FRIDAY OPEN THREAD: If You Could Write A Letter To Who You Were 10 Years Ago, What Would You Say?

If you’ve been wasting as much time on the internet as I have lately, you’ve likely seen the #tenyearchallenge going around. The idea is you post a picture from ten years ago, and one from present day to see how much you’ve changed. For (flawless) example, here’s queen Laverne’s:

Our Monday Roundtable this week also had a pretty similar then & now theme, and interestingly published right before the challenge peaked which may be a coincidence but we all know Autostraddle is a major trendsetter! Add that to the fact that Autostraddle turns 10 WHOLE YEARS OLD in 2019 and you’ve got a lot of nostalgia going around. Digging through my photos to find a throwback Reneice photo for the roundtable of course sent me on a trip down memory lane that illuminated just how far I’ve come in the last decade. As cliche as it is while I scanned through images of me before I came out, before I loved myself, before I stopped forcing my mind and body to conform to standards that weren’t meant for me, I found myself daydreaming about all the things I wish I could say to that iteration of Reneice. Some short & sweet things came up like “you’re gay!” and “own your natural hair!”. These were quickly followed by lengthy more vulnerable thoughts that released a well of tears I hadn’t realized I’d sealed off all those years ago. I wished I could tell her that one day she’d see herself naked in the mirror and consistently smile in admiration. That she didn’t need to seek permission from others to love herself. That she wasn’t an abomination in the eyes of the god she was taught to believe in but rather an incredible and divine creation full of magic and light that shines wherever she goes, and that she deserves to shine, and love, authentically.

Having this unexpected chance to see how I’ve changed and grown, but also identify the places I’ve remained steady and true was healing in a way I never have anticipated. I’ve felt stronger and more confident, and found more patience for myself in moments of need it. It’s been incredible so naturally I want you to get in on this too! So for this thread and in honor of 10 years of Autostraddle, I’m asking you all to think back to who you were 10 years ago. Visualize that person, maybe dig up a picture and share it if you’re willing (highly recommend) and once you’ve got past you in mind, think of what you’d like to tell them and write it in letter form. Don’t be shy! We’re all family here and we’re all in this together. Maybe you’ll warn of bad haircuts and fashion fails. Maybe you’ll tell them whatever they need to hear so they don’t date that one really big mistake of a person. Maybe you wouldn’t tell past you anything at all except to keep going and remember to brush and floss. Whatever it is, I’d love to read every single one of your letters and nod in love and understanding at your incredible journeys.


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Reneice Charles is a just another queer, liberal, woman of color using the Internet to escape from reality and failing miserably. She received her MSW from New York University and is an Entrepreneur and Vocalist living in Los Angeles. She spends her spare time wishing she didn't have to use her spare time convincing people that everyone deserves the same basic human rights.

Reneice has written 81 articles for us.

100 Comments

  1. Dear past me:

    You’re a girl. You’re hella trans. It’s going to be okay. The reason you’re uncomfortable with yourself is that you’re trying to be someone you’re not, and it will all get better when you stop fighting that. You’ll be lucky- you won’t lose family, and you’ll have a fantastic support system. Oh, and bi the way, maybe look up the words “pansexual” and “polyamorous”, they’ll be really relevant to your life.

    One last thing. Our name is Athena. You’ll know what it means <3

    Love,
    Athena

  2. Dear younger me,

    You don’t know me yet, but I love you. Love is something you think you know, something you think you have. You’re about to go and renew your vows with your wife this year. It’s been 9 years – you’re planning on renewing them every 9 years in this same castle ruin in Scotland, because 9 is special to you. It’s romantic, so very, very romantic.
    What you don’t realize though, is that romance is not love. That love is not contorting yourself to fit. That love is not pretending you feel no desire, that you have no desires of any kind. That love is not control, but freedom.

    You have a long road ahead of you – you will be back at this same castle ruin one more time in another 9 years, in 2018. This time though, you will be re-examining everything, and the promise you make will be to try. And you will try. And you’ll discover what love really means. That it doesn’t mean living for another person, but living through yourself. That is what it means to be faithful. Because first, you have to be faithful to yourself.

    As I said, love, it’s going to be a long road, but you’re going to learn so much, and you’re going to be so strong. I’m proud of you, and I’m sending you love, so very much love.

    ***

    Thank you Reneice. Thank you for bringing so much through your wonderful self, and sharing your journey <3

  3. Dear me:

    You are so so so damn gay. Please don’t waste 8.5 years sporadically forcing yourself to date men on the theory that “I don’t like math either, buy i still have to do it!”. Also, go find your future girlfriend and reacue her from her repressive church so she stops wasting her time on all the homophobia.

    It gets so much better!

    –Love,
    Me

  4. Dear 15 year old me,

    This is the year you’re going to be forced to grow up. You’re going to go through a lot of hard times in the next ten years and it’s going to get a lot easier when you let people help you through that. Remember that no matter how bad things get you’ll get through all of it. I can’t tell you not to do things because then I won’t have learnt from your mistakes so make those mistakes and learn from them! You won’t recognise the person you’ll be in 10 years time but you’ll be proud of her and amazed at how much you’ve grown. Keep going, it’s worth it. Find joy in the small things, you’re going to be surprised by what you find fun in the future.

    Also, you don’t have to put up with anyone’s shit. You’re worth a million times more than the people who make you feel like nothing and one day you will truly believe that. You’re a superhero inside.

  5. Dear 14-year-old Cass,

    Look, buddy, reblogging 800 pics of Helena Bonham Carter’s tits is not heterosexual behavior.

    I know there are days where you feel like you are made of fear. It’s gonna be okay. Take a deep breath when you look in the mirror. You are exactly who you were meant to be, so stop running. Don’t quit piano lessons (you’ll thank me later). Medicate your anxiety. Don’t date that boy, or that other boy, or any boy at all come to think of it. Tell that cute girl in your freshman chem class that you like her lipstick.

