Time…..See What’s Become of Me….
Monday, Michelle responded to a letter from a lovely young woman named Sarah who was looking for guidance. That post turned into a much-needed reminder of why we are here.
Then, we wondered – what if we could do the same for our twenty-three year old selves? What would we change? What advice would we give?
We decided to find out.
I’ll not give you any spoilers – I think it’s fair to afford you the benefit of the doubt and suggest that even though you’re young, you’re not stupid enough to want to know your future. There are highs and lows you can’t possibly imagine, but you’re still here at 31; you’re determined to go on living and improving yourself, and you have love in your world, so much love, oh gosh, it’s amazing…I can’t wait for you to experience that, because in spite of whatever else there may be, the love is incredible.
I can still offer you advice though – those little things which will just make life that tiny bit easier for you, and help you to avoid a few of the pitfalls you would otherwise land in.
If you’re unhappy at work and it’s taking over your entire life – quit. Work in a supermarket. Sweep streets. Earn low and LIVE MORE, because life is too short and also too long to spend so many years of it AFRAID and feeling like you’ll never manage, and being knowingly exploited and staying anyway. Just don’t do it.
Your supposition is right – your family WILL ALWAYS PULL THROUGH. Please learn to be gracious about it – it’s polite.
If you might need a prescription, or a sick day, just GET. IT. DONE! The world will not stop turning because you took a day off to heal. The sun will not stop coming up because you’re on medication for something with a stigma attached. In both cases you WILL FEEL BETTER, and wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.
Do it sooner. Please?
GET SOME EXERCISE AND SORT YOUR LIFESTYLE OUT, because goodness me you ARE going to regret just letting the Fat happen to you! Organise it now while you still have any metabolism left at all.
Keep reading. And reading. And reading.
Keep writing. And writing. And writing.
Sleep more (earlier nights, please!)
Keep seeking life in Silver Linings – that’s SUCH an important skill and one you’ve probably not thought about for a while, but it SO matters and SO counts. Think about it, and think about how you can encourage other people to find things in life that THEY are thankful for.
If your gut says “NO!” to something, trust it. Oh, and don’t hang on too tight to expectations (seriously!)
THAT SAID…you are the product of your experiences and they come together like stepping stones you must traverse before you’re the person you (I) am today. And RightNow, I am HAPPY with who I am. And that’s huge…so my most important piece of advice is this – let life happen and LIVE HAPPY in spite of it.
You’ll be okay 🙂
I know that right now everything is changing. You’re no longer a student. You’re officially for real an adult. And I know that you don’t feel like an adult. That’s ok. The thing is, you’re never going to feel like an adult. Even when you’re 42 and married with three kids you’re going to feel like someone gave you the keys to the car and you don’t know how to drive it yet. And one day you’ll realize that no one else feels like an adult either. Except for brain surgeons and Economics Professors and people who keep their underwear drawer organized. You’ll never be one of those people so stop sweating it.
I know that you’re trying to figure out what you should be doing. How to follow your passion yet make a living. Harsh truth: Very few people make a living off of their art. It’s ok. Art should nourish your soul, it’s not guaranteed to fill your bank account. So find a job you like that pays the bills and pursue your art when the inspiration and the desire hits you. DON’T GIVE IT UP. Don’t wait almost two decades to find your voice. That may be the only true regret you’ll have.
Live boldly. Fearlessly. Don’t be afraid to deal with your demons. I promise you that dealing with them will not break you. You will not lose your mind or your sanity by unlocking those closely guarded closets. You will be free. You will feel lighter. You will be less exhausted by the constant work of hiding and denying. Life will be less stressful and anxiety ridden when you deal with them. As scary as it is to talk about and confront, you will be healthier for it. I promise.
Last, trust your gut. Don’t ignore it or deny it. That will only lead you to pain heartbreak. Don’t settle. Hold out for the love you think you deserve. Don’t ever loose the belief that there is more good than bad, that life holds beauty and surprises and wonder. Even when you are weighted down in despair, don’t let the pain wash out all hope. The sun will come out again and one day you’ll find yourself laughing. I promise.
Cheers to you, enjoy the ride.
