5.6
April 11, 2014

Dear Younger Me. Or, 28 Years of Shame. ~ Kristin Monk

writer

{warning—strong language ahead}

I am 28 years old today.

28.

I feel so old.

And so young.

So young, because for the first time in my life, I feel like myself.

And I feel so sad.

So sad, because for 27 of my 28 years (okay, maybe like 22, because baby me was probably only a little damaged and dark) I was ashamed of my Self.

Ashamed in the most base sense of the word. Like, if people really knew me, actually knew the real me, I would not be liked, or loved, or invited to the moon dances, or the drum circles, or the sleep overs.

And you know, regular parties and stuff.

So I built walls. And I hid. Because I am a good wall builder. And, it turns out, I make an excellent replica of a real person.

As I sit here in this café, with my red wine and my Kerouac, dreamy blues playing and super hip bartender named Mallekai, I would like to write a letter to my 20 year old self.

I know, it’s been done. It’s clichéd. A tad corny. Trite. Unoriginal. How many cliches can you fit on the head of a pin? (Doh.)

Fuck it.

22 years of shame. That girl, and so many of us, need to hear some of these truths.

So here we go.

My dearest 20 year old Self, (and other 20 year old Selves, for haven’t we all shared some of these same thoughts?):

1). You are so very young.

I know, you feel old now. You feel wise. You think that you know the answers, and the truths, and the way that life is going to go.

You don’t.

Thank goodness.

Because…how boring.

In fact, you are wrong about basically everything.

And that’s okay.

It’s actually better than okay. Because everything is going to be better than you imagined. So embrace your youth, as only the old(er) you can appreciate. Revel in the fact that you don’t know all the answers.

You can’t possibly. So enjoy the journey.

2). Explore.

Go study abroad.

Go on trips.

Backpack.

Really, travel whenever and wherever you can—to the grocery store, or to the Philippines, or to the shore.

Right now, you are worried about money and bills and loans and boys.

You will always be worried about money and bills and loans and boys.

You are young and your heart is wild and your soul is filled with wanderlust, and sometimes you wish that you could close your eyes and fly into a million pieces, just so you could touch it all.

You will always feel this way.

But you will not always be so young.

So go.

Your life will be here.

And you will come back richer.

3). You are beautiful.

Like, incredibly beautiful. I don’t just mean that your skin is better than it will ever be in your life (take note, and please, please, stare at your perfectly smooth forehead in the mirror for at least five full minutes every day. It will start to crease at 23).

I mean your heart is beautiful.

You shine.

And you don’t even know.

Your eyes dance, and your soul smiles. You are warm, and your love is like sunshine. It will take years for you to see this, unfortunately. But maybe you can have a glimmer.

You give of yourself, your heart, your resources.

And lovely, you do give enough.

On that note…

4). Your body is not the enemy.

Nor is it the validation of your success, of your beauty, of your worth.

You don’t need to punish it, for the grief in your heart.

And you do not need to cleanse it from the imperfections in your mind.

Nourish it.

Love it.

It will hold the grief.

It will hold the imperfection.

You are going to be okay.

5). Hug your sister.

And your Nanny.

And your mom.

And everyone else.

Life is fleeting. Your temper is short right now. Of course it is—you are 20 years old. You have not been tempered yet by the years—it will take time, and pain, and joy, and time, for you to cool. You are passionate, and that is wonderful—but your tongue is sharp, and you have not yet learned that sometimes, most times in fact, it is better to be kind than to be right.

The force is strong with you.

And you’re kind of an arrogant, cocky, 20 year old asshole.

So give extra hugs.

Because someday, you’ll wish you had.

And sometimes, shut the fuck up.

Because you’re kind of an arrogant, cocky, 20 year old asshole.

And yes, you needed to hear it twice.

(Extra hugs. You need them too.)

6). You’re not going to marry that guy.

Or the next guy.

Or the next one.

Or the next one.

Yeah, some girls do. And they are blissfully happy. And, awesome, many paths, all the things.

But not you.

And you know it.

So stop trying to force a square peg into a round hole.

Stop trying to slap a band aid on the things that need stitches.

And stop trying to use someone else’s love to fill up your heart.

Fill it up yourself. Stitch it up yourself.

Love you, first.

7). It’s okay for you to cry.

And to be weak.

And to fail.

Because, you’re 20 fucking years old.

And because you’re human.

Did you apologize when you were learning to walk for stumbling?

Nope.

So stop apologizing for making mistakes now.

You’re learning. Living. Growing up.

This will always be true.

And while we’re here.

8). You do not need to earn love.

Or win it.

Or work for it.

From yourself.

From your family.

From a man.

You deserve love.

You have intrinsic worth.

You. Are. Valuable.

Do I need to say it again, dear one?

You. Deserve. Love.

You. Are. Worthy.

9). It’s okay to be weird.

Someday, sooner than you think, you’re going to love that you are weird. Weirder still, you’re going to think it’s cool that people love you for being weird. You won’t mind that sometimes you look like a dork, and sometimes you leave the house with your hair looking like a muppet’s, and that you are full of odd little quirks and quarks and peculiar bits that make you wholly,100 percent Kristin Nicole Aloysius Monk.

It’s not that you don’t have these bits inside you now—it’s that you haven’t yet softened into them. You haven’t yet accepted that part of what makes you so special is that you’re a total nerdo. You’re still trying to create a Self instead of being your Self.

But you’ll get there.

We did, get there, I mean.

 

It’s taken me 28 years to begin to really know myself. To allow myself to peek inside. To let myself be vulnerable to others. To let myself shine. To get naked, to myself, to the world.

And you know what?

Maybe I look pretty damn good.

And that is what 28 years of discovery looks like.

Slightly crazy Muppet hair. Crooked black frame glasses. Healthy. Grounded. Loved. Loving. Quick to laugh, slow to temper. Happy to dance, and run, and play. Lover of moonbeams, and peach trees, and elephants, and the words.

Accepting.

Unafraid.

Perhaps most importantly? Aware that this is only the beginning. And in ten years I shall probably write myself another letter, saying “Dear 28 year old me…man, you really had no clue.”

We grow.

We stumble.

We practice.

I love you, kid. You’re doing great.

Love,

28 year old You.

 

Relephant: 

Before We Fall in Love

Love elephant and want to go steady?

Sign up for our (curated) daily and weekly newsletters!

Editor: Travis May

Photos: elephant archives, Zebic/Pixoto

Read 11 Comments and Reply