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All Entries must be in by midnight on August 1st, 2023  11:59 Eastern Time

Those moving on to round two will be announced by October 1st

Voting will start October 1st and end November 1st at 11:59 PM Eastern Time. Winners will be announced  November 3rd.

Make sure you read the CONTEST RULES before you enter

Congratulations to our winners!

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  • More & Less

    Dear little Kim,

    If you only knew then, what I know now, you would have…

    rested- MORE & worried- less
    played- MORE & strove- less
    laughed- MORE & cried- less
    slept- MORE & tossed- less
    received- MORE & pleased- less
    accepted- MORE & controlled- less
    stood- MORE & clung- less
    celebrated- MORE & criticized- less
    believed- MORE & doubted- less

    but you couldn’t know then, what I know now; you could only MORE & less… survive

    Love,

    Big Kim

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    • Kim, I love how this piece highlights how changing your mindset in simple ways can have a deep and powerful impact. Thank you for sharing and thank you for being part of our family. <3 Lauren

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    • This is such a gem; I’m grateful that you shared it

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    • The funny thing about life is that it will always give us more or less. How we utilize it is what matters. Just like then and now and then, you did the best you could with what you had and that means so much more even now. Thank you for sharing Kim this is an awesome piece! 🙂

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  • Shelle Belle

    Dearest Shelle Belle,
    I don’t know why you are so hard on yourself. You’re learning and moving forward making the best of each new day. It’s 1993 and you have entered into the next stages of your life. Your music selection is a wide variety of artists, which speaks volumes of who you are. As you walk down the graffiti tagged streets of Denver you hold your head high even though the environment around you feels unsafe and scary, you keep pushing forward with your dreams. These streets will never break you. You have so much to accomplish. Follow your dreams. Be your own hero. Keep moving forward. They tried to dim your light when they assaulted you, but you pushed through. You never gave in. You never gave up, and for that my friend you grew into the beautiful and amazing you. A young mom at 16, just a baby yourself. You continued to grow. I’m proud of you.
    For motherhood is tough enough even when one is ready. You took it on. Life stops for no one. Each day a new adventure. Smile, but also honor the tears that you shed when you feel lost in your head. There is clarity ahead. You just have to believe.

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    • Loved this!! My favorite line is “these streets will never break you” I felt that with everything in Me. It’s tough being around crime and dangerous areas and filled with self doubt. You’re amazing and I wish uou so very well!!

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    • I just wanted to say I understand growing up in a bad neighborhood and the pressure to not follow into the crime scene. Life felt easier to just follow the crowd then to keep your dreams, but I’m glad you were still able to keep dreaming through it all. I liked how you mentioned ” honor the tears you shed,” it’s one of those things we hate doing…read more

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    • Aww This is so good. A baby at 16 is not easy. You are so strong. You have so many reasons to be proud. I am so grateful you are part of this community. Your teenage self is cheering you on and is proud of you, as am I. <3 Lauren

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    • What an awesome piece I am glad you won.

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    • This is phenomenal; I’m so glad you chose to share it

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    • Shelle, I know I commented already but I am sending you more grace and virtual hugs. Being young while trying to figure out adult and mom life is no easy task. I commend and thank you for being present even on the hardest days you didn’t give up. What’s next? What will you conquer, what would you say to your adult self as a teen? Thank you for sharing! 🙂

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  • Dear Leah

    You don’t know me yet but you and I are very close. You think you know it all and that you have life figured out……. And I hate to burst your bubble but you really don’t. Like at all. But You have a good head on your shoulders though. I just need you to trust yourself more. I know you’re probably thinking what the hell do I know about you but truth is: I am You but grown up. There are so many things I wish you knew. But everything still works out. The main thing I want you to know or take away from this letter is to trust your power and stop letting the words and opinions of others (no matter how important they may seem to you) define or change who you are.

    You’re a big dreamer with a big heart. You are more than what you think of yourself. You are not an unlovable failure who is an idiot. Please speak better to yourself! Just because no one says it often doesn’t mean you aren’t loved. Be secure in your authentic self. I know the pain you hide behind every smile and the genuine self hate you have with every joke you make
    about yourself. Your jokes aren’t even funny they’re actually sad because why would you say those things about yourself?

    You call yourself all the wrong names and you answer to all the wrong names. To be honest you don’t even like being called Leah unless you’re blood related to someone when you’re older. You don’t need the approval you keep seeking from people. You are already valid. Yes, I know it would be nice to have someone validate you with kind words and gestures but hey play the cards you are dealt.

    Girl , I wish you understood and knew your strength. Like girl you are resilient as fuck.
    A true gem. The darkness you hold inside of you now; we learn to control. Even though it pains you don’t regret the heart you have. It comes in handy. Stop hating yourself please. So many blessings are being blocked for me because of the words you’ve sown. Yes we were ignorant but words have a lot of power.

    Also, PUT THE KNIFE DOWN! Stop cutting yourself. Depression cannot keep winning. Life is so much more beautiful than you can imagine. You are not worthless and you deserve to live just as much as anyone else. I know you feel numb most days or you have to put on a mask but it’s nothing to kill your self over. You actually survive worse mental places in life. But I get it though. You just trying to feel and because you’re used to emotional pain; you inflicted physical pain.
    I know you feel like I’m attacking you but you need to hear this. You’re not the victim you think you are. You are the conqueror. Everything that has ever happened to you is my villain origin story. I mean that in a good way. We learn to set boundaries in our late 20s and become villains to the people who tried to break us.

    I just really wish you loved yourself enough as a teenager to see how truly great you are. Like girl you are the bees knees. Not the red thing around the bologna. Love yourself first so the world and people won’t chew you up and spit you out or simply toss you to the side. You are beautiful, intelligent and loved. It’s crazy how you pour love into to everyone else but you.

