You’re eight years old right now. You just got diagnosed with your anxiety disorders, and though you can’t fully comprehend that right now, please know that it means you aren’t alone. This world is bigger than you, and scarier than you are, and it is going to hurt you, and that’s alright. Pain is a part of life.
I remember the way your heart would fall into that spot at the bottom of your stomach when you got scared. You’re not going to stop being scared anytime soon, but you certainly will learn how to deal with the fear in a better way.
You are beautiful just the way you are. Stay youthful, and don’t get too caught up in trying to be perfect. You’ll never be perfect, but you’ve always been good enough.
You’re nine years old right now. You’re currently curled up in a ball on your bed, hugging your stuffed raccoon and sobbing because you haven’t had a crush yet and you think you’re broken. You aren’t broken, and that crush will come eventually. Don’t anticipate it anytime soon, it won’t be for a few more years- and even when it does make itself known, it won’t be an entirely pleasant experience.
Not everything in this world is perfect, with every intricate little stitch applied by hand. Sometimes, things are frayed and imperfect and messy, and that’s okay. You don’t need to have a perfect life to treat yourself kindly. Dry your tears; you’re alright.
You’re ten years old right now. You just cut your hair into a bob, and you think it’s the best style choice you’ve ever made. In hindsight, it was one of the worst, but every mistake gets you one step closer to finding the right thing for yourself. In a few years, you’ll look back and smile at your short hair and buck-teeth, and the innocence in your eyes.
Stop trying to mask your insecurities. It’s alright to look in the mirror and admit that you don’t feel well. As long as your bad days don’t interfere with your good days, having bad days is perfectly healthy and you should allow yourself to experience them. Drink up every part of this short life: the good, the bad and the ugly.
You’re eleven years old right now. Your face and arms are covered in scabs from picking at your skin when anxiety attacks manifest themselves. Your mom always tells you to stop, but it’s harder than it seems to stop something that almost seems like second nature. You’ve started wearing gloves on your hands to keep from tearing holes into your skin, and that has earned you the nickname “Paws” from a few of your classmates.
You’re a great listener- almost too great. When one of your friends begins to speak of something negative that happened to them, you absorb it and the pain hits you just as hard. Learn to put yourself first every once in a while.
If you don’t have enough sunshine for yourself, how will you manage to provide for everyone else? Keep yourself happy first.
Also, embrace your paws. They aren’t nearly as ugly as you think.
You’re twelve years old right now. That crush that you never thought would make its way into your life has suddenly manifested. You’re currently curled up in a ball on your bed, hugging your stuffed raccoon and sobbing because you had always hoped you’d love a boy.
You aren’t broken, though it seems that way right now. I know how you’re looking forward to growing up, and I know it’s because you’ve always imagined your older self to be some sort of hero. Really though, she’s only as human as you are, and it’s no use praying to every God in existence for this to be a phase, because it’s not.
This is you, alright? This is the girl you grow up to be. She’s nothing close to perfect, and she certainly is no hero. That’s okay.
You’re thirteen years old right now. You’re having an anxiety attack in the bathroom at your first school dance, and you’ve sworn never to attend another school social for as long as you live. Promise yourself that you’ll break that vow eventually because whether you think it’s important or not, you won’t want to miss your senior prom.
Later tonight, you’re going to go look at Christmas lights with some friends who won’t be your friends in two years’ time. That’s okay. People grow, and people change, and just as you are discovering yourself, you’re discovering the people who are healthy for you.
Don’t put your future self on a pedestal. Looking back, your past self had just as many imperfections as your present self, and your future self just might have even more. You don’t have to idolize someone in order to want the best for them.
You deserve the best, imperfections and all.
You’re fourteen years old right now, and you’re staring at your reflection wondering when one person will come into your life who genuinely cares about you. The answer is, not until you begin to care about yourself.
You need someone to admire. I know. I remember. I was once you. I was fourteen only six months ago, and I remember the way pain would fill our eyes and we would cry into the smallest hours of the night about things that don’t matter to us a bit anymore. You’ll learn to be your own hero, believe me, and until then: you are enough, and you need to write that on the bathroom mirror so you see it every time you see your reflection.
Later this year, you’re going to come out as a lesbian to your friends, and then eventually, to your family. It won’t be entirely voluntary- more like a desperate attempt to proclaim it to your parents before one of your friends says it first, because you so badlywant to be the one to proclaim your identity to the world- but why it happened doesn’t matter because it happened just the same.
You’ll laugh, and you’ll cry (and you’ll do both at the same time) during that conversation with your parents. You’ll feel your hands shaking violently and wonder if you’ll even be able to make a sound because your throat feels full of unmoving air. No matter how much you doubt yourself, though, you’ll make it through.
I’m fifteen years old right now, writing this because I happened to find some spare time and an excuse to write these letters to you.
I admire the bravery of that eight-year-old, and the resilience of that ten-year-old, and the little, flickering bit of hope in the eyes of that twelve-year-old, and the determination of that fourteen-year-old. I believe that in another world, or in another timeline, these letters will find you at eight, and at ten, and at twelve, and at fourteen years old. You’ll sit down in the quiet of an uneventful evening and read these letters carefully, and you’ll find something to admire about yourself. In your search for a hero, you’ll find who you truly are.
Frankly, that’s more important than finding a hero. You are beautiful, and you are brave, and you are shy and troubled and anxious and you are so much more than can be seen with the naked eye. Dear Gracie,
You’re not perfect, but you’ve always been wonderful. Learn to find the hero in yourself and you’ll discover a new side to life.
Until then, these letters are here.
This is one of the rawest and most honest pieces I have ever written. Thank you for allowing me to share it with you.