Letter to My Younger Self: Unapologetically You

By Shya Gibbons

I can picture you perfectly from all of those years ago. Homework done, crying as you focus on something awkward you did or said at school because—let’s face it—you were always awkward (OK, you’re still pretty awkward). You are an extraordinary girl who does not know how to manage emotions, which is a blessing and a curse in some ways. You will never learn how to control them. Now, at 31 years old, tears still pour out easily now over everything. THIS IS FINE. Cry. Cry because you are happy. Cry because you are sad. Cry for sad news. Cry for happy news. Cry because you feel like crying. In absolutely no way does this make you weak;. I think this makes you strong as hell. You don’t hold back and you aren’t ashamed of crying now. People accept it because they know it’s part of who you are.

You are empathetic. You will find throughout the next few stages of your life that people will come to you with problems, seeking a shoulder to lean on. You will lend them your shoulder and ear. Sometimes those people exit your life once they’re done needing you to be their emotional dumping ground. THIS IS FINE. One of the harder lessons you will face is that when it comes to a lot of people, and a lot of friendships, there is an expiration point. Whether that friendship is a few months old, or spans several decades. Let those friends go. Always wish the best for them, but let it go. You served your purpose to the best of your ability, and that is all you can do.

Keep being friendly, even if people think it is just an act. Keep smiling at people as you pass them in the grocery store. Take a moment to compliment random people while running errands. Telling someone, ‘I love your scarf’ or offering a polite smile and, ‘I hope you have a nice day’ as you pass in a grocery store aisle are small acts that require little effort but can completely change someone’s day for the better; you would be surprised how something as little as a comment made in passing can change someone’s mood.

Right now you feel like your only escape from your thoughts and reality is writing. Keep at it, I promise it will pay off and someday you will see your name in print. You will even have your own author page on Amazon. Don’t be ashamed of the amount of time you spend writing on your massive desktop computer. Most people spend their lives searching for something that makes them feel whole, and you’re lucky enough to have figured out at a young age that that thing for you, is writing. The process and time spent on it is not always easy or fun, but it is cathartic. Those blank pages waiting for your words to fill them will be your faithful sidekick for decades to come and will help you through countless moments in life where you would not even be able to verbalize your thoughts.  

Go easy on yourself. Stop beating yourself up over every miniscule thing you deem as less than acceptable. You are only human, and humans make mistakes. You will lose precious time in life by fixating on things you did wrong that will end up not mattering in a day, a month, a year, or a decade. That time cannot be brought back. Have a good cry over it, pick up your pieces, and move along.

Most importantly: STOP APOLOGIZING FOR WHO YOU ARE. Embrace your quirks, because as weird as some of those quirks may be, they are what will set you apart from all others. So what if you’re the girl who keeps a picture of a fictional television character as the lock screen of your phone? So what if you find the font Arial Narrow to be one of the most aesthetically pleasing things to look at? So what if you believe in manners so incredibly much that you thank automatic doors because it is an instinctive habit to say thank you? Those thoughts and actions make up who you are. Be unapologetically you and let life weed out those who don’t know how to accept how different you are.

You have spent an unfathomable amount of time in your life noticing cliques and longing to feel like you belong somewhere. You were never a popular girl. You were never the academic scholar. You were never skilled in an instrument. Your lack of coordinationwhich is frankly quite concerning sometimesensured you would never be an athlete.

I can proudly tell you that now, you still don’t have a clique. You have a tribe. They balance you. They have your back. They have your husband and son’s back. Your tribe will pull you through with love, support, and guidance. And despite having no sisters, you found a blessing in the fact that your son will refer to them as his aunts because that is how incredibly much they mean to you. Your tribe will rally together for each other to celebrate the good, and be there to carry you through the bad.

Now, there are still days where I reflect back and think, ‘how did you make it through all of that?’ Just remember that it was you that got up each day and fought mentally. It was you who picked up the shattered pieces of yourself others so carelessly discarded. The fight and fire has always been inside of you, the embers just had to be stoked; and now that they are stoked you are an uncontrollable wildfire of a spirit. You have finally released yourself from your own mental prison and embraced that you are not weird, you are not different, you are not strange: you’re unapologetically you.



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