My story is a simple one. It’s not very interesting, nor is it very gut-wrenching, but it’s a story. I was born in south Louisiana, the youngest of four. My parents were hard workers who did their best to provide for their kids, to raise their kids better than their parents had reared them. I went to a nice school, got a great education, went on to get a college degree on scholarships and now currently am a law student at Louisiana State University. So far, I can proudly say my life has been pretty successful as far as I gauge success. Not for the reason you think either.

I’m successful because I’m still here. I’m thriving. I’m helping inspire others.

Yes, looking in from the outside, my story seems pretty great. It’s almost peaceful. I’ve been guilty of assuming the same thing in other people. We all do it. We stand on the outside and see everyone seemingly all put together, doing things with their lives, going places. Smiling. Laughing. Happy.

But if you look closer – if you pay attention, if you keep an open mind, you see what isn’t there. You see the tired eyes of the most popular girl in school and realize she probably cried herself to sleep last night. You hear a hot-shot businessman panicking on the phone with his wife who is divorcing him and taking the kids. You see the blank stares of the smartest kid in class and understand that he’s escaping reality in his head because he hates where he is. You don’t have to know the reasons why to realize the other person is in pain. The reason why is irrelevant anyway. All that matters is that human is going through something, and to them, it’s painful.

Look beyond what your instincts tell you about someone, that first impression. See what lies beneath.

Beneath my story, beneath who I am today is a young girl who was bullied through that nice, that great education. Beneath my story is a young girl who lost her best friend – her older brother – when he was 16 years old from a stupid gun accident. Beneath my story is a young girl who got abandoned countless number of friends because they feared associating with a lesbian, feared the social rejection and so rejected her. Beneath my story is a nasty divorce, years and years of family fighting and turmoil, countless of nights screaming and crying and pleading.

I’ve suffered from eating disorders. I’ve fought through panic attacks, through bouts of anxiety. I’ve battled through a war with depression, and I’ve wrestled with suicide. I’ve had my heart broken, and I’ve broken hearts. I’ve gone through substance abuse to escape reality because I absolutely hated it. I’ve beaten myself up over the tiniest of things, berated myself, loathed myself. I’ve taken stupid risks, put my life in danger, just to feel alive. I’ve been passionless, friendless, and felt unworthiness.

None of our stories are the same. They are all different. But we all share common life experiences, go through the changing tides. We laugh. We cry. We scream, and love, and we go through lonely times. How we react to them will vary, and it’s all relative to our own experiences.

But see it. See what isn’t there, and help when you can. One person’s action, even one very tiny, can change the course of someone’s life. It can be a shared smile, a simple hello. It can be a thoughtful text or a phone call. It can be opening a door for someone, complimenting them, or even just acknowledging their presence.

What they might be going through may not compare to what you’ve been through in your eyes, but it’s still real to them. It still affects them. It still could force them down a dark path. Use what you’ve learned through your own experiences to help that person. See them as they are – only human.

Story submitted by Angelle