Dear Past Self:
You’ve lived so many different lives and taken on so many different incarnations that it’s almost impossible to address you, as it is similar to addressing a large crowd. It actually puts me in the place of a fraud medium– someone who gleans the emotions, fears and insistent need for connections from needy individuals. And yet, because I know you – all of you – so well – this task is something I know I can do and do with accuracy that seems -and is- too sharp to be fraudulent.
I’m looking at you now, sitting on the floor in front of your locker with your black vinyl 5 Star binder (that you begged your mom to get for you before the first day of school but now feels like a bulky oversized and heavy inconvenience for you) open on your lap, drawing. Always, always drawing. In fact, you go home every few days and sneak a new package of ruled paper and a packet of black pens, just for the sole purpose of drawing constantly because you run out of paper. You draw in class, in between class, after school, at lunch, and during “TAKE 10” you sit at the back and eat a snack and draw, and listen to your headphones and ignore everyone, lost in your drawings and your music, and your mother’s music that you dare not tell anyone you listen to because you’re embarassed of what they might think if you said, “I’m listening to Matthew’s Southern Comfort” instead of what everyone else is listening to. What they don’t know though Past Self, is that someday, that music that you shamefully listen to alone is going to win you a lot of impressed congratulations from total strangers and your friends, and a whole lot of free alcohol. And you don’t care about that now, but someday it will be a source of self-fulfillment, fun and gratification for you. So don’t stop listening, because all that knowledge and passion will turn you into me, someone who likes who they are and is proud of themselves.
Remember the time David Thomas (yes, I’m going to name names) told you your drawing looked like a “stoned slut”? And that drawing was of someone you created and wrote into a narrative, and was someone you “knew” very well? And you ignored him and returned to your piece of paper even though you felt like shit inside? That was your strength of character, even though it seemed like shyness amounting to weakness which did nothing to help your situation. Later in life, you’ll demonstrate this again and again: you will burn bridges with former loved ones who you felt mistreated you and your friends; you will, even in the wake of MONTHS of unemployment, never ever give up on searching for an opportunity and continue to maintain at least partial optomism, even at your worst; you will lose 60lb in less than a year and regain control of your life, your emotions, and yourself, simply because you felt doing so would make you a happy person again, and you were right. And you’re looking at me now wondering how this is even possible, but what you don’t know is that it’s all in you now. Your life seems like a meaningless and endless stretch of pain, awkwardness and nothingness. The people around you take advantage of you and make fun of you (mostly for things that you cannot help) and they make you feel powerless and stupid and small. But that won’t always be the case. And look at it this way; that person I am now, who loves herself and loves her life and loves her hobbies, music, surroundings, friends, apartment and cat, is in you now. Good people with good lives don’t appear out of nowhere; they earn their keep and pay their dues and are born to succeed. You were born to succeed, even if success is measured locally and not globally at this point.
You’ve always loved Dr. Seuss’ “Oh the Places You’ll Go” and have considered it a solid rite of passage, something to be shared and read and marvelled at, regardless of its cliched implications. I think of you, actually, whenever I read it or hear it referenced. I in fact have a very clear image of you in my mind. You’re wearing that candy-striped jersey-knit skirt with that tacky rose pendant (you don’t think it’s tacky now, but just you wait, missy…) and matching seafoam green tank top (it takes guts to wear a tank top the way you do); your hair is straight and your eye makeup is a flawless effort of overwrought pastel rainbow colours, immacuately blended – that took you hours to achieve (you won’t always have the patience for makeup you do now – in fact, you’ll realize someday it’s just a juvenile hobby and it cheapens and in the words of your university drama teacher, “characterizes” you). In my image of you, you’re sitting on the ‘grad bench’ (aptly named), but you are alone; your allies are off somewhere, rallying without you, as they did on occasion, leaving you out, making you feel like your place was indeed not with them. And I think of how you felt, and looked, and what it would have meant to you to have what I have now… and how you need it more than I do, and time has a funny way of granting wishes and goals and favours to those who are deeply satisfied regardless. But… you will get there, and that’s what I want to stress to you. You will get there, and you’ll be in disbelief once you are.
You, my lovely, are the reason I exist, and not the other way around. You held on and remained strong and didn’t succumb to what others wanted you to sink low enough to become. You were honest and lived out your last years of high school without friends, but with a great deal of dignity. You didn’t fold when your tormenters made comments about your Trichotillomania, or your weight, or your clothes. You cried, sure – but crying isn’t a sign of weakness, even if in the moment it feels that way. Crying is an expression of emotion, and remember always, that there’s nothing stronger than expressing emotion; look for it in people you regard as good and worthwhile; it is priceless and coherant. I digress, however; I was inside of you all along, biding my time until I was able to get out. You withheld me for all that time, through all those painful trials and desperte times and even the times that you long to forget from when you were in grade 4… you patiently sat with it all, good and bad, and I owe you for that. Without you, I would have wound up someone I always knew I would grow to revile, someone without a soul, or that unspoken sense of dignity, someone who sold their soul for people she didn’t care about. That never happened; you saw to it that never happened.
Don’t let go, my dear. Everything will be wonderful. I’ve seen it and I can promise you only goodness.