    Seriously you are constantly calling yourself ugly and avoiding the mirror. You hate your body and it’s fine. You’re not the ugly duckling you were just born a swan. Your intelligence and body what makes you. It’s your heart. All the trauma you have suffered so far is not in vain. I just need you to love yourself through that pain. Like we end up becoming a mother. You literally have a daughter who adores you and is twice as stubborn as you are. We have to love ourself because she is a sponge and she soaks up everything we teach her whether it’s intentional or unintentional. I need you to love yourself because we struggle as an adult. And having a kid didn’t make it easier but it’s motivation. She needs to see a confident woman who loves herself and understands her value and you are her first teacher.

    So love yourself kid because I love you! I’m proud of you and you actually don’t do to bad in life because you learn the importance of perspective. Plus nobody really warned or prepared us for how expensive being an adult is but we are managing. So if you see our kindergarten self tell her that she should have saved all those dollars we spent when we were her age.

    As you can see our humor will always be intact. Lol

    I love you Leah or shall I say Dee. That’s who we like to be called and we add pretty in front for a little razzle dazzle.

    I LOVE YOU !! And I appreciate all that you are.

    Pretty Dee

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    • Hi Dee,
      I remember that pain of feeling ugly. As one of the few kids in school with curly hair I hated it so much the teasing and wanting to be someone with straight hair it wasn’t fun. I never felt bad enough to cut myself, but sometimes I felt like I was on the edge of going there. It’s the worst feeling ever and I learned to ignore the…read more

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      • Awww thank you so much! I’m just now learning how to be happy and what happiness looks like. Being a teenager is not easy and I just hope my story will inspire others!

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        • Aww Dee, this is really powerful. I love this line, “We learn to set boundaries in our late 20s and become villains to the people who tried to break us.” I am so sorry for the struggles your teenage self faced. But look at you. You are strong. And I am so glad you see that and you see how amazing you and your heart are. Also, my hebrew name is…read more

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    • This is phenomenal; I’m so glad you chose to share it

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  • aponce14 submitted a contest entry to Group logo of Write a letter to your teenage selfWrite a letter to your teenage self 6 months, 4 weeks ago

    This post is viewable by the Unsealed community only.

    Breathe. You Are Not Alone. I Promise.

    This letter is only available to The Unsealed subscribers. Subscribe or login to get access!

  • Smile

    Confusion and diligence coexisted inside
    of me during a time when everyone called
    growing pains “just a phase”.

    No one batted an eye or took a second look
    into what I tried to convey.

    It seemed as if all of the words I tried to say
    were muffled to ears attached to a body that
    was responsible for protecting mine.

    But I guess the chaos got so loud that even
    my guardian angel wasn’t capable enough
    to rescue me every time.

    That’s ok. Shrug it off. Pretend it never
    happened. You were dreaming.

    And if you dissociate enough, the memories will be washed away with all of the bleeding.

    Speak up but don’t talk too loud; some secrets
    are better left tucked underneath that
    beautiful smile overshadowing your grimace.

    Sit up and fix your hair. SMILE.
    Praise dance to keep in tact what we value –
    our image.

    Repent and confess your sins but not to anyone who cares enough to listen.

    Close your eyes real tight if you need to cry,
    don’t let anyone see the glisten.

    You’re almost there so don’t look back; the
    past is the past.

    I know that hurt and trauma didn’t just begin
    there but save some energy to make it to the
    next and the last.

    Later, you’ll get to stop, fall apart; restart
    and pause to ask yourself some questions:

    Like, if I don’t regret my decision, how can I ever make it into Heaven?

    Smile?

    Clarisse H.

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    • Clarisse – Another powerful, profound and well-written piece! You are so strong and your younger self is so proud of you for facing your pain and past and healing. You are empowered. And that IS a reason so smile. Thank you for being you! <3 Laure

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    • This is phenomenal; I’m so glad you chose to share it

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  • Hula hoop dreams and Guess jeans

    To whom Gie may concern,
    You were always enough. And forever be enough.
    Throughout the teenage phase, at times when life played rough, you tried hard navigating the highs and lows and subtracting the good vs bad ratios that played heavy in math class while you nervously snuck a taste of hot Cheetos.
    Hot cheetos, you always somehow mustered up enough loose change to afford those. Ala cart options at lunch made you feel cool. A luxury you felt other kids established at school so that their status of school wealth proclaimed the school fame of popularity.
    So dazzled, dripped in hot Cheetos and chicken tenders to accompany fresh hair styles, clean clothes and cool kicks.
    With careful planning and an allowance advantage you could manage it. Right?…
    The clothes.
    They didn’t fit you like you imagined. You would survey the mannequin before leaving the store to make sure that the body alignments were matching. You didn’t want to look too frail and then the fabric I mean You, you wouldn’t want to look too tragic. You wanted to be cool so the clothes must match …You plastered those smiles for miles even when the clothes leaps piles around your bedroom.
    Bedroom. 16 was too young for sex, 17 too. You barely knew love you just knew what nurturing could do. No pre talks prepped you for the first time nor the last. Take your time and nurture your mind first.
    You believe in magic. Santa is real, the tooth fairy has upped their tooth cash on value this time their paying good bucks and the money’s real. The Easter bunny always notifies his friends and St.Patrick is a lucky fella well after the parade ends .
    At 17 it’s okay to still have hula hoop dreams and Guess jeans.

    Peace & Gratitude

    Gie 💙

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    • I totally forgot about the wanting to wear what everyone else was wearing. I remember trying to find the knock off clothes that looked similar to everyone’s real brand clothes to make myself fit in because i couldnt afford the real thing. Not that I really did. I stopped caring about my clothes in high school. I was more interested in getting into…read more

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      • @miraculous88 @giesantana As Mira said, I took forgot about how much I cared about being a part of the “in thing” and making sure I had what everyone had or wanted. High school and middle school are such funny times. All we want to do is grow up and be cool. Then we grow up and we realize we were pretty cool all along and we just want to hold on…read more

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        • Yes!!!
          We were pretty cool all along. I don’t know why we filled our mind with negative things. And trying to fit into size 6 shoes when I was a soze 8 was ridiculous lol.
          Thanks for reminding Me Lauren how cool we really are!!

