If Your Really Knew Me

Sometimes I think the only reason 
people remember my name is because they've all met a dog named Riley. It's usually a Labrador. 
Or maybe you remember my name because I'm that girl that skipped fourth grade and 
started high school at 13. Or maybe you remember me because I'm one of two sophomores in this class or because I'm graduating next year, at 16. 
I grew up fast, always looking way too old for my age. My friends and family used to 
play play the guess how old she is game. And surprisingly, it's still not funny.
I grew up fast more than just in my looks. I learned multiplication at seven, I was 
debating politics with my mom when I was eight, and I thought I was in love at nine.
But when you're a kid and all you can think is adult thoughts, it's hard to fit in. 
Because sometimes all adults see are flaws.
I grew up fast because I started looking in the mirror too often. It became my enemy, but 
I couldn't stay away from it either. Every time I looked I seemed to find one more thing wrong with the reflection staring back at me.
I tried to make myself walk away, but I was so determined to change whatever it was that 
I saw was wrong that day.
I started religiously straightening my hair in the sixth grade. I also found comfort in dying 
it a new color every week. Maybe if I changed everything - I would like what I saw.
Next came my face.
My eyes were too small. My nose was crooked from running into a wall. My eyebrows 
were too thick.
And after that? My weight.
I was growing up and getting bigger. My classmates all seemed to look like kids. But I 
didn't think that it was just a matter of different body shapes and sizes and that awkward middle school period where some of us look like we're five and some of us look like we're twenty. 
All I saw was the difference between my waist size and theirs.
I grew up too fast because I learned to hate myself early on. 
My stepmother hated me. She hated me because she had mental problems - but I just 
assumed she hated me for all of these imperfections I had. "Riley, if you keep dying your hair it will fall out." "Riley, don't put so much chocolate syrup on your ice cream - you're starting to look chunky." "Riley, stop being a smart ass little snot."
She said these things starting when I was eight.
She was just a little kid on the inside, but I was still a little kid on the outside.
I grew up too fast because when she left so did my dad. He wasn't gone, but he was never 
around. He'd ask me, "Riley, you don't care if I go out, right? You're just watching TV anyway." Of course I cared. Why didn't he want to spend time with me? What was wrong with me?
But I never said that. I said, "OK."
I grew up too fast because by the time I was twelve I didn't even want to keep living. And 
when I was sitting in that hospital all I could think about was how badly I wanted my flat iron and eyeliner. I wasn't thinking about my scars or that I couldn't stop crying at night or the fact that I couldn't force myself to eat.
I just wanted to straighten my hair because I looked like a member of an eighties metal 
I grew up too fast because my first kiss was with a guy six years older than me.
I grew up too fast because I had my first cigarette when I was twelve.
I grew up too fast because I was the only eighth grader on anxiety, depression and neurosis pills.
But then I stopped.
I don't exactly remember when. But I just stopped.
I didn't want to grow up any more or any faster. I wanted to slow down. How could I 
slow down? 
It started with baby steps. I stopped thinking about what or how much I was eating, and 
just ate. I stopped overthinking the way I looked and just believed for once that I was beautiful. I stopped hating myself.
It didn't happen overnight and it didn't happen easily. I slipped back over and over again. 
But I kept trying.
And now I'm here. My grades might suck but I don't tear out my hair over school 
anymore. My friends are the real kind. And I've had the kind of romance that was made for the movies.
So yes I grew up way too fast. And yes most people probably won't remember my name. 
But that's okay. Because I'm Riley and I can proudly say that I love me.
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