This Is Your Forging: A letter to my seventeen-year-old self

Photo credit: Alexas Fotos

Hello, you. Hello, me.

You are 6,360 days old. If I were to stand before you now, you would tell me that you know all there is to know about yourself. You are wrong.

I am 12,720 days old. Exactly as much time has passed between your ‘now’ and my ‘now’ as you have lived. I’ve learned a few things.

Here’s what you know. You are sitting in a hospital bed. It is night. It is dark, but not dark enough for you to sleep. You can hear nurses talking in the corridor outside, but you can’t make out what they are saying. There are five other women on the ward with you. All but one are asleep. The one who is awake won’t make eye contact with you. None of them seem to know how to interact with you. You don’t understand why. You think they might hate you.

Here’s what I know. You are the only person who is in that ward because of a suicide attempt. They don’t hate you, but they are terrified of saying the wrong thing. They are trying to keep you safe the only way they know how. Don’t blame them.

Here’s what you know. You know that you’ve always been the odd one out. You know you’ve never fitted, that you’ll never be happy forcing yourself down a path of conformity, and you don’t know a way out of it apart from the thing you’ve just done.

Here’s what I know. I know I’ve always been the odd one out, and I know that’s OK. I know that I am strong enough to walk my own path. I know that you are strong enough, too. And you will prove that to yourself very soon.

Here’s what you don’t know. You don’t know how you will get out of this one. You don’t know if you can salvage anything from your life. You don’t know if you want to salvage anything from your life.

Here’s what I know. There is a long climb ahead of you; a monstrous cliff rearing up that somehow you must conquer. And conquer you will. It won’t be easy, and nobody can help you. You will try time and time again, and each time, although you get a little bit further than the time before, you will nonetheless fail. But one day you will summon all of your courage, straighten your shoulders, and accept the challenge. You are brave enough. You will climb the mountain. By the end, you will see what is worth saving, and what must be discarded if you are to move on. A surprising amount falls into the latter category. Be brave.

Here’s what you know. You know that living hurts, and the world is ugly and full of cruelty.

Here’s what I know. This, too, shall pass. Living is also joy and beauty and love. You will find all of these things, in time. And maybe one day, they too shall pass. But we will endure that, because we have endured it already. You are enduring it now, and so we know we are strong enough. And having experienced the cruelty of the world, you will learn how to counter it. Be kind.

I wish I could teach you all these things right now, but the truth is that all of these things I know, you will only come to know by living them. This dark, lonely night in a hospital bed is the start of that. This is your forging. It is said that the most precious metals are purified in the hottest fires. In the dark, in your hospital bed, you are in the heart of a star, and you will emerge stronger than you can ever imagine. You will shine.

These are things that I know, and these are things that you need to cling to: You are brave enough. You are strong enough. You are enough.

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