To the Girl I Used to Be

I was talking to an acquaintance recently about how I’ve learned to filter the crap out of my life. And by crap, I mean the friendships, behaviours and attitudes that didn’t serve me. I really feel like I’m starting to find myself, finally. She looked at me and said, “How old are you again?” I told her I was 25. She laughed. “Didn’t I tell you that was the age you start getting it together?” She had.

When I met her five years ago, we’d had a conversation about life and friendship and at the time, I was convinced that I was stuck with everyone and everything in my life. Being older than me, and having had her fair share of life experience, she had told me differently, but I didn’t believe her. At that point, just 20 years old, I had been holding on to a lot of baggage that I carried through my adolescence. The whole “it gets better” thing they tell you as a teen when life feels like trash hadn’t really kicked in yet. But after that chat with my acquaintance this week, I realized it really does get better. I wish my 15-year-old self had known that. Unfortunately, time travel isn’t a thing yet. But if I could go back in time and warn my younger self, here’s what I’d tell her.

Dear Talia,

He’s going to break your heart, you know? That boy who knows he doesn’t love you but likes your attention? He’s going to take your heart and shatter it because he can. When it happens, it will hurt like hell, and you will bear it quietly because you are ashamed to have loved someone who didn’t love you. You will take your unrequited love and host your own pity party with a guest list of one. You will eat your sadness and drink your sorrow. Everything on the menu will be bitter and the taste will linger for a while. The awfulness of it will stick to your tongue and taint everything that passes your lips.

That’s going to feel light compared to the trauma you’ll endure. You will be harmed terribly by people who were supposed to love you. You will learn to push the shame and fear to the bottom of your heart and smile when you want to cry. You will find ways to justify the unjustifiable. To excuse what’s happening to you. It will eat you alive, but you’ll suffer in silence. Forced smiles will be a part of your uniform and you’ll get really good at pretending to be alright.

Every relationship — even friendships — will feel complicated. You’ll want desperately to be liked but you won’t quite fit. You will struggle with feeling inadequate and too much all at once. When you feel like too much, you’ll try to whittle yourself down into palatable pieces. When you feel like too little, you will layer yourself in pretences. Much of your time will be spent trying to figure out how to be lovable. You’ll give your everything to people. You’ll do this before you learn that not everyone deserves it. And even when you realize that loyalty is rare, you’ll still have to learn who does it and who doesn’t. You’ll be betrayed and taken advantage of. It will sting long after you let go of those broken friendships.

When you finally start growing into those features you hated as a child, a little sashay in your hips and a smile on your lips will catch the attention of men who might not have noticed you just a few years back. You’ll entertain a gaggle of suitors who will take you to dinner and movie after dinner and movie. They will talk about the same things in the same way and you’ll entertain it because you crave connection. But they will bore you and they will all want the same thing. And you won’t give it to them because you’re not that bored. But it will keep you from lonely evenings at home until you figure out how to enjoy your own company.

Then you’ll meet him. You know, HIM. He’ll be different from the others. He’ll be charming and well-intentioned. You’ll fall hard and quickly. It will be magical. But even magic isn’t perfect. So he’ll hurt you and you’ll hurt him but you’ll figure it out. And it will just feel right. And you’ll meet good friends too. And they will love you exactly as you are. They will enjoy your humour and support your ambitions. They will dry your tears when you cry and bring you wine when you have sorrows to nurse.

But most importantly, you will meet me, the girl behind the reflection in the mirror. You will see me for the first time, with fresh eyes. I will fight for you, speak in your defense and begin healing your wounds. I will take off the pretences and proudly put on all the things you used to hide. I will dance without inhibition, sing at the top of my lungs, and run headlong towards our passions. I’m still a mess, and a little insecure, but I know who I am and what I want. And I’m all those things because you survived the heartbreaks, the shitty friendships, the disappointments, and the trauma.

What I’m trying to say is, all your struggle is for something. When the tears soak your pillow and your heart is breaking, just know that you survive. In fact, you do better than that. You thrive, in spite of every boy who played you, every friend who betrayed you, and everyone who hurt you. You find your stride and your tribe and it all works out. So hold on, ok? Just hold on.

Love,

The you that makes it

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