Letter to my fifteen year old self

Dear you,

I’m you from the future. I’m more than twice your age, and there are some things I want to tell you about before you go off thinking you know what’s good for you.

You get in to Chamber Singers and it becomes one of the best yearlong experiences of your life. You get into college, too; the college you get into and attend is at the same time great and awful. It’s great because you’ll love and cherish your time there, and you’ll wish you won’t have to leave after four years. Yes, you do graduate; don’t worry. You could do better in your classes, but in the end, the things you remember won’t be the classes. It’s awful because you’ll mess up a lot and hurt yourself and be hurt by other people.

Floundering around after college isn’t a bad thing. You’ll have time to figure out your shit, and you will. Well, you’ll figure out some of it, anyway. There will be some stuff that you won’t be sure you’ll ever figure out, and that’s okay, too. You won’t make all the right decisions, or even most of the right decisions, but don’t worry too much about that either. Life has a way of surprising people who earnestly move forward into it, and that includes you.

Fear is not the enemy. You’ll think you’re faking it even fifteen years from now. But it’s not fear that you have to worry about, it’s inaction. Being paralyzed by fear is the enemy, not fear itself. When you overcome, you’ll be a better person.

Don’t spend so much money. Really, all that stuff you think you have to have… you don’t have to have. It’s really not that important. Know your financial limits and stay within them. I know you won’t take this advice, but I have to say it anyway, just in case.

Sunscreen is important, but it’s not so important that you have to wear it every day. You don’t go out in the sun that often, so it’s not that big of deal if you get burned a couple of times. I hope my 45- or 60-year-old self doesn’t regret saying that.

Eventually, you’ll get a graduate degree in writing and you’ll be able to earn a living writing and editing, even if it’s not the kind of writing you really want to do. You’ll give presentations at conferences about poetry, nonfiction, diversity in the writing and editing spheres, and more. Keep on that path. If you want it bad enough and work toward it well enough, you will see the fruit of your labors.

There may be nothing you can do to avoid being hurt by other people, but you can avoid hurting yourself. The struggle with depression and anxiety will be real. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, tell yourself, “I can always kill myself tomorrow.” That may sound pessimistic on a good day, but remember that you’ll only tell yourself this on bad days. On bad days, you’ll feel like you need the out that suicide brings, but it’ll be okay because you’ll put it off until tomorrow. Don’t worry about the future if you can’t handle it. Just worry about today. Get through today.

Live simply and love fully. Love yourself fully. It will be difficult and you won’t always succeed, but be kind to yourself. Respect yourself and your friends enough to ask for the things that you need. You may not always get those things, but it will do you good to ask.

Yours, me.

Viannah E. Duncan

Viannah E. Duncan is a writer and activist hailing originally from Los Angeles. She lives outside of Baltimore, Maryland, and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Wilkes University. She has a cat, Cleo.

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