Content warnings for mention of frank suicide methods.
Dear Past Me,
Girl, there is so much that I want to tell you. Right now, you are struggling with so much, and I get it. You don’t know who you want to be and don’t know the options because right now, so many are telling you that you need to be a teacher. You don’t even like kids all that much, but you fake it so that others don’t label you as weird. And yet, you’re going to volunteer to babysit other people’s children because you are caring and just want to help, not realizing that you will traumatize them in to early and expeditious potty training due to diaper mismanagement. But we won’t talk about that. that future moment in time is a moment best experienced for yourself.
You’re fifteen and have successfully navigated freshman year in a residential school. You are sweet and kind, and you have a stubborn streak a mile long. Keep these things close. The stubbornness will see you through when you don’t know how to handle a situation. Sometimes, you have to use bullheaded determination when you don’t see another way out. Besides, I could sit here and tell you not to do it, but we’re our mother’s daughter.
You feel inadequate because you have tried to make brownies and do other things in the kitchen, and you just can’t get it right. You also really struggle to tie your shoes. Some adults who ought to know better are giving you an incredibly hard time and instead of displaying patience, raise their voices. This shuts you down because all you want to do is please people and keep them from being mad at you. You are not a failure. You’ve never handled people yelling at you very well and it’s easier to disconnect. When you get older, one of the perks of being an adult is the snappy comeback. While you still will have difficulty using those powers for good out loud, you will make wonderful friends who will allow you to be snarky. You’re also going to cultivate that snark in writing form to the best of your ability. You don’t have to be perfect, fifteen-year-old you, but you will continue to strive. I promise, you’ll learn how to tie those shoes. It isn’t going to be perfect and you won’t win an award for amazing knot tying prowess, but you will do your best and it will be enough. You aren’t going to be the world’s best gourmet chef, but you’ll make friends who are and will teach you how to fend for yourself.
Speaking of friends, be the kind of friend that you want others to be for you. Right now, you are lashing out and don’t always keep the secrets of others because you want to be liked by a specific group. It is unbelievably shitty, but you already know that and are trying to be better. I just want to tell you that it’s okay to hush and become a vault. Your friends will confide in you and you will keep their secrets safe.
Now, let’s talk about your mental health. Oh girl, life is so worth living. I’m so thankful that the soap powder and orange soda combination didn’t work. You apparently have a stomach of pure steel. Also, overdosing on Claritin-D in the church bathroom after service? That is a level of irony that is so sad that it leaves me dumbstruck. I’m so glad you didn’t get your hands on anything more powerful and that your only side effects were low-grade fever and sinuses that were so clear that you could probably track a familiar person a mile away by smell alone.
Things suck right now. People just think you’re doing this to get attention, but we know the truth. And the truth is sad and horrible. But you know what? There is so much more to life and you’re going to find your niche and fly. A lot of people who “mean well” are letting you down, but you will trust and rely on yourself and be better for it.
Let’s talk about technology. Keep doing what you are doing. Someone who should have known better told you that you would never be good at computers because you didn’t understand how to use file paths in DOS. Joke’s on them. Look at what you are already doing? You are Brailling church directories and menus using Braille translation software. Your proofreading is great. You do good work and they keep giving you bigger and better projects. Thank goodness you got out of the daily detention phase so that you could have a job after school, right? You also won’t be using dial-up modems anymore, and Windows is going to be the new best thing. You’ve got this!
Now, let me talk about church for a minute. The problem involving the church situation is on them, not you. Blindness was not caused by any sin that you or the family committed. Perfection can only be found in one person, and that was nearly 2000 or so years ago. We aren’t perfect and we shouldn’t strive to be. Perfection isn’t the length of your hair or if you choose to wear jewelry. Perfection isn’t the length of your skirt or if you sit next to a member of the opposite sex at church. Holiness isn’t running the aisles so much that you take out two rows of metal chairs and eventually injure your wrist. You didn’t do that, but we know of someone who did. God isn’t a god of chaos and confusion, and what that church is modeled on is chaos and judgment. It’s hard to see that though when you just want to be loved. Also, congratulations for surviving the great church camp debacle of 1994. But just wait until the revival at Brownsville. Don’t try to run the aisles yourself! Altars can be walked to slowly and deliberately. You don’t need to try to sprint for Jesus, especially if you can’t see where you are going. Here’s a tip, though. When you invariably trip over the bench that some idiot left in the middle of the aisle you were running down, you can use the recovery time wisely by continuing to lie on the floor as your shin throbs. Everyone else will think that you’ve been slain in the spirit and are experiencing the secret wonders of the Lord. Use that time wisely and keep your eyes closed until you feel like you can walk again. You are going to find other churches, some good, some not so good. Keep in mind that you have to study the Bible for yourself. Be wary of churches that love to flaunt authority over you. Don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions.
I know that you are reading this and thinking that I am old. The boundaries of what is considered old keeps moving further and further back. Forty isn’t old. Stop laughing! One day, someone is going to ask you who Alanis Morissette is and you are going to cringe. The 90’s music you love so much will be considered old school and you’ll wonder who let these whipper snappers on your lawn anyway?
I thought I’d fill this letter with all of the advice of things that you should be doing, different choices that you should make. And yeah, you’re going to make some doozies. But every road traveled leads you to where you will be eventually, and life is too short to have regrets. I wish I’d completed college or started working more consistently sooner. But I didn’t. I turned out alright and I still have choices that I can make that will benefit me.
So, sweet past self, I’ll just leave you with a few more tidbits to keep in mind. Keep reading everything you can get your hands on. Fantasy, romance, science fiction. Read it all and don’t listen to those who would tell you that what you choose to read is of the devil. Keep writing those poems and short stories. You have an active imagination and are inventing worlds with different magic systems and cultures. Keep at it and don’t let the successes or discouragement from others get in your way and hold you back. Nurture that sense of adventure which is going to make you move 3000 miles across the country to meet your best friend. She’s going to be amazing and you will charm and exasperate her. Sometimes, you’ll do both of these things at once. It’s a talent.
Keep singing! Whether you are singing in a choir or solo, you are still learning your voice and what you can do with it. Please, don’t stop.
Finally, these bros ain’t loyal. I know it’s crazy to tell you not to worry about the approval of men. You are worth more than they realize and deserve better than what they can offer. Words need to be backed up by actions. Love hard, but know your worth.
I love you, past self. I love who you are and who you will be. I’m proud of you for what you’re doing and for what you will do in the future. Oh, one last thing. One day, you’re going to be tempted to show one of your poems to your mother. Avoid this at all costs or it will become the dramatized rendition of parties for a long time to come.
Your future self