Dear Past Self,
I wish I could’ve told you how much it hurts to have your tonsils removed.
Not as much as your cholesteatoma, chicken pox, shingles or having an IUD inserted, but it would’ve been nice to be prepared to throw up blood constantly for two days.
I wish I could’ve told you that licking dirt, pretending to make out with girls on the back of your hand over the phone and having sex on the first date will notmake boys like you.
You should also know that overalls will never look good on you and that orange is not your colour.
If I had known better, I would’ve instilled in you to stay in gymnastics. You could’ve been an Olympic champion by now and their outfits are some of the best! At 13, you thought that you couldn’t push yourself further but I wish that you had. We could’ve had a six-pack by now.
It also would’ve been beneficial for you to have gotten your driver’s license at 16, like everyone else. Think of the road trips you could be taking by now, instead of having to take the MegaBus everywhere. It would’ve been better to have gotten it before your debilitating migraines kicked in in your early twenties. But I digress.
I probably would’ve stopped you from bullying others because you had been bullied. It’s much better to stand out than it is to fit in.
I should’ve put up a plaque up in your room saying that when you’re 10, a classmate will die from cancer for reasons you will never understand.
I should probably sew a note into your sleeve that when you first live on your own, you will stop eating for a summer because you believe you don’t deserve to. And you must promise not to let your bones emerge outside your body like they did then.
On your upper arm, I should tattoo an image of what it looks like to see your parents lose parents, suffer for their children, feel like they haven’t done enough to shield you from what’s to come. You’ll realize that they can’t protect you from everything; you must do some of the legwork yourself.
I’ll also let you know that the first time sucks, sex in a car is awkward but thrilling and to always pee afterwards.
I can’t prepare you for what it’ll feel like to find out your first love was unfaithful. That sitting on that couch on that last night in August will make you feel worthless, ashamed, destroyed, shattered.
I won’t be able to let you know that your second will be just as devastating – that all the Sunday breakfasts, kitchen dance parties, walks along the harbourfront, and day trips to waterfalls will disappear without warning.
They will hurt. A lot.
And you also won’t get a signed letter stating that your family will fall apart under the weight of things beyond your control: mental illness, addiction, death. It’ll feel inevitable and overwhelming.
I’m sorry I can’t show this to you when you’re lying in your crib in your first house on Normana.
What I can tell you is how much you’ll grow.
Maybe not your boobs – they will be the same from age 16. Sorry.
And maybe not your hair past age 22.
But the key word for your life – or at least in your twenties – will be to grow.
When you go away to write in New York for the first time at 19 – alone and living away from home – you will learn to walk 10 blocks to the Trader Joe’s for chocolate-covered pretzels, avoid the subway at all costs, and be prepared to be the drunkest you have ever been. You will know there how incredibly, undeniably amazing it feels to find what you love to do and do it all the time.
And when you set off for Europe for 3 months alone, you will grow from meeting strangers from around the globe, navigating German train stations, attempting to do laundry in Amsterdam, drinking ginjinhain Portuguese squares, avoiding nightclubs in Budapest, and doing body shots in Seville. You will feel yourself come out of your skin and it will feel weird and gross and exhilarating and sad. You will come back different.
And you will grow every day just a little bit more.
You will grow from heartbreak.
You will grow from rejection.
You will grow from your horrible retail and service jobs.
You will grow from knowing what you don’t like.
You will grow from saying nowhen you don’t want to do something, and yeswhen you do.
I’m excited for you to get to where I am today. I’m looking forward to the moment when you realize that the only person whose actions you can control is you, to do what matters most, to surround yourself with people who love and support you, to keep going every day even if you feel like you can’t.
You’ll learn you’re allowed to be sad, but also to be happy.
You’ll learn to always listen to your parents, they know best.
You’ll learn to love what it feels like to walk into a room and not know anyone but pretend that you do.
You’ll learn that as much as you were against it, you love avocado.
If I had prepared you for all this, you would’ve never discovered it yourself.
I can’t wait to grow together.
Rebecca Gismondi is a published poet and screenwriter based out of Toronto, Canada. Recently, she completed her first short film, Souvenir,and won the Aspiring Canadian Poets Contest conducted by Quill & Quire Magazine. Her poems have appeared in PACE Magazine, Cede Poetry, words(on)pages andoh! Dear Beast. She is currently working on her first feature film and will be publishing her first book of poetry in early fall.