Stories on the edge of familiarity

A Letter to Myself at Fifteen

(for maximum reading experience, start this song and then 
continue down)
Hey you,

How’s it going? I’ve missed you. You’re so wonderfully creative, so gentle, and so very wise. I mean it. For so many years, you’ve been hiding yourself, trying to protect yourself from being hurt by people who don’t understand you. Alabama wasn’t too bad (being homeschooled definitely has its advantages), but I remember being twelve and being scared that I would be picked on when I started public school again in grade eight. And I totally understand the need to hide.

Honestly, I think it made junior high and high school much better for you than if you hadn’t hidden. Because I know you, and I know that you would have been destroyed by the negative attention this would have brought you. Sometimes, it’s better to make like a caterpillar and wait in the chrysalis for a while because you’re just not ready to come out yet.

You’re going to make a friend this year who will tell you that your ability to draw is amazing. I can’t remember if she’ll tell you that this year or next year or even in grade twelve, but she’ll say it. Don’t blow it off. Really take her seriously.

We both have this tendency to think that we’re nothing special because we’re used to what we do, but it’s because we’re used to it that we’re the worst person in the world to say how good we are at it. And that applies to everything you do. You honestly have no idea how good you are at so many things (I still have no idea how far my skills really extend), which means that you have to look to others you trust to tell you how accomplished you are.

But this is all surface stuff. Let’s get to deep stuff. I remember the eleven-year-old we both were, and I know how much she still lives in you. How much her pain still remains.

In a way, we’re both still living in the shadow of the person that eleven-year-old us represents. She was where we started writing novels, where we started free drawing, where we finally started to perfect drawing the horse, where we developed our imagination, where we grew all these and other wonderful things that we cherish. She was also the one who got into huge fights with our brother, who would feel sad for days at a time without knowing why, who would cry herself to sleep and feel like God wasn’t listening to her, who thought about suicide.

That has haunted you. It lingered, starting when you were ten and just beginning to dissipate by the time you were nearing your thirteenth birthday. And then you moved back from Alabama to Alberta, started public school again, and it started all over again. You would feel most alone in a group of people; like you were being sucked dry. Then you would go home and yell at God, then weep at him, asking him why he wasn’t fixing anything.

I remember that so vividly, and it still hurts.

But God has not forgotten you.

He remembers the promise he made to you when you were eleven, when you asked him for a friend who would listen. His heart breaks that he has not been able to fulfill that promise for you yet. Please trust me when I say that this friend has not been able to come into your life yet. In fact, you would both be harmed if you became friends now. I know it hurts, oh I know that pain so well, and I know that God feels it, too. But he has a happy ending for this story. I promise. I really, really do.

He remembers your desire to publish a book, and to be able to make the cover for it. After that last paragraph, this desire might seem silly to you, but that’s the thing: God takes even the smallest desires of your heart very seriously. He heard that whisper of despair in your heart when you found out that authors have little control over the covers of their books, and he has a way for you to have what your heart desires. You will find that way when you are ready to take advantage of it; when the brambles have been cleared from the path in your heart and the destination can shine beautifully in your mind.

He remembers how your discovery of the symptoms of depression in grade eight terrified you. In your first year of university, you’re going to discover that there’s a kind of depression that’s temporary. It happens to children, especially after they move, and it always goes away eventually. You don’t have clinical depression, trust me. God remembers your fear, he sees it and can feel it, and he has prepared the moment when its power will be broken. Honestly, just wait until you find out how you end up in that class to begin with.

But you’re asking why I’m writing to you. Why you, why not an older me, like the letter we started when we were thirteen? Why not eleven-year-old us, if she’s the one where everything bad seems to start? Why not tell her these wonderful things?

Because you are where things change. Right now, you’ve been fifteen for a few months. You’ve started high school, and you’ve been pleasantly surprised that your classmates seem to have matured over the summer and now you’re not the only one laughing at the teachers’ jokes anymore.

