A Letter to My Past Self

All that glitters is not gold.

William Shakespeare

Dear 16-year-old Eleanor,

Hey girl, slow down for a minute. One day you’re going to look in the mirror and not recognize the person staring back at you. You’ll look a little bit older, and a little more tired. I hate to break it to you, but your heart will be broken, your mind will be put through the ringer, and your body will be pushed to it’s limit. But you’ll also be stronger than you could have ever imagined was possible, you’ll be brave, you’ll be proud of what you’ve been through. Enjoy every second of still being a kid, because in a few short years you’ll be forced to grow up super quick. Enjoy those early morning hockey games, and those late practices. Enjoy the road trips & the hotels & the knee hockey games. Enjoy those snack bar lunches and dinners. Enjoy every single minute, because you’ll wish a thousand times over you were back watching a travel hockey game. You will say over and over again to family & friends that you’d give anything to go back, and of course they’ll agree with you. Cherish the time you’re able to spend with your best friends. Go see that movie, go shop at that store, go watch that game. Because there will come a point where you will all live in different cities or different states. Where your only chance to hangout and catch up is over facetime while you’re both preoccupied by a million other things. But the love between you and your friends will never fade. So believe in them and keep them around even when it’s hard, because I promise you that they’re worth it. Dive your heart out, because you’ll have days in the near future where you will have trouble going up and down the stairs, and days where you’ll need help brushing your own hair. Stop pushing people away. You’ll need a strong support system around you in a few years. Start trusting that people want to be around you for good reasons. That they may actually enjoy being around you. Stop being afraid to speak up, to give an opinion, to be loud even when you want to be quiet. Stop doubting yourself. Because in a few years, you won’t have a choice but to speak up and advocate for yourself. And, guess what? You’ll do it. You’ll be louder than you ever thought was possible, you’ll be confident in what you’re saying. You’ll do it because you don’t have a choice. But it’ll make you strong. Go look in the mirror right now. Stare at the girl looking back at you. Take her in, really look at her. Because what if I told you that you’ll have less than 2 years of that girl looking back at you left. What if I told you that that girl in the mirror is 24 months away from going through the hardest 3 years of her entire life. What if I told you that you’re going to be a completely different person, shaped by things completely out of your control. That you’ll be angry, sad, full of grief & guilt, broken, shattered, close to ending it all, and absolutely terrified. You won’t know which way is up, you’ll have a complete mental breakdown in the lobby of a hockey rink, you’ll push people who care about you away, you’ll spend your nights sitting at the top of the stairs rocking back and forth because you’re afraid of the monsters in your head, you’ll shut down, you’ll become a shell of yourself. You’ll hurt people you care about the most, you’ll lie, you’ll hit rock bottom. It all sounds pretty terrifying, right? I’m not going to sugar coat it, it is scary. It’s heartbreaking. It’s just plain awful. But what if told you that you’ll also learn how to stand up for yourself, how to be authentic, how to be honest. You’ll grow, you’ll accomplish so many amazing things, you’ll meet so many great people. You’ll go on vacations, see new places, experience different things. And, yes, while you will have those months of having trouble doing simple things like walking up & down the stairs or brushing your hair, you’ll make it through those hard days and dive again. You’ll make it out of rock bottom, you’ll find that light at the end of the tunnel, you’ll survive. You’ll become a much stronger person. And then one day, when you’re 22, you’ll look in the mirror and see a different person looking back at you. And yes, she’ll be tired and look older. But she’ll be happy & full of life & real & beautiful. Keep going even when you feel like you can’t, because the view at the top is pretty great. I write this letter to you with a mind softened by grief, and a heart strengthened by struggle. Do not give up. You’re destined to do amazing things. You’ll help so many people. You’ll find out who you truly are. And the most important thing, you’ll be okay, I promise.

Love,

22-year-old you

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