When I was reorganizing my blog earlier this year, I found the below letter that I wrote to my future 28-year-old self at the tender age of 23. Reading through my blog archives from that time makes me cringe a lot because that was a really low point in my life. I don’t think I even realized the extent of it, but now that I’m the other side of it, I can tell that I was not in a good place.
Reviewing this letter was eye-opening because I achieved so many of the things I wanted to have in my life. But before I get into that, let’s read:
Dear 28-year-old Stephany,
When I think of myself now, five years older than I am while writing this letter, I can’t help but think of how different my life will be. I’ll be on the cusp of turning 30, which feels just plain weird. I still feel perpetually fifteen.
I hope you are happy. I hope you have a job you love and have built a life that fulfills you. You began your 23rd year with very few friends, an unhealthy obsession with food, and low self-esteem. There is a lot I need to learn and a lot I hope to have experienced by the time I turn 28.
What do I want from you? So much. I want you to be healthy, eating food that feels good for your body. I want you to be fit and have found a passionate love for running or any other type of exercise. I want you to be successful, whether it be as a published author or working at a job you love. I want you to be married because frankly, you think about your future husband so much now that still being single five years from now feels defeatist. If you’re not married, I want you to be happy in your singlehood. I want you to not be afraid of starting relationships, be them friendships or romantic relationships. I want your life to be filled with friends and social events. At 23, you’re too filled with fear to do anything about cultivating friendships or being social.
And I want you to remember how you felt as you began Year 2011, at 23. At this time, you were happy, but then again, not-so-happy. You had just began to explore all these feelings that bombard your mind and body multiple times a day and have hesitantly put a label of “anxiety” on what causes them. You will be seeking therapy in the new year and as much as you want to accept that, it feels a little bit like failure. It feels like you aren’t enough to take care of yourself. You are unhealthy and overweight with an obsession with food that is scary. You badly want to find a love for running and healthy eating so let’s hope 2011 is the year that happens. You don’t have very many friends (but I would venture to say that your amazing blog friends more than makes up for that!) and it feels like your family is falling apart, with your 15-year-old twin cousins getting involved in some pretty bad stuff and nobody talking about what’s really going on.
I hope things begin to turn around soon for you. I hope you begin to open up your heart to new relationships, discover what you’re passionate about, and stop hiding from the world. Together, we can do this. We can be happy. We can be healthy. And we can begin to live in freedom.
Your former 23-year-old self
It’s so funny to imagine what I thought life would be like at 28. It feels weird that I’m here. I never really imagined myself being 28. Just like how, right now, I can’t imagine myself being 38.
One of things that stuck out to me is how I wanted to work at a job I loved. When I wrote this letter, I was entering my last semester of college and working part-time at a preschool. I was miserable and I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. Five years later, I am working at a job I love and well beyond college. I get to write and edit for a living, learn about the interesting world of online marketing and SEO, and work with completely wonderful colleagues. So yes, younger Stephany, you did achieve that and it feels so good.
Another thing that jumped out at me was wanting to develop friendships. At 23, my friendship circle was minimal. I didn’t go out (like, at all), my high school friendships had fallen away, and I only really hung out with my family. So I’m really pleased that in the five years since this letter, I have connected with some truly wonderful women. I joined a book club, which was terrifying, but I ended up meeting some of my closest and most cherished girlfriends through it. These girls get me and let me be myself. Through work, I met more wonderful ladies, one of whom I connected with on such a deep level that we moved in together and I consider her to be one of my best friends. And how can I forget the friendship I have with my mom? It has grown deeper through the years, and there’s nobody I enjoy spending time with more than her. So friendships – another check mark. My social network might not be as extensive as most, but it’s perfect for me.
At 23, I wanted to be married when I was 28, but I’m really, really happy that I’m not. I’m content in being single and happy that I have this time in my life to explore what I want and to be completely selfish with my time. I also don’t spend all my time thinking about my future husband anymore. I go on dates when I want to, but mostly try not to take this area of my life too seriously. Love will happen when it happens!
But there is an area of my life that I haven’t yet gotten a handle on and that is my health. Over the past five years, my weight has gone up and not down, and it’s a constant area of struggle for me. But lately, I’ve found myself less inclined to worry so much about it. I don’t want to be someone who needs to be a certain weight in order to be happy. I’m trying to accept myself as I am right now, knowing I do need to lose weight for health reasons, but also that it’s okay that I’m not where I want to be. What I want more than to look a certain way is to feel better about myself and feel good about the choices I make. A number on the scale is arbitrary, but feeling good about myself is an exceptional way to live.
So to little 23-year-old Stephany who felt like the world was on her shoulders and life was one difficult day after another, I’m pleased to tell you that you are happy and love the life you have built for myself. It may not look exactly the way you envisioned it, but it’s still wonderful little life.
What do you think your former self from five years ago would think of your life today?