A Letter to My Younger Self

A Letter to My Younger Self


I’m twenty years old now, but in a lot of ways I still hold on to my ten year old self. I remember fighting so hard to reach that age. I thought if I could just get to ten, everything would change. I thought somehow things would get better. As outrageous as it sounds, it felt like reaching this age meant I was moving toward adulthood. Being ten meant not being a kid anymore, which meant not being able to have a blind innocence to the life around me anymore. When I was ten, my parents sat me down to tell me they were getting divorced. This shouldn’t have been a shock to me, but I can still remember how it felt when my throat closed and air stopped flowing from my body. I didn’t say anything to anyone for days after that. When I was ten, I was living in a shed in the back yard of where my house had burned down two years earlier. It was a step up from the hair salon where I used to sleep, but it was hardly a place you could call home. I can still remember rolling over in my sleep and finding scorpions under my blankets. When I was ten, I went to see a therapist for the first time. It was a requirement for my parents’ divorce. It was also the first time I ever told anyone why I jumped at my mother’s touch and had nightmares about the fierceness in her eyes. Being ten meant being at the crossroads of some of the most impactful life events I have experienced so far. It was my most memorable year and my most haunting nightmare.

It’s been a decade since I’ve lived those moments, but I’ve always kept them close waiting for some sense of closure. I’ve tried pushing it down. I’ve tried therapy. I’ve tried crying. The only thing I have left is writing it out. This is why I dedicate this letter to you, Ally. I hope you can find some comfort in it.


Dear (younger) Ally,

I feel sorry when I remember what it’s like to be only ten years old. I can remember how helpless it felt. I haven’t forgotten how exhausting it was to be the doll your parents would play tug of war with and how many nights you cried to yourself wishing you had a warm house to sleep in. I know how badly you wanted things to change. To be ten meant to be reliant on parents who couldn’t even take care of themselves. It meant getting in the way of my mother’s anger and making up excuses when my friends asked to come over after school. It’s hard to recognize that life isn’t supposed to be like that, especially when you’re so young. I wish I had known that it wasn’t normal. Growing up in that environment made it feel like it was just a part of life. I wish I had known that things would get better. Had I known that I would get out someday, things would have been a lot different for me. I hope this letter can offer you the support I know you don’t have. I want to show you your strength and remind you to hold on because things do change.

The first lesson I want to teach you is that it’s okay to be sensitive. I know mom says that it’s your worst trait, but I think it makes you strong. It can be difficult to be gentle with yourself, especially when no one ever shows you what love is supposed to look like. You’re either too sensitive or too hardened. It can feel like nothing comes easy, but I want to remind you that the world needs you. It takes strength to be soft in a world that seems like it’s out to get you. Things will change. You will change, but never lose your sensitivity. Not everyone in the world can sympathize with others the way you can. I hope that you find comfort in knowing that it’s your softness that makes the world a little better. A little easier.

Hold on to your softness but know when to let it go. It took a lot for me to understand that you can’t save everyone. I remember what it was like to try to be the life jacket that mom would hold to but know your limits. I know it feels like your responsibility. When mom comes home from work and she destroys everything in her path, it is not your fault. When dad pushes you in front of him to save himself, it is not your fault. It’s hard enough being ten, there’s no need for you to rest their weight on your shoulders too.

The second thing I learned is that it’s okay to have fun. I think I’ve always been taught to be independent, and with independence comes maturity. I was never allowed to be a child in all the ways I wanted. I couldn’t ask questions. I couldn’t use my imagination to take me away. I couldn’t even feel loved and nurtured by my own parents. From a very young age I was more mature than most. By the age of five, I could cook myself dinner, clean up the mess, and go to the barn to feed and clean up after the horses. Mom and dad weren’t home very much and honestly it was better that way. At the time I remember feeling proud of myself for being able to be self-sufficient in ways other people my age couldn’t be. Now, it makes me sad that I never really allowed myself to enjoy anything. I was always taking care of something else; I forgot to take care of myself.

Please remember to have fun. Dance in the kitchen while you’re making dinner. Meet your friends outside at odd hours in the night when time seems to cease and new beginnings seem possible. Pretend the floor is lava and jump around on the furniture until your legs are sore and your stomach hurts from laughing. Just please have fun. Even at ten, it’s important to remember to live. Maybe not a lot of ten year olds think about how terrible life can be sometimes, but I know you do, so remind yourself of what it means to be alive. Pretending that you’re an adult is tiring and boring. There’s no need to grow up so fast.

Lesson three might be the most important. Learn to appreciate the time you have right now, as screwed up as it might be. You will only be ten once in your life. In a lot of ways, you deserve better than you got, but hold on to the good things. It’s been ten years since I’ve been in your footsteps, and sometimes I’ll miss how it would feel to wake up at 6:00 a.m. to sit on the hay bales and watch the sunrise with my sisters. I miss spending unlimited amounts of time outdoors and never getting tired. Hold on to those moments. Soak them up. It will make the hard days easier and the good days last longer.

I think I’ve always been looking toward the next thing. I have never taken the time to enjoy the present because I’ve always been looking toward the future, wanting something more. I’m definitely not the only one that does this either. Raised in a capitalist society, we are taught that we are only as good as what we produce. I want something more for you though. I want you to know that your worth is not defined by how much money your parents don’t have or the fact that somedays you simply don’t have it in you to go to school. It’s okay to slow down. One day, you’re going to be older, and you’ll look back on when you were ten and wish that you had taken the time to be that young and invincible. Life never stops moving. As you get older, it even seems to speed up. I hope you take advantage of the time you have now. Breathe in the air a little deeper. Savor warm food a little longer. Write down conversations that make you smile. These are the moments that make everything else worth it. All you have to do is slow down and take them in.

I hope you hold space for yourself and you stop apologizing for things that are not your fault. You deserve so much better than you got, but it’s your responsibility to demand more. If you’ve taken anything away from this letter, I hope you’ve learned that. You are worthy. There will be days when you doubt this, but keep reminding yourself. You are in control and you have the power to be better than your parents. I may still be very young but trust me on this: you will not turn into them. You will demand more. You will move away from the farmlands surrounding  Houston and you will start a life for yourself in New York. You will make friends that feel like what you’ve always imagined family to be. Life may not ever get easier, but you will learn how to stand up for yourself. There are great things ahead of you, Ally. I don’t want to spoil the surprise so I’ll let you find out for yourself. Just know that you will be okay. One day you’re going to be really happy. We’re both going to be happy. Just wait and see.

—your biggest fan

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