargirl” because we were both different, yet she was so much happier and comfortable with herself. I thought I would never be able to get there.
I started reading "Stargirl" in fourth grade, and I was in my second full year at my school. So, unlike Stargirl, I had had some time to adjust and adapt to my surroundings, and yet, Stargirl was more comfortable on her first day than I was in my second year. She was confident enough to carry around a rat for goodness sakes, and sing to people in front of the entire cafeteria, yet I was still too insecure to raise my hand and answer a question I knew I had the right answer to.
On my first day at my new school, I asked to be someone's friend and she told me that I had to pay her and bring her fresh baked cookies every day. Everyone laughed and joined in on casting me out. Unlike Stargirl, I had trouble just letting this roll off my back. It really got to me, because I had never been bullied before, and I didn't know how to handle it. I didn't understand why these people were being so cruel, I wondered what I had done to make them dislike me so much. All my life I had been sheltered in a bubble that made me see the world as all sunflowers and ukuleles. These kids had come in with their needles of hateful words and spite, and punctured not only this bubble, but my heart. I sat there and bled self-esteem until nothing was left. I was emptied of my self-love and at the same time filled to the brim with hatred, not for those who had hurt me, but for myself.
I yearned to be more like Stargirl, to be able to wear whatever I wanted and not be self-conscious in the slightest. But I had this intense craving to be like the popular kids, to fit in, to be accepted. Along with the need to fit in though, being a young child, I felt the need to do exactly what my teachers told me, and that was always tell the bully how they make you feel. But how can they not understand that the purpose of bullying is to hurt, so by telling them that they are offending you, you're telling them what to keep doing. I felt helpless and confused as to why these techniques weren't working. I thought that teachers were supposed to know everything. But nothing worked until I read "Stargirl".
As I read your book, I began to act more and more like Stargirl. She was and still is my idol. I walked a little taller in the hallways, until my head was brushing the ceiling. I started embracing my differences, and I decided that I wouldn't let the bullies get to me, because how could anyone else love me if I didn't love myself first? It took me a long time to really start loving myself, but Stargirl was with me every step of the way. Whenever I get insecure or someone says something mean, I think of Hillari and Stargirl after the Ocotillo Ball. She reminds me that when our enemies hurt us, instead of hurting them back, we must perform an act of kindness and love, we have to control our own fate, and make the decision whether or not to love ourselves.
I think that finally after years of working at it, I've decided to accept myself. It's true that I like myself and I am well on my way to loving myself most days. I still have bad days, when the hurt is just too much, and the kids just won't let up though. Those are the days when I can't think of anything other than the days in elementary school and the darkness consumes me. On those days, I balance on the edge of my emotions, the darkness always there beckoning and the slightest comment or glance can send me tumbling back into utter tenebrosity. Pitch black, no hope of coming back out after being tossed in and dragged out time and time again. Those days would usually be over when the day is over, but sometimes I have bad spells that last a week or two even.
Those are the times when I need to be Stargirl, not just act like her. So I put on extravagant outfits and walk with confidence, I smile at random people, and when they smile back, I add another pebble to my happy wagon, and I don't stop when it becomes too heavy to pull. I start a new wagon.
Thank you for writing Stargirl. Thanks to you I have regained the will to pull myself out of the dark and keep myself in the light, dodging the shadows, swinging myself out on the rays of self confidence. I am in a better place in my life now and I plan to stay here.
Love, Kennedy Wilson