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  • Writer's pictureErin

A letter to myself at 19

*CW: This blog post contains brief descriptions of ideations relating to self-harm and suicide. Please read at your own discretion.


Sunday, January 24th, 2016

It's kind of scary – but also weirdly comforting – to come to the conclusion that I really haven’t been okay in a while.

I am an overthinker by nature. That’s something that’s never quite going to change, nor does it really need to. I appreciate that I have the ability to mull over things and take the time to figure out how I feel and what I need. But lately my internal angers and frustrations and desperations have been manifesting themselves in my dreams. I feel like I can’t talk about it to anyone because I can’t stand the thought of them worrying about me. I think if I was more honest and open about my emotions I might be happier. Unfortunately, I am also a “put on a happy face” kind by nature. I am, contrastingly, genuinely happy by nature. So when I fall, it feels like the world is ending.

Thursday, March 24th, 2016

Lately I have been doing a lot better. The few weeks where the sun decides to stay out longer and present warmth to the world, and when the trees feel it’s okay to unleash their tiny buds are the times that bring out the happier side of me. This spring it feels cautious, but I think that’s okay. At least I’m no longer the most comfortable in my bed, or sleeping in until 11, or skipping my workouts. I feel on top of things again.

Except for today. Today I feel very afraid. I know college is supposed to give us ideas about the world that will scare us and make us want to do something about it, but I don’t think it should make me fearful for my future to the point that I doubt I’ll reach old age. I’m not one to be skeptical of the government watching us or assume North Korea is making a bomb that will end all of humanity, but rather I am terrifyingly aware of the destruction that humanity is bringing upon itself. We are polluting and wasting our water to the point that it will be scarce for half of the world’s population ten years from now. Our landfills are contaminating that water as well as our soil. We produce so much waste that we are absolutely tarnishing not only the land we live on but our own health and well-being. We are growing at too fast a rate to rely 100% on natural goods. At this point, we need to artificially create food. We are too big and too powerful. America is too big to fail; if we do, every economy in the world will suffer disastrously. It has gotten to the point now where I look at these massive cinderblock buildings and all the fancy lighting and fancy technology, and I feel absolutely disgusted by it and whoever created it. Why did we allow ourselves to become so reliant on all of this superficial shit? How did we forget that we are also animals and that we are not special?


I want less. An increasing part of me wants to travel far away and build an ecofriendly home, rely on my own garden and live like an animal. I don’t want a car or a television or honestly even children at this point because I am so scared of the world they’re going to grow up in. Sometimes I wish I had never learned these things. I can’t share them with my parents because they’re going to label me a hippy. They aren’t aware of any of this nor would they buy it if I tried to explain. I know I’m overreacting and admittedly, my future will probably not be jeopardized severely.

I lied about the life I said I wanted earlier. Truthfully, I want a nice average sized home, maybe a large kitchen and a large bathtub, and lots of windows throughout the house. I want to be able to grill over the summer and drink wine and have friends come over. I want green grass and a loving husband. I want a comfy bed, a cute cat, and some beautiful children. Most of all, I want to have those things and, for god’s sake, not feel bad about the “wastefulness” of any of it.

Thursday, April 14th, 2016

The past few nights I’ve had a lot of trouble falling asleep. I don’t know if it’s because I haven’t been sticking to my 8 am gym routine (ugh) and getting out of bed too late in the day, or if it’s just my mind naturally being too talkative in the late hours. It definitely was the latter last night. I crawled up into my sheets around midnight, then the next thing I know I had received a text from Mikey at 12:45 and I had gotten no sleep in between. Then I realized I was having very critical, deep thoughts at an average rate of five topics per minute. At first it felt constructive, but then it felt hard to breathe. Then it physically hurt to keep my eyes open or closed. Who am I? Why am I panicking? Why do I feel so guilty? I explained to Mikey that I’ve been feeling guilty for just being a human being lately, like nothing I get was deserved and everything I take from the world is ungrateful. My dad just paid off my New Zealand trip, but where did he get over $4500 to pay all at once, and why the fuck would he choose to spend it on me? How the fuck are my parents okay with paying for me to be here at school? Why am I a part of the most wasteful and oblivious species on Earth? I’ve known for a while that I’ve been experiencing a bit of an existential crisis, but last night it was just intense and painful. Mikey said it wasn’t irrational or crazy, but god do I feel irrational and crazy.

I wonder if the people sitting around me on the Quad right now think about these things, too. I really wish I didn’t.

