Where are the first 7 days, you’re probably wondering?
And what is AprilLove2016?
Okay, AprilLove2016 is a journaling/creativity challenge where every day you get a prompt, and then you write (or draw, or photograph, or something else creative!) a love letter. It’s been pretty fun so far. Days 1-7 are written in my journal and I’ve elected to keep them private.
But this one really resonates with me, and I believe it will resonate for lots of folks, too, so I decided to make this one public.
So, onward to the love letter.
Dear Younger Me,
I wish I could have told you — and made you believe me — that things would get better: that you weren’t always going to be made fun of and bullied; that someone (several someones actually!) would love you; that you’d become one hell of a writer and photographer. That you’d be beautiful, in your own way. That you’d feel better about yourself and, most importantly, not want to die.
Oh, sure, there were times when I (Older Me) have still felt like that, but there’s one very important thing is that I got help. So, you’d never have to worry about feeling that alone ever again or that hopeless, because there is hope, and it was there. I was in my twenties when I made that all-important, life-saving decision to get help.
You were never alone.
You had friends. You had boyfriends. I know you continued to feel awkward in your skin, so much that the idea of dancing froze you up, and that unfortunately, had still persisted. But feeling okay? Not like a freak? That’s much less. Sure, there’s the whole chronic illness thing to contend with now, but damn, girl, what you went through then prepared me for this. It gave me strength and tenacity and an iron will. It helped me cope with my chronic facial pain. When you used to say to yourself, “if they don’t see how much they are hurting me, they’ll leave me alone,” you didn’t know that someday you’d be using that same skill to not fall apart when the eye pain got so bad you couldn’t think. It helped me to be more stoic and calm, and not complain or curse my fate (well, I did, a few times, but I made sure to also be grateful that I could still see!).
Everything you did then, everything you felt then, led to me to the woman I am today. I just turned forty, you know. Back then, I couldn’t imagine forty. You know, a “real grown up.” When you had your first boyfriend and had that nasty break up, you learned from that experience although it hurt so bad back then. And then the next one — and the one after that — all the way to my husband now. All the things you went through, all the heartbreak, all the disappointment, all THE SHIT, was preparing me for this marriage I am now. It wouldn’t work so well without all that experience, all that heartache you went through, that taught me how to function in a relationship.
When you had jaw surgery at fifteen, and couldn’t talk for three weeks and couldn’t eat solid food for two months, I’m not sure how you made it. When you had to go back to school in the fall with your jaws wired shut, you had to reach down into reserves of strength you didn’t know you possessed. Your French teacher said, after listening to you trying to speak French, that you were brave. To which you answered, “I’m just doing what I have to do.” And when the wires got cut and your jaws were stuck, you didn’t cry as the doctor cranked them open. Didn’t cry when you were forced to do it to yourself every day at home so you could eat. Didn’t cry when everyone else could eat cake at your sister’s party, and all you could “eat” was frosting and ice cream. Yeah, you were strong. This taught you strength and resilience and perseverance for what was to come.
Your decisions weren’t stupid, you know. They were the right ones for you at the time. You couldn’t possibly know what would happen in the future, that a driver’s license would be out of my reach, or that my health would be the suck. You loved writing, so you went for Journalism. You fell in love with photography, so you pursued that (and had to have your own darkroom!). Nothing is ever wasted, nothing is a mistake. Granted, my life looks so much different than the one I envisioned in my twenties, but who cares? I’m me. I’m still the same person. My goals and dreams have changed dramatically. (By the way, that dream you had about being published? Yeah, did that in 2012.;) ) And that’s perfectly fine. You were such a dreamer. You really were. And I suppose I am still, but I’ve grown up, you know? Things change, but that’s not always a bad thing. We’re evolving. We’re meant to become who we’re meant to become.
I am still evolving, I think. I’m not sure when that will stop, if it will. I’m learning still, even though I’ve been out of school for twenty years. Life teaches you so much.
I have a quote that I absolutely love: “The world breaks everyone. And afterward, many are strong at the broken places.” I think the world — and perhaps life? — broke you a bit there. But you grew stronger. What was weak is now strong. What is sad is now happy. What is broken is now put back together.
I think I will always be a bit broken, though. I don’t think I’d want to be “fixed.” Reason being, this is what gives my writing/photography/etc such depth. Because I feel so deeply, and strongly, and I know what it’s like to lose everything. I know what it’s like to feel like a freak. I know what it’s like to be in someone’s shadow, to not be perfect. To not be cool.To feel like I failed. To feel like I am worthless and not worth loving. That nothing of me is worth it. That I exist in darkness, bereft of light.
This is only slightly true. But I’m working on it. It’s because of you. The You From Back Then taught me this.
But you also taught me how to be free.
And that, my dear, is everything.