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      • Thank you so much for your reply Mira!! The clothes mattered most to Me. I think it was the self doubt that kept creeping in and I was super super thin. I was afraid of my own greatness.
        Thank God for evolving.
        And I’m gonna take a page from your mindset. To stop caring what others think.
        We are all unique.

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  • Dear Teenage Self

    Dear younger self,

    I wasn’t so fond of you in your teenage years. In fact, I rather not recall the million and one traumas. It was a tough space for a long time. Years of disappointment, loss, and instability. So, if it’s alright with you I rather take a slightly different approach. As I prepared to write this letter to you, I decided I wanted to reintroduce you to some of the people who played a big part of your life. These people were there to watch you fail, achieve, learn, make mistakes, lose, win, transition and evolve. I have learned that seeing ourselves from the perspective of the ones closest to us can be so refreshing. And teenage self, after all you’ve been through, you could surely use some tender love and care.

    Your dad was and has always been there for you…even when you were a rebellious child. A child who constantly fought the overprotecting love of a father. He loved you especially in these moments. You made him proud then and you always will. He describes you as intelligent and when he speaks of your many accomplishments and achievements, he does it with an enormous amount of joy in his heart. The oldest and the only daughter, no wonder he held onto you so tight. Especially being a teenage father himself, he only wanted what was best for you even if he didn’t always know how to express it in a way that didn’t require you keeping him “out.’” But no matter how hard you tried to shelter your emotions, he knew the places that cost you the most hurt and disappointment during this crucial time of your upbringing. Again, he wants you to know that he is sorry for never giving you the opportunity to say goodbye to your grandmother when she passed. Dad saw the wall you built around your heart after losing her. Never having your mother, the way you needed her only contributed to the bricks you built so high around your heart. He saw it and so did everyone around you. You struggled to trust, and you were always afraid to lose. I guess that’s where your anxious attachment came in (by the way we still need to work on that.)

    Fast forward as you approach your thirties, dad wants you to know that he is still so very proud of you! In his eyes you are an overcomer, strong, and courageous. He admires the mother in you, and the girl that is after the Lord’s heart. Lastly, he wanted me to remind you that no matter where life takes the two of you, you will always be his little girl.

    Your aunt, who stepped in to raise you at the most heartbreaking time of your life, wants you to know how much you are loved. Helping put your heart back together after the loss of your grandmother was not easy but she wouldn’t change it for the world. She describes you as ambitious and is proud of the many ways you excelled in school. Growing up she saw every side including the moody, distraught child whose thoughts and trauma consumed her. But she loved you through all of it. Even in your silence, her connection to you interprets the hurt. Remember, she has and will always be there.

    Since 12 years old you and her have been inseparable. Regardless of the distance your friendship has never wavered. She has played such an important role in your life. She has seen you at every stage and has truly been your unpaid therapist. I am sure you can’t imagine what life would have been without her love, sisterhood, and support. And to no surprise out of everyone she had the most to say. Even though you always describe yourself as the “needy friend”, she sees you as a constant in her life, one who has never wavered. She understood you then and remains part of the very few who understands you now. From adolescents she saw how much you struggled with the dynamics of your family. In your hurt, she shared your feelings of being overlooked and invalidated. From the attitude to the uncontrollable emotions, she was able to navigate through all of it and she always will. Through her eyes you are a true and loyal friend. You are determined (and persistent). She admires that no matter how broken you have been, you always find the courage to pick yourself back up. And yes, there were times that she wished she could shield you from causing yourself unnecessary hurt by giving you a little bit of her strength. If there is something she wants, you to know and never forget it’s your worth and how amazing you are.

    I know the road to get here wasn’t easy. Looking back, I know it was one of the hardest years of your life. One filled with heartache, loss, and trauma. All I ask is that when you look back at your younger self, embrace the good. On the days when you don’t think you were enough, loved, or lost, cling on to these memories. Rest in knowing that in the eyes of the people who mean the most to you, you are nothing short of amazing. You are loved and admired. You are strong, courageous, and an overcomer. You were that then and you are that now.

    JMarie

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    • Awww, as a fellow Daddy’s girl I totally love this piece. My dad is so proud of me as well, and always has been. I lean on that in so many moments. It sounds like your dad and aunt are wonderful people who care about you very much. As we get older, I feel like we appreciate the unconditional love we have received through the years so much more. I…read more

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  • From One Macy To Another: Hang In There

    Dear Teen Me,
    Hey! Look at you, so young, timid, unsure… don’t worry, it doesn’t last forever. You will age, and through your next few years you will fall and get up. And again, you will fall and get up; some of the times you get back up it will be thanks to your friends… tell them you love them more. You don’t understand it now, but you truly love your friends.

    As you age your timidity will alleviate. But boy will that take some time. You’re going to have to strip away at your understanding of… everything. You’re going to experience just about everything you’ve dreamt about, worried about, and wondered about; it’s not how you think it will be. Your heart is going to get so broken, more than it already has been. More than you can imagine right now. I’d say prepare for it, but there is no preparing for some of the pain you’re going to experience. But you know what… you always get back up.

    You may be a little unsure, but you’re resilient. And that resilience is what will make you thrive. Those people calling you a dreamer only helped strengthen your ground. You’re getting out of that small town, you hear me? It’ll take longer than expected but you do it. And that’s when you blossom!

    The idea of leaving the country for a big city? Done. The wish to learn how to help people by studying them? On it. The need to inject yourself into social justice? Doing it, finally! Your hope to be recognized for your art? Working on it. Something to call your own. Check! The hope that you can push past your insecurities… ehhhhh. You’re getting there; there’s a lot of layers to that. But the things you’ve been doing, the people you’ve been meeting, the words you’ve shared… it all adds to that process. You’re pushing yourself and it really is paying off. What did Dr.Schmitt say? Sometimes you got to fake it till you make it.

