An Open Letter to Myself At 21

Rest when you need to.

You are not melodramatic for staying in bed for three days.
You are not crazy just because you almost ran your car off the road.
You are just different now. Becoming.

I promise that you won’t have to hear that scream again. There will be a lot more screaming, don’t get me wrong — but no more of that primal, guttural sound that you couldn’t be sure had even come from you because you had never heard anything like that. You hadn’t known you were capable of creating sound like that.

This past year, you’ve found yourself capable of a lot of things you never previously imagined.

That was the sound of the breaking.
That was the sound of the beginning.

It feels like an ending to you now. And how could it not? It feels like an ending you’re not ready to face, the ripping away of the first thing you’ve ever really wanted. You made such big sacrifices for the future that was being built, and now it is all gone.

And you want it back.

You want back the things you sacrificed. You want back the one you sacrificed them for. You want back the life you thought you’d have, the life you were promised.

You want it all back.

And it’s going to hurt for a long time, to differing degrees. It’s going to feel like nothing could reach you where you are, except maybe him. But here’s the thing: he doesn’t want to. He’s already retreated to a place where you can’t reach him, and you’ll know that when you come together from this point on. When your bodies join and your souls remain in their individual corners. When you are satisfied but no longer fulfilled.

But this is the beginning, more than an ending.
You needed this pain in ways you don’t know yet, can’t see.

A life of relative virtue put you in a position of judgment, of self-righteousness. Your good heart is often shrouded by this heavy discernment. You have often cut people out of your life completely for minor transgressions. You couldn’t see how people made the mistakes that they make. You could not yet live there but for the grace of God go I.

You understood it on an intellectual level.
You spoke bravely for people who could not speak for themselves.
But you did not yet feel it in your heart.

You do now. Or you will, once you get out of bed.

From now on, you’ll never cut anyone out of your life again.
From this point on, everything you let go of will have claw marks on it.

This was the shortcut to the deeper, empathic part of yourself that you’ve always dipped into when you wanted to. This was the incident that ripped a hole into you big enough that your empathy will now flow freely, bathing everyone you touch, everyone you meet, everyone whose eyes meet yours.

It doesn’t feel like a shortcut.
It won’t feel like a shortcut over the next near-decade.

You’ll spend year after year trying on new faces, new places. Not to mask who you are, but in an effort to assess and toss out all the masks you’ve accumulated. In an effort to find the core of who you are. To integrate all your personalities. To find the common thread.

And you will find it.

And then the long, struggling years will all seem worth it. There’s no way to get around the fact that terrible, horrific things will happen to you. But I can promise you that nothing will hurt the way this does. You won’t carry anything so close to your heart as this first true pain. That doesn’t seem comforting to you now, but you’ll see that it slowly becomes the most comforting thought you have to hold onto.

And when you finally arrive at the summit of this agonizing journey, you’ll realize that it’s the nadir of your life. You’ll reference this when you write a book, dedicating it “most especially to you. Thank you for ruining my life so I could make a better one.” You’ll realize that this cracking open was the only way for the radiance of your soul to break free.

You’ll see that it had to happen.
One day, you’ll see.

So for now, rest when you need to.

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