A Letter To My Younger Self: I Am Not The Woman You Expect

I am not the woman you expect.  I am not the ideal, successful “career woman”; the brilliant, beautiful, ambitious young professional working in a corporate office.  I am a recent college graduate; lost at sea, a sea of societal expectations and pressing decisions about the future.  Perhaps I am not the woman you have dreamt I would be, but that does not negate the wealth of experiences that will mold you into the strong woman you will become.  Your most difficult experiences and the lessons you will learn about life, love, and womanhood will lead to your greatest successes and reveal you to be far more resilient than you know.

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Dear Mallarie,

Dear Me, at 20 Years Old:

Don’t wait.

Whatever thing you’re thinking about doing, go do it. This one piece of advice is so important that I don’t mind if you set this letter aside and come back to it when you’re done.

Really.

Go do the thing.

I’ll wait.

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Twilight Through Palm Tree Printed Curtains

I take a long drag of my clove cigarette and exhale. It’s 2003 here so it’s still easy to find these things. It’s more incense than tobacco. I miss these. I peer out through the closed palm tree printed curtains to the patio below. I mean, she looks alright from here, she’s not slumped over, her hair is fine, except frizzy from the humidity of the island, and she’s barely slurring her words, despite the many drinks and the empty stomach. Mostly she looks happy; and why not? She’s celebrating her birthday, her 24th, and she’s having a drink with friends on Guam, with the whole world stretched out before her, waiting. I can see, despite the distance in years and proximity, the twinkle of hope in her eyes. 

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To My Younger Self

Dear Sarah,

One day, in a future you cannot yet imagine, you will wake up one day with a burning pain that will signal your transition into the world of chronic illness. You will not know it at the time, but your life will be forever altered, upended in a way that will, quite often, seem grievously unfair. You will be scared. You will be angry. You will cry. And you will wish with all your heart to go back in time, but you cannot.

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A Letter to my Past Self

Dear Mir,

Just want to say to you, my younger self, that contrary to all your beliefs, you are totally fine. I know you hate yourself and are convinced you will never get out of New Jersey. Let me just say you will see the northern lights over Greenland, San Francisco from the back of a motorcycle, and millions of acres of salt flats beneath the moon. 

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Dear Emma,

Dear Emma,

I’m going to be blunt. Your suffering isn’t going to end. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news. I know you’ve been through so much already and you haven’t even come to realise the impact that has made. I’m not going to tell you what’s going to happen since it won’t help you understand it at the time. You need to go through everything to arrive at the place you are now. Although part of me wishes I could change your path, I wouldn’t have the understanding and appreciation of life I do. Plus it’ll be a total paradox because if I tell you then you’ll avoid it and then how will I send this letter in the first place? Best to leave things be.

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Dear Early 20s Julia,

Dear early 20s Julia,

I wish you could meet almost 30 Julia.

She’s the feminist you swore you’d never be. She uses the female pronoun for God, hardly ever wears a bra (even when she probably should), and is living in what some in your family might call sin.

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Picnic

“One-ninety over one-ten.” The nurse
deflates the cuff with a huff and a puff,
taking measure of the pressure in my
being laid bare once again on a
white-sheeted table like an inedible spread.

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My Period Story is that I Wish I had One

I'm a transwoman. This means I was mid-sized as male upon being born and raised as a boy, socialized as male, with all the horror that entails.

I was raised by my mother and three sisters. All my cousins were girls on the maternal side. I grew up sitting down in the bathroom, putting the seat down, taking baths sometimes, and wondering when my breasts would grow.

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That Time, Again

Two years have passed since my last menstrual period, and I'm done with bleeding forever.

This ought to fill me with joy. Though my period occurred at regular intervals for forty-two years, its arrival always seemed to catch me by surprise. Often, a stream of blood would suddenly tumble into my underpants while I was strolling through a department store, entertaining a new lover, or working at a desk on an important project. I'd feel that telltale rush, and the accompanying fear that I would leave a trail of blood marking my passage, like Gretel with her bread crumbs. Want to know where to find me? Follow the droplets.

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The Cave

My vagina had a fracture but I did not have any health insurance. 
I stapled the pedals. 
Refusing to nourish the mother inside. The little girl screamed. nudenovelties. White knuckled nothing. 
My uterus wanted to cry but I swallowed amphetamine and stuck a thick flesh pencil inside.

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Cramps on Cramps

“Please call me back. Something terrible has happened.”

That was the message I left on my mom’s pager when I got home from school. While I waited for her to call back, I sat on the toilet. I placed two maxi pads in my underwear, slightly overlapping, just like I’d seen her do. Thick, with two strips of adhesive going down the length of the pad, they went nearly from my belly button to my lower back. I was eleven.

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How I Learned About Periods

My story must begin with the fact that I was raised Catholic. Or that my mother spent the first ten years of her life growing up in the shadow of a convent. Or that her older sister, her closest sister (there were two others, plus two brothers) volunteered at said convent.  Just for fun.

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