I was 26 years old when I directed my first play. The play was a powerful drama about four angst-ridden teenage girls attempting to navigate the tempestuous waters of young adulthood. It hit so f*cking close to home, practically spelling out my life story.
And who was more perfect to direct a play about the trials and tribulations of teenage-dom than a formerly troubled (and currently recovered) teenage girl herself?
One of the stars of the play was a spectacular girl creature named Lilly.*
Now, when I tell you that Lilly was stunningly, mind-blowingly, drop-dead beautiful, I don't mean beautiful in the way that all girls are beautiful. I mean out-of-this world, magnificently, earth-shatteringly GORGEOUS.
She had a flowing sea of naturally flaxen blonde hair that perpetually shone with such a dramatic intensity that a light appeared to be beaming upon it. She had skin the color of melted honey offset by exotic emerald-colored eyes. She was a lifelong dancer and moved fluidly, with that effortless grace exclusive to ballerinas.
Her beauty was so pressingly apparent that it cut through the surface of her skin and exploded into her heart. She was kind. She had a massive, sensitive soul teeming with love.
Intelligence, kindness and beauty aside, Lilly's most unique and enviable quality was, by far, her comedic prowess. To date, I've never met a more hilarious entity and am positively certain in the deepest part of my heart that one day soon she will grace the screen of SNL.
Lilly had it all: Fierce personal style. A fiery personality. Ethereal aesthetic beauty. Deeply rooted character. A seemingly endless well of talent. Unmatched brainpower.
Which is why I was so sorely surprised when one mid-afternoon rehearsal, 15-year-old Lilly didn't quite seem like her emphatic self. She was the kind of special girl creature who usually burned so brightly that she appeared to be lit from within.
Once rehearsal subsided, I pulled her into my office.
"What's wrong, Lilly? You seem off today. Do you want to talk?"
I watched wistfully as a lone teardrop made its way down her 15-year-old cheek.
"Are you okay?" I pressed. I wanted to cry myself, for her acute pain was so innocent and so palpable and so triggering of my own harrowing stab at adolescence.
Sometimes simply asking another person if they're okay is all it takes to open the floodgates. Sometimes there's a whole world to be unlocked in a single teardrop.
Her teardrops quickly metamorphosed into sobs.
Apparently all of her "friends" had out-of-the-blue neglected her. She woke up one morning and stepped off the sickening yellow school bus to find she was no longer welcome at her table. They spread vicious, damaging rumors about her.
She was depressed. She was listless. She was fearful to set foot at school.
I remember when school didn't feel like a safe place. It's a horrible, all-consuming feeling. Wanting to disappear into the steel grey lockers, hoping and praying no one notices you as you float like a ghost sifting through the haunted hallways, is no way to spend high school.
As I keenly listened to her stories of bullying and hatred, I began to understand what all the hate was about.
It wasn't about her. She was a thriving, wildly fantastic individual. And her magnificence was precisely why she was hated.
My hazel eyes met her emerald ones. We were no longer in a director/actor dynamic. We were no longer in an adult/child dynamic. We were suddenly peers. Two women standing on equal ground, despite the 11 pivotal years standing between us.
I gave her a precious gem of advice that my older sister had given me. A golden token of wisdom that had carried me through those isolating teenager years:
"It's lonely on top,” I told her, staring blankly into her eyes.
It's a hard fact to swallow, but it's the stone cold truth: the incredible, life-changing, empowered, fierce girl creatures who get hated on by the mundane masses.
So girls, if you're receiving heaps of Internet hate, being trash talked by the bitches at the “popular table,” getting teased by f*ckboys, feeling alienated by your co-workers or perpetually shot with dirty looks at your family reunion, don't fret. It's just direct evidence that you, my ferocious babe, are doing everything RIGHT.
Because f*ck the haters. Every. Last. One. Of. Them.
You have your own style, which they will inevitably copy.
Lilly was unafraid to rock her ripped, studded denim shorts and bulky oversized sweaters in a culture where every girl wore a uniform of black leggings and American Eagle T-shirts, and disapproved of girls who didn't do the same.
But Lilly, like you, was just ahead of the curve.
All of the greatest fashion icons throughout history were teased for their fearless, unique points of view at some point in their lives. And you know what the funniest part is? The very same people who tease you for rocking your oversized flower crown to school are the same people who shamelessly sported them two years later at Coachella last spring.
You're a badass trendsetter. Everyone's hatred is rooted in the fact that he or she is jealous and doesn't have your f*cking brilliant vision and impeccable taste.
You say what the f*ck you mean, and they sugarcoat every word.
Lilly was the only girl fearless enough to speak up about gay rights to a teenage army of homophobes. And a girl who speaks her mind is one of the most feared individuals on the planet.
People fear what's unfamiliar or different. They are also afraid because they know they can't bullsh*t you, so they attempt to bully you into silence.
We have grown so accustomed to such a sugarcoating society that when someone is actually authentic, the masses don't know what to make of it. They are so thrown by your unabashed honesty that they freak the f*ck out.
I have two words for all of you who dare to speak up in the face of hatred: F*ck off.
As a female writer on the Internet, I understand this paradox all too well. But girl, don't ever stop speaking your gorgeous mind. Say what you mean. You're a trailblazer, and the boys in charge are simply afraid of your articulate prowess.
You love whomever you want to love.
As gorgeous as Lilly was, she never went for the popular guy. When you're an individual, you love for all of the right reasons. You're with your partner because you're attracted to his or her mind, body and f*cking soul, not because society deems this person "cool" or "popular."
You're experiencing pure love. Something that the people who are too caught up in the opinions of others will never, ever experience.
You're a girlbo$$.
People always hate a girl with big ambitions. It's because most of those people spend their entire lives wishing they had the guts, the work ethic, the fearlessness and the wherewithal to pursue their dreams like you.
Lilly was teased because of how focused she was on her career as an actress. But you, like Lilly, are a boss (or will be soon).
You're unashamed of your sexuality.
When I was in school, there were a few years that I harbored a pretty sour reputation. I experimented with one too many boys and was instantly deemed a "slut." For years I felt so ashamed and so hurt by the cruel names they called me.
And Lilly, like me, got called lewd names, too, just because she was a gorgeous girl who was comfortable in her body.
You know what? F*ck it. Sex is a beautiful thing. Loving your body is a beautiful thing. And as long you're doing it for YOU, there is no reason to feel embarrassed for having sex and enjoying it.
Bask in your sexual power, girl.
You're unafraid to be vulnerable.
Lily was an actress who was deeply in touch with her feelings. Creative people like her can't just shut their emotions off because it's deemed "uncool" at school. So she just owned them.
If you're a girl who cries in public, cries in movies, describes her feelings and is moved by the acute unjust of the world, I celebrate you. You're a beautiful person with a heart of gold.
There is nothing cool about being "removed" despite what they would like you to believe. Being vulnerable is the strongest thing you can do. What's the point of life without feeling?
You might feel the pain so deeply sometimes, but remember you also feel the joy, the lust and the love greater than anyone else on the planet.
You're going places they will never go.
Lilly now lives in Los Angeles and is killing it in her career. The same people who teased her are stuck in the same town dating the same boys they dated in high school.
Whether it's traveling the world, being a famous fashion designer, living an authentic life or starting your own company, you will see and experience things the haters will never, ever see.
It's like that Ani Difranco quote from her song “32 Flavors”:
And god help you if you are a phoenix And you dare to rise up from the ash A thousand eyes will smolder with jealousy While you are just flying past...
Keep flying past the haters, you gorgeous f*cking phoenix.