Letters to My Younger Self: The 21-Year-Old Who Is About to Feel It All

A woman leaning forward in a chair

“Letters to My Younger Self” is a series focused on wisdom and self-awareness. Just as you write letters to a friend to encourage and uplift them, here is the advice we would go back and tell our younger selves.

Dear 21-year-old me,

Loving with your whole heart does not make you weak, even if the relationship came crumbling down with more intensity than it started. Let yourself be proud of how courageous you were. When you act with love, you’ll never regret it. 

A person’s treatment of you is not a reflection of your worth. This person was not in a position to reciprocate love in the way you so fiercely and selflessly loved and deserved to be loved. That alone doesn’t make him a bad person. You just weren’t meant to be together.

A person’s treatment of you is not a reflection of your worth.

You’ll feel angry and sad. You’ll wish it wasn’t a four-year lesson, but who knows who you’d be without it. You are pretty kick ass in my totally unbiased opinion.

Be kinder to yourself because there are some things you just cannot control no matter how much you want to. Let yourself feel the heartache. Cry like you might not ever love again because it’s what you need right now. You will love again, and you’ll be grateful for how much more sure of yourself you are after going through this.

In a few years, you won’t need a letter from me. He’ll give you all the reminders and self-reassurance that you need to remember that you deserve to be fiercely and selflessly loved.

You’ll hit a low you haven’t experienced in years and feel like you’re failing your younger self. Therapy is normal, and it’s OK to release the image you’ve built of yourself. What you’re experiencing isn’t you being overly emotional, dramatic or weak. This is depression, and no one can carry that much weight on their own. 

This is depression, and no one can carry that much weight on their own. 

Take a deep breath because you’ve been holding it in for way too long. It’s OK that some people in your life will never fit the roles you expected them to. Family can be a blessing, but not everyone can be who you need them to be. Deciding to make peace with letting go of that expectation doesn’t make you selfish or a bad person. It means you’re putting your well-being over others.

Above all else, trust the feeling deep in your chest. You know that feeling. The one that says you’re wearing yourself too thin. School. The job. The relationship. The friendships. Your physical and mental health. You’ve always been a fighter, and you made it this far in one piece.

Remember 18? Remember 16? 13? The times you don’t even remember but know were there? We’re still alive despite it all. 

You’re resilient, graceful and stronger than you know. Let yourself feel the wind between your fingers as you roll the window down and dance through the breeze. Love every moment that you’re alive. Embrace the present because even if it brings you tears now, it will also bring you memories you’ll cherish years later. 

You’re resilient, graceful and stronger than you know.

So just feel it all, 21-year-old self. You’re going to be OK.

Did you have a hard time processing emotions when you were younger? What advice would you give to your younger self?

Image via Graham Dunn, Darling Issue No. 20

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