Have you ever felt like someone took one look at you and in a millisecond had already formed an opinion about you? Maybe it’s out of a bad habit and I’m sure we’re all guilty of committing this before, but I feel as though this has happened to me on numerous occasions. I’ve seen it in the face of strangers and even heard it confided to me from those who became friends later on. And it’s always the same persona they’ve compiled in their head – Quiet. Put together. Snobby maybe. Spoiled. Maybe if we took the time, made the effort, trained our brains, we might find out differently.
I grew up changing schools a total of 7 times that were polar opposite atmospheres. From inner city, to private, to small town. With never enough time to settle in, make permanent friends, and display my personality, which turned my naïve and bubbly attitude to painfully shy, I felt I was an outcast most of the time and experienced bullying. I grew up with little confidence – too afraid to ever speak my peace for fear being shut down like I was used to. I tried to make friends, participate in sports and clubs, and carry on like normal, but I never let myself feel truly welcome. My family life was fine, somewhat turbulent. Nobody outside of my family would have guessed it though. From the time I was 11 I have had a sibling who struggles with depression try to commit suicide so many times I’ve lost count. Whatever I was dealing with inside had to be set aside so I could be strong for my parents, my sibling, and myself.
It wasn’t until my senior year of high school that the sinking really set in. This should’ve been one of the happiest times of my life. Graduation, college plans, friends that should have been fueling my happiness felt like an big empty nothing. I had absolutely no will to go to school. In fact, I spent one particular day crying in my mom’s bed begging her to stay home with me because I was just so, so sad. I probably missed close to a third of school that year. Some way I pressed through, began college, broke loose from a bad relationship, transferred schools, made new friends, fell into another not so great relationship, and I could feel the sinking set in yet again.
This time was so much worse. I ended up finally seeing my doctor who said I was majorly stressed. School was stressing me. My relationship was stressing me. And then my family found out my sweet grandma was dying. I just didn’t want to live anymore. I laid in bed seriously contemplating how I could commit suicide and why should I be alive. But my poor parents. I had seen them face that situation too many times – I didn’t have it in me to hurt them that way. I was their strong child, the one they could confide in and fall into. So I took the pills my doctor gave me. I broke off my cruddy relationship. My family stuck together while my grandma passed. And I kept going. I just kept going.
And then, without notice, I met the love of my life. I recently graduated college with a Bachelor of Science. I worked my butt off and landed a job before school even finished – I was and am incredibly proud of myself. I persist everyday to positively impact someone else’s life because I know how bad I wished somebody would have just seen me.
My story isn’t terribly tragic. I haven’t experienced anything that millions of others have not. But life has ups, downs, happy people, sad people, and everything in between. If we stopped ourselves before our judgement can be cast on somebody, before we just walk past them with no idea they are about to let themselves become engulfed in this internal monster, imagine how different the world would be. Imagine how connected we would be to those around us and how even your smallest, tiniest acts of kindness can turn someone’s day 180 degrees. I don’t look like I battle depression on a daily basis. A lot of us don’t. We’re students, veterans, mothers, first responders, pop stars, and so on. So the next time you look at somebody, no matter what they’re wearing, their skin, their hairstyle, accent, habits – just try to see them. Really, truly see them.
Bio: My name is Kristina Netherton. I am a 23 year old recent college graduate. I am a lover of people and a firm believer in small acts of kindness.