Thursday, November 8, 2007

Letter to my Past Self

Dear Leslie,

You don't know me at all, but I've been watching you for a very long time now. I have been content to let you be and to give you the chance to live your life. But I have watched you decline over the past 3 years, and I really can't stay silent anymore.

You are 21 years old, a complete paradox, and a walking contradiction. You are also deeply depressed. You have changed so much in the past few years. I know that you have had some bad things happen. You've simply been hit with too much reality at one time and are finding it hard to recover. But recover you must, because if you continue on the same path you're on right now, you're in for a world of pain later on, much more pain than you're in right now.

I really don't know how to help you. There are so many things that I want to tell you, but I don't know if you'll believe me. At this point, you can't see anything outside yourself. You've made some really bad choices. You've dropped out of college. You've completely alienated your family and most of your friends. You are deeply in debt. You smoke a pack of cigarettes a day. You weigh about 100 lbs. You are involved with people who are no good for you. You have come to a completely new town under the guise of continuing your education, but you're not fooling anyone: the truth is, you just want to disappear. You want a chance to reinvent yourself. You want to erase the past. But it keeps following you. Day by day, you keep self-destructing.

I want you to know that things are going to get better. It is going to take a lot of work, but someday you are going to be happy. I promise you. This happiness will not be complete, but it will be pure - because it will be real. You are at a crossroads right now. The important thing to remember is that you have a choice in the way in which your life unfolds. You can't control every aspect of it, but that's no reason to remain frozen in place. It's time to move forward.

What if I told you that you're going to move to California when you're 22? You're going to take a huge risk in doing so, but it will be worth it. You're going to have long relationship with someone who is going to teach you so many things. With his help, you will gain control of your debt, go back to school, and become a legitimately published poet. He will teach you things about yourself that you have always wanted to realize. Your relationship will not be anything close to perfect, and for many reasons, it will end. You will move on with grace, something you have never been able to do up until that point.

You're going to make friends and will be able to connect with them in ways you never thought you'd connect again. You're going to see things you never thought you'd see, like homeless people in Beverly Hills, the Hollywood sign, and a live performance of The Vagina Monologues. You will go to poetry readings and see live interviews with your favorite authors. You're going to graduate with a 3.7 GPA and a BA in English. You're going to attend graduate school. You're going to get a "real" job in the 9-5 world.

In January of 2005, you will begin the final Winter quarter before you earn your BA. You're going to sign up to be an editor of the Pacific Review, your college's literary journal. On the first day of class, you'll be sitting on the floor in the hallway outside your classroom door, waiting for the professor to show up and unlock the door. You're going to stick your nose in a book of poetry and let the rest of the world fade away. It will work until a bright blue-eyed stranger catches your eye. He will crouch down next to you and start a conversation with you. Pay attention - this moment will change your life forever.

The blue-eyed stranger is going to teach you so many things, but one of the most important is that he will be able to show you, like no one else has, how worthy of love you are. He's going to accept you just as you are, with all your doubts, insecurities, and fears. He is going to love you not despite these things but because of them. You will fall for him harder and faster than you've ever fallen for anyone before. You will be scared and cautious, because you have, after all, learned not to wear your heart on your sleeve. But trust me when I tell you that this person will renew your faith in love, in commitment, and in the human race. Soon he won't be a stranger anymore. He will quickly become your best friend. In fact, you'll wonder how you ever existed before he came along. It will only take a couple of months for you to realize that you believe in love again and that you are ready to make the ultimate commitment by marrying him.

You will wait until July 2007 to marry. Your wedding is going to be beautiful, simple, and heartfelt. You will write your own ceremony and vows. You will make books and stories the central theme of your wedding, because this mutual love is what brought you together in the first place. You will cry no less than 7 times on your wedding day. You will be so happy that your heart will feel like it's going to explode, because you will be surrounded by the love of your husband, your families, and your friends.

You're going to come into your own. You will learn to accept yourself. You will learn to stand up for yourself and your beliefs. You will actually become quite opinionated. And some people won't like it, and some people won't like you. At this point, you will be okay with it. You will realize, after many years of trying to appease everyone, that you can't make everyone happy. You will make no apologies for who you are. But at the heart of this very confident person that will emerge, there will be traces of the old person, because, as you know, it is so important not to leave ourselves behind entirely.

And there's more after that. There's so much more. One significant thing that will happen is that you will come across this piece that you wrote at the height of your depression. It's the most honest and straightforward thing that you have written up until this point.


21

I.
I am 21 years old.

Sometimes when I look in the mirror, I see this girl looking back.
It’s me.


I have shoulder length blonde hair that gets darker the older I get.
It’s the fly-away type.
Very fine.
Soft and thick.
My part is always crooked.

