A Letter To The Younger Me

📷: Yiran Ding

Dear You,

Maybe it’s morning. Maybe it’s three in the afternoon. Maybe you’re driving down that Iowa backroad in a rush to get to work, the green and brown fields blurring in your rearview, pinching yourself to stay awake. You’re running to and from the next thing. You’re always running. Here’s a little secret—you never stop.

I don’t know where you learned that life is better experienced full speed, but you’re not wrong. Sure, sometimes you need to take a deep breath and root yourself in the earth a little more. But you’ve always had a drive within you to go, to grab, to achieve, to accomplish. And though the world will try to make you apologize for that, time and time again, you won’t. You shouldn’t.

See, you’re just getting started. You’re just figuring out all the energy and drive within you—and it’s not the same as anyone else. We all have our stories, our passions, our purposes. And this is yours.

To write, to run, to teach, to believe, to push yourself, to become something greater than those four walls, that that suburban town, than the only stop sign intersection two blocks south of your college when you loved and fell apart.

Maybe you’re not there yet, to the love part, I mean. Maybe you haven’t yet given him your heart or watched as your worlds collided in all their mess and glory. You were two different people—that’s something about you, you always go for the opposites—but you made it work somehow. For a while, at least. And don’t worry, neither of you will ever harbor anger for one another. Just time and change and fear.

You’ll still write poetry about him sometimes, but you’ll fall in love again. You’ll fall in love again, maybe even more than once. Or at least it’ll feel like love. You always get those feelings mixed up in your head, you damn Pisces. You’re always bleeding out for the people in your life, always sharing too much. But don’t stop. The world needs that, needs more of that.

You’ll help the lives you touch, even when it falls apart. I hope you keep going because you’re worthy. And you’ll eventually find a man who sees that, even if it takes a long time.

Listen. You’ll go through a period of transition. You’ll wake up every morning with a broken, heavy heart and you won’t know what the hell to do to shake it. You’ll hate everything. You’ll feel like you’re alone and you’ll work these eighteen hour days just to pass the time.

It’ll feel empty—everything. But somehow, you’ll continue. You’ll wake up before dawn in the darkness of your bedroom and you’ll pray to the drip of the rainwater off the roof, to the sound of your roommate’s heavy breathing through the wall. You’ll shrug on clothes, bike to work with the cold air making the tears run down your face, but somehow you’ll survive to write the heartbreak to healing. To tell the stranger that she’ll be okay and to lift her out of her own depression.

You’ll make art of the things that broke you.

Isn’t that incredible? I bet you could never imagine all the lives you’d one day touch. But you will. Oh, you will.

One day you’ll get this crazy idea in your head, and you’ll follow it. You’ll feel this buzzing in your chest like you’ve never experienced and things will feel right, and you’ll wonder if that’s the emotion everyone said would happen when you finally know something’s meant to be.

So you’ll pack your bags and your bandaged heart into a truck and move across the country. You’ll trade Midwest green for ocean blue. You’ll write poetry in the sand with the wind in your hair and the sun on your face and dirt underneath your fingernails and you’ll be alone and happier than you’ve ever been.

And you’ll finally stop running in the sense of running away. You’ll stay put for a little while, still full speed for the things you love. You’ll create. You’ll laugh. You’ll eat tacos and spend money and find a man who makes you believe in even bigger things, for yourself, for you both.

You’ll run into the waves when they’re icy cold and they’ll take your breath away. And you’ll fall into his arms with kisses that taste like salt and you’ll finally understand what it means to be two wholes coming together. And how damn beautiful that feels.

And you’ll write and write and write and find a church home and tell stories and get drunk and dance without caring what people think. You’ll celebrate the fact that you’re living, that you’re here. And you’ll make more time to call your friends and family. To be there even when you’re not there.

You’ll watch as people you love get married. You’ll stand beside some of them, beaming with pride. You’ll know that one day you’ll be there in that white dress, but you won’t rush. You’ll read books and hug children and watch the sunset fade over the southern California cliffs.

I don’t know how long it will take or if it will make sense. There will be days when it all falls together, when it all falls apart. You’ll be happy. You’ll be sad. You’ll wonder if you’re alone or headed down the right road. You’ll be confused and anxious and excited and all the phases in-between. But you’ll keep going. You’ll find your way. You’ll be alright.

And years later, you’ll write this letter to yourself again.

Imperfect and messy and happy and still figuring it out as you go.