13 Things I Wish I Knew at 19

  1. Don’t fall in love with the first person you meet with similar interests. Remember when you were in Grade 12 and you didn’t believe your teacher who said you would find people who thought like you did? Remember how you couldn’t imagine finding someone with the same weird way of looking at the world? Rest assured that he was right. You will find a group of friends who will love you for you and allow you to be you and grow in your passions and mistakes and see you through it all. But before you meet this group of friends you will meet one person who will introduce you to everyone else. You do not need to devote your life to someone who listens to the same music, has the same fashion sense, and shares the same fears you do. You two are not alone in your ways of experiencing the universe. Please never date anyone who makes you feel like you are.
  2. Everything in moderation. This has always been your kryptonite. It will continue to be your downfall for as long as you let it. You do things wholeheartedly or you avoid them altogether. I promise you there is a middle ground. It is possible to eat two Oreos without eating the whole container. It is possible to go for a run and stop before passing out. You have a very all or nothing way of looking at things and it will be incredibly difficult to find a middle ground but I promise you it will be possible. Everything in moderation, including moderation. Sometimes it is okay to mess up. Wake up with a hangover, stay up all night reading a book when you work at 6am, eat something with little nutritional value and enjoy it. It will help you remember that you are human too and not a pariah for being vulnerable. You are loved all the same, but for the sake of your future self, continue to grow into the person you hope to be someday. You are already well on your way.
  3. Feelings aren’t facts. When you’re older you will learn first hand about the wonders of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). You will learn to retrain your brain and how much hard work this is but I promise you it will actually work (most of the time). One of the main things you will learn from CBT is that while your feelings are completely valid (whether they are negative, positive, toxic, indecipherable, etc) they are not fact. Just because you feel like the worst person in the world, not worthy of your friends, and an unloveable bag of garbage, these are not true facts. Google cognitive distortions. Your brain is a muscle and can be trained to think differently. You will need better armour. You have the skills to make it.
  4. While it is possible to drink away memories of a bad relationship it will take more cherished memories with it. Ho boy, do you need to learn this before it’s too late. Remember when you freaked out in your Clinical Psychology lecture that said that your precious IQ could drop because of depression? It turns out that your health teachers who told you drinking would kill brain cells were also telling the truth. Diving head first into a bottle of gin will lessen the impact of a broken heart but it will lessen the impact of everything else too. Flat affect is a thing and it sucks. So does losing your ability to retain information or cherished memories. Your heartbreak is real and your feelings are real but please find some less destructive ways of handling the pain. I recommend returning to that journal that you have been neglecting lately, taking nature walks, and listening to music. When you move out of residence discover the healing qualities of a bubble bath and scented candles. Talk to your friends and listen to your friends when they need to talk. Take time to be alone and take time to be in community. Never stop writing.
  5. If you love someone when you are in their presence and hate yourself the moment they leave, walk away. If you spend your every waking moment thinking about how to spend time with someone and second guessing what they think of you, hit an all time high when you finally see them, only to come crashing down when they aren’t at your side then the relationship is unhealthy. Your world should never revolve around one person. That is a lot of weight to put on someone, and a lot of unneeded stress to put on yourself. They are not an angel or a devil. Neither are you. They are not a salve to every hurt you have faced so far. They are human. So are you. Which brings me to number 6.
  6. Stop waffling. If you want to date someone, ask them. If you want to break up with someone, tell them. Don’t spend months debating the pros and cons of each action. If it is something you truly care about for more than two weeks, if it is something you want to do when you’re not angry, upset, or tired, do it. It might be a mistake. You are allowed to make mistakes. You will learn from them. Your friends won’t tell you this but they don’t want to rehash the same should I shouldn’t I conversations with you for six months anymore than you want to with them. Do the thing or don’t do the thing. Don’t destroy yourself over the what ifs.
  7. Tell people you appreciate them as often as possible. Loving someone is not a weakness. Caring about people doesn’t make you a loser. Tell your friends how much you care about them. Call your grandparents and catch up on their lives. You will wish you had when you can’t anymore. Show your friends how much you care. Make plans and commit to them. DO NOT DOUBLE BOOK YOUR LIFE. There is nothing more frustrating for everyone involved when you make plans with someone only to make plans with someone else at the same time. Give yourself adequate time between events to do both or start saying no. Get better at keeping a schedule. As much as people love being told they are loved they love being shown it even more.
  8. Mindfulness is a skill that takes a long time to learn let alone perfect. Start now. I say this in love. Your friends will agree. You are terrible at existing in the present. You are constantly thinking about the past, worrying about the future, and spending too much time in your own head. You have a habit of only half listening, forgetting important details, and losing focus. Fear not. These habits can be changed. It takes time and practice but it can be done. Learn to be in the moment and when you figure it out send me a letter because I still have no sweet clue.
  9. Don’t hurt yourself in anger and expect that it will teach someone else a lesson. People are often surprised when you say of the Seven Deadly Sins you struggle the most with Wrath. The problem is you direct all of it inwards. He didn’t text you back? Time to run at the gym for 2 hours. Got a C- on your English paper? Time to beat yourself up about it mentally and physically. Don’t know how to handle the overwhelming wave of emotions you are feeling? Hurt yourself in some secret way that no one else will be likely to notice and then become more angry when they don’t mention it. This is no way to live your life, love. Your feelings are valid but they don’t get to control you. Find healthy outlets for your anger like going for a long walk or writing about it. If someone has hurt you talk to them about it. People are not mind readers. Which brings us to point 10.
  10. Don’t be afraid to miss someone. If someone breaks your heart, and you break theirs, don’t be afraid to show you are hurting. Do not do this with the intention of causing further pain but as an acknowledgement that there is a pain. If you keep it all bottled up inside and never show them that you grieve them, that you miss them, that you are sorry, then they will tell themselves that you never cared. You know this is not true but actions speak louder than words and you need to find a balancing point between showing you did care and not causing further damage. It will take a lot of trial and error. Apologize and love yourself in the process. You will get through this and it is part of being human.
  11. Don’t hate the rebound. Don’t feel the need to commit to them either. This will apply to both yours and to your ex’s. If you fill the need to use someone new to stop the bleeding then acknowledge that they are a band aid and not a new limb. Do not tell them you love them if you do not. Don’t treat them like garbage either. You are not obligated to hate the person that your ex dates next. They will likely share many of the same qualities you do and that is because you are both people worthy of love. Self care is also important though as are your feelings. You do not have to make this person your new best friend in the name of staying in touch with your ex. This can lead to a lot of pain and confusion. Allow time for you both to heal. Proceed with caution and allow yourself to make mistakes. Apologize.
  12. Just because one of your friends doesn’t like someone doesn’t mean you don’t have to. Seriously. You love your friend for a reason. If you know them long enough there are also qualities about them that drive you up the wall. Perhaps it is these qualities that draw your friend to this third person that you can’t stand to be in the same room with. Your feelings are valid. So are theirs. Explain to your friend that you care for them dearly and you are glad they have other friends, but you are not drawn to them in the same way. You will learn to share and delegate events and tasks. It will also be much easier to put up with this friend’s friend when it is necessary if it not a daily occurrence. Your feelings are valid. So are those of your friends.
  13. Just because someone else misused your body doesn’t mean everyone else has a right to it. You are so so loved. And I am so so sorry he hurt you. It’s a complicated pain and it manifests itself in weird ways. I can tell you that an ineffectual way to stem the bleeding is to throw yourself at everyone who passes by. Their seal of approval or indifference does not make or break you. You are an unbreakable person with moments of brokenness. You are loved. You owe them NOTHING. You are NOT damaged goods. I promise you this with my whole heart. I love you. You are loved. And baby girl, you deserve to be loved.