    I’m here from the future, and I want you to know: you will be happy. You will be so, so happy.

    -C.

  6. Dear me, not really a lot changes in ten years, although the move to Bridgwater you could have done without, as well as losing Dad. And mum’s ill health. But you do get a better (and better paid) job, even if you don’t even move seats, let alone office or building.

    Also, unrelated to this, tomorrow is my birthday \0/ and I had a wonderful day out shopping with my bestie and a very nice lunch, then there was a very cute queer couple sat in front of me on the train back from Bristol which was ♥ – although I wished there was a secret wink or sign I could make to let them know my love for them!

  7. I did this the other week as part of my shadow work, but I wrote to 2001 me. As much as has happened in the past 10 years, 2009 me doesn’t need 2019 me.

    In honour of the 10 Year Challenge, though, I present my sweet sweet boy in 2009 and 2019:


    He has been in my mind a lot lately. Last weekend we have learnt that his prostate is severely enlarged, but we don’t know what it is yet. His symptoms have magically disappeared after an initial hormone treatment, but we still need to go back and see if there’s any real change internally, and then maybe do tests for cancer. But the important part is that he feels good, he’s been feeling well all week.

  8. I’d tell me from 10 years ago that some of the characters from the L Word are based on real people and that my feels don’t mean I am a perv, or that compulsory heterosexuality is telling me that I can’t be trans because I like and am interested in women. Also, that there are many magical lbtq women and you will find a community within them. I’d also tell myself to check out Atostraddle in 2010 instead of Second Life L Word land, which was mostly about of wlw cursing for cyber. No one wanted to talk about Jenny Schecter, Kit(well Pam Grier in general) or the last season. I think my avatar should have been a giveaway I wasn’t straight as I was a andro woman with swappable genitals. Seriously I asked in the room, who wants to talk last season of the L Word, and all I got no one has time for that it’s Dinah Shore party all winter.

    How is everyone’s week going? It’s the first day I’ve seen the sun(and it’s warm too) as it’s been raining for the past 4 days straight. The last time I remember this happening was like in 90s, maybe early 00s? It’s nice, cause we need it as a state, but also less shoppers at work means less dough for my business. I got to spend my sunday at Cuties coffee and had a nice rose tea and eat a nice meal alone, it was relaxing and needed. I also got my car back after 2 weeks at the dealership getting fixed(partially their fault). I hate Alfa reliability but is it a joy to drive when not at the shop. A few personal things also came up that I will have to use autostraddle articles to help me find some resources, which I am thankful for.

    After coffee I decided to take a drive with loaner car I had. I got stuck in mud for various reasons. I had a few nice good Samaritans try to help me, but no dice. Had to call AAA and while waiting I saw this lovely fox. There were also multiple Hollywood tour buses that stopped as some celeb lives in viewing distance, but wasn’t able to catch whom it is.

    Thank you for viewing and reading my post. Have a positive and safe weekend.

  9. Dear little Me,
    Hi! It’s you! From 2019! Future isn’t actually all that different. Still no flying card or interplanetary human run spaceships. We ain’t at star wars level. Yet.
    Anyhoo, guess what? YOU’RE A GIRL! You, me, we, are Isabella. You’re a lesbian, who’s also panromantic and polyamorous. Crazy, right? It’s like another language!!! But hey, this saves you a decade of guessing. Go start HRT. It’s sooooo worth it, and you’ll have the benefit of starting in your teens. 💜
    Also also, your style? Wonder woman + dominatrix + punk + hippy + witchy. Black and purple are your mainstay colors. Mix it up, revel in yourself, because you are beautiful. Makeup–not your thing. And that’s ok!! Though, maybe make lip color an exception, cause it looks awesome.
    Also also also, most important part. Don’t ever. EVER. Let anyone use you or treat you like crud. Don’t ever change, don’t ever accommodate, don’t ever doubt yourself. Future you had several bad relationships, don’t let yourself get stuck in one, too.
    Cheerio, little Goddess
    -Isabella Marabeth Cavatica

  10. These are lovely!

    I’m struggling in the present so I have a hard time not wanting to just shake past me really hard. I guess I’d say, “Guess what, You’re alive. But you haven’t finished grad school. Go to therapy. Oh wait you don’t have health insurance, huh? Okay well seriously try to get any job with health insurance and go to therapy I guess. Eat vegetables. It’s okay to leave. It’s okay to be lonely. It’s okay if you don’t like yourself that doesn’t mean you should give up on yourself. Give yourself a hug.”

  11. Oh this is a good one!

    Dear 14 year old G.,
    You’re stronger than ya know and you’re gonna make it through this. It’s not gonna get easier, tiny. In fact it’s gonna get real real hard. Soon you’re gonna hit that scary rock bottom place where you sit up at night in your boarding school bunk bed and wonder if the world needs you. They do. They absolutely do, so fight on. You’re gonna look back in 10 years in a body that now hurts everyday and a mind that still sometimes sinks to that tough place, but ya know what, you’ll be there. You’ll have made it. You’ll have come out. Graduated undergrad. Met a girl. Gotten some cats. Found a job you love. Started grad school. Traveled across the country. Learned your worth. Found your strength. You’ll be starting to learn how to lean on others and ask for help and be vulnerable and soft. Please remember you don’t need to build those barriers. Be fierce, but be open. Be strong, but we gentle. Read those poems and kiss those people and make mistakes and say you’re sorry and tell your mom you love her and appreciate her and drink that whiskey in the snowy field with the boy you once thought you loved. Be young and silly and dumb. Don’t have regrets. Because 10 years from now you’re alive and you’re doing it. That’s all that matters, tiny. Keep going. You got this.

    <3

  12. Dear 39-year-old me,

    Buckle up.