My eyes are green.
Sometimes grey, sometimes blue.
But mostly green.
They are small, even more so behind my perpetually smudged glasses.
My glasses make me look young.
I had to buy them from the little kid’s section.

I have fair skin and some freckles.
Most of the freckles are on my shoulders.
Guys think they’re cute.
I think so too.

I am underweight.
I have very prominent hipbones and I can count all my ribs.
But I can eat whatever I want without worrying.
It’s nice.

My legs are muscular.
My feet have extremely high arches.
My ankles are slender.
Right now my toenails are painted forest green.

I have 5 piercings in my ears and a bellybutton ring.
I don’t have a tattoo, though I want one.
I can never decide what to get.
Besides, I’m afraid it will hurt too badly.
I’m lacking in the extra body mass department.

My nose is tiny.
Someone once asked me if I fell on my face when I was a kid.
I think it’s a remote possibility.
I do know that I fell off my bike when I was 5.
But I hit my head, not my nose.
So I think I was born like this.

I have a big wide smile.
I had braces for 3 years.
I hated them.
But I still have an overbite because I never got a retainer.
My orthodontist was not a great one.
When I don’t smile, my teeth are hidden behind full lips.
My bottom one is the cutest.

My stomach is flat.
But when I sit a certain way, I have a pudge.

My hands are small.
The fingers on those hands are thin.
One of my fingernails is split right down the middle.
It’s always been that way.
In the winter, my left thumb gets really dry.

Some people tell me I look like I’m 15.
When I’m at work, I am sometimes asked why I’m not in school.
I think it’s my glasses.
But then again, I don’t really know for sure.


II.
I am 21 years old.

Sometimes when I look in the mirror, I see this monster looking back.
But deep down I know that it’s just a girl.
It’s me.


I don’t fit in with my age group.
Though sometimes I feel like I could if only I wasn’t so old.
I should be out getting drunk and having a good time.
And then come home so I can puke my guts out.
And then wake up the next morning in a pool of my own vomit.
Instead, I lay face down in a pool of my own darkness.
It tastes better than vomit.
But I think sometimes that even vomit is better than what I put myself through.

I don’t fit in with those older than me.
Though sometimes I feel like I could if only I wasn’t so young.
I like to listen to them talk.
But I never really talk.
I don’t have much to say that would interest them.
I always feel like an idiot because I sit there like a pretty dainty flower.
Flowers are nice to look at.
But you can’t really have a conversation with them.

So I spend most of my time alone.
Being alone doesn’t bother me.
Being lonely does.
There’s a difference.
I can be lonely at any time.
As a matter of fact, I’m always lonely.
Even when I’m with someone I love.

I have a need to be recognized.
I want people to pay attention to me.
And I get it.
People are drawn to me.
But I don’t really let anyone know me.
The attention scares me.
After awhile, I start to feel like I can’t breathe.
So then I claim my breathing room.
Only to find that I miss those I have shunned.

I don’t trust people very much.
I put all my trust in the wrong people.
Then I have none to give to the right people.
I’m always scared they’re going to be the wrong people too.

I overreact.
I overlook things too easily.
I am quite the blind one.
But sometimes I see too much.
I wonder if those things are really there.

I don’t know what I’m doing with my life.
I should be in school.
But I’ve been on break for a year now.
It bothers me.
Because all I do is work.

I daydream a lot.
Mostly my fantasies are about an ideal life.
I wonder when I’ll get over that and face reality.

I am a different person when I am around a group of people.
I am loud and obnoxious.
Full of jokes and cutting, sarcastic comments.
I am very charming too.
People like my attitude.
But they don’t know what I’m like when it’s just me.

Indecision is one of my worst enemies.
I can never decide on anything.
Once I decide, I change my mind.
I think it’s because I want too much.
Or it could be because I don’t really know what I want.

I have spent most of my life in denial.
I was an overachiever.
Now I’m still partly in denial.
But mostly in pain.
And now I’m definitely an underachiever.
I can’t decide whether I should push myself or cut myself some slack.
Either way, I can’t find a balance.

I cannot tell whether or not I have ever really been happy.
I think I was once.
But it was so long ago.
I feel like I have lived three lifetimes instead of not even half of one.
I feel like I’ve been here a long time.

I feel like a small child.
Full of wonder and awe.
Like I don’t really know what’s going on.
Like it doesn’t really matter as long as I can do what I want without claiming responsibility.

I have too much responsibility.
Sometimes I don’t want it because I am tired of it.
I take the blame most of the time.
It’s easier that way.
Then I can punish myself.