Modesty is Policy. This will be enforced. (TW: Rape)

It was bound to happen eventually.

I’m not surprised.

THAT part of town? THAT time of night? With THAT guy?

What was she wearing?

(Pause)

Oh.

Well there you go.

She should really know better.

Dress better.

Leave something to the imagination hunny. Stop selling yourself so short.

STOP.

Can’t you hear yourself?

Don’t you understand the words out of your mouth?

“Leave something to the imagination?? What do you think I have down there- a utility belt?

That would have been useful the night of September twelfth

Two years ago

Three months. Three months before I would let myself

IMAGINE, accept, acknowledge, it had been assault

Four months before I had the nerve to speak out

Three months after you fled this town.

I once heard the comparison made

Between a displayed body and a chocolate cake

My blood burned, my shame returned, but they got something right

To objectify is to take a bite

Deliberately consuming til there is nothing left

Whether its pound cake or my poorly concealed breasts

Until you are satisfied, full to bursting, satiated

As you get to walk away and my purity is debated

Modest is hottest they say with pristine grace

What is hottest is walking home with sweat streaming down your face

Your legs on fire (LIAR, LIAR) in dress pants and baggy sweater

While the shirtless boy for hire mowing the lawn is never better

Beer in hand he asks for trouble

From fallen twigs and hidden rubble

Beer in hand, skirt hitched high, far from sober

I ask for nothing, celebrate the week being over

I am sick of being told by  men in grubby pants and ironic vests

Where to go, how to act, and most important how to dress

I don’t want to be your wife, lover, MOTHER, or mistress

I don’t want to be questioned in times of distress

About the length of my skirt, the extent of my flirt

Or my intentions with the boy coming at four

I don’t want to have to text my friends on a weekday night

To see whether they made it safely to their door

I want to be treated as a person when dressed from head to toe

Given the same respect no matter what I choose to show

My dress is not consent, I ask for nothing, don’t resent

Me for having the confidence you tried so hard to steal

To strip from me, but nothing else can be revealed

So here’s a revelation, forgive me for being crass

But you can take your “modest policy” and shove it up your ass.