Dear Jerry Spinelli,
As I look in the mirror I toss my hair and use my hand to tweak my face. “What is that?” I wonder as I look at a weird mark that has mysteriously appeared. I look down at what I am wearing and contemplate if everyone will approve of my outfit. I think about what I am doing and walk away. I feel ashamed. “Does everyone else feel this way?” I ponder.
When Stargirl looks in the mirror she likes what she sees. Stargirl doesn’t care about who likes her outfit. She feels most confident when she is herself. In your book, when Leo confronts Stargirl about spending all of her time helping others I couldn’t help but feel like I should defend her. I found myself wanting to yell back at him that there is nothing wrong with that.
Until reading your book Stargirl, I had never deeply thought about how much time I spent asking myself if people would like my clothes or if my hair was pretty. When I realized the amount of time I spent on this dilemma, I felt superficial and self-conscious. We are all so obsessed with trying to fit in that we don’t realize that what makes us different is what makes us special.
The first time I read your book I was in 4th grade. As a fourth grader I had heard the phrase “be yourself” a lot, but I never quite understood it as I was too young and I wasn’t yet facing the problems of peer pressure. I got the message to be kind. It inspired me. For awhile I dropped pennies wherever I went and I read the newspaper and sent flowers anonymously to people just like Stargirl did in your book. These all made me feel wonderful, or as Stargirl would say my “happy wagon” was full. I can’t remember the exact moment I went from a confident, cheery little girl to a self-conscious middle schooler, but it was sometime after 4th grade and before 7th. Like a fish, I became caught in the net of images we see in pop culture. Things like what I wore and how my hair looked became more important to me. Then I read Stargirl again. I realized that the things I was spending most of my time on weren’t
as important as friends, family, and being kind. I will admit that sometimes I still find myself looking in the mirror and questioning whether or not I look alright, but now something is different. I’ve balanced this thinking with an understanding that what is on the inside is always more beautiful. Caring about your appearance and trying to impress others is a natural part of life and not to get all sciency and stuff, but it is how animals attract mates.
I wish I had realized earlier that we are all made of “starstuff”. The particles that make up all of the important people in history are the same things that make up me. And the things that make up the smallest ant also make up the largest star. We are all the same yet we are all different, and what makes us different is what makes us special. As Stargirl meditates, she crumbles the barrier between herself and her surroundings, so that she can be one with everything else. Sometimes when I have trouble focusing or I can’t fall asleep I try this and I feel comforted to realize that my problems and stresses are miniscule compared to what is going on light years away or maybe only as far away as the next house. I also feel this way when I play the cello or sing. It makes me feel whole to be part of something bigger than myself. What I learned from reading your book is that there is a difference between being a part of something and being exactly like everything or everyone else within that group.
As humans, the best things we can do are to be considerate and to accept others’ differences because that is what makes life interesting. Just imagine a life where everyone was the same and we all had the same interests. A world like that is not somewhere I would like to live. Thank you, Mr. Spinelli, for showing me what is important in life and teaching me how to be myself. Those are things that I will never forget and they will help me become a better person.