Today – that is, the 16th February 2017 – is my birthday. Yup, that’s right. Ya gal just turned 22 (cue Taylor Swift music).
I’ll be honest with you: there was a time when I didn’t think I would live to see my 22nd birthday. See, my teenage years were difficult. Of course, every person’s teenage years are difficult. Being a teenager is difficult. But my teenage years were full of mental health problems so severe that I genuinely thought I’d be dead by now.
Sorry. Things got a bit morbid there. The point is, I survived it. But teenage me didn’t think she would. When I think back to how I felt as a teenager, my heart breaks. If they ever invent time travel, the first thing I’ll do is nip back and give my teenage self a cuddle. Tell her that it’ll be okay. Tell her to stick it out, because good things are coming, and one day soon she’ll be happier than she could ever imagine.
In the meantime, however, I thought I’d write her a letter. Cos that’s what birthdays are for, aren’t they? Y’know, reflection and that.
So, here we go. Here’s a letter to my teenage self.
Dear teenage me,
First thing’s first: you’re gonna make it. I am writing to you from the grand age of 22 – which right now seems like forever away, but in reality is closer than you think.
Yeah, that’s right girl. You survived. All that shit you’re going through? That feels like it’ll never end? It ends. You live to fight another day. In fact, you live to thrive another day.
Life at 22 is great. On your 22nd birthday you’re actually going to be in Berlin, with your fiancé. Oh yeah. You have a fiancé. He’s good. The best, really.
Better than the boy you’re crying over right now. Of course, that’s not hard. The boy you’re crying over right now is trash. Literal trash. Like, the literal living embodiment of actual trash. I know you can’t see that right now. I know you think you love him, and that he loves you, and that if you maybe just lose a little bit more weight he’ll come back to you. But he won’t. And that’s okay. Because guess what? He’s trash.
The man you’re with at 22 makes you laugh. He doesn’t mock you for liking musicals. Or tell you not to get political. He doesn’t leave you crying alone in a dark alley at 2am, drunk, because you won’t give him a blowjob. He doesn’t cheat on you with other girls. Or call you stupid. Or make you feel like a burden when you cry.
Oh, and that’s another thing. You will stop crying. At least, you’ll stop crying the way you’re crying now. By the time you hit 22, you’ll cry about silly things like losing your train ticket, or fighting with your fiancé over the housework. You won’t sit alone in your bedroom at cry like your heart is breaking. You won’t cry like you’ll never stop.
Because guess what? You’ll be so happy. And not the sort of happy you sometimes feel now. The sort of happy that is sustainable. You’ll be content.
That might sound dull, but trust me: comfortable is the best way to be. Content is coming home after a day at the office (yeah, that’s right: you pass your A Levels, get a first class degree, and walk straight into a job – and then you get an even better job 6 months later) and drinking a ginger beer on the sofa. It’s watching Dragon’s Den with the love of your life on a Sunday night. It’s is a feeling of balance and order. Content is calm.
Content is eating three packs of chocolate buttons in one day, and not crying about it for hours after. It’s eating three square meals a day – plus snacks – and not punishing yourself for it later. It’s eating out at a restaurant without checking the calories before hand. Content is having bad days where the voices in your head tell you not to eat – and ignoring those voices.
Trust me when I say I know how you feel. I you think there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. I know you wish you could just disappear. But keep fighting. Keep waking up every morning. Because one day you’ll be excited to see what every day brings.
What would you say to your teenage self? Let me know in a comment below!