The Mean Girls Made Me Resilient

September 13
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Every day between second period and third period I would stop by the bathroom that was near my locker. Mainly to meet with my core group of girlfriends for a quick morning check-in and to thicken the layer of Covergirl powder on my face. But there were also days when I did have to actually use the bathroom. And it was on one of those days when my bladder was calling that I exited the stall just in time to catch a glimpse of an arm depositing a folded up square of notebook paper onto my pile of textbooks before dashing off into the herd of 8th graders in the hallway. With no time to consider why my friends didn’t meet me in the bathroom, I jogged to my classroom, making it to my seat in Economics just before the bell rang.

As I settled into class and the teacher began her lesson, I eagerly opened the note delivered by the mystery arm. This was going to be a juicy one — three college ruled pages, covered front and back! After the first paragraph, my chest was running out of room for my lungs. By the end of the first page, the sound of my teacher’s voice had been drowned out by a loud buzzing. And as I flipped the second page from front to back, my cheeks were stinging from the heat of my tears. Which is saying a lot because there was a good half inch of powder those tears had to penetrate before reaching skin.

You’ll have to excuse the brevity of my paraphrasing here, but I feel this synopsis captures the essence of the (technically) six page note.

Dear Autumn,

You made cheerleading and now you suck. You’re dead to us.

Signed,
All Your Friends Who Were Hanging Out And Laughing With You Yesterday

P.S. We scratched your initial off all the acronyms we made with the first letter of our names. 
P.P.S. We are spreading the word that you suck.
P.P.P.S. Maybe a little more light-handed with the Covergirl?

(OK, so I made that last one up, but I just needed to say that to my 14-year-old self.)

It was some classic collective Mean Girl shit and it’s one of the best things that’s ever happened to me. After passing through phase one (Total Devastation) of being the recipient of a handwritten missive, I started to dip my toe into phase two (What Now?). The reality of this situation was that I had to face these gals every day for the remainder of the school year and I decided quickly I wasn’t going to allow them to break my spirit.

As I was laying awake in bed that night, struggling to stop the loop of harsh words from those girls, I decided it was best to be prepared with a plan for the next day. It became clear I needed to wear the dopest outfit I owned — which came from Benneton (obvi). But more importantly than strutting to World History in my United Colors, I needed to be mentally equipped for maximum awesomeness.

In order to do this, I told myself that I was going to be extra nice to everyone at school. My upbeat mood would be infectious! I promised myself that under no circumstances would I stoop to the level of the letter creators, and instead would smile politely at them should they cross my path. Nothing and no one was going to stand in the way of an incredible day. It was happiness or bust, bitches be damned.

And you know what? It worked. The day after I received a group note informing me that I was a total loser was a banner day. I had successfully completely my mission of rocking the pants off of a good day. (Even if those pants were of the MC Hammer variety.) Being more than pleased with the results, I decided to use this strategy again that night, telling myself how phenomenal the next day would be before drifting off to sleep. Each day that followed became one to top the previous day.

After I got my groove back, I started to forget about my nightly ritual of pumping myself up, yet over the years I’ve come back to this tool time and again to get in the right state of mind. Whatever it is I need to usher in for the next morning, I create positively in my mind the night before. Waking up early, exercising, working, dealing with my kids — it’s all so much more enjoyable and possible when I psyche myself up 12 hours in advance.

I’m crazy proud of my teenage self for being so badass, and I’m deeply grateful to her for providing me with a blueprint to hack my mood and productivity. There are plenty of adages along the lines of, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” But mine is more personal. I like to say, “the mean girls made me resilient.”

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