Seventh grade is one of Dante's levels of hell. Most of us would never, ever go back and do it over again, not even for a mountain of cold, hard cash. We shudder just thinking about it.
And some things, it seems, never change. (Although we sure wish they would.)
Olivia Vella, a seventh-grader at Queen Creek Middle School in Arizona, delivered a stunning six-minute slam poem about the brutal realities of being a teen girl in today's society. Her monologue has taken the internet by storm with its themes of bullying, popularity, self-esteem, self-harm and more.
Queen Creek Middle School posted the assignment and its purpose on its Facebook page.
"Students selected a topic they feel passionately about and were asked to compose their own slam poems pertaining to the topic. Students had been working on personal stories, memoirs and other creative writing techniques. This writing class in particular does a great deal of public speaking and collaboration, so their final was to compose and ultimately present their material."
We're in awe of Olivia's poise and passion — like the other 171,000 people who have viewed her presentation on Facebook so far. And that number continues to climb.
She didn't mince her words.
"Pick out an outfit that will fit in with the latest trends and won't make you the laughing stock of the school. More than you already are," she said. "Put on some makeup so you can actually show your face in public so you can be a little bit pretty."
Olivia has struggled with wanting to be part of the "popular" crowd — and feeling like an outsider.
Olivia's mother, Molly Vella, said, "[Olivia] came to me one day and said, 'Mom, next year I just want to be dumb. Because I want to be like those other girls, I want them to like me.' And it broke my heart."
But it sounds like Olivia has come to terms with the futility of trying to fit in and is owning who she really is.
"Popular isn't always a good thing," she said in the poem. "You tell yourself, I just want people to like me. I just want to be accepted. But skipping meals and marking up your wrist isn't going to fix that."
One commenter wrote, "That was so gut-wrenching and yet beautiful and inspiring at the same time. Extremely powerful words and how it was all memorized without a flaw or stammer or 'um.' I'm in awe!... She and all these other middle school kids are definitely enough and so very great as they are."
"Wow! Some amazing youth are out there," another commenter said. "Hopefully her peers are listening and really hear her message."
Olivia was moved by the immensely positive feedback.
"People I don't even know would say, 'Hey, Olivia, I really liked your monologue and I feel the exact same way.' And it was really eye-opening because I, for most of the time, thought I was the only one that felt this way and I was crazy for feeling it," she told local CBS affiliate KPHO.
Olivia said she's just hoping that some kids who are struggling will take her message to heart — and feel less alone.
She said, "Society is wrong. You are loved. You are precious. You are beautiful. You are talented. You are capable. You are deserving of respect. You can eat that meal. You are one in 7 billion. And most of all, you are good enough."
Well done, Olivia. We most certainly agree — and you are far better than "good enough." Wish we could have sat with you in the middle school lunchroom every day.
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