To my 25 year old self,

I love you. 24 in 2016 has been a year of learning about love, can you take it with you? Can you hold its weight and carry it on? You have to, simply.

The one simple fact of life that reigns supreme, the only thing that creates peace; begets happiness, success. The only thing that matters. Love.

It has become more easy to love than to hate. Don’t ruin that. Don’t waste that. What a freedom to be able to enjoy. What a strength. What a privilege. All hate is self hate, what a burden. Heavy chains, do you remember the weight of those chains? Bogging down your judgement and self assurance? Keeping you awake at night, eating away at you, stealing moments, minutes, hours from your days. I remember the empty dorm room at 4 am, all those times you were trying anything to pretend you’re not familiar with loneliness even though you’re surrounded by photos and social media accounts of people who want to be there but not… here.

“As the mind, so the person.”

Don’t waste your time, you wasted so much time believing the reality others wanted to impose. Prove them wrong, you love proving them wrong. Remember, proving them wrong is the easy part. Express yourself. Don’t give up, you can figure it out. Give yourself permission, you have the power (I know you know). What doesn’t exist in silence doesn’t exist.

“The walls around your mind can’t keep you safe.” Break them down. Never stop looking at yourself and questioning. You know it makes you stronger. Keep being honest. Keep pushing. Move forward, set your own pace, but keep going forward. Forward and to the side is okay. Give yourself permission, you have that power (I know you know). Life is not that serious.

“If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.”

Work doesn’t need to feel like work to be work. Why do you always feel guilty? What does that do for you? Can you use it? Use it or let it go. Give yourself permission, you have the power (I know you know).

Stay true to yourself, don’t sell out. Write more. Please write more. It doesn’t matter if no one is listening.. but what if someone is? You’re listening, aren’t you? Aren’t you someone? Don’t you matter? Doesn’t that simple fact matter? Doesn’t that mean it’s your duty? Keep questioning and your path will light up, follow your intuition — it has never, ever ever ever steered you wrong. Hasn’t it brought you here? Aren’t you where you’re suppose to be?

Perhaps you’re not. What are you going to do? Can you love more? Love yourself more. Question yourself more. Now what? Breathe. Breathe easy, all is coming. Nothing's waiting for you. You’re not even waiting for yourself.

Be focused. Drive yourself. Work on conquering fear: the walls around your mind. What you built to keep you safe, keeps you in fear. Something only exists when it has a polar opposite — enjoy this reality. Do you remember 5th grade, Dad saying, “Grab the bull by the horns and take charge”? Fear demands courage. Expect it. Give yourself permission, you have the power (I know you know).

Be genuine, not perfect. Live in your own expression. Love more.

I know you don’t want to waste the gifts within you, that fire in your belly that motivates you to care in ways people will never understand. Isn’t that such a gift? Understanding? The capacity to? Breathe. Breathe easy, you’ll figure it out — Follow your intuition. Believe you can. You have something you can share with the world, something perpetual, something that will spread beyond you because it’s bigger than you. Love. The capacity to. The greatest gift, the biggest privilege, the most concrete freedom.

Build yourself up but don’t burn yourself out. Learn how to say no — Remember that doesn’t warrant guilt. Be the finger pointing to the moon about this message. You’re so, so strong. Marvel at your own strength, let it inspire you. Look at how far you’ve come. Look at what you came without. Don’t forget what helped you get here. Be kind. Love. How can you fail?

“Failure” — not trying. Failure is believing what they told you. Failure is allowing the paternalistic voice in your head, the voice that is not you, win.

Failure is not depression. Embrace depression. It has always taught you something. Inside Out. Failure is not being back at square one without an idea of where to turn. Keep moving forward. Reach. You’ll get there. You always have. You’ve been hopeless, where else would the magic happen?

“Forget your personal tragedy. We are all bitched from the start and you especially have to be hurt like hell before you can write seriously. But when you get the damned hurt, use it-don’t cheat with it.”

Do you remember when you were young and the only anxiety you experienced was when you didn’t have plans to leave your house? How desperately you craved to get away from the place you were? Nothing has changed, has it? Perhaps only intensified but now you’re …stuck. Be grateful for what being stuck affords you. Love is the only way. Love Connecticut in every season. Love the view. Love the long-way home. Eat lunch with Mom as often as you can. Watch the sunrise and the sunset. Write down how you feel, make note of special moments. They will be your memories. Go out of your way. You’re not the person this place thinks you are. You’re not the person this place wants to remember you as. I know you know. You’ll fly away from this place, I know you will. Breathe.

“And that’s the thing about people who mean everything they say. They think everyone else does too.”

Nothing is owed, not even honesty. Do not give away the best of yourself simply because you can. Be more direct. Be less apologetic. Say what you want to say, when you want to say it, to whoever you want to say it to. Stop blaming yourself. Stop giving people what they want. Be genuine, not perfect.

“Go harder, fuck ‘em…”

When you sing, scream. When you dance, close your eyes. Embrace how often you blush. Don’t worry about people figuring you out, you are not the voice in your head. I know you know.

Invest more of yourself, in yourself. Be yourself. Identify what you want, say aloud with conviction what you want. Get it. Reach for it. Keep moving forward. Stop saying you don’t know what you want. That is a failure to yourself. Figure it out.

“Sloth is the great enemy — the inspirer of cowardice, irresolution, self-pitying grief, and trivial, hairsplitting doubts. Sloth may also be a psychological cause of sickness. It is tempting to relax from our duties, take refuge in ill-health and hide under a nice warm blanket.”

