An Open Letter to My 22 Year Old Self

I hardly think of her anymore.

Maybe that’s because she’s so far removed from who I’ve become, or maybe it’s because I just don’t see the purpose. I’ve done a lot of work to heal some of the scars she used to carry around. Still, every once in a while my mind drifts back, and I land on her. Sometimes I envy her. Her wild, carefree self, who was up for almost anything as long as it didn’t get her arrested or have the potential of showing her parents how rebellious she actually was. Most of the time, though, I feel sad for her. Because she was lost and afraid, and trying to fill her voids in all the wrong places. So, here is my letter to her.

Dear You,

I just want to start by saying…

Things are going to be okay.

You’ve been really good at wearing a mask for a really long time. You know how to appear that everything is okay when it isn’t. You know how to turn off the pain and turn on the charm, and the defense mechanism has served you well. Well, there will come a time when you don’t have to do that anymore. Or at least not as much. You’ll be able to sit and be okay with what is going on around you. Your panic won’t take over. You’ll stop wondering if you should drive your car off a bridge. You will be okay. So just hang on. And keep chasing the life you want, because it will prove to be one of the bravest and greatest things you ever did.

You won’t end up alone. 

I know nothing terrifies you more than being alone. And I know that in many ways you’ve always felt you were anyway. Even during those moments when the mask was out full force, you would look around and know that your life was so, so different than everyone else. Or at least that was your perception. The isolation that comes from those thoughts will begin to chip away, and you will realize that other people wear masks too.

The best part of all is that you will end up with that guy you’re so crazy about. He will give you stability, and he will give you the life you want. You won’t have to be afraid of being alone anymore because he won’t ever leave. Your fears will creep up and force him to prove it, and he will. Over and over.

Life is gonna get a whole lot harder. 

Brace yourself for this one, okay? Maybe I shouldn’t even tell you, but…

You’re going to lose your mom.

You know how sometimes you have those dreams about death, and sometimes they include her, and you wake up covered in sweat? You call her and you tell her about it, and she laughs as she says, “Well, I’m still here!”

Well. The nightmare will become real life. And even though you’ve been through a hell of a lot of trauma already, this loss will take the cake. You will be angry at her for leaving you alone to take care of your dad, and you will be angry that she’s not here to help you be a mother. Still, losing her will do two huge things for you. One, it will make you strong as hell. You’ll find a way to do the impossible, and you will be damn good at it. Two, and probably her absolute favorite, losing her will make you believe in God again.

I know this seems strange because you haven’t yet entered that stage of life when you start to question everything, but yes, for a period of time you will reject religion and everything that goes with it. Things will happen, though, and you’ll see that there’s more. You will see how her death will give you life, and she will come to you in ways that will shake you at your core. I can’t say that you’ll jump back on board with organized religion (your questioning mind will be there to stay), but you will see and feel God again.

You will be proud of who you are. 

I have so many memories of you walking to class, going to the mall, meeting up with friends at a bar, doing your homework, making crappy dinners, all while feeling like you weren’t good enough. You were beautiful, and you got attention for it. But you thought that was the only thing you had to offer anyone. You carried the weight of your own shame, and you had such little faith in yourself. You never wanted anyone to know that.

Later in your twenties, you will get the urge to apply to graduate school. You’ll be overly anxious and intimidated, but you’ll do it because you’ll think the options for a career are running out. You will be shocked by how well it fits, how passionate you become about human rights and mental health and counseling. You will transform. Your eyes will be opened to a new way of thinking, and the change will be so scary. It will be confusing too. But you will embrace it, and you will take it on the way you take on all new projects. You’ll make straight A’s for the first time ever, and you will finally see that you are so much more than your appearance.

You will find joy in things you can’t even imagine.

Life will continue to surprise you, even when you think you have it all figured out. Some huge events (such as babies and moves and the death of your mother) will accelerate life and bring it to a screaming halt at the same time. You will wrestle so, so hard with stepping back from your passion. You will cry when you receive the email that your test scores for licensing have expired. You will cringe at the thought of just being a stay at home mom. Your feelings of worthlessness will come back. But hang on, okay? Just hang on.

Because in the midst of all of that, you will find the most incredible joy. You will experience overwhelming, earth-shattering, lump-in-your-throat JOY. It will come in the middle of the night when your baby is nursing for the 17th time, and he opens his eyes, looks up at you and reaches for your face. It will come when your child curls up next to you on the couch just so he can hold your hand for a second. It will come when your boys smile and laugh at each other. It will come when you’re on the floor crying because you’re missing your mom, and your oldest rubs your back and says, “It’s okay, Mommy.” It will come when their faces light up the second you walk in the room. It will come on rainy days and sunny days. It will come when you’re looking for it and when you least expect it. You’ll want to bottle it up and drink it on the hard days, because those won’t ever go away.

You’ll see that walking away from your first passion, sacrificing all of yourself over and over again, and taking some serious leaps of faith are not only worth it, but are the blessings that have kept you alive. You will lose some of your beauty, and childbirth and nursing will do a whole number on your body. But it will be okay. You will be okay.

Because ur a mom now. 




2 thoughts on “An Open Letter to My 22 Year Old Self

  1. Sheron says:

    Thank you, Courtney! This is beautiful and so many people’s 22 year old self. Hopefully, it helped you to write it and it will definitely bless those that read it. It makes me want to celebrate aloneness with you, so you see, we are really not. Love to you, get re-certified, keep writing and loving sweet, precious daughter of Susan.

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