To my younger self
This piece was made anonymous at the request of the author to protect their identities and the identities of those involved.
You’re 12 years old right now. Life is made up of school and Friday night sleepovers and giggling about the boys you watch playing football in the garden next door, despite feigning disgust when teased about it. If someone asks you about what love is, you’ll reel off an answer easily, as if they were no more than asking what you like on your toast in the morning. “My mum and dad and my nanna love me” you’d say, “and I love them too.” You’re right. This quiet confidence in what you know to be true, is love. Your family are the first to love you and they will always hold a space for you. Your mother, however, will hold a home for you.
Over the next 8 years, the both of you will grow together like two ivies on a wall. With your roots in the same soil, your stems and leaves will crawl upwards as one, until slowly you each form separate branches on that vast wall. Space to breath is good; even in 8 years’ time, with a place of your own to live and a life of your own to lead, your mother will annoy you like no one else can. But you’ll learn to look at the tangled knot of roots and leaves behind you without feeling the need to prise your own from hers. That interwoven mess is what binds you together and makes you who you are. No one will ever love you like she will. She’ll prove that more times than you thought possible in 8 short years. Venture into the world, safe in the knowledge that no matter how many times it chews you and up spits you back out, she’ll be right there, with open arms and unfaltering faith that you can try again.
Your first experience of heartbreak will suck. Rejection hurts, especially when it comes from the first boy you ‘loved’ as he stands outside the toilets in a train station and tells you “I don’t think we should see each other anymore.” In a couple of years, it won’t be the rejection that hurts so much as the fact that he of all people managed to make you feel like that. And a couple of years after that, when you scroll aimlessly through Facebook and his name appears, you won’t really feel much of anything at all. That feeling of ‘not feeling much of anything at all’ will seem impossible to you on the train ride home, but trust me, time heals. As I sit writing this, the memories of that first relationship feel like the plotline to a movie I barely paid attention to.
I hate to be the one to tell you, but despite it not lasting forever, that feeling of rejection never really changes. Each and every time will sting just as hard as the last. The heat will creep into your face, pushing tears out of the corners of your eyes and you’ll quickly wipe them away with the edge of your sleeve, still determined as ever to be strong. Don’t worry though, you’ll get a lot better at picking yourself up, dusting yourself off and carrying on.
The boyfriends will come and go. Two of them will love you, but only one of them will actually tell you. You’ll still think of that one fondly three years after you go your separate ways. It will crush you when it happens, probably because he was the first boy you really did love, in the sense of the word you know now (despite what you thought about the others). Sometimes the person is right, but the timing is wrong.
The other one won’t say the words and despite knowing that he does love you anyway, you’ll learn that you’re the kind of person that needs to hear it. Figuring that out is sad, but a relief. Remember that people announce their love in different ways: a quiet hand held before you can even say that you’re scared, a reluctant “yes”, said with a sigh and a smile when you ask to watch the same film for the fifteenth time, a comforting voice even when you know you’re being irrational. You will love some people with your whole heart and they may well love you back, but it wont always be in the way that you need. Don’t waste your time trying to convince yourself that you don’t need it, you do.
When you are 18 your heart will break for no reason at all. It won’t hurt one bit; you won’t even notice the cracks spreading until it’s so badly broken that it stops working altogether. The only way to fix it is to fight, and to fight hard, and it’s now that you’ll learn to appreciate the love of your friends. They are the ones who will drag you out of bed, strap you into their car and get you out of the house for the day because they were “going anyway”. Whilst you sit at a sticky table in the pub nursing a glass of water, they’ll sit down beside you, not with pints of beer but of apple juice, claiming that they “don’t really want to drink” and “need to get up early”. It will become more commonplace that they make too much food for themselves and have leftovers, or fancy a night in curled up on the sofa rather than going out. They’ll be waiting outside the hospital bearing ice cream when you get out, with stupid grins on their faces. They’ll make you laugh until you cry on the journey home. Sometimes a battle is too big to fight on your own. Don’t be scared. Your friends will be there fighting it with you.
People who love you will walk in and out of your life. They won’t all love you the same, and most won’t stay forever. But some will, and you’ll know them when you find them. Those people make all the heartbreak worth it. Hold onto them.
P.S. go hug your mum