"You are literally the happiest person I know!"
"I love how I can always count on you being happy."
"I swear, every time I see you, you're always smiling! It makes me happy just seeing it!"
"How are you always so happy?"
That girl. She smiles all the time and every time it reaches her eyes--"No," they correct. "That smile reaches her heart." She is the happiest person they have ever met and just being around her makes them happy too. She always knows what to say, always has an answer, and she's so easy to talk to. She is so sweet, that girl.
I do smile, quite often. Every now and then it really is genuine, but for the most part it is no more than a ghost sitting on my lips. I am drowning behind the smiles and nods and comforting words that I use to console my friends who don’t know and don’t understand. I have no one to console me. So I sit quietly and I smile.
That girl. The one in the back of church who always smiles at strangers and sings along to hymns. She is such a good person, so optimistic. She never does anything wrong, she’s like a saint--“Mother Teresa,” they cut in. “That’s our inside joke; my best friend is Mother Teresa.”
I’ll drink my coffee like I don’t question my very faith and ignore it when it burns my tongue.
That girl. She’s always there, always willing to listen. She does well in school and always has something uplifting or funny to say. She has such a nice family. Her life is so perfect. Just look through her photos; she is always smiling.
None of my friends know I went to therapy. But even there I was misread and labeled. Before I had a chance to pour my heart out, to break down and cry, my therapist smiled at me and said, “You really have things figured out. I don’t think there’s anything I could say that you haven’t already come to on your own. You’re a very inspirational girl, you know that? So strong. Your smile brings a lot of happiness, I hope you know. I should have you talk to some of the other girls I meet with. I think you could really help them.” The moment she said that, I shut down again, the smile planted firmly on my mouth. “Thank you.” No! I am so tired of lying when people ask me how I am. I am not strong; I’m a twisted ice sculpture of repression and I’m spiderwebbed with cracks. I need help, please. I don’t need you to tell me anything, I just need someone to listen, because no one listens. Don’t you understand? “Your smile brings a lot of happiness…” That’s why I can’t correct them. I can’t shatter that image they have of me because it would mean that they wouldn’t be quite as happy. I can’t take that away from them. I’d never want anyone to feel like this.
I think maybe people get so caught up in that girl’s smile that they don’t notice how that girl’s eyes are red from crying. They hear her laugh and don’t think to ask if that girl is okay. They are so comforted by her words filled with care that they don’t feel how broken that girl is just under the surface. They can’t see how that girl has been drowning for so long because they’re too busy breathing.
If I had no filter, if my friends could see how I am lonely all the time, how I never feel good enough, how I cry when I know everyone else is asleep, how I don’t even feel sad anymore, just empty… Well, I think I would become a stranger to them. Because without a filter, I just wouldn’t be That Girl.