A few years ago, when I turned 21, I decided to write a letter to my 16-year-old self. The fact that it exists on the internet makes me cringe... so I don't know why I'm bringing up up again. (But who doesn't love some self-deprecating humor... if that's what this could even be called?) When I wrote it, I felt like 16-year-old me could learn a lot from almost-21-year-old me. Now, it feels like the other way around. The past three years have gone by so quickly and have been so tumultuous.. I figured it was only best to write a little follow-up.
Dear 21-year-old me,
PUT. THOSE. TWEEZERS. DOWN. Look at your eyebrows. They're awful. I know you got made fun of for your exotic-looking bushy brows in the past but trust me: they're going to be the latest trend in a few years. You're so silly. You've dealt with heartbreak but you haven't buckled under the weight of it all. You're strong. Carefree. You have wisdom beyond your years. You've been through a lot but let me tell you this: it's going to get harder.
You friends? You won't be talking to any of them in a few years. They'll say hurtful things to you and you'll say hurtful things back. Do not let it harden your heart. This is all part of growing up. Be gentle and kind. Don't snap back in fear or anger. Be like water-- fluid, calm, acquiescent. Know that some people are only meant to be in your life for a short time... and holding on when you need to let go will cause a lot of pain. Don't get caught up in nostalgia. Romanticize your future but don't you ever romanticize the past.
You're so funny. I wish you knew how funny you are. Making people laugh is your favorite thing to do... and you're good at it. So, QUICK. Find a way to monetize that! The next few years are going to be full of career woes... a lot of worrying about the future and scraping by to make ends meet. Don't get too discouraged though. When all seems lost, you're going to have the opportunity of a lifetime. (One you worked for though, obviously-- it won't just fall into your lap.) You'll find yourself in a position you never dreamed you'd be in. You'll fall in love with it, you'll work harder than you ever imagined you would, but you'll get a job there. You'll have plenty of long nights, you'll have weeks go by where you've slept maybe 7 hours (at the most) from Monday to Friday but you'll eventually end up with the coolest job ever. YUP. Remember how you failed out of creative writing in college? You're going to be getting paid to write. How sweet is that? DON'T GIVE UP, because it's AWESOME.
It'll seem hopeless for a little while but you'll learn quickly-- that's just what being an adult is. Never lose your childlike sense of wonder. Keep being the little idealist you always were. Never lose your propensity to romanticize everything. The world will tell you that's not a way to live but for you, it's the only way to live. Keep dreaming. It's gotten you places you never would have imagined and it'll get you so much further an either of can imagine at this point. Don't give up hope. I've tried... it's no pleasant. It turns every little moment into a nightmare scenario. Never bow to convention. Be brave. Be steadfast. Learn the meaning of "integrity" and practice, practice, practice.
At this point, you've gone through a lot. (Congrats on beating your eating disorder, by the way.) You're not out of the woods just yet but you'll be able to use your experiences to help others. Always keep in mind the word "compassion." You'll lose it for a little. You'll lose all fervor for other people and you'll become a bit of a misanthrope. That's not okay. It's really hard to get the love back once you've abandoned it entirely.
You're going back to China in a few short months... and you're going to leave your heart there. When you get home, you'll learn some heartbreaking news and it'll shake you to your core like no other trauma ever has. Have faith through it. Never forget that everything happens for a reason. Once again... not not get hardened. Someday you'll look back on photos of a naive, red-headed you and feel an overwhelming sense of sadness-- you'll realize you don't smile as much, or do little stupid things you used to do. Maturity doesn't mean "boring, placid, and straight-faced." I'm struggling with that now. The world is so harsh... so cold... it seems like the only way to be. But it isn't.
Never stop playing music. You're really good at it and the oh-so-proverbial "life" will unquestionably get in the way of it-- but pleeeeeease, I'm begging you to keep doing it. Once you've lost the interest, it's almost impossible to get it back. Other than that, you grow up to be pretty cool but a little on the stiff side... so let's try our best to keep that from happening, okay?
p.s. Oh... put down the vodka. It never ends well for you.