Dear 22-year-old Alex,
I know you don’t think so, but there are so many reasons to love you that have nothing to do with your mile-long legs or the sparkle of your eager eyes. Your endless enthusiasm combined with your head-turning audacity are what make you special. I envy the boundless energy you possess at the moment, and I wish you could hold on to that a little bit longer. You’ll soon grow out of the unconditional love you reserve for everyone new, but for now, just let it gush out of you. Your kindness will affect people in ways you don’t realize.
I’m jealous of your ability to live in a constant state of carefree. Live it up with your gigantic group of friends. We both know you’ve never had one before. Enjoy these experiences to the fullest. Right now, you think 22 is your year of chaos, but you will look back and remember that it was your last year of freedom. You are unapologetically and un-anxiously you. With so few doubts and such an ego, you’re making memories you’ll never forget. Cherish this iconic era.
Eventually, you’ll learn that being “popular” isn’t worth the cost. Friends will come and go, and you can’t control that. It doesn’t mean you’re unlikable. People who truly care for you won’t care about the money or the drinks. They will want to go for walks in the park, or they’ll invite you over to their place.
I love your avidness to make out with all of the men, but I wish for you to have more sexual confidence. Don’t feel ashamed of your libido. You are a sexual being. “Let it out so it can breathe.” I know you know that Shakira song! Unfortunately, our culture will make you feel guilty for your sexuality. You will be disparaged for it while you simultaneously navigate through sexual encounters that feel obligatory or straight-up non-consensual. Women of our time weren’t exactly set up to explore safely and confidently. Don’t let them hold you back from getting what every man is able to receive without judgement. And fear not, sexually competent partners do exist. You will have fantastic sex one day.
You’re going to love living on your own, but you’ll miss home. Visit as often as you can, but recognize that independence is so important for your growth. Your codependent tendencies will be revealed once you get a taste of someone else in your life. You romanticize situations in order to stay optimistic about dating. It’s not healthy, it’s a coping mechanism.
This someone, the next someone and the someone after that will seem to be everything you’ve ever wanted. But you’ve never actually acknowledged what you want. What are your needs? What are your desires? It’s not the right time. If you feel you require a partner to complete you, it’s a sign that you need to be by yourself. Investing in relationships too early, especially without clear boundaries, is going to destroy you. Although you have the ability to get over these people fairly quickly, healing from the trauma they instill in you is a different story.
I wish you would fall in love with yourself earlier, because the society you live in is going to try to convince you that all of the characteristics mentioned above are why you had to suffer. There will be quite a few life threatening disasters in your future. You are not to blame. I know a small part of you is aware of the patriarchy, but your insecurity is going to rise to the surface and subdue the revolutionary within you. You will keep silent about a lot of things, and this decision is completely valid. One day, you will find your voice. Until that day comes, you will ask yourself many times “Why do all of these lessons learned have to come with a side of trauma?” I don’t have the answer for you.
Your circumstances will wear you down. Little by little, your motivation will start to disappear along with your faith in humanity. But as your cynicism grows, you will begin to think deeper. One of your strengths is that you are so in touch with what the people around you are feeling. I’m sure one day we’ll figure out if that’s more of a gift or a curse. However, this empathy towards everyone else will lead you to realize that focusing on your own emotional awareness is what’s necessary for you to move forward. You must not only learn yourself, but advocate for yourself before you can advocate for others.
After all that happens to you, you will endure serious physical and psychological changes. Whether it’s all for better or worse, this change won’t be obvious to you until you’ve given yourself time to process. Denial is definitely factored in to this. Listen to what your body is telling you. I wish you would give yourself permission to set your mental health as a top priority, and to never apologize for taking care of what you need. Your pain is not pretty, but because of it, you will undergo a magnificent transformation.
As you grow up you will become proud of your improvement, but you will also feel humbled. When you reminisce on past versions of yourself try not to criticize so harshly. You are only human, and you are learning something new everyday. As for the time being, you are doing the best you can. You are absolutely fabulous, and I’m so happy to still have a small part of you within me.