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A Letter to My 16-year-old Self

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Malia,

You're 16. You're going through this phase where you feel like the whole world is against you. You have a lot of pain that you keep suppressing. You're sad. You're angry. You were hurt by dad and you feel like it's all your fault. Everything you're going through and everything you went through in the past, you think you were the cause of it. You've been bullied and abused, lied to, and left to feel like you weren't worthy of living. All those thoughts of suicide and running away from home and letting mom live her life without you so she didn't have to deal with your anger and pain. All of the pain dad caused, all the pain mom felt because of him was really because of you.

You're probably at work smiling at all the residents of the retirement community that you're working at trying to smile the pain away and act like nothing's wrong because "fake it til you break" is your new motto. Or maybe you're at school isolating yourself from your friends because you don't want to burden them with your pain. Or maybe you're at home, alone, looking at the bottles of rum that your mom had from when she was making rum cake that one time, just thinking what it would feel like to be numb for a moment, or forever. You're in a lot of pain, but you just don't know how to release it. You don't even know what this feeling is. You don't even understand that this part of your life is temporary. You don't even know what life is going to be like in the next month. You don't know what it'll be like if you make it to see 21.

But you did.

As I'm writing this letter to you right now, it's August 8, 2018. You made it three years past 21, almost done with graduate school, started, ended, and started a relationship again. You're exactly one month away from your 24th birthday. Life is still a bit hard, but it's a time that you need to see and live through.

You get to see your dad again. Things will seem to be good with him again until you reach your senior year of college, when you're 21. He won't be completely open and honest about what happened, and neither will your dad's family, with the exception of Pop-Pop. You're still trying your best to make things better for everyone, but you soon learn a few years down the road that you can't. You just can't.

You start a relationship with someone you've known for a while and he hurts you, too. You start to lose trust in men even more now, but at least this one apologizes eventually. At least this one tried to make things right.

On the up side, you're a lot more content now. The person you'll be in 8 years is a lot more mature and a lot more honest with herself. She's happier. She's pushing and living and letting the Universe guide her through life. You also get to see your little brother again. Where you are right now, he's only about 9-years-old. And where I am, he'll be 17 soon. I know you don't believe me, just hear me out.

I don't want to tell you that this depression you're feeling right now will end, but I will tell you that life will get easier. You will be happier. You will realize that you can't make everything better for anyone else besides yourself. Your future and current self depends on it. You'll start to realize that you don't have to blame yourself for every little thing that goes wrong in your life. Yes, you will have to take responsibility for your own actions, but you don't have to stress yourself out about other people's actions. You can't change everyone. You will learn to be independent and think for yourself. You'll learn to love yourself and be happy with who you are. You will realize that you're living for yourself, but you have a little brother that loves you and is looking up to you. Depression will lurk in the shadows every once in a while, and you'll still feel a little anxious, but always remember that you are okay.

You are okay. You are safe. You are smart. You are beautiful. You are worthy of love. You are capable of doing anything and everything your heart wants to achieve.

You have to keep living. You have a lot more to see.

And always remember even when you feel like no one else loves you, I do.

Sincerely,

Your 23 year old self.

Lonnie Pauls