Letter to my 21 year old self

Today I found my diary from 1989.
Reading it, I finally saw how far I’d come, and how much I’d achieved. Within the year I would be married with a baby, and I was nowhere near mature enough to do either. I used to wonder why no one stopped me but then, remembering who I was in 1989, no one would actually have stood a chance at talking me out of either.
I had reached a stage in my life where I thought I was slowly recovering from my childhood and adolescence; both of which had been difficult and traumatic. I was out most nights, on the piss with a group of friends I have no contact with now.
My wages were earned doing a dead end job I detested. I wanted to be someone different. Someone interesting, clever, important.
I wanted to escape from home, from a family that seemed to either dislike me or be indifferent to me. A family who didn’t understand me at all. I didn’t look like a girl, I didn’t look how they wanted me to look.
I had a crew cut, boots, jeans. I was aggressive and mouthy. I drank pints at a time when women didn’t really (at least not in my town). I was obsessed with music and politics, looking for something I could align with, identify with and be part of. I had spent most of the 80’s fighting. On picket lines, on demos, in pubs. I was always angry, and that anger was my friend. It kept me alive and proved to me that I could feel.
Reading through my diary, I was transported back through time to the me at the end of the 80’s and it didn’t feel good. All the pain, anxiety and feelings of being lost came flooding back and I wanted more than anything to go back and tell that young woman just how much life will change.
So here it is.

Dear Cathy
I can see you really clearly in my mind and you are not at all how you think you are.
Firstly, you weigh about 10 stone and you think you’re fat. You’re not, and even if you were, it’s ok. You think you’re ugly and you dress to cover your body up but you don’t really know why. You will remember one day soon and it will be a difficult time. But you will survive. You are afraid and fearful of men and no wonder. Your last relationship did a lot of damage – both physically and emotionally – and although you took the blame for what happened to you, it wasn’t your fault. It was his choice to behave like that. It was his choice to hit you and hurt you. You are not to blame.
Any minute now you will bump into the man you will marry. It won’t last but it doesn’t matter. He’s a kind man and he will always be your friend and support you when life gets tough.

Remember how you wanted to be a social worker? Well you will be. You think you’re not clever enough to go to college and university but that’s only because your whole life has been full of people putting you down. You are clever enough and you will qualify and do a job you love. Believe it or not, you will go even further than that but I’ll let that be a surprise.

Ok, you know that feeling you have? The one where you don’t quite fit in with everyone else, the one that makes you feel abnormal and weird, the one that tells you to keep trying to conform? Don’t worry, one day you will let those feelings out and be yourself. You will meet a woman who fills all the gaps in your life. Someone who knows you without you ever saying anything. You will be happy and have a home filled with laughter and joy and warmth.

Your mothers still around I’m afraid but you are so much braver now. You don’t let her bully you anymore and you can cope with her appalling viciousness because you have someone else fighting your corner. You won’t change the way she sees you so stop trying.

You will get pregnant next year and have a baby who grows into a clever, funny, kind and wonderful man. You will be a great mum. You think you won’t, but you will. Your capacity for love is so much greater than you think it is. You aren’t ruined or broken, you are far stronger and more resilient than you ever dreamed.

Keep your head up and remember, everything passes.
Good luck.

2 replies on “Letter to my 21 year old self”

This is such a beautiful letter Cath. I hope it felt a relief to write it after being transported back to 1989 today. Marvellous to be surrounded by love and compassion now.

Thanks Juliet. It was actually much more healing than I thought it would be. I’m at a stage in my life that I never dreamed I would be, so it’s been very therapeutic to reflect on that.
I am very lucky to have the women I have in my life xx

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