I’m sorry that you didn’t have someone to dry your eyes often enough as a child. You won’t when you are 23, either. Dry your own tears. Love yourself. You seem to be afraid of the wrongs things and you are brashly rushing into situations that should scare the shit out you.
Take a breath.
You’re smart. I know you are smart, even if you don’t. Find a way to sit quietly in your own head. The voices that tell you mean things like you are worthless and stupid and ugly are speaking out of fear. They might even be more afraid than you are.
Very often, other people are assholes. They enjoy tearing people down. You will be much happier if you let shit bounce off you. I am so sorry that you are a walking, exposed nerve. I wish I could fix that for you. I can’t though. You have to do it.
Save some money and stop buying so much Aqua Net. It makes everything you own kind of sticky. Also, spending 90 minutes getting ready for work in the morning is too much. You are gorgeous. Stop fretting over every hair on your head.
For fuck’s sake, learn how to do something you like to earn money, because you are going to loathe programming computers.
I love you as much as I can.
Dear me-in-the-form-that-is-you, at 23,
First things first. I LOVE YOU.
You do not need to be fixed. This letter is not about fixing. I accept the choices you are making because they’ve brought you to where I am now. If I could tell you anything at all, I would tell you to accept all that you are. You’re NOT bad. You’re brilliant. On that note – good on you for making two really brilliant decisions: 1, to get a divorce, and 2, to find your own expression of spirituality. You are so gutsy. I’m inspired by you.
Now. Here’s what I’d ask you to do, for your own sake. Because I love you.
Love yourself good and well and make your own decisions. Don’t do something just because other people think it’s a good idea. Date a bunch of losers. Date a bunch of winners. Party it up out in NC and don’t stop drinking until -you- decide it’s a good idea. And you will. You’ll hate how it makes you feel and realize you need to take a break for awhile. Same thing with guys. But don’t do it until you are ready. Otherwise it won’t be your decision and you’ll secretly resent all the people “keeping you on the straight and narrow.” And you’ll always be afraid that you’ll fail those people.
Cuss out your East Coast snotty bitch roommates and don’t be afraid to get in a big fight with them. I promise you’ll feel better after you call them all cunts. If someone writes mean girl shit on the inside of your favorite boots, they deserve to be cussed out, so stop being a goody two shoes and cuss out their asses.
You have to own your life so you can change it when you are ready, not when everyone else thinks you should. I know. Even hearing this is terrifying. Trust me when I say that it will work so much better this way.
I know you didn’t figure this out. And that’s okay. Guess what. I love you anyway. And I totally get why it’s scary to jump off the deep end and why you won’t do it for another 2-3 years. You have had a crazy, fucked up life. Which makes me love you and get you even more. After all you’ve been through, girl, I think you’re the raddest person I know. You’re cheesy as fuck, you’re a goofball, you have no idea what normal is and that is totally okay. You are totally okay. If there’s really anything you should know, it’s that. In spite of it all, you’re here. And that is pretty fucking awesome.
Get em, girlfriend. You live this life and live it wholeheartedly (spoiler: I know you will. Cuz you rock)
Renee, (because maybe today is not the day to call myself a Hussy)
The thing is, if I know nothing else about you, I know that you will not listen to me – not over the sound of your own raging libido or battered ego or wounded heart – all I can do is offer a little damage control.
If you are 23 right now, and it is shortly after mother’s day, 1990, then I know exactly where you are.
You are learning a very hard lesson. There will be others. But this one is going to make you want to give up.
Last week, you crossed the protester lines in front of the clinic of Dr. George Tiller. A young man covered you with his coat and had his arm on your shoulder, protecting you from all the shouting that was going on around you. He was beautiful, that young man. He was hilarious and smart and employed and had amazing hair and you didn’t feel invisible with him.
You were still processing how you felt about all of this – you expected him to bail the second you told him – but you were able to lean on him, he was with you every step, supportive, compassionate, a good listener – and he completely set aside his stake in this, and let you choose. You let your guard down, because no one had ever stood by you like this before. You could scarcely believe your good fortune.
But that day, after he brought you home and brought you lunch and kissed you and told you to sleep, he’d give you a call in a couple of days – that day was the last time you heard from him. He’s not returning your calls, because that is how young men frequently solve problems of this nature – they check out. They hope that if they ignore it, it will go away. His refusal to acknowledge you is making you feel so very small right now. Like you don’t matter. It will be a long time before you like yourself again.