    I know you think you’ve come a long way, and believe me you have, but you’re not as “done” as you think you are. You’ve stagnated, gotten so stuck you don’t realize you’re stuck, and the upcoming shifts aren’t going to be fun or pretty.

    But. You will find wonderful things in your 40s that you don’t know you’re looking for yet.

    You will find communities where you can be completely yourself; bi, married to a man, awkward, nerdy you. You will find meaningful work. You will travel to Nairobi, Kenya (3 times! for a job!) and feed a giraffe. You will wear a bi-pride t-shirt while marching at pride with your husband and your church (I KNOW you’re not really Christian anymore and you don’t need a church, it’s OK). You will figure out how to be more comfortable being visibly bi and queer and you’ll become a resource for others. You’ll find friends and community online in places you don’t expect and they’ll help you in unpredictable ways.

    And yes, you are bi enough and queer enough to be out and visible. You don’t need to ask permission.

  13. Hey Valerie (yes we finally got most people to stop calling us Val!),

    I don’t want to scare you but, in ten years, your life will look a lot different than it does now, than you ever expected it to. But I promise you’ll love it. You’re going to go through a lot, and at one point you’ll be almost as depressed as you were in high school, but guess what? You’ll have a better support system than you’ve ever had and it won’t be nearly as hard to get through. You’re going to make mistakes and drift away from a lot of the friends you thought were going to be there forever, but you’re going to build a found family that will be your lifeblood.

    I know you don’t like spoilers, but I do have some advice for you:
    Coming out is almost anticlimactic for how much you stressed about it. So just do it. You’ll make up for lost time by being a professional lesbian within a few years.
    Don’t waste so much time hating yourself. Spend that time loving things instead.
    Hug Papa Gino as much as you can. You won’t get as much time with him as you thought you would.
    Be weird. I mean, I know you’re already weird, but be weird out loud. It’ll help you find your people.

    Things are hard here in 2019, I’m not going to lie to you. But you’re stronger than you know. So get out there and kick life’s ass. I know this wasn’t always the case but…I believe in you.

    xoxo Valerie Anne (I know, we even use our middle name sometimes! Isn’t that rad??)

  14. This is a tough one. Ten years ago I had just turned 15. It was my first Christmas and birthday since my mother died the September before, and I was wholly consumed by my grief. Since my 25th birthday a few weeks ago, I’ve been thinking about how incredibly painful that time was, and in contrast, how ordinary and stable this time feels. I just remember a sort of fugue of sadness during my sophomore and junior year of high school, and feeling like I could not possibly make it through the next day/week, let alone make it to the age of 18 alive. I was unbelievably, catastrophically sad. And I still had to go to high school.

    So, I’m gonna have to think about what I could possibly tell that version of myself.

  15. Hey kid, the next ten years are busy. In about four months, you’ll come out to your best friend. Her response will be perfect, lighthearted, and excited for you and the reason you picked her first. It will feel to nice to finally know yourself this well.

    You’re going to join to a band and make an album and tour but remember to be brave – take the chances that current us didn’t.

    That girl that caught your eye at work last month is going to become your friend and for a while that will be enough but when she kisses you for the first time it is going to change your whole world. Work hard to make her happy and she will return it to you 1000x more. We got so lucky with her 🙂

    It won’t all be fun…your depression will win for a while and in a few years you’ll meet a new friend called anxiety. But you’ll remember to play your guitar, see your friends and enjoy life with your girlfriend.

    I know we never really pictured the future growing up but it happens anyway and it’s been pretty good so far 🙂

  16. Dear 19-year-old me:

    Congrats on getting your own car! You never have to go to that church you don’t actually like again! If you maintain it well it’ll go for at LEAST ten years. I don’t have enough money to buy another one so I’m keeping up with my oil changes.

    I could write you a very long letter but when you were in high school you wrote a paper about why same-sex marriage should be legal so I think you should just go for a drive and think about that for a while.

    Also next time you cut all your hair off please look at some celebrities and take pictures with you I am begging you save everyone involved a lot of grief. You have to narrow it down from not wanting long hair to wanting a type of short hair. Maybe going for that drive will help you.

    Onward. From time to time, you’re going to have a little extra money here and there. You should absolutely spend some of it on French fries and video games, but I’m begging you to go open an IRA as soon as the opportunity presents itself. You can do it at our credit union with a relatively small amount of money. I assume this was true ten years ago. Will you ever retire? Hell if I know! But they say time in the market beats timing the market.

    In roughly nine years you’re going to get your eyes examined. Buy some new glasses. I’ve been going like this with like five-year-old glasses for almost a year for NO good reason. I recently bought vision insurance. You will continue to improve your decision-making skills as your life proceeds.

    Hugs!

    Ameridelphia (You will name yourself this later when you join Autostraddle. I don’t know why. Something about possums.)

  17. I’d probably write back a little further than 10 years to tell my even younger self that just because you’re the kid and your parents are the parents does not mean that they’re always right and that their word is law. I’d tell my younger self that I should stand up for what I want, that I should be able to feel safe enough to speak up and voice my opinion without fear of getting shut up and shut down. I’d tell my younger self that it was okay to question my parents’ decisions because their decisions will have a long-lasting and somewhat damaging effect on my future. So yeah, if I could send a letter to my younger self, I’d tell them to find their voice and use it to ask and question and not be afraid to doubt our parents’ choices because in the end, it’s me who’s paying the price.

  18. Dear Doreen,
    don’t be afraid to leave.
    Love is NOT worth everything and you are about to meet the best people in your life,yet.
    In the most unlikely places, in the most unlikely ways.
    You do deserve better.
    And things will get so.much better eventually!
    It’ll take courage,though.

