Posted on February 25, 2015
Dear 16 year me,
First of all, I want to tell you that it won’t always be this hard. Life won’t always be this hard on you, and as unbelievable as it may seem right now, YOU won’t always be this hard on you. You’re a little different, a little quirky, and you feel like no one understands you. You’re sad that no one even seems to try. People are cruel to you, but one day you’ll realise that, while they make your life a misery now, it’s only because they fear what they don’t understand, and then you will able to offer them the true compassion that they never showed you.
In a couple of years, you will go off to university. You will be trying to work out how to make a new start, one where you will be able to be the same as everyone else. Where you will fit in, and never ever ever stick out. Then you will go on fresher camp, and play a “getting to know you game”, where everyone at first has to find out what the world calls you. Name and surname, please. You’ll be in the infancy of your drinking career by then, and you will decide to name yourself after your hair (those hated curls that later you will wish you had back), and the nickname one of your few childhood friends calls you, and declare to the room that you are “Moppy Blanket”. You’ll realise that you have forgotten to be the girl who sinks into the wallpaper, and you will wait for the floor to swallow you whole. Instead, the laughter will bring the house down, and for the rest of your university life, you will be known as Moppy. You will meet people that will know you for years and never actually know that your real name is Julia. You won’t mind, honest. That night at fresher camp will sew a seed, this will be the night you realise that it might be possible for people to like you JUST THE WAY YOU ARE. It will be many, many years before you fully realise the power in that lesson.
A few years later you will move to London, fall in love, and float down the aisle in a white dress. I’m sorry to tell you that this won’t be the fairytale, and you will part long before the “til death do us”….This will be a hard time, there will be angst and there will be pain, but this will make way for the real once upon a time. You won’t have to be patient long, I promise. Better times are coming.
One day, before too long, you will be at a bar, and meet a guy atop a Harley Davidson. OK, it’s not a carriage, but you will decide it’s fit for a princess like you. A few years later, that man will stand at your side as a brand new baby girl is placed on your chest. I know right now you don’t think you are good enough to be someones lover, or someones mother, but I’m telling you now, this child will be a masterpiece, and so will be the three that come after her. One day you will stand next to the man that you love, and you will look over everything you made, and you will know the pure and terrifying love that at the moment you don’t even dare to dream about.
Let me talk to you for a minute about that fourth child. She will emerge screaming into the light, that child who will complete your family, but she will come with something a little extra. Her neck will be a little floppy, and her beautiful eyes will be shaped like almonds. You will realise that she looks a little like someone you knew, but it’s not her sisters. No, she will look a bit like that little kid that lived down the road when you were in your teens. The one with Down syndrome. You’re going to think you can’t do this, but I promise you, this child will be the making of you, a gift that you’ve been given. By now, you will understand what the word love means, but this child, well, she will put the word “unconditional” in front of it. Some people go through their whole lives not knowing the pure poetry when those two words go side by side. You will know.
You’re going to be settled and happy, in a way you could never imagine now. And you’re going to get to do it for a while too, until one day, when you’re 42, You will start to feel sick, and a doctor will tell you that you have cancer. Cancer that has begun it’s lethal march from it’s starting position, and the doctors will tell you there WILL be a finish line, and it’s not going to be awfully far away. You will feel like all the dreams you finally dared to dream have turned to dust. The ones that thought were in your future, and the ones that you already hold in your arms.
I can tell you that the following 14 months will not be easy, but they will be worth it. After the shock has settled down, and I promise you that it will, you will begin your best year. This will be the year that you will find strength that you never, ever dreamed you’d have. You will experience many horrors, both physical and mental, but you’ll have friends to help you through it. I’m freaking you out now, aren’t I? Yes friends, PLURAL. So many that you won’t be able to count them. Because, some time in the year two thousand and thirteen, you will realise that the lesson you started to learn 25 years ago in the wilds of the You Yangs has come full circle. Because some time in that year, you will realise that you don’t have the energy or the inclination to try to be someone you are not, and you will show people who you ARE. And you’re not going to believe this, but they’ll like you. You’ll be all right 16 year old self. I love you, and I know you don’t believe it now, but one day, YOU’LL love you.
When you are 43 years and 11 months old, you are going to have to do something really brave. Something that will carry the greatest risk that you will ever take in your life, in fact you will have to take this risk WITH your life. You’ll be ok, kid. At the other side of this darkness, there is light, a place where all things are possible. I’ll see you there.
Much love and hope,
Your 43 year old self.