You’re a hard guy to get a hold of sometimes. You choose to be alone a lot even though you hate it. I’ve never been able to figure that one out.

You’re cringing right now. Because you’d rather talk about nothing. And you know that if I’m writing to you, it’s something. You’re also cringing because I’m putting it up where everyone can see it.

But I I don’t know how else to reach you.

I don’t know who I am exactly. I know I’m part of you. I’m the voice that says “You got this,” when the going looks tough. I’m the soothing voice that tries to take down every doubt you throw at me. I’m the warrior you need to rise up and strike down fear and depression and anguish. And I’m hoping there’s a warrior behind me, because I’m running out of energy. I’m getting tired.

I’ve been saying the same thing for years now.

Since before you were 19.

And before that. When you were still young but old enough to wonder why it was so much harder for you to make friends. Why eye contact always seemed to put stones in your stomach. Why words, with their sharp edges, would clog your throat and squeak back down. Why thoughts would flee in panic from a simple question.

I remember when a new kid transferred into your class. Everyone adored him. It had been 4 or five years since first grade and we were ready for some new faces. Well, your classmates were. You were happy that someone else was distracting the familiar strangers for a while. Fewer eyes on you.

One day you were hanging out with the new kid. How exactly it happened, I don’t remember. You were out with Brian and through the web of friendships, somehow, you ended up climbing trees with a group of kids. You were in the trees in the prairie near the mobile home park. And the new kid looked at you like he didn’t know who you were. Even though you had spent the better part of the school year in the same classroom. You saw him more that you saw your own brother, but in the trees it was like he was seeing you for the first time. And he said, “You know, everyone told me you were weird and I should stay away from you. But I think you’re all right.”

A few words on a completely forgettable afternoon that you haven’t been able to forget.

Because those words confirmed your deepest fear. Your classmates were whispering about you. They did think you were weird.

So I stepped up my efforts.

That revelation seemed to open the flood gates. And that’s when I realized the enormity of the job I had to do. I realized that I was the firewall against all the hurt that was coming. Hurt that didn’t seem to have a source. Yes, it hurt to know that your classmates thought you were weird, but you did have a few friends. And the new kid actually seemed to disagree with the consensus. Everything else in your life was fine. No death. No divorce. No disease. No displacement. So where was the hurt coming from? It was more powerful than the slight shunning of your classmates. It was older than that, too.

I pursued it. And I found it. When I looked into the deepest pits of your emotions. When I gazed down and down and finally looked at the face of your enemy, I remember the ice that gripped me. Because it was you looking back at me.

Or at least a version of you. Like I am.

And he was smiling. He was confident. He was getting comfortable.

Because he knew you’d fucking believe anything he said.

He still knows.

Every time he whispers a fear or a doubt. When he tells you you’re worthless. When he tells you that everyone else is better than you. Anyone else. He’ll tell you that you are less than. Always less than. He’ll point out that all the things you love, don’t love you back. And maybe it’s time you accept that and quit fighting the truth. And quit fighting.

I’ve been saying the same thing for years. But I don’t know how to talk you out of believing the worst.

I don’t know how to make you take a compliment.

I don’t know how to make you feel worthy.

I don’t know how to pick you and keep you up.

I’ve been saying the same thing: you’re worthy.

You always have been.

You can let my adversary deny it, mock it, reason against it with all of his arguments. But there’s no fucking way I’m going to let you ignore it.

I can’t.

I’ve been saying the same thing for years.

But it’s time for you to help me. To do that, all you have to do is believe me.

Here I am, shouting and screaming and going to war for you. Reminding you of all the things you have done and done well and done right. All the good you generate and all the very real hope you can build on.

Look at what you’ve done in such a short amount of time. You abandoned the security of a well-paying union job as a laborer to get a college degree and begin a new writing career at 32. Your world shook. You fled from safety while getting married, buying a house, and becoming a dad for the first time. While losing your dad. 2002-2007 were extremely tough years. But you hung in there. We hung in there. I did my best to convince you that  you deserved a place at the conference table in between panic attacks. That a tie looked good on you. That what you said mattered.

Take a breather. Just bear with me a little longer.

I’m putting these words here so you can’t ignore them. You might not believe them. You might think they’re pissy or pathetic. Or just some weak-willed pity party that I’ve arbitrarily invited everyone to join. But that’s okay. Because goddamn you’ve spent a lot of time believing you’re worthless. You’ve spent a lot of energy agreeing with my adversary that you are undeserving of praise. You’ve used up many more words than I have telling yourself that you’re a failure.

One word that you’ve expressed in so many ways. Powerfully. Silently. Consistently.

I want you to understand that I’m here to end that.  I will spend forever trying to convince you that you’re not a failure. I might grow weary. But I won’t waver. And I’ll never give up.

Don’t give up on me.