There are so many things that I want to say to you, things that could make your life better and decisions that you can make to ease some of your pain.
I see you there, sixteen and insecure, with your blue-tipped bleach blonde hair, walking the halls of your school, fishing on the weekends with friends, trying to figure out who you are.
I see you with the first guy you ever slept with, and how it left you feeling slightly disappointed and indifferent at the same time, and curious if every time and every man would make you feel the same empty way.
I wish I could have told you at the time that it would have been better to wait. You were so young and you didn’t fully understand the consequences of sex. Sure, you knew about STDS and pregnancy—the kinds of things they talk about in health class—but you weren’t prepared for the psychological side of it. You didn’t know the emotional instability that you would feel—the high highs and low lows—that came along with having sex with guys who would come and go.
I know, I know, I sound like an old lady trying to end your fun—I know you thought it exhilarating at the time. It got you a lot of attention, but trust me it wasn’t the kind of attention that you needed. It felt good to always have a line of guys wanting to hangout with you because they knew you had already had sex and because they wanted to see if you would with them. It felt like a kind of power, but I know now that eventually that’d get boring and you’d desperately want a guy to want you for you not just for sex. It would leave you feeling empty and alone knowing that all they wanted is your body, not your mind, that they couldn’t see the intelligent young woman you really are and the gifts you have to share with the world. In an effort to fill that emptiness you went from guy to guy only to get in a vicious cycle because that’s all you knew.
So I say wait until you feel as though you are prepared for the emotional aspect of sex. Wait until you know that you are with a person who loves you for all of you, not just part of you. Wait until you know that you are with a person who will make you a vow to never leave. Wait until you are mature enough to recognize that sex is more than just a physical thing.
I also see you, my younger self, after high school graduation, wanting to go to college and do something with your life, but always making excuses. I’d tell you to go to college, travel, find a career you love. Begin becoming the kind of person you want to be, and then you will be in a better spot to attract the kind of person you want to be with. Going to college and setting a life path could have opened you up to a different group of guys to date, men that would have treated you better and that actually wanted your mind as well as your body. Instead you lowered your standards and dated too many guys that used you and manipulated and abused you, and guys that wouldn’t work, and guys that put drugs before everyone else in their lives.
And I see you, my 19-year-old self, when you first found out you were pregnant. You knew it would have been easier to wait until you were older, more settled, married, to get pregnant—but seeing you there scared and overwhelmed, with the pregnancy test in hand, I would also tell you that everything will be okay. That you made the right choice when you decided to have your son. That you would never regret your children. That you wouldn’t trade anything in the world for all the hours of playing and laughing and making up stories together as they let their child-sized imaginations run wild. That you would love them to death and that that love would make your life worth living.
But most of all, I would tell you that all of the really hard situations that you have endured and all of the pain that you have felt over the years does not define you. It has only made you stronger. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Keep trying. Know that you are not alone, even when you feel like it. Know that no matter how difficult it seems, you can share your struggles with the world and by doing so help someone out there who is struggling with the same things.
Your Older and Wiser Self,