    Things look small right now, you only have so much perspective. But you and I both know, you’re not small. You don’t do small… you can appreciate small, but you weren’t made for it. There are people in your ear, important people to you, telling you it’s too much. Making a joke of your ambitions and that is pushing you down; just as it’s meant to. You hear them say you’re not good enough, then those words turn into self-doubt. Don’t let people do that to you. That’s SO unfair, you yearn to learn. But once you’re told you’re not good enough to learn that, or fast enough, or smart enough: that’s when that doubt externalizes and it’s only doing you (and the world) a disservice. You’ve got a lot of potential, your heart is in the right place, don’t let your timidity and their negativity affect your progress. You’ll figure this out when it’s almost too late, but lucky for you, it’s never too late!

    Right now, you’re worried; worried that at 30 you will not have lived a life. Let me tell you right now, you’ve lived more than a life. You’ve lived an adventure… one for the books! And we’re only halfway through. We’ve only covered the personal stuff: first loves ending, guardians dying, young love perishing in front of you… literally. So much of what you will experience will hurt, but it’s a good thing you’re resilient.

    Remember: that resilience will help you thrive. It will push you to take all those leaps that you held back on. It will force you to look at your boundaries and make some important edits. And by doing this you will live out those daydreams. The protests we’ve participated in, things we’ll learn, connections we create. It’s all adding up to the very life people told you was impossible to lead.

    Listen, at 30 you’re not exactly where you think you’re going to be. But guess what, most people aren’t! And what’s even better, you’re taking the right steps. You’re BASICALLY where you thought we’d be. Hell, there was a point we didn’t even think we’d be alive right now. So no, you’re not exactly living the dream… but you are learning how to live it. We’re on the way and it’s intimidating. Just hang in there, you’re halfway through then you’ll see what I mean.

    I hope this letter reaches the right me in the right place at the right time… in case there is another that needs to hear this. You’re doing great.

    With love and hope,
    You

    Macy Fluharty

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    • I absolutely love this. I felt like I was reading some of my life story too. You did it! You made it! We both did and that is something to be proud of. I am glad you took a chance on yourself, really its the only one that counts! Great job on this piece! I wish you all the best.

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      • Thank you, I appreciate it!I wasn’t sure where this was going to go when I started it, I ended up crying when I read it back to myself lol. I’m glad you could relate to parts of my letter and that you seem to be doing what is making you happy as well! <3

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    • Macy!!! You are such a good writer. That fourth paragraph is brilliant. And yes you are strong and resilient. Never listen to anyone who doubts you or your ambition. People doubt your ambition because of THEIR lack of confidence or ambition. They don’t think they can reach the stories so they assume you can’t either. Ignore. Ignore. Ignore. You…read more

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  • ambelina submitted a contest entry to Group logo of Write a letter to your teenage selfWrite a letter to your teenage self 6 months, 4 weeks ago

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    Unassuming Black Girl

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  • You Did Nothing Wrong

    Dear Me—the Teenage Version of Me:

    I’m going to say something that another person filled with regret would never say and it’s this: you did nothing wrong. In fact, I wouldn’t change a thing about the decisions you made, even knowing the outcome years later. You weren’t troubled. You weren’t misled or misheard. You weren’t overly emotional. You were just trying to understand how society handled you and that is not a fault.

    Sure, little things didn’t have to happen, like that time you chalked “fuck you” on the neighbor’s driveway when she flipped you off. I still think that moment was integral to the life I’m leading today. I’m scared that any little change to any tiny decision would produce a domino effect of different results that would place my twenty-seven-year-old self in a completely different realm of possibility. Like a multiversal branching of probabilities could have opened up because I decided to let that neighbor’s crude finger go; to never retaliate with imprudent, childish glee. And while I had to deal with a very scary financial drought in sudden unemployment for the entirety of this summer, I still think I have become the best person I possibly could be if it came down singularly to my teenage decisions.

    Don’t change. Don’t second-guess yourself. I would never step into a time machine if the parameters were to stop an embarrassment that haunts me for the rest of my life because it’s that embarrassment that taught me to never trust a tampon again.

    And when Mom and Dad clued you in to a shocking romantic secret, you handled it better than anyone else I can presently think of. I wouldn’t ever want that to change. It’s your ability to redirect emotional energy into significant priorities that stopped you from unnecessary heartache and your flexibility with giving grace that helped you see the good in everything that happened. If you had to be told one thing by the future product of your experiences, it’s that your open mind inevitably saved your life.

    You’ll first meet these new people who introduce themselves to you as family friends, like a new Aunt and Uncle. They’ll bring novelty sandwich shop bread for French toast mornings and Easter basket traditions. Your first decision is to trust them and to let fun into your life. Why not? It was a good decision.

    When you’re asleep downstairs in your loft bed, head close to the short ceilings and tucked in for strange pre-teen dreams, you might hear a strange noise in the bedroom above you, but you’ll think it’s the floorboards and you’ll comment in the morning to your mother about the weird noise you heard. She’ll hum that it was pretty weird and you’ll accept it and move on. I don’t fault you for that.

    We’ll move to a new house, later to discover that Aunt and Uncle helped Mom and Dad pay for this move, and more family games and dinners will be made with them, but Mom and Dad will also be gone a lot more. You’ll be babysitting for many nights, naively proud of your parent’s budding social lives, but feeling trapped with your four younger brothers. It’s okay to feel this way. I think it made you more patient.

    One day, though, you’ll find a letter in the pile of paper junk on the computer desk when you’re “sick” and writing stories in the middle of a school day. You’ll notice it’s signed by Dad, and that the words, “I’m falling in love with you” is addressed to Aunt. You’ll feel your stomach slam into the floor of your pelvis and you’ll choke back empathetic heartache for Mom and her unfaithful husband. You’ll pull Mom aside the minute she’s home from work and you’ll sob about what you discovered and she’ll comfort you and tell you that you’ve got it all wrong. It’s okay that you were scared for her, but more importantly, scared for yourself and for your brothers. You were scared for the sanctity of our family unit, and it’s okay that for a brief moment, you were scared of Aunt and Uncle. It means you cared.