Tuesday, June 26th, 2016

I don’t know what’s going on but I hate that I keep on thinking I’m getting better and then I go back to being some weird version of myself. I just want to be the best version. The happiest version. The girl who willingly woke up early and kept herself busy without forcing herself to be. The girl who didn’t spend any time resenting people or situations for reasons she couldn’t control. I’ve always thought a lot, and oddly enough I don’t feel like I’m in a crazy overthinking mentality right now. It’s just negative and heavy, whatever it is. Whatever it is, please, please go away.

Monday, January 8th, 2018

I will briefly acknowledge how long it has been since I’ve written. Too long. Disappointingly long. Long enough that I have excluded a huge gap of life and a decent amount of change from any sort of record. And I will disclaim that life has not been all bad, but it surely seems untrue to say that when I only write in times of struggle. Now is one of those times. Coming back today, I wanted to write about how terrifying my mind can be.

November was a great month. It took some pushing to get there, but it always seems that my most frantically anxious, unenjoyable phases of life go away when I am trying the least to get rid of them. I remember most of November realizing that I wasn’t overthinking, and how long it had been since I’d had a time where my brain wasn’t constantly in overdrive. It was amazing. Things certainly were not perfect but I was relaxed and content in the face of a busy semester and stressed out peers. A full month of that. And then I went back to school after Thanksgiving break, and for some reason, the idea crept into my skull that the task of killing myself would be really easy. It was not as if I wanted to kill myself, but I remember thinking that I could just go home after class, get my pocket knife out, run a bath, slit my wrists and throat, and let it happen. I could do it right now, but right now the thought of that possibility is not causing my heart to pound and my vision to blur. For some reason, a month or so ago, it was. I would be sitting in class with my chest on fire, fully panicking yet masking it brilliantly with a bored stare. How could I be thinking about dying by my own hand? What, really, was stopping me?

I moved away from thinking like that. I never even came close to action, but the thought process was still the scariest thing that I think has ever happened to me.

Saturday, March 24th, 2018

I wonder if it’s a reflection of myself. I’m afraid of how they think because I’m afraid of how I think. I feel like I won’t be able to do the things I want to do because I’m going to do something terrible…but I don’t want to do anything terrible. I want to get through school and start teaching. I want to buy a little home with Mikey, adopt a dog, get married and experience motherhood and be happy. That reality feels so lost right now, though. Like I was carrying it in the wind and it slipped out of my hand, up into the sky and out of sight.

Now I’m lost. So many things have gone right this year, so many things. I’m doing great in school; so well, in fact, I realized I’m going to be able to start grad classes early. My relationship with Mikey is strengthening. I’ve made amazing friends out of his friends, and, even though it’s hard to see sometimes, I’ve made some great friends here too. I turn 21 in a few days and I’m throwing a middle school throwback party that promises to be a hit. I’ve slimmed down and toned out, my skin is finally clearing up, I have the body my sixteen-year-old self dreamed about. Things are really going so well.

But I don’t see the point, lately. I feel like I’m continuing for everyone around me, not myself. And it’s not that I want to give up or disappear or anything like that. I just don’t want to move toward a future where I’ll have everything I’ve ever wanted and still feel anxious a majority of the time. And I fear that because I’m not anxious about any of the “struggles” of the present; school does not stress me out, my relationship is fine, I’m not even particularly concerned with my friend connections like I was a month or two ago. I’m anxious about life. I’m anxious about myself. How I feel. My capabilities. My motivations. And that is so damn frustrating, because I don’t know how to come out of it. All of my meditation strategies seem to want me to look inward, but my exact problem is that I’m so stuck in mind and body and I can’t focus enough on what’s going on around me, what’s coming up.

I just don't think I'll ever really be "okay."

A selfie of me at age 19


Sunday, February 4th, 2024

Dear Erin,

I keep having these dreams that I can't shake - it's probably been close to a year now. In these dreams we're working full time, we teach and we make money, but there are still one or two classes left to finish at school before we fully "graduate." The thing that sucks about this is that there's no time to go back and finish them. We're enrolled, but we can't make class. Periodically we check our grades and we're failing, doomed to have to repeat just one more semester before we can finally get out of there and move on with life. We've talked to our professors in these dreams, trying to explain the situation, but it doesn't matter. We can't pass if we don't show up. I wake up anxious from these dreams, sometimes, because I know I'm going to have to miss class again today, and then I won't know what to study for the final, and then I'm going to fail us again.

