Dear Leah

Dear Younger Self:

How could you have known? You came naked to a world that didn’t want you. Born on a kitchen table because your mother didn’t have the money for a hospital. Like everything else in your life, you’ve pretended this is cool when it’s actually pathetic. You have to admit it makes for an interesting story.

You will learn to make the best of your ancestors’ botched deal. What else can you do? Narcissist parents, crazy dad who split for California before you were born. Another man stood in as your dad for a few years, then abandoned you. Your mother married again, this time for many years.

Your abusive stepfather set himself on fire when you were 19. You were in New Orleans, but your younger half-siblings still lived in the house. You flew home to watch him die, and the images still haunt your unconscious. Still, bad as this was for you, your siblings will fare even worse. All three of them will die before you’re sixty, but you’ll still be alive. 

Look at how beautiful you are. What a liability it is to be a beautiful young woman. It’s like giving a set of Ferrari keys to a toddler. Plenty of people will use you, figuring you deserve the punishment. Men already harass the shit out of you, and you’re expected to take it with a smile. It won’t come as a surprise when you fall in love with abusive jerks. You’ll love them anyway, until one day you wake up and there’s no juice left in your sippy cup.

Go ahead, tell some of these folks to fuck off. Don’t feel guilty. They deserve it. That teacher who screamed at you because you used the phrase “by the way” when addressing her. The boyfriend who complained because you dressed like you were headed to Woodstock but fucked you anyway. The so-called friend/neighbor who slept with another boyfriend and wore his tee shirt around the building for a week. Your first husband, who smacked you in the face when you were pregnant with your son. Your mother, who told you she never wanted to speak to you again, then called you when she needed something. Your grandmother, who said you were always dirty.

One day you’ll be older than all of them. You’ll be 60, living in a 550 square foot rental house, wondering what the hell happened. You’ll have hangnails and kidney stones and IBS and you’ll be overweight and worried about the goddamn IRS. It’s a good thing you don’t know that now. You’ve already got way too much on your platter. But perhaps if you did, you wouldn’t waste so much time on people who don’t deserve it.

Life isn’t for the squeamish. You already know that, or you wouldn’t be here. It takes courage to come into the world without a cushion, or at least a stubborn refusal to surrender to the odds. Take your talents more seriously. In the end, they will be all you have.

Your No-Bullshit Friend,
Older Self

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Leah Mueller is an indie writer and spoken word performer from Tacoma, Washington. She is the author of two chapbooks and four books. Her next two books, "Death and Heartbreak" and "Misguided Behavior, Tales of Poor Life Choices" will be published in Autumn, 2019 by Weasel Press and Czykmate Press. Leah’s work appears in Blunderbuss, The Spectacle, Outlook Springs, Atticus Review, Your Impossible Voice, Mockingheart Review, and other publications. She was a featured poet at the 2015 New York Poetry Festival, and a runner-up in the 2012 Wergle Flomp humor poetry contest.