    P.S.:With some patience, there’ll be a main stream well done movie, set in the fifties, that explores two women falling in love for two hours. You are going to see it in an actual movie theater with friends. No one dies.
    And there’ll be special agents and FBI agents and cops and more on TV being openly gay and bi and kissing, like real characters. So many, you will not be able to keep up.
    Really!

    There’ll be a lot of adventures for you to embark on,too.
    You think it has, but life hasn’t even really begun,yet.
    I think that’s probably true for the next ten years, too.

  19. Hey Kid,

    You know that angry poetry you used to write in middle school about how you couldn’t figure out why you felt so different from everyone else? You’ll figure it out when you’re like 20. And I know right now you’re still planning on packing up your truck the day you turn 18 and moving out. You won’t. You’ll stick around another year, graduate HS, and then go Madison. But it will be ok, I promise. There’s a whole world out there and the weight that is lifted off of you when you leave GB is so, so freeing.

    I’m writing you this at 27, so we have a lot of life left to live, but if things only get half as better between 27 and 37 as they did between 17 and 27, it’s going to be worth it.

    Love,
    Andi

    • “I’m writing you this at 27, so we have a lot of life left to live, but if things only get half as better between 27 and 37 as they did between 17 and 27, it’s going to be worth it.”

      ❤️❤️❤️

  20. Dear me,

    You’re 19 and you’ve spent the last few years accepting you like girls. Yay you! But you’re not done with the struggle. There’s going to be times when you feel so low but you’re a tough cookie and can make it through anything!

    Your mom still isn’t going to accept your sexuality but she still loves you.

    You have some amazing things ahead of you. Sit tight!

    Also, don’t get freaked out when you end up marrying a man after years of only liking women. It happens. Being with a man does not delete your obsession with the ladies. In fact, you’re going to feel more free than ever, because he’s going to be the first person to truly accept you as you are, and that’s great!

    Love Warrior Princess

    P.S. You know that Sargent Mary-Beth Duffy from the last season of The L Word, next year you’re going to discover Xena and she will be your biggest obsession. You’re welcome. 😉

  21. Dear 20-year-old Rae,

    (Yes, at 30 you’re calling yourself that name you’ve always wanted to be called but were too afraid.) Right now you are so strong and yet so scared. Also, you have convinced yourself that you won’t make it to 30, because life has been so difficult already, but you made it. You’re here! You have a different gender at 30 but a somewhat similar haircut. You moved countries! You’ve travelled a whole bunch! You’re going to find out you were right about some things you suspect but can’t admit to yourself yet. That’s OK. I’m not going to tell you to do things differently because I don’t know who that person would be now.

    What I know is that you are learning to let love into your life. You are showing up for the people you care about. You will keep learning your value. You will learn the difference between people who will help you grow and those who want to control you. You’ll begin to find the courage to let go of people who don’t treat you well. You’ll accept your disability as a full part of who you are and what makes you great. Hold on to who you are, but maybe drink a little less, get into therapy earlier, and realise that you can be a little braver because mistakes don’t automatically mean that everything falls apart. You are gentle and take care of people, but you need to be more gentle with yourself.

    Also, you have tattoos and brightly coloured hair at 30. You get more radical in your politics. And you like the taste of Turkish delight now. The last one might be the most surprising to you!

    I love you,
    -2019 Rae

  22. Dear Mason,

    You’re 21, almost 22, in a good place in college, and desperately hoping to find a girl who will date you. Partially this is to prove to yourself that there is at least someone out there who likes you, and that you won’t spend the rest of your life alone- but part of it (and you probably won’t even admit this to yourself) is hoping that it’ll “fix” you.

    I have good news: by the time you’re 31, you’ll have not only gotten laid, fallen in love, and gotten married, you’ll be a true social butterfly. You can’t imagine the adventure that await you! You’re also busy pursuing your dream job, too, as icing on the cake.

    The bad news, though, is that none of it will “fix” you. The thing is, the fact that you daydream about being a girl more often than you would care to admit isn’t just some sort of kink/coping mechanism/personality quirk- it’s because you *are* a girl. Yes, I know, I can hear you saying, but I like girls! But I’ve never been interested in crossdressing! But I haven’t definitively known since my earliest memories! But I’m not suicidally miserable with dysphoria! But it turns out none of that negates the fact that you’re a girl.

    Specifically- and you will be delighted to discover this after a few years on hormone replacement therapy (which, by the way, is pretty much magic, you’ll be amazed to discover what it does for you)- you are a shockingly cute lesbian. Don’t be worried about what everyone else thinks- your friends, your colleagues, your family, your partner, all of them will accept you as who you are (though not always right away).

    Other notes:
    -Flashcards are your friends, but *only if you review them nightly*. Otherwise they won’t help much.
    -Tell your stepdad to get prostate screenings *regularly*- it may very well save your life.
    -Singing is amazing and you’re better at it then you realize. Also, you don’t know this yet, but you have a 3.5 octave singing range. That’s right, you can sing *soprano* if you want to. And it sounds *good*.
    -Your mom has issues with enmeshment, and may have a touch of narcissism. The sooner you realize that, the better.
    -Swing dancing will open up many worlds to you, keeping doing it.
    -On that note, on February 29th, 2012, there will be a swing dance at the 1912 Center in Moscow, ID. There will be a girl in a turtleneck there. Ask her to dance. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

    All my love,

    Tessa

    Bonus pictures!

    2009:

    Last weekend:

  23. Dear 2009 me,

    I know things are dark and hopeless now. Mom is slowly wasting away from a terrible genetic disease. She will be gone in 6 months. The ECT treatments for your depression is going to work. You don’t know it yet but you are so close to not hurting yourself anymore. In ten years you will still have scars but they will all be at least ten years old.

