Dear Young Me,
There are so many things I’d like to tell you. So many things you need to hear. I know you’re desperately looking for guidance and it seems most of the time there isn’t very much to go around. I promise you this, it doesn’t matter. You find your way anyway.
There will be lessons, hard ones, beautiful ones. After each, you’ll take a quick look back over your shoulder — quickly though, because you should always be looking forward and your past doesn’t define your destination — and say, “I did that.” You’ll make your own opportunities. Your mistakes will be your own and you’ll grow from them. Every choice you make will be a building block of the foundation of your own life. A life of your choosing.
You are not your circumstances. Not a single person on this planet gets to choose what environment they’re born into. You can learn from bad examples as well as you can from good ones. The trick is to always keep learning. Learn from the experience of others. Listen. Watch. You don’t have to repeat the mistakes of those around you.
I know things aren’t easy for you, but they get better. Storms always pass. Always. There is nothing in life that will knock you down and keep you down. You’re a fighter. Embrace your strength. Own your strength. You’re more powerful than you know. As an adult, one of your favorite quotes will be by Marianne Williamson, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.”
Please remember that. Focus on that light you have inside you, and not any perceived “darkness” you have around you. That light inside you, you’ll need it for when that darkness feels like it’s going to swallow you whole. Even a small spark of light will keep the shadows from touching you.
Now, this next thing I need to tell you? It’s heartbreaking, and I don’t want to tell you but you should know. You’ll never be ready to hear it, now or as an adult when it actually happens…
Your mom, your port in those storms I mentioned? You’re going to lose her. In fairness, it’s supposed to be the natural order of things, right? That doesn’t matter. You’ll be devastated. It’ll feel like drowning, like you’re being pulled down deeper than you ever knew you could be, like you can’t find the surface, because you can’t tell up from down.
You’ll watch your impervious lifeline, that stalwart woman, wither away from an illness that silently lived in her body, making itself so strong that when the doctors knew what was wrong, it’ll be too late. You’ll be angry. At her, at life, at God. You’ll rage but the worst part is that it’ll be internal, growing just as quietly as the cancer that took her away from you. You’ll forget about that inner light you have, that inner fire you’re supposed to feed to help burn brightly.
I know you. I know you better than anyone ever will. I know all the things you can’t admit to yourself yet. And, I know that what you’re most afraid of in life is loss. I know that fear will sometimes keep you from pursuing the things you want most: relationships, friends, career opportunities.
You’ll be terrified of what her illness is going to do. You’ll constantly want to run away because you’re afraid.
All children expect to outlive their parents. Nature made that so; however, it’s a far different thing when you’re given a timeline to that loss.
I’m proud to say that you don’t run away. You will face your fears and you’ll hold her hand as you walk those dark hallways of uncertainty together. You will have no regrets about those final months together. None.
In fact, you’ll be given an unexpected gift, one that will ignite some lingering ember of your internal fire that you thought for sure would be lost in the ashes of your grief.
You will get to know your mother in a way you never have before. You’ll know her as woman, as a contemporary, as someone who looks to you for the support she so thoroughly and selflessly gave you for your entire life. And she will know you. In a real and tangible way that goes beyond a parent and child.
Get to know her sooner. Don’t wait until life forces your hand. Ask questions, don’t roll your teenaged eyes at her answers. Let her into your life. Please.
Here’s the thing about your relationship with your mother and it’s something that will apply to ever other kind of relationship you’ll have in your life. You’ve always said that no one could get under your skin faster than her. (This is still true, she sure has a way of pushing your buttons, doesn’t she?). But why is that?
There actually is a reason: sometimes it is our similarities and not our differences that can make a relationship difficult.
Embrace those similarities and try to understand those differences. Please stop pushing people away because the road together may seem difficult. You may have more in common that you know. Don’t run way from things you’ll love because you’re afraid to one day lose them.
You can survive loss. You did survive loss.
Approach everything and everyone with an open heart. Fearlessly pursue what makes you happy. Build the life of your choosing. Feed that inner light. And when it gets so strong you can’t contain it? Share it with others. Be someone else’s light when their own is starting to go out.
You are strong. You’ll be okay. I promise.
And if I could ask one more thing? Please give Mom a hug from the both of us.