I am a selfish person.
It’s hard to say why.
But I think I gave too much.
And now I’m wary of doing it again.
Or I just don’t have anything left to spare.

I would like to have a nervous breakdown sometime in the near future.
I think it would help.
I feel like that’s my last resort.
I’ve tried everything else.

I know what it’s like to be in love.
I’m in love with my past.
There’s just so much to love about it.
And there’s so much to hate.
Sometimes I think love is hate in disguise.

I can’t look to the future without feeling scared.
I can’t make plans because they are always ruined.
Something I never think of always gets in the way.
So I don’t make plans anymore.
I just live.
But I think I mostly collect dust.

I’m waiting to be discovered.
Or born again.
Or something like that.
Whatever I’m waiting for, it hasn’t come yet.
Maybe I should stop waiting.
Maybe it’s something I have to look for.


III.
I am 21 years old.

Sometimes when I look in the mirror, I see this girl looking back.
But deep down I know it’s just a human being.
It’s me.


I hate to shave my legs.
I always end up missing spots because I’m so careless.
I’m so careless because shaving is a pain in the ass.

I’m a picky eater.
When people mix their food together, it makes me want to puke.
I hate to puke, so I try not to watch.

I like to take long drives.
I feel calm when I am at the wheel.
I like to listen to my music very loudly.
I like to feel like I own the road.

I always dance around my living room.
Some of my dancing music is questionable.
Britney Spears, N’Sync, Backstreet Boys.
I call them my guilty pleasures.

I read a lot.
I have a bookcase full of unread books.
It drives me crazy to have all those books there staring at me constantly.
I want to read them all really fast, because the surplus really unnerves me.
Then I get depressed when I go into bookstores.
There are so many more books that I want.

I like pocket change.
I saved all my change for a year and a half.
I even separated it into different jars.
Then I opened my new checking account with it.
I had $800 in change all rolled up in change wrappers.
The people at the bank gave me some strange looks.

I like Dilbert.
Phil (the Prince of Insufficient Light) is my favorite character.
I think it’s because he carries a big spoon.

I don’t watch television.
I was raised without cable because we lived out in the boondocks and couldn’t get it without getting a satellite dish.
So I’ve never seen some of the most famous shows.
It doesn’t really bother me.

I had a newspaper subscription once.
I kept forgetting to read the paper every morning.
But I saved them all and still plan on reading them.
Even though some of them are over a year old now.

I get upset when people waste paper.
I am a writer, so it’s justified.
I always write on both sides of the paper.
Unless I’m writing in permanent marker, which happens often.

I like candy.
If I could live on a diet of candy, I would.
Chocolate is my favorite.
But I like sour things too.
I still haven’t developed a taste for all the Jelly Belly jellybeans though.

I smoke cigarettes.
I’ve been smoking since I was 15.
It’s a nasty disgusting habit.
But the best time to smoke is right after a big meal.

I like Dr. Pepper.
I especially like it when it’s from a fountain.
In a big Styrofoam cup with crushed ice.
I hate ice cubes.
But if there’s no crushed ice around, I can’t afford to be picky.

I am a waitress.
I like it when people give me big tips.
I get annoyed when people think I am some sort of Superwoman.
I get pissed off when people don’t seem to realize what a hard job it is.
When they leave me less than 15%, I want to tell them some things.
Like it costs a little more to live these days.

I think a lot.
About a lot of things.
I like that about myself.
Though sometimes I wish my mind would stop.


IV.
I am 21 years old.

Sometimes when I look in the mirror, I see a whole world looking back.
But deep down I know it’s just a girl.
I know it’s a human being.
I know it’s me.

12/17/2000


You are going to reread this when you are 28 years old and remember all the things that led you to this moment. And in one instant you will realize that you have achieved happiness and success. You will realize that the world is waiting for you, but also that the world won't wait for long.

Now's your chance.

Love,
me

10 comments:

kat said...

That gave me chills - I'm covered in goosebumps. What a beautiful letter to yourself. Thank you for sharing it - all of it.

Mz Brandy said...

I'm still crying.

xoxoxo

amber said...

that was one of the most touching things i've read in a long long time. you have an amazing gift with words. i'm still wiping away tears.

Nanette said...

Wow. Very, very moving.

Kim Photography said...

Damn.

WeezerMonkey said...

This was cool.

Discombobulated said...

wow.
absolutely one of the most awesomest things I have ever read.

Librarian Girl said...

That was beautiful.

And kind of freaky too, as I could have written something so similar when I was 21.

Anonymous said...

Wow. What a beautiful look into who you are. And kinda scary how much I see myself in those words. Thank you.

~Melinda

JennB said...

You moved me with this. I know we don't talk much, but this was touching and inspirational. Thank you for sharing it.