From future you

Note: This is a real, unedited diary entry from when I was 16. The last part is my response, 6 years later.

Tuesday, March 29th 2016

“Will you take my soul in the midnight rain?” -Broken Lund

W.O.T.D. tessellate- to form small squares in a checkered or mosaic pattern.

So to celebrate my “sweet 16” I am going to go Christmas Carol and talk/write myself a letter to past and future me’s.

Dear past Julia,

I just want you to know so much, but if I tell you them I don’t even know if you’ll change (because I know you learn most by experiences). What I want to say first is that you should never conform to someone else’s wishes. Whether it’s Emma, Logan, or Maria. I know that you fit into their shoes to make them happy at your expense. And let me say, you will never be happy that way, only resentful. But learn to open up to new people, volunteering with people who are different than you. Along those same lines, don’t be mean to anyone, because you never know if you’ll see them again or just how profoundly you’ll change their life. Don’t give up on ice skating. My biggest regret is that I quit it; just ignore the judgment and follow your passion! TELL JACK TO KEEP HIS POKEMON CARDS! Emphasize to your parents the importance of learning a second language and an instrument. Don’t you ever EVER hurt another person. You will have had absolutely no reason to. Please keep a close bond with your brothers, you’ll miss them someday. Write letters to your family members. Letters are cute, they’ll love them. Never be afraid to admit that you don’t know something, and always love yourself. Love, future. 

Dear future Julia, 

It doesn’t matter whether this is read tomorrow if you’re bored or 27 years from now (if you even live close to that long). I hope you’re doing well, and trying hard. Maybe you’ve become fluent in Spanish and French! I really hope you aren’t too busy to read, because reading is so good. I wonder if you still love to travel, or if it’s begun fading away like an old postage stamp. Maybe you’ve managed to keep both seriousness and humor in your life, but have a balance of the two. I hope you have had a boyfriend who loves who you are and respects you. If not, then get the fuck out of the relationship. Don’t ask, don’t question, please just muster up the strength and get out. Do you still like anime, or has that faded? I hope you’re not an uninteresting person, maybe you’ve gotten over your awkward gait of talking to people! My voice sounds like a dead pelican, so I hope you have pursued the violin! Name your guinea pig Leonard. No matter the gender, Leonard the guinea pig takes flight. If you lost your passion for retro gaming, I hope you filtered it into something like pro activism for the environment. See you in hell. Love, past.

And so another day goes by… 

Signing off,

Hipster-twister

Dear Hipster-twister,

You’re such a weird one. Hipster-twister? What does that even mean? Honestly, it doesn’t even matter. I love it. I love you, 16-year-old Julia. Your words are heavily laden with compassion and empathy and sprinkled with a perfect amount of sarcasm. I love seeing the way you grow, the way your roots take hold of so many different interests. I am not fluent in either Spanish or French, unfortunately. But you’ll be glad to hear that my passion for traveling and reading has only grown deeper over the years. I do still enjoy anime—I’m actually watching Attack on Titan right now, they’ve just finished season 4 if you can believe it. I haven’t gotten over my awkward gait of talking to people, but I’ve also embraced it as part of who I am. You lament about this insecurity a lot, so I just want you to know that it’s not your fault that you have a harder time recognizing social cues, controlling your volume, and keeping a single stream of conversation going. I wish I could tell you all of the different ways your ADHD affects you so that you wouldn’t feel so alone. I never picked up the violin, it’s expensive and it requires a lot more brain work and training than I’ve had the patience to commit to it. But I have a bass and a ukulele, and I play them frequently. I don’t have a guinea pig but I do have a hamster named Toe, and he’s a curious wanderer who loves sweet treats (today he had a nice slice of papaya). I didn’t lose my passion for retro gaming, and I became more and more interested in the environment. Half of my bookshelf is just books about nature.

