A Letter to My 18 Year-old Self

In August of 1987, I left home for the first time to attend college.  I was scared, naive, and self-destructive.  If I had an opportunity to sit down and talk to my 18 year-old self, here's what I'd say:

 
Put down that beer right now. It has caused you enough grief already and I am sure that if you stop drink­ing now, it will save you a lot of grief in the future. You do not need it. It just makes you seem silly and makes you a target for abuse.
 
Now, call your mom back and tell her you will be changing your major even though she thinks you won’t be able to succeed at anything else. Danc­ing is her dream, not yours. You want to be seen AND heard.
 
Unfortunately, your life has been based on how you appear to others and it has made you very inse­cure. You will never measure up to the incredible standards you have created for yourself. So, just do it. Change your major from dance to psychology.
 
Here comes the difficult part.
 
You are not crazy.
 
You are right.
 
The drinking, the eating disorder and the incredibly low self-​esteem are connected. I know you have been searching with all of your might, try­ing to find the missing piece, trying to get it to make sense. I know you do not want to drink and you do not want to count potato chips. You want to walk into a room and confidently say, “Hello.”
 
The missing piece is a lost memory. You suppressed it because it was too much for your developing brain to handle. I am not sure your brain can handle it now, but I do know you’ll waste less time if you know—now.
 
If you need to leave school, do it.
 
If you need to stop talk­ing to your mom and sis­ter, do it.
 
If you need to join the Peace Corps, do it.
 
Whatever it takes to begin your journey of healing, do it now.
 
All else will take care of itself.
 
No need to worry about getting too old to dance. You won’t be a famous dancer. Dance for fun.
 
If you want to be famous, head towards that lit­tle room in the basement of the university next to the sports equipment storage—the computer lab. That’s where the money is. And yes, you are smart enough to do it.
 
Work on your voice. Write. Laugh. Go for a walk and write some more.
 
No, I’m not kidding.
 
That journal writing you have been doing is good stuff. It really, really is. And don’t throw away any of them. You’ll want all of your writ­ing, even the stuff you wrote when you were eight years old.
 
People will hear you.  You will be heard.
 
It will get very lonely sometimes. But it will pass. Everything does. Darkness turns to light, sadness to joy and vice versa.
 
Yes, there will be darkness.
 
When it is especially difficult, look in the mirror and say, “I love you.”
 
Look at me, right now, saying, and “It wasn’t your fault.”
 
You will get through this.
 
You have survived the worst of it.
 
There will be light.
 
And I will be here, with you, always.

 

Kimberly S. at Sperk*

 

 

photo credit: Xavier Encinas via Flickr CC 

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