Dear Ashley

Dear Ashley,

It's Sunday morning and I'm driving to work. I'm taking the back roads to avoid the freeway and I just saw a deer. I drove past the yoga place that you only went to once, but swear you'll go back. Past the theater that always makes you question if you should audition for a part, but then quickly reminds you of the one time you did and bombed, so embarrassingly racked with stage fright you didn't know you had. 

You don't really have a glamorous job, but you tell yourself that you get to be creative with your latte art, and that you like your coworkers so its OK. Its OK for now.

There are so many things I want to tell you.

Don't. Don't marry that man.

Don't. Don't drop out of college for him.

Don't. Don't let people tell you you're lying when the biggest horror in your life happens to you. No one believes you, you know. And that tears you up inside. You end up doubting yourself and telling yourself nothing happened until years later your husband reaches out to youand you scream and recoil in horror, convinced for a moment that he was the one who hurt you even though that man is miles away and no longer allowed to call your name. 

Don't. Don't stop writing. 

Please, for my sake. For our sake. I know you're going to ignore this. I know you, and hell, I would ignore me too.

I'm running late for work but I'm still trying to make myself look presentable and I just got mascara in my eye but at least I'll have an excuse for these red eyes. “it was my makeup. Not because I was crying on my way to work...almost everyday.” But you're going to walk in and Smile, smile, smile, and everyone is going to say good morning and you wonder if maybe you are a good actress after all. 

Its easy to hide your anxious feelings and racing thoughts in a job like this. Maybe that's why you're drawn to jobs like restaurants and busy coffee shops; because if your hands are moving you don't have time to think for yourself. But its hurting you. You're too old for this. You know what you need to do.

How old are you now, 19? 20? I'm so proud of how hard you've fought these past years. I'm so proud of the work you've done. I know you're scared to take the next step and that fear keeps you searching for alternative cures, remedies. And I'm proud that you've managed on your own this far, actually I'm impressed. But that fear, that fear of doctors, fear of your parents, of no one believing you- it leads you down a lonely path. You search, grasping desperately for a spiritual solution, a diet that can fix it, maybe an expensive exercise? 

You do stop cutting yourself eventually, and get beautiful tattoos to cover the scars. Whenever someone asks you about them...you lie. Your parents never ask you what they mean, by the way, but they tell you you look cheap. Fair warning: they never get over your tattoos or hair.

So here is why I'm really writing to you. Some terrible things happen. I know its hard to believe that your life gets harder than it already is. But you need to live through these experiences to become who you are today, and not in some lazy writers plot development way. But like, really LIVE. You shut down. You block everyone out. After your secret suicide attempt that no one except the suicide hot line knows about, after the divorce, after the string of late night binge drinking, the drugs, the nights with strangers to try and take the crippling loneliness you feel growing inside you (like a weed, like thick black vines wrapping around your heart and throat choking all your words out)

*****

10 years later. 10 years after you get this letter you finally make the phone call that saves. Your. life.

You're starting therapy and the road to recovery with the same damn medication you've been so horribly afraid of all these years.

You finally get better by your 31st birthday. So please, live these years. Live them to the absolute fullest. Go to the beach at midnight. Go to the expensive concert, Nick Cave and the Bad seeds is worth it, I promise. Lose your job by choosing to travel to Italy and see where Dad grew up. Your boyfriend is going to break up with you when you kiss that girl at the Pride Parade so kiss her twice, and kiss her hard. Your apartment is going to flood in a freak storm, so throw all your stuff away and move to Portland like you've always wanted to.

Stay up late, drink weird cocktails and expensive coffee. Smoke the fancy cigarettes and buy the nice notebook, the sexy shoes, the quality haircut. Its just money, its just a job. You will always find a way. Draw on the walls with chalk, and paint the ceiling with stars. Get that tattoo, hell- get more tattoos! Live your life, Ashley. Live your life like no one will ever break your heart, like you aren't afraid to cry. Live your life like the brilliant witchy poet that you are. 

You grow up to be a strong, tough, beautiful woman overflowing with self love and self confidence. You have people who look up to you, friends who depend on you, and a boyfriend who you get a matching tattoo and a kitten with. The scars of your past will fade. The burden will lessen.

But only, if you hold on.

Just a little longer, Ashley, I know you can do this.

I know you can conquer the shadows inside you, silence the voices that tell you “you aren't good enough.”

I love you, even though I fear parts of you. But I'd be lying if I said I didn't admire you. You're so strong, so stubborn. So completely sure of yourself even though this anxiety and depression is killing you.

You make it, Ash.

We make it.

But only if you keep going, and never surrender. 

Love.
Ash.
p.s. Change your name to Ash already. We both hate how “Ashley” sounds.