Then and Now: A Letter to Myself

This is inspired by those who care for others and themselves, those who organize and write. Thank you.

Dear first-year me,
I hope this letter finds you well. Is it strange to be getting a letter from yourself? Perhaps it is, but knowing me (and knowing you), perhaps it is not. In any case, I wanted to share some thoughts as we head into the end of this semester and the beginning of next. Here they are:

I. You are not friendless. I am here for you. I swear I am. This year is tough. I don’t have a home, you don’t have a home, but damn if that’s not the way it’s always been. We have to find a home in each other, the people around us, the arms that hold us when we go in for a hug.
Going through the year will be a challenge. You may struggle to connect with the people around you, to figure out what classes you want to take, to be the person that you want to be. You may end up performing somebody else’s version of you. To be honest, you should have probably taken a gap year to mature and focus your interests. But you’re here and have to make the most if it. And you will. Trust yourself.
Come sit with me; sit with yourself. Take a walk and breathe deeply. You didn’t give yourself enough quiet time your first 18 years, especially from your own thoughts. I’m trying to take a half hour of quiet time every day now, and it works miracles. My mental health is better; my brain’s a little clearer. Should have done it earlier. When I don’t take a half-hour, I try to listen to the farthest sound in the distance. Settling into that sound helps me settle into myself. And then I join the crowd, rush back in and give energy! Giving energy, boy, oh boy, oscillating between being at peace with yourself and giving energy to others — it’s difficult. But give energy when you’re not sure what to do — the answer might come to you.

II. Nobody seems to really know you. You wonder if anybody would miss you if you left. Let me tell you: People would miss you. Really. More importantly, I would miss you, especially three years down the line. You matter because you are. Do not fear that nobody knows who you are. I know you; you know yourself.
Do not wallow in your struggle. Reach out to friends. Go to the counseling center. I still cringe at emotional vulnerability. I actually hate having to tell people my shit. But if you want to come to terms with what’s in your mind, if you want people to trust you, if you want to trust people, you have to share yourself and your stories. Strength is a trope that will break you.
You feel more lonely than not. Are you not getting the Appleton vibe? Are you wondering, “Am I weird? What’s wrong?!” Fresho, you are weird and there are many things wrong. But it is not your fault. Say it to yourself: “It is not my fault.” There are other weirdos around. You can and will find them! Give yourself time. But don’t live for tomorrow; do today. Stretch and dance it out.
You are not alone. The spirits of those who have gone before you are always with you. Your heritage holds you when you cannot hold yourself. It’s so strong that even when you don’t believe past spirits are a thing, they work for you. There are many people paddling besides you, always. I am in the same boat as you.

III. Yo, first-year me: Be friendly with your peers and classmates! Spend more time with them. Do not think yourself superior. Joke and be lighthearted, but take a stance when you must. Learn when you should go with the flow, and when you need not. Standing against the current is difficult, but you have the strength to do so. Do so.
First-year me, this is YOUR YEAR. Nah, don’t tell me “My confidence is low.” Hold your head high. Don’t tell me “I don’t know how to navigate this place; it’s unchartered territory.” You never used a map before. Why are you looking for one now? You are the captain of your soul. You are the leader you’ve been waiting for. You are the person I want to be. BE.
Have you ever wondered why your mouth often burns? It is because you spit such hot fire. The flow is enlivening. Do not cringe from your own power. Embrace it. Be about it. Allow it to let you see the light in others so that your days are never filled with darkness, so that even when the sun goes down, the sky is bright with fading colors and there seems no end to the glorious horizon of today.
Do you see how the moon shines in the sky, fertilized by the deep, rich soil of the dark? How the stars twinkle around it, offering their own shimmer? How the sky curves inward, an undulating sea of endless waves? This world is full and rich, and you have the eyes with which to see it.

IV. Dear first-year me: I’m sorry if my fists were closed when you reached out to me. Palms are still tight, fingers are still curved, but my hand is opening up. I can grasp things a little better now.
I’m here now. I’m here, for you.