    Mom will say, “I’m in love with Uncle, too. Come, we have to have a family talk, you, me, and Dad.” She’ll open your mind to a new way of living, to a new reality you have to confront called Polyamory. You’ll start to learn about their sex lives, even when you don’t want to, but in the end, it will make you more open about sex and they won’t helicopter you about your own sexual experiences. You’ll thank them for that later, even though Dad often dropped too much information about Polyamorous lifestyles that made you feel uncomfortable.

    You’ll know more than your brothers. They won’t know for a while, and when your younger brother finds out on his birthday that Mom is making love with Uncle, you’ll feel powerless to help his emotional anguish. He’s more sensitive than you and you have to be a lighthouse for your younger siblings, but you won’t be equipped with the right tools to comfort them. You’ll make the decision to be a teenager, to go out with your friends, and find as much time out of the house as possible. You’ll manipulate your parents that you’re overwhelmed with all their babysitting requests and they’ll throw money at you like it’s supposed to fix the suffocation you’re feeling. You’ll think it’s selfish of you, but you were looking out for yourself. That’s important. That’s okay.

    Aunt becomes your friend, though. Through it all, she teaches you how to do your makeup and she gives you a job at her local business. She shows interest in your writing and she takes you to fun events. She even plans a special graduation trip, a trip to Europe, and you feel she’s your friend. This was never a bad thing. In fact, you made a great decision to learn valuable lessons from her about life—about a life different from a traditional, family-oriented one. You’ll learn that you won’t ever want to have kids and that it’s okay to be that way. You’ll find confidence and edginess and love yourself because she taught you to do that, things Mom couldn’t quite teach you at the time. This is good, it will make you who I am today.

    It’s inevitable that one of the relationships would fail. It is inevitable that it will be Aunt dumping Dad. It will ruin the household for a time. Dad will be angry that you’ll still go to Europe with Aunt and Uncle. You make another decision and one that I still don’t regret today. You go to Europe. You have your first drink at eighteen and you unlock your wanderlust.

    She’ll disappear, though. She’ll feel too much guilt for having “ruined” our family and she’ll ghost you. You’ll stay up late at night wondering what you did wrong. You’ll go get a new job so you don’t have to work in that sandwich shop any longer and you’ll go to college feeling a bit bitter about Aunt, but that’s a necessary development too. You did nothing wrong.

    You’ll decide to put your energy toward school, then toward a boyfriend, then into buying a home and getting puppies. You’ll continue living with new perspectives on monogamy and maybe with a little bit of emotional damage you won’t quite work through until you dump that ex after seven years of being in love. None of it I regret. None of it should ever be changed. I am who I am because of it and for that, I actually have to thank you.

    What I wish you had known back then was that you were doing everything perfectly. You were not messed up. You were not traumatized. You handled it the best way you could. You were amazing.

    Don’t ever change. You figured out how society would handle you, but more importantly, how you would handle society. You did nothing wrong.

    And I love you for that.

    With Love,
    The Future You Curated

    Mindy Christen

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    • Mindy, wow, you had a whole lot to digest as a teenager and it sound like you did so with an open heart and an open mind. You have so many reasons to be proud of yourself, as you didn’t let the complicated lives of others complicate who you are at the chore. You are strong, and you are kind, and you have so many reasons to pat yourself on the…read more

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  • But… Get Your Butt UP!

    Dear teenage self,

    Before I go back in time, it’s crucial to recognize your mind was not fully developed yet.

    They say things happen for a reason, but…

    “If you sit on the bench, you sit on the bench.” It is your fault that I did.

    I wish you would have pushed yourself to lift one more “weight” by going to that party. You did not… it’s your fault.

    You wanted to tell that girl you liked her. You did not… it’s your fault.

    These milestones that I did not hit, yes… it’s your fault!

    You did not know any better, but people that I trust tell me it will come at the right time.

    I think I am in the right hands – that is me joking about how I can’t use my right hand😂

    Anyway, Thank you for forcing me to realize that the bench is too hot, making me move my butt. Because of you, life won’t have as many buts as it once did.

    Your inaction is forcing me to take action, and not say “BUT if I did this!” I’m hitting the field now.

    Thank you for making me see the GREEN in the grass. Now, I am slowly appreciating the muddy trail you took me on.

    As I hit the “field,” from now on, I’m going for two all the time!

    Love,

    The CURRENT YOU!

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    • Jake – I am so glad your teenage self taught/motivated your current self to chase all of your dreams and live life with a sense of fearlessness and urgency. You are amazing, and I am grateful you are part of our community. <3 Lauren

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  • Darling Seedling

    Hey young lady, look at you grow! Try not to be so hard on yourself because you didn’t know. Generations before you chose to stay in ignorance, so how does a delicate, intricate flower without nurturing, care and guidance were you supposed to bloom and grow? They chose to live their heaven on earth and did things anyhow, all the while you felt overshadowed and planted in darkness and dirt. But my darling little seedling, in the end you bloomed with a smirk, because you put in the work to bury the traumas and dysfunctions way down in that dirt! Allow the sun to beam into your mind, heart and soul and know that your spirit and your worth has blossomed more than any precious gold.

    Melanie Hudson

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    • Melanie, this is so sweetly written. I love this image: “in the end you bloomed with a smirk.” It makes me feel like you got some swagger to you. And whatever happens in life you’re going to push through and do so with a smile. I love the attitude and I love the piece. Thank you for sharing and thank you for being part of The Unsealed. <3 Lauren

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  • hutchinspatricial submitted a contest entry to Group logo of Write a letter to your teenage selfWrite a letter to your teenage self 6 months, 4 weeks ago

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    Dear P.,

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  • limitless world

    A letter from Ana at 28, circa 2023
    to Ana at the tail end of 17, or so.