I am impressed by how self-aware you are. Because you’re absolutely right; throughout the last six years, I have continued to let people walk over me again and again and again. And it never has made me happy. There are times when I wish I would have re-read those words and your advice about love. But I suppose sometimes you have to go through the pain to fully understand the importance of something. Now I understand, and the last few months I’ve been dedicating myself to building up confidence. Setting boundaries still terrifies me. And rereading this diary has made me realize how deep into my core this fear rests. But I’m working on it. I’m getting better at it, slowly but surely. I know you’d be sad to hear that it took me this long. You’d be even sadder if you knew the amount of true heartbreak I went through to reach this point. But, I made it through to the other side, and I’ll never stop fighting. You taught me that you tenacious, awkward, sweetheart. Love, Julia.

Grandma’s puzzles

As a kid, I spent hours digging through puzzles with my grandma. Putting together old-timey soda shop parlors and Rockwell Thanksgiving suppers.

Her wrinkled, careful, thoughtful fingers handed me a piece and always seemed to know the exact one I needed.

Over time, the jigsaw puzzle became its own form of communication. 

My grandpa recently retired, finally letting his aching bones rest after a long lifetime of labor. 85 years old, the majority of them spent on blue-collar jobs. He almost seemed afraid of retiring, afraid of allowing himself to exist in his own space. 

Last week, he did his first puzzle ever with my grandma. Letting her wrinkled, careful, thoughtful fingers hand him a piece. 

If he had done a puzzle with her sooner, I wonder if he would have retired so late in life. I wonder if he would have loved my grandma differently, sharing himself within her simple, unspoken love. 

Shame

When I first broke up with my boyfriend of over two years, I felt immense shame. Not because of anything either of us said or did, but because I loved him so deeply as a friend. 

He’d been there for me through some of the most traumatic shit in my life so far, walking me through the raging flames of my mind with a fire extinguisher strapped to his back, helping me calm down the heat as best as he could. 

Then I crossed over the river, the burns cooled and healed—both literally and metaphorically— and I realized something.

I don’t know when it happened, but at some point in our relationship, my path diverted from his. The growth each of us had gone through throughout our time together had caused us to shape into different places. Which would be ok, people come and go throughout life, and it became clear to me that our paths were meant to stay diverged romantically. 

But, shame hung heavy on my shoulders long after we broke up. 

The shame stemmed from the idea that if you find a partner who’s a good person, a truly good and caring person who loves you for who you are, you should hold onto them with both hands gripped tightly around their torso. As a female assigned at birth, I had deeply internalized this narrative. Who knows when you’d find another good person to love romantically? What if you leave this person and then end up with someone who verbally, emotionally, and/or physically abuses you? 

The unpredictability of being romantically vulnerable has scared generations of women and f.a.b. people into settling into unsatisfactory relationships. This person loves you and is a good person, and no, they may not be meeting your romantic needs, but at least you know they won’t try to hurt you. 

I didn’t realize that this was a common phenomenon when I first broke up with him. All I felt was my individual shame, the guilt of leaving someone who I knew would love me unconditionally. But the more I vocalized my experience, the more I found other f.a.b. people who resonated with this. 

I believe it’s natural to be heartbroken over breaking somebody’s heart who you love; it’s difficult but necessary growth for many relationships. But the shame. The shame makes me reflect, inspires me to write. 

It felt, on some subconscious level, that I owed him my romantic love. He had been there when the flames seemed to create an impenetrable barrier around me, and he loved me with deep sincerity, which meant (to my mind) that I owed him my heart. As I found more people who shared a similar experience to me, I realized that the shame didn’t stem from my relationship in particular. Rather, the systemic depreciation of feminine identities has caused a foundational rift in our value as human beings worthy of love… Yet again. Thank you patriarchy. 

So no, I didn’t owe him my love. And if you’re reading this and resonate with this, neither do you. In the same way there will always be bad people who will try and hurt you, there will always be good people who will love you for who you are, romantically or platonically.