Dear 21-year-old Tyece,
You’ve just finished reading all three installments of Ellyn Spragins’ “What I Know: Letters to My Younger Self” series, so naturally, you have all of the answers.
It’s so like you to binge on advice books before you graduate. Because I am your older self, I can laugh and tell you how much of an asshole you are for that. (No one else can say those things, but I can.) Those books won’t be the last. You’ll purchase Katie Couric’s “The Best Advice I Ever Got: Lessons From Extraordinary Lives” and devour that too. That’s how you are. That’s who you are. When you’re worried or anxious, you read up on the source of your anxiety as much as you can. You dig for answers. But, this time, there aren’t any answers to prepare you for the fuckery of your extraordinary life.
People always give you the kind of advice that skews on the side of encouragement. Sometimes they sugarcoat shit for you because underneath your tough exterior, they know just how fragile you are. But, I’m going to try not to sugarcoat this because I know everything underneath that tough exterior, and I know that you can handle what I am going to say. I know that you can handle it because nearly four years later, I know what you have lived through. I know what you have endured. I know the mountains you’ve traversed and the demons you’ve fought. I know that you are not just a tough exterior, but that you are one tough woman.
Stick Spragins on the shelf. Put Couric next to her. And, stop looking for other people to guide you or affirm you or prepare you for what’s ahead. Sometimes the best preparation is not any preparation at all. Sometimes you need the waves to push you over. Sometimes you need the flames to engulf you. Sometimes you need it to hurt. You need it to sting. You need it to downpour. You need it all to fall apart.
Because, only when it all falls apart will you learn this: just because you break does not mean you are broken. Because, you will break. Everyone breaks. But, the only people who remain broken are those who choose not to heal. And, you better believe with every fiber of your being that you will heal. You will crack. You will shatter. You will split apart at your seams. That is what happens when life hurls heartache your way. But, you will heal.
Ellyn Spragins has created a great series, but that series won’t tell you to take your ass to a therapist after you’ve been raped. Kate Couric’s book is nice, but it doesn’t have any chapters about how to find and keep your righteous mind after Roswell suddenly dies on a piping hot day in August. Books are beautiful, but they do not contain all of the answers. You don’t even realize how many of the answers you already have, how much strength you hold in that heart of yours, strength that is just waiting to reveal itself when you need it most.
So, embrace the fuckery of your extraordinary life. You do not need to know it all. You do not need to have it all. You do not need to do it all. This slice of life is yours for the taking. Stop trying to live up to your tough exterior and, instead, let life bring you to your knees. Let people in. Let your heart break and let it get filled to the brim again. Let your guard down. Embrace the mess. Embrace the unknown. Embrace the flames. The fuckery is what makes for an extraordinary life. You do not get to be an artist or a writer or a half-way decent human being without the fuckery. You don’t get to tell these stories and create these spaces and be this person without the mess. The mess is what gives all of it meaning. It’s what makes all of it beautiful. The mess is what makes your story one worth telling.
soon-to-be 25-year-old Tyece