Dear 1999 Libby,
I had this whole sentimental letter all written out about how your life is about to change, and how beautiful pain can be. I wanted to warn you how anxiety will wreck you for most of your 30s, how being alone isn’t the worst thing ever but being with the wrong person can be. I want to pull you aside and put my hands on your precious face and tell you that (eventually) all those times that the kids teased you for your freckles will make you laugh, because at 40, you are seeing people pay to have freckles tattooed onto their faces.
Let’s be frank lovely girl, none of that would get through to you. You think you are invincible right now. You think you know everything, and at the ripe old age of 20, there is nothing wrong with that. You think nothing bad is ever going to go wrong and you have all of the time in the world to do whatever you want.
But you won’t, really. You will be pregnant by the end of the day on your 20th birthday, and you’ll ring in the millennium with your world blown wide open, trying to figure out how to breastfeed and what one is supposed to do as a mother. Your life will never be the same, and you will absolutely be a better human for it.
The next 20 years will probably be the hardest and you will think, on several occasions, that God hates you and is punishing you for something you cannot quite put your finger on. You will be soul-suckingly lonely for long periods of time. You’ll try and convince yourself that you’re not a people person, and that you should be alone. You’ll be angry with people for trying to be your friend, and you’ll push all of them away. You will try to alienate everyone you know, and on a lot of occasions, you will succeed.
You will have pain, I can’t couch that for you. You will cry so many tears, it will seem impossible that you can cry anymore.You will spend a long time being angry, and it will teach you how to love. You will break yourself open for people who don’t deserve it, and you will be vulnerable for untrustworthy people. Precious girl, there is nothing wrong with you for being hurt when people hurt you.
You’ll think you’re in love. Multiple times. You will realize you don’t know what love is, and spend a very long time by yourself trying to figure it out. You will make so many mistakes, it will seem like that’s all you can do. You’ll kiss a lot of boys and maybe a couple of men. You will try internet dating (and that’s an experience you will hate, and that’s ok). You’ll have screaming matches with boyfriends, where things are thrown and regretted, and words are said that you cannot take back. You’ll get scarred, both inside and outside. And those scars will what make you who you are.
You’ll finally travel almost as much as you would like. You will watch the sun set over the Pacific and rise over the Atlantic. You will get a lot of sunburns because even at 40, you sometimes you forget sunscreen. You will eat some of the best meals of your life with people you don’t like. You will one of the best meals of your life all alone. You will stay in some of the best hotels in the world, and you’ll sleep on couches. You’ll drink bad wine, great whisky and drinks that you light on fire. You’ll run through Knott’s Scary Farm and actually enjoy it. You’ll run more than one half marathon! (Yeah, not a joke.) You will hold hands with one of your best friends, walking down Main Street in Disneyland and realize what true joy feels like, and what it feels like to be loved for who you truly are.
You will pierce your nose, get tattoos and finally dye your hair wild colors. You’ll shave part of your head, even though you swore you never would, and then you’ll cry at your hairdresser. You’ll gain a lot of weight. You might not lose it all. You’ll finally figure out eyebrows and liquid liner. You’ll finally get those flamed Doc Martens you wanted. You’ll lift weights and run and skate for a roller derby team.
You’ll make new friends and have them only want you for what you can give them. You’ll lose people who have loved you through many iterations of yourself, and you won’t know how to handle that loss. You’ll cry some more, and feel like you’ll never smile again.
But you will smile again, and you’ll learn to make yourself smile instead of relying on others to do it for you. You will learn to only peel yourself open for those who can see through to your soft caramel core and handle the tenderness and color and joy and music that lies within. You will learn to appreciate your crooked smile and your freckles and your whip-smart brain. You will find a job that appreciates how clever and hardworking you are, and who make you feel that appreciation every day.
You will build a mighty village of people who stand with you, instead of standing on the sidelines to watch you. You will know what it feels like to be loved, and you will learn how to love in return. It will be awkward and you’ll feel weird at first, but it becomes so easy to love those in your life who deserve it. You learn to live in the beautiful push/pull of love and loss and how to not dwell too long in either.
You’ll find a great therapist, and yes you need one.
You’ll get over things that happened to you when you were little, and appreciate them for how they molded you into the fantastic beast you are. You will become the most amazing iteration of yourself yet, and realize you can get even better. You will come into your own (maybe a little late, but you will).
And I don’t want to tell you any of these things. If I did, I would spoil all of the important soul work they will do for you. If I told you what was to come, you’d be able to prepare for it and the surprise is half the lesson.
If I could tell you one thing, it would be this: it will all unfold exactly as it is supposed to. I know that won’t be much of a comfort on the day your fiancé dumps you or the day your friend dies, but it will. I promise.
Happy birthday, sweet girl.