After a minute or so of toiling in bed first thing in the morning, I remember that we actually graduated four years ago. Like, fully graduated. There's nothing left to do. I can go to work, make my money, then go on about my day. I tell Mikey about this as we stretch and shift and slowly begin to rise. He thinks it's funny how often these dreams come up. I think it's funny too, but there's a nagging underlying feeling of unfinished business. I think the dreams keep coming back because I could never quite figure out what needs to be finished.

It's clearly not school.

And it's not the things we wanted back then - we got them all. The job, the house, the love, the cat. They came one after the other, as easily as airplanes flying overhead. Even the peace of mind, the thing you thought you'd never get back. We got it. Maybe not forever, but we know now that that's a pretty unrealistic expectation, anyway. The point is, we got it.

So I keep getting stuck, and these dreams keep coming. I keep reliving the same story, keep feeling the same deep, internal pulling when I wake up. While it's not painful, it is persistent.

Then I realized it's you.

We haven't talked in a long while, and I hate to say it, but I really wanted to forget about you. Through this long healing process, I learned all about inner-child healing, and how to look back through the past to try and identify the things that made it all so hard for me. I tried to figure out what made college so miserable, what mom or dad could have done or said at some distant but significant moment before I was even conscious enough to remember it. I started talking to God again. I saw multiple therapists and joined online courses and shared stories with internet strangers and made communities out of all sorts of environments, virtual and not. Some were beautiful, others were not. It feels now that I looked every which way and searched in every possible hiding place for an answer to our long-unfinished riddle. All the while, I could have just asked you.

But to tell you the truth, I have been very, very afraid of you.

I feel you getting upset as you read this, and I'm sorry, because I know that you're blaming yourself. Don't. Part of the learning for me in the years we've grown distant was the coming to terms with the fact we had some really grand expectations of this life, and we had a few really hard crash-and-burn moments in discovering that they weren't all feasible. For one, happiness is never a constant for anyone. And it shouldn't be. Second, healing isn't linear, and there will continue to be rough patches, even crash-and-burn moments, even now. Third, we were very, very hard on ourselves. Those grand expectations came with the requirement of perfection from our end, and we were never going to meet that. So I think I needed a few years to separate from those beliefs (and many others), to tear them all down and rebuild again. I thought you should know that I no longer chase happiness; I still fear the really dark and scary stuff that we experienced together, but I know that there's a beautiful balance to be met in the middle somewhere. I want the full scope, because I know I can handle it. I know that because of you.

You should also know that the work is forever. And I know that reading this scares you, but maybe you'll feel better in knowing that the work is exciting to me now. The work is fulfilling. The work is what gets me out of bed in the morning. I'm doing it every time I have an insightful conversation with a student, and every time I try something new when I don't necessarily want to. It's confrontation with fear. It's being scared and doing it anyway. It's talking to you, right now. The work is in everything, all the time, forever more, and it's the best part about life.

Do you have any idea why I embrace this work now? It's because of you. It's because you showed me that it was possible. The way that you went on through school, getting great grades, still staying in touch with friends as best as you could, still taking care of yourself and going to the gym and cooking nourishing meals for you and your roommates, still seeking all the beautiful parts of life even though your mind was determined to destroy it all...all of that is why I'm here and thriving now. You did the really hard work so that I could go and get all the things we wanted. You did it so well that I sometimes forget what I have right now (at only 26!) is truly all we ever wanted.

It's funny, because I'm having another reoccurring dream lately - one where we buy a gorgeous "new-old" home with Mikey. The home itself is different every time, but the vibe is the same: they're all beautiful, spacious, and bright with the same giant windows you've always dreamed of. But a lot of the previous owners' belongings are still in them. It's kind of cool, because we can take whatever we want to build up the space and make it our own, but are free to get rid of the rest. In all of these homes there are elaborate hallways and secret back rooms, giant closets with endless clothing to choose from, and it all feels like an exciting opportunity for reinvention. A place to take in abundance without guilt. When I wake up from those dreams, there might be a quick pang of disappointment to realize it wasn't real, but the much longer-lasting emotion is one of excitement and curiosity. This is more than you could have dreamed for, but because of your bravery and perseverance, I feel safe, now, to do that dreaming.

You may not see how capable you are. But I do. You may not see how much of a force you are. I do. I think that might be why I was so afraid to get back in touch, to feel you again. You fell and felt the hardest. You experienced thoughts and emotions I hope we don't ever have to relive again. But again, because of you, I know that if they come back to the surface, I'll be okay. You showed me the strength I never would have known I have. You may not know your own strength; you may not feel it.

I do.


A photo of me sitting on the ground with fallen leaves; age 25


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