Dear 18-year-old self! Although you’re strong-willed, and fearless and smart at just 22 years old, your panic attacks will get so bad, that they are going to cause you problems, in both of your jobs. You will collapse in the middle of the street one day, on your way back home, but since it’s so hot and no one is around to help you, you will gather your strength and almost crawling you’ll arrive at home.
You will not go to work that day, but after talking with a friend of yours, he’ll help you gather enough courage to go and talk to a doctor. He will diagnose you with severe panic attacks and insomnia; you’ll get some pills that are going to cost you half of your wage. If you don’t have your health, then you can’t achieve your goal to finish your studies, so you will give in to your health. You will quit one of your jobs and will quit drinking coffee. This problem is not going to last long you’ll say to yourself, because you are a fighter and you will make it.
Your panic attacks will disappear after two years of constant fighting, because your love life will be the best thing you will have in the middle of this storm. Love will give you strength, motivation, and courage, so you will make it. You will read a lot, concentrate on what you love about art, draw and calm yourself with music and tire yourself to the core, just to get those 8 hours of much needed sleep. I could write you down pages about your mental health and nightmares and how many times you will swallow your tears, but you’re almost there so keep on going.
Dear 18-year-old self! I would love to write more and tell you about all your endless struggles because they are not over yet. At 24 years old you are going to finish your master degree. And on the day of your graduation, you will come back from your work and get ready in a hurry. You have borrowed your dress and all the other things you are going to wear for that day. But you made it. With an average of 9.1, you managed to keep your grades up, to work hard, make good friends along the way, and find a lifelong partner. You fought for all of this.
But, my dear 18-year-old self, that day just like most of the important days in your life you are going to be alone. Yes, unfortunately your partner won’t make it in time to come and see you graduate because of work, but he’ll try hard to get there later. You will not make it in time either to the graduation ceremony; work will hold you longer that day. Your parents can’t afford to come on that day too. And when you are going to get on the bus, with your pretty borrowed red dress, with the black hat on your head, and your black coat given by your school staff, you are going to cry. Yes, you will get to the end of your struggles, you will graduate, but when you will arrive at the school yard, see all your friends out, with the ceremony already finished, surrounded by parents and relatives giving them flowers and congratulating them, you will feel empty. You will hold back your tears so hard, because you don’t want to ruin that moment. You’ll meet your friends, smile with them and take some pictures, and that’s it.
You will then recall that ceremony in your first grade, when you were 7 years old, where after you finished learning all the letters of the alphabet, you had to perform a poem. On that day too no relative was showing up to come and see your performance, then too they'd forgotten the importance of the moment. Two of the most important ceremonies of your life you've been alone, because your family wasn’t there, but you don’t blame them, you blame the circumstances and the financial problems they experienced.
Suddenly as I'm writing I remember a story my mother often tells me. When I was five years old, my first time going to kindergarten, my mother took me to the door of our small village house and said to me: “I can’t accompany you because I have to take care of your brother.” (He was just a month old.) You understood, at least that’s what your mom always tells you. According to your mother, you toughened up and responded: “Don’t worry mom, I will go by myself, I am a grown up girl after all.” Your mother always cries when she tells you that, and it’s weird how this motto followed you your whole life. I will go and do it by myself.
Lastly, my dear 18-year-old self! You have fought hard; you have given your all for this journey of yours. You will think that life is going to get better, but it's not. Even at 28 you’ll still struggle to find a decent job. No one will support you along the way, but as always, my little fighter, you will not give up. You will start to write and draw; you will meet friends and along the way also lose some of them. Art will keep your heart warm, and you are lucky because the love that you have, came unexpected, you didn’t ask for it, but you have it. And finding a soulmate is harder than you think, so remember that you are lucky to have love and art to feed your soul.
You will struggle financially even after all this time. You’ll understand the country you live in is a cursed one. You will understand that no matter your fight, participating in syndicates and protests for social rights are not worth your time. You will see that reality is always hard on you, but I don’t know what keeps you strong. Probably the desire to bring change, to see that your sacrifices weren’t in vain. Probably the wish to see the place you were born to prosper and hoping that the next generations won’t have to go through half of the struggles you had.
And it’s this desire and hope that keeps you going; to try even harder, to inspire, to fight because change will come as long as you desire strongly enough for it to happen. It is in these moments that you’ll recall Emily Dickinson’s poem:
If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.
In all these years, your depression sometimes will get the best of you; but you have someone alongside you who fights with all his heart to help you. He is there, giving you courage and strength. You have to fight for him and for yourself, so don’t give up yet.
I know that you are unemployed now, my 28-year-old self. I know you feel as hopeless as you felt when you were 18 years old, but you have so much more now. You have good friends, you have helped your family financially along the way and they are proud of you, you have a lifelong partner and most of all you have yourself. Count your blessings! Don’t give up, you made it until now and you will make it till the end of times. Educate yourself as you are doing, learn that fourth language you so dearly want to, continue to write, you’re getting good at it, draw and read and listen to good music. I know that your country isn’t the best one; I know that you have failed many job interviews and all, but you have so much more so keep your eyes on that.
My dear 18-year-old and my 28-year-old self, sitting in front of each other and smile, you are here today where few people could have made it. You made it against all odds. You have so much more to experience and see, keep your hopes up; things are going to find their way. Keep on fighting. Keep on wishing and keep on dreaming. Dreams brought you this far. Aim high and you will reach the stars. Don’t Give Up!
I love you always, and remember how many people love you too. See you again in ten years.
(to be continued in 10 years?)
Take a look at
the art network on Instagram.