    A limitless world

    Ana,
    Your world is limitless.
    and yet-

    Soon, the vast ocean that extends beyond the horizon you can fathom,
    Lit by the bright bonfire’s light at your back, all ablaze,
    and the beaming cells of your young body
    and the friendships that you’ve made-

    Ana,
    All of that will fade.

    You’ll forget every single word you’ve whispered.
    Just as your footsteps on this shoreline will become untraceable,
    Your memory of your memories will, like your favorite sweater, unravel in the wash.

    You will leave the sandy beach and drop pieces of your youth onto cobblestones streets.
    You, as you know you are, will die tragically, painfully, and spiritually, most specifically.

    This knowledge
    will feel
    like a flame going out.

    Like all of that loss is a void to fill with deep, dark, doubt.
    Like the wind in your sails, has stopped suddenly.
    Like the wings you’ve just made, are melting.

    Ana,
    These lost memories
    and places
    and forgotten faces-
    These are forever pieces of you.
    These are not losses.
    This is fermented fuel.

    Like a decade-old quote in black ink that’s now a faded, scribbled tattoo.
    So too, the bonfire embers are from the ashes of the ashes of Dockweiler bonfires past.
    And a small mouse dies at the foot of an oak, so that it can sleep with the leaves, and closer to the moon.
    Every friend you’ve ever made will be replaced by a few.
    And those friends will tragically, painfully, and spiritually, be replaced too.

    And

    the pieces of you that you’ve dropped will grow flowers.
    and the vast ocean will be hidden by a Rocky Mountain range.
    Or a continent.
    Or our planet.
    and even the beaming cells of your young body will age, so slowly you won’t notice the endless change towards your own inevitable and fated fading.

    Your world is limitless,
    and also,
    an endless, resounding loop
    made up of every word you’ve ever whispered and everything you’ll ever do.

    Just as the earth turns intentionally away,
    so also, there will always be a new you.

    Ana Varela

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    • Ana, this piece is very creative and thoughtful. I love this part: Ana,
      These lost memories
      and places
      and forgotten faces-
      These are forever pieces of you.
      These are not losses.
      This is fermented fuel.

      There is so much truth in that. Not just for you but probably all of us. Your view on the past future and present is interesting and inspiring.…read more

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  • Growing Mentally

    Dear Teenage Self,

    You spent too much time worrying about friendships that don’t matter now. Sure, at the time they meant everything to you. Where are those friends now you may ask? Living their own lives as best as they know how. Possibly have forgotten about you. It doesn’t matter the specific details what matters is that right now they are shaping you to become who we are currently.

    Yes, even your oldest friendship with your best guy friend ended when he decided not to tell you that he was marrying the love of his life. Went as far as ghosting your texts. The only reason you knew about it is because his parents kindly posted about it on social media. It will be the biggest heartache to date for you, but trust me it was the wake up call you will need later. That doesn’t mean I want you to abruptly end this friendship now because you do need it until the inevitable end trust me on this.

    Currently, you are spending more time focusing on yourself. You are probably wondering why your 20s self is focusing on yourself? Do you recall, at all, the last time you really focused on yourself and not worried about being a people pleaser to keep friendships alive. Trust me when I say you don’t figure out you haven’t thought about your needs until you’re at your lowest and wondering where these friendships went wrong. You of course start recalling the red flags you ignored and realize this time is about you and what you want to do. Not to say, you have forgotten about still being a kind and considerate person with people not always treating you right, but you are no longer trying to keep people in your life if they don’t want to stay.

    It’s been a huge weight lifted off your shoulders to focus on what you like and your constant growth as a person now that you don’t feel the burning need to make sure everyone else isn’t bothered by what you thought about something. Standing up for yourself has been so much easier and not letting people from your past walk all over you and basically putting you down when you try to stand up for yourself, which makes you feel obligated to change your mind. You will be the person with her own thoughts and feelings that you won’t be afraid to share anymore. You also won’t care about others opinions about it either.

    I’m not sharing this with you to hope you change yourself because that would change me and I am happy with where I am in life. I have a couple close friends and that’s all I need. I just wanted to let you know your sacrificing your own self desires as a teen was a blessing because once you become a 20 something you have the freedom to make these changes in your life, whereas as a teenager you felt obligated to follow a crowd and not think about yourself. Life feels like you are still stuck in a small box unable to breathe. Even though, that’s when you finally got a bigger box to breathe in with having more freedom it didn’t feel like enough. Not until now. I hope you don’t change. Everything that has happened, happens to help you grow as the person you will eventually become and will continue to become as your interests change throughout life.

    You will still be that awkward girl who hates crowds and thinks having many friends is too much, but at least you are actually trying to work on seeing those red flags in people. Stay how you are and don’t change please. I do want to exist and I can’t exist if you change yourself.

    Your older mid 20s self

    Mira

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    • Mira this was beautiful! I fondly remember times when I would put everything and everybody above myself. I was quiet, no goals no dreams just candidly getting through life. Your letter inspired the 15-18 year old in Me. This letter speaks hope, adventure and self awareness. So awesome!! I wish you well.
      P.S Awkward is my most favorite thing to…read more

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      • I still do put others before myself, but I am more selective about it now. I totally feel just trying to get through life thats me now. I need to make some goals. My teenage self had more life goals than me. Thanks for your comment. I’m glad it helped you remember your teenage self as well.

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        • Awww Mira, you sound like such a kind and sweet soul (then and now). It is so empowering and freeing when you let go of what other people think, stand up for yourself, and create some serious boundaries. I am proud of who you are but also proud of who you were… Your heart is pure. And those friends you do have in your circle are lucky to have…read more

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  • elledoubleupepper submitted a contest entry to Group logo of Write a letter to your teenage selfWrite a letter to your teenage self 6 months, 4 weeks ago

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    A Love Letter To Myself

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  • To My Past Self

    Dear Past Self,

    How are you? If I had to guess, I’d say you’re probably feeling angry and discouraged from another day being bullied at school. Were you bullied about your weight? Your clothes? Your interests? Maybe it was something else with which you never imagined anyone would find a problem. Whatever it was, I’ll bet the bullies got away with it, and the teacher tried to make it your fault somehow. If you tried to stand up for yourself, you were probably punished. If you cried, you were scolded. I’ll bet the teacher said something like, “You’re just too sensitive.” “You need to toughen up.” “Big girls don’t cry.” Does any of that sound familiar?

