Letters to Past Selves (Part 1)

Teenage Rachel

Dear Rachel,

I know that life may seem like more trouble than it’s worth right now. But I promise you, in a few years you will be so glad that you stuck around to find out. You’ll probably roll your eyes at everything that I have to say, but I’m here to say it anyway. I know you worry a lot about the future. Primarily you worry about being alone. I know how many nights you cried yourself to sleep, imagining an elderly version of you wandering through a dark, empty house. I know the desperation you feel at times. Even though it doesn’t feel like it now, it will pass. You don’t have to be afraid. You may not believe it, but one day you won’t even care if you spend your life alone or not. Some days you’ll even wonder if maybe you’d prefer it that way.

I know you are experiencing a lot of confusion and strong emotions right now. I’m here to reassure you that that is normal. Unfortunately all of the annoying things the adults are always saying are actually true. “It’s just a phase.” “You’ll grow out of it.” “Teenagers.” I hope to not sound as patronizing. I know that only exacerbates your sense of isolation and being misunderstood. Please believe me. Even if no one else does, I understand you. And I hope that it can bring you some form of comfort to know that things won’t always feel so intense. I can’t promise you that life won’t always be as hard. Life is a cycle made up of many smaller cycles. You are going to find yourself suffering again and again. Life doesn’t get easier. You simply become stronger. And it is a beautiful process.

Remember all of the times that you cried and mentally went back to visit all of the other sad crying selves in the past? You held them in your arms and cried together. You thought that was an embarrassing form of self pity, but actually without realizing it you were developing your own lovely form of self-care. I am here to tell you that through all of this distance, through time and space, I am here to hold you now. It’s going to be okay.

Even though I can’t really be there to help, know that you already have all the support that you need. You have absolutely amazing friends. Be grateful for that. Cherish them, and try to hold on to them for as long as you can, especially Ally. She may get under your skin now, but she is the truest friend you’ve got. She’s your brother. Try to be nicer to her, even when you don’t understand her. I know you don’t want to hear it, but you should also be kinder to your family, particularly your mother. Right now it may seem like she’s to blame for all of the struggles you are facing, but I assure you, you’d be facing much more serious troubles were it not for her. She is an incredible woman. She has always been patient and kind to you. She certainly wasn’t perfect, but no one is. She does the best she can for you every day and that is what counts. She loves you. She loves you like no one else in the world will ever love you, unconditionally. So don’t close your heart to her just yet. Give it time and you will see.

I hope that at least some of these loving words of reassurance and advice will be able to reach you. I may not be able to take away your suffering, but know that someday you will even be grateful for these painful years. You will look back on them fondly, tenderly. You will learn so much in the years to come. You’ll even learn to love yourself more than you ever thought you could. You’ll learn how to be soft, but also strong. You’ll learn how to appreciate the little things so much that they become the big things. You’re going to be alright. You can do this. You already have.

Love,

Your Future Self

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Distance Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

A few days ago, my new boyfriend had to move over five hours away from me for a new job. When I first found out he’d be moving, I thought there was no way things could work between us. Then after we started dating and I began liking him more and more, I started to think it might not be so bad after all. Now that he’s actually gone, I’m back to wondering if this long distance relationship is even possible. My mind and heart keep oscillating back and forth between these opposing thoughts.

Once I considered the fact that I haven’t dated anyone in around five years, I thought maybe it would be good for me to have a long distance relationship at first. I have developed quite a few embarrassing bad habits in my time living alone, especially during quarantine. It would end up being quite stressful having him coming over all the time and possibly moving in. After becoming accustomed to being alone, I’m not sure I’m ready to have someone constantly by my side and in my business. With him being far away now, I figured I’d get a lot of the emotional benefits of having a boyfriend without having to worry about the close proximity. Now I’ll have some time to get my shit together a little bit before things get more serious between us.

Despite these benefits, I’m starting to worry once again. You see, neither one of us is very good at texting. We’re both busy with our own things and only end up sending a couple of messages back and forth each day. We’ve already talked over Facetime once and we do plan on writing each other letters, but I worry that won’t be enough. I already miss him so much. And that’s me, someone who wasn’t sure they could ever even love again. I can’t imagine how he must be feeling given that he is a very affectionate, relationship focused person.

I’m terrified I am going to lose him already. I’m definitely willing to wait for as long as it takes and do everything I can to make this long distance relationship work, but I’m worried he’ll change his mind about that. I wouldn’t blame him. He seems like he’s much more capable of finding partners than I am. I’m sure there are plenty of new vegan girls that he’ll find closer to him. I keep feeling my heart contract with fear, dreading the day when he texts me that he can’t do this anymore. I’m afraid I won’t even have the opportunity to hold him again before that happens.

