Hey You, Life Gets Better
To know me is to know that my best words come pouring out when I write letters to myself. I submitted this to a magazine last year, but it was such a big piece of my heart that I felt it deserved some space on this page too. No matter how old you are, let this letter to my 20 year old, angsty self, be a reminder that life does get better.
I can’t remember our 20th birthday.
The only memories I have are a blur of countless drinks, loud music, puking in the shower and mistakes being made. As you lie in bed surrounded by shame and scolding yourself for all the mistakes you’ve made in your lifetime, I want you to know that there’s nothing wrong with you. I can tell you with absolute certainty that you reach a healthy place in your life where you can look back at your past and not hate yourself. That’s my constant prayer for us going forward- that we no longer beat ourselves up for the things that are out of our control.
You won’t get there overnight though. Even though you discover God months before you turn twenty, it’ll take you another year before you learn that not a single part of you is a mistake. Not your craving for affection or how you feel everything so deeply or the way people fall in and out of your life. Not your awkward sense of humour or the way you attract disaster like how pollen attracts bees. I’ll tell you now that the pain that stems from making mistakes and experiencing regret actually pushes you to choose better for yourself.
The journey to learn about who you are and what gifts you have to offer the world will be one of the best adventures you embark on. But you won’t enjoy it at first. You’ve always expected the big life changing moments to come with flashing signs in the background declaring ‘Your Life Changes Here.’ But you’ll experience crushing disappointment and an inability to live in the moment if you’re constantly waiting for fireworks to show up.
Instead, embrace every moment for what it is. Learn that miracles can be grand experiences- like your life being saved at the last minute. But small moments can be miraculous too, like how constant heartbreak gives you the words you need to console your sobbing flatmate. Even though you’ve loathed the countless rejection that’s chipped away at your self-worth, you’ll say to God that it was all worth it if you could help one person feel less alone.
You’ll meet people who speak things over your life that makes some of the puzzle pieces click into place; like how words of affirmation are your love language. You’ll use this to teach people how to love you well, and you’ll share your stories to guide others out of their darkness.
Other things will take a while for you to accept. You take the Enneagram test that’s all over Instagram and nod vigorously when it compares you to Drake because you’re moody and always ‘in your feelings.’ You’re still trying to figure out how to separate your emotions from facts. Don’t worry. We’ll get there.
When you’re labelled a ‘creative,’ you’ll scoff out loud as you remember all your failed papier-mâché projects from primary school. But that word will persistently knock on your heart and dare you to try it out. You put two and two together- your love for words and your messy mistakes- and it clicks that this is how you’ll leave your mark on the world. By serving others with your words.
Some parts of yourself are absolutely beautiful to discover and you’ll love yourself more because of it. But some things will force you to look in the mirror and evaluate hard. When a psychologist you meet at a bar in Budapest analyses you in two seconds and tells you ‘You’re someone who fears social rejection,’ you’ll realise you’ll never be satisfied if you’re constantly chasing the world’s approval and acceptance of you.
You become self-aware when you sit with your emotions- no matter how uncomfortable- and figure out the lie that’s making you depressed. You’ll learn there’s a relentless demon in your mind screaming at you that you’re not good enough, and you’ll have to wage a daily war to remind yourself that this isn’t true. “I am enough” is a daily mantra we repeat to ourselves, even if we don’t believe it. But remember- it’s not a feeling. It’s fact.
You’ll call fear out by his name after realising he’s dictated all of the decisions in your life. You’ll beg and plead for him to just leave you the hell alone. But I’m here to tell you that fear will always be a constant companion. He’ll tag along whenever you venture outside your comfort zone or pursue ‘something more.’ So stop resisting the fear so much and say yes to adventure and uncertainty. Life gets so much more interesting when we do.
But girl, let me just say that this year ends up being the most amazing year. You won’t believe it now as you lie on the bathroom tiles puking your guts up. But it will be. Gosh, the people you’ll meet. The friends who show up. The joy you’ll experience. The places you’ll fall in love with and the stories you etch into your bones. Never did you think you’d be able to overfill a room with people who choose to show up for you. But you do. So, as you grieve the events of your 20th birthday, wondering if life will ever get any better, I’m here to tell you it does. Gosh, it does.
Older, self-assured, always enough, you.
Words I Wish I Could Say. When a Person You Love Becomes Unsafe. – Bravester
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Beautifully expressed, Ashley! 🙂
Thanks for your kind words Tom! 😍