    If a more understanding teacher was around when this happened, they probably said, “Don’t pay any attention to them” or “It gets better.” Sure, they mean well, but that’s not exactly helpful either. I know you’re sick of hearing those phrases repeated over and over. You’re sick of the injustice of it all. You’re sick of being misunderstood; you’re sick of the lies. Well, I’m not going to lie to you.

    I won’t tell you to ignore your bullies because I know it’s useless. With a memory like ours, you won’t forget the cruel things they say, even when you wish you could. I won’t tell you it gets better because I don’t know if that’s the word I’d use to describe our life. Maybe not “better”, but it does get different. One day, you’ll leave school and experience what adult life has to offer, the good and the bad. You’ll experience so many new and important things that will make every word the bullies say seem like a drop in the bucket by comparison!

    You probably have a million questions about the future. You’re probably wondering if you’ll go to a prestigious university, find love, have children, and have a high-paying job. Depending on your age, you may be dreaming of a future as a teacher, actress, or lawyer. I won’t tell you if those dreams come true because knowing you, you’d probably do something to change our history if you knew what the future holds. All I’ll say is things don’t turn out the way you planned, and that can be a good or bad thing, depending on how you look at it. You may never have an idealized, normal life, but that doesn’t mean you can’t live a fulfilling one.

    When you get older, there’s an expectation that you get wiser too. Frankly, I don’t feel wise enough to give anyone advice, but I’ll do my best. I know you need it, and you got some truly stupid advice from the people who were supposed to protect you. First of all, your teachers are wrong. They’ll say you’re too smart for your own good. They’ll tell you you’ll never belong unless you hide your intellect and interests. Nearly twenty years later, I still don’t understand why they thought that was good advice to give a child! Teachers are supposed to foster learning, not stifle it. In time, you’ll see how ironic that advice was coming from them, and we can have a good laugh about it. Now all you need to know is that it was bad advice.

    You do not have to dumb yourself down to get people to like you! It’s true that not everybody will understand or appreciate your intellect, but the ones who matter will. Maybe you don’t fit in with your hometown, but there’s a huge world out there, full of diverse beliefs and customs. You’ll get to experience some of it for yourself. Someday you’ll fulfill your dream of going to New York. You’ll get to shop in Times Square and see Phantom of the Opera on Broadway just like you wanted, and it’ll be even better than you dreamed! When you get there, you’ll notice something interesting. The people there have a better appreciation of the arts and pop culture than back home, and they don’t look at you like a monster because you don’t wear bright colors or a cross necklace. You may be scared at first, but you’ll get there and fit right in!

    I know you don’t believe it now, but you will find your people. Your mom, dad, and grandparents will be there for you as long as they’re alive, so be kind to them while you can. One day you’ll wish you’d been kinder. You’ll have your cat for seventeen years, and he’ll be your best friend when you have nowhere else to turn. When he’s gone, you’ll find new friends, both animal and human, to help you navigate life’s ups and downs. Your neighbors will always have your back, and while your extended family may not fully get you, they’re good people. Best of all, you’ll find a new friend and father figure in the most unlikely place, and he’ll help you find your true purpose in life.

    All the things that you’re bullied for now (your intelligence, interests, emotions, etc.) will eventually lead you exactly where you’re supposed to be. Trust your instincts, and enjoy the ride!

    Good luck! - Your Future Self

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    • This is so good and so well written. I am so sorry you were bullied. I bet some of it was jealousy. I know when I was a teenager, all I wanted was to be way smarter than I was and admired all the people who just seemed to take to school so easily. I wouldn’t be surprised if some saw your intelligence as a threat, and as a result, they bullied you…read more

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    • Dlamdiva, thank you!
      Thank you for speaking to the 14 year old Me that ran away from everything you mentioned in this letter including myself. I needed this reminder and as the tears falls while typing this you are right. Some of the things we suffered during our teen years strengthened us as adults. I hope you are well and I am wishing you a ton…read more

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  • khawk711 submitted a contest entry to Group logo of Write a letter to your teenage selfWrite a letter to your teenage self 6 months, 4 weeks ago

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    Letter to 14 year old me - Kourtney

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  • mariah_murphy submitted a contest entry to Group logo of Write a letter to your teenage selfWrite a letter to your teenage self 6 months, 4 weeks ago

