A Letter to My Nineteen-Year-Old Self
Here you are. I remember you so well.
It's been a while. You're twenty-five now. You're different. Last month, I told someone - someone important to me, but who didn't know you - that you would be appalled if you could see me now. Maybe that was unfair to you. Would you be? Let's find out.
Tonight, you danced around the kitchen. You drank a glass of red wine and listened to the same damn song four times in a row. Your bare feet hardly touched the ground. Your hair - it's short now - fell into your eyes and you spun until you got dizzy, and then you danced while the room turned. Your body is so beautiful when it's alive. You're just starting to get sick now, at age nineteen. Did you eat on your birthday? I don't remember. Your body is so beautiful when you feed it. Today your body carried you 6.2 miles, and it carried you so well that you smiled. Then it pedaled you home, and then it twirled you around the kitchen, and your arms felt so light they floated. I don't recall dancing much at your age, even though I know you adore dancing. You dance all the time now. You dance every chance you get. You love feeling alive in your body. You don't love your body all the time, but you love it enough to take care of it all the time. You feel so good. I bet you didn't know you could feel so good.
You still bruise easily. You know how to say no, though, and you're not afraid to say it. You belong to yourself, so much so that you can give yourself completely without getting lost. You don't know what you're doing, but you know who you are, and that's all that really matters in the end.
You're softer now. Your body, your heart, your eyes, your tongue--- everything is softer. Your softness is a blessing, though you don't know it yet. You will need to be broken wide open to learn that. You will make yourself hard and hope that the sharp angles of your hips and your elbows and your words will keep your fears at bay, but they won't. Then you will shatter and learn that the hardest things in this world are also the most breakable. The most brittle. You will put yourself back together but this time you will do so tenderly, and you will breathe. Someone will tell you that you are enough even though you are broken. She will see right through you and look right at you and you won't know her, but she will save your life. You will find others who know you are enough. Eventually, you will believe them. Later, when someone says he wishes he broke you, you will laugh and tell him that you beat him to it.
I know you think you want to work for the State Department, but fuck that shit. You will land three jobs, leave two, and be laid off from one. Every year you will walk farther and farther away from your dreams of prestige, and someday you will realize you never actually wanted any of them. You will travel to strange places and climb a castle and get locked in a park at three in the morning. You will realize that what you want to do with your life requires these adventures. You want to be happy, and you will be, but not all the time. The adventures thrill you, so you'll seek them out, but they also terrify you, so you'll lose a lot of sleep. You'll move thousands of miles away from home. You will love it, but your neurons will rebel. You'll wake up one morning convinced that you are dying (you're not) and it will be awful. It will also be worth it, though, because you'll finally make sense of your brain chemistry.
You will fall in love and out of love and then back in. You will start and end friendships. You'll run away. You'll go home. You will get a tattoo, the one thing you swore you'd never do. It doesn't hurt as much as you think. You'll make plans. You'll change them, and then you'll light a match and burn all of them down. You'll surprise yourself more than anyone else ever could, but you'll look around and suddenly everything will make sense. You will write. You always wanted to write. You'll take risks. Some of them will pay off. Others will leave you bleeding on the ground, but you'll take them still, and that's what counts. Last week someone said that you live your life like you're in a movie. Maybe that just means that you're finally living like you're the protagonist in your own story.
So, Sarah, are you appalled? Synonyms for appalled include: amazed, astounded, in awe. I am messier, louder, softer than you. I am less predictable than you thought possible. In comparison to you, I am wildly undisciplined. I think that as much as I scare you, I am the person you want to be. I embrace the world recklessly and you may hate that now, but I know it's only because the thought terrifies you. Let me tell you something: I wear four rings on my fingers. Each one belonged to a woman who raised me: my father's mother, my mother's mother, my mother, and me. My girl, do not be afraid.