At the same time, all your friends from last year left the school, every single one of them, leaving you to start over. I admire how you took that in stride, how you made some new friends on the first day (and bonus points to you for making friends with new students rather than trying to make friends with those who have already made up their mind about who they think you are), how you’ve kept going. And yet, you still feel unloved. You still feel like no one likes you and that you can count the number of friends you have on one hand and still have fingers left over.

I’m trying so hard not to give you spoilers about what happens, because your heart isn’t ready and things would muck up, but I want you to know that you are special. You are so, so special. All these past years of feeling like you’ve been left out, left alone, left and ignored, those years are coming to the beginning of the end. It’s going to be so simple that you’re going to wonder how you never realized it before, but you’re going to love that it finally did happen.

I remember, in detail, that one time in gym class last year when everyone was supposed to partner up and the friend we’d usually partner up with was gone. Everyone partnered up with each other and there we were, standing all by ourself, unnoticed. We had been forgotten. I remember the tears that spilled from our cheeks that day, and how painful it was to hear our classmates say afterwards in apology: “I thought you had a partner” and “I didn’t realize you were alone,” because all those words did was confirm what we had already believed. That no one noticed us.

You’ve resigned yourself to pain. You’ve resigned yourself to a life of broken promises, of living less than the dreams you have for yourself. You’ve resigned yourself to disappointment, to failure, and to living as if asleep.

Sometimes, you have a hard time treating waking life like the real life. Your dreams seem more real to you, and you often wonder what it would be like if you treated them as your true life and this as your dream. And, sometimes, you do treat the day like it the night and the night like the day, just to see if your dreams are more satisfying. Because, in our dreams (I still have the same kind you do), we can do anything.

We can fly, shape-shift, teleport, take over other people’s bodies, read their minds, walk through walls, tilt the planet and make the sun rise, move things just by willing it, and so much more. We can stop fear from rising in a nightmare, we can change the course of a dream just by imagining a different outcome, we can leave the dream whenever we want and choose only to rest instead.

Real life has been so empty in comparison; it’s no wonder that dreams are more appealing.

I won’t tell you to do anything different than what you’re doing. I still believe that messing with time requires the balance of too many variables, and I am not wise enough to create the outcome I desire without unintentionally destroying something else. So, instead of telling you want you should or should not do, I will only tell you this:

All the times in the Bible, when God told people (through other people or directly) that something was going to happen in the future, he wasn’t giving them some inflexible word of fate. He was telling them that, if they continued walking the path they had chosen, if they continued making the kinds of choices they were already making, then their future would look as he was telling them it would.

And your future is beautiful.

With tender love,

Yourself at 21.

(again, for maximum reading experience, start this song 
and then continue)
A few months after I turned fifteen, I was sitting in the hallway, feeling sorry for myself because of how few friends I thought I had. While that was happening, I heard God quite clearly say to me: “Thea, write down the names of everyone who is at least friendly to you. Who at least looks mildly happy to see you.”

Convinced that the list would be very small and eager to prove wrong God’s apparent believe that many people liked me, I started writing down names.

Twenty people later, I stopped writing, because God had made his point. In that moment, my entire view of the world shifted as I realized that people really did like me. As I realized that I was likeable, and that my presence in this world added something to the lives of those around me.

I tell this story to everyone who will listen because what I learned is something I want so badly for those who are going through things similar to what I did to know. If you connect with any of this at all, then I want to tell you this:

You are beautiful, inside and out.
Your dreams are worth living for.
The desires of your heart are worth having (no matter how small or big they seem).
The promises you know God has made to you really will happen.
Your past can be healed from in such a way that it doesn’t even leave a scar (and I believe that this kind of healing is one of the dreams for you that God holds closest to his heart).

You can wake up and live.


What about you?
When did you have a shift in the way you saw life? If you had the chance, what would you tell the self you were just before that turning point took place?
I’d love to hear what you have to say.

(this post is a part of a synchroblog from SheLoves Magazine on the word “awake”)

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