Dear Teen Me from Wattpad author Emily Lindin (THE UNSLUT PROJECT)

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Dear Teen Me,

Where you are right now, it's hard to breathe.

On the bus ride home, the girl who used to be your best friend, whom you had trusted with all your thoughts and silly ideas, took a survey. You had known she was up to something as she made her way to the front of the bus, turned around gripping the backs of the seats on either side of her, and stared right at you. You clasped your hands in your lap and examined the cracks in the red skin around your fingernails as she shouted: "Who on this bus thinks Emily Lindin is a slut?" 

You didn't dare look up. The rustling of arms being raised in the air and the roll of laughter sounded like they were coming from inside your own head. You concentrated on creating a blank, indifferent expression as you stared out the window, refusing to look up at the survey's results. The newly bare branches of the oak trees on the edge of the pavement blurred together into a single, cage-like pattern. You felt as if you suddenly took up too much space.

When the bus stopped, you made your way to the front without looking at anything in particular. Your throat and chest felt tight, like you were being suffocated by something trapped inside your own body.

You made it home. Your vision became blurry as you turned the key in the front door and let it close behind you. When you reached the living room, you stopped walking.

You got down on your knees, your heavy backpack still strapped awkwardly to your back. You thought you were going to pray for strength, but when you tried to begin, you were too humiliated. You felt disgusting in front of God, completely exposed. You stopped looking for the right prayer words, stopped thinking all together, and just rocked forward so your wet face was pressed into the couch cushion.

Where you are right now, it's hard to breathe.

But you will find air. Turn your face to the side, inhale, and let it all out in a loud sigh. Push yourself up off your knees, go put your backpack on the hook in the front hallway where it belongs, and listen:

This is not the last time you will be called a slut. It is not the last time you will feel that constriction in your chest and blood pounding behind your eyes. But each time you feel this, you will wake up the next morning and maybe your face will be splotchy and red, maybe it will be hard to move your limbs, but you'll have survived. And each time following that you will remember what it was like, that feeling of surviving, and soon all the memories of all the surviving will outweigh the memories of pain. You will say to yourself, "This hurts. But I recognize this feeling, and I know that it will only last so long. I have survived before and I will survive now." 

And then, not only will you survive, you will be happy. You will experience love, you will figure out how to accept it, and you will become comfortable giving it freely. You will be grateful for the peace in your life, the choices available to you, and the ease with which you can move through the world. And you will find joy in helping those who aren't so lucky.

All this goodness will be your life. But first, you have to breathe.

Emily Lindin is a Harvard graduate, PhD candidate, and freelance writer living in California. In April 2013, she founded The UnSlut Project, inspired by her own experience. When she was eleven years old, she was branded a "slut" by her classmates and was bullied at school, after school, and online. During all this, she kept a regular diary.

The UnSlut Project began as Emily's own middle school diary entries, published one at a time, without changing a word and with limited commentary. Now, it has expanded to include the collected stories of many women who suffered slut shaming and sexual bullying but have overcome it in various ways.

The UnSlut Project has two goals: to reach out to girls who are currently suffering and offer them some hope for the future; and to demonstrate the extent of sexual bullying and "slut shaming" in our schools, communities, media, and culture, so that we might all work toward change.

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