A little more than two months gone by already since this new decade began. You’re a little late in publishing your annual letter to yourself, but who cares? These last couple of months have seen a lot of painful growth. Maybe you needed that time to come to some new understanding of yourself. In any case, any notion of a “schedule” is highly subjective. Don’t let notions of timeliness let you feel like you’re failing. There are too many ways this insane world makes you feel that way without adding your own torturous methods. The point of these letters is to reflect, yes, to try to conceptualize the events of the previous year, but it is also to inject hope back into your slightly deflated dreams, to point out the triumphs even in your most difficult moments.
You are no longer the 21-year old you were in the beginning of this arbitrary period of time we call “decade” and you are glad, but you also wish you could go back and tell her to pay attention, to take care. Some of the pain you are feeling now might have been lessened if you had tread more carefully before, but then again, if you had, you wouldn’t be you and you wouldn’t have done the things you’re so proud of. In anticipation of a decade from now, be more loving of yourself in ways your 21-year old self was ill-equipped to do.
It’s been a consummately hard year and it’s okay to admit it. You are not invincible, as much as you wish you were. You started off the year all but convinced you were going to move back to Ecuador, but then a lot of different things happened that hinted that perhaps it was more important at the moment to stay, to experiment with pushing your roots deeper into the cool, dark earth instead of ripping them up in the hopes of…what exactly? Everything you’ve ever looked for you’ve found. The things that still evade you aren’t a matter of location, but a matter of stripping yourself down and saying, “This. This is what I have to offer you.” So you got a new job in a place that challenges you every day, you met someone who was finally willing to push boundaries with you, to explore the things that have always felt just a little out of your reach. In this way you’ve come up again and again against your own limits, your own bodily pain. You’re working on strengthening your voice while simultaneously searching for a way through this pain that heals even as it leads you toward the life you want. Keep searching. Don’t let the fear and the pain and the frustration and the disappointment become victors. You are too strong to let the enemy win.
You also completed your Master’s Thesis this spring and it was one of the hardest things you’ve ever done. You proved to yourself that you are capable of creation and putting in the necessary work. But then you finished and, for some reason, you cut yourself off from this accomplishment. You denied its meaning. You’ve been afraid of taking the next step–in part because that next step is far from obvious–but you know as well as anyone that you just need to keep moving forward. Only yesterday you applied to an internship that could change your life, again. You might get it or you might not. But if you don’t, there will be other opportunities. Take them. You don’t control whether or not other people can see the value of what you’re offering, but you have all the control over whether or not you give up and shutter your light away from the world.
This goes for writing in general. This fear of rejection has completely shackled you since you first learned that writing was the best way for you to connect with and share your own feelings. If you continue this way, you will be walling up the most beautiful, most accessible part of yourself. You know why you do this. You fear being rejected, but you think that if you never reveal yourself as you truly are, you can control the damage. If you guard jealously your vulnerability, then no one will ever truly be able to hurt you. Except yourself. You already know how much damage you’re capable of doing to yourself by refusing to let yourself be seen. You’ve been going through a very hard time recently and you know why. The time has come to finally rip away the bandages and examine the scars, finally deal with the wounds the world has dealt you and heal. But even though you know this and you know that the only way forward into growth and happiness is to do so, another part of you truly doesn’t want to. You’ve lived so long holding yourself together, this part of you whispers, why not just hold tighter. It might be okay. But this voice is lying. The reason you have such a hard, even impossible, time accessing your creativity, your sexuality, sometimes even your joy, is that you’re holding so tightly to yourself in an effort to hold yourself together that you have no energy to give to anything else. You thought you escaped your childhood and your first forays into adulthood without too much damage, but you were wrong and it’s time to reckon with it. Take it as a challenge. You know you hate to lose. For if you allow these wounds to fester instead of heal, you’re letting those who have hurt you win. We can’t have that.
You lost one of your few safe spaces recently and it’s hit you very hard. Cambria was the one place in the world that you could always go to and feel a little bit lighter. You were unbelievably lucky to have such a place and have it for so long. It’s hard that you didn’t get to say goodbye, but that doesn’t mean that it’s gone. You have thirty years of memories to carry with you. You will never forget lying in the middle bedroom and looking up through the skylight at the stars as you listened to waves crash against the cliffs. You will never forget the meadow or the teeming tidepools or the books or the four-poster bed and all the places you loved to sit and read or simply watch the sea. Cambria is not gone. The place might be closed off to you now, but you can carry it with you in your heart forever. Tangible things come and go but some things can never be taken from you. If you’re going to hold on to something, hold on to love and beauty and the gilded memories of happiness.
You’ve long felt that you did the work of accepting your body the way it was when you decided to stop telling yourself how ugly you were, when you stopped looking at yourself in the mirror and pinching the places you didn’t like until they burned. You used to make yourself physically ill. And one day you decided to stop. You decided life was too long to inflict that kind of damage on yourself. And you put in the work to change. The only mistake you made was in thinking you were done. You did wonderfully by changing the way you felt about yourself on the outside, but you forgot about the interior, the deep, dark places that no one can see unless you let them. You forgot the signature way your body moves, the blood in your veins, the clusters of nerves that dictate how you experience the world, the electrical impulses in your brain that make you see and remember and understand in ways entirely unique to you. And it’s these things, these quiet, interior places, that you have continued to disparage without noticing it. It is these places that cringe when someone comes too close because you have taught yourself that they are wrong or ugly or not normal. You already know the damage you are inflicting on yourself, but more importantly you know that you have the power to change that. Transform those places of pain into places of pride. The degree to which they are different from other peoples’ does not make them better or worse. They are yours and it is only your own love and acceptance that matters. There is nothing in you that is wrong or broken. You are not failing.
You’ve once again come to a place where you only want to be alone, where love and touch and friendship aren’t welcome. You once again think constantly of leaving, of disappearing, but this time there are things holding you here that are not so easily left behind. You have to let go. You have to let people in. You can’t hold it all within you forever or, if you can, you shouldn’t. By letting some things go, you create space for other, wonderful things. You create space for hope, for connection, for growth. As Brandi Carlile sings, “Can you fight the urge to run for another day? You might make it further if you learn to stay.”
You are literally the only thing standing in your way. Yes, money is always an issue. Yes, even if you put everything out there, you might not succeed. Yes, your body may never respond the way you wish it would. But by telling yourself that you are failing because of these things, you are writing endings where there should only be beginnings.
Lastly, take care of yourself. You’re tired all the time. In part that’s because of the unnatural hours your job requires, but it’s also because you refuse to give up other things you love, like roller derby and time with friends and adventures and new experiences. You say “yes” all the time. You’re tired because you want as much of life as you can take and that’s okay. But your energy sources aren’t infinite and your body isn’t made of steel. If you’re going to do all these fun and wonderful things, make sure you’re also checking in with yourself. You only have one body and in order to keep enjoying it, you have to give it the same love and attention you give to other parts of your life.
Let’s end this with hope. Where you are flailing, inject compassion and love for yourself. You are still so resilient, so unafraid in so many ways. You truly are a badass. Those soft, vulnerable parts of you don’t take away from that. People don’t think less of you when you let those parts show. You have so much to be proud of. Where you are afraid, let the people who love you in to help guide you and light the way. You don’t have to go it alone and if you try, you won’t get nearly as far. What is progress if not a descent into hell and then a slow, painful, but in the end strengthening ascension back into the light.
When we are alone we are afraid
love will never return
and when we speak we are afraid
our words will not be heard
but when we are silent we are still afraid.
So it is better to speak
we were never meant to survive.