    You are going to work so hard. You cannot imagine how good your life can and will be. You will find joy in the outdoors again. You are going to cultivate some of the most amazing friendships. All that anger, fear, and resentment will not be consuming your life. It’s not going to be easy. But damn is it going to be rewarding. Then life will change again and you will have to continue to work hard. But what you will learn is that you are not alone in this. The loneliness that was your life for the first forty years will be a distant memory. Sure, you will still have regrets and bad days, but you know now that the good days by far outnumber the bad ones. You are going to get to do so many of those things you wanted to try as a kid but was never able to. You are going to have adventures with people who love you, genuinely love you, and don’t hurt you. People who enrich your life. You will no longer be just surviving.

    This is important. All that shame and hate you have for yourself will dwindle down to tiny occasional doubts. You aren’t even afraid of burning in hell for all eternity anymore. You are going to learn and understand that the God you were raised on is only one version, created by man. You can believe or not believe anything you want to and not have a nagging fear in the back of your mind.

    Somewhere through all the pain and hard work you are going to find yourself growing. You are going to become strong, no longer embarrassed by your very existence. You are going to become a person people want to be around. You are going to learn how to be a good friend and a good sister. You are going to get to a point where you enjoy a peace that is unimaginable.

    So just hang in there and keep up the fight. You are going to survive and thrive.

    With true love,

    Your future self

  24. Dear Deli,

    I’m your future self and I’ve come to tell you, you will not *believe* how your life has turned around in ten short years.

    You’re going to do stuff you can’t imagine.
    You’re going to be soooo low. And you’re going to rise up so high.
    I could tell you to do stuff right away instead of waiting (quit your job)
    I could tell you to NOT do this particular thing at all (get married)
    But then you wouldn’t get the chance to build the strong foundations you now have.
    It does get better. But you and I both have further to go ; from where I’m sitting, ten years into your future, you are nowhere near done growing and learning.
    So as much as you can, look up from time to time to see how the queer world is changing.
    And as much as you can, remember to Put. Yourself. First.

    I love you Deli,

    Signed, your best friend

  25. Dear 2009 me,

    Wow. This is where it all starts, huh? You’re embarking on the most electrifying and terrifying few years of your life. Right now, you’re still painting walls and windowsills until it’s too dark to see anything. The neighbours are too close for comfort. Their noises startle you at night. You’re learning to love sleeping alone, in soft long-sleeved t-shirts, music in your ears until you doze off.

    But you did it. You found a space of your own. And you’re beginning to feel the first stirrings of a love that will alternately lift you to the stars and crash you down. It will inspire you to reams of poetry. Enjoy it. I won’t tell you where it all ends. Just try to enjoy everything you feel and don’t be so afraid or so hard on yourself. Trust yourself. You’re much smarter than you think.

    You know what, 2009 self, you are being incredibly brave right now. I know that every single thing you do now, no matter how painful it can all feel, will bring you where you need to go. But please remember how necessary every step is. Remind yourself of the relief you feel each day now that you’ve carved out a space in the world that is just yours.

    You will get immensely tired. You will get hurt. You will say things and do things you can impossibly imagine right now. But I won’t tell you to think twice before you do. It’s important that you learn to forgive yourself. Trust me, everyone else is fine. They will survive your telling them the truth. You don’t feel too much. Your feeling these things will allow you to soar and also to land softly.

    Ten years from now you’ll be amazed at all that you’ve built. Some circumstances will seem impossible to survive at the time, and I feel for you. It will get tough. The things you now think are distracting you may well be pivotal. The things you can’t yet think about will be growing in such rich soil. You will delight people with them. You will delight yourself.

    One night, you will sit by a fire with a woman with eyes full of amused wonder, wrapped in a rough blanket, and she’ll laugh with her whole body and touch your arm and tell you you’re brilliant. You will glow with love, right then, but also later, when you leave her house and travel on. Some days you will still ponder the same things you’re baffled by now. But most of the time, you’re just so very glad to be alive. Truly, and fully.

    Remember that you deserve love, most of all from yourself.

    A wholehearted embrace from 2019 you.

    • I’ve read this and cried too many times to count. And this: Remind yourself of the relief you feel each day now that you’ve carved out a space in the world that is just yours.

      Is such needed advice. Thank you for sharing your heart in this way.

  26. Dear 2009 me,

    There will be a lot in this next decade and you have a lot of work to do. You will find a career but not love it. You will become an auntie, and LOVE it. You will not have children and deep down inside be ok with it. You will think you have this adult life thing figured out, you don’t. You will hurt and become sick. You will think ‘what the fuck?’ but never ‘why me?’. You will be afraid, but will get through it. Be kind, my dear, no one will remember the rest. Remember to breathe, drink water, and stick with martial arts.

    Lastly, for the love of g-d flirt with more cute girls! Fucking hell!

    En gasso,
    2019 me

  27. Dearest Jess,

    I know it’s hard. I know, cos I did it. You have mental illness, accept it. The whole fam has it. Attached are the names of the doctors you need to see, one for your mental illness, one for your knees, they are fixable. Don’t wait another 10 years for the surgery, get it now. It makes a huge difference. Please please PLEASE stop dating boys. It gets you NOWHERE! With the exception of G, he’s an angel and will help you heal. Accept your sexuality, you like girls. They aren’t going to throw you into the sun for this. Don’t wait til you’re 32 to kiss your first girl like I did. Also attached are the details of the dog you will adopt, don’t miss out on him, you will save each other. Forgive Mark, he’s your bestie and he’s getting married in 2019. You’re going to be best man. Dye your hair blue, get your ears pierced and get some tattoos. Parents might flip, but they’ll get used to it. Stop Dad from moving to Thailand, force him to stop smoking & get him to the doctors the second his throat hurts. Don’t lose him like I did. Help him find a GOOD business partner to help manage the business. No more dodgy business partners who screw him over. You are going to love knitting more than you realise, get into crochet as well. Keep your eyes open for Alex, he’s going to be like a brother to you. Don’t jeopardise that, especially for a smelly boy. You are a witch, don’t go back to church, don’t throw out your crystals and books. Embrace being a witch. Your true friends will accept you. Find PAN and join their full moon circles. You will LOVE Reclaiming. Witchcraft with intersectional feminism and psychology and incredible people. Don’t stop singing. Don’t stop creating. Don’t waste your time by going back to uni, it’ll just stress you out. Go to community college instead, take classes in the things you’re interested in. Keep writing. Never stop. I’ve attached a list of screen names of people you need to remember to befriend or you’ll miss out on some incredible people. Go out dancing. Make memories. You’ll need them when the dark days come.

