This is an assignment long overdue, and I apologize for that. What do you say to a 4-year-old child when the 24-year-old adult doesn’t know what to say to herself?
I’ve been told to write this letter many times, to validate you, to make you heard because for so long you thought you had to be quiet, not take up space, not ask for help.
The only way to navigate life was to do it alone.
And you did it alone. For 19 years, you struggled quietly, sobbed behind closed doors, let yourself waste away until you were just a hollowed-out shell where your purpose used to be.
But sweet, beautiful, little girl, who laughed at life and stole animal crackers off the snack cart before dinner, you were never meant to walk this path alone.
Little girl with big blue eyes opened in wonder at the world, your teary eyes were never meant to cower in the dark.
You see, life. Life. Life is alive.
What to say about life except that it’s alive, ever changing, fluid. What’s true one day is not always true the next.
And what’s true is that one day, you’ll be hurt, and you’ll be hurt some more.
But sweet, sweet child, it’s not your fault. And the years of pent-up emotions blocked by numb feelings aren’t your fault either.
You adapted because you wanted to survive.
And survive you did. You made it this far. Farther than you thought you would. Farther then you hoped you would. Farther than you dreamed you would.
Right now, you’re 4-years-old, and some days you wake up and wonder why you’re alive. Sometimes you forget to look both ways before you cross the street. Sometimes you don’t want to get close to the edge because you want to jump.
Sweet girl, I hear you. I see you. I validate you.
One day, you’ll be 24, and you’ll be sitting in your therapist’s office crying because you don’t want to be here. Alive. Breathing. Above ground.
You’ll dare cars to hit you. Hit me. Hit me. Hit me. (There’s a reason you’re not allowed to make dead jokes.) You’ll hold the extra pills in your hand, hesitating before you put them back.
But. You are worth it. Your therapist reminds you of this as you sob in his office. He’ll whisper it through tears as you break down, letting the years of hurt and pain wash over you.
You’ll hear it from your adopted big bro over and over and over as you’re the first one to leave events to protect yourself from trees.
You’ll hear it from within. Because there’s a part of you that wants to thrive, not just survive.
Child, you are worth it. Despite what people will tell you years from now. Despite what the hands tracing your body on the bus tell you in a year. Despite the whispers in your ear 9 years later in a school bathroom. Despite the emptiness in your stomach where a baby should have been.
Child, you are worth it despite all that. Because that doesn’t define you.
It hurts and healing sucks.
And I still don’t know which way healing’s going to go, what it’s going to look like: is it gonna be some bright light, weight lifted, crying because we’re free? Probably not.
It’ll probably be acceptance: radical, life changing acceptance.
Child, I hear your sobs in the night. I see your tears in the locker room mirrors. I see the moments you look in your eyes and don’t recognize me looking back. I hear your whispered no’s. I hear your silent prayer for God to take you in the night.
I hear you. I see you. I’m validating you.
I feel the ache in your heart to be loved, to feel understood, to feel wanted.
Child, you are all those things.
All those things and so much more.
Child. You have a future brighter than gold. You care about others, and one day, you’ll even laugh again (trust me, on this. You’ll be a big punster).
Child. Life will be hard.
Child. Life will be beautiful.
Child. Life will be tears of sadness and laughter.
Child. Life. Life will be.
You. You will be.