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    Hello... It's Me

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  • Open Heart Center

    Dear Beth,
    I know you’ve recently started going by Beth. From what I remember, you didn’t expect it to stick. It stuck. If there’s one thing people love, it’s a shortcut. An excuse to shave off a few syllables is always appreciated by the working man. After enough years, hearing someone use your full name has become with the wrong person, uncomfortable, and with the right person, intimate.
    That boy you keep telling you’re going to marry him? You won’t. You already know that. He doesn’t. Eventually you’ll learn that your nasty habit of telling everyone what you think they want to hear is actually quite cruel. When you’re 18 you’ll break his heart, as well as your own. Mercilessly, you’ll do it over the phone. 3 years drowned into static.
    You’ll move out as soon as the first semester of college rolls around. You never thought you’d make it out of that house. Without a word to your parents, you packed boxes and hid them in the basement. Short dresses and posters folded tight in cardboard boxes printed with tequila labels. You got them at the liquor store for free. It’s the first time you get to decorate a room for yourself. Your first night alone, you don’t go to sleep until 3 am. You’re buzzing much too loud. You walk through the courtyard while it’s dark just because you can. It’s the first time you don’t feel as though your life is held down by nails and boards. Finally, you can breathe without consequence, without permission. You start making mistakes at a neck-breaking-speed. It doesn’t matter how miserable you get, you are free to make yourself miserable. You’ll look back on it later and recognize it as bleeding at your own hands, but will only regret some of it.
    Covid will come and take everything from you. It will rip the frames off your walls and drag you back to your parents. You don’t kick. You don’t scream. You return to your kneel, your hands find themselves clasped once more. Foolishly, optimistically, you think it will only be a minute. Get comfortable in that position as soon as you’re able.
    You leave again. You work 3 jobs during a pandemic and still only make $250 above your rent. You cry about money. A lot. You spend a year apologizing for not being able to afford birthday gifts, christmas gifts. Self-checkout at the nearest grocery store has a slot for coins. You learn to live off quarters and dimes. You never once ask to borrow money. Your room is a shoebox. Your roommates are insane. The first time you have a boy over, he kills a roach on the wall of your bedroom with his shoe. Humiliating. You get a better job. You move again. You manage. You save up.
    Beth, you leave.
    You run away to Alaska.
    A flight across the country lands the furthest you’ve ever been from anyone and anything you’ve ever loved. It is the most scared and the most alive you have ever felt. You are going to meet people who grew up in the mountains, who make lavender wine in their living rooms, and play instruments the size of them. You are going to swim in hot springs, and ride dog sleds, and dip your feet in rivers full of salmon. It is the first time you find yourself in love with being alive. You are there for four months, before Money–the hound–is back, chasing after you again. You get home and never stop talking about it. Your time there has become somewhat of a limb to you, synonymous with your physical being. You endure the 15 hour transit to visit and revisit at least once a year.
    You will come back and meet the worst person you have ever loved. You thought Alaska taught you about mountains, but there is nothing steeper than the distance between how deeply loving he is sometimes, and how terribly he makes you feel most times. He is a hurt boy dressed in a grown man’s temper. You sympatheize. You cannot stay. Unfortunately, you still love him when you leave.
    For a long time you mourn the years you lost on him. You are more angry with yourself for staying than you are with him for hurting you. But you recall a quote you’ve read. You understand you came from a house on fire. You have learned to forgive yourself for not running when you smelled smoke.
    You give yourself time alone. You pour into yourself. You become unrecognizable.
    It used to be so hard to get a word out of you. Now no one can get you to shut the fuck up. You tell people off like it’s your god-given right, you flip off strangers in bodegas, you yell obscenities across the street. You’ve learned to stop making excuses for people. The word “No” has never met a tongue it had an easier time rolling off of. You speed walk in miniskirts, and listen to music as loud as you can stand it. But you’ve learned to stop drinking until the lamppost lights have blurred into a river. You’ve learned to stop taking everything handed to you with your left hand when there’s a glass in your right. You are in the process of learning to love someone without centering your life around them. You have oysters once a week and buy flights several times a year. You’ve crossed off 18 countries. You’ve had chocolate croissants in patisseries employing the rudest staff, shared pupusas on the side of the road with dogs, been gifted bitter burnt coffee by someone who could barely afford to share a cup. You’re not scared of hour-long drives anymore. You’re in the process of exploring the country you’re from in a car that barely runs. You’ve almost died in national parks and oceans. You’ve had the time of your life on wine tours, suckered and left bedded on grass drinking on honeysuckle flowers. You’ve lost your voice and bled into cowboy boots at music festivals.
    You’ve been tempted to quit school, but there’s too much lucrativity in asking someone on a couch, “how does that make you feel?”. You only have a few semesters to go anyway. You will be graduating late, but you’ve lived a lot of life at this point. That’s been your justification. Then again, the only person giving you a hard time about it is yourself.
    All you think about is cooking. You bake on the weekends, and spend too much money on groceries, and when you have a hard time telling someone that you’ve grown to love them, you simply invite them over for dinner. You work 40 hours a week while you’re in school. You make vanilla lavender lattes with nutmeg, and spiced toffee mochas, and rose lychee matchas, and everyone is always asking how in the world you come up with this stuff. You are always receiving flowers.
    By the way, your current bedroom is HUGE. You were so scared you’d be in a roach infested shoebox forever and now you have a bed you can fit 5 people on. Not for a lack of love, but you used to kill every cactus that looked your way. Now your apartment is brimming with plants. You’re running out of room but it smells incredible.
    You get a new tattoo or piercing every few months but you still cry at blood tests. Every nurse you’ve ever met thinks you’re ridiculous. You’ve sprained both your hips, and had a kidney infection that almost took your life. The subluxations in your back still ache every day. But at least your migraines have gone away for the most part.
    You don’t talk to your parents anymore. You kiss girls. You’re rude to boys. You’re very rarely afraid because, whatever the situation, you’ve already been at a worse place at a worse time. You’re usually toting your hot pink bottle of mace anyway. You are so happy. So brilliantly happy. Life is still occasionally shitty, and you’re in a new conflict at least 3 times a week. Yes, there are still days you don’t get out of bed until 6 pm. You don’t care. You are so happy. And eventually you will get here and you will understand that you are meant to feel all of those feelings. You wouldn’t have the capacity for grief and sorrow and pain if it weren’t a part of the human experience. Someone taught you years ago how about the concept of an open heart center: that experiencing every inch of bad expands your ability to feel the good. God, you are so happy, it is sickening.
    Elizabeth, take care of yourself. Make all the same choices, choose all the same mistakes. I love where I brought you. I know you will be so grateful for everything I have done for you.

    Sincerely,
    Us

    Elizabeth Hanna

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    • Wow, Beth, you sound pretty badass and adventurous! Alaska!!! How amazing. Don’t worry about the boy you wasted time on – we’ve all been there. Just keep learning and growing. I love the way in which you live life – fearlessly and unapologetically. You are courageous, and you are determined. Whatever you want in life is coming your way.…read more

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    • Elizabeth, whoa! How’d you do all of that in Alaska??!! Wow , every time I think about Alaska I think of great iceburgs, ice fishing and ice baths!! lol You lived life as it was given to you and you made icewater out of beets! Thank you so so much for sharing this letter!! It’s amazing. ‘Life is still occasionally shitty, and you’re in a new c…read more

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