Even though I’m open to polyamory, I’m not sure if he is or if that would ultimately help or hurt the situation. I’ve thought about breeching the subject with him, but am too afraid of scaring him off. Especially considering that he was cheated on by his fiance a few years ago. The proposal for an open relationship might send him running for the hills. It wouldn’t even be for my benefit though. I doubt I’d even utilize the opportunity were our relationship to be open. I would just hope that should he find someone else, he wouldn’t completely abandon and forget about me. He would be able to be with both of us. The new girl wouldn’t feel threatened because I’m so far away, and I would have the peace of mind of knowing that my baby is happy and being taken care of by someone. Maybe I would even fancy this girl and we could all become a happy little thruple someday.

Although, in that scenario, would we even really still be dating? He would have even less time to talk to me and would easily grow much closer to his new girlfriend while our relationship withers away in the background. I think I’ll stay quiet about that option for now and just hope he is able to manage the distance as well as me. Not that I’m fairing super well at the moment either though. There has always been a constant push and pull inside my heart. One moment I want to never leave his side and the next I’m relieved I won’t have to make time to hangout. At least there are those moments when the distance suits me.

I know that everything is about perspective in the end. I will just have to focus on all the good aspects of having a long distance relationship. At times it does seem rather perfect for someone like me. Although part of me still holds out hope that he’ll absolutely hate this new job and decide to come back home. I know that’s cruel and selfish, but I can’t help it. Maybe I’ll start writing my first letter to him tomorrow. Hopefully that will let me feel closer to him again. It’s so strange to think that only a few months ago I had no idea who this person was. I was even still pathetically pining over my ex. Now I actually haven’t given him a single thought in quite a while. Finally I’ve found someone who is truly a much better, healthier match for me. I hope that despite this distance, we will continue to grow and improve together and find ways to feel close to one another. I’m terrified of getting hurt again and I find myself struggling with it already, but he is more than worth all of the fear and the effort.

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Do We Know What Will Make Us Happy?

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I remember reading once that when put to the test, what we think will make us happy usually doesn’t end up actually making us all that happier when we get it. I’ve noticed this in my own life, especially recently thanks to this pandemic. One of the things I’m always longing for is more free time. I’ve always wished that I didn’t have to work so I could spend my days any way I choose, with no obligations or responsibilities. Yet after just a short time “working from home” (I don’t find myself having much actual work), I was even less happy than I was when I was waking up early and spending eight full hours every weekday at my job.

Now this could be just because I have an exceptionally amazing job with coworkers that I consider dear friends, but even when I lost the job I hated and got to spend a summer on unemployment, I was miserable. Back then I attributed it to having to fret about finding another job, but now I think it was more than just that. What I always imagined would make me happy, even what I thought I needed in order to be calm and happy, turned out to be completely wrong.

Why is that? It’s impossible for me to wrap my head around it for very long. After a few weeks back in the office full time, I was already back to daydreaming about having more free-time. Even though I just saw that it would do me no good! I’d just spend it being anxious and depressed rather than doing all the productive things I’d pictured myself doing with it. It could have something to do with another interesting tidbit from Time Warped, the time perception book I’ve mentioned.

Apparently we often put things off or make plans we can’t ultimately follow through with because for some reason we imagine ourselves having more time in the future. Yet if we imagined ourselves moving up the date to tomorrow or next week, we’d find our plans ridiculous and out of the question. I definitely think this mindset contributes to my procrastination. It does often seem like things will be easier in the future. I’ll have more time. I’ll be in a better place mentally. I’ll have fixed all the problems I’m struggling with by then. Etc, etc. Humans always have a tendency to be over-optimistic about the future. I always though I was the exception to that rule, given I fear the end of society is just on the horizon. But when it comes to smaller things in my personal life, I fall into the same flawed thinking.

This may seem like depressing news, to find out you actually won’t have more free time or be happier in some imagined future where everything has gone your way. But there is a silver lining. We no longer have to feel like we’re waiting for something before we can be happy. Chances are we wouldn’t be happy when we reached that idyllic future anyway. It’s a useful lesson. We should just learn to enjoy where we are now. We can be happy where we are with what we already have.

Not only do we not need to wait for a distant future to find happiness, we also don’t need to be so afraid of things that may happen in the future either. We may overestimate how happy something will make us, but we also overestimate how detrimental something will be in our lives. Both lottery winners and holocaust survivors both end up pretty close to everyone else in the end when it comes to happiness and a sense of well-being. We will eventually adjust to anything, no matter how amazing or horrific.

With this knowledge we can learn to relax. We can ease into the life that unravels before us each moment. There is no need to become attached, try to avoid/resist, or get upset when something doesn’t go the way we think it should have gone. After all, what do we know? Once we give up our obsession with trying to control every little aspect of our lives, we may find that we are able to live with much more ease. Have faith that this universe is playing out exactly as it should be. Have faith in yourself, in your ability to handle whatever life presents you with. Let go of expectations. They always seems to let us down or prevent us from seeing life for the incredible, beautiful thing it really is.

I know that all the happiness I will ever find is already here inside of me. I’ve been struggling to arrange my world to my whims, when in the end I don’t even really know what will turn out to be best for me. So instead I will try to let go. I will try to take each day for what it is with curiosity and a grateful heart.