    If only I could go back and change things!

    Pics: I swear I look the same, 23 to 33, just different hair.

  28. Don’t be afraid of transition, it will be fine. You’ll be a lot happier, trust me.

    Academia’s never going to be the same after the Great Recession, and the jobs aren’t coming back. Learn to program, contribute to some open-source projects (there are non-toxic communities out there), and find a software job, it’s where the money will be. Most importantly, it will you the fuck out of North Carolina, because you don’t want to be there when the Republican Party discovers that trans people exist.

  29. Dear 20-year-old me,

    You make it to 2019. YOU MAKE IT. And by the time you turn 30, not only will you not have killed yourself (or even tried), but you won’t even want to any more.

    You serve in the Navy for exactly five years, and yeah, you regret it almost the whole time and for a long time afterward, but you still make it through. You aren’t actually so bad at your job that you get fired, you don’t get medically discharged for being waaaaay more depressed than you want to admit, and just a few months after you figure out that you’re bi, it becomes legal. Good timing there!

    After you get out, you finally talk to a psychiatrist for the first time, and it only takes about four more years to find just the right combination of meds for your depression and ADHD. (Your what? Yes, I’ve seen your undergrad GPA, I’m duly impressed, and I also remember what it cost you.) Take the pills and give yourself permission to structure your life so it doesn’t constantly rely on so much “willpower;” I promise you it’ll make you hate yourself just a little bit less. And when your first three therapists just don’t click with you, KEEP LOOKING.

    Meanwhile, you meet a girl about a year after you give up looking, fly across the country to move in with her, and end up getting married. You learn what professional competence feels like, and it feels so, so good. Your coworkers tell you they miss you when you leave for grad school. (Do it anyway.) You start seeing yourself as having a *future* for the first time ever.

    And I’m honestly not sure how much I want to tell you about this last part because it’s going to be a while before you can do anything about it and you’ve already got enough on your plate, but …

    Listen, kid, those meds I mentioned earlier? Turns out estrogen is one of them. Turns out there’s a reason why you’ve always hated buying clothes, why you have a hard time relating to guys, and why you’re *so* bitter about having been emotionally stunted by a series of abusive environments. Turns out not wanting to be a boy makes you … not a boy. Turns out you’re at least as pretty as you were handsome, and your wife is still totally into you. (Turns out your poker face sucks, so TELL HER RIGHT AWAY this time instead of trying to hide it until you’re “sure.”)

    Turns out things are gonna be okay.

    Love,
    Clara

    P.S. Citalopram is going to turn you into a total jerk for about four months and you’re not even going to notice. Skip it.

    P.P.S. And frickin’ learn to cook already. It’s good for your quality of life, and it’s not going to get any easier.

    • I cannot tell you how much my past self would’ve benifited from this advice, honesty, and patience regarding meds. I’m so sure you touched many readers with this letter and I’m so proud of you for who you are today ❤️

  30. This is a thread of beauty….

    I’m trying to think what I would say to baby gay 18 (19 in two months) me… I’m about to fall head over heels for my first real girlfriend… do I tell lil me that I deserve better than her maybe love? I don’t think I would, because it took figuring it out for myself to propel me on these last few trips around the sun. I guess I’d say, “It’s gonna be a tough one. Bring some gingerale and a sense of humor. Don’t be so afraid of losing something that you don’t try, because that’s the only thing you regret.” You think you already know that last one because neither of us kissed that girl our last year in highschool (she wasn’t worth it anyways) but it applies to so much more than emotions. “The world is more beautiful than you could ever imagine, and at 28 (only a few months from 29) you haven’t even seen it all. But I’ve managed to live outside of the suburban bubble you suffocate in, away from those fake friends you make in college (just cuz they are also lesbians does not mean they are good for you) and the good in people will constantly surprise you, even when you think there is no good in people left.” Would I warn myself that the career path I’ve chosen is rewarding but still unsure? That my family will be hit or miss but that my sisters will never stop loving me? “You travel to counties, to states, and to countries you never thought you would see in your lifetime. You work on boats! In ALASKA! Yah kid, you grow a spine and you throw down and you finally start to live without fear. But don’t worry, you’ll always be a kid at heart and you will always find a way to make space for yourself in even the smallest of places. Kids have the biggest hearts and you try so hard not to wear yours on your sleeve, but know there is nothing wrong with showing your feelings. Actually, I think you are stronger and more vulnerable for showing them. You will love. You will feel loss. But know you will be loved. Maybe not in the way you dream, cuz their certainly ain’t no knights in shining armor coming to rescue you, but don’t worry kid, you rescue yourself on ur own god damn dragon. Own your own being. You are you and you got this.” …. I’m still learning that last bit, but I got this.

    VB- 2019

  31. Hey nerd,

    You’re in for some certainly interesting times. That Buffy/Willow/Tara smut you’re reading *does* mean you’re queer. Also, fun fact! You’re not a girl! You’re agender, aromantic, bisexual, (anyone but men, basically) and poly. Don’t bother trying to date boys, it’ll be gross and unsatisfying. Wait until you meet a certain girl on tumblr. It won’t last, but it’ll be amazing while it does.

