Dear 16½ year-old me,
What does one begin to say to themselves? I suppose, only the most simple and honest things. I write this at the age of 24, and you’ll be glad to know that you’re happy and healthy. Your family is as supportive and loving as they always were (even when your deepest, darkest, and most rebellious stories are revealed at your 21st) and your friends are all incredible people.
I’d say it’s momentous that I write to you at such an age, when you feel so invincible. It gets tough. But no matter how tough it gets, it’s never anything you cannot handle, and it’s certainly always worth it.
When you turn 17, you will have your heart broken for the first time by the boy you’re seeing. It won’t hurt for long, but it will hurt enough that for your whole matric year, you will swear off boys, and love. This is good for you – you learn more about who you are, and what you want. Although, it does ensure you also miss out on a boy who will on-again-off-again with you, right up until today. Even as I write this, I cannot fully assure you that we’re over him, but I can assure you that his love is vital to us. So embrace it.
When you turn 18, you will be raped. Not by a stranger, but an acquaintance. You will block the truth of the matter out for almost four years, until desperation and madness drive you to finally tell your parents. You will be diagnosed with depression immediately after this, and take anti-depressants for 6 months, until you decide that you just don’t want to anymore. On that day, I am so proud of you. You decide your happiness is in your own hands, and you begin a journey to discover it – without the aid of medication of any kind. I am still on this journey, but let me tell you, 2012 is turning out to be a phenomenal year, and a well-deserved reward for your bravery in 2011.
When you are 19, Hermy – our beloved sausage dog puppy – will pass away. It will hurt more than you could ever have imagined. You’ll wander the hallway of our parents’ home, and miss the pitter-patter of his little paws behind you. Our “shadow”, as mum always called him, will be gone – and for a long time you will not be able to speak or think of him, without an ache in your heart and a tear in your eye.
Sandy, our twin brother’s dog, will help to heal you, though. He will miss his brother, too, and the two of you will be able to console one another, giving you both another two years of licks and love. When he eventually passes, too, you will need to be strong. It will hurt. You will not get another dog for many, many years after. And you will feel alone.
However, you will channel this pain into something very, very good. After much discussion with your parents – and one or two heated arguments – you will be allowed to foster abandoned puppies through Kitty and Puppy Haven. You will fall in love with the little lumps of love, who come into your life, and leave it again – and you will cry every time you take them back to the Haven to hopefully be adopted. But you will remember that you have made a difference, even if it’s to only one animal – and it’s this memory that will cause you to continue this somewhat self-destructive community service.
You may not be able to understand it now, but at 24 you have so much yet still to do. You always thought you’d have met the man you were to marry by now, but I’m rather thankful you were wrong on that one. I refuse to settle for anything less than magic, and I assure you that we’ll find it. One day.
We have yet to travel the world, and our savings for the Round the World ticket is in dire straits. But we’re driven and passionate, and you can trust that our ten-year plan to climb Mount Everest will happen.
I could not wish to change anything about what has happened in the years between us. I want you to be the person that you are, the happy and fun-loving teenager I have so many photographs and memories of… You have hard times ahead of you, so cherish the years before they begin.
And one more thing… At no point are you ever alone with you pain and hardship, and it’s important you remember that.
I think it’s important I remember that, too.
At age 24, I want you to know that we intend to live forever. And so far, so good.
All my love,
24 year-old you