A Letter to My 17 Year Old Self (and some 2016 promises)

Dear 17 year old self.

He does not love you. He will not ever love you. You might believe that you need someone who will promise to fix you, but you don’t. You will instead meet someone who say straight out that he will not fix you or try to fix you. He will say that he can’t. All he can do is make you feel loved. That is all you need. But right now, know – he will destroy you. He will break you. He will say he loves you, then do terrible things to you. Say terrible things to you. Then claim it is all your fault. He will lie to his friends about having a girlfriend – and after you finally find the courage to break up with him, he will lie and say you’re still together for months afterwards. Certain smells and words and places will forever remind you just how bad things got. You will be transported in an instant. You will regret all the time and money and energy you wasted on him. You will regret allowing him to take root inside the most painful parts of your brain and make everything happening inside there a lot worse. It won’t always be that painful. You’ll have learned from him, in a twisted way. You’ll someday plan to throw that locket into the depths of the sea (Not in a Titanic way, but in a I-can’t-burn-this-so-I’ll-toss-it-way). You’ll someday realise you are safe. You are loved. You will be in the arms of the person that cares about you most, him breathing gently, and you will revel in how safe and loved you feel. That day will come. But not until he is gone. Not until you meet the person who promises you everything but to make you whole again. Only you can do that. And you will. You will learn what it is you want. And, with that determination, that stubbornness you are so ashamed of – you will get what is best for you.

You don’t need to find your place in this world right now. School is not the be-all and end-all of everything. Soon it will be a distant memory. You’ll struggle to remember the names of your peers. You’ll fail to recognise some of them just 4 years on.That is not a bad thing – it will just show that you have had other things to think about since school finished. You will forget the pain of not belonging. You will forget the pain of being lonely. Of feeling hopelessly unfulfilled. Of feeling like an alien for demanding to be academically stimulated. You will cherish the moments you spoke up in English class, and in History and Biology. You will remember those moments with fondness. But you will know that your school days were what shaped you into someone incapable of coping. And that knowledge will help you move a step closer to being who you want to be.

Your ambitions will be your downfall. It is good to be ambitious, but it is not good to press so hard on your own trigger that you fail to see the greatness you have produced when you don’t reach your own (impossible) standards. You will learn to accept all that you are capable of. You will learn that pushing yourself to do your best, and setting yourself up for a downfall, are different things. It’s a learning curve, and you will struggle. You will find it hard. You will find it frustrating. Someday you’ll learn how to write better; learn that you can write better. Someday you’ll think beyond the story you’re trying to tell. You’ll see the forest and not the trees. You’ll learn what makes good writing good, and bad writing bad. You’ll keep continuously learning, and you won’t punish yourself for letting yourself down.

You will make friends. Or, should I say, you will strengthen the bonds you already have with friends you’ve had all along. You will be slightly embarrassed about the way you all met, but you will be proud that you all found each other. You will go on adventures. You will travel and have fun and make as many memories as you can. Things you can think about and talk about in your saddest moments. Things you can’t think about beyond the way things are for you right now; but you will get there. You will have more friends than you could have ever imagined, but you will love them and they will love you. They will not judge you. The only person that judges you is you.

You will write another book. And then another. And you will eventually come to understand that you will forever tell stories. You will forever have things to say. You will stop being ashamed of your desire to speak. You will (mostly) stop questioning whether or not it’s okay to have an opinion on things. You will have it. No one has to listen to you. You can shape your words into whatever arc you want. You can write your stories and your perceptions of the world, either tightly locked within the messy scrawls of the journals you will keep far too many of, or on here, online, where people can (and astoundingly, sometimes do) read what you have to say. You are not responsible for what anyone else thinks of you. As long as you are being true to yourself, are trying your best to be objective, and aren’t trying to hurt anyone else, your opinions are yours. They are not entitled to respect, but you are entitled to have them.

You will still hate your body unless you try to do something about it. It’ll take you a few more years and a whole load of motivation theory to actually start doing something, but you’ll get there. You will start on the path of learning to love yourself. You will realise that it’s okay to love yourself, even a little bit.

You will learn that the terms you shied away from for years will apply to you. They always have. You will learn that these terms are not the enemy. You are not your diagnosis. You will learn that your resentment will follow you for years; but that sometimes you can let it go, if even just for a moment. You will reach rock bottom, but only so that you can pull yourself back up out of the darkness. No one else can do that for you. You will still think it is unfair. But you will learn that it is okay to think that. And you will learn how to be better. How to recover.

You will learn that no one else has a right to your body. You will learn the importance of belonging to a generation that knows how to ask for change. You will learn that no matter how many ‘meninists’ (I’m very sorry but yes, that is now a word) or anti-feminists or misogynists (all of those words mean the same thing really)  there are in the world, there will be countless other women who see things the same as you. Who don’t want to be afraid anymore. Who don’t want to be mistreated or made feel inferior anymore. You will belong to something which is where you’ve always belonged, but did not exist within the halls of a school where ‘lesbian’ was an insult and your worth was measured by how many naggins you drank the night before, or how much better than the ‘smarter girls’ other people want to know you did in a test. You will belong amongst the scores of women all ready and willing to stand up for what they believe in.

You will learn of your fierce loyalty. You will learn of your determination. You will change your wilfulness to willingness. You will accept that you have no particular direction, but rather an abundance of ideas that you wish to try out.

Most of all, you will be able to see a future. The clouds will clear. The sadness will, eventually, lift. You will have no specifics. You will just know what you want, and what you don’t. You will have some sort of direction, and you will have a sense of satisfaction in knowing that you’ll get there when you get there. Most of all, you’ll know that your 30 year old self will write to your 21 year old self, reinforcing all the things you’ve learned in that stretch of time – because you will know that you will always be learning.

***

2016 will be the year I

  • Learn to drive
  • start doing something about how much I hate my body
  • get back to work and really make recovery worth it
  • really make something of my NaNo project
  • promise that I will never stop writing
  • read as many books as I can
  • start 3rd year with a quiet, realistic determination
  • try a new thing a month
  • write more
  • do more
  • just be a better version of myself

I got given a new chance at life this horrible, long, arduous year. I will not waste it.

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