    Also, I know you’re currently drugged out on Ritalin, but your actual diagnosis should be BPD. It would have helped both of us in the long run. Maybe go to a real psychiatrist and leave that creep of a paediatrician (and for the love of god, get your tonsils out, now *I* have to deal with it).

    High school is going to be fucking awful. Brace yourself. But keep doing creative shit, it’ll make you far happier than trying to conform. Your favourite art teacher will have your back, too. And when you get the urge to kick a certain shithead in the nuts, absolutely roll with it. It turns out well, and the detention is only like five minutes a day anyway. Also, yes, you’re going to your year 12 formal, and you’ll look INCREDIBLE. Like, make-the-popular-girls-jealous incredible. It’ll be a goddamn ball.

    Don’t apply for the job at the hardware store. Not only is it a shit job, but it’s bad for your brain in general and will make you suicidal. You like cleaning and jobs where you can chill and do your own thing.

    Starting uni late isn’t a problem. It means you meet your best friend at 6am on the first day of O-Week.

    It’ll be rough, but it’ll turn out okay. You’re living in a small apartment and getting reasonable marks at uni. You have a pet. And a car. Things are still rough, but it’s better than you think it will be, and it’s worth living for.

    Love,
    Dani

    PS, you’re gonna get your nipples pierced. It isn’t as bad as you think.

  32. Dear Younger Me,

    As I sat down to write this, I just remembered that you just saw Adele in concert. Like, two days ago (well, 10 years ago and 2 days ago for me). You got there super-early and got to meet her as she thanked fans waiting in line…that was awesome. She’s popular now but she’s only scratching the surface of what she’s going to grow to be. Relish getting to see her.

    I remember that concert being the start of a new relationship and I wish I could report that we’re married and growing old together — I think there was part of you that wanted that with her for a split second (that’s all you ever allow yourself, even now) — but I can’t. Things end badly and you’ll be hurt. I can’t decide whether to tell you to leave now and save yourself some hurt or keep going because you’ve got stuff you need to excavate, that has nothing to do with her, and the only way you’ll get there is through this messy, messy break-up. That’s up to you, friend.

    Some things I can tell you, definitively:

    1. Don’t regret moving back home even for a second. You need to be there and you’d have never forgiven yourself if you’d made another choice.

    2. Invest in yourself and your writing. You’ll never regret having done so.

    3. There’s going to be a yahoo on the political stage in a few years that everyone’s going to want to dismiss because he’s so nakedly racist that people can’t imagine taking him seriously. Be the person that takes him seriously. Turns out, a lot of America is still nakedly racist too.

    All the best,

    Future You

  33. I’m just back to say how wonderful this is, and how much I’m loving coming back and seeing just how much care and love you all have for your past selves 💜

    You’re all amazing!

    Reneice ~~ thank you again for this gift you brought to share. You really are an incredible and divine creation full of magic and light that shines wherever she goes ⭐

  34. Dear me,

    Ten years from now you will not only have been on HRT for the past nine years, but you will also be getting ready to receive a degree in astrophysics from UC-Boulder. You… You don’t believe me and have already stopped reading, haven’t you?

    With love from the future,
    Rachel [REDACTED]

  35. Dear 10 years younger me

    You’re so much stronger than you know, but you have to chill the fuck out and forgive yourself for not being springing from your progenitors fully grown full of wisdom and know how like frigging Athena.
    Baby everyone is scared and no one ACTUALLY knows what they’re doing, you’re not the worst for not having a plan for the rest of your life at that very moment.
    You’re just a kid

    And reach out to people, don’t shut them out because you think you’ll let them down or cause you mistakenly think it will make it hurt less if you giving into that void seeking voice.
    You don’t let that voice win, even though some very painful things happen down the road we don’t let that voice win. Will admit we got close but our fave body part got stuck in the ladder and it was so funny because our booty loved us back.

    Oh and you get super great at baking and cooking, like friends want you to teach them how to cook that good.
    One last thing get all of the math out the way when you start college next fall, flex lab math is so much better thenn any class you’ve ever had I promise. It’s how math should always be taught, it’s great.

  36. Dear 29 year old me

    You’ve survived and none of the terrible things you thought were going to happen happened, including all the new things you’ll worry about for the next 10 years. Well except one will happen, but that actually turns out to be not terrible and makes you happier. So maybe try to stop worrying (I know, easier said than done and I haven’t mastered it now either).

    I’m selfishly not going to give many spoilers because I like where my life is now which means you’re going to have to live the next ten years as they happen. Except one tiny thing – you’ll go to Vancouver for a holiday in nine years. It’ll be great but it probably will be even greater if you get tickets for a singer, Hayley Kiyoko, who will happen to be performing in a theatre very near your hotel. Also in the future you’re going to have closer friendships with people you have more in common with than anyone you are friends with now or have been in the past.

    Keep going, you’re doing fine.

  37. Dear 16yo me,

    YOU HAVE LIVER FAILURE GO TO A FUCKING DOCTOR. Please. It would do us the world of good to get that sorted out. Also, you know how college is really hard rn, and getting to lessons is super difficult and everyone else seems to be able to do studies and leave the house after 7pm, and have responsibilities? Yeah that’s the liver failure. You are not lazy, you are not a failure, you are coping the best you can with chronic fatigue.

    Also this year you’re having trouble with mum. She loves you, you’re just a bit too out of it to realise and she’s got a lot on. It’s really hard to transition to being an adult, for both of you.

    And yes you are gay, and no you don’t need to hide it. Read that Sarah Waters book in public, there’s no need to be ashamed.

    Finally, uni is fucking great. All this stress you are carrying with you rn, it all compresses down to tiny, and is much much easier to carry. So stop worrying about it and start being excited for it. You basically become a whole new person. You can do so much!

  38. Hey bud,

    I’m gonna be real with you: It’s gonna get a lot harder before it gets better (but keep reading!).