What you think you learned from this, is that we really are alone. That it’s better to go into every battle as if you are the only one fighting, because you probably are. Learn this instead: Let him go. People cope with the tools they’ve been given. He was given stupid tools. He might actually BE a stupid tool. In twenty years, this thing called the internet will show you that his life didn’t turn out all that great. Let him go. He was not the one. You didn’t ruin your only chance at happiness. Hang up that phone, put down that pen. He’s not coming back.
Next summer, you will stand guard in front of that same clinic and you will vent all of your rage and pain on some poor bastard in a priest costume, smugly waving a doll that he’s painted to look like it’s been butchered. He will likely need therapy once you are done with him, and that is awesome. Summer of Mercy, my sweet ass.
You matter. Don’t let anyone ever tell you different.
Those divorce papers were a shock, weren’t they? I know you feel gutted, it feels like someone reached inside your chest and pulled your heart out mercilessly. I know that this will be your best excuse to drink for a while but you need to leave him alone now. He is just as sick as you are. Love doesn’t leave bruises, sweetheart.
You have a few more years where you will pick up where he left off and you will beat yourself up in a different way. Unfortunately, that is the only way you will learn and that your sobriety will mean anything to you. Because you will earn it on your own. Soon the day will come when you will find yourself alone, no friends and no family. You will be angry and you will be scared. One day, about five years and a few months from now, you will realize that you have to stop and make some serious changes or you will die. The world will remain a little foggy for a while and it will seem overwhelming and too large. You will still be scared but you will get stronger. Every single day.
You are not unlovable. You are meant for greatness, just not the greatness we dreamed of as a child. You will know love in a way you never thought possible. It will be different from anything you’ve ever known and you will try to run.
You will be a most important person to many and laughter will fill your life. You will go through painful times with your children and you will have the strength and clarity to know you can do all things.
All of this, the right now you are in, is temporary. Hold on. You will find your happily ever after. It might not look like the fairy tale you expected…the ones you quit believing in a long time ago.
It will be better.
The future will ask you for things.
It will ask you to make compromises and threaten you with insecurity. It will try to convince you you’ll be lonely if you don’t follow its lead. The future loves to make promises it won’t keep. Don’t let the future control your decisions. Give your present a chance to speak its heart and mind.
If a problem sounds too crazy hold onto it and examine it further because it could be exactly what you need. If an alternative sounds boring look at it from every angle and search its cracks because that’s where the glitter hides. If an offer seems perfect give it a little time to breathe then look at it again from a different perspective.
In all things remember you have a choice.
Take your time.
Mix it up a bit.
Play it safe.
Kiss a few boys and/or girls.
Dance until the stars come out and then keep dancing until they fade again.
Don’t get hung up for too long feeling guilty about mistakes you’ve made.
Don’t change your name or relocate if you accidentally tweet your boobs.
Don’t spend all your time trying to save sinking ships, or jobs, or marriages.
Don’t let the past regurgitate its drunken memories onto a clean future.
Look how cute you are with your smooth skin absent of any wrinkles or cellulite, and you have no idea how great you look. When you look in the mirror, you see a fairly pretty girl, but that doesn’t even come close to who you are. Do you know what I see? Aside from that glow you have because you’re young and sweet and just starting your adult life, I see so much more.
I see power that you have no idea you have.
I see courage you have yet to use.
I see inner strength.
I see outer strength.
I see determination.
I see pride.
I see compassion.
I see a heart capable of more love than you think you have to give.
I see arms that will one day comfort children and friends.
I see a light that refuses to dim.
I see a girl who doesn’t quite know who she is but one day will begin to understand that. I see a girl who has been censored her whole life, but as she gets older, she will slowly begin removing the gag around her mouth that has strangled her for years. I see a future mom, a role you want more than anything but one that will both make your heart swell and break it over and over again.
I see a girl who will only add to the chain of friends she has started until one day she’s almost overwhelmed by the amount of love and support she has..
I wish I could tell you to stop worrying so much, to stop thinking that you have to please everyone, to be yourself, to be free, but I can’t, and that’s okay. You are going to figure that out, and when you do, you will realize that the world is yours because one day, you will see what I see.