A letter to my 18-year-old self


It’s been a while.

You’re about to embark on your final semester of high school. Things are about to change in big and small ways. But you feel it already, a deep ache in your bones that these moments with these people will never be the same after you walk across that stage in June.

People are going to leave, physically and emotionally. Your friend circle will cycle, either by your own choice or theirs. That’s okay. To quote that play you’ve read obsessively, “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and entrances.” Let it happen because those people teach you so much about yourself and the world.

You’ll work fulltime for four years, and it’s draining. The people and highlights are going to stick with you, the rest won’t. Frisbee Fridays with the guys (you’re a great wide receiver), JJ’s with its delicious chicken tenders (it’s not the tenders you love, it’s the honey mustard), 2 AM Denny’s with C, becoming more active during NaNoWriMo, and driving in your first car singing at the top of your lungs.

For the first time, you’ll experience depression, but you don’t have the vocabulary to describe it. It’s not how you’ve seen it reflected on your friends. So you throw yourself into activities and new friend groups to keep busy. It becomes a pattern. Between community college and work, you’ll have little time for yourself, but it’s the most alive you’ve felt in a long time besides your touchdown frisbee catches and writing discussions.

Certain books are going to make you cry every time you think about them. They shake you to your core with realizations about your sense of self.

You’re in love with your best friend. It took you a few years to admit it. But A, you are so gay. If only you admitted that to yourself sooner maybe your sense of self won’t feel so jumbled. You’ll date a boy or two, but girls make your throat tight and breathless because of their beautiful eyes and hair. The two of you never date though. You end your friendship in an explosion because you’re both self-destructive so why not make it so it can’t be repaired?

The scariest year is when you decide to transfer schools. You enlist E’s help because you trust her guidance and ability to keep you accountable. She’s wonderful at researching and finds the place you end up going to. They offer you a lot of money, plus Taco Bell is nearby, so you can’t say no. It’s across the country in a tiny red state you never expected to find yourself in. But you go. And it’s the biggest leap you’ve ever taken.

It’s worth it.

You’ll fall in love with a girl. It’s deep and fast. This is that lesson about hearts that all those books warned you about. Her warm hugs and soft lips make you forget to take a step back and not jump ahead. The breakup is hard and this rock bottom is lower than the river rocks you thought about joining that single digit night in the middle of winter. There’s going to be ink on your skin to remind you what you didn’t do. The sting of the tattoo needle is an easier pain to bear, and you generate a list of impactful words and images to help you claim your body.

That dark feeling lingers, wanders into your life during late nights when the world is still and you’re struck with that sense of being alone. You use this as motivation to make sure no one you care about ever feels like this. Compassion is one of your strengths. Befriending people is easy, even though extroversion wears you out.

Back home, things change a lot, but you only hear about it through weekly Skype chats with your mother. You love your biological family, but you also realize how important your chosen family has become. They stand in for the years you’re away. Somehow you’ve managed to surround yourself with some excellent people who say the right words you need to hear.

You impress your writing professors, and you think it’s luck. It takes a crying session in one professor’s office to get you to accept the praise. This self-doubt has been a long talking point between you and your counselor. She suggests Imposter Syndrome, after a quick Google search, you laugh at how nothing has ever described you more accurately than the Wikipedia article.

There’s more loss than friendships. One mentor will pass away, and you won’t recognize the hole in your life until you’re sitting at her funeral. She made you laugh and let you call her mom, a heartwarming phrase when you only see your family once a year. The passing of D will be sudden, yet you’re prepared for it. You wondered when it would happen, this boy you saw as your brother, and it’s almost fitting that it’s senior year of undergrad days after your birthday.

I could tell you the changes I would want you to make, like allowing yourself to be more emotionally vulnerable with friends, or pursuing your love of science. There will always be choices you’ll overthink, and decisions you wish were different. What I can say is that you’re happy with who you are. You’ve fought and pushed yourself for everything you’ve ever wanted. Don’t give up, perseverance is one of your strengths.

Stay excellent.
-You in ten years


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