    You make it to twenty five. It’s been exactly thirty one days since your twenty-fifth birthday and you’re still here. I have no idea where we’re going but since we’ve made it this far, I’m pretty sure we’ll figure it out.

    I’m not going to tell you to go to therapy sooner because I don’t think any of us are ready for that yet. Yeah, we still believe that if one little thing changes, the entire fabric of the world will be irrevocably damaged. That’s not always true, but it’s okay that you don’t want to mess with things so much just to find out. It’s okay to hold on to things, even when you can’t explain them. It’s okay not to know everything. It’s okay to hold on as long as you’re not hurting anyone.

    You come out and it is never pretty. You will keep coming out and it will not be pretty. It’s still not pretty. You figure out words for the loud in you and you find ways (sometimes good, often not) to make it softer, sometimes easier to hold, but it never goes away. That doesn’t make you damned. Or cursed. Or irreparable. You are none of these things. You never have been.

    You don’t have to believe me right away. I just want you to hear it.

    I don’t want to tell you what to do, because there have been moments that I’ve literally thanked God I’ve ended up in this space, at this time, with these people and I don’t want to rob you of that (there are so many of these moments. They rain over you, all this love, “like confetti.”). So let me try this.

    Keep writing. Not because you get published (though you will!), not because of the writers who’ll cheer you on and become your community (they are so good to you), but because no matter how many friends and family and therapists you’ll have, no matter how many people care for you (and oh my God, they do, they do, they do, how wonderful), you still have to come back to yourself. You’ve been lied to, love. You cannot live for anyone else. It’s impossible and you will nearly kill yourself doing it. And you do not deserve to die. You don’t. No, don’t look away, you don’t. You do not deserve to die. You do not deserve it. You do not deserve what they’re doing and you will never deserve what they’ve done. You do not deserve it. You do not deserve it. You do not deserve it. You cannot keep doing this. You need to eat. You need to sleep. You need to stop walking to there because it will not be there when you arrive. I know you will do none of this but still. You deserve to live even though so many have told you with their words and their eyes and their hands and their worse, that you cannot.

    You do not have to pay penance for who you are. You do not have to bloody and hungry and scared and /not here to repent. You do not have to repent, not like this.

    Look at me. You do not have to do this.

    You don’t have to believe me right away. I just need you to hear it.

    You’ve got to keep writing. “Art is the only way to run away without leaving home.” (Twyla Tharp) It is a long time before you can ever leave, and leaving will never look like what you dreamt of, so keep running. Write and draw and paint and talk out loud and just don’t become almost dead again, okay? Forgive yourself for that bad writing (though it’s not bad, you’re just growing). Write the lovesick letters and go ahead and stuff that confession letter in her locker. Go ahead and text her and never meet her to talk. It’ll be messy and terrible but my God, how brave you are sometimes. It’s not fucked up or evil. You’re not fucked up or evil. Turns out, you’ve been brave all along.

    I haven’t given you much about the future. Let me think.

    You get to go to gay ass writing retreats and gay tech conferences and A-Camp!!!!!! You get rid of braids and don’t have to wear dresses and skirts as much and try to be a girl!! YOU GET TO READ SO MUCH FUCKING GOOD STUFF!!!! You get to be a counselor and absolutely fall in love with so many people and learn that that isn’t the end of the world. That often it feels like that moment when you’re tipsy but not drunk, with that person you love sitting in your lap, playing with the kitchen of your hair. You even get to write for Autostraddle!!!!! YOU GET TO BE GAY AND LOVE IT. You get to be gay in some spaces (sorry, not all of them but we’re trying) without looking over your shoulder every time your heart does a double backflip. You get published and read your work in different places and one woman will come up to you and thank you for your story and I’m sorry you will not have enough words to give her back. You learn to say more words out loud so people can hold more of you. You learn to let people hold more of you. You learn to say no, not always when you need it, but a shit ton more than you used to and that is miracle enough.

    You save yourself, not always by yourself, but you save yourself many times over.

    You don’t get kicked out. They do not leave you behind. You are not sent away. Hell does not open up and swallow you whole. I’m still checking, but I think God still loves us.

    You don’t have to wait for the white girl to magically fall in love with you. You’re allowed to want and you’re allowed to need. You’re allowed to eat. And you’re allowed to stop moving when your body begs you to stop. You’re allowed to stop trying to cut and paste yourself into pretty white girls’ skin. You will learn chopping yourself to fit better into their mouths will not make your want and your need any less, it will never satisfy your hunger, it’ll just make your stomach grow more mouths.

    You don’t handle compliments well, but you handle them better. You learn more about grey spaces and how so much of everything muddles in there instead of the shock of black and white. Kind of like in Wicked. Which, by the way, you’re allowed to hide in fiction a lot longer. There’s always a worry to be in the real world, but you’re already in it, you’re already surviving it, despite what adults tell you. It’s okay to stay in your books and movies and shows and fanfictions and daydreaming as long as you damn well like. STAY AS LONG AS YOU LIKE AND KEEP MAKING WORLDS TO ESCAPE INTO, IF NOTHING ELSE PLEASE DON’T GIVE UP ON THAT.

    I feel like this is too long and I haven’t even said what I wanted to say but a big part of what I want you to know is I love you very much. Right now in this very messy terrible moment where you are wet and red and thin and purple and empty and blue in the wrong ways and hurt all over: I love you very much and there is nothing you can do to make yourself unworthy of that love.

    You don’t have to believe me right away. I just thought you’d need to hear it.

    Love,
    Alexis (you keep your name. you make sure everyone learns to say it right or not fix their mouths to talk to you at all. you hear me?)

    p.s. Talk to grandma more, tell her you love her while she remembers. Out of everyone, I think she guessed and loved the whole of you. She loved the whole of you first and til the very end. Still, if you believe that, if you believe in more. I believe that. I believe in more. Still.

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