I recently got a series of long and eloquent letters from a girl at my summer camp. I never talked to her much: she was younger than me, and we never did the same activities.

But it turns out she noticed me, which is strange. I wasn’t very interesting, and I am not that good at talking to people in general. And this summer was rough. It was a couple months after my mom died. I had just left a school I hated and had no real friends. I had discovered a self-destructive part of myself, and all sorts of bad things came with that: hours spent staring into space, self-harm, not doing my homework.

I kind of envied the other girls. Though I was sure they weren’t, their lives seemed perfect, including Letter Writer’s. She was quiet and sweet and seemingly carefree. I knew she was very smart and taking honors classes, even though she was in middle school. I respect intelligence, and I respect achievement more. I envied her—she didn’t have whatever kept me from being successful.

Her letters made me realize that she’s a real person, not a reflection of who I want to be. And she looked up to me. That was the crazy part. I would kill to be “the smart one,” to do well, to be assured of a great future. I have felt helpless and pathetic for so infinitely long that the idea of anyone modeling any part of themselves after me is mind-blowing.

It gave me more hope than she ever could have imagined. I’ve never been a big fan of hope in general—anything fueled by optimism can’t be productive, I thought, and still kinda do—but I felt empowered by her letter. Seeing someone whom I thought of as perfect show respect for the very flawed and unsuccessful me made me think that maybe I can get through this part of my life. I am in a very dark place right now, but she made me believe that if someone else can believe in me, maybe I can, too.

I know you read this. Thank you. ♦