Letters to Our Younger Selves is a column where readers write letters to their younger selves with insight and perspective.
By Lisa Catapano
Dear Baby Girl,
This is a year of unraveling. Know that there is purpose in your pain. The world desperately needs the wisdom, compassion and kindness borne of your suffering. I promise.
Perfection is a myth. Let it go. There is no right or wrong; no good or bad; no mistake or failure. Perfect is to control as surrender is to flow. Live fully into each experience. Fall and get up many times over. You will discover yourself in your most vulnerable spaces.
Eat more vegetables. Eat more crow. Apologize for the lies you’ve told (“I’m not a virgin”/”I am a virgin”) and for the truths you hide (“I’m a ball of shame”), especially those you hide from yourself (“I’m in over my head”). Humility is strength. Forgiveness is the light.
One day as you walk between the chapel and the library that boundless, blue-eyed man-boy who fills your needy places will declare, “Raisin Bran is my favorite cereal”. With spontaneous delight you will rejoice, “Mine too!” When he fires back “Jesus! Is there anything I like that you don’t?” listen carefully. He’s told you who he is. Believe him. Leave him.
When the mac-n-cheese you’re haphazardly straining gracefully glides into the germy well of the dorm water bubbler, don’t scoop it up and pass it to your roommate. The moment of funny between “the girls in-the-know” will not outweigh the regret you feel as you watch your roommate wretch with food poisoning in the cold and lonely campus infirmary.
Don’t be the girl who skips a semester in Paris for blue-eyed, man-boy. No good decisions are based in fear. Listen to the inside voice pleading “Go abroad!” That is your truth. Your need to be needed is not.
Two thumbs way up for ending your 20th year with a subzero, two mile walk with your closest friends to the local watering hole for $7 pitches of Old Milwaukee and endless kamikaze shots. Nice girls have fun too.
When the rugged, sultry-eyed football player every girl on campus craves walks you home then grabs you by the neck and shoves you up against a wall because you’re not interested, don’t pretend nothing happened. Knee him in the balls. Spit in his face. Call the cops. Women will thank you for years to come.
When you feel misunderstood and desperately alone, wail with reckless abandon. Release your pain. Holding it in holds you back. Surrender brings you into truth. Truth is where love thrives.
Skip the spring break trip to Cancun. No amount of sunshine and cocktails will fill your empty womb. Swallowing your grief looks like this: 5 more man-boys, 3 more devastating heartbreaks, and 12 years of self-flagellation before “her-story” repeats. Know the wiser, braver you will make a different choice next time. You name her Tess after the mother you’ve just lost. Her existence is the love and light you’ve always needed. Your suffering was not in vain.
Thank your mother over and over and over for loving you. Blame her for nothing. Forgive her for everything. She will leave this world having never held her granddaughter and well before the wisdom of time reveals how much you loved and valued her existence.