Read more books. Learn more words. Please write more, you have too much to say. Go outside more. Stop sitting at your desk because it presents the illusion that you’re “busy” doing “work” because that’s what you “should” be doing at this “point” in your life. That’s not success. You make the rules. Stop believing in the sanctity of how others live their lives. Don’t you remember you love proving people wrong? Love is all the matters, I know you know.

Go tattoo your leg. Doesn’t it seem silly to not have done what you wanted at any point because you were worried about the opinion of the people you disliked so much you wouldn’t even add on facebook? Fuck facebook. Have you ever been more proud of yourself than in the instances when you did what you wanted to, in the face of opposition?

“Great spirits have always encountered violent oppression from mediocre minds.”

Go on social media less, entirely. You’ve been playing that notoriety game for over a decade — I know you know you’re sick of it. You know you can do something about it, right? Read the news less, start crossing off books on the list you have tacked to your wall. Read books that make you feel a certain type of way when everything else has made you feel... the polar opposite. You have that power, I know you know.

Stop trying to save people from where you were at your lowest, hasn’t it given you necessary perspective and strength? You’re the finger pointing at the moon, not the moon. Create content, express yourself. Give the world what it needs. Love. Create love, be love, live in love. Show them how it’s done, prove them wrong. Give yourself permission, you have the power (I know you know).

Create a routine, not a comfort zone. Be uncomfortable daily. Do more things that you don’t want to do. Try new things. Talk to new people — Or don’t. “No” is a complete sentence. Know that feeling obligated is not the same as being obligated. Consider the things that make you procrastinate, stop procrastinating on a few of them. Like speaking up when you have unavailability for work. Stop procrastinating on that, really, stop doing that.

Let go of the emotion you hold about some friendships. You cannot recreate what you had with someone simply because it was significant. Isn’t the uniqueness what made it so? You have changed, and so have they — How could it possibly be the same again? Love, still. Always love. Always forgive. Notice you’re friendlier with some that have betrayed you than with some that have never hurt you. You’re stronger for it. You grew to know a certain freedom. Love was the only thing that could have saved you, you expressed it and you found happiness again. Lessons learned.

“Forgive others, not because they deserve forgiveness, but because you deserve peace.”

Tell those you miss, that you miss them so — Remind those you love, that you love them so. Write letters, use quotes that communicate the messages you don’t know how to put into words. Write often so you can more easily put how you feel into words. That’s why writing is so difficult and daunting, after all…

“Between what is said and not meant, and what is meant and not said, most of love is lost.”

Write the articles you’ve wanted to write. Just do the damn thing. Do whatever you need to do so you don’t wake up in 30 years wishing you had taken a chance on your dreams. Don’t mind the disingenuous expectations you hold yourself to, your environment put them there: the struggle between blue-collar and white-collar paths. You can make it work in whatever world you chose to work in, however you chose to work. Remind yourself of hearing, “I can’t believe this is all there is left”, and acknowledge the identity-theft in careers. Use the lives of your parents to guide you through 25, polar opposites — existing so significantly because of the other. You don’t have to choose a world to exist in, you don’t have to meet the expectations created for you in each world. Create your own, but use their worlds to shape yours. Remind yourself of the shortcomings of each life chosen, say out loud with conviction what you want. Finally and completely; stop measuring success based on the interpretations of others. This is your only life.

Be patient with yourself. Sometimes we take a step forward to take two steps back — The goal is always the same: keep moving forward. Nothing from your past scares you anymore, afterall.

Build people up. Do your best to intervene in any situation you can contribute something good to. Speak up when people make you uncomfortable. Understand and believe that the act is more egregious than speaking out about the act. Always. Don’t let others prohibit you from speaking out. That’s the entire point. Don’t let them win. They only exist because you do, their polar opposite. They’re so very welcome.

Acquire more house plants. Learn more about human anatomy. Get your ear pierced. Get tatted. Go somewhere unexpected. Do yoga in the middle of the woods during a snowfall. Master your handstand. Get something published. Get another thing published. Go to Watch Hill, Rhode Island. Map out the Liggio family tree, discover that side of your family. Send a random stranger a letter. Chill out on a day you’re too stressed. Stress out on a day you’re too chill. Go to more concerts, the one experience that brings you to a place of euphoria like nothing else. Thank those who have helped you, let them know the ways in which they’ve helped. Support your peers, especially the ones making choices you don’t agree with. Support the people that were at one time very close friends, always be shelter from the rain. Live by example. Love. Spread so much love. Spread more love than you know what to do with. Love so unconditionally you don’t even understand it. Smile. Don’t smile. Stop rushing. Breathe. Don’t worry about your pace or progress, keep your head low and keep moving. Patience, no one knows what they are doing. Humility, your “right” way isn’t everyone’s. Breathe. You got this… I know you know.

Don’t roll your eyes. Don’t become that person. The goal is to stay as young for as long as you can. Growing with familiarity from 24 and before. In love. Hopeful and determined. Excited and anxious to prove them wrong. Accept that it is scary, allow it to illustrate more of yourself than you can see alone. I know you. I see you. I feel you… Apply it.

“We shall all someday look back on our lives and see that, in spite of our company, we were alone the whole way. I do not say lonely, at least, not all the time, but essentially, and finally, alone. This is what makes your self-respect so important, and I don’t see how you can respect yourself if you must look in the hearts and minds of others for your happiness.”

September 21, 2016: To the gift of love; reap what you sow — Show up and prove them wrong. Happy 25th birthday to myself. I love you.

Fuck ’em. Go harder.

Like what you read? Give Kat Liggio a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.