So last year I was eighteen and I wrote a letter to my sixteen year old self. You can read it here.
This year I am nineteen and thus am writing a letter to my seventeen year old self.
As background context: Seventeen was my last year of high school. Seventeen was the year my father passed away. Seventeen was a rough year for a number of reasons.
Dear 17 year old me,
First thing's first. No more scars, honey. You're done with that. You know you're done with that. For the most part you're gonna do pretty well but don't let yourself fall back into old habits. You're stronger than that, strong enough to ask for help and to accept it.
This coming year is going to be rough. It will be harder than anything you've ever experienced. You will come to understand the true meaning of the words 'pain' and 'grief'. You will come to understand that pain demands to be felt. You will come to understand that sharp blades and running away won't help, that some things you jut have to push through.
While we're on that subject, running away is a stupid idea. You can't sleep up a tree. You're scared of spiders and still a little bit scared of the dark (and quite rightly too. Keep it that way). It's not going to end well for you (although you will look back on it and laugh).
Never give up. You're brave, you're strong, and you've made it this far. You're going to make it even further, but you've gotta keep going. Don't sit down. Don't stand still. Keep moving, keep fighting for yourself and your beliefs.
Believe in yourself. I mean it. I know you're overwhelmed. I know you're drowning. I know you don't like yourself at all. I know you blame yourself for a lot of things that aren't your fault, but you've got to let it go, honey, you've got to stand up for who you are and what you want. Be assertive. It gets easier with practise. Maybe if you start now you'll be super good at it by the time you're my age.
Don't take your friends and family for granted. Call them. Make an effort to spend time with them. Relationships take work and the sooner you figure this out the better your relationships will be.
Work hard in school. I know that for a long time, just getting out of bed and pretending to smile is going to feel like it's enough of an achievement, and I know that, if you were to read this, my voice would be lost amongst all the others telling you the same thing, but the sad fact of the matter is that even though you're falling apart, even though your world is imploding, life goes on. And you have to go on with it or you'll get left behind.
There are going to be a lot of black days, sunshine. Just do your best. Yes, you could be doing worse, and yes, you could be doing better, but take the time to pat yourself on the back for the fact that you're doing anything at all.
Be grateful. You're bad at that, but you'll get better. Start now.
Keep writing, whatever you do. It's valuable and it's therapeutic to boot. You're going to wish you wrote more during the dark times. Write as much as you can and FOR GOODNESS SAKE WRITE THE DATE ON IT!
Presuming that you don't take any of my advice (you won't, I know you), you're going to make some pretty awful decisions in the next couple of years. You're going to compromise yourself and your values and you're going to have a lot of regrets. I wish I could tell you not to do it. It wasn't worth it. It isn't worth it.
At the same time, nothing is unforgivable. Remember this. Always.
What else? Well, singing Christmas Carols in July probably isn't the best idea. Don't share drinks, you'll end up with a tummy bug on your eighteenth birthday. Not fun.
Let's talk about faith for a minute. Faith is a bit of a foreign concept to you at the moment. You still believe in something but you're not sure whether you think God is indifferent or just a sadist. He is neither. He loves you fully even though you don't feel it right now. Even though you don't feel like you deserve it right now. The sooner you find you faith again, the better. The church is true. Remember the signs. The voice telling you to go to church that first time. The butterflies on your baptism day. Your testimony is stronger than you think and it's only going to grow.
Don't shun God and religion because of bad experiences. Life is a school and you're here to learn, and sometimes (well, it is you, so most of the time really) you're going to have to learn it the hard way. Don't begrudge yourself the chance to learn and grow from the pain and anger. Move on. Let go.
You've got a long way to go, sunshine, but you're going to be okay. Keep your head up. I love you, and so do a lot of other people. Let them.
Be brave